There is no one right way for fat women to look

I saw this meme floating around Facebook (source), and it really rubbed me the wrong way.

I’m all for breaking down stereotypes and expectations about how fat women should dress. I’m all for criticizing media that only present fat women wearing certain styles, or retailers that sell us a narrow range of options based on the erroneous perception that we don’t want to show off our bodies. I’m all for promoting retailers who sell fresh, fun, and edgy designs in plus sizes.

But I’m not ok with implying that there’s something wrong with wearing loose-fitting garments, or that the woman on the right is more stylish, attractive, proud of her body, or deserving of celebration than the woman on the left.

I’m not ok with setting up fatshion hierarchies, privileging certain styles and amounts of skin shown. I’d much rather focus on expanding our options and encouraging all fat women–and men, and non-binary people–to wear whatever makes them happy.

Personally, I’d wear both outfits; they’re both fun and colorful in different ways. Sometimes I like to wear form-fitting clothes, and other times I like to wear looser items–because, you know, people are capable of enjoying more than one type of clothing. What can I say, it’s right there in my blog’s tagline (and in Leaves of Grass): I am large, I contain multitudes.

12 thoughts on “There is no one right way for fat women to look

  1. Hi,

    I’m so pleased to this. I am sick and tired of being shown images of fat women in tight fitting clothes, constantly wearing belts to either ‘cinch’ in the waist, or give the illusion of a waist if you haven’t got one!
    The current trend seems to imply that an hourglass figure is an essential necessity for a fat woman, and it is women with the tights clothes, the belt resembling the pin up look that makes a fat person fashionable and attractive nowadays.
    Fat women should be able to look however they want to look. They should wear what they want to wear, not what is dictated to them by the current accepted vision of a fat woman. I want to wear lose fitting clothes, I don’t want to wear a belt and I don’t see why this should make me “frumpy” or unattractive!

  2. Oh yeah, this happens so much in FA and it’s precisely why I’m more involved in other activist circles than FA. x.x

    I just don’t feel like I fit into that culture at all… not only because of how I dress (like the New Age flower child that I am….rather than RADICAL which I’m not really. I mean, I have radical political beliefs about how the world ought to work, and I connect with radical people in that way. But deep down, in terms of how I live my OWN life? I’m a pacifist…which is pretty much the opposite of someone who goes out in the world every day with the intention of ruffling feathers).

    I HAD to create my own activist group because I’m finding there are precious few, naturally-peaceful people in the ones already existing in my city. x.x So I needed a space where I get to set the ground rule… rules like “PLEASE be NICE to each other!!!!” Because at the end of the day, I value integrity more than justice, and I think that actively calling others out without regards to tone prevents people from feeling free to express their true selves in that way. If you’re always filtering, obsessed with doing things the RIGHT way? When can you ever just….BE?

    THAT’S what I hear when someone insults my clothing…when they say it’s not a good representation of the movement.

    I hear (and let’s be honest, a lot of people do actually mean): “YOU are bad for the movement. So get the fuck out of it.”

    It doesn’t help that, in all honesty, I think a lot of HAES is really ableist because it holds up health as some sort of moral obligation…that you’re a failure if you happen to be fat AND sick, especially if you’re sick BECAUSE you’re fat.

    I refuse to stay silent to make people feel more comfortable around me… and my manner of dress is a reflection of that.

  3. Thinking about stuff like this….honestly fascinates me.

    I love fashion.

    I love how different fashions, whether consciously or not, reflect important things not only about the people wearing them, but about the overall culture of the time.

    Both of these looks seem retro to me…but in different ways. The first one reminds me of 1969 in places like San Francisco and Woodstock….the summer of love and freedom and peace, of gemstones and cuddle puddles and running barefoot through fields.

    The second one reminds me of…honestly, the same time period, but different social circles and movements within it. It reminds me of mod. It reminds me of civil rights. It reminds me of fists in the air instead of peace signs. And both of these and more are really important to me and, I think, society at large.

  4. Who wears the same style, level of glam, shape, design or WHATEVER all the time? Who even FEELS like the same person all the time? I want to (and at this point in my life, finally do) feel awesome dressing to the level of awesome I’m emitting – glam if I’m feeling glam and decidedly not when I’m only too happy to be lovin my old T and cut off sweats. I’m big, but I shouldn’t have to “dress” to love myself – nobody should require that of me and merchants shouldn’t try to convince me otherwise. GREAT PIECE!

  5. What really bothers me about this is that many women still look like the one on the left. Whether out of choice or not (let’s face it, the fab clothing options aren’t open to everyone), it’s still shitty to be setting some kind of arbitrary level of acceptability.

    And, as others have mentioned above, not all women are hourglass shaped, with flat tummies, smooth, hairless skin and long hair.

  6. The woman on the left looks (to me) to be several sizes smaller than the woman on the right, not to mention a different race.

    I don’t know it this was created as a positive or negative meme, but on face value it seems to be complaining that visibly fat women have gone from being smaller fat, smiling, white women to larger fat, disinterested, black women.

    I’m probably over-thinking this.

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