I think one of the things that I most love about the fat acceptance movement is that it combines my innate curiosity and complete inability to quit asking why with a part of my life that I have never questioned.
You shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops or dresses - Why?
Fat people should never have naked photos taken – Why?
You really ‘don’t need to eat that’ – Why?
Why is there no fashionable clothing out there that suits me?
Why should I feel ashamed about eating fast food, or chocolate, or cake in front of other people?
Why? Why? Why?
And it doesn’t just stop at a why for those questions.
You shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops or dresses. Why? Because they show your arms. And why is that a bad thing? They’re fat. And why is that a problem? Because fat is ugly. But why is fat ugly? Because society has conditioned us to think that fat is bad. Why? So that numerous different industries can profit from fear and self-loathing. You’re thin? Enjoy these clothes but never put on weight because once you do – KAPOW! You’re headed for mumus and ugly t-shirts. You’re fat? Here, buy this shake/weight loss program/gym subscription/gastric bypass surgery so that you can slim down and fit into normal clothes like the rest of us. (Obviously that is somewhat of an over-simplification and is not the be all and end all answer, but it sure is a start).
And then there’s the penultimate question. Is this okay?
It’s all well and good to keep questioning why and get down to the underlying reason of why things are the way they are, but the real question is whether or not that’s okay.
And I think that’s what we’re doing every day, out there in the world, as fat acceptance advocates. We’re asking why, and getting other people to ask themselves why they think the way they do, and making it clear that it is not okay for society to dictate the way we see our bodies, dress our bodies and treat our bodies. Nor is it okay for anyone else to pass judgement on our bodies.
For me, it has been (and continues to be) a real revelation. I am a real questioner, sometimes I describe myself as being on a quest for ultimate truth, and that takes me to some pretty dark places and makes me question some pretty hairy things. But until I came into contact with fat acceptance, it never even crossed my mind to question my own perception of my body, letalone that of people in my life.
It’s not easy though, being the harbinger of truth. Many people out there don’t want to accept it. They’ll dig their heels in at one of the earlier questions. Why shouldn’t I show off my fat arms? Because you just shouldn’t. No-one wants to see them. Why don’t people want to see them? Because they just don’t okay. Just cover them up.
The number of conversations I’ve had with people about these things. Why shouldn’t Beth Ditto be on the cover of a magazine naked? Why is it okay for my mother to comment on my body and what I put into it, but not on my thinner sister’s? Why is it okay for people to say ‘wow, you look great – have you lost weight?’ to me, but not ‘wow, you look great – have you put on weight?’ to my underweight friend?
Most people stonewall me, and refuse to look to the deeper issue at stake here. It comes down to the fact that society values people that fit into a certain body ideal, and those who do not fit into it – especially those of us who are larger, are shamed, ostracised and downright disenfranchised.
So you know what I do? I wear sleeveless tops and dresses proudly to the shops. I don’t allow my fat (or my mother) to determine my food choices based on what I need to get thin, or maintain my weight. I go out of my way to find fashionable clothes that fit my body so that I look good and feel great about myself, and I petition fashion retailers to extend their ranges to plus sizes. In public I order whatever I feel like eating at the time and don’t feel ashamed about doing so.
And you know what I’m going to do next? I’m going to get a naked photo taken. And I’m going to be surrounded in cakes and lollies and ice-cream sundaes and chocolate and whipped cream. And I’m going to cheekily grin in that photo as a two-fingered salute to the world that says that it’s not okay for me to revel in those food choices.
Why? Because I can. And that, my friends, is okay.