You are actually part of the problem: fat edition

Yesterday’s post crystallized a lot of things for me around how people think they’re not fatphobic or not engaging in fat-hate.*

Today’s lesson:  you are.

Now, there’s probably plenty of you out there who don’t even think fatphobia exists or if it does it’s totes justified ’cause fatties are gross.

This actually isn’t about you.

This is about you, the liberal, the progressive, the feminist, the ally, the friend who sincerely starts sentences with some variation on “I don’t hate fat people but …” and who is, in fact, fatphobic and does, in fact, hate fat people.

It is fatphobic …

When you allow yourself a magic cut-off point at which a fat person is “demonstrated” to be wrong-fat.

Oh, but you get that some people are naturally big and of course you’re totally sympathetic to people who are fat due to medical reasons** and you’re accepting and progressive and non-judgemental … but come on, you’ve got to have some people who it’s okay to hate and judge and scorn!

No, you don’t.  You are not being accepting and you are not being progressive and you are not just being “reasonable” because …

  • they ate three pies in one sitting!
  • they can’t even fit [supposedly huge size] clothes!
  • they waddle, or limp, or dislike climbing stairs!
  • you don’t find them sexually attractive (and hey, you LOVE curvy chicks!)

Guess what?  All these lines in the sand which allow you to feel superior and get your hate on without compromising your progressive cred?  Are fat-hating. Are passing judgement on other people’s choices without any consideration of their lives, their dignity, their experiences.***

And it is fatphobic …

When you start throwing around fucked-up words like “natural”.

Things that do not occur in nature:  airplane seats, weight limits on mobility scooters, doorways.

Things that occur in nature:  my ass.

Yes, of course the size of my ass and of all the glorious asses of the world will probably have been influenced by a variety of genetic and environmental factors.  But the fact is that those things don’t really fucking matter in the long run.****  The fact is, I have a big ass.  And there is no “natural” way to decrease its size safely, predictably and permanently.  And even if there were, who fucking cares, it’s an ass and it’s beautiful and it’s none of your fucking business.

My ass is “natural”, however it came to be the brilliant size and shape it is now.  It will probably change throughout my life, due to lifestyle or environmental factors.  It will still not be an argument for or against my worthiness and hotness as a person.

While we’re on the topic of “natural”, it is fatphobic …

To insist that every fucking conversation about weight showcase the bits that justify your fat hatred.

Another bloody fat-horror doco is on tv this week.  My partner yelled obscenities at the ad we saw for it and then asked, somewhat rhetorically, why yet another Awful Fat Person Exists, Now In Vivid Technicolor doco was on our screens.

Easy, I said.  By constantly putting fat people into the frame, fat people at the most extreme end of the population bell curve, society normalises that level of fatness.  Like the headless fatties in every panicked news story, you are meant to see the image of that person and come to believe that that [horrible, ugly, awful] level of adipose tissue is what they’re talking about when they yet again remind you 1 in 5 New Zealanders is overweight or obese.

And these images and stories and panic get deeply embedded in our minds, and the fear becomes a part of our lives, and then every single fucking time there’s a conversation about fat acceptance or body policing or intuitive eating, it pops out in little objections like:

  • “But what about people who are so fat they can’t walk?”
  • “But some fat people are unhealthy!”
  • “But you should be getting regular exercise!”
  • “But obviously you shouldn’t just eat baby-flavoured donuts all day!”

Here’s what you think you’re saying:  “We should just keep these important caveats in mind!”

Here’s what you’re actually saying:  “Don’t get too comfortable, fatty!  We’re willing to tolerate your silly talk for now, but just remind your body and dietary habits and exercise levels are still totally ours to monitor and judge!  We refuse to let you just be positive and uplifting about body acceptance, and we’re going to burst that balloon at every opportunity!  Don’t you dare let go of the fear that one day you too will be Inexcusably Fat!!!”

In short:  it’s fatphobic, and you are fatphobic, and yes, your fat friends have seen through your protestations but just aren’t willing to confront you directly because it is fatphobic …

When you tell your fat friends you’re “not talking about THEM”.

You are.  Even if only in the most indirect way, when you say all these things, you are reminding them that they are fat [and that being fat is baaaaaad], and you are are reminding them that their bodies are perceived as public property for others to assess and find wanting***** and you are reinforcing the constant stream of body-policing, diet-policing, and lifestyle-policing that they are already subjected to every waking minute of their lives.

You are talking about them.  You are talking about me.  Your intent is not fucking magic.  So if you’re going to keep being fatphobic, at least do me the favour of quitting the pretence and join those guys up in paragraph three who are honest about their bigotry.


*And every other bigotry under the sun, but this is the fat edition!

**Especially sympathetic, even, because omg they’re sick AND fat and that’s terrible.

***Of course, taking these things into account would harsh your judge-squee.

****Which is of course not to say that we shouldn’t look at environmental things like poverty and nutrition and availability of ingredients/time/social support.  Just that looking at those things should not be completely motivated by ensuring no child shall ever again face having a big ass.

*****Because of course even supermodels can never actually be assessed as completely fulfilling our bullshit beauty standards.


  1. Boganette

    Fantastic post! Thank-you for saying this!

    Especially the “When you tell your fat friends you’re “not talking about THEM”” comment. SO fucking true. I can’t stand it when fatphobic people claim they’re not talking about me or say ‘not your kind of fat’ or ‘you’re not fat. I’m talking about REALLY fat people’ as if that somehow makes their judgemental hate OK. Or that it somehow makes me understand that they don’t mean me they just mean other people who look like me that they don’t know. Like they hate fatties except the fatties who can hear them saying how much they hate fatties. It’s pathetic. And people need to be called on their shit.

    Well fucking done.

  2. Stef

    We need to stop hating on bodies whether the body in question in is yours or someone else’s. I am not sure how to do this but we need to stop doing it.

    • QoT

      Heck yes! After reading Lessons From the Fat-o-Sphere I basically made a decision to stop constantly judging other women’s appearances. And like other choices to stop using certain words, once you get into the habit it becomes a lot easier to do it.

      Which of course only really solves things at an individual level, but it’s a start.

  3. Octavia

    What I find particularly scary is that many of these people call themselves feminist/liberal/a nice person/whatever, while engaging in a destruction of agency. No one is here to decorate your world. You do not have a right to someone else’s body, experiences, life. Other people do not have to prove themselves worthy to you in order to be ‘allowed’ to go on existing as they are.

    It’s basically what women and other marginalised people experience every day, and it scares me how people don’t see the similarities and intersection.

    I mean, it’s basic. If you’re okay with having some people being seen as public property to be judged and shamed, you are ranking FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS on a scale of who deserves more human rights, essentially who is more human. Being that people do this all the time with fat phobia, racism, sexism, queer-hate, etc, that is fairly fucking terrifying. And considering how many of the people judged as particularly ‘unhealthy’/unworthy fat just happen to be PoC and often poor, yeah that’s totally coincidental too, and you’re these ‘progressives’ are not supporting that institutionalised hatred. Somehow.

  4. lilacsigil

    Things that occur in nature: my ass.

    Ok, some baby-donut-flavoured-high-calorie-soda may have come out my nose at that.

    The best decision I made in my life (and, I think, the most feminist) was to stop judging other people, especially other women. It was surprisingly easy and very relaxing!