Today I want to talk about a question that I get asked a lot in many forms. From “Why would you call yourself fat?” to “how can fat be a good thing?” to “Do you have to call yourself fat?” The word “fat” can definitely stir a lot of emotions which is one of the reasons that I use it.
I consider fat to be a reclaiming word. It’s been used by people whose goal was to bully, intimidate, and stigmatize me through its use. My use of it is one of the ways that I tell the bullies they can’t have my lunch money anymore. This reflects my belief that I can shift power around the words that are used to oppress me by reclaiming them and using them as my own. I resent the fact that people have heaped a ton of negativity and shame onto word that accurately describes me and I refuse to participate in that. Of course that’s my belief, others may choose something else and, as always, your mileage may vary.
I also use fat as a tacit rejection of euphemisms. For me, calling me anything but fat makes it seem that my size is something that requires “dancing around” – like a fat body is Lord Voldemort – that which must not be named. I would rather be called fat than fluffy (though to be honest I’d rather be called almost anything than fluffy.) There are plenty of people who love being called “fluffy” or prefer to use any term besides fat and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Similarly, I reject that idea that “I’m not fat, I have fat” there’s a more complete explanation here, but basically my problem with this is illustrated by considering some other examples: When is the last you heard someone say “I’m not brunette, I have brown hair” or “I’m not tall, I have above-average height.” When I’m flying in for a speaking gig I typically tell the person who is responsible for picking up that I’ll be the short, fat, brunette in the blue dress or whatever. People often respond by telling me not to call myself fat, nobody in my life has ever told me not to call myself brunette. Therein lies my problem with this – it seems to me that the reason to draw a distinction between being fat and having fat is that we are considering fat to be a negative thing from which we want to disassociate, and/or we want to see it as so temporary that we don’t want to be identified as fat.
Finally, I use the word “fat” as a rejection of the medicalization/pathologizing of fat bodies – terms like “obese” and “overweight” suggest that body size should be the same as a diagnosis and I strongly disagree with that. Over what weight? I’m over some weights and under others. People come in different sizes, this is the size I come in. As I once heard The Fat Chick say, I’m fat – not overweight, in the same way that I’m also short- I’m not medically undertall.
The word fat is just a physical descriptor on which people have been allowed to heap negative beliefs. From my perspective, the problem isn’t the word fat, it’s the way that people have tacked on their negative notions onto the word fat, and the way that they’ve used it to oppress those of us who fit the description. They way I see it, we’re fat whether we call ourselves fat or not. What we do once we realize that is up to each of us.
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Buy the book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.). Follow the progress on Facebook!