But why “fat?”

Content Warning: fatphobic violence, suicide, mentions of racism and homophobia

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Image description: a very fat white woman sits on a black-draped couch. She has blue and purple short-cropped hair and matching makeup. She wears a black bra and see-through underwear that reveals her belly button and some skin scars. Her skin is marked by old stretch marks, patches of redness, and folds sensually onto itself. She looks lovingly down at a white infant that looks up at her. They are draped in a teal and pink handwoven Ethos woven wrap. 

Recently I was accepted as a brand ambassador for Ethos and in both my introductory profile and in an image description I describe myself as “very fat.” One of the members of the chatter group on Facebook asked this question:

…may I ask you why you prefer to refer to yourself as very fat, instead of very big or terms that have less negative value for most people? I understand you want to normalize different sizes, but when I look at you I mostly find you bigger build (I’m sure you have fat too).

Would you ask someone with dark hair why they refer to themselves as a brunette? Probably not. Fat is a way to describe my body.

The difference between these simple describing words is, as this person points out, a cultural negative value. Fatness is viewed as bad – horrible, even. It’s easy to see that our society doesn’t value fat bodies; they rarely show up on TV, movies, or other media as anything outside villains, fools, or the victims of bullying. It’s even easy to find comments online about fat people – telling them to kill themselves or that we deserve to be murdered or turned into candles. On a more regular basis, people use “fat” as a stand in for lazy, sinful, gluttonous, or ugly.

So why would I use the term “fat” to describe myself, when it’s so terrible? My body is fat. The word describes my body whether I use euphemisms instead or not.  I will very likely be very fat for the rest of my life. Calling myself big, fluffy, curvy, or plus-sized does nothing to change my body and it does nothing to change how people see my body. 

Very fat or super fat is more of a body positive community thing; I call myself superfat because my body is a size that limits my accessibility to basics like clothes, underwear and bras, cars and airplanes, seating, and medical care. I order my clothes online. I have to order specialty bras. In many back seats of cars, the seat belt does not fit me and would not be safe for me. I cannot visit theater venues or planes without special arrangements to make sure seats will fit my butt. Medical care is a crapshoot; I’ve been treated poorly due to my size during labor and delivery and experienced fatphobic care providers during emergency treatment. I’ve had several family doctors recommend care that was not evidence-based and they missed serious disease because they would not treat more than my appearance. While these things are not limited to the superfat, it’s much more likely to be the case for folks who are my size. These limitations are generally in addition to the regular fatphobic abuses fat people get on a daily basis.

Being fat is a part of my identity. Being superfat is something that defines aspects of my daily life. Ignoring the impact of someone’s identity or insisting you don’t see part of someone’s identity is both emotionally hurtful and adds fuel to the fires of oppression. For example – it’s a common thing in young adult books or movies for female characters to be told by their male friends, “I don’t see you as a girl.” This exposes the fact that someone will not be a true friend or ally because in ignoring a part of their friend’s identity, they refuse to acknowledge it. If you refuse to see a problem, there can be no solutions. Just to clarify – the problem isn’t that I’m fat. It’s that people and our culture at large treats me as less valuable as a human being because of my fatness.

This goes for any oppressed identity. People of Color (PoC) hear, “I don’t think of you as black” (or Latinx, Asian, etc.) often enough that it’s a trope. Gay men are assumed to be “one of the girls” in a dizzying variety of TV shows and movies. Here’s how the math works out: “I don’t think of you as [Any Oppressed Trait]” + doing nothing to change the oppression = participating in the continuing oppression.

This is super duper uncomfortable. It’s no wonder why people want to remain or pretend to be cheerfully ignorant. Fortunately, there are lots of places to find help for learning more these days (even a blog post by me, whodathunk).

“WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BABYWEARING?” you may be wondering in all caps. Let’s revisit the idea of accessibility!

When I began babywearing, I had the all-too-familiar problem of not being able to find carriers that would fit my body. Everyone I met said a size 6 was a standard base size. I made do with a 7 for close to a year – but it was revolutionary for me when I could find a woven wrap that actually fit my body in carries that were comfortable and fun for me. My base was an 8 first and after baby two, it’s a 9. It may be a 10 with my toddler.

In just the three short years I’ve been babywearing, size accessibility has become much broader than it was. Many companies carry 8s regularly and the possibility of getting 9s, 10s, 11s, and 12s are possible through both preorders and regularly available stockings. That is only available to caregivers moving forward because of the painful and exhausting advocacy work of fat folks who have gotten turned down or treated poorly by companies previously. Some of these folks do their work vocally and visibly, and some of them are invisible.

I have always assumed that a handwoven wrap would always be inaccessible to me. I like base or base+ sized wraps, which prices most exclusive-style handwovens far out of my budget. I stopped looking for one.

Enter Ethos! They’ve made ethical partnerships with weaving groups in Nepal and India to make many handwovens accessible at machine woven pricing, which is pretty incredible. I still requested a shorter wrap to receive as my ambassador wrap – I didn’t think an ambassador would be granted a handwoven, quite frankly, and I also wanted the challenge for myself. Using shorter wraps is something that has always held me back, but my skill with a wrap is probably as honed and well-used as it will ever be.

Wrapping with a Kourtney Antoinette is a truly lovely experience. If you love silk wraps, you will be delighted with its light hand and familiar support. If you’re unfamiliar with raw silk in wraps but love a grippy wrap, this would be a nice place to start.

I’m so thankful to be visible through a brand like Ethos – to make fat bodies more visible. To make seeing fat bodies normal. Did you know that most women in the United States are above a size 14 – some studies suggest a size 16? This puts most women in the category of plus sized clothing. Chances are good that many caregivers that want to babywear are in a category of needing a base woven wrap that’s bigger than a 6. Chances are good that a caregiver’s base size will change if they have had a pregnancy or just as their children grow over time.

When everyone thinks being bigger is the most frightening thing their body can be, regardless of size, that hurts everyone both in and out of the babywearing world. It’s important to me to say that I am fat and to say, here is my fat body babywearing, let it be seen – because I know there are an untold amount of folks out there that may be worried and discouraged the same way I felt when I began my babywearing journey. I know that seeing someone like me living my best life – and babywearing in it – will help others live their best lives too, regardless of how big their body is. I challenge you, reader, to enjoy your body a little bit more today. Don’t know how? Start with a few simple tips.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. tamwitch says:

    Thank you for this article! Truly eye-opening. I sometimes try to see things from my perspective (being Deaf), and that’s so true, everything you have said from the word “fat” being negative to being not given evidence-based treatment. Similar but different experience. Thank you for being brave and sharing this.

    Like

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