As a white and relatively able-privileged (usually hidden disabilities) cis person, I want to be clear that this discussion extends only to the discussion of fat safe spaces, and I am in no way drawing parallels, comparing to, or commenting on other safe spaces to which I am not welcome due to my privilege.
I’ve been feeling for a while that the issue of fat safe spaces and fat-centric language needs to be addressed seriously. It seems that those of us who are fat are always having to draw boundaries that privileged people constantly infringe. I appreciate it’s a tricky issue without identity policing, but I also think that not having an open dialogue about this will only hurt us in the long run.
So what do we do? When thin people try and appropriate fat experiences it’s usually for one of the following reasons I find:
1. Genuinely thinking that they are fat due to the media warping their expectations of what people look like. This isn’t their fault, and sympathy must be extended to all who have suffered at the hands of corporate forces’ mass manipulation- but within this we need to find a way to make it clear that fat is NOT just a state of mind. It is an experience that thin people cannot understand due to their privilege, and that their identifying as fat is infringing on our safe spaces and appropriating our experiences, which is not OK.
2. Eating Disorders. I think this is the most sensitive issue to address here. EDs are real disabilities, and, I reckon, the hardest point to address here. How do we stop people from appropriating our experiences when it’s a result of a disability? We don’t want to be triggering assholes, but we also want our terminology and phrases to retain their meaning.
3. Attention seeking. We all know this happens. The girl who pulls her top up to expose her perfectly flat stomach and says “Oh, I’m soooooo fat”. This is THE WORST. This type of person is literally just claiming to be like an oppressed person so they can be told No You’re Not Like One Of Those Awful Fatties. I spare no mercy on these types, as this is a damaging, sizist, appropriative action that causes a lot of harm and continues our oppression.
4. “Fat” being used as a synonym for a negative word. An example would be someone who eats a whole tub of ice cream, then if feeling a bit bloated or suger-crashy claims “I feel so fat”. This is, again, a horrible, oppressive act as it equates the word “fat” with a whole bunch of negative words, often when another word would be more appropriate. This is also connected to situations where fat people’s identities and life experiences are denied by those around them (“Oh, but YOU’RE not fat!”) because the fat person they’re talking to isn’t one of the many negative words associated with fat (e.g. unhygienic, lazy, unloved/unlovable).
(There are more here, but I can’t be bothered carrying on)
This “transfat” bullshit seems to be the latest thing that has come at us. How can a person be transfat? Well I’m not actually going to say it’s an outright bullshit concept- some people’s bodies do feel right at a certain size- for example Dawn French said she felt lost and uncomfortable when she lost weight for her wedding, and wished to be fat again, and I do sympathise with that, but be that as it may, a thin person has thin privilege, so claiming to be “transfat” is essentially body-size tourism, wherein they get to talk about how they are that thing, without actuallybeing that thing, and having to suffer all the icky oppression that comes with it.
Basically I just want to talk a bit about how we, as fat people, can define our own experiences and use language that accurately reflects ourselves, as it seems thin people are spending an awful lot of time talking about What Fat Is To Them and How This One Time They Were A Bit Chubby and so on. I want to know what we can do to keep ourselves safe from all this. It seems everytime this conversation comes up it gets derailed by a thin person who accuses all the Mean Fatties of body policing for not letting them into the OMG Deathfat 4 Lyfe Club, and it seems any time we try and criticise anything thin people do to oppress us it turns into a conversation about body policing. I am of course, entirely opposed to any form of body policing, but when are we going to acknowledge that the derails of the privileged are stopping the necessary conversations and therefore liberation of the oppressed?
P.S. I intentionally didn’t comment on the appropriative nature of the ‘trans’ in “transfat” as many trans* people have already said anything I could say better.