Today in group we discussed whether or not we thought “fat” was a bad word, and boy were there some different opinions on the matter.
First of all, I think it’s undeniable that as a culture we have demonized the word fat. I also think our relationship with it is entirely confused (and I personally can’t even begin to pretend that I have a complete understanding of all the intricacies of this social issue). However, I can say that regardless of whether we intend to use a word one way or another, denying the negative implications of a word’s use does nothing to minimize its damage. I would like to think that “Yes, unfortunately fat might be used as a “bad word”, but it shouldn’t be”.
Now I should acknowledge my privilege in writing this, because I am not, and never have been, someone who has been labelled as “fat” and consequently have never experienced first-hand the toxic, widespread societal discrimination people in larger-bodies face. That being said, I believe as a society (and I know I can’t speak for everyone) we all suffer when we vilify something that is completely NATURAL and actually NECESSARY for our survival.
We NEED fat to survive. We need it on our bodies and we need it in our food.
I don’t believe that I am entitled to “reclaim” the word fat, but I do believe that I can keep questioning the negative stereotypes we continue to perpetuate by using the word in certain ways. I can question beauty-ideals and argue for weight-inclusivity and body-diversity without claiming to be a victim of their marginalization.
For me, as someone recovering from an eating disorder (a disease that is strongly socially-influenced) breaking this down has meant me asking what I mean when I say “I feel fat”.
First of all, why do I consider “fat” to mean something bad?
when it comes down to it – I don’t!
I, as much as anyone else in our culture, grew up exposed to Western beauty ideals and was conditioned to believe that they are desirable. Only now. fighting for recovery from an eating disorder, have I began to think counter-culturally and question some of these beliefs by actively exposing myself to something different.
If we were taught to think a certain way, we can be taught to think another. Across time and culture, humans have idealized all kinds of different representations of “beauty” – so it is entirely possible that the one we hold now is no more correct than any of the others.
For me, my eating disorder has rarely ever been about my body. I have a disease that directs harm to where culture tells me I can relieve my feelings of pain, fear, and rejection. My insecurities latch on to this external thing we have been told we can and should control to feel better about ourselves. It is a harmful manifestation of internalized beliefs that there is any moral implication associated with fat at all.
I am not scared of gaining weight – I am scared of not experiencing love or belongingness.
I don’t “feel fat’ – I feel lonely, or unworthy, or hurt.
I’m not scared of getting fat – I’m afraid of not being loved or accepted as I am.
I hate that the word “fat” was how I expressed these feelings (and I hate everything about eating disorders and diet-culture that propagate this message) but I am consciously making an effort to change this for myself. I am trying to make my use of the word more reflective of what I truly think – that “fat” can be a neutral thing.
I think it’s important to get angry or frustrated, because it is plain and simply unfair for someone to say that the way one body naturally looks happens to be less worthy than another. It is necessarily wrong to then treat people differently because of this. Of course, fear-mongering like this and social psychology have a huge impact on our beliefs but I encourage you to question where these beliefs really come from to begin with.
Who gets to call the shots? What do YOU choose to believe?
Personally, I do not believe that the amount of fat you have on your body nor the amount of fat you put in your mouth should have ANY influence on how you are treated as a person nor how you feel about yourself and I hate that they do. I spent too many years stuck in hell believing something else and I don’t want others to do the same.