In my post about one of the most truly awful attempts in history to help fitness instructors work with fat bodies, there was a category called The Athletic But Fat Person. I took exception because there is no need for a “but” in that sentence at all. It’s something that I notice people do when talking about fat people (she’s fat, but still pretty.) I also notice fat people talking about ourselves in this context, it’s something that I’ve done as well: I’m fat but flexible, I’m fat but athletic, etc.
Obviously people are allowed to say whatever they want and I’m not trying to tell anyone what to say or think. I do think that this may be worth looking at.
What I realized for me was that when I said “I’m fat but…” or “even though I’m fat…” I (however inadvertently,) gave credence to stereotypes about fat people. For example if I say that I’m fat but I’m a good dancer, there is a suggestion that the fact that I’m both fat and a good dancer is a surprise, or that I’m somehow overcoming my fat to be able to dance – which is not my actual experience. I also felt that it made it sound like I was trying to make up for some kind of failing – like “I let myself get fat but I can still dance.”
Working with stereotypes is tricky because whatever the stereotype is, and whoever the stereotype is about, there are going to be people who embody it and people who don’t within the stereotyped group. The problem is with the fact that we are stereotyped in the first place, not with whether or not we fit the stereotype. There are many different ways to deal with stereotypes but one of the ways that I deal with them is to make the conscious effort to never speak about my fat body as if it’s a flaw, or speak about my accomplishments as if they are in spite of my fat body. Instead I tell the truth about my body in a way that acknowledges and honors the amazing body that I have.
I’m fat and, not fat but.
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