You may have seen larger people using the word “fat” to describe themselves and wondered, “Is that something I should do too?”. This video explains why reclaiming that word can be so powerful.
It also addresses the question of why we can’t just skip ahead to not caring about size and loving each other regardless of our bodies. We can’t pretend size doesn’t matter if we hope to eliminate size oppression.
I didn’t go into examples of size oppression in the video itself, but if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, some examples include:
- Employment discrimination (not hiring people based on size, wage biases against fat people)
- Inadequate and stigmatizing health care (fat shaming, assuming health problems are always caused by weight, lack of access to procedures based on weight, etc.)
- General hatred and ridicule socially
- Educational discrimination (educators being biased against fat students)
- Spaces, furniture and equipment not being designed for larger bodies
- Lack of easy access to clothing that fits
- Lack of representation in media
- Etc. etc. etc.
Very few jurisdictions have human rights laws against size-based discrimination.
Hi everyone! Its Meredith of Made on a Generous Plan. It’s so nice to be with you again. I’m here today to talk to you about the word FAT.
I recently had an old friend get in touch and say that she had noticed that I was using that word fat rather liberally in all the things I was putting out to the world. She was curious about that word, and why I was using it, whether or not she should reclaim it, and why, if we’re working towards all humans accepting all other humans why we needed different words to talk about size at all.
I thought her question was so great. It reminded me that I hadn’t really talked much about this word and why I use it. So I wanted to introduce you to it today, explain a little bit what about why I use it, and then you can consider whether you want to try it on for size yourself (pun not intended!).
First and foremost, many people are reclaiming the word “fat” because it has been a word that is used throughout their whole lives to wound and cut them. And there’s something so powerful about taking this word that has been used very specifically to inflict pain upon them and neutralizing it.
Imagine if someone were to come up and insult you and say, “Oh, you’re fat!” and you were able just neutralize it and disarm them by basically saying, “Yeah, so what? I’m fat!”. There’s something so powerful about that.
Also, if we reclaim the word fat, there’s all these connotations that come along with the word, right? Like, in the past people have associated the word fat with being ugly, or lazy, or slovenly, or any of these things—none of which are true in any way, obviously! So if we’re able to reclaim the word, then we can naturally reduce the number of [negative] connotations [associated with it] and make it just a neutral descriptor of body size. That’s a really powerful thing.
Going a little bit deeper, the reason why we still need words to describe body size is because there’s size oppression happening in the world. If we don’t have a way to describe this certain set of people—fat people—who are experiencing discrimination and oppression, we can’t do anything to address that oppression.
I think of it as being akin to the the whole “I”m colorblind” thing that often comes up in response to racism. I know it’s coming from a really well-intended place—the person is basically trying to say, “I don’t believe that anyone is better or or worse than any other person based on the color of their skin.” But if we just say that we can’t actually see color what that means is we’re not able to address the oppression that comes from people having different skin colors and different races. It means that we can’t see white supremacy and we can’t see racism happening.
For that same reason, we need to be able to describe this set of people—people in large bodies, fat people, plus-sized people, whatever you want to call us— that are experiencing oppression in order to have any hope of fighting against it.
I urge you to think about whether you might be ready to try on this word (“fat”)! I know it can be scary. I know depending on how long you’ve been in a large body there’s a lot of baggage that comes with that word and and it’s probably been extremely painful to you in the past. So if you’re not ready to take it back or even experiment with taking it back, that’s perfectly okay. In fact, I use the word plus-size in a lot of my material because I know a lot of people aren’t ready to take it back and are just getting introduced to this idea.
On the other hand if you’re kind of interested, why not just take it for a whirl? It doesn’t mean you have to try it on permanently and adopt it. But just see how it feels and see whether or not you get that same sense of empowerment when you use it in this neutral way.
Two words I would consider that you rethink using if you are using them as your identity are what I call the “O” words. So those are “obese” and “overweight”. And I recommend people don’t use them because they’re inherently stigmatizing.
They are based on BMI calculations, which are just a ratio of height to weight. The BMI is actually something that was created by someone who worked for an insurance company many, many decades ago. It was never intended to be used for individuals. It was more to look at populations, and we know from modern weight science and Health At Every Size (HAES) literature that you can’t predict someone’s health by looking at the size of their body.
BMI is is a harmful tool and therefore the words that come out of it—”obese” and “overweight” are too. “Over WHAT weight?” is what I was always taught to think! Really, over what weight?! Why is my size any worse than anyone else’s size?
So rethink those ones, but there’s this other plethora of terms that may feel good to you. And fat may be the one that works best for you, and if so that’s awesome, and if not that’s okay too.
I hope this was helpful! If anyone has any questions, I’m so happy to answer them. And I’ll talk to you another day! Thanks everyone! Bye!