“What a pity, with how beautiful you are in the face”: fatphobia on the day of obesity
Since 2022, March 4 is World Day Against Fatphobia. Health professionals and activists antifatphobia They created a manifesto and resignified this day, which was originally World Obesity Day. The purpose is to show how tremendously aggressive this system is and the diet culture in which we have all grown up. For some time now, the WHO no longer considers obesity as a disease, but rather as a risk factor that can trigger diseases, such as a high consumption of red meat for colon cancer, but not a disease in itself. If you are curious, you can read the manifesto about this day here.
That there was a World Obesity Day pathologizes a physical condition and not a health one, which only has to do with the BMI (body mass index). In other words, body size is penalized, with no data on health other than weight and height, assuming illness in bodies larger than the BMI, and health in thin bodies. Obviously, this is not an axiom, there are healthy fat people, just like sick thin ones. Having a certain weight, or a BMI less than 30, does not ensure health.
I always liken fatphobia to feminism: we have grown up in a patriarchal and macho system in which our language and actions are conditioned by it, both in men and women. I myself believed that it was good when I entered the clubs for free and, on the other hand, my friends had to pay, until I understood that the bait was me and that’s why I no longer had to pay admission, I paid with my body.
Thinness is valued so highly that a cancer patient told me that she would rather have cancer again than be fat. It is terrifying, and very sad, that someone could say such a thing.
Language makes realities and, based on how we think, we express ourselves. There are a thousand fat-phobic expressions, because we have been raised in a system that rewards thinness above all else. Being thin promises you success, acceptance and being closer to the ideal of beauty that we were sold. The reality is that no one ever reaches that ideal, and most of us, if not all of us, live or have lived frustrated with our bodies. Mainly, women, since the aesthetic violence that we suffer is greater.
There are many signs that our language and our society is full of references to weight; I leave some here with the sole intention that we become aware of how we express ourselves and what consequences this has on others and on ourselves:
- Using the word “fat” as an insult is fatphobic. Fat is not an insult, just as “thin” is not a compliment. The difference is that we have given a pejorative meaning to the word fat. For example, the expression “I like him fat” is also used when we don’t like someone, but it is not said “I like him thin or fit”.
- Rewarding thinness, regardless of the cause that originates it, is fatphobic. Thinness can be natural or wanted, but it can also come as a consequence of illness, loss, depression or an eating disorder, and even then it is valued positively.
- Giving unsolicited advice on eating or sports is fatphobic.
- Believing that everyone, with sports and healthy eating, can have a normative body, as well as being fatphobic, is unrealistic, because body diversity exists and there are as many valid bodies as there are people. In addition, it is ignoring that not all of us have the same access to healthy food, not taking into account the social, economic, and family contexts. It is typical of a neoliberal system.
- Considering that a fat person is brave or daring for wearing a bikini, showing their body or wearing certain clothes is fatphobic. There are no clothes for fat people and another for thin people, there are clothes and everyone should wear what they want regardless of their body type.
- Proposing dark colors and baggy clothes to fat people is a fatphobic attitude, you don’t have to hide anything.
- Assuming that a person with a body size greater than what the canons say, feeds on ultra-processed foods and does not move from the sofa, is a fat-phobic belief.
- Saying things like “what a pity, with how pretty your face is”, “you were much better thinner”, “if you lost a little weight you would look better”, etc. he is tremendously fatphobic and harmful. Beauty is subjective, and to show you just have to see how the canons of beauty have changed over the decades. What happens, that our body in the 90s had to be one way and in 2023 it must have another? No, gentlemen, our bodies are valid and beautiful, regardless of what the trends set.
- Putting the body of a fat person as a moral standard to achieve things: “If she has a partner with that body, so do I”, “she has to love her a lot with that body, yes, what is love”. Oh really? We are more than a body and a fat person has the same right to life as a thin one. Again, success is measured in kilos.
These are just a few examples of how conditioned our language is by weight and diet culture, there are many more. This article is not intended to be more than an invitation to reflect on how we express ourselves, to take care of our language and thereby make the world less violent.
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