Illustration: Vilma Andersson
Say F-A-T. Say that F-A-T is beautiful
By: Maria Fernanda Volponi
April 18th 2022
It is a fact that vehicles of communication around the world tend to portray developed countries as egalitarian paradises. Inclusion of races and sexual orientation, and internationality respect. It is crucial, however, to stress that utopian places do not exist. Although discriminatory policies in developed states are way lower compared to third world territories, every place in every part of the world has its social issues.
Sweden, for example, is characterized as an equal country, nevertheless, it is possible to notice that even though superficial speeches about equality and tolerance are present in the daily life of the citizens when the subject is fatphobia, it seems that not even the superficial has been established.
F-A-T. How does this word sound to you? What do you feel when you think about it? People normally believe that defining someone as F-A-T is not simply a characteristic as defining someone’s hair as red, but a bad characterization. F-A-T is culturally implied as ugly, lazy, and insufficient. Can you use the word without feeling the necessity to reduce it? Words such as fatty or chubby can be analyzed from this same perspective, trying to reduce the meaning of the impact of the real word. Social structures, cultural facilities, and economic organizations were and still are rooted in a fatphobic project where the only possible existing body is not the F-A-T one.
It is clear that women’s empowerment – mainly straight and white, considering that social movements tend to not include all races and environments – is responsible for spreading body acceptance tendencies however, it is noticed that fatphobia is not a common theme that people here in Europe tend to talk about and fight for. That is why the topic of this text could not be different.
It has been observed that instead of silence about fatphobic topics, individuals use the main argument to impose themselves against F-A-T characteristics, and this argument is health. In order to be politically correct and not look like an awful person just because you are judging an F-A-T body, people say that it is essential to take care of yourself. “It is not about appearance, but about health” – they say. Thin and healthy go hand in hand.
Reliable researchers have already proven how medicine has fatphobic roots. It is common to hear from F-A-T patients how they were mistreated during appointments, how the doctor has not even examined their complaint but promptly stated that the solution was to lose weight. After all, these patients have not had the proper treatment for their diseases, diseases that were not related to their fatness. It is not because someone is thin that this person is also healthy.
Individuals usually think that food is the main cause of weight gain, whereas, in fact, each person has a particular bio-type. If two people eat the same food and practice the same exercises, they will not end up with the same body
The Psychologist Ellen Moraes Senra states the consequences of fatphobia: “The victim of fatphobia can develop serious eating disorders, such as binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or even the recently known vigorexia, which consists in the obsession with the fitness life pattern.”
For psychologist and eating disorder specialist Gabi Menezes, discrimination against fat people in the workplace also causes marginalization. “She won’t feel like she belongs, and the psychological impacts of this violence affect not only her mental health, but often her physical health as well. When we think about mental health, we can list anxiety, stress, depression, feelings of denial, inadequacy, and even eating disorders,” she described. Therapy is one form of protection in this sense. “It is critical to recognize that the problem of a fat-phobic society is not in the individual, but in the society as a whole. It is critical to boost their physical, mental, and intellectual self-esteem because it is a structural flaw that causes this person to be perceived as sloppy, lazy, and unfit.” Gabi points out.
Socially speaking, when you look around, it is evident that everything was constructed for a slim body. Seats in public transportation, cinema, hospital, restaurant, and classroom. Subway turnstiles, scales in hospitals, clothes, and so on. The capitalist system does not want to include F-A-T bodies, because, for them, F-A-T is not normal, is not acceptable, and when something is not acceptable it needs to change. The “beauty” industry profits come from the necessity imposed by social standards that women (mainly) need to feel uncomfortable with their bodies, and change themselves.
It is hard seeing individuals talking about how social structures are not prepared for F-A-T bodies, even though they have the right to exist.
Some surveys point to this fact: fat women earn from 3.9 to 9.1% less to perform the same functions as thin women (Teixeira, São Paulo University). In comparison to women, fat men are paid more than thin men. According to Teixeira’s research, the increase ranged from 7.2 to 14.4 percent. Men are portrayed as providers, while women are viewed as possessions. In these gender roles, male fatness is seen as the ability to provide for the family, whereas female fatness is seen as disobedience to the dominant performance of femininity.
whereas, in fact, each person has a particular bio-type.
The necessity to highlight fatphobic situations is clear:
“A few years ago, I was called for an interview to be a housekeeper in a luxury home. When I arrived, the owner looked and looked and looked and said, ‘you don’t fit.’ She didn’t even look to see if I had the qualifications” (Xangô, 2021, EXAME)
Upon entering the room for a job selection, Katia Xangô (EXAME, 2021) heard: “Where is the candidate? After the indication with her hand, another question: “Is this position for you? “It is,” she replied. “Ah, but the space is tight so you can move around. There are closets, stoves, refrigerators, and you can’t figure out who is who. If it’s a stove, a cupboard, if it’s you,” said the recruiter.
“It started as a child with bullying at school and in my own family.I was considered incompetent at work because I was overweight, so I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and go on crazy diets. It’s horrible to feel unaccepted simply because you don’t meet the standards that are considered acceptable and perfect. You end up charging yourself a lot more and doing things you wouldn’t do if everyone could see that you’re a real person and that your weight isn’t directly related to your competence and says a lot less about who you are […] Research more, observe more, and act with less prejudice. Have empathy. Fat people can be healthy, fat people can be physically active, fat people are competent and intelligent too. The size of our bodies does not define us. We are real people, being fat is not being sick, and being thin is not synonymous with being healthy. Let’s be more accepting of our diverse bodies and celebrate our differences. After all, we have a beautiful cultural, ethnic, and physical diversity that should be respected, we are diverse and unique beings, our differences should be celebrated and never judged,” (Nina Sousa, Estadão).
Fatphobic situations that people do not realize
- Saying someone is thin as a compliment – Thin is not a quality, it is a characteristic. Just like F-A-T is not a defect.
- The expression “you’re not fat, you look beautiful!” – Again, being F-A-T is not being ungly.
- Using the BMI and health argument: BMI (Body Mass Index) is an international measurement that determines whether your weight is ideal for your height. This index is very controversial because it excludes any other aspect to say whether your weight is ideal, since a person can have several other health problems and in the end your weight and height are the least important.
- Connecting fatty types of food with F-A-T people. Being F-A-T is not related only with the fact of eating “fatty” foods.
It is obvious that this text does not represent every European citizen, and what most of the individuals in Europe think.
This text is also being written from a non-fat woman, thus my words will never represent the pain and the real feeling of F-A-T people. Be kind.