As body-positive and/or fat and/or plus-size and/or curvy women living in the world, we are often confronted with cringe-worthy comments directed at us or said around us. They can run the gamut of blatantly fat-phobic to well-intentioned but grossly misinformed. In these type of situations, I always want to say something but sometimes struggle with what exactly should come out of my mouth next.
There’s a name for these, by the way! They’re called microaggressions. Essentially, a microagression is a subtle way oppressive ideologies are conveyed against marginalized identities. Body and body size are parts of my identity that are marginalized because they are not society’s ideal or standard. Of course, I can’t forget that I have many identities that hold power and privilege in our culture (let’s acknowledge intersectionality, folks!) but, parts of my body – specifically my size- have been marked as substandard and undesirable by popular American culture. Check out this amazing tumblr for more info and more examples of microagressions.
Because every situation is different based on where you are, who you’re with, and where you’re at mentally and emotionally, there isn’t one perfect response for every comment that comes your way. I’ve listed some statements I hear fairly often and three types of responses I use that are rooted in body positivity - the radical notion that all bodies are good bodies.
I’ve jotted down three levels of responses:
“Slight interruptions” are when you want to say something but don’t really want to go into it. Sharing your feelings and educating others is important but your emotional health and well-being are more important. Sometimes you want to voice your confusion or lack of “cosign” but would prefer to keep it vague.
“Short & Sassy” statements are a short but more pointed way of voicing discontent or non-agreement. I like these the best. It’s easiest for me to pop them out.
“On a serious note” responses go deeper and take a more no-nonsense, educational approach. For situations with people who you would like to go deeper with, this type of response might be right. This response is the subtext behind all of the responses – like, what you’re saying in your head but sometimes goes unsaid.
Optional add-on to all of these responses:
“Plus, as a body-positive/fat/curvy/plus-size [however you identify] person, that comment is hurtful/offensive/bothersome/annoying [pick your poison] to me.”
"You look great! Did you lose weight?"
Slight Interruption: "I have no idea! I am feeling great, though!"
Short & Sassy: "Nope! Still fat and fabulous!"
On a serious note: "I know you meant that as a compliment but I’m not comfortable with people commenting on my weight. Plus, I am not focused on my weight as it's not the best indicator of health. "
"Ugh, I feel so fat."
Slight Interruption: "Huh? What do you mean?"
Short & Sassy: "Excuse me?! Fat is not a feeling!"
On a serious note: "Fat is something people have - it’s not a feeling. What I think you mean is that you might feel full, bloated, or like you haven’t moved your body enough today. Just say what you mean because when you complain that you 'feel fat' you are assigning negative attributes to that descriptor that don't actually belong to it."
"Oh, you are not a size ___. You’re not even big!"
Slight Interruption: "Thanks but that is my size."
Short & Sassy: "Yes I am a size ___. And, I am big! And, I am fine with that!"
On a serious note: "My size is part of my identity and when you say that you don’t see me as a big or fat person, I don’t take it as a compliment. When you say that, I feel like it means that I can’t be big and beautiful – like people can’t be both. I am both!"
“I don’t like to wear sleeveless things because of my huge arms.” (Usually while you're next to them wearing a sleeveless top, am-I-right?)
Slight Interruption: "It’s important to be comfortable with what you’re wearing. Maybe you'd be more comfortable in this heat with something sleeveless?"
Short & Sassy: "Hey! "You have the right to bear arms! ;) For real, the size of your arms is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! And, it is hot outside!!"
On a serious note: "I know that our society and standards of beauty dictate that your arms need to be small in order to be seen but let’s get over that. All bodies are different and every body has the right to be seen and take up space in our world. If you are warm, I encourage you to wear clothing that is comfortable for you. Being comfortable in something you've been taught not to wear is hard. It takes practice. "
"Are you really going to wear that crop top?"
Slight Interruption: "Yes! Let’s go!"
Short & Sassy: "Fuck flattering. I am rocking this crop. And, I l think I look damn good!"
On a serious note: "I don’t ascribe to the notion that people need to wear things that are considered flattering or for a specific body type. If I like it, I wear it. It’s as simple as that. Please open your mind a bit and kindly refrain from policing my body."
Interrupting in these kind of situations takes practice!
Please know that I do not say these things all the time. Fat phobic shit flies past me all the time (I mean, I am a woman in America!) and I don't always say something. But, I'll tell you what. . . like most other things, practice makes "perfect" or, at least, builds your confidence up. And, when I say practice, I don't just mean in these situations. I also mean when you're by yourself ruminating on someone's comment and wishing you had spoke up. Practice what you would have said so that a response might come out more easily the next time.
Finally, no, a response to these type of comments is not "required" but who can pass up a good alliteration and reminder than small steps like speaking up in situations like these can be good for us and our body positive community!
Side Note: These “Real Talk” statements remind me of things you’d find in a Feminist Ryan Gosling meme. All they need is a “hey, girl” in front of them! Y'all remember those? Ha ha. . .