The Fat Pejorative

You really want to insult a woman? Make her feel like she’s nothing? Let her know that no matter what she’s accomplished in her life, the only thing that matters about her is her outward appearance?

It’s surprisingly easy. Just tell her she’s fat.

Here are a few other ways to cement the idea that she is fat, and therefore not really worthy of any other consideration in life:

  • Question her every time she eats -“Are you eating again?”  “Are you really going to eat that?”  “Should you really be eating that?”  “Try an apple instead.”
  • Giver her unsolicited food or exercise advice.
  • Talk to her only about her weight, the food she eats, whether or not she exercises, or her “health”.
  • Take pictures of her eating and put it on the internet with what you view as funny, albeit mean slogans.

What brought this on today, you ask?

An old high school friend of mine posted this picture of Michelle Obama on Facebook.

10152397_703834803012702_6895404474869093746_n

Now, this is not a political blog, and I do not wish to delve into politics here. Certainly, anyone is free to disagree with the president or any politician of any persuasion at any time for any reason. That is a right that is protected by the constitution. This picture is also protected speech, however repugnant it may be.

That said, I was outraged by this picture. The politics of it are inconsequential. What has me angry is the message it sends about women, food, fat, and shame. It says that no matter what a woman has accomplished in her life, that her outward appearance matters more than anything.

She can’t be caught doing anything unattractive, certainly nothing as unattractive as eating. Heaven forbid. That is immediate grounds for mockery of the highest order.

This whole episode has started me thinking about the use of the word “fat” as a pejorative. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been called “fat” as an insult, even during times in my life when I was clearly not fat. And it has clearly had a deleterious effect on my life.

What bothers me now is not how being called fat or being mocked because of food affects me, because I’ve learned more constructive ways of dealing with that. I am worried about the message it sends to young girls. Young girls are bombarded with wildly inappropriate images of unattainable airbrushed beauty. They are sent contradictory messages from the food and diet industries…consume, diet, consume, diet. Eating disorders are on the rise. Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels. All of this worries me.

I have a 6-year-old niece who seemingly knows nothing about food issues apart from her allergies. Here is what she knows. When she’s hungry, she eats. She does not worry about the number of calories in something. She doesn’t worry that it will make her fat. She just eats when she’s hungry. When she’s not, she doesn’t. Furthermore, as far as I can tell she has no self-esteem issues whatsoever. This is the kind of life and self-image I want for all girls.

I never want to see her change. In fact, I do not ever want any girl to ever go through what I have been through. It makes me sick to think that society will push her into obsessing over food, what she eats, how much and how often, and basing her value solely on her appearance.

I can assure you, it is no way to live. Mocking pictures like the one above, only perpetuates the notion that eating and being fat are the worst possible crimes a woman can commit.

Until we change that notion, being fat can and will always be used as a pejorative to bring and keep women down by people who are not smart enough to disagree with you more intelligently. We need to recognize that food is for nourishment and everybody eats. We need to recognize obesity as a medical condition and treat it as such. We need to recognize that women have value because they are people and as such deserve respect.

But mostly, We need to stop giving the trolls the power to control how we see ourselves by using fat as a pejorative. That is truly the only way things will change for young girls in the future.

Advertisements

3 responses to “The Fat Pejorative

  1. “You have such a sweet face. If you’d only lose weight…”
    Keep up the good work.

  2. After my divorce, someone offered this sage advice – “You’ll lose the weight and find a man.” Still waiting! 🙂 Thanks for writing what I’m thinking!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s