Express Yourself

Just Say Fat

Please, let fat people describe our own bodies

Just say fat.

Not “curvy” or “chubby” or “chunky” or “fluffy” or “more to love” or “big guy” or “full-figured” or “big-boned” or “queen size” or “husky” or “obese” or “overweight.”

Just say fat.

Do not screw up your face, straining as you reach for phrases like “he…struggles with his weight” or “body image has always been difficult for her.” Do not say “body positivity” or “self-love” or whatever lets you forget that you’re calling someone fat.

Just say fat.

Do not rush to correct fat friends who name their own bodies for themselves, using the words that fit their experience. Recognize that a fat person daring to name their own body is an act of growth and that when you correct us, you stunt it. It is also an act of rebellion, and when you silence it, you silence us. Remember that your comfort does not take precedence over our autonomy. Do not rush to soothe and center your own discomfort by insisting “sweetie, no! You’re not fat!” Let us say our own names for ourselves.

Just say fat.

Do not add caveats and qualifiers. Do not say “fat but healthy,” “fat but working on it,” “fat, but not, like, 400 pounds,” or “fat but happy.” If you’re taking a stand for fat people, take a stand for all of us. Do not limit our humanity by limiting who among us you will accept.

Just say fat.

Notice the impact of the word, how it changes in your mouth over time. Notice where you feel it in your body, and how. Is it tension? Fear? Or something else altogether? Sit with your own discomfort with the word, if you have it. Do not assign that discomfort to me, attributing it to your own assumption that I will be insulted. That discomfort isn’t mine; it’s yours. Listen to what it is teaching you about your relationship to your own body, yes, and to the bodies of those who are fatter than you.

Own the ways in which you have written the story of the word fat, and the ways in which you have been complicit in making it seem such a terrible thing to say, and an even worse thing to be.

Do not foist that discomfort onto your fat friend by wincing or objecting when she tells you she’s fat. She is already swimming against the tides of so many judgments — others’, yes, and yours, too. Do not insult her intelligence or cast doubt upon her experience by insisting that you know her body better than she does. Afford her the small dignity of speaking for herself. Allow her that much.

Just say fat.

Do not reach for the sharp cruelty of “obese” or “overweight,” which many fat people find harmful, and some consider derogatory. Do not defend terms that do not hurt you; let the injured parties speak their truths. Do not insist that because they are medical terms they cannot cause harm. Learn that it is precisely because these terms are medical that they are so hurtful to so many fat people. Those words echo years of medical judgment failed health care: untreated eating disorders, misdiagnoses, and denied care altogether. Medicine doesn’t feel so neutral when it so frequently turns fat people away just because of the way we look.

Just say fat.

Do not presume to name a body that isn’t your own. Do not steal our names from our own mouths. So many thin people name our bodies so readily, draw whatever conclusions they see fit about who we sleep with, whether we love, who we are, what we deserve, when we will die, whether we will die soon enough, and how deserved our demises will be. Do not insist this is somehow unbiased or, worse still, that is justified bias.

Ultimately, you do not need to understand why my name is what it is, you need only call me by that name. You need not make up new names for me in protest of the one you do not like or understand. You just need to say my body’s name.

Just say fat.

Notice the imbalance you feel when you say it. Notice what it feels like not to be the subject, only for a moment. Remember that you are safe — that this is at once a fleeting emotion, a deep reminder of all you have to be grateful for, and a call to act in support of those who have less. You do not need to map the wilderness of their hearts, test the theories of their politics, in order to respect their most basic wish: to say their own name.

Do not shrink a vastness that you cannot comprehend.

Just say fat.

Your Fat Friend writes about the social realities of living as a very fat person. www.yourfatfriend.com

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