On living a fat life

Fat bodies are public bodies. They are open to comment, judgement, and ridicule.

Fat lives are public lives. They are described, proscribed, and prescribed.

“Fat people shouldn’t wear skinny jeans!” “Fat people aren’t athletic.” “Fat people can’t find true love.” “Fat people only eat fast food.” “Fat people don’t run marathons.” “Fat people shouldn’t take pride in their bodies.” “Fat people aren’t happy.” “Fat people can’t have hot sex.” “Fat people only drain society’s resources.” “Fat people don’t have the willpower to complete PhDs.”

Any fat person will be able to tell you a litany of the Dos and Don’ts of being fat. Anyone who steps outside of the list opens themselves up to shaming, hatred, and policing by self and others (let’s be honest, fat people who remain inside the list are regular recipients of the same). Whether it is being harassed on the street, concern trolled by friends or family, or simply the subject of whispers and stares – the public act of being fat is often exhausting.

Many fat people decide to shy away from being visible; some withdraw from society – others cloak themselves in the shadows of dark colours. Some actively apologise for their fatness, and spend years (often their entire lives) engaging with the weight cycle industrial complex. This may provide some protection from the shaming and hatred – at least others understand that they are trying to become someone else; someone acceptable.

Others, though, resist the pull to apologize or withdraw. They refuse to live their lives in a time-out zone; they want to do everything they want to do and they want to do it now. They don’t want to wait until they’ve lost five pounds. They don’t want to wait until someone says it’s okay for a fat person to wear a bikini, or run a marathon, or have hot sex. They want to live their fat life now. In living their lives the way they want, with little regard for how they are supposed to be living, these individuals are queering fatness. Queering fatness is a political act; an act of resistance.

My new co-edited text from Ashgate presents the perspectives of scholars from around the world on queering fat embodiment. The notion of fat as queer is not a new one; nor is the use of queering (as a method of thwarting the norm) new in considering novel ways of embodiment and performance among marginalised groups.

Sometimes groups of fat individuals come together to queer fatness. Consider those who swim in the fat synchronized group, Aquaporko. Or those who wear lingerie and dance for audiences as members of Va Va Boombah. These groups reject the accepted script of fat performance and present their own. Fat women in swimsuits; fat women in lingerie. Having fun. Enjoying their bodies being on display for others to see; scantily clad!

Within the Fatosphere there are many examples of queering fatness to be found. Sometimes groups of fat individuals come together to queer fatness using the ever awesome hastag. Take, for example, #notyourgoodfatty. Within my chapter in Queering Fat Embodiment, I consider a handful of Internet campaigns/activities that have helped reshape my own understanding of what it means to be fat; what fat may, and often does, look like. Rachele Cateyes’ “How to be a fat bitch” ecourse is a great example. It queers both fatness (as good and desirable) and femininity (bitchiness as awesome). A recent favourite of mine is Gabi Fresh’s video remake of #Flawless. Some actions of queering fatness are a direct response to a prescription or description of fatness by others (like Fuck yeah! Fat PhDs, Brian Stuart’s FATSPO Coloring Book, and Marilyn Wann’s I Stand campaign.) All of these offer a different way of understanding fatness – a way of queering fat performance and embodiment.

If you want to learn more about queering fat embodiment (both online and off), ask your library to order a copy of Queering Fat Embodiment today! Or check out the Introduction chapter, written by Jackie Wykes, that is free on the publisher page.


*I am very excited to share that this is the first stop on the social media for book for #QFE. Check back here to see other spots along the way!