Back in 2007 I remember a forum post I read where the poster was trying to explain how a person who is not fat enough to be within the larger clothing size ranges of ‘plus-size’ clothing couldn’t understand the discrimination faced by those larger individuals. Implying that the discrimination faced by an individual who is not labeled by mainstream society and shoddy BMI charts as ‘morbidly obese’ but merely ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ makes their experiences less valuable or harmful to fat rights as a whole is idiotic to me.
What really brought this back to the forefront of my mind was thinking about clothing and to be specific episode 4 of Fatcast, where they discuss fashion. Throughout the whole episode they keep coming back to the idea that a person who wears possibly a size 12/14 maybe even a 16 does not get the shaft within fashion like larger sizes do. I will completely agree that the larger you go the smaller the available retailers there are to fulfill the needs of fat people.
Speaking from personal experiences, and to give a clear picture of my own size I currently weigh 220 pounds, 5’5 a size 14/16/18 top and a 16/18/20 bottom depending on the store. In most cases I am able to shop at places that offer ‘straight’ and ‘plus-size’ clothing but that does not mean finding acceptable clothing options is easy. I am at the point where finding clothing is ‘straight’ size stores is hard to find because if they do offer the largest size in their range that fits me, they almost never have it.
I also face this at Lane Bryant and Torrid; because I am at the lower end of their range they almost never have something in my size unless it just came in. As for Lane Bryant to be specific to find a bra that even fits me in a store is pretty much non-existent because they don’t carry my size regularly (but I can get it online) while stores like Victoria secret don’t have it either. This has made it so that I shop online for clothing almost exclusively now and while I understand that there are huge differences between my experiences and someone who is larger than myself, I feel that saying my experiences are somehow lesser than or belittle them is unsettling.
Sadly while I can shop at some ‘straight’ stores that does not mean that I also haven’t also had the same experiences in the fatcast, like being treated poorly by sales people in stores where their tops fit me or shopping with friends looking at accessories because the clothes simply don’t fit me (the list could go on..). Just again showing that discrimination comes in many different forms, shapes and sizes. I even had a flashback to two years ago at 22 when I went shopping with a friend who had to go into Hollister and I ended up literally standing in the corner with the moms.
This is one of the reasons that I love the women’s rights movement is because it doesn’t specifically say that you must be female to be considered a part of it. Contrary to what some people might believe there are many people in the movement who are fighting for women and transgendered or gay individuals all at once. Yes there are quite a few people who are not on the same boat as I am when speaking about women’s rights and might not be open minded about individuals that are different than themselves but I would say that someone is not part of the movement and I would never label them a feminist.
My question is can that be said about fat activists? Can you really call yourself a fat activist if you don’t fight for all sizes and body types? I would say no, because whether you are a size 0 or a size 40 you have been socialized to believe that fat is bad and having ‘socially acceptable body’ is what you should strive for. The key word within civil rights movements is oppression, to say an individual who is a 14/16 or 18/20 could not understand the struggles of person who is larger than they are is asinine. Oppression comes in many different forms, and just because someone might be able to find clothing in a store that wouldn’t be labeled as ‘plus-size’ does not mean that they will not face discrimination due to their body type.
This is a slippery slope kind of mentality that this movement could fall into where fatness is labeled and categorized. Creating a hierarchy of discrimination that could weaken the movement as a whole.
I face a certain dilemma about this too. I mean… I have previously been fat. And this during the era when there was no Torrid and Lane Bryant was for dowdy old women and so the extent of my wardrobe was any pair of jeans I could find that fit and tshirts from any band / cartoon / pop culture icon that happened to come in black XXL.But now that I find myself in the "results not typical" category of long term maintenance of lost weight, I feel funny trying to fit my commentary and ideas into the FA realm. I mean, yes, it is easy for me to advocate acceptance of all body sizes… and I do. But where in the conversation do I fall when discussing the issues and problems faced by fat people in society now?Is expressing the relief I feel at being able to now walk into the Express without facing a sneer or ironic smirk supporting my fellow FA-ers? Or is that merely "salt in the wound" by acknowledging that these things exist but I am no longer subjected to.I just try to be careful of what I say and where my privilege starts to show and also recognize that ultimately, my participation in FA is not "all about me" and to acknowledge that sometimes my perspective will not match up with what other people are feeling, no matter the path that I have trod to get here.
I think that FA needs more supporters generally. I think that, unfortunately, when you're talking about the science of obesity, being fat is a detriment because the arguments seem self-serving. People who do argue for fat acceptance who are not particularly fat have a certain credibility advantage. It's silly, because your weight doesn't affect the scientific realities, but that's how the mind works.You don't have to experience discrimination to know it's wrong. I think it's the awareness that's important.
FA’s obsession with fashion and positive “body image” is boring and a huge turn-off. FA should have a more Platonic/Socratic world view, i.e., “I don’t care whether I’m pretty or popular; I only care whether I am right, and I would truly hate to believe that I am right if in fact I am not.”One useful activity of the FA groups is the promotion of “Health At Every Size”. Why not? Why can’t 600 pounds of flesh be just as healthy as 100, or perhaps healthier, and very much stronger? But to truly promote health at any size, we must demand intellectual rigor in all matters pertaining to health. That means no boasting or crying about one's own health, but it could mean a discussion of how to deal with doctors who insist that the patient must lose weight, without explaining which part of the body's mass must be reduced, and why, and how to accomplish this without injury to the rest of the body, and without considering the alternative of promoting the growth of other parts of the body to restore proportion, and without considering the cost and risk of either route and weighing that against the likely benefits.Dimensions Magazine (http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/dimtext/kjn/people/heaviest.htm) has some useful facts and commentary on the world's most extreme cases of obesity, noting the cluelessness and fatal consequences of medical interventions, yet without denying that these cases had some serious handicaps resulting from a relative excess of fat, water or both. Noteworthy are the known cases of extreme water retention and the extreme rates of weight gain which points to water retention as the only plausible explanation.