Fat and Fat but

DefendIn 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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Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm  Comments (21)  

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like the “I’m fat but I’m a bitch to bigots” version of ‘I’m fat but’ statements.

    • *TWO THUMBS UP* Oh, that’s priceless!!!

    • yes indeed!

  2. I love this post, but…Nope, no buts about it; I just love this post. :)

    Thank you for addressing this because I find myself saying things like that about myself. From now on, I’m just going to say things like “I’m a fat bellydancer” instead of “I’m fat, but I bellydance.” The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be fat and be a bellydancer. I still struggle with reclaiming the word “fat” from those who use it to demean, degrade, and humiliate me. But I’m damn determined to do so. Thanks again for all you do to remind me that this cause is worth fighting tooth and nail for. :)

  3. “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.”

    This in, on the face of it, true. And reasonable. But if it weren’t for places like this blog where speaking the fat-but language is questioned and not accepted, I would still be doing it. Unconsciously. And it would NOT be okay. It’s not okay the ways we are indoctrinated by a mysterious (or not-so mysterious) mechanism to find ourselves to be inadequate. This insipid attack is not okay. No, it’s not okay for people to engage in fat-but talk and thinking; it’s not okay with me for the existing power structure to train people to engage in the fat-but talk and thinking. It’s more than “worth looking at”. We need to raise openminded people willing to question EVERYTHING. And we need to foster more nurturing of self and others and not allow bigotry to appear like a reasonable personal choice.

    Or maybe I’m wrong about that. ;-)

    • *nods vigorously* Yes to all of this. :)

  4. Fat and strong, fat and beautiful, fat and fun! Oooooh, I like this game! I think I’ll spend today thinking of tons of “fat and…” statements

  5. It’s not only a process to eliminate stereotyping of the image of a flawed fat person, but one can also practice not using “:but” to reinforce our image of ourselves. It’s a continual process. I once had a psychologist who had me practice saying “I will”: instead of ” I should.” Getting back or just acquiring our own power…

  6. I am fat “butt.” ;)

    I have the same issue with “fat people are people, too.” Yeah, no. No, we’re not. We’re not “people, too,” we’re “people,” full stop. There is no “too” required. “Too” implies an afterthought. We’re not afterthoughts. We are full members of society and civilization. We don’t “deserve dignity, too,” we “deserve dignity,” full stop. The word “too” has to go the way of the “but.”

    • Damn! I only have two thumbs. This deserves so much more than a two thumbs up. :)

    • Yesssss!!!! Any words that imply that there is something wrong that has to be fixed are ones that should be examined and most likely discarded when we speak about ourselves and others.

      This kind of language is no different than the dismissive language used with minorities, including their ethnicity with a compliment like they are some kind of anomaly. I remember people referring to Obama as a well-spoken black man. No, he’s just well-spoken. Has nothing to do with the other and it’s not unique in either of those categories that come after the adjective.

      Language has power and we need to take it back and use it to uplift everyone rather than cut them down in any way whatsoever.

    • Excellent really :). I’m tired of fat people being de-humanised. When they make those statements, It’s exactly what they do: stripping us of our natural rights as individuals and humans, giving us an imaginary handicap. :/

    • SHAKE THAT FAT BUTT! ;)

    • Preach! :-)

  7. Thank you for pointing this out. I know I use the “I’m fat but..” Or apologize for my size, in many ways. I appreciate that you are inviting us to look at the ways in which we verbally limit who we are, not only to others, but to ourselves. Honoring the body that we have is a very positive thing to do and one way to do that is to not apologize for it. Thank you for opening my eyes to this..

  8. Great idea! I think I have dropped the ‘but’ inadvertently when I started to think about my body and myself differently and see things in a new light. However, as our selfesteem is often (against our will) conditioned by external factors, I tell people that in order to communicate assertively and actually declare loud and proud that they don’t need the ‘but’.

    Even when I was severely bulimic (teenager) people would still comment ‘Oh, you lost a lot of weight but you’d look better if you lost some more’.

    Oh and in spite of my size I deserve to wear pretty clothes. Yeah, thanks, I thought I deserve to wear clothes that look good on me just because I am FREAKING willing to pay for them from your damn store. That’s it.

    The thing is that we should communicate this to people we care about and are often around us (parents, friends etc) and forget about the rest. It’s really hard but once you’ve started thinking it about yourself it will come naturally, eventually.

  9. So well put, Ragen! I became aware of the “but” versus “and” conflict in college and I realized how many things I was speaking about incorrectly. Using “but” negates the first part of the sentence, while “and” obviously adds to it. “You’re crazy, but I love you” and “You’re crazy AND I love you” have two completely different meanings. Thanks for the reminder to stop negating ourselves!

  10. When I catch myself doing it, I know it’s conditioning. I’ve been apologizing for myself for way too long. I don’t do it nearly as often any more.
    I was always one of those “you have a pretty face, if only if you could just lose some weight.”
    Said to me when I weighed all of 130 pounds.
    I was already bulimic.

    • I heard that one and its sister – “You’d be so pretty if you just lost weight” – most of my life. If I had a dime for every time I’d heard one of them, I’d be independently wealthy.

  11. I’m fat and freakin’ amazing. Yeah.

  12. This is a lot like saying, “I’m not racist, but…”


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