Dressing to Please the Fat Bigots

- POSTED ON: Sep 11, 2013

   

A Bigot is someone who, as a result of their own prejudices, thinks of other people with contempt, or intolerance on the basis of that other person's characteristics. Bigotry is the state of mind of a Bigot, and thoughts often tend to become actions.

Those who wish to be, or appear to be, "politically correct" in today's society, know they must work to filter out their prejudices against various characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc.

However, even the most "liberal" people commonly practice Bigotry when it comes to the physical characteristics of people who have Fat bodies. Our current society still accepts, allows, and encourages such thinking and behaviors.

Here, the term "Fat Bigot" is used to define someone who is prejudiced against the physical characteristics of people who have fat bodies, not someone who HAS a fat body. 

 

When Fat Bodies Just Look Wrong 
   
             by Ragen Chastain.

There is a post over on This is Thin Privilege written by a girl who was told that she couldn’t wear the same shorts as a thinner student because she didn’t “present” the same way as the other student.  This highlights a particular kind of fat bigotry wherein fat bodies are judged to look “wrong” doing the same thing that thin bodies do, just because they are fat.

Wrong can take a lot of meanings in this context, one of the first is the idea that they look obscene (remember the Lane Bryant ad that showed about 25% of the skin of a Victoria’s secret ad but was controversial because it was judged look obscene - obscene here meaning “omg big boobs!”?)  Or, as in the example from above, fat bodies are seen as un-presentable, or needing to be more covered/hidden than other bodies.

And how many times have we heard the “fat girl” rules of fashion – black clothes absorb light and hide our shape (aka “slimming”), choose clothes based on their ability to make you look as much like the thin ideal as possible (aka “Flattering“) and that anything else is an affront to everyone who sees us and a moral failing on our part.

This type of situation is often about a bigot asking to be accommodated by a fat person. 
The assumption being that if someone doesn’t like fat bodies, doesn’t like looking at fat bodies, doesn’t think that fat bodies should do certain things or dress in certain ways, then the people with those fat bodies have a responsibility – nay, an obligation – to “fix” the situation by doing what the fat hater wants us to do.  As if the solution might not be for them to get the hell over their bigotry, or at least practice the ancient art of looking at something else.

When the teacher told the student that the shorts were inappropriate on her fatter body but not on the thinner body, what he was actually saying was “I’m a size bigot, accommodate me.”  Our society is set up to accommodate fat bigotry in many ways, perhaps the most insidious is convincing fat people to take an active part in it by policing ourselves and other fat people for failing to follow the fat girl rules of dressing.

Fat people are allowed to make clothing choices for any reason they want – including dressing for maximum societal approval, as long as they are only choosing for themselves and not trying to tell other fat people what they should wear (hello Underpants Rule, my old friend.)  My suggestion is not that all fat people dress a certain way, but that we should consider being very conscious as to why we make the choices we make, and what that means. So if we choose to dress for societal approval we are keenly aware of why we are doing it so that we don’t get confused and think that there is anything wrong with our actual bodies – rather than realizing that there is a lot wrong with society and that our bodies are fine.

When it comes to the idea of fat bodies looking “wrong,”  the choices I make about what to wear have been less important than my ability to realize when a bigot is asking me to accommodate them, and the fact that I am under absolutely no obligation to do so. If you struggle with feeling like fat bodies (maybe even including yours) look “wrong” then a big part of the problem may be that the media doesn’t seem to be able to show us with heads and faces, let alone as positive role models.  So I suggest taking some time each day to find pictures of fat bodies and work to increase your skill at perceiving beauty.  


by Regen Chastain. 
Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, Speaker, Fat Person
www.  Dances With Fat      

  Life has taught me things things about myself and others. I now realize that I grew up surrounded by Fat Bigots… meaning people who were prejudiced against people who exhibited the physical characteristic of being Fat. That nonacceptance range of of Fat began with the state of being "not thin"; included "a bit plump" or "overweight"; then progressed to "fat", "really fat", and then on to "morbidly obese" and up.

I adopted this mental state as my own, which was a problem since I was never "thin". I was curvy even as a very young adolescent in the late 1950s, I recall my mother's reaction when she weighed me and learned that at 5'1" I weighed 105 lbs. She exclaimed in fear and horror, "That's what I weighed when I got married!!." She was taller, 5'4" so I was already fatter than my mother was as a young adult.. and she was a "normal" person not a "thin" person.

This article brought my attention to the fact that as a child I was taught to dress to please Fat Bigots. When the "squaw shirt" was popular, it was to be avoided because it was a gathered skirt. My peers wore the straight sheath dresses favored by Jackie Kennedy, but these disguised my small waist and emphasized my hips and thighs, so I wore "princess" style, dresses, which skimmed past my waist to smoothly flare out over my hips.

Showing Skin was to be avoided, no bare upper arms or showing of knees or thighs. Modesty wasn't the true reason for this, it was to avoid showing fat. As a freshman in High School, while weighing 115 lbs, I was outfitted with long-line bras, and panty girdles in order to smooth out any bouncy fat that might show through my clothing.

I adopted this mindset as my own. Although there were many girls fatter than me, who dressed without regard to fat concealment, I regarded them with hidden contempt, and I judged my own appearance by comparing myself to girls who were naturally thin.

This attitude followed me throughout my life, and I considered it normal. However, I was a middle-aged woman with years of Therapy behind me, before I realized that what was wrong was Society, not my body.

I always knew that I was dressing for societal approval, and I still do this. However, I do it now as a conscious choice, using personal preferences I've established over years of habit.

There are lots of different types of bodies, and different ways to acceptably dress them.  
See below:  Aerosmith's - Pink 

 


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