This is the start of an ongoing series of posts called “The Fat Five,” five questions on fat positivity and the fat experience answered by a member of the fat positive community. If you’re interested in submitting answers to “The Fat Five,” email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- When and how did you learn about fat positivity?
In early 2018, I began working with a non-profit organization/theater troupe called Realize Your Beauty, based here in NYC. The organization introduces young people to the concept of empowerment and related themes, such as body positivity. As I became more educated on the intricacies of body positivity, I began to explore online communities and learned that fat positivity was different. I read about its roots, goals, and relationship to the empowerment of other marginalized groups. I was obsessed with learning more. I was also embarrassed to realize how much I didn’t know about an identity that I had denied owning up until then.
- How has your life changed as a result of learning about fat positivity?
I began describing myself as plus-sized throughout 2018, not just socially, but by doing online videos in which I identified my clothing size. I experienced some pushback and confusion from a few people in my life, and a significant amount of online abuse. I found a safe community in Twitter, which I never expected. I discovered brilliant individuals and concepts that challenged my own ideas about fatphobia, health, and prejudice. I felt more confident in my appearance and more educated on why I don’t owe anyone an explanation or apology for my size or health. As someone who worked in social services for over 15 years, I thought I was an expert at advocacy. Maybe I was, when it came to others. But I never advocated for my body. Or bodies that looked like mine. I was too scarred by years of diet culture and traumatic experiences to speak up on that topic. I was a strong woman, but calling me fat was the one sure way to get to me-and to shut me up. Learning about fat positivity changed my entire sense of value, my support network, and my outlook on who is really on my side. I challenge everything now, from language to media bias to “harmless” jokes.
- How would you explain fat positivity to someone who knew nothing about it?
I believe fat positivity is a call for respect, justice, and tolerance. It is a movement that demands a person not be judged, discriminated against, harassed, abused, denied service/care, or stereotyped because of their body. I’d add that many of the myths we believe about fat people and health deserve to be challenged, because they are antiquated ideas that are factually wrong and highly offensive. I would also point out to those who call themselves activists, feminists, progressives (or even “tolerant” )that fat positivity should be a part of their advocacy discourse. They should examine the possibility that maybe they help to promote a hostile world for persons of size, and consider how they might become better allies.
- What do you want not-fat folks to know about your life as a fat person?
I’d like them to know that I am not beneath them. My body is bigger than theirs. And because of that, I fight microaggressions, prejudice and abuse every day, and it is painful. I’d like them to know that their words and their jokes about any fat person (even public figures, including unlikeable, very off-putting ones) are still fatphobic. Same with comments about weight gain and catty foodshaming. They all do damage. But, I’d also like them to realize that I don’t need pity. I don’t yearn to look different. I don’t idolize thinner people. I don’t lack confidence. I’m not “working on myself.” I’m not eating a salad because I’m on a diet and I’m not walking in the park because I’m trying to lose weight. I’m also not: uneducated, sedentary, ignorant about nutrition, socioeconomically disadvantaged, unsophisticated, insecure, aggressive, lazy, gluttonous, submissive, jealous , ugly, smelly, or unwanted. Overall? Understand that I love myself, and people love me. Even romantically and sexually. Gasp!
- Who are your favorite fat positive folks to follow and on which platform(s)?
I have learned a tremendous amount from Twitter voices such as: @KivaBay; @Yrfatfriend; @shesallfatpod, @nerdabouttown @fatgirlfreedom, @pluslifeblog, @comfyfat, @fatpositivecoop and many others. I find inspiration from Instagram accounts such as @advicefromafatbitch. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for Bold Magazine in all forms- @boldmztweets, and @boldmz, as well as Realize Your Beauty, which got me started in this incredible life change- @rybnyc and @bodylove_ryb.
Your name: Janet Conroy-Quirk