Calling ourselves fat in a derogatory way seems to be part of the price of admission for being a woman in this society. We’re never supposed to be happy with our bodies and saying “I’m so fat” because we don’t fit into size two jeans, or because we do but they are tight because we just ate lunch is part of the way that women deal with the body image bullshit that comes at us all the time no matter what size we are.
It’s almost a form of self-deprecating humor – “I’ll say it first and then no one can accuse me of not hating my body like I’m supposed to.” It can also be very real – it’s possible for a woman who is a size 2 and a woman who is a size 24 to feel equally as badly about their bodies. Though there are absolutely institutional oppressions faced by fat people, self-loathing is not body-size dependent and our culture tells women of all sizes to hate ourselves, that we are never thin enough so we are all fat, and that fat is an absolutely horrible thing to be.
One problem that stems from this is that the “proper” response to the phrase “I’m so fat” is “You’re not fat!” Being “not fat” is important in this society, so sometimes a woman will say “I’m so fat” so that someone else will say “You’re not fat” and she will be able to feel better about herself for a minute, or she’ll say “I’m so fat” because she knows that she is not fat by society’s standards and is reminding herself that she is “better” than fat people and in this way she can feel better about herself for a minute. This is about how people survive in an effed up world where self-hatred is ingrained in us and an impossible stereotype of beauty is imposed upon us. It’s understandable. That doesn’t make it a good idea.
The “I’m so fat!” “You’re not fat!” cycle reinforces the idea that fat is bad, so bad in fact that it’s important to immediately and emphatically insist that it’s not true to defend our friend’s honor. When I describe myself using fat as a neutral descriptor (I’m the brunette, fat girl in the blue dress) very often someone will chime in and say “You’re not fat!” The fact that nobody has ever said “You’re not a brunette” illustrates the problem – they are both physical descriptions but one has a had shame attached to it by our society.
So while I understand why it’s done, I’m still going to suggest that we stop – stop using the word “fat” as anything other than a neutral descriptor. Say I’m fat if we think that we are, and not as a way to fish for compliments, as hyperbole, or because we just ate a burrito. Stop using “You’re not fat” – when someone says “I’m so fat!” and say something like “There’s nothing wrong with being fat” or “I wish we lived in a world where we could appreciate beauty at every size” or anything that doesn’t reinforce the idea that fat is bad (suggestions welcome in the comments). One way to break down the stigma around being fat is by removing it from the word.
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