I’ve never written an email to anyone other than a friend during class. I guess I should get into the actual subject that I’m wanting to talk about. I’m angry. No — I’m actually pissed. Why is it that fat ladies (cis gender and non-binary) are belittled and told from such a young age that we are not worthy of love? The first boyfriend I had at the age of 13 would constantly tell me how much more beautiful I would be if I were thinner. I always wondered why I wasn’t just able to be beautiful as I am? Is it wrong that I feel like I should be able to eat fries and burgers like every other 17-year-old on earth without justifying it by saying stuff like “well I’m going to kickboxing tonight so it’s okay for me to eat.” I’m so sorry if this email made no sense, I can’t gather all of my thoughts.
–A stressed angry 17-year-old
Dear Stressed Angry 17-Year-Old:
You are totally 100 percent entitled to your anger. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are over-reacting. And don’t ever feel guilty about your feelings. Your feelings are valid. Your experiences are real. Your email totally made sense, and I can absolutely relate to it.
Fatphobia sucks. It is a HUGE social problem and you didn’t create it. The people who are experiencing the brunt of fatphobia (um, yeah, fat people) are not responsible for fixing it. When people tell fat people to lose weight they are essentially enacting something called victim-blaming.
Fatphobia is a form of bigotry. When people say belittling and dehumanizing things to you because you are fat, they are victimizing you and being bigots.
Fat people (i.e. the victims of fatphobia) don’t need to change or apologize.
Bigots just need to stop being bigots.
You know what’s like 1,000,000,000 times easier than trying to make fat people thin? Fatphobes deciding to stop being total jerkbags. It’s like overnight results guaranteed! What’s so weird to me is that fatphobes are like, “just change your behavior,” but they themselves are unwilling to examine how their behavior is making the world a slightly crappier place day by day. #TotalNonsense.
Yes, you are definitely allowed to eat burgers and fries without justifying it. Your body is your business. What you eat is your business. People have no right to comment on how other people eat. If someone has something judgmental to say about what you eat or how you eat, that is their problem. Not yours.
There is a lot of cultural misunderstanding and judgment about food based on some really skewed myths. There is this myth that thin people eat very little or eat just enough to keep their weight low. And there is this myth that fat people eat a lot, and that is why we are fat. The truth is that some fat people eat very little, some thin people eat a lot, and most people’s eating habits vary considerably depending on mood, climate, time of day, how much they socialize, etc. And at the end of the day, none of that really matters, right? Because every person regardless of size or shape deserves to live a life free from shame and bigotry.
Your first boyfriend should not have belittled you. That wasn’t OK. Ideally, I think a partner should be part of your sense of empowerment. I also think our partners should encourage us to be our truest unapologetic selves.
Furthermore, our partners do not own us or have any right to dictate what we do with our bodies. When a partner is constantly reminding you that your body isn’t meeting some arbitrary standard they have set for you it is an example of controlling behavior. Controlling behavior isn’t OK, and ultimately erodes at the self-esteem and confidence of the person experiencing the behavior. This can make it difficult to set boundaries, and it can make it more difficult to leave the relationship sometimes. I’m glad you realize that his behavior wasn’t ok in hindsight.
I think you should do you, feel no shame, offer no apologies and if people don’t get it, then that is their problem, not yours.
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.