Our Fatphobia Is Showing…

identity, society, thinkpiece November 15, 2020

My morning routine is quite simple:

  1. Wipe away bulbs of dried mucus from my eyes, gently wiggle my phalanges in all directions before planting my extremities on the ground.
  2. Waltz on tip-toe to the large reflective device fitted to the wall in front of my bed, and take a deep inhale.
  3. Sharply plug the air from escaping my diaphragm.
  4. Marvel at how ‘skinny’ I look.
And just like that, another day has begun.

Recently, I began questioning my obsession with this routine, before it dawned on me, that I, in my size-8/10-US body, still struggle to fight against internalized fatphobia and body dysmorphia. The absence of my body in media (until very recently) created within me a belief that I should be other than I am: skinnier. This belief has been with me for some time–probably as long as it has been fed to me, through media and peers.

Is it not depressing as fuck that society tells us, at a default, that we’re better when we’re thin? That, we’re better when we literally hold less? I look back on photos from my girlhood to my early adulthood knowing that the person I’m looking at truly believed that they needed to lose weight (to be more desirable, and likable in general):

Today, I look at this person wishing she knew that that was so far from the truth.

When I look at myself today, I truly feel at home in my body 95% of the time, but I’m still stuck in that stupid cycle, doing that damn mirror routine most mornings. I’ve grown far from the girl who sometimes took “showers” after nights out in college so that she could purge in peace, but that growth doesn’t help me better cope with the realization that deep, deep down, that person may still be in there somewhere.

At the end of these realizations, when I usually begin to come-to, I seamlessly enter the primary stage of admittance–right in-step with recovery; I almost feel the impetus of self-liberation, but then, I re-enter the world, rife with advertising that doesn’t give a damn about what (little) progress I had made. The next step of recovery, understanding that there’s a greater power at play that lead me to be this fatphobic, was fairly easy considering the normalization of skinny via messaging that revolves around the idea of “watching your figure,” “getting a summer body,” and even, the seemingly harmless idea of dieting after the holidays.

Unfortunately, this messaging can be traced back to advertising in the early 1900s:

Since then, we’ve only picked up speed, and funneled these narratives into media deemed health-centric:

Of course, the messaging within the ads differentiate based on gender, with that for men promoting being muscular, instead of being skinny, as do women-centric ads. Nonetheless, the message is well-received:

there is something to gain in changing your body.

And for those who lose weight, there is much to gain, especially in the realm of celebrity:

But, even Hollywood shows us how the normalization of fatphobia translates to real-life consequences, such as the skinniest (and whitest) people being viewed more favorably; leading to the skinniest (and whitest) people having more opportunities in work, love, and many life-altering avenues.

In the real world, people who fit the standard of beauty receive higher quality medical care, meanwhile people in larger bodies are constantly told to lose weight before any attention valid concern is addressed. Society’s treatment of fat bodies doubles down on the idea that they are not worthy of the same treatment as they’re constantly made the butt of the joke, the ‘before picture’ in every makeover show, and now, on our most-used apps:

In the virtual and real world, fat bodies are policed in a way that skinny bodies simply are not:

So, when do we, as a collective, arrive at the place of letting larger bodies just be? Without critique, or unsolicited advice? When will the medical community treat fatness as a state of being for many, instead of an imminent threat to wellness, let alone, a death sentence? When we as a society begin to demand it; when we as a collective begin to root out the fatphobia within us; when we begin to see larger bodies as worthy, too.

It will be a long journey for most, given the barrage of fatphobic advertising that we don’t consent to seeing, yet see regardless; and, a life-long journey for people like me with histories of disordered eating, or body dysmorphia; but, together, our efforts may shorten the long walk to freedom.

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