Your body isn’t wrong; society is.
I wish I could go back and constantly remind preteen-year-old me, who’d spent most of her time avoiding big crowds because she hated the extra skin that dressed her, of those very words.
Throughout this never-ending journey of self-love that I’ve been on, even today, I still find myself whispering that in the back of my mind... every now and again. Maybe it’s because, deep down, I’m still that little girl who’s trying to see where she fits in the world because she doesn’t fully and truly know how to love herself just yet. If we’re being honest, I’m still learning.
Confidence and esteem are two things that I’ve always struggled with. As if my problematic, melanated skin wasn’t already at the top of my insecurity list, the chunkiness of my frame slowly, but surely, added to that. Growing up, I didn’t realize how “wrong” my weight was until others started pointing out why it wasn’t right. Nor did I realize how much of an impact my appearance had on the people who chose to be around me and how they viewed my character. It actually took having fellow kids refuse to sit by me in the school lunchroom, snicker at me in PE, and taunt me on and offline for me to understand that, in their eyes, I was different.
I could never understand why. Why the boys would overlook me for the skinnier girl in the bunch. Why I was good enough to make them laugh but never good enough to make them kind. Why I was rarely invited anywhere, and if I was, I was always the oddball out. That prompted me to feel as though I was the problem, as though my bigness was not desirable or acceptable. Be it through friendships and/or relationships in my teenage years. I simply just felt like I was taking up too much space by being me, which is why I despised any type of social setting that would make others notice my fat body. To them, I didn’t belong, and as hurtful as it was, I had become okay with that. I had become okay with being the girl who no one liked or wanted around. To the point where, when people did really like or want me around, I chose to isolate myself before they had the chance to.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking would follow me from my childhood to my young womanhood. And even in my adulthood, I still find myself slipping back into it on the few bad days that I have outside of the good days. Sadly, as an adolescent, I had been convinced that the width of my waist deemed me to be less than. I had been convinced that smaller meant better. But I didn’t understand that the world’s opinions of how I should look were conditioning me to think that way, and fatphobia was really the root of the problem.
Define fatphobia, you say.
“Fatphobia is the fear and dislike of fat people and the stigmatization of individuals with bigger bodies. As with any system designed to exclude, shame, or oppress people on the basis of shared characteristics or identities, it can be easy to assume that something like fatphobia only exists on an individual level,” SRH Week’s website reads.
Yes, you heard it here; fatphobia is actually one of the most common forms of discriminatory behavior. However, when mentioned, it’s either brushed to the wayside or completely (de)labeled as the tactic of oppression that it is and (re)labeled as more so “overanalyzing.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “It’s all in your head,” while receiving stares of disgust from random women of a thinner stature. Or, the times it’s been directly told and/or indicated that I’m “pretty for a big girl” by men who were only interested in fetishizing me to fulfill their own first-time fantasies. Let me not even get started on the uncomfortable sexual references or pet names; that’s a different topic for another day. But, what I’m really trying to say is, it all plays into fatphobia. No one wants to talk about it because they don’t see it as a real issue that larger women face.
And, NO... before I go any further, I don’t want this to get misconstrued or misinterpreted as an attack on all skinny women or all men who find an honest attraction to fat bodies. Because it’s not. I’m speaking of the ones who dehumanize someone solely off of the strength of how many sizes up they have to go in clothing. I’m not saying that women only experience fatphobia either, but if we really want to get candid, we are the ones who endure it on a more extreme level. Men of bigger sizes are often praised for their seemingly strong-ness, while the women are stereotyped and stigmatized. Nasty, unkept, desperate--due to lack of male attention--and food-crazed are four of the most overused misconceptions of us. The crazier part about it is, most of these misconceptions aren’t just placed upon us by people with smaller frames; men who carry the same body shape, if not a stretch mark and stomach roll ahead, do as well.
Nowadays, it’s even more evident that some people simply just can’t stand to see plus-size women loving their bodies without it being seen as “promoting obesity.” So, because my frame may not meet what everyone has deemed as “normal” beauty standards, I’m not allowed to love myself out loud? I’m not allowed to appreciate my body for what it is--flaws, flabs, and all?
I have made a vow to myself to stop turning down the volume of my confidence to bring others comfort, and from this point forward, I plan to honor that vow.
Maybe one day, society will grasp that one’s weight doesn’t determine their worth.
To my fellow plush pals, until then, we can only continue being the fluffy, fine, free queens that we are… unapologetically!