i'm not fat?
June 17, 2003 05:36 PM

Cz, who really ought to get a blog of his own (Revo talks about him enough that he really deserves a link), told me some time ago that he didn't think of me as fat.

He wasn't being brilliantly enlightened, either. He wasn't saying that his concept of normal size is so broad that I, of course, am simply normal.


What he actually meant (and I'm not picking on you here, Cz, really) is that the word "fat" so clearly involves things like "lazy" and "stodgy" and "jolly" and "unfashionable" and "unkempt" and, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm not any of those things that "fat" means. So I'm not fat. And Trish isn't fat. And none of the other fat activists on my blog roll are fat.

There's a woman who sits near me and slacks off all day at work. Maybe she's fat. Eh, but she's neither jolly nor lacking in style (nor, um, fat).

This isn't just about Cz. Because he's right, strange as it may sound. And he was only the first of three people to say that to me that week. We've done fat to death in the US. To be fat is to be a failure at self-discipline and self-love, so an actual fat person who succeeds at either is *poof* no longer fat. No matter what a scale may say about them. Why?

I think we have the diet industry to thank for this one. We've made people so conscious of fat as all of those negative connotations that the word is completely separated from its original meaning in the average mainstream mind. It's clear from the discrimination that fat people receive that we can still associate the fact of fat with this notion of badness, but for the most part, "fat" is about failure, not about weight.

And maybe the new feminine tradition of "you're not fat, I'm fat" contributes a little. If I care about you, you aren't really "fat". Maybe you're chubby. Or overweight. Or I'm afraid to reference your size at all, because to call you "fat" would be to call you a pathetic slime of a nothing evil bad badness.

Fat is something at a distance. It's a particular challenge to fat activists, because the people who encounter you being none of the things "fat" is supposed to mean on a daily basis won't change their ideas about fat if they don't think of you as fat to begin with.

Fat. Doesn't exist. Except in abstract.

How weird is that?

There's a new discussion on Big Fat Blog today about why women's clothes in large sizes continue to be hard to find. A lot of good, solid answers. A lot of frustration.

I think, as someone who commented about the connection between ugly clothes for fat people and ugly clothes for poor people came close to saying, that it's about disappearance. Not about entitlement, but about designers failing to see that which is outside of their market as a potential market. Fat people, poor people, "not our market" people are assumed not to want the things others want. Fat people, who exist only in theory, want clothes to hide in.

And presumably, fat people want to be thin. So why make clothes for people who aren't worthy of buying them? No, seriously, I think this has been a real concern in the past. I think anyone who got fat was presumed to be there temporarily. And what good is a quality suit, a well-made formal dress, if you won't be that size later? Of course, diet culture creates a whole load of people who won't be one size for long, fat or otherwise.

Probably the main reason many companies don't produce clothes for fat people is laziness (or should I say "fatness"?). It takes effort to risk catering to a market that, while growing, isn't as large (Ha! But I mean in terms of sales, silly.) and as profitable. If you then persist in assuming things about that market based on its invisibility, well...

But what do I care? I'm not fat.

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your wicked thoughts


these are the thoughts of Tish on June 18, 2003 11:27 AM

I find that I find it difficult to refer to people as "fat", because of all the negative connotations associated in my mind with that word. It always sounds to me like a rude thing to say to someone, an insult. I tend to use the word "big" instead, sometimes "large". Which really doesn't mean the same thing, as you can be big without being fat, and fat without being big. This habit of mine is something I had realized and had thought about even before I read this post, but I find it's a surprisingly hard habit to overcome.

these are the thoughts of titilayo on June 18, 2003 09:50 PM

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