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Everything we know about obesity is wrong, and everything about who we listen to on the subject of fatness and fatphobia is bullshit.

By Hess Love I can't blame Michael Hobbes for writing “Everything you know about obesity is wrong” or for writing what seems to be meant as a compassionate piece. It was well written, factual, and even my fat Black ass learned something. It is not necessarily Hobbes who is the problem when it comes to thin white people writing these articles. It's the people who value to voices of thin white people who write about fatness over the voices of actual fat people. Those that rely heavy on “Ally Culture” to introduce them to perspectives outside of their own experiences—the Jane Elliott or Tim Wise effect. It's a phenomenon where those who have the most privilege exercise that privilege in a way that ironically continues to elevate them and sideline the voices of the marginalized people they attempt to speak on behalf of. I cannot count the number of people who bypass my fat Black ass and my social media posts about fatness and fatphobia, bypass me and my physical and rhetorical loudness, but shared Hobbes’ article with glee. A performance of acceptance and progression that they themselves do not possess. I, and many other fat Black women, have been saying the very same things that Hobbes writes in his article for years, but they don't listen to us. Our society sees Blackness, fatness, and oftentimes even “womanness” as unhealthy, disqualifications, and ultimately as sins. Many people believe Blackness is the mark of Cain, that fatness is the mark of gluttony, that untamed womanhood is the mark of disobedience and chaos. A walking embodiment of the Pandora's Box, “apple-shaped” bodies symbolize the forbidden fruit that caused the world to fall. To embody all of those things in a Judeo-Christian society, and then to have the audacity to talk about our right to happiness, leaves us being unheard. Happiness, in the form that people feel it is, is supposed to be, and the way that they have been programmed to believe it is, is not a right of ours. We are a living and breathing sin in a world where people hate both the sinner and the sin, no matter how much they tell themselves that they can separate the phenomenon from its actualizer. But fatness is not a sin, and fat people do not need visiting pastors to proselytize on our humanity despite our conditions. Fat people do not need translations of how we move in the world. The language that we use to talk about our experiences are not foreign, however our bodies are seen as alien and intrusive. To exist as a fat person is to be seen as a societal burden, so to talk about that existence, especially in a way that indicts society, is seen as a nuisance.  
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It's time to focus on the people who built movements, not just the ones who conveniently profit from them.

Édouard Manet’s “Olympia” depicts a nude white woman laying in bed upon a pile of pillows while a Black maid serves her. Olympia is, of course, the focus of the painting. She's white and stands out against the darker backdrop that the nameless maid blends into. When I read stories of non-Black women taking from Black women's labor while centering themselves, taking up space in movements that other, far more oppressed people have fought for, I think of this painting. When I read about Jameela Jamil's intellectual thievery from a fat Black woman, taking the words of Stephanie Yeboah and presenting them as her own in order to make herself visible in the body positivity movement, I think of this painting. Olympia's world cannot exist without the work and labor of her nameless Black maid, but it is Olympia who gets all of the focus. This is exactly what happens to the work of Black women time and time again. The labor that we do is co-opted and used by people who are more conventionally appealing to the public, garnering all of the credit. Fat Black women are especially erased, even from movements they've founded. For a salient example, see Tarana Burke and the white feminist co-opted #MeToo movement. Now, what Jamil said, that the movement has been “taken over by slender white women”, is true and not a new discussion in the body positivity sphere. Many activists have been having this conversation for some time now. I've made similar comments in my own writing. It is not a new idea, and that is totally fine because that is not the issue here. We can all talk about the same concepts, and we should because the more we discuss them, the more they are noticed. The issue here is that Jamil was educated on the matter by Yeboah and her words were almost verbatim to what Yeboah had told her. This is ironic because the discussion is about the co-option of the body positive movement in marketing and here's Jamil, doing the exact same thing. As a woman of color herself, you would think that Jamil would be more conscious of this issue and support Yeboah better, but it is also true that the labor of fat people, emotional and physical, is seen as something that is up for the consumption of the masses, to be used or tossed aside as they see fit, especially when they are fat, Black women. So it's really no wonder that Jamil would take Yeboah's words and use them as her own.
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