Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

February 13, 2008

The Words of Camryn Manheim: Fat or Fault?

Five minutes and 58 seconds into her amazing first Fat Rant video, Joy Nash points out that sometimes, we blame things on our fat that are really not about our fat, but about others of our flaws (we all have them), or about factors that have nothing to do with us at all.

And, when we finally admit that not everything revolves around our fat, it can be quite liberating. Paradoxically, admitting that we’re flawed and make mistakes and turn people off for reasons like, say, our bitchiness, is actually quite freeing and empowering . . . more empowering than blaming everything on being fat, just to avoid the pain of examining what else might be “wrong” with ourselves.

Here is Manheim’s take on this idea, from her book “Wake Up, I’m Fat!” (a.k.a. The Best Fat Girl Book Ever):

What if I stopped blaming [my anthropomorphized fat] for everything? What if I stopped using him as an excuse? What if I stopped hiding behind him and entered into a covenant with myself that if I failed as an actor or a lover, it was my fault, my responsibility? It wouldn’t be easy. I would have so much more at stake, which meant I was going to have to work harder, prepare more thoroughly, and redouble my commitment to my art. From that point forward I wouldn’t let myself off the hook so easily with a simple “They didn’t choose me because I’m fat.” No, if they didn’t choose me, it was because I didn’t wow them. I stopped relying on my ever-present alibi and put all my energies into wowing them. These were my first baby steps on the journey of self-acceptance. And a funny thing happened on the way to the self-love forum: I learned that confidence, courage, and a little bit of sass can be very seductive.

Francesca has mixed feelings about this idea.

On the one hand, it ignores the fact that there are many, many people who — consciously or subconsciously — do indeed deny jobs or service or love to fat people, no matter how confident, talented, and giving the fat person may be.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that confidence, talent, and generosity of spirit go a long way, and that sometimes, the reasons people deny us what we want are not about our fat. They are about something else entirely, like our messiness or lateness or our having blonde hair when the guy likes brunettes.

Or they are about the frown we put on, the negative vibes we emit, when we worry and fret about how much our fat might stand in our way, instead of focusing with a smile on our gifts.


  1. The advantage to thinking about rejection in terms of what we could change is, of course, that we then have the ability to change. If we think about rejection only in terms of other people’s prejudices, we are at their mercy, powerless to effect a different outcome. This is rarely the case (just as it is rarely entirely within our power to enforce a desired outcome).

    Focusing on our opportunities for action and change is an optimistic outlook and more likely to lead to contentment.

    Comment by Kai Jones — February 13, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  2. I think this question was well summed up by – of all people! – a lifestyle coach Tim Gunn sent a woman to on his makeover show. The coach told the woman to repeat the mantra ‘I cannot control how I am perceived; I can only control how I am presented.’

    You’re right, Francesca, that there is actual prejudice out there and everything is not your fault whether you’re fat or not. On the other hand, assuming that others will dislike us because of our fat, our hair color, our clothes or any other single factor may protect us from recognizing our faults, but it doesn’t allow us to shine in ways that might just change someone’s mind.

    If we take control of how we present ourselves to the world, we can change perception…among those who are open to change in the first place. But using fat or any other single physical attribute as an excuse for why people don’t pick you isn’t helping the cause. It just allows others to point to you as a reason their prejudices are correct.

    Frankly, I find it amusing how few people notice either the fact that I’m short or the fact that I’m fat on a first meeting. They’re too busy seeing the energy and humor and quirkiness I project to realize the details of how I look. It’s purely a matter of how I choose to present myself, and it works surprisingly well.

    Comment by Twistie — February 13, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

  3. Twistie, thank you so much for passing on that mantra. You can really apply that to all kinds of things – appearance, personality, talent, professionalism….I could go on and on.

    And, Miss Francesca, thank you so much for bringing this book back to the fresh part of my brain – amazing how different it strikes me reading it now as opposed to when I first got it a few years ago!

    Comment by sara — February 14, 2008 @ 1:00 am

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