There is a post over on This is Thin Privilege written by a girl who was told that she couldn’t wear the same shorts as a thinner student because she didn’t “present” the same way as the other student. This highlights a particular kind of fat bigotry wherein fat bodies are judged to look “wrong” doing the same thing that thin bodies do, just because they are fat.
Wrong can take a lot of meanings in this context, one of the first is the idea that they look obscene (remember the Lane Bryant ad that showed about 25% of the skin of a Victoria’s secret ad but was controversial because it was judged look obscene -obscene here meaning “omg big boobs!”? Or, as in the example from above, fat bodies are seen as un-presentable, or needing to be more covered/hidden than other bodies.
And how many times have we heard the “fat girl” rules of fashion – black clothes absorb light and hide our shape (aka “slimming”), choose clothes based on their ability to make you look as much like the thin ideal as possible (aka “Flattering“) and that anything else is an affront to everyone who sees us and a moral failing on our part.
This type of situation is often about a bigot asking to be accommodated by a fat person. The assumption being that if someone doesn’t like fat bodies, doesn’t like looking at fat bodies, doesn’t think that fat bodies should do certain things or dress in certain ways, then the people with those fat bodies have a responsibility – nay, an obligation – to “fix” the situation by doing what the fat hater wants us to do. As if the solution might not be for them to get the hell over their bigotry, or at least practice the ancient art of looking at something else.
When the teacher told the student that the shorts were inappropriate on her fatter body but not on the thinner body, what he was actually saying was “I’m a size bigot, accommodate me.” Our society is set up to accommodate fat bigotry in many ways, perhaps the most insidious is convincing fat people to take an active part in it by policing ourselves and other fat people for failing to follow the fat girl rules of dressing.
Fat people are allowed to make clothing choices for any reason they want – including dressing for maximum societal approval, as long as they are only choosing for themselves and not trying to tell other fat people what they should wear (hello Underpants Rule, my old friend.) My suggestion is not that all fat people dress a certain way, but that we should considering being very conscious as to why we make the choices we make, and what that means. So if we choose to dress for societal approval we are keenly aware of why we are doing it so that we don’t get confused and think that there is anything wrong with our actual bodies – rather than realizing that there is a lot wrong with society and that our bodies are fine.
When it comes to the idea of fat bodies looking “wrong,” the choices I make about what to wear have been less important than my ability to realize when a bigot is asking me to accommodate them, and the fact that I am under absolutely no obligation to do so. If you struggle with feeling like fat bodies (maybe even including yours) look “wrong” then a big part of the problem may be that the media doesn’t seem to be able to show us with heads and faces, let alone as positive role models. So I suggest taking some time each day to find pictures of fat bodies and work to increase your skill at perceiving beauty. Here are some places to start:
The Fit Fatties Forum has photo and video galleries of people of various sizes doing everything from belly dancing to sword fighting
VoluptuArt has amazing pieces to look at and buy.
I have a gallery on this blog.
More Cabaret has a gallery
Uppity Fatty on Tumblr (NSFW)
Pink by Aerosmith is a really cool video of lots of different bodies and ages. Possibly NSFW.
Feel free to add your own in the comments. Go forth and admire some fatties!
Like my blog? Here’s more of my stuff!
Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
Interviews with Amazing Activists!! Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words. Support In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History Project!
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen