This week is Weight Stigma Awareness Week and while I love that this week exists, it’s actually been quite difficult emotionally to follow the posts happening on Instagram. My brain has been needling over this issue that has been impacting me since the Weight Stigma Conference. It’s the word “weight”.
I know that the word “fat” holds such incredibly complex and sensitive connotations for people. I used it against myself for many years. It was the devil word, the word that I never wanted to be and yet somehow always was. I mentally flogged myself with this word, often attached to “disgusting and gross”. This word became the weapon with which I punished myself. It was the motivation for dieting, the motivation for exercising, the motivation for changing myself so that eventually, one day, I would finally live my life the way I wanted to, when I was thin. When I was thin, everything would be perfect, or nearly so.
Now, I don’t have the experience of getting thin. I imagine that yes, I would gain some social currency. But I do have the experience of staying fat and reclaiming this word. And that was a long and difficult journey, to finally be able to say “yes, I’m fat” in a factual way. It is a fact. Is it a neutral fact? Perhaps not with the amount of fatphobia that exists. It would be neutral in a world that was rid of diet culture and thin obsession, but alas, that is not the world we live in. However, for me to be able to claim this word as my identity, opened up a world of possibility where hating myself for being fat didn’t have to be the default. I literally thought I had no choice. Of course, I hated myself for being fat. Because that is the message we all receive.
Back to the term “weight stigma”. For me, this term still invalidates my identity. When we shy away from the word “fat”, we reinforce the negative and taboo associations with it. I am tired of apologizing for using the word fat. I’m tired of the shocked looks, the assumptions made about this word and who I am because I use it, I’m tired of being offered “wellness solutions” mired in diet culture, with the words “weight loss” so casually thrown in. As though these actions are not violence. Yes, they are emotional violence. And I’m tired of pretending they’re not. I’m tired of educating and advocating with a fucking smile on my face. I’m tired of feeling guilty for being an activist. I’m just tired.
It’s FATPHOBIA, folks! We are fucking terrified of being fat. Can we call a spade a spade? Because I really think a huge part of destigmatizing fat is actually naming it. Saying it. Getting used to the way it rolls off our tongues. And when we finally, finally, use that word in a proud way, in a way where we say “Yeah, I’m fat, SO THE FUCK WHAT?!”, then the energy of that ripples out into the world. It takes away the power the haters (read: the dominant capitalist, patriarchal, racist culture) has over us. And it gives US the power!
I’m going to end by showing you the Fat Liberation Manifesto, written back in the 70s by our foremothers and trailblazers The Fat Underground. This powerful piece encapsulates my sentiments.
FAT LIBERATION MANIFESTO
1. WE believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect and recognition.
2. WE are angry at mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.
3. WE see our struggle as allied with the struggles of other oppressed groups against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, financial exploitation, imperialism and the like.
4. WE demand equal rights for fat people in all aspects of life, as promised in the Constitution of the United States. We demand equal access to goods and services in the public domain, and an end to discrimination against us in the areas of employment, education, public facilities and health services.
5. WE single out as our special enemies the so-called “reducing” industries. These include diet clubs, reducing salons, fat farms, diet doctors, diet books, diet foods and food supplements, surgical procedures, appetite suppressants, drugs and gadgetry such as wraps and “reducing machines”.
WE demand that they take responsibility for their false claims, acknowledge that their products are harmful to the public health, and publish long-term studies proving any statistical efficacy of their products. We make this demand knowing that over 99% of all weight loss programs, when evaluated over a five-year period, fail utterly, and also knowing the extreme proven harmfulness of frequent large changes in weight.
6. WE repudiate the mystified “science” which falsely claims that we are unfit. It has both caused and upheld discrimination against us, in collusion with the financial interests of insurance companies, the fashion and garment industries, reducing industries, the food and drug industries, and the medical and psychiatric establishment.
7. WE refuse to be subjugated to the interests of our enemies. We fully intend to reclaim power over our bodies and our lives. We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together.
FAT PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE ….