Once again I am behind the curve with current events. I recently listened to a show interviewing a woman, Gabi, who writes a fashion blog, GabiFresh, for “curvy girls”. In the interview Gaby was talking about her swim wear line of two piece bathing suits sizes 14 – 24 that are being called Fatkini’s. There is apparently a movement to reclaim the word fat.
Since I don’t post any pictures of myself on this blog, unless you know me, there is no way you could know that I am overweight. Plus-sized. A big girl. Zaftig. And all the other polite euphemisms. I do have a pretty face, good hair, and nice hands and feet. These are the bits that get oohed over when people are looking for ways to compliment.
I have been this way for a long time for reasons that, while complex, boil down to more calories in than calories out through exercising. Very simple.
Except its not. Fat people exist in a category of things its okay to hate along with Nazi’s and brussel sprouts.
Being overweight is seen as a moral failing on the part of the fat person without regard to psychological, genetic or economic factors. Reasons are no excuse. Prejudice against fat people is deeply ingrained in US society: fat people are lazy, fat people are stupid, fat people are unhealthy, fat people are unattractive, fat people are a drain on society. Fat people are worthless. And its okay to not like fat people, there are no repercussions like other prejudices.
Lazy, stupid and worthless are the three most common descriptors from a study of the weight bias that doctors who treat obesity exhibit. You read that right. The people supposedly treating patients who are overweight walk into the exam room with that attitude. You will have value once you are thin. But how thin? “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Thank you Wallis Simpson.
We use the terms overweight, obese and morbidly obese as if they are static. They are not. The guidelines have been adjusted multiple times including in 1998 when the federal BMI guidelines changed and instantly 30 million people were suddenly overweight or obese. Hence the epidemic. But the numbers are really not the point of this post.
In our society being fat is one of the worst things that can happen you. That is the attitude. I think there is also a healthy dose of classism in there. Once upon a time being fat was external proof you were wealthy enough to eat rich food, now it is external proof you are too poor to eat healthy food.
Living as a fat person I can’t say I would ever wear a Fatkini. A bikini is not my style even if I were thin. We all have weird body issues that are mostly our own private hell, but when Gaby started wearing and selling Fatkinis suddenly her body became public debate. Does she have the right to wear it was the first stop on that train. Her “right” to swimwear seemingly comes with a societal obligation to be ashamed about how she looks.
Here is the curious thing. She’ll look just as fat if she’s in a one piece, two piece or wearing a tent, so what’s the objection really about? Lots of comments on the web articles were about people not wanting to look at how disgusting she is. Now there is an inherent viciousness in online comments, but the tone on several article threads was uniformly destructive. Again, since it’s okay to make fun of fat people, you can see how the commenter’s felt justified.
Being called fat is an insult. Being fat and happy is an affront. Not caring that you are fat is downright revolutionary. A feminist movement trying to counter “fat shaming” through self-acceptance will take some time to get a foothold here in the US but it is definitely something to watch.