Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can Your Fat Ever Be Your BFF?

It seemed for awhile that everyone I turned people were talking about "Huge" on ABC family.  I have read both good and positive about the show, but the fact that so many were engaging in conversation about it is what finally spurred me to watch it.  "Huge" is about a group of teenagers spending the summer at a fat camp.  I expected just from the location alone, for the show to be filled with problems.  While "Huge" is not perfect, it is still filled with positive aspects.   Rather than doing a straight up critique of the show, I would like to focus on a line said by Will, one of the fat campers when she was forced to wear a bathing suit for weigh in.  You see, Will's intention at the camp is not to lose weight, but gain weight.  She is constantly talking about the fact that we only view certain bodies as acceptable, leaving the rest to be stigmatized.  In keeping with her position on her fat, Will announces that her fat is her bff. Now that is fat positive.

This is an absolutely revolutionary statement on television, when we consider that fat people are constantly ignored. Except for fat positive areas, fat is stigmatized; it is not welcome.  Fat bodies are seen as gluttonous unattractive blobs; we are told we are unlovable.  Everything from eating in public to buying clothing is difficult.  The world is specifically designed to ensure that those that are outside of the very narrow parameters that we have constructed as 'normal' are shamed, even if conformity is something outside of the individual's control. So, trust me when I say that a fat woman saying that her fat is her bff brought up a myriad of emotions in me.

Society wants us to hate our fat.  We are meant to turn away from our bodies in disgust and closet ourselves in our homes.  Fat is a word many are taught to use as an insult, even though it really is only a descriptor no different than short or tall.  Fat is never socially neutral, it is always seen as a reflection on the personality of the fat individual.  This is why a character expressing love for their fat and claiming that their fat is their bff sends a very strong message.  To love what society tells you to hate takes strength of character -- and even in our most quiet moments, it is hard to escape the doubt that is planted daily.

This is my struggle: the fat says no more about me than my height.  Though much of my current weight is the result of illness, when I go out in public, people don't know that.  They see a fat woman in a scooter and assume that I am a glutton and not disabled.  If I sit and eat ice cream, pizza or a burger, even the face of the waitress that is serving me is not neutral.  I have had to ignore the looks of disgust as I go about my daily business, and I would be lying if I said that this did not hurt me.  I am fat and so I am either the butt of jokes or the inspiration for disgust.  I am expected to compensate people for even existing by being the jolly fat person, regardless of how I feel on the inside.  Just like every other part of my identity, fatness comes with preconceived notions to which I am expected to live out a performance for others. 

Daily I am assaulted by diet products and exercise equipment.  I am told if I lose weight, I will be happy and beautiful.  Being skinny is supposed to entirely revolutionize my life.  If that were a prescription for happiness, there would not be so many people starving themselves.  In truth, we live in a society in which we are all flawed, no matter the size. A fat body is used to make people feel better about the ways in which they are unable to conform. So perhaps, the solution is for all of us to decide, we are who we are and love ourselves based in this.  A society based on shame only exists for the sake of conformity and perhaps we would all be happy if we marched to the beat our own drum.