Like most fat people, I have had a lot of mindless, hateful abuse spat at me.
Strangers have either shouted “Fuck you, fat b*tch!” after me as I walked down the street or simply added a “You shouldn’t eat that.” if I eat anything but lettuce in public.
Maybe this sounds unbelievable to you, but this has become such a normal part of my everyday life that I barely notice it anymore. It’s so common that there is now a word for it: Fatphobia.
I have found a way to deal with empty hatred. A way to make the inner voice loud enough to silence them. I remind myself that I am good enough. And that every fat-hating thought they have is a product of brainwashing by media, where body image and exploitation of low self-esteem is a multi-million dollar industry.
But there’s something else I’ve been encountering – fatphobia that comes from a well-meaning place, and I have no idea how to react to it.
In my stand-up comedy, I sometimes talk about being fat. It’s all fat positive. I wish to promote the message, that you can love your fat body and that you can love other fat bodies. This has triggered some strange reactions.
I have made a top three:
1. I was being interviewed by a journalist, who had seen my act. At one point, he leaned in and said, “I love the fact that you talk about being unattractive.”
I don’t. I talk about being fat. It is not the same thing. It. Is. Not. The. Same. Thing.
2. During a gig, in the midst of my jokes about being fat, a very happy fellow on the first row lit up into a huge smile and shouted, “Fat girls are always friendly!”
What a sweet and kind prejudice, but nevertheless, a prejudice that’s based on the fact that being fat is looked down upon: lots of fat people go through years of bullying and end up as people-pleasers in order to not be bullied anymore. To make a long story short, we had a little chat and he changed his mind.
3. After a show a man came up to me and said, “I really loved your set, especially the part about men who like big girls. I can relate. You see, I don’t often get what I want. Sometimes I have to settle for fat girls too. Can I buy you a drink?”
It’s almost an excerpt from Romeo & Juliet. Was it not Romeo who first said the words, “Meh, you’ll do.” or was it Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights?
I have learned to deal with idiots, but what makes this – and the rest of the comments – hard to listen to, is the fact that these guys meant well. Which means that fat-phobia is so engraved in our society that we don’t perceive these attitudes and opinions as prejudice, we see them as reflective of facts.
All I can do, is to look on the bright side of things. It’s a step in the right direction- at least we are discussing it. If some half-brain shouts “Die, fatso!” after you in the streets and you attempt to chase them down to give them a lil’ piece of your mind, nothing apart from a restraining order will come from it.
But if someone takes your hand and says, “You are fat, but you look good anyway”, you have the space and time to explain to him, “No, I am fat and I look good. Period.”
You can take him out for a proper meal and teach him, like you’ve had to teach yourself, that being fat does not equal being a person unworthy of respect, love or attention. That beauty is in fact subjective and some people are attracted to fat people, some people are attracted to skinny people and some people, believe it or not, do not care about looks at all. And most importantly, teach him that his opinions are irrelevant, as your body was not made to please him. Or anyone else.
[I realise that the woman in the photo is pregnant, but there are no photos of fat women in the stock photo archieve and this was the closest I got to one.]