I see a lot of mistaken euphemisms for being thin or, said another way, being “not fat”. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being thin, just like there’s nothing wrong with being fat. There are no bad bodies. There is something wrong with making assumptions based on body size. Let’s take a minute to clear some of this up:
Fit: This one is personally annoying to me as a fathlete. The idea that “fit” is a body size is ludicrous. Obviously there are people of all sizes who are involved in movement, athletics, etc and there are people of all sizes who aren’t and all of that is fine. We each get to choose how and if we engage in movement, our choices don’t make us better or worse than anyone else, and it’s nobody else’s business.
Takes Pride in Their Appearance: I’m told by reliable sources that this one turns up on want ads and job descriptions as a way to say they want someone thin and stereotypically attractive which almost made my head explode. As if the only way to take pride in our appearance is to adhere to a social stereotype of beauty.
Height Weight Proportionate: This is just annoying. Proportionate to what? This is one of those online personal ad euphemisms for people who lack the intestinal fortitude to be clear that they they only want to date someone who is not fat. Sometimes it’s helpful though, since it rules out people for those of us who would never want to date anyone with so narrow a view of beauty not to mention lacking the guts to at least be honest about it.
Takes Care of Themselves: Another charming personal ad euphemism (charming here having the meaning of “bullshit”), this one plays on the oh-so-tired stereotype that you can tell everything about a person’s habits by looking at them. It also perpetuates the myth that taking care of yourself leads to thinness for every person and that’s just not true.
Healthy: Perhaps the most common and the most damaging. Individual health is not a body size, is not completely within our control, is not a barometer of worthiness, is not up for public discussion, and can be a moving target. This one does a disservice to fat people by giving them the idea that the only way to be healthy is to become thin, and does a disservice to thin people by giving them the idea that they are healthy simply because of their weight, neither of which is true based on the evidence.
The theme here should be pretty clear – you can’t and shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on their size. As the brilliant Marilyn Wann has said, the only things that we can tell from someone’s body size is what size they are, and what our prejudices and preconceived notions about people that size are.
Whenever you see or hear one of these it’s an opportunity for activism. Many people don’t even realize that they are engaging in fat bigotry when they say these things and I’m a big fan of doing people the courtesy of giving them the opportunity to realize and change their prejudices.
One way that you can address this is by asking a global question, something like “I always wonder why people say fit when they mean thin, especially when there are plenty of fat athletes and plenty of thin couch potatoes.” or try some humor “Isn’t everyone’s height and weight in a proportion?”
Regardless, we don’t have to internalize these messages of stereotypes, ignorance and bigotry.
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