The “I’m Fat, But I’m Not That Fat” Fallacy

Our belief in size equality cannot stop at an arbitrary size. If we aren't here for the fattest bodies, then we're not here at all.I saw a post today in which someone suggested that they deserved to be accommodated by a clothing line saying: “It’s ridic that they don’t make my size. I’m fat, but I mean, I’m not THAT fat.” This is something that happens everywhere, but I see it a lot in so-called “Body Positive” spaces that are not specifically fat-positive.

One of the issues with this type of “body positivity” is that it not only co-opts the work of radical fat activists, but it then pushes those activists out with limitations like “it’s ok to be fat as long as (you’re “healthy”/”able-bodied”/not “that fat” etc.) which makes the so-called “body positivity” healthist, ableist, and fatphobic.

For today, let’s tackle the “I’m fat but I’m not that fat” fallacy. Sometimes “that fat” is a certain number of pounds, or a certain clothing size, or a comparison to someone else.

This comes from internalized fatphobia – the person is trying to hold on to the thinner = better paradigm by placing themselves above those who are fatter than they are. (For people who experience body changes over time this can often set them up for a really difficult time when they cross their imaginary threshold for “that fat.” )

I have compassion for people dealing with internalized fatphobia – we live in a society that is rife with systemic weight stigma so it’s not surprising that fat people internalized that fat hatred and turn it against themselves.

However, this “not that fat” thing isn’t just about having internalized fatphobia, it’s also about weaponizing internalized fatphobia to harm those with even less privilege, and so in cases like this my first concern has to be for the people being harmed.

Let’s get clear: suggesting that one deserves better treatment because one is not “that fat” (by whatever definition one is using) is bullshit. It’s completely bullshit. It’s indefensible bullshit.

What it’s actually saying is, “I deserve equality with thin people, but those who are fatter than me don’t.” What the person whose post I saw today was saying was “I deserve clothes, but people fatter than me don’t” It bears repeating – that’s bullshit.

Anytime we’re suggesting that our body is better than someone else’s, we’re headed down a bad road. Whether we’re talking about clothes, medical care, seats on a plane, or any other aspect of life, people of all sizes deserve equality. Our belief in size equality cannot stop with our size, or an arbitrary size. If we aren’t here for the fattest bodies, then we’re not here at all – and that goes for all marginalized bodies, BIPOC, trans, disabled, older, sick, et al.

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8 thoughts on “The “I’m Fat, But I’m Not That Fat” Fallacy

  1. ‘What it’s actually saying is, “I deserve equality with thin people, but those who are fatter than me don’t.” ‘

    This shows another problem with that kind of “body positivity:” it treats fatphobia like a personal matter of an individual feeling bad about their body and subsequently treats solving the problem as a matter of making that individual feel better. But fatphobia ISN’T a personal matter of any given individual feeling bad about their body. It’s a population-wide matter of *all* fat people suffering limited access to health care, clothing, and the job market, not because fat bodies are inherently limiting, but because our fatphobic society makes the conscious choice to bar people from those things after they reach an arbitrary “acceptable size” cutoff. Therefore, if you enforce the idea there’s an arbitrary “acceptable size” cutoff, you are ALWAYS going to be making the problem worse, *even if you enforce it in the service of making an individual fat person feel better by saying they haven’t reached it.*

  2. Can we talk about how it’s presumed that body size is an accurate indicator of someone’s mental state? I have read some hurtful comments regarding fat people and how our body size supposedly correlates to our mental mental health.

    1. I second that one. There’s a LOT to unpack in that particular stereotype: that it’s original flavor gaslighting (“Nobody has harmed or is trying to harm you. You’re just crazy and imagining it.”); that it’s yet another example of trying to make the society-wide problem of systematic fatphobia against all fat people into an individual problem of hurt fee-fees (“Why is this such an emotional issue for you?”); that it’s a way to get a fat-shaming dig in at someone while still giving the outward appearance of sympathizing with them (“Oh, you poor dear! You’ve made yourself so ugly and smelly so no one will want to get close enough to ever hurt you again, haven’t you?”). It’s frustrating to anyone trying to talk about systematic fatphobia, and it’s meant to be.

      1. “Oh, you poor dear! You’ve made yourself so ugly and smelly so no one will want to get close enough to ever hurt you again, haven’t you?”

        This exactly. I am usually a fan of psychology, psychosomatics and thinking what is „behind“ different issues but this is where it goes awry. Even very intelligent and wise people – even therapists – fall prey to fatphobic logic and assume being fat is just a… coping mechanism? That when you get hurt, bullied, harrassed or otherwise traumatized, you become fat, which (as everyone knows!) is ugly, so noone can like you anymore and you feel safe. I can´t count how many times someone suggested that we´re fat because we „subconsciously decided“ to be ugly, undesirable and social outcasts. It´s not that people bully us because they´re fatphobic jerks, its because we WANT them to be mean or avoid us! And if we only tried hard enough to solve our issues/traumas, we would magicaly become thin! So, as always, it´s the oppressed persons´s fault and the opressor is even doing them a service.

        1. That little Just-So Story has an obvious plot hole: it’s based on the premise every fat person with trauma in their past was thin when the trauma occurred and became fat afterwards. I was fat FIRST, and THEN I was attacked, and I’d wager that’s the case for most fat people with trauma in their past.

          Unless the bigots *meant* to suggest we’re all time travelers, this is yet another case of “do they even hear themselves?”

  3. Way. Annoying and stupid. First, they decide what ugly is, then they tell you why you want to be seen so, so as to be treated like crap. Everything is on YOU. They are just decent people going about their lives. WE are THE PROBLEM. They keep telling us they are trying to help us and we just don’t get it. Ever had a therapist NOT on a diet? Yeah. A man. A thin one. And he used to clean his ears with his fingers while I talked. No wait. There was a worse one. Guy, I refused to see because after I came in suicidal, he told me I was unattractive, twice in one, 30 minute session. Exact words: “Why do you think you allow yourself to be unattractive.” Thinking back, I guess a good retort would be: “I didn’t know I was. What’s your excuse.” He got a master’s degree for this?

    1. “Guy, I refused to see because after I came in suicidal, he told me I was unattractive, twice in one, 30 minute session.”

      EWW! That’s so inappropriate I’m at a loss for words (other than “eww!”). I’m sorry that happened, and I’m glad you got out of there before he could waste more than a half-hour of your time.

      1. Thanks LadyR. I keep it in my tally’o dorks from my life as a fat woman. I literally used his name five times, when told of “in-house” therapists available through the dr office. “It’s not doctor ____ is it?” I’d ask. When it was, I told them why. If it got back to him, good! Try not to hurt the next fat woman on the edge who come TO YOU FOR HELP!

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