The Fatness Spectrum

Let’s talk a little bit about privilege, in regards to fatness. If you’ve not been exposed to fat acceptance or the fat liberation movement, then some of this will seem very foreign and you may balk at it, but please keep an open mind. If you do not understand the concept of privilege, or think it’s all SJW garbage, I shall refer you to my own post on the topic

So what is Body Privilege? In short, it is the privileges received by those of smaller body size. The larger you are, the more institutional discrimination you receive for your weight, and the more difficult your life becomes. Since we culturally associate fatness with laziness, this discrimination is usually seen as acceptable and even positive, with people believing that if they shame fat people enough, they will be motivated to lose the weight. This is not, in fact, how it works. If it were that straightforward then there would be a lot fewer fat people in the world.

The larger you are the harder and more expensive it is to exist in society. To buy clothes, to travel, to obtain healthcare, to even access day to day facilities (public restroom stalls are so small!). It is harder for a fat person to obtain a job, as they are often biased against as being lazy. Even when I presented male, I often had to prove myself extra hard in interview processes for jobs I was overqualified to do (I’m terrified of trying to interview as a fat woman). The Fat Tax is real.

I am a Mid Fat. Pre-Transition I was a Superfat. I have been forced to move from good airplane seats because I was deemed too large to be allowed in an exit row. I’ve been told I couldn’t take my daughter on rides at the county fair because my belly prevented the locking of the safety bar, and have had to squeeze through turnstiles at Disneyland because they weren’t built wide enough in the 70s and 80s. Ironically I have an easier time finding clothing now as a fat woman than I did as a fat man, largely because there are simply more clothes for women than men, but even still I cannot shop in most clothing stores. Bra shopping when you’re above a 40 band is painful, and if you’re above a 46 band? Good luck! Hope you like soft cups.

This is what we mean when we talk about body privilege, because it is all around us, and if you have never been truly fat then you may never be exposed to it.

The image attached to this post made the rounds on Instagram early last year, tho it appears to date back to 2016. It defines the “Fat Spectrum”, or the tiers of relative disenfranchisement experienced at those sizes. We define these tiers to delineate where thin privilege lies, and because fat is not a feeling. This spectrum exists to establish who experiences what levels of privilege, in the interest of educating on the affects of fat discrimination, and to clarify who is and is not actually fat. Why do we claim the word fat as our own? Because fat is not a four letter word.

Allow me to quote Michelle Moland:

In most body positive and fat acceptance communities the words obese and obesity and overweight are words that aren’t used. The combination of being a medical term + all the negative stigma around those words can make them feel like slurs (you’ll even see people censoring them like o*esity). Instead to describe size, we use the fatness spectrum as detailed in the photo.

For many, these terms can feel even more uncomfortable because the word fat has so many negative associations too. But it’s just a descriptive word, like tall, thin, muscled, pale, freckled. Taking back the word fat can feel very empowering, or it can simply feel like a neutral adjective.

Fat is used as an insult the world over. It is a word laced with shame, often coupled with misogyny, used to manipulate and abuse. We claim this word because it has been used against us over and over and over again, in much the same way queer has been used against members of the LGBTQ community. We claim this word to distinguish it from much more stigmatized terms such as “obese” and “overweight”. We claim it in order to normalize it.

Why shouldn’t we normalize this? 68% of American women are a size 14 or above, and the average American woman wears a size 16 or 18. More than half the country fits on this chart! Why are we so stigmatized? We’re the majority!

For further reading on the topic of why the fat spectrum exists I suggest this excellent post by Fluffy Kitten Party.

For more reading on body privilege I recommend this great Medium post by Michelle V Scott.