I know that you have learned to hate your body.
I know the messages, the images, the comments, both cruel and well-intended. I know the sinking feeling of seeing your changing body in the mirror, the sharp pain as your clothes dig into newly soft flesh.
I know it hurts, and the pain can sometimes feel immeasurable. I know it is tempting to validate that pain by asserting that you are the intended target of an oppressive system. I also know that, if you have never been a fat person, the name for that pain is not “internalized fatphobia.”
Internalized oppression is a longstanding concept in social sciences and social justice work: one that has been discussed for decades and one that transcends movements. Internalized oppression and its twin concept, internalized subordination, refer to the ways in which a group targeted by oppression begins to internalize the messages of their oppressors and begins to do the work of oppression for them. …
Just say fat.
Not “curvy” or “chubby” or “chunky” or “fluffy” or “more to love” or “big guy” or “full-figured” or “big-boned” or “queen size” or “husky” or “obese” or “overweight.”
Just say fat.
Do not screw up your face, straining as you reach for phrases like “he…struggles with his weight” or “body image has always been difficult for her.” Do not say “body positivity” or “self-love” or whatever lets you forget that you’re calling someone fat.
Just say fat.
Do not rush to correct fat friends who name their own bodies for themselves, using the words that fit their experience. Recognize that a fat person daring to name their own body is an act of growth and that when you correct us, you stunt it. It is also an act of rebellion, and when you silence it, you silence us. Remember that your comfort does not take precedence over our autonomy. Do not rush to soothe and center your own discomfort by insisting “sweetie, no! You’re not fat!” …
Note: contains discussion of anti-queer and anti-trans violence, including suicide.
I’ll never forget my first Pride. I had been one of precious few out kids in my small high school at the turn of the millennium. My experience of queerness, like many before me, was one of isolation. There is a deep uncertainty and pervasive fear that comes of not knowing other people like you, or of seeing those few others targeted by violence. That fear wraps itself around you like a cobra, its grip ever-tightening, and it had taken its hold on me.
As a fat, queer teen, school had been difficult. One of my few queer classmates had come out to his parents, who beat him. He died by suicide within a matter of weeks. The lone out trans student had used the bathroom that aligned with his gender, only to be met with physical assault from other high school boys, and complaints from male teachers, certain that their comfort took precedence over what they saw as the adolescent whim of gender identity. …
I was 18 the first time I met a fat sister in arms. It was my first semester of college, and we immediately gravitated toward one another, buoys in the choppy waters of an unfamiliar sea.
That year, we became closer than either of us expected. Both of us had been the fattest kids in our high school classes, held at a distance from classmates by virtue of our bodies. We’d both hoped college would be easier, but most of the time, it felt familiar. The desks weren’t built for us. Classmates stared openly at our bellies and thighs. Lengthy diet talk among our peers, bemoaning the fat on their slight frames, 100 pounds lighter than our own. Professors’ penchants for using obesity as a metaphor for capitalism and excess. …
“I’ll give you my old dress! You’ll love it.”
A family friend is offering a kind gift: a dress she thinks I’ll like. She is a size 10. I am a size 26.
“That’s so sweet of you,” I say. “But I don’t think it’ll fit.”
“It’s got a lot of stretch!” She chirps. I wonder what kind of dress stretches to three times its size.
“I’m happy to try it on,” I offer, “but some plus-size clothing doesn’t even fit me, so I don’t want to assume this will. I am a fat lady.”
She looks at me with shock and pity. “Sweetie,” she says, as if speaking to a child, voice syrupy and sympathetic. “You are not fat. You have fat. You also have fingernails, but that doesn’t make you fingernails.” She laughs at the absurdity of it all. …
I never thought I was a work from home person. I’d spent a dozen years in high-pressure jobs in big and bustling offices. I couldn’t fathom staying motivated without the exoskeleton of regular meetings, accountable face-to-face relationships with colleagues, and more. I couldn’t imagine a work world so different than the only one I’d known for the last decade.
But last year, I took the plunge into freelance writing and editing. …
The conversation is always the same and no less heartbreaking for its familiarity.
After days, weeks, months of talking with their fat friends and family, a straight-size person (that is, someone who doesn’t wear plus sizes) realizes that anti-fat bias isn’t just the work of devoted bigots, bad actors hell-bent on tormenting fat people. Something has clicked into place: She now realizes that the bias lives and breathes within her, too.
Anti-fat bias is, she finally understands, something she’s been perpetuating and replicating without even realizing it or meaning to. Every well-intended weight loss compliment, every “sweetie, no, you’re not fat!” now stings. Everything she’s learned to say now feels wrong, but she doesn’t know how to revise her old scripted lines or what she’d put in their place. And it isn’t just a matter of what she says but how she thinks. …
I spent nearly a decade away from doctors’ offices.
I was insured. I could afford my copay. But I weighed around 400 pounds, and nearly every doctor I saw made it clear that bodies like mine weren’t worth their time. So I simply stopped going.
And I’m not alone. 62% of fat women report that they’ve experienced inappropriate or stigmatizing behavior at the doctor’s office. A 2018 study in the journal Body Image found that women with higher BMIs both experienced and internalized weight stigma at higher rates, leading many to postpone health care or avoid it altogether. …
It was 105 degrees outside — a nightmare for someone like me.
I am 36 years old and 338 pounds, which means strangers regularly comment on my body, my clothing, what I eat. Despite spending the lion’s share of my life on weight loss programs, my body remains stubbornly the same — the same size I was when I graduated from high school. The same size I have always been.
Over time, I have learned to show as little skin as possible, sporting long sleeves through the summer, avoiding swimming pools, hiding my body away — not because I am ashamed of it, but because of the inevitable onslaught of criticism that follows when my body is seen. A roll of flesh or a visible soft upper arm would send strangers and acquaintances alike into outsized performances of their disgust, or lengthy and condescending lectures about diets. Have you tried keto? But did you do it right? …
Celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels seems to want it both ways: She insists that she’s “inclusive” when talking about people’s bodies, yet at the same time she can’t help but editorialize on the body of a plus-size pop star. This most recent series of public jabs isn’t a simple gaffe or slip-up — it’s a perfect illustration of Michaels’ legacy with The Biggest Loser, one of the most harmful shows in reality television.
Last week, Michaels made headlines for her unbidden comments about the body of pop star Lizzo during an interview on BuzzFeed’s AM to DM. Michaels claimed to support inclusivity just before accusing Lizzo of “glorify[ing] obesity,” quipping, “It’s not gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.” …