“Bodies are inherently valid” – Mark Aguhar (calloutqueen)
Fatphobia is a term for the systems of oppression in place to make the lives of fat people more difficult and less fulfilling. They range from things like fat people not being considered attractive, to fat people not being taken seriously, to fat people not being able to get jobs, to fat people not being able to find friends, partners, and/or community, to fat people not being able to access health care, and many other things. In short, fatphobia tells everyone that our self-worth hinges upon our body size and that those who are too big (using whatever arbitrary criteria like the BMI) are worthless.
In a capitalist society, there are actually many benefits to fatphobia and fat people feeling worthless. The Canadian diet industry makes billions of dollars a year, and Canadians are still as fat as ever (ditto for the USA)! The seeming legitimacy of “the obesity epidemic” only functions to promote further discrimination of fat people by transferring the negatives of fatness from simply an aesthetic issue to a health issue. That means that we now believe that it’s not only aesthetically unpleasant to be fat, it’s also bad for your health. Is it, though?
The Health At Every Size (HAES) movement has been trying to suggest that people can be healthy no matter what their size is, and that being fat, on its own, is not enough to say that someone is unhealthy. In fact, there are quite a few studies now that not only show that being some levels of fat doesn’t negatively impact your life, but that it can actually positively impact your life, and increase your lifespan by a few years (see Flegal et al., 2013 to start with).
But, why take our movement in that direction? Why are we leaving our “unhealthy” brothers and sisters by the wayside so that we can prove to non-fat people that being fat doesn’t cause X disorder or decrease your life expectancy by Y years? Body positivity movements should aim to strive for ending oppressions of all fat people, not only those that society prizes most highly or despises the least. If we allow the focus of fatphobia to be shifted from aesthetics to health, we leave ourselves open to people shifting the focus to something else once there’s nothing left to reap from the “being fat is unhealthy” phase.
So what’s the solution? I think it’s that being fat is okay. Period. No caveats. Body size is nothing more than a description. Being fat and being unhealthy are two separate things that are both okay, and life goes on. So stop feeling sad that you look fat in that dress, or those pants. You do look fat, but that’s ‘cause you are fat, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.