Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fat Body (In)visible

I was reading What Tami Said when I came across a great documentary about fat women. There is some nudity at the beginning and the end that may make it NSFW.

the fat body (in)visible from Margitte Kristjansson on Vimeo.

It is rare to see bodies like mine exposed to the public.  Fat women are told to cover themselves and disappear from society, not celebrate who they are.  As a fat woman, I know that I worry about wearing something sleeveless because of the size of my arms. It's almost as though layers of clothing will bring about protection from the cruelty. I feel the stares people give me as I sit down to eat. The judgment of my person is constant and even though I struggle to combat this, I know that I walk by mirrors without even looking at myself.  Watching this documentary made me realize that I am not visible to myself. It's as though by looking, that I will confirm all of the fat hatred that I have been subjected to.  It is transgressive to see and be seen in a fat body.

Over the years, I have been both skinny and fat and the validation one receives just from losing weight is immense, even though nothing significant has changed about who you are as a person.  You don't become suddenly smarter, or funnier, but because we have placed significant value on thinness, it is like being given permission to live. There are no stares when you eat, walking into a mall suddenly means choice and it is socially acceptable for people to find you attractive.  The body is constantly being disciplined and with that comes emotional pain. 

There is this idea that being fat means that you don't respect yourself and have little control, thus causing fat haters to justify their oppression.  Fat people bring the hatred upon themselves is the common thought, rather than the belief that we are all entitled to basic human respect.   I know that fat says nothing more about me than my height, or my age, and yet its influence on my interactions and feelings of self worth are omnipresent and immense.  So I have to ask myself, what does it mean to be fat and visible?  What does it mean to be a fat Black woman?  How much of who I am is shaped by these markers? Why is it that I can be forthright about so many things, and yet the policing of my body causes me to cocoon myself?

What questions did this documentary raise for you?  How do you negotiate being fat and what are your honest thoughts when you see a fat person in public?  I highly suspect that despite the positive influence of the fat acceptance movement, that the wounds are vast and varied.  Can we ever truly reach a level of complete acceptance in a sizeist world?

Editors Note: I don't have the time to do a transcript of the video right now, but if anyone has one, and is willing to post it, that would be great.