On “feeling fat” and the multiple truths of fat experience

Jenny Trout recently wrote about “feeling fat” vs. actually being fat in the context of reactions to Meghan Trainor’s song “All About That Bass.” Her main point is that, although body image is a problem for many women of all sizes, our conversations about body politics need to center the experiences of fat people–especially those on the larger end of the spectrum–who face regular discrimination for their size. She makes the important point that:

While average-sized women are concerned with not “feeling” fat, fat women are facing challenges that affect their lives far beyond damage to their self-perception. Plus-size clothing stores Lane Bryant and Torrid only sell clothing up to a size 28, at prices prohibitively expensive for low-income women. Buying clothing in a physical store is, if not impossible, then highly unlikely, for women who exceed the “plus-size” category.

Our health is at risk, too, and not just from the obesity-related illnesses we’re warned about; we’re faced with bias from the medical community that puts our health, and potentially our lives, at risk. Obese people face rising weight-based discrimination in the workplace, women especially.

I agree 1,000%. This is a big part of why I also felt uncomfortable with “All About That Bass” being held up as the body-positive anthem of the summer. Fat activism is a civil rights issue, and as its ideas have spread, they’ve often been watered-down to “inspiring” pictures of size 8-ish celebs and platitudes about loving your body (as long as it’s not too fat). We need to keep bringing the conversation back to the realities of being fat in a fat-phobic culture: workplace discrimination, medical bias, street harassment, lack of available clothing, lack of properly-sized chairs and medical equipment, discrimination in adoption proceedings, policing of children’s appetites–in extreme cases, even taking them away from their parents simply because they’re fat–and the ubiquitous messaging that our bodies are a disease to be eradicated at all costs. Continue reading

Meghan Trainor’s “All That Bass”: body-positive anthem?

I’ve been seeing a lot of hype for this song as the “body-positive anthem of the summer,” and my feelings about it are pretty mixed. First off, the song is fun and catchy, and I love the pastel outfits and set design. So many flower crowns! So much tulle! It’s incredibly aesthetically appealing.

I think it’s great that there’s a fat guy dancing, even doing a split near the end of the video–hell yes for fat athleticism!–but I wish there was even one genuinely fat woman featured. The singer and her backup dancers are only slightly larger than the media ideal, maybe in-betweenies at most. It’s just one of many, many “body-positive” projects that focus on smaller fat or not-even-fat women, and I’m so over that.

I’m also so over the song’s heteronormative focus on appealing to men, with lines like, “Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size/She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night.” Really? In 2014, we’re still supposed to base our self-esteem on what men (supposedly) like?  And the reference to “skinny bitches,” sigh.

Personally, my body-positive anthem will always be GabiFresh’s #everyBODYisflawless.