Terms of Fatness
Yesterday Remittance Girl wrote a magnificent piece titled Now That I’m Fat. There is plenty I could say about this piece, but I am in almost complete agreement, and reiterating what she said seems like a waste of my and your time. So please just go and read her article. However, there is one aspect which RG seemed to touch upon, but which I would like to talk about in a little more depth. Her piece opens with this paragraph:
I actually hate the abundance of cute little words to describe overweightness: plump, rounded, curvy, roly-poly, rubenesque, generous, BBW, padded, comfortable, chunky…adipose-enhanced? I despise them all. Having too many words for something is always a good clue that it’s a socially uncomfortable reality we don’t want to deal with.
I do not have the problem RG has with these words. I actually like and use them liberally. However, they are still problematic. Culturally words like ‘plump’ and ‘curvy’ are used to avoid the word ‘fat’ but in reality this just lends more negative power to it. The thing is, ‘fat’ is just a word, and one of the many things I adore about RG’s article is how many time she says ‘fat’. She doesn’t use it derogatorily, or in a complimentary way, she simply states it as truth. The word ‘fat’ is a descriptor and we need to stop endowing it with negative connotations. Let’s just call a spade a spade. I am fat.
And it is not just the thin police who give ‘fat’ a bad name. It is a word I have used many times to describe myself, and many times it has been answered with a chorus of “You’re not fat! You’re beautiful!” as though the two are mutually exclusive. They absolutely are not. ‘Fat’ is just a descriptor; it is not a value judgement. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Dawn French, Beth Ditto, Nikki Blonksy, all of these women are fat. All of these women are also gorgeous.
Having said that, I also want to say a word for people who won’t date fat girls – and I’m purposefully addressing overweight females because I believe the issue for males is a little different. There are, to my mind, two kinds of people who will reject you for your weight. The first are those who feel it would harm their social status to be seen dating an overweight person. This is high-school type prejudice and anyone who feels that insecure about their standing is, honestly, not someone you want to be around. So don’t sweat it. I actually mentioned being honest about your weight in my piece about filling out your OkCupid profile, and this is why. Consider these your lucky escapes. The second group are people who are simply not attracted to overweight girls. This is perfectly acceptable. Being honest about who you are attracted to is a good thing. I turn OkCupid messages down on a daily basis because they are from people who are too young for me. The simple truth is that I am not attracted to people who are under thirty, and that is just a fact. So if I approach someone and they kindly tell me they are simply not attracted to fat girls, I’ll take that as written and move along.
But I digress.
As for those other words – ‘plump, rounded, curvy, roly-poly, rubenesque, generous, BBW, padded, comfortable, chunky…’ – to my mind they are all fine. In fact, with the exception of BBW (which I think should probably be reserved for porn tags, as it is otherwise largely* unimaginative), I love a lot of these words. They are creative adjectives, and for me they all describe a different kind of fat. Plump is a warm, homely woman with rosy cheeks. Rubenesque has a sense of dim lighting and eroticism. Rounded is geometric. I would never discourage anyone from using these words creatively. But we seriously need to stop using them to avoid the word ‘fat’, because the more we do, the more we give power to all the negative, fat-shaming that is so pervasive in Western culture.
As for the word ‘obese’? It is medical and scientific, and belongs exclusively between you and your doctor.
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