The majority of my life has been spent inhabiting a body deemed too fat. While I spent my early childhood and elementary years as a “normal” sized child, I soon started the upward climb towards “fat” and when I reached that particular mountaintop, my body built a house, bought the furniture, put in a pool and declared that this was where we were to stay. My mind, however, was a different story.
I tried my damnedest to tear down that house, to make it unappealing for my body to live there. I shat in the pool. I pissed all over the furniture. I tried not paying the mortgage, but it turned out my body had bought that house outright. In fact, it turned out that when I wasn’t looking, my body had BECOME the house. Starving, vomiting, over-exercising—I did every unhealthy thing you can do to yourself to try to get out of my fat body and into the lean, svelte body I knew it was holding hostage inside.
Of course, pop culture was there to remind me that this was a fight that I had to win if I was going to be worth anything as a human being and especially as a woman. I read Seventeen magazine, with its oh-so-helpful fat shaming diet tips; I saw the TV shows and movies that depicted any fat child as the outcast, the loser—and often showcased their “transformation” from fat ugly duckling to lithe swan. I wanted someone to come and transform me from fat me to gorgeous me. I carried How to be a Reasonably Thin Teenage Girl around until the cover fell off, and then I still carted it around in my backpack, surreptitiously reading it over and over when no one was looking.
Yet every time I’d lose some weight, I’d end up just gaining it back. Which is normal, as I now know. But it was like a death sentence for me. It took almost 16 years before I started considering the thought that hey—maybe I’m not the one who’s messed up here! Maybe I should be fighting society’s fat hatred instead of practicing it! Not to give too much credit to Riot Grrrl, but this was around that time and I was becoming more empowered in different areas, too. I wrote a zine, Bitchcore, and coined the phrase “fat is not a four letter word.” Years later I would be asked if an indie t-shirt maker (who I miss dearly, Two Girls and a Garage) could use that phrase on a t-shirt. I said hell yes and send me one! Sadly, it got stained and the girls no longer have the garage.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from then on. I constantly struggled with fat acceptance. And my weight fluctuated. I’ve been a size 28 pushing 30 and a size 18 pushing 16. My eating habits wax and wane. The difference now is, I can just barely visualize the promised land of fat acceptance. I see that pop culture is starting—creeping up on—portraying fat people in a more positive light, being somewhat more accepting of larger body types. We’ve got better clothes, although they cost more than their skinny counterparts. We’ve got more movie roles, although much fanfare has to be given to each part since they’re so rare. Things are slowly, slowly changing. But don’t worry, we still have a lot to talk about.
During my tenure here at Bitch, I’m going to mainly focus on pop culture and fat women. Fat women are more often reviled than fat men, and since this is a feminist site, it seems apropos to me. So we’re going to unpack the donut box of fatphobia. We’ll talk about fat women in pop culture history and deconstruct the sassy fat best friend trope in TV and movies (and its cousin, the supportive fat best friend trope)—but we won’t stop with that. We’ll dig in to how race plays out in that trope. Fat fashion? Oh, we’ll do a ton of gabbing on that. Race and fat stereotypes such as men in fat black woman suits are going to get knocked down. We’ll even discuss some things that don’t get mentioned much, like fat women and eating disorders—and how race plays into their treatment. Oh yes, we will talk about fat women’s sexuality in the media. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t break down the “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” myth (hint: it’s not!). But I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll shut up now.
I’m excited to be here and I hope we can have a big fat productive dialogue about big fat bodies and their representation in pop culture. On this particular topic, the personal will most definitely be political (but isn’t it always?), so let’s keep that in mind and not fat shame, body shame, or in any other way make fellow commenters (or me!) feel bad about what they’re working with—or how they deal with it.
If you have any personal missives, questions, post ideas, etc. OR if you just want to talk, you can add me on Twitter and send me a mention.
Here’s to eight weeks of juicy fat discussion!