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I’m fat. Get over it.

May 16, 2017

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m fat. It’s not something that most people would pretend isn’t noticeable, either. And yet, despite my obvious weight and the visibility of other, similarly-heavy people, we’re not exactly all that prominent in mainstream culture.

Like a lot of fat people, I remember the first time someone pointed me out as fat. I was in… third grade, I think, at an after-school daycare group held for those of us whose parents couldn’t immediately pick them up from school. The snack for the day, as there always was some sort of snack, was half of a mini bagel, with the option to go back for seconds if anyone wanted to. Of course, I wanted to– I’ve never been the sort to pass down bagels. After going back for seconds and considering going back for thirds, (because there were still extras) another student managed to slide a piece of paper onto my seat when I left the table. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough snack today? You’re pretty fat,” it said, the girls responsible snickering as I crumpled up the note and went to throw it and the last of my mini bagel half away. I’ll admit the story sounds a little dramatic– it’s not like I was so traumatized that I can no longer eat bagels or something– but the classmates’ awareness (and choice to shame me for my lack of awareness) was the beginning of a negative body image I still haven’t been able to escape.

This experience was actually the first that taught me to recognize thin people’s use of fat people as a form of comedy for their own benefit, often in the form of humiliation or pointing out the “oddity.” The majority of us fat people have been the butt of some thin person’s joke too, from relatively small-seeming experiences like mine to outright “truffle shuffle” style public mockery. Even stereotypes connecting obesity to obnoxiousness, low self-control, or stupidity impact fat people’s interactions or anxieties on how they present themselves. If representation in films matters, then having fat people fill roles other than greedy antagonists (Dudley Dursley, for example) or as fatshaming comic relief is long, long overdue.

Getting rid of fat hatred would be nice, too. Harmful fat jokes are nothing without their equally (if not more) harmful cousin, actual fatphobia. If only fatphobia meant a fear of fat people (“I’m going to count to 10, and if you don’t give me your wallet, I’ll start wearing tank tops that show off my flabby arms”) and not directionless loathing causing fatphobes to spread hatred but… alas, this is where we are as a society. The idea that fat people are nothing more than a joke connects very closely to the thought that fat people are unlovable, undesirable, and even worthy of being cheated on simply for their weight. When these spectacle-creating, objectifying ideas combine, either for humor or for absolute disgust, it’s not hard to see why fat people are rarely seen as people. Or are more likely to get charged more via the all-too-common fat tax. Or why half of the time, we can’t even find clothing in our size in stores at all. And don’t even get me started on strangers’ comments. Why is my health somehow more important to comment on than say, someone smoking right by a school entrance or bus stop? Why is my body type more deserving of disapproval than texting and driving?

Looking back at my story, I’d say that I’m luckier than most, since I first managed to see through my internalized fatphobia before high school. I’ve still got a long way to go though, and there are occasionally moments of relapsing into a fatphobic perspective. A huge part of my personal improvement has been learning to identify myself as fat, and taking back the term from negative experiences. There’s nothing wrong with me calling myself that, or with anyone else using it in a respectful manner. Unlike “plus size” or “extended size,” it doesn’t automatically compare other fat people and me to the thin standard. Another gradually adopted practice has been learning speak out, like I am now, and encouraging others to do the same. I’m proud to be one of the many fat-positive activists taking a stand.

I’m at the point in this article where I now realize I’ve written over 850 words, and really don’t know what point I was trying to get across. Acknowledge me, in all of my fat glory? I had a borderline-traumatizing experience with bagels? I want you to get invested in fat activism, and remember us, next time you watch something and all of the actors (spare the one actor used to fill the lazy fat person trope) aren’t any bigger than a size 8? That last one sounds good, I think. In a world where the space you take up seems inversely proportional to the value of your voice, fat people like myself aren’t going anywhere. And I’m not afraid to make a big deal out of asking for a bit more respect.

Special thanks to Emily Berg for the title of this article.

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