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Reclaiming the word FAT.

August 6, 2010

Many of us have already heard the points in this argument…but with the recent Lane Bryant controversy, it bears repeating.

Why are we reclaiming the word FAT?

1. We’re taking our power back. For so long the word FAT was used to shame and denigrate us. We think the word is simply descriptive, like hair color or height. So we’re going to use it as a descriptive term and rebel against the stigma associated with it.

2. It’s a political statement. It’s shocking to hear a fat person call themselves fat. As activists and rebels sometimes it’s good to shake things up. It’s also the language of our movement; by calling ourselves fat we’re showing solidarity to our cause.

3. Fat isn’t a disease. The word obese is a term used in the medical community to mean a disease state, usually associated with metabolic illness. But not all fat people are metabolically unhealthy. Also, “overweight” implies that there is a weight that people are “over.”

4. BMI is bulls**t. Obese and overweight are classifications on the BMI scale. But the BMI is flawed tool, as it doesn’t differentiate fat from muscle in it’s measurement.  And the BMI range is arbitrary, not representing health or the population.

5. Euphemisms imply badness. In her book, FAT!SO?, Marilyn Wann says that using other terms to describe ourselves suggests that we “find the truth distasteful.”

Some notes…

Now, not everyone is ready to call themselves fat or be called fat. And I think there is a valid argument for letting people find their inner-fattie on their own schedule. So, I call MYSELF fat…but I don’t call others fat, unless I know they’ll be okay with it.

Also, some within FA refuse to use any other term than fat. But I have been known to use “obese” or “overweight” when talking about the science of fat becasue those terms mean specific things in the research. Some FAers use quotations marks around those terms, if they have to use them.

A final thought…to be fat is human.  Ever person on this planet carries around adipose tissue (aka fat), so I think being okay with our fat is applicable to everyone.  Being okay with the word fat would be a boon for us all.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2010 10:47 am

    Just like gay people reclaiming the word “queer.” I say, yes!
    I don’t mind being called fat, as long as it’s said in a factual manner rather than in a sneering way. I’m fat, I’m middle-aged, I’m medium height, I have long hair. All of these things are simple facts. None of them is “good” or “bad.”
    I do despise the word “obese.” It’s such an awful word. It implies “unhealthy.” I am a healthy fat person. I have fibromyalgia so I do have to choose my workouts a little more carefully lest I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck for a week, but I do my own aqua aerobic workouts in the therapy pool at work, and I walk a LOT on my job. I do not have type II diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. And in my line of work (caring for the elderly) I notice that these diseases occur equally as often in slender or average weight individuals. Ergo, they are primarily AGE RELATED diseases, in my opinion.
    Larger people are more prone to arthritis in the lower extremities. Very slender people are more prone to problems with osteoporosis. Everyone has certain issues. But it should not be automatically assumed that a large person is unhealthy or that he or she doesn’t exercise.

  2. August 6, 2010 2:06 pm

    I think it’s great that reclaiming the word is going on. I think this could potentially be the beginning of a revolution of reclaiming of many words with negative idea tied to them. I can already think of a list of words I’d like to reclaim as well.

  3. August 6, 2010 2:13 pm

    What I find the most funny when people use fat as an insult, they seem to be thinking that us fat people are somehow unaware that we’re fat.

    I have found that making direct reference to being fat does shake people up – and it’s very funny when they say “not really”

    because, yes, really, I am fat.

    when I really want to go to the wall, I say

    “I’m what you call morbidly obese”

    it seems to put them in a different mind set when yuo say what they are thinking, it’s like they can relax and treat you like a person now

  4. Erin S. permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:21 pm

    I prefer fat myself because of the very reasons you mentioned. Also if I’m going to be called names, might as well stick with the one thats been in use the longest… and make no mistake, in this society the terms obese and overweight are not being used as medical terms any longer… they have become pejoratives. Often enough even in medical situations/settings, since medical staff are human too and can have the same prejudices anyone else can have. Worse sometimes because they think Doctor is spelled G-O-D and therefore all their pronouncements about any topic remotely related to health should be read as if they were inscribed with fire on the side of a holy monument. Even though the vast majority of them haven’t read anything new on the topic since they graduated med school and even then most of them already had the same idea that fat is evil going in. So everything is filtered through that.

  5. August 6, 2010 2:37 pm

    I call my self fat all the time. Heck, the subtitle of my blog is “fat witch with a gun” LOL. I don’t call others fat unless they do so themselves as a positive word. I will use euphemisms for myself if the company I am in is not quite ready yet for me calling myself fat. But that is getting few and far between.

  6. Tara permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:42 pm

    I’ve been calling myself fat for the past 20 years, but I have to confess, I have an eharmony profile, and just today, changed the part where I wrote that I am ‘unapologetically fat’, to BBW. My sister told me that she thought I was being too confrontational and that I’m looking for a date, not a protest. As much as I felt like I was betraying something, I changed it, made it more palatable. I wish we could all get past the stigma of that word, me included!

  7. August 6, 2010 4:07 pm

    All great comments!

    However you approach it, your all activists and participating in the revolution (at least as far as I’m concerned!) Even if sometimes we have to be politic and choice our words carefully based on the situation, I think the fact that those of us in our community are thinking and talking about “taking back our power” is what’s important.


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