I read this piece by Roxane Gay with trepidation; I love her writing, but from following her for a while, I’ve seen she’s conflicted about fatness in a way that’s hard for me to read. She often critiques fat-shaming while still buying into the ideas that fat is unhealthy, that weight loss is good, that thinner is better….and so I try to skip over anything she writes about weight. But then I read her piece about the Biggest Loser anyway.
I’ve read plenty of great critiques of the show, but this one makes it personal. Gay writes about her own struggles with her relationship to her body:
My body is wildly undisciplined and I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the right to space when I am public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how dare I impose? I deny myself entry into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people.
I deny myself bright colors in my clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not deserve.
It’s just heart-breaking.
It’s heart-breaking that she can so eloquently describe the pain of fat-shaming, both external and internalized, but doesn’t seem to see that there’s a (hard, imperfect, messy, but very real) way out.
To Gay, and to everyone else who is struggling, I want to say:
There is a way out.
There are options beyond hating your body, beyond denying yourself pleasure and beauty and love.
Body love, even body detente, isn’t always easy. It isn’t a linear journey. But it is a journey, one you can choose to take.
There are so many of us fat women–and men, and non-binary folks–over here, on the fat acceptance/fat justice/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-side, living our lives and treating our bodies as well as we can, whatever that means to each of us.
We’re here, having picnics and clothing swaps, dancing, painting our nails bright colors, wearing flowery dresses, practicing Health At Every Size, dating people who see the beauty in us, celebrating our undisciplined bodies and desires, refusing to buy into our culture’s twisted narratives about weight and health and worth.
Come join us. We saved a seat for you.