Why is fat such a bad word? Fat. Fat. FAT.
Are you uncomfortable yet?
Besides the long list of words that have been deemed inappropriate to say in class, in church and in front of our grandmas, “fat” seems to be the perfect word to make a situation awkward before the word is even finished leaving my tongue.
Not only is fat a word that simply remains off limits, but others spare no time responding to my “I’m lookin’ fat today,” with the expected, sweet-intentioned, but over-used “No, honey, you’re beautiful!”
I was not aware being fat disqualified me from being beautiful and vice versa.
In a TEDTalk about being a plus-size burlesque dancer, 240-pound Lillian Bustle outlines the stigma around this shameful f-word and explains perfectly why it makes us so uncomfortable to use.
“To many people… fat is the worst thing you can be,” Bustle is quoted. “Society has turned the word ‘fat’ into a synonym for ugly, but that’s not what it means. Fat just means fat.
That’s it, a simple term to describe some one else. Of course it can be used to viciously attack someone’s body image, but to use it as fact is as innocent as calling someone beautiful.
Growing up, my body has experienced days on both sides of the weight spectrum. During a self-proclaimed food strike that apparently lasted years, according to my mother, I spent the first portion of elementary school as one of the skinny kids. Athletic and energetic, my body never seemed to be an issue.
In the later years of my education, I grew a passion for eating food and in result gained weight.
Although my effort on the sports field never ceased, as my body grew in height, I packed on a layer of cushion, or two.
Since then my body image has fluctuated, as has my mentality of self-esteem.
Like many other big people, I was consistently told that my body needed a change, “change” always meaning a slim-down to match the others around me.
I understood very young that gaining excessive weight can lead to medical complications, but being reminded of this repeatedly was an unnecessary and damaging reality.
Bustle’s TEDTalk conversation about people believing fat is the worst thing possible is the truest statement I have heard having been reminded over and over that ‘happiness’ will not sit on the couch with me eating a pizza.
I will not ignore the fact that body weight can lead to medical conditions, but it is vital to then highlight those countless plus-sized individuals that are their size because of involuntary pre-existing medical conditions or genetics.
Society is not doing anyone a favor by jumping through hoops to avoid a three-letter word.
The avoidance of the word perpetuates the uncomfortable discussion of realistic body size.
While I am on a roll, the destigmatization of “fat” is also allowing people to claim the identity of it.
Under the pressure of Euro-centric beauty standards promoted by our American fashion and movie industry, I have slimmed down to a comfortable “average” body size and can possibly blend into the problematic “bigger-than-skinny but not too big” group. Basically I am sometimes told I am not fat enough to call myself fat.
This argument invalidates my experience navigating the fine-line of being too big for Victoria’s Secret and not big enough for Lane Bryant.
While I recognize my social privilege of sometimes passing as a skinnier person, my 210-pound body is never grouped with the fit individuals of social media’s #bodygoals.
The reality of being in my body while also being queer adds on the additional pressure that is reflective of queer culture often demanding far higher standards of beauty than the average person.
To be validated in my body and whatever way I choose to describe it is to be validated as a human and equal.
I know we have a long way to go before fat is simply fact, but we will never get there without having this discussion.
The importance of this discussion is for our society, and every skinny person in it, to accept the reality that fat is a fact and not an insult.
Just like height and skin color are undeniable, body weight is a physical characteristic that we see and should acknowledge.
If we are serious about not intentionally hurting each other’s feelings, we must accept our differences and unique qualities that create diversity.
If we are also serious about believing that diversity is beautiful, we must retrain our minds to see fat people as such.
Fat is beautiful and it is time to say it out loud.