Fat in the era of Trump
This week I saw a panel of glorious women discuss body positivity and fat acceptance, and it was exactly what I needed to witness after a few months of this new world order.
You see, our president very clearly, very publicly, loves to comment on women’s bodies. And he very clearly, very publicly, hates fat women.
According to Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian doesn’t have a “good body,” Jennifer Lopez’s ass is “too fat,” former Miss Universe Alicia Machado is a “Miss Piggy,” any woman working in the White House must “dress like a woman,” and Hillary Clinton didn’t have that signature “presidential look.” (And don’t forget that if you are famous and powerful, you can just go head and “grab ’em by the pussy” without their consent.)
As a fat woman whose sexual orientation can be a bit ambiguous (I’m a straight femme with an undercut and lots of visible tattoos), I know I can stick out. I like it. It’s why I got the damn haircut and the tattoos. But lately, I’ve also been secretly terrified by it.
Since the election, I’ve experienced men yelling rude things about my tits on the street, I’ve had my ass grabbed from under my dress and coat right outside a crowded Penn Station, and just recently, a man who commented on my body a few times on the subway decided to get off at my stop and silently follow me. All the way to my apartment. That night I was forced to nervously seek refuge in my local bodega (thank fucking god for bodegas) until I was certain my shadow was gone.
Let me be clear: I am a straight, cisgender, white woman. People of color, people with disabilities, and trans folks too often experience more awful, racist, sexist, violent and scary experiences than I ever have or ever will. According to the most recent FBI statistics on hate crimes, the LGBTQ community and the black community are targeted more than any other group.
The power to blend in, to fit neatly into societal norms — even in a ridiculous place like New York City — is pretty damn powerful. To move through the day without being noticed or calling unwanted attention sounds like a dream some days. Of course, even women who fit this bill get harassed on the regular. But as of late, I am more acutely aware of the idea that my body is taking up more space than it should, that my look and my attitude isn’t in line with typical beauty standards.
I’ve written before about how my own body positive journey and my commitment to self love is a daily practice and a daily struggle. But lately, that struggle has gotten so much more real.
Since January, I’ve been regressing in my body positivity and scrutinizing myself in ways I haven’t done in years, despite nothing in my personal life having changed: I’m the same size I’ve always been, I’m with the same loving partner I’ve had for more than a year, my friends and family are still an incredible support system.
Yet, in addition to letting myself get ratted by the usual harassment I’ve always endured, I’ve found myself standing in front of the mirror some mornings, staring at my arms and my belly with a criticism I haven’t felt in a very long time. I’m grimacing at and scrutinizing photos of myself that a few months ago I would have loved to post on Instagram or let my friends share on their feeds. I’m looking around in a room to notice if I’m the fattest person here. I’m shaming myself for the same diet and exercise choices that have kept me fit and healthy and the same size for more than six years now.
Do I think the election of Donald Trump did this? Of course not. Men have felt entitled to comment on and grope my body since well before Donald Trump was elected. And I’ve struggled with loving my body the way it is for as long as I can remember, as most women have.
But something has shifted. A man who built his campaign on the idea that somehow American needs to be “great again” and normalizing overtly crass, racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments, became the President of the United States — despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes to the first woman to ever become a major party nominee. And it feels like it’s unleashed a renewed, emboldened hostility toward those of us who don’t fit that norm. Being followed or groped or catcalled by men, hearing fat-shaming and sexist comments — it’s all cutting just a little deeper than before.
The battle between the feminism of the future and the misogyny of the past is coming to a head — not just in marches and courtrooms and Capitol Hill, but seemingly everywhere. I really wish I didn’t have to fight this battle every time I turn on the news, scroll through twitter, or shit, even on my walk home. But too many of us don’t have a choice.
The resistance can’t just be limited to the protests we attend or the elected officials’ offices we call (all of which we must keep doing). We need to make a serious effort to love ourselves in spite of the deafening messages that we aren’t worthy of such a luxury.
My self love and body positivity has needed a serious recharge. Which is why sitting in the rare book room on the third floor of the Strand Bookstore, hearing successful women like Lindy West, Kelly Augustine, and Jessamyn Stanley expose their vulnerability and tell a room full of women that they too struggle, was so necessary.
Recharging my self love and acceptance means being deliberate as fuck about media and messages and images I surround myself with. It means re-reading Lindy’s incredible memoir Shrill. It means finding daily inspiration in my Instagram feed through accounts like pole-dancing instructor and all-around athletic bad-ass Roz the Diva (even if I haven’t summoned up the courage to take one of her classes just yet). It means being inspired by Jessamyn to do yoga every damn day, even when I really just want to drink a bottle of wine and watch The Golden Girls (turns out it’s not really an either/or situation). It means watching my insanely talented friend Laura Delarato get the snaps and shares she deserves for reminding the world that fat women are sexy. It means listening to what Kelly told that room full of people that when she’s feeling like she needs a boost, she stands naked in front of that mirror and thanks her body for what it’s done for her.
And it means keeping Audre Lorde’s words running through my mind constantly: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I am fat and I refuse to do anything but love myself unconditionally. Viva la résistance.