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Even My Perfume Thinks I’m Too Fat

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I just got something in the mail, and I’m pissed.

Normally I love mail, I mean who doesn’t? Nothing works so well as a little pick-me-up then getting an unexpected letter or package in the mail. Last year I signed up for Birchbox, a monthly beauty product sample box, but I cancelled it after two months. Well, much to my surprise, I just received a January box! Maybe it’s to replace a lost box that never arrived, or maybe my subscription wasn’t successfully cancelled. Either way, I didn’t care and was pretty happy to receive an unexpected package. Until I opened it and found, of all things, a fat-shaming perfume.

Tucked away in this little box, neatly wrapped in a deceptively friendly-looking envelope, was a sample tube of a fragrance called Skinny Chic.

Hmmm.

I was immediately put off by the name. Can we please get over this obsession with tying chicness to size? It goes along with that obnoxious “Skinny Girl” drink mix or the book that proclaims there are no fat french women. If you think only skinny girls can be fabulous, you haven’t seen any fat fashion blogs lately.

Anyway, the name was bad enough, but it got so much worse when I looked inside the little card that the tube comes folded inside of. The description for the product reads: “We craft exceptional fragrances that empower women to feel young, happy, slim, and beautiful.” This reminder that this perfume is meant to make you feel slim is repeated on both halves of the inside of the card, just in case you miss it and think that maybe it’s acceptable for you to feel beautiful without also feeling young and slim.

Just now my boyfriend walked into the room and I handed him the card and asked him to read it. I watched him smile as he started reading it and then his brow furrowed and he cocked his head to the side. He looked up at me and asked “Do you feel slim?” and I looked down at my very fat body and said “Nope!”

The card is also decorated with a highly-stylized, extremely skinny cartoon of a woman. Now, if the perfume weren’t called Skinny Chic and if the description wasn’t encouraging me to feel slim, I would think this was just a cute cartoon woman with an extremely exaggerated long neck and a teeny tiny waist. Now she serves as a pretty reminder that I should want to be her, or at least feel like her when I use this perfume. How nice of them! How nice of them to try to distract me from my clearly terrible fate as a fat person by making this lovely perfume.

Can we just talk about how nonsensical this is, by the way? How on earth is a perfume supposed to make me feel slim? Are the scents of apple, mint, and amber know for their abilities to make people think they have lost 250 pounds? If you want to make a product that makes digs at all your customers that aren’t skinny, you could at least try to make sense.

I’m sure some people will think “It’s just a perfume, calm down!”, you know, the usual “blah blah blah” whenever fat people get mad and speak up. But explain to me how this product is harmless. Explain to me how a product that literally says “this is supposed to make you feel skinny” is completely innocuous. I’m not on a diet, I’m not on a juice cleanse, I just got some damn perfume and should not have to be reminded that I am not supposed to look the way I look, I am not supposed to feel the way I feel and by okay with it.

What’s sad is that if it weren’t for the annoying name and the offensive description, this is a perfume I would sing the praises of because it has the kind of scent I love. However, I will never buy it and never tell anyone about it or encourage anyone to buy it. I will tell you that the perfume is made by Harvey Prince and if you are as irritated by this product as I am, you can go to their website (which I do not want to link from here) and you can let them know. I know that’s what I’m going to do.

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What Fat Acceptance Means to Me

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Fat Acceptance, Health At Every Size, Size Acceptance, Body-positivity. So many titles, so many abbreviations, for what is, at it’s core, the same idea: To accept yourself, to accept others, to show respect. Not everyone wants to use the same terms, and we all have our own reasons for that. Body-positivity and size acceptance are more all-encompassing terms that say not only is it okay to be fat, but it’s okay to be thin, or tall, or flat-chested. You are fabulous and worth loving no matter what. Health at Every Size, as the name implies, tends to focus on the idea that you can be healthy no matter how big or small you are, and that you can’t determine someone’s level of health or fitness from their size. I love all these terms. They all serve to spread a message of positivity and acceptance. For me, however, the preferred term will always be Fat Acceptance. It’s selfish, really; I am fat, and want to be accepted as such. I want all fat people to be accepted as such. Now, some people have a different idea of what Fat Acceptance means. Some think it means disregarding health, or hating on thin people. So to let you get to know me better at the start of this fabulous new year, here is my breakdown of what Fat Acceptance means, to me. 

