Ashleigh Shackelford

The idea that anyone has to prove their health and happiness is inherently violent. Every time I post a picture of my fat body, I always get comments saying, “How can you be happy looking like that? There’s no way you’re healthy,” or “If you’re happy, I support you!”

What the fuck does that even mean? If I’m happy, how does that affect anyone but me or the people closest to me? These are literal strangers commenting on my body and my personal navigation of life. There is voyeurism around deviancy within beauty standards and humanity standards. Black fat femme bodies are constantly under scrutiny and interrogation because we’re seen as unworthy, unlovable, yet accessible and a benchmark for everyone else’s beauty. Understanding what makes us tick, how grotesque our lifestyles must be, or even the questioning of why or how anyone could love us is an investment of those who partake in our misery and ugliness to build up their life achievement in not being us.

Related: Ask Ashleigh: What Does Gap’s Commercial Teach Us About Misogynoir in the Media?

If I’m happy, then it challenges everything we’re trained to believe when it comes to beauty and health. Happiness is inherently sold and packaged as something obtainable when you’re thin, beauty standard pretty, and “healthy.” But when you’re fat, your body is not seen as the representation of healthy – therefore, how can you ever be happy?

I want to challenge and politicize health and happiness as life’s pinnacle achievements that are dangled in front of us to fight for. White supremacist capitalism cultivates an environment in which we are trained to fight for something at all times – whether it be power, happiness, health, or survival – there is no world created for us to exist and be centered on non-competitive joy. We’re trained to believe that we can only access these things by getting them before someone else, at someone else’s expense, or in a way that leaves someone else without.

Happiness is not required to exist. Health is not required to exist. Power is not required to exist. Survival should not be a fight in order to exist. The idea that I can’t post a picture of my body and be proud (irregardless of happiness, health, or motivation), without commentary about if my pride and my body are worth visibility or existence because someone else doesn’t see my worth or humanity is violent.

Being a Black fat femme means recognizing that my body and my existence is always under interrogation because everyone who is seemingly more powerful or in access of more power than me needs me to be unhappy and unhealthy for their investment in happiness and health to be intact (and worth the work). My empowerment comes at a cost to all the work they’ve put into their personal stock of white supremacist capitalist thinking. My happiness cannot equal their happiness; it must be a struggle for power, and a game of winner takes all. So, fuck asking me if I’m happy or healthy. I’m fat, and I exist. That’s all you need to know. And that’s all I need to explain.

 

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