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Reclaiming Fat | Manolo for the Big Girl

Reclaiming Fat

Wow. I’ve got to be honest; I was not expecting such a strong reaction from the Can’t I Just Be Fat piece, but boy am I glad I got one.

One thing I want to clarify is I think it’s important to be able to call yourself fat without it being A Thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever use any other words. I call myself a big girl all the time. For example, one afternoon in Mexico a friend took me on a stroll around the city and I was wearing the most adorable leg-lengthening pair of Joseph Griffin espadrilles on the planet.

Your pal Plummy is already a long drink of water and the heels on those bad boys are about six inches so I was wending my way through the calles of Baja at just around 6’4″. A quick google tells me the average height of a woman in Mexico is 5’1″ and the hombres a hair over 5’5″, so I’m wandering around somewhere between a foot and a foot and a half taller than almost everyone on the street. When I retell that story I say “huge” not “fat” because “fat” doesn’t tell enough of the story. Walking down the street with a fat girl isn’t generally enough to cause open-mouthed stares on the streets down Mexico way. Walking down the street with a fat girl who also happens to be extremely tall, extremely fair and wearing immaculately-pressed white linen mini-dress with matching portrait hat…that’s another story. He might as well have been Kate Hepburn and I made a very fine leopard on a string.

As I leave you this afternoon, I’d like to post a few of the more thought-provoking comments from Wednesday’s post and invite you to continue the conversation here. Have a great weekend gang, and I’ll see you on the flipside.

Miss B wrote:

I had an experience with this recently. I was having a conversation with a friend, who probably wears a size 18, while I wear a 24. I referred to myself as fat, and she said, “No, don’t call yourself that! You’re not fat! You have a pretty face, you have pretty hair, and you dress well! You aren’t fat!” I was surprised that her definition of fat meant sloppy, ugly, and having bad taste. I told her that I was fat, and I was fine with being fat.

Thea wrote:
I think ‘fat’ like many pejorative words and phrases can only be reclaimed by the people who live it. And like so many other pejoratives – if you try and ‘claim’ it or even use it casually when you don’t belong to the group, you are likely to get decked.

I call myself fat, and I’ve also seen my friends flinch on my behalf when I use the word and tell me to ‘stop talking about yourself like that.’

As an experiment, I alternatively describing myself as ‘dumb blonde’, ‘dippy’ and ‘bimbo’. I was gently corrected by people who love me for using all those words, but not with the venom of when I called myself fat.

So why I call myself fat, I do realize that for many people, even who live it, it’s still the worst insult in the world. And I don’t want to insult others unless I mean it. Fat people get enough of that in the world.

Cat wrote:
I write for a fashion and beauty blog that is intended to be inclusive of women of every size. I write mostly beauty product reviews, but occasionally do an outfit post in which I write about a particular look and include options in various sizes. I always shy away from using the word “fat” because I am not fat myself and I don’t want it to be taken as an insult. I usually say, “plus size” or “larger girls” or something along those lines, but I always wonder if that’s worse than just saying “fat.” What do you think? Is it the type of reclaimed word that’s acceptable only within the group to which it applies, or can skinny girls say it, too?

Marsha wrote:
The reason that I don’t use the word in daily discourse is that I’m not into ironic self-related rhetoric. I think it’s possible that people with whom I interact on a daily basis (colleagues, friends, my husband) may have forgotten that I’m fat, what with my wit, charm, and shockingly green eyes and all. If I remind them by using the word, it can only be to my detriment.

(this nearly made me cry, if I was a huggy person I’d give you a hug Marsha —ed.)

7 Responses to “Reclaiming Fat”

  1. Orora September 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    I missed the whole rigmarole, but I definitely bristle when my friends say “I don’t think of you as fat.” But I am. My BMI (which is BS, but it’s an objective marker) puts me at morbidly obese. Fact: I am fat. But they don’t see me as fat because, like Miss B, my friends think of fat as slovenly, ugly, unfashionable, and even mean. But it’s just one more descriptor of me: knitter, wears glasses, Libra, faux redhead, fat. I’d like it to not be a loaded word, but it is.

  2. jayonay September 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    I have been teaching at a K-8 school for about six months and even though I am a beloved teacher, I have had a handful of incidents where one student will tell me that another student called me/said I was fat. Each time, I address the issue the same way. I tell them that Miss. Garcia is a fat person and that I am not offended by the comment. I tell them, Miss. Garcia is tall, she has brown hair and eyes, she wears shoes everyday, she’s fat, and she’s beautiful. (They smile.) Then I ask, and this where I get them, “were you trying to hurt my feelings by saying I am fat?” They of course say, “no.” I am sure that sometimes that answer is true, and sometimes… not so much. But, it doesn’t really matter. As adults, we have learned that when we put someone down, it is generally more about our insecurities and feelings than the person we are trying to damage. So, when a student calls me fat, I challenge their discomfort with my size or the idea of fat in general, by showing them that being fat is as normal as having brown hair. In the end, they may come to accept that Miss. Garcia is fat and beautiful… or they may not. But, they will KNOW that the adult who teaches, loves, and protects them on a daily basis says that being fat is A-OK.

  3. jason September 9, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    I just love that image of you walking around (above) Mexico like that…portrait hat, espadrilles and all :)

  4. silvia September 12, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    Oh, I can relate!
    When I went to Jakarta for work, not only I was about 50 kg (110 pounds, give or take) heavier (at least…) than every man or woman in the streets, I was also 30 cm (1 foot, give or take) taller!
    I never felt so gigantic, but I did not really care nor it stoppped me from doing whatever I wanted.
    And yes, I am fat (BMI of 35) but I am mostly beautiful, smart, funny, married with an amazing man and in a great job that whisks me around the world and pays very well…

  5. ChaChaHeels September 12, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    I always understood the “you’re not fat!” protests my friends used to “reassure” me with to mean “You’re not fat, because I like you, and I hate fat people!” It really is more about how other people feel about their own prejudices when they’re confronted by experiences that contradict their beliefs.

    By the way, I want the shoes in the post, and the palettas in the previous post.

  6. Peaches September 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    Yeah…Im fat. Also have ten fingers and ten toes. Dont be silly; its just the way it is.

  7. Lisa from SoCal September 14, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    Look at the wee pink tassel on those shoes. I love!