Sizeism refers to discrimination against a person because of the size of their body, typically related to weight. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am a plus size woman and a hard-core body positive advocate - a space that is not always easy to occupy in our current world.
Throughout this blog you will notice that I use the terms "fat" or "bigger bodies". The use of these words was intentional as I believe it is important to destigmatize them. Growing up I was often corrected when I stated that I was fat. People would say "you're not fat, you have fat". While I acknowledge that I have fat, I also find it important to point out that these comments further engrained the idea that being fat was negative. If you feel uncomfortable with someone saying that they are fat, I urge you to reflect on your personal views of fatness and where they came from. Was the fear of being fat used to shame you into specific patterns?
Unrealistic systemic criteria for beauty have created an unsafe space for those of us living in bigger bodies as these expectations have trained a generation of human beings to hate fat people. And sometimes this response comes across as fear - fear of being fat, or fear of someone who is fat. Society is told to diet and exercise so they don't look like me. This message is typically linked to health-related characteristics which I wholeheartedly understand but also feel the need to challenge.
I believe that health should be linked to more than just weight because we are SO much more than a number on the scale. I have personally spent years attempting to heal and unlearn this. I often share my history with disordered and restrictive eating as I feel that this highlights the internalized damage of being on the receiving end of sizeism. Due to the size of my body, many would assume that I fell into the damaging pattern of over-exercising and restrictive eating as a way of achieving a "healthier" body, but I honestly never even thought about my health. I wanted to fit in. I was tired of being the "fat friend" or the "big girl on the swim team". I was exhausted after years of comments about my body, ways I could lose weight, and feeling like there wasn't a safe space for me in the world.
Having occupied both a thin body and a fat or bigger body I can speak to the very different treatment that I received as a human being in our society. My occupying a thin body was praised and celebrated - I was seen as disciplined, more beautiful, and successful for losing weight. My gaining weight as a part of my disordered eating recovery was seen as a personal failure and frequently commented on by those around me. It is important to me that we learn to understand that all bodies are worthy, regardless of their shape or size. All bodies deserve respect, even if they don't fit in with your definition of health or beauty. All bodies are good bodies because they simply exist.
Oppressing others because of their body weight and shape is actually a human rights issue that needs to be intentionally challenged by collective society.
I frequently share a story that jump-started my unlearning, my thinking about the way society oppresses those in fat or bigger bodies, and my recovery. I am going to share this with you as it is important to me and I believe it reflects the narratives that have been normalized in society today.
When I was 21, I went out for dinner with someone that I would have considered to be one of my closest friends. We were out celebrating my graduation from undergrad and having a really lovely time.
The table next to us got up to leave - included in this group was a woman in a bigger body. She was absolutely stunning. Confident, smiling, visibly feeling herself. She was wearing an awesome vintage inspired outfit too, polka dot skirt and a crop top.
I stared at her and smiled when we made eye contact when my friend said something along the lines of "that girl should not be wearing a crop top" and "shoot me if I ever look like that, it's my biggest fear".
In that moment my friend took away the safety for me in our friendship. It was made clear that she would find me more acceptable thin, instead of being healthy in a bigger body. I don't blame her because this is a message that has been so ingrained in us all from a young age by society. We do not acknowledge thin privilege or the hierarchical, political and economic structures that influence this. We do not admit our fear of those in bigger bodies. We do not admit that we believe those in bigger bodies are complacent. We do, however, explicitly make these feelings clear in our interactions on a daily basis and this needs to change.
I urge every human being on the planet to fight to liberate the fear and inequality that those of us in bigger bodies face on a daily basis. We are worthy of your ally-ship, your love, and your kindness.
Reminder: You are worthy of love, respect, kindness, and being seen at every single shape and size. You do not need to change your body shape and size to fit in with society. Society needs to do better to make this a safe world for all bodies.