We all know this question. It doesn’t matter what the numbers on the weighing scale show, or how much we've worked to love our bodies. Somewhere, someday, we have all looked at our perfectly nice bodies and asked ourselves, “Do I look fat?” The fact that our society, pop culture, family, and that one door ke rishtedaar echo the fear of being fat back at us, doesn’t help. Body positivity, or the impulse to love our bodies as they are, thrives in resistance to a society that tells us we aren’t “enough.” But what if body positivity as a concept itself isn’t enough? When it comes to fat bodies, and being fat, what if #selflove isn’t all that it takes?
That’s what those who advocate for “fat acceptance” argue. They say that body positivity has its limits and it excludes the very bodies that it claims to create an inclusive society for — fat bodies. And we're not talking only of the aesthetically-pleasing fat bodies. Writing in Healthline.com, Amee Severson writes about the pressure of being a “good fatty,” and says, “It wasn’t until I noticed that #bodypositivity influencers made me feel inadequate, like my body was too much to be really OK, that I started to question whether or not I belonged there. If body positivity is going to do what it was always supposed to do, it needs to include fat acceptance.”
Another reason why body positivity may be limiting for some, is that it doesn’t include the very real discrimination that fat people face. This can’t be erased by a #selflove mantra. Like Severson writes, “ The feeling of being constantly left out or judged for your body size isn’t the same as not loving your skin or feeling comfortable in your body.” The fat acceptance movement recognises the politics of being a fat person in a society. Fat acceptance as a movement traces its roots to New York in the 1960s, when a group of people organised a sit-in in Central Park, and ate, protested and burned diet books.
The thing about our bodies is, for better or for worse, it is the most visible part of who we are. Which means that when you’re fat, you’re fat...everywhere. In the workplace, when you’re at the doctor, when you’re in photos of your best friend's wedding...everywhere. And often, this means facing barbs and discrimination. In the US, a 2017 survey showed that fat employees can earn less per hour than “straight-size” employees. A 2003 study in US showed that more than 50 percent of the primary care physicians think obese patients are “awkward, unattractive, ugly and noncompliant.” Ask anyone who is fat, and they might anecdotally confirm this too!
In India, things aren’t much better. Have you heard of “fat-tax”? From multi-brand stores to designers, charging up to 10% extra for clothes which are larger than a size L is more the norm, than an exception. After controversy calling out this discriminatory pricing, some designers walked the “fat-tax” back. But, it’s still very much a given.
This is why, those who advocate for fat acceptance, say we need to move beyond body positivity. Of course, criticism has been leveled against fat acceptance too. Like this essay written by Lizzie Gernik in The Guardian, which says that “celebrating obesity is irresponsible.” But as a counter, Rachelle Hampton wrote in the Slate about how fat pride is centered around the idea of “dignity.” She writes, “Of course, fat people aren’t trying to encourage more people to become fat; they’re trying to live a life with dignity. If you’ve never been fat, it’s hard to understand the various ways in which your body stops becoming your own once you reach a certain weight. It becomes an object for public consumption and comment or ridicule.”
This need for dignity, especially in the face of a society which only judges you for your body, is at the core of both the body positivity, and the fat acceptance movement. The difference is, fat acceptance acknowledges that even with all the self-love you can muster, sometimes the fight for dignity is with the world outside.
Or, even a mirror which forces you to ask, “Do I look fat?”
Love, Maanvi Editorial Lead Vitamin Stree
What We’ve Been Loving aka Your Favourite Reccos
This week, we asked for your recommendations on Instagram! And hoo boy, did our to-read and to-watch lists get longer. Here are our top three picks! (Psst, if you have something you’d like to recommend, tell us!)
TV shows & Films: 1. Sir on Netflix: A sensitive romance about a determined woman, and her “sir,” this film takes on the trope of a servant, and gives it an empathetic and revelatory makeover. You will be rooting for Tillotoma Shome’s Ratna much after the end-credits.
2. Love, Simon on Disney+ Hotstar: If you wanted to watch a queer coming-of-age that didn’t shy away from the insecurities of being a teenager, and in love, this one is for you.
3. Record of Youth on Netflix: We haven’t got on the K-drama bandwagon yet, but after we got this recommendation from our audience, we are itching to check it out!
From Vitamin Stree This Week
1. Bollywood Bechdel Test 2020: A+ or F? How did Bollywood do on the only report card that matters aka the 2020 Bechdel Test? We’re back to tell you! Just FYI, a Bechdel Test requires that a film should have two named women talking to each other about anything other than a man. Sounds simple, right? Hmm, maybe not for our films!
2. Your Checklist Before You Have Sex for the First Time It’s never fun to reach the beach and realise that you’ve forgotten to pack a towel, or sunblock, or a swimsuit. And while everyone will be open to speak about the top 3 things you need before you go to the beach for the first time, what about sex for the first time? So here’s a checklist you NEED before first-time sex!
4. Are You Practicing Consent in Everyday Life? Ever felt uncomfortable with an unwanted hug or when asked about something sensitive? Are you still eyeballing your way through an inappropriate convo? We break down consent in everyday life for you, through some easy phrases!
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