Thanks to reader Harmony for providing the inspiration for this post! Part of it is a re-post from a past blog and part of it is new to address new questions. Reasonably often I see somebody – typically somebody well intentioned – suggest that we should stop using the word fat. Recently I actually saw someone say that fat people “shouldn’t be allowed” to call ourselves fat. Sometimes when it is discussed, “fat talk” is short hand for negative body talk, but often it’s literal.
The issue here is that, however well meaning, saying that we shouldn’t call people fat suggests that being fat is such a terrible thing that we shouldn’t utter the word out loud. Fat people are not Voldemort and making fat seem like the “physical descriptor that must not be named” actually further shames and stigmatizes people who are, in fact, fat (whether we call them/ourselves that or not.)
to the man who called me a girl and, when I tried to tell him I’m actually a woman, drowned me out by repeating louder and louder that I am a lady:
“Cease speaking immediately”, for starters.
Even if we did live in a universe where someone I have spent less than 30 minutes speaking to got to dictate how I identify myself, you have no justification for calling me a child.
It’s 9 years since I was legally classed as an adult, 10 since I could start driving, and 11 since I could legally have sex. Not sure how I feel about those things being allowed in that order, but there’s a post for another day. Heck, I’m even past that magical age when you suddenly become responsible enough to hire a car.
I am not a girl, by any stretch of the imagination.
As for calling me a lady. Did you really think it would be that easy to tame me? Do you actually believe a word could make me a Good Little Lady to your Gentleman? Sorry (not sorry) to disappoint, but it takes more than words to tame a tiger.
I may be lady-like in that I don’t swear, I only raise my voice in extreme situations, I have manners, and I drink an inordinate amount of tea with my pinky finger sticking out.
But I also lift weights and have bigger muscles than pretty much all of my friends. I can’t pass a tree without wanting to climb it. I have punched people and would do so again to protect myself. Maybe even in rage, keep trying to dictate how I refer to myself and maybe we’ll find out. And heaven help the person who hurts someone I love.
You cannot pigeonhole me with a word, in fact you bring out my contrary stubbornness by trying to.
Or is it the mental images this word ‘woman’ brings up that upset you? Is ‘woman’ too sensual for you? Too sexual even?
All I can say to that is…tough. I am a woman. I have curves and I know how to use them. If that makes you uncomfortable, well, that’s your issue. Calling me a girl won’t make these curves go away. Calling me a lady won’t stop me shaking them when my favourite raggaeton track comes on, or giving it tarraxinha when I dance kizomba.
I am a woman because I say so, and I am the only person in the entire world allowed to decide.
Now, I know this post is going to get me a lot of horrified responses (I’m looking at you, Mum) but I’m going to put it out there anyway.
Limit #7 Women cannot walk alone at night.
We all know why: if you’re alone at night the rape monster will get you.
But I think you’ll find I just did walk home alone at night. And do, on a weekly basis. Sometimes several times a week.
I’ll be completely honest – part of it is contrariness. Just last night someone tried to persuade me not to walk home alone (without offering an alternative, I might add), and the more he called me a girl and told me it’s not safe and it’s not nice, the more determined I was to do it.
But the part that is not contrariness can best be summed up by Elizabeth Bennett:
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
I will not allow fear to make me miss out on life. I have as much right as anyone else to go out and enjoy myself, whether or not I have a friend to go with me or enough money for a taxi home. How about instead of trying to frighten women into becoming timid little house-bound mice, we start tackling the rape-culture which teaches everyone that women are put on Earth solely for the benefit of men.
No, I do not think I’m indestructible. There have been times I’ve had the emergency number ready on my phone in one hand, with the other clenched into a fist so I can punch quickly, just in case. But I will be damned if I ever let fear stop me living my life to the absolute full, and exactly as I want to.
Turns out I’m human. I have bad days just like everyone else, and today is one of those days.
I feel enormous and disgusting and unhealthy and downright unattractive.
I’m wearing a hoodie for the sole reason that it prevents me seeing my tummy rolls when I sit down.
I may yet visit both Pintos and Greggs during my lunch break. Because stuffing my face will stop me feeling like an elephant…
For 27 years (and counting) I’ve had one, finite model of beauty thrust at me as the only right way to be. For more years than not it was my core belief that not fitting into that model makes me ugly and unlovable. I was never going to break free of that overnight. It was always going to be a journey, and they are never straightforward.
Today there is no advice, epiphany, or ‘nuts to you, society’. I am human, and I am struggling.
Tomorrow is a new day, and I am determined to come up fighting. But if you need me, just for today, I’ll be over here hiding under my duvet so nobody can see me.
In a world that is consumed with “thin” as the ideal of both beauty and health, and where many mistakenly believe that public health should be about making fat people’s bodies the public’s business, practicing Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size can mean dealing with conversations that are everything from irritating to downright insulting.
Sometimes I have the time and energy to open a dialog and sometimes I don’t. Here are five phrases that I keep in my back pocket for when I want to end an inappropriate interaction quickly and move on with my day.
I’m not soliciting opinions about my [body/health/food choices etc.]
I’ve found this super useful when dealing with concern trolling of any kind. It’s not a response that people are expecting, it doesn’t take me down the road of buying into the idea that this person is owed an explanation, and it shuts down further conversation.
Because neither introverts nor fat people can dance. Obviously.
I reckon the theory for introverts came about from the common misconception that ‘introverted’ and ‘shy’ are interchangeable terms.
I didn’t used to dance. I remember being at a Bible study with my dad, and they wanted us all to join in a simple group routine that would probably have been danced at that time. I crossed my arms and said, “I. Don’t. Dance.” in my most stubborn voice. But secretly I wanted to. I was just too shy.
Being shy means letting fear of social judgement prevent you doing what you want to do. You can overcome shyness (and I have!) by pushing through the fear.
Being introverted has nothing to do with fear. It means that large groups of people I know or small groups of strangers wear me out really quickly. It means I suck at small talk but could discuss an issue I care about for hours on end. It means that no matter who I’m with, even if they’re my favourite person in the whole world, there will come a point where I have to leave them and be on my own for a while.
None of these have any effect on my ability to dance.
My shyness stopped me dancing, but my being an introvert never has and never will. It just means that once the dancing is over, I’ll have to go and be alone to recover my energy after all that interaction.
And as for ‘fat people can’t dance’…
I think you’ll find I can dance pretty darn good (thanks, Ben!).
I’m beginning to wonder whether the ones who make these limits have ever actually met a real, live person.
As research, I Googled “Introverts can’t…” and face-palmed repeatedly at the suggested endings to that sentence.
We (apparently) can’t be teachers, make friends, be leaders, or get jobs.
Yes, 25%-33% of the population are (apparently) just incapable of finding employment. Probably because we hiss at the interviewer when they try to shake our hand.
We also (apparently) don’t like facebook, talking, people, going out in public, attention, or being touched.
It’s so very wrong I could do a whole series of posts just proving what introverts can actually do. I mean really, you would have to go for Boo Radley-esque reclusiveness if all of those things were true. It’s just not practical.
But today I want to focus on one that is, for me, at least half true: introverts don’t like to be touched.
I do not like to be touched.
Right about now all my friends are probably laughing, or getting ready to call me a big snowman liar. Except the one who had to spend weeks talking me into her hen do at a spa. Because the full sentence should be ‘I do not like to be touched by strangers’.
I really don’t. I hate that we seem to have adopted this European thing of kissing cheeks when you meet someone.
If I have kissed you, you can assume that I would willingly give up my life for you if it was required. That’s how close we need to be before I’m okay with being kissed; a casual acquaintance, or even someone I’ve met for the first time, is not allowed to touch me with their mouth. And if they try, I will recoil in horror. Sorry not sorry.
‘Relaxing’ massages are anything but, unless done by someone I have known for years. I don’t even like strangers feeling up my guns, proud as I am of them. It just stresses me out.
And yet, once I get to know someone there are practically no barriers.
So if you’re really that desperate to touch me, spend some time getting to know me. Otherwise, beware the personal space. I may bite.
This is not an epiphany; I’ve known it for some time. The clues have always been there.
Junk in the trunk
There’s no two ways about it, I am fat.
But I am not lazy. Or mean. I’m not stupid, greedy, selfish, weak, ugly, dishonest, or any other insult that has come to be associated with the word ‘fat’.
For years (and YEARS) various people have told me that I’m not fat; I’m curvy. I’m not fat; I’m beautiful. I’m not fat; I’m sexy. I’m not fat; I’m strong.
I used to take it as a compliment, but now I’m beginning to wonder…why can I not be both?
I refuse to accept ‘fat’ and ‘beautiful’ as mutually exclusive terms. I know it’s possible to be both because I am both. I’m strong and fit, happy, giving, far too loving, and none of those are hindered, or even affected in the slightest, by the fact that I am also fat.
When I say I’m fat (and I’m going to keep doing that, by the way) I’m not insulting myself or putting myself down, I’m just stating a fact. Saying my hair is brown is not an insult, it’s a fact. And extrapolating my personality from my body fat percentage is as ridiculous as using my hair colour to guess my favourite cheese*.
So I’m joining the fight to knock ‘fat’ back down to just another word. If I ever hear “you’re not fat; you’re (insert compliment here)” my instant and vehement response will be “I am both!”. I will keep using the word as often as I can, and explaining that it’s not an insult as often as I need to. I imagine that will be quite often.
I’m not sure how much difference I can make as just one person, but I know it’s more than none. And if I can get one other person to even think about the way they use the word ‘fat’, I will consider that a victory.
I’m really not sure of the ‘logic’ behind this one. Surely we would be better cycling, as it puts less stress on our poor over-burdened joints than, say, running. Or is it that anything more strenuous than walking from the sofa to the fridge and back is just too much for us?
Whatever, I did it anyway!
It started off a bit dull, crossing a few roads to get to the cycle path.
But then I got up by the canal and the views vastly improved!
The weird colourless sky is actually perfect weather for cycling. I didn’t have to choose between squinting into the sun and pushing my sunglasses back in place every 5 minutes. And it was just cool enough to keep me moving, without feeling like I was going to melt into a puddle of sweat on the bike seat.
The swans seemed to like it too!
I should have been following a route I’ve done before, but I decided to take a different turn and see where I ended up. Turns out it just leads to a very un-photogenic road. So no photos of that.
In the end I cycled 6 miles and had a lovely time. I really need to work on my distance though; I signed up to cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh in September. Let’s hope fat people can ride a bike. For several hours. Probably in the rain. It’ll be fun….
And yes, I did have the soundtrack to Pocahontas stuck in my head aaalll the way round!