We live in a culture dominated by white-supremacist standards of beauty—a harsh start to an article, yes, but also a very truthful one at that. We celebrate and follow a colonial standard of beauty since we are used and live in a colonized world. To be considered truly beautiful, you need to be thin, white and have Western European features, such as blue eyes, blonde hair, and small noses and lips. Thick bodies: thick thighs and wide hips are regarded as undesirable features in non-whites. Unfortunately, for people who attribute a woman’s beauty solely to her weight, appearance, and how she meets specific and arbitrary beauty standards, fat women only exist separately from thin women. As a fat woman myself, I am a living proof that we exist outside of your joke or fetish. The average American woman wears a size 18 to 20 pant, as many of us have fat friends, and we are those fat friends.
Despite, or even because of, their weight, fat women don’t have to be pigeonholed as brave, powerful, or beautiful. In a similar way to the idea of a thin woman wanting to be admired for the content of her character rather than her conventional beauty, all women deserve to be admired based on their character, not their looks. As a fat woman, I have compiled a list of 5 things you shouldn’t say to your fat friend and fat women out there, whether they be strangers or even partners. It’s not often people think about these kinds of things, but I’m here to do it for you.
The body positivity movement (which, occasionally, tends to focus on only white, able-bodied women sizes 12-18) has normalized and celebrated bodies that are not a size six or under. Even though the movement has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity, it is a good start. Beyond the body positivity movement, fat women ask to be seen as more than their weight and instead be celebrated for their accomplishments. Lizzo, the recording artist famous for being candid about her life as a fat black woman, explained in a recent Netflix interview (available online for free on her Instagram page) with David Letterman why she should be regarded more than just fat and black. Sitting opposite David Letterman, Lizzo says, “I’m sick of being an activist just because I’m black and fat. I want to be an activist because I care about issues, because my music is great, and because I want to help the world.”
5 things you shouldn’t say to your fat friend:-
“You’re so brave/confident to be wearing that!”
This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a compliment! If you see your fat friend wearing revealing clothing or clothing that’s typically reserved for thin bodies (horizontal stripes, anything that’s not black, blah, blah, blah, etc.), do not tell them how brave they are, how much confidence they must have, or how body positive they must be. Just let fat girls wear what they want and what they feel comfortable in. Telling us that we’re brave to wear something tells us that we’re not supposed to be wearing it. You are not being kind or cute by saying that. Let me wear my crop top in peace, please!
“Wow, you look like you’ve lost weight!”
Again! Not really a compliment. If you haven’t seen your fat friend in a while, why is the first thing that comes to your mind about their BMI? This tip works for anyone, even skinny friends, as weight loss is not always a good thing. Rapid weight loss is often a sign of stress, mental and physical illnesses. Also, people of all sizes can be insecure regarding their weight, so commenting on anyone’s body is inappropriate. Before you “compliment” any changes in their body, “compliment” your fat friend’s change in hair or style.
“I’m just thinking about your health!”
One of the 5 things you shouldn’t say to your fat friend before you open your mouth is to talk about their health unsolicited. Ask yourself this question first: are you this person’s practicing physician? If the answer is no, keep your mouth shut. Most fat people—like most thin people—have a family doctor they visit regularly, and that person’s whole job is to make sure they’re healthy. Doctor-patient confidentiality exists for a reason: you’re not supposed to know about anyone’s health condition. There are several illnesses and disabilities that cause weight gain, and there are different ways a body can look and still be healthy. Regardless, even unhealthy people deserve your kindness, respect, and discretion.
“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
Stop! Just stop saying this! Your adult fat friend does not owe you justification or an explanation of why they are eating things, like fattening foods, or if they just ate, or if they look like they can’t afford to eat the foods. Again, the health of another person is not your business or responsibility. Shaming fat people into not eating is a really outdated method of promoting weight loss. Studies have shown that fat-shaming does not only work long-term for weight loss but also encourages weight gain. Humiliation and shame is never a proper or productive teaching tool, so why should your fat friends be an exception?
“I like a girl with extra meat on her bones!”
I’m starting to think that the title should be “backhanded compliments fat people receive,” but I don’t know how catchy that would be. This line tends to come up when flirting with fat women and much like you’ve lost weight! “Compliment,” it makes fat women’s weight the main topic and also compares women to a piece of meat! Great! Fat women being fetishized for their bodies is quite common, and it can be quite dangerous to their mental and physical health. Objectifying fat women is not unusual, nor is it appropriate or kind. Or your fat friend for that matter.
So, we leave you with 5 things you shouldn’t say to your fat friend to contemplate further. Overall, fat people and fat women are owed far more respect than what they are accorded. Even people with overweight friends, partners, or family members can be guilty of fast-shaming and fatphobia. To truly respect women who do not meet beauty standards based on their weight or bodies, we need to respect them based on their character rather than on the number on the scale. Treat people better regardless of their weight.