10/2/21 Women’s March
Hello, I am Andrea, she/her. Before I get started, I invite you to pause and take a breath if or when you need to. I invite you to take notice of anything I say that makes you feel uncomfortable… This is a reminder for myself to breathe too.
I identify as fat. Not fat as in “no you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” but as in I am fat AND beautiful, thank you very much. I use the term fat as a neutral descriptor, not as a disparaging, self deprecating term. I am fat, as I am short, I am white and I have dark hair. I am told by dominant culture that I should be small, I should hide, I should be quiet.
I am sorry, no thank you, I am here to take up space. I hope you are too. But enough about me.
Body liberation is a feminist issue so in turn fat liberation is a feminist issue. Fat activists rally against sexism, heterosexism, racism, ableism, and classism as these “isms” are very closely intertwined. Pushing back against dominant culture’s beauty standards go part and parcel in this work.
Fat activism work came out around the time that many other feminist movements were happening in the 60s and 70s. After the initial “fat in” in Central Park in 1967, the movement was radicalized and pushed forward by queer feminists of the time. Unfortunately, the problem of weight discrimination very much exists today in the form of medical fat bias and the lower pay and underemployment of larger bodied folks, not to mention the downright abuse, hate and disrespect many fat people face in their everyday lives. (Ask me how many people have told me to die). If we add other intersectionalities to the mix like being a fat woman, a fat queer or trans person, a fat, Black femme or a fat indigenous two spirit person, the abuse and very real danger multiplies.
Let’s talk about employment:
It is legal in 49 states for an employer to discriminate against people of a higher weight. A Time Magazine article wrote, “A 2008 study conducted by researchers at Yale University found that 10% of women and 5% of men had experienced discrimination based on their weight, including being rejected for a job. A 2014 study from Vanderbilt University found that overweight women are paid less than their male colleagues across a variety of industries.” Look at the gender pay gap, look at what Black women make in comparison to white women, add size to the mix and the pay in-equality is vast.
Weight stigma is real, but I feel that it is often left out of feminist circles, social justice conversations and activism. We are told it is our fault for being fat when really there are so many factors that contribute to body size that are out of our control. We are sometimes seen as not quite human and almost always as a “before”. Clothing companies won't make clothes to fit us, establishments won't have chairs we fit in. This says we are not welcome in society. Showing outward hatred and disdain for fat people is acceptable...acceptable…because “what about your health?”.
Tell me if you've heard this one… a fat person goes to a doctor for stomach pain and is consistently told the pain is because of their weight. The fat person dies some time later due to a massive tumor growing in their abdomen. No? It happens ALL THE TIME. Did you know that many fat people, especially women, won't go or delay going to the doctor because we know we won't be listened to about what is actually wrong. Even if NOTHING is wrong we are still looked up and down, shushed and prescribed weight loss. Weight loss, for an ear infection, weight loss for a broken arm. Weight loss for a sinus infection.(I’m not joking). Weight loss that has a 95 % failure rate! This experience is even worse for folks in higher weight categories. They are often prescribed potentially dangerous procedures, with known long term health effects, that mutilate their organs. I'm not here to debate "health" although there are many, many scientific studies that debunk the idea that weight and health are as connected as commonly accepted. No one owes anyone health and the common idea of "health " is unattainable for many people. People with chronic illness and disabilities will never be what society thinks is “healthy”. We truly do not have the control over our health that many wellness companies, healthcare professionals, personal trainers etc. want us to believe. To quote the brilliant Sonya Renee Taylor, “there is no standard of health that is achievable for all bodies. Our belief that there should be, anchors the systemic oppression of ableism and reinforces the notion that people with illnesses and disabilities have defective bodies rather than different bodies.”
Permanent weight loss is not possible for 95% of people considered overweight. Let me say that again...permanent weight loss is not possible for 95% of people. And BMI is scientifically, bullshit. So we have fat folks. You've got us, we are here to stay. So how's about society treat us with some dignity and respect?
Did you know that children can be taken away from their "obese” mothers. “Overweight” children are also taken away from perfectly loving homes because "no good mother should have a fat kid." This is unacceptable! And let me be perfectly clear, white women, myself included, stood by while Black women, Indiginous women and other women of color have had their children taken from them in the same way. Not to mention state sanctioned, forced sterilization in many cases. We must not be silent as we have been about this for so very long. If the rage you’re feeling only started after this heartbeat abortion bill in Texas, pay better attention. We need to do better.
When it comes more specifically to reproductive issues directly affecting fat folks, here is something to think about. The Plan B (or morning after) pill does not work for people over a certain weight…and they don’t tell us this outright. Also, pregnancy tests taken by larger sized people do not show a positive result as early as with smaller sized people. This is important when planning a family but also when there is a small window of time to make important decisions.
Body politics originally involved the fight against objectification of the female body, violence against women and girls, and the campaign for reproductive rights for women. Why are body politics, specifically standing up against fatphobia and ableism, so important as we stand under this umbrella of intersectional feminism? Because anti fatness affects fat Black people, fat Indiginous people, fat people of color, fat Trans people, fat white people, fat non-binary people, fat queer people and fat disabled people.And it is important to remember that anti fatness is based in anti Blackness. Anti fatness and misogyny are connected. Women and people that identify as women should be small and fair and quiet and “know their place”.
“...the current anti-fat bias in the United States and in much of the West was not born in the medical field. Racial scientific literature since at least the eighteenth century has claimed that fatness was ‘savage’ and ‘black.” Sabrina Strings, from her book, Fearing the Black Body, The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.
Anti fat oppression is real and we must all stand against it. This isn’t just about abortion rights. This is about the rights of all (outside of the patriarchy) to have control over their own bodies and to be treated as a complete human in whatever body they’re in. And, in saying that, we need to remember that at the core of all of this is voting rights so let’s make sure we vote and make voting as accessible for as many folks as we possibly can. I stand with and listen to all fat folks but especially fat, Black Trans people and fat Indigenous people because when we talk about all of our oppression being connected these are the people who are the most marginalized. Black trans women and Indigenous women are being murdered at an alarming rate and we must stop this from happening. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights activist, “the changes we have to have in this country are going to be for liberation of all people--because nobody's free until everybody's free."