Hey, My name is Katie and I’m a fat woman.
Like, really fat.
Not a small fat like the plus size models in the Sears catalogue — fat like I never see my body size or shape displayed in public. Fat like clothing shops won’t hold my size because they think my presence in their stores is undesirable (but they will put plus sizes online, because they still want my money), and fat like people in public think they have the right to comment on my size, shopping cart, meal, or outfit. Fat like I’m discriminated against daily. And fat enough that I’m pissed off about it.
I’m a member of the body positivity movement. I’m not famous. I haven’t published any books and I don’t run an OOTD (Outfit Of The Day) blog showcasing outrageous plus size fashions. But I am a member of the community. I’m just a regular person who’s trying to live happily with the body I have.
The biggest argument I hear against the body positivity movement is that it’s unhealthy, that fat people accepting and embracing—even loving—their bodies is inherently wrong (like here, here and here). It is also commonly argued that plus size models or body positive activists are ‘glorifying obesity’ or ‘encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle’. I’ve heard people say that fat people do not deserve clothing choices because they should be punished for being fat. Some people say fat people should not be allowed to eat in public, or that they should be turned away at fast food joints ‘for their own good’. Some people get even more personal and combine their fatphobia with their sexism to say fat women don’t deserve love.
Because, you see, it’s not only that fatphobics hate fat people because they think they are ugly — they also believe the negative stereotypes attached to fat bodies: that we are stupid, dirty, lazy people who don’t know how to care for ourselves. They believe it’s OK to police our bodies, to mock us, and tell us to lose weight because it’s ‘helping us get healthy’. They think it’s OK to look at my cart in the grocery store and then look at me with contempt, snidely saying that 0.5 percent milk is fattening and that I should switch to skim or soy.
Online the kid gloves come off, and people don’t snidely make comments — it’s full out abuse. Fat people online receive unwanted body policing and shaming, verbal abuse, threats of violence, and even death threats daily. All this simply for displaying their bodies in a way that makes them happy. In a world where our youth are growing up online this is extremely detrimental.
You don’t actually care about my health. It’s my appearance; my fatness offends you. It disgusts you.
I remember getting my first fat-hate comment on a forum in junior high. I had posted a webcam selfie of myself on my profile that showed me in a bright pink vest, yellow shirt, and rainbow necklace (I was going through my scene phase, OK?), leaning over a bit so the purple highlights in my hair could be seen. I was smiling, I was happy. I thought it was a great picture and wanted to share it with my online friends — that is, until some random stranger told me that fat girls couldn’t get away posting photos like that. This person then went ahead and took my photo and shared it all over the forum I frequented, along with fatphobic slurs under it. I was 13 years old.
It’s not like fat people online or involved in the body positive movement are doing anything overtly shocking to garner the hate. They are simply trying to live their lives one day at a time in the body-shaming society we live in. Sometimes they are just posting a selfie because they feel good, or sharing an image of some cake because it was a badass piece of cake. Sometimes they wear crop tops, or mini skirts, because it’s hot. But hey, that’s what’s in fashion now. Why shouldn’t fat people wear the same styles as their skinny friends? Because they ‘don’t have the body’ for it? Bullshit. That’s just another way to police fat bodies.
Another thing I always see online are statements like, “I don’t hate fat people or the body positivity movement, I just don’t think it’s healthy.”
Listen up: that’s not what you are saying. You don’t actually care about my health. It’s my appearance; my fatness offends you. It disgusts you. Fatphobia isn’t about health, it’s about our society’s weird obsession with skinny bodies and it’s about controlling and policing how much space people are allowed to take up. It’s also about the fear of becoming fat and dealing with the discrimination yourself. I really shouldn’t have to sit here and tell you that not everyone who is fat is unhealthy and not everyone who is skinny is healthy. Many fat people live healthy, active lifestyles filled with yoga, hiking, vegan, low-calorie, gluten-free diets and drink 10 cups of water a day. Some skinny people live off a diet of ramen, soda pop, and coffee. You cannot tell what a person’s eating habits are just from looking at them and you can’t always tell if someone is sick from their appearance.
But honestly? I’m tired of this bullshit. I do not need to prove to you that I am a “good fatty” who eats her greens and exercises in order to earn your respect. I am entitled to respect because I am a person. My weight, size, and health status is none of your business and in no way affects my intelligence, cleanliness, or enthusiasm. If I, or another fat person wants to get an ice cream sundae, shut up about it and mind your own business.
Maybe a sundae will make you feel better too.
Katie Clarke is a Visual Artist and aspiring Art Educator from Old Shop, NL. Katie has a Bachelor of Fine arts (BFA) in Visual Arts from Grenfell campus of Memorial University and is currently working on her Bachelor of Education (BE.d) in Intermediate/secondary at Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. Katie lives with her two pet rats Bean and Blanche, and when not focused on school spends her time reading or making art. You can follow/contact Katie on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website.
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