You know one of my pet hates? Women, usually TV presenters, who have never known what it’s like to be overweight, publicly making their own grand commentary about things concerning larger women. It’s like having your local Catholic priest give you marriage advice. How the hell would you know?
Maybe said TV presenters feel they are qualified because they have “struggled” with their weight in the past. Maybe they think they can weigh in (pardon the pun) on the basis of how many emotional and physical resources they have thrown at not ever waking up and finding themselves fat in their lifetime. It just makes me laugh when someone who has obviously never really been classified as overweight tells us all how we ought to treat overweight people. As someone who has been classified as overweight for much of my adult life, I can tell you that this doesn’t really feel like support. It feels like patronisation.
There have been times when I have “struggled" with my weight, but I don’t fight against myself like that any more. My body deserves much, much better. As I’ve posted before, my body is pretty much my hero. It’s done some amazing things, including giving birth to four children and surviving cancer. I am tired of beating it up for not being something that random people I don’t give a shit about might approve of.
*Nancy Upton (pictured) was so disgusted at attempts by American Apparel to recruit plus-sized models for a campaign via a patronising competition, she created a tumblr and entered the contest to show her contempt. Upton won, and then refused to participate in the campaign under protest.
I’m 5’4”, size 14-16 (Australian size) and about 76kgs. Not thin. I’m not hugely obese either, but I think thats probably as much luck as good management. I am too busy to get real fat, but I like my food too much to be real thin. I am simply not prepared to take my attention off other things that interest me and refocus on getting into size 10 jeans. It’s tempting for me to defend the things that take my attention away from making myself thinner in some kind of sanctimonious light, but I actually shouldn’t need to paint myself as Mother Theresa. So I’m fat. I haven’t done anything wrong.
Yep, that’s right. Being bigger than a “small" size in clothes is not actually a moral defect. It isn’t bad, wrong or evil. It does mean I can’t get a job as a magazine model, and it may even mean that men in the street will pass me over as a prospective sexual partner, but I think I’m okay with that. I have often wondered why, in this age of supposed women’s liberation, many women are still not liberated from the idea that a woman’s existence on the earth is validated only if someone visually assesses us in five seconds as a viable sexual object when they walk past us in the street. And I also do not understand why a viable sexual partner is defined as someone who has apparent collarbones, no cellulite and can buy their jeans from the single digit end of the rack. For all intents and purposes, a woman who owns thighs that touch when she stands up can still participate in fabulous, mutually gratifying sex. Take my word for it, she absolutely can. And should.
A lot of the neurosis I have had about my weight in recent years has been because I’ve had a lack of neurosis about my weight, and I wondered if that was actually normal. Just look at yourself, how can you not be dieting - what the hell is wrong with you? Now, I have a philosophy of living my life from the inside out - that is, I now believe my body exists to carry my self around in, and not the other way around. My self does not exist to serve my body - my body exists to serve my self. My self loves my children and my husband, and tries to be a better human being. It’s my self that works hard to remember I must eat fruit more often than I eat banana bread, because banana bread is not really fruit, and my body doesn’t work properly if I don’t eat enough fruit. My self goes off to work each day as a mental health support worker, and tries hard to connect with the selves inside the other bodies of the people I work with that don’t work the way the owners wish they would. It’s my self that communes with my God, and prays and worships and thanks Him for the life I have, for my second chance to be here. Its my self that cares for my body, physically and spiritually, and appreciates that I will only be able to do what I want to do if my body is healthy enough to take me where I want to go. It’s my self, having been fed and nourished just as well as my physical body, that appreciates looking good in a bikini isn’t ever going to be worth more than knowing how to be generous, grateful, forgiving, patient, kind and loving. Ever.
I look forward to a time when thinner women don’t feel the need to advocate for we larger women; not because larger women are doing it for themselves, but because all women refuse to participate in a world view that perpetuates an issue with the relative weight of women in the first place. We have been divided into two groups - the relatively small and the relatively large. Relative to what? Each other? We cannot profess unity as a gender when it is we who maintain the mythical divide.
Women on the whole must change they way they think about what it means to be a woman. Sex and fat have become inextricably linked in women’s minds. If we get sex, we are sexually viable. If we are fat, we don’t get sex. This is technically untrue, but is the accepted mythology of our culture. Advertisers know it, and they make a shit load lot of money off of keeping it that way. They know that if women ever come to accept themselves the way they are, our whole economy would collapse.
In any case, I find it slightly offensive that other women, particularly the thin ones on TV, assume they need to defend my size on my behalf. Please don’t. Just because you’re scared of ever letting yourself be fat one day, doesn’t mean you get to be our representative. I think many thin women have made some broad and very negative assumptions about what it feels like to be fat, and based their well-meaning comments on that. They think “being fat must be simply awful - after all, I can’t think of anything worse - therefore I, being the thin person every fat person surely wishes they were, must step in and defend the rights of fat women.” Do us a favour - get over yourself. Get over my being fat. And further, get over your being thin. There’s actually a lot to be said for an imposing physical presence. I have actually wondered if our society's obsession with female thin-ness is not merely some perverted way of making females appear collectively less threatening. Some women certainly act like being thin is the same thing as having a university degree or bringing about world peace. Well, you certainly may take up less space, but there is more than one way to be light-weight.
I’ll tell you a secret. I have in the past harboured a general belief that thin people are shallow and self-absorbed, because on the occasions when I starved myself thin, I had to think pretty darn shallow and be severely self-absorbed to do it. But that doesn’t mean all thin people are shallow and self-absorbed. I think many thin people believe the only way they could become fat is if they gave into such sins as laziness, self-indulgence and greed. Any thin persons commitment to not being lazy, self-indulgent and greedy is admirable, and ought to always be more admirable than their body mass index. Further, not all fat people got that way because they lacked moral fibre, any more than all thin people are that way because they have truckloads of it. High morals are great, but not when the only practical use we have for them is for comparison purposes.
So, thin lady? Please don’t stick up for me. Don't presume I have low self esteem simply because I have a big, wide arse. Don’t assume that I particularly want to see “curvy” models on catwalks, or that I am offended when people say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I am not interested in models, catwalks or finding something that tastes as good as having a boney arse feels. Honey, you can eat your heart out. I think maybe you as a thin person are perhaps more sensitive about my weight than I am. You see me as exactly what you would never allow yourself to become, and that’s your issue, not mine.
I have to be careful not to presume all thin people are mean-spirited, or self-obsessed - and thin people have to be careful not to presume all fat people are victims, stupid and voiceless. Thin lady on TV? Don’t make your issues with your own weight into a cause you need to defend on my behalf. I don’t need you to stick up for me, honey. I’m not a silent, disempowered minority, and I don’t need your advocacy. I don’t look at you and feel bad about myself. I look at you and feel happy that I won’t have to fight you for frozen desserts in the supermarket freezer section. You ought to feel good about this too, because although I could snap you like a twig, I’m too happy about being able to eat frozen desserts whenever I like to ever get that angry.