I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?
I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, I’m thrilled that an author with the fame and popularity of Rowling is speaking out about this, I’m grateful. We need more people like this speaking out. A lot of the people who e-mailed me about the quote mentioned that there was something about it that made them uncomfortable, but they couldn’t put their finger on it.
For me, it’s about the fact that the quote makes it seem like being “fat” is comparable to being “cruel.” That is not the case – fat is a body size, and cruelty is a behavior that hurts others. Also, in my own Size Acceptance work I hope to do a little better than my body being not “the worst thing” I can be. I’ll pass on the battle cry “We’re fat but at least we don’t stab people!”
Part of the issue is that this is actually part of a much longer statement (for which she may someday win an award for best use of the phrase “gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence”) which begins
“Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.
And is immediately followed by the part of the quote that gets passed around. It is significant because it gives us context – as I understand it she is saying that all of the things on her list are insults that girls throw at one another. The bigger problem isn’t the quote, it’s the fact that body size is used as an insult because weight-based prejudice is highly developed in girls (in some cases very much on purpose) which is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Without the context it looks like Ms. Rowling thinks that the behavior of being cruel is comparable to having a fat body – to be clear I don’t think that’s what she was trying to say, but it’s the end result when the full statement gets truncated.
While I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books, this idea that fat people are bad/mean/lazy people does seem to come through in her writing. I think it’s particularly important for her to speak out about this since the fat characters in her books (though not all of them) tend to be bad people. It’s possible that it’s a coincidence, or that it’s just my reading of it – others may not feel the same way. Either way, I would love to see her write more positive fat characters.
Speaking out against the use of fat as an insult is important and I appreciate those who do so, including J.K. Rowling.
Let’s Hang Out!
Schools are back in session and I’m booking talks for Spring and Fall of this year. If you want me to come to your school, business, or organization (even if you’re not sure how to get it done), just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options. If you want to bring me to your community but don’t have funding or an organizational affiliation, I can help you with that too – e-mail me and we can talk about the possibilities. See you soon!
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