Does This Make Me Look Fat?

I own the movie Phat Girlz and I’m not ashamed.

Starring a pre-Oscar Mo’Nique, Phat Girlz is part Cinderella-story, part conventional rom-com about a big girl searching for some love. It’s not remarkable in terms of budget, plot, or acting. In fact, a fair bit of it is cringe-worthy. (What immediately springs to mind is the fetishization of Nigerian men. Good Lord).

Still, despite its shortcomings, the  film works for me for some fundamental reasons.  I appreciate the fact the big girls are not sassy sidekicks, but they are stars of the show. And while it was billed as a romance, the theme of self-love was perhaps just as important as the romantic plot line. And positive portrayals of a thick sister having sex?! Yes, please!

But perhaps one of my favorite moments in the movie happens in the beginning. Heroine Jazmine Biltmore (played by Mo’Nique) is working in a department store when a customer asks her if the outfit she has just tried on “makes her look fat.” Peep the scene in the trailer.

The film makes this into a funny moment, but oftentimes this type of interaction is no chucklefest. If I had a dollar for all the similarly inappropriate and downright hurtful invocations of the word “fat,” I’d be a wealthy woman.  If I had a dollar for all the times thin folks with complexes (bred by the impossible social standards of the mythical norm, I know), wanted me to soothe their fears by letting them project their disdain for fatness onto my larger body…you get the picture.

A lot of this behavior is born out of self-loathing and the public shaming that comes along with being even remotely associated with being overweight.  I understand. I get it. At the same time, being large, fluffy, plus-sized, Rubenesque or whatever does not make one equipped to be the counselor for a family member, friend, coworker, or random stranger’s fat-bashing.

It’s Resolution season. Celebrities are endorsing weight loss products (have you seen Jennifer Hudson lately?), gyms are offering discounts, and “getting healthy” is a on a lot of people’s minds. Another season of the weight loss-makeover-cry-fest reality show, The Biggest Loser, began this week.  I remember the first time I heard of the show. I couldn’t believe my ears. “The Biggest Loser?!” I thought. Great. I teach English. I get the play on words. But a loser is a loser. Can’t nobody tell me that the title is simply about losing weight. <Side eye.>

More and more folks are becoming obese, especially poor folks of color who don’t have access to reasonably-priced fresh food. This is not a trivial matter. I think living a healthy life is an admirable goal. Losing weight might be an admirable goal for some folks too. Putting folks down or assuming the right to police another person’s health (e.g., through fat-shaming) should not be a part of this.

So, in light of all this, I’d like to make a crunk public service announcement:

Fat does not equal ugly.

Fat does not equal weak.

Being thin does not make one morally superior to those who are not.

Leave your judgment at the door.

Feel free to bring your love right on in.

5 thoughts on “Does This Make Me Look Fat?

  1. Two things:

    A.) Amen!
    B.) You are indeed my wonder twin! Why? I, too, own a copy of Phat Girlz and I love for exactly the same reasons you do. This makes us PHAT in more ways than one, :)!

  2. I want to point out that a) being thin doesn’t mean you are healthy and b) that there are options available. some vegetable gardens and fresh markets will take EBT! we also have to start our kids out eating healthy. they don’t know what they don’t like and will oftentimes eat what mommy eats. simply don’t offer them chips, cookies, sodas. i don’t. my kid gets graham crackers and yogurt, which she loves. and an occasional vanilla wafer. she also get rice cake chips. i know they slip her junk sometimes at daycare and in the nursery at church though…lol. but ain’t happenin at home!

  3. I agree being fat is not a reason for self loathing or to be the object of loathing. I’ve been various weights throughout my life (these days I’m heavier and I refuse to not regard myself as anything less than a queen). That said, there are myriad health reasons to strive for a lesser BMI — stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer and more. To make matters worse people of color disproportionately suffer from these diseases and have less access to health care.

    The message should be a balance between self-love and self-care.

    1. I love this post, but I don’t understand why any proclamation of self-love on the part of a big person is immediately followed by a PSA on health. If a person were to write about how happy they were to finally have achieved their weight loss goals and shrunken to a size 0 (with no mention of how they did it), people wouldn’t immediately follow with “well you should really be sure that you haven’t developed anemia from your yo-yo dieting.”

      Also, a BMI isn’t anywhere near a measure of health. Even doctors don’t put too much stock in it, since it’s only two numbers.

      Messages of self-love and self-care should be separate. Even if a person is unhealthy (most of us, fat or skinny, are), she has the right to love herself without someone schooling her on potential health problems.

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