 

1. Healthy-for-you. 

 

My fat acceptance is not anti-health. Who would be anti-health? That’s just silly. I never felt better than when I was working out regularly (and I was still fat, by the way) and I love drinking water and eating green things. Cheesecake made with green food coloring counts, right?  However, I believe in healthy-for-you. I believe that not everyone can, or should feel they have to, work out for the same amount of time or eat the same foods to be considered healthy. People have different needs. Not everyone can take a thirty-minute walk every day because they have a bad knee. Not everyone can go vegan because they are allergic to soy. And honestly, I don’t give a damn. We get to make our own choices about what makes us feel the best. 

 

2. Or not healthy at all!

 

What’s that? You don’t want to exercise at all and you always skip breakfast? No hate from this corner! I do not, as a general rule, believe that human beings have any obligation to be healthy at all if they don’t want to be. My only exception to this rule is if you are someone’s parent or guardian, then I do feel you have an obligation to take care of yourself to the extent that you are able to fulfill your responsibilities to the person who depends on you. That goes for many things, however, like not smoking excessively or playing drunk water polo, which I just feel would end badly. Generally, I think humans can tell when they feel like shit and what they need to do to stop feeling like shit, if they so desire. What it comes down to is choice. Not to mention the fact that many fat people do in fact make healthy decisions but people assume they don’t, because they are still fat. 

 

3. No exclusions! 

 

I may prefer the term fat acceptance, because yes, that is what I focus on. But that does not mean I don’t think you are beautiful and worth accepting as well! I do not hate on thin women for being thin, I do not hate on people because of their height, I do not hate on people’s chest sizes, and I think you deserve the same respect that I am asking for. Yes, we may be talking about fat right now, but a conversation about fat does not mean I hate people who aren’t fat. 

 

4. Real women have whatever they want!

 

When I was a wee fatty, somewhere around late middle school, I heard the term “Real woman have curves” for the first time. And yes, I fucking loved it. I loved it because I had been told my whole life that my body was wrong and ugly and not worth loving. Now suddenly here was a message that I was good, and right, and beautiful. Fear not, dear reader, I have long since changed my tune. I fully comprehend the negativity of that phrase and how it excludes and hurts so many women. I completely understand how anti-trans this message is as well, and that is not a train I want to be on. If you’re a woman, you’re a real fucking woman. Thin hips, small ass, flat chest, facial hair, big breasts, fake breasts, one breast, hairless vulva, no vulva at all. WOMAN. I will never say “Real women have curves”. Never ever ever. It’s hurtful and a slap in the damn face. 

 

5. Maybe just treat me like a person, ok?

 

What always strikes me when people argue against fat acceptance is that, whether they realize it or not, they are arguing against treating certain human beings with basic dignity and respect. Don’t moo at me from your damn car window. Don’t roll your eyes if you have to sit next to me on a plane. Don’t assume you know what I eat or how I treat my body right when you meet me. Don’t make rude comments when you see me getting seconds at dinner or eating raw vegetables. I’m a person, and I deserve to be accepted, fat and all. 

 

I Think You Forgot To Mention Something

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Do you ever experience a moment when it seems like someone is on the verge of a truth but they end up just skirting around it? It seems like that happens often around issues of weight. We hear a lot of talk about how horrible life is for fat people and we activists sit there, mentally filling in the blanks; “Yes, life is hard for us because people discriminate against us!” Unfortunately, many people never seem to reach that logical conclusion. Instead, it’s “Doctor’s treat fat patient’s poorly, so you should lose weight.” “Kids bully fat people, so you should lose weight.” “Airlines kick fat people off of flights, so you should lose weight.” And on and on it goes.

Last week I was sitting at the break table at work, flipping through the most recent issue of Mental Floss magazine, and I had one of those “avoiding the truth” moments. The magazine included a feature on how the seven deadly sins may not be so bad for you after all. I mostly skimmed the article, but of course I wanted to see what they had to say about gluttony. Now, I don’t really need a magazine article to give me permission to practice some good old fashioned gluttony. I don’t believe in attaching moral value to food or drink anyway, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that indulging in something you enjoy makes you happy, so just enjoy it already!

Even though I wanted to see what the rag had to say about gluttony, I didn’t get very far, because right at the beginning of the section was a parenthetical that warned against being too gluttonous, because heavier people (their words) tend to get raises and promotions less often. Hmmm. Mental Floss, I feel like you’re missing something.

See, this is true. All of us fat activists know this is true. Apparently the writers of Mental Floss know this is true as well, because they threw it in as a little tidbit in an article about why it’s okay to indulge (but not too much, I guess. Don’t over-indulge that indulgence, folks). The thing is, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to include this fact without bothering to talk about why it’s true.

Being less likely to be hired, promoted, or given a raise is not some odd little side-effect of being fat. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not an unavoidable trait. It’s discrimination. Fat people are discriminated against. We are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises because the people in power see us as lazy, unintelligent, or just ugly. The article in Mental Floss mentioned this fact of discrimination against “heavier people” so casually and quickly that it wasn’t clear whether or not they actually see it as discrimination. Reading that line I felt like saying “….Yes, and?”

The thing is, it’s not our fault. It’s not our fault we are less likely to be given these opportunities in the workplace. It’s not our fault we are discriminated against. To throw this fact out there so casually, and then not explore it, makes it seem like this is just an interesting and unfortunate side affect of being fat. What it really is, is a side affect of living in a society that views fat people as lesser beings. We are headless blobs on the evening news, miserable bed-ridden guests on Dr. Oz, reality show contestants desperate to lose weight in order to “take our lives  back.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I just want to be a person.

Yes, fat people are less likely to be given raises or promotions. And that is fucking unacceptable. 

The Line Between an Ally and a Hindrance

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Something I really love seeing is non-fat people speaking up for the fact acceptance movement. I like to see that people of all shapes and sizes are saying “You know what? It’s bullshit that fat people are treated like pariahs in America, and elsewhere. I’m gonna do something about it.” That’s great! Please do hop on this bandwagon of awesomeness and acceptance. However, while I generally love the non-fat praising the fat, I’m finding I have some issues that I can’t quite settle with, so I’m gonna try to hash them out here. 

Issue 1: Non-fat people joining the fat acceptance movement and claiming to be fat themselves.

Okay, I will say right away I feel like an asshole for where this is going but I also need to say it. Not everyone gets to call themselves fat. You don’t get to claim the title of fat and proud because you have some belly rolls or jiggly thighs. Having fat on your body does not make you a fat person. You don’t have to be fat to support or participate in the fat acceptance movement or fat acceptance activism, but this doesn’t mean you actually are fat. Now, the big problem with this is, of course, at what point is someone considered fat? There is no magic number on the scale or the size tag that means a person is now fat. But if you have spent any time reading various size acceptance tumblrs you have probably seen a lot of small girls with little round bellies calling themselves fat or chubby and talking about how they finally learned to love their body. That’s great, I am so happy that you are loving yourself and accepting yourself! But are you fat? And is it fair to be a size eight and saying you are fat when there are really fat people that are still struggling to be considered worth anything by society? I never thought I would see the day when I got upset that people were calling themselves fat, but in today’s world people (typically girls and women) will get called fat for being anything other than model-thin, which might be where this “I have cellulite and I’m finally loving my fat body!” mindset stems from. I feel like the more small people that call themselves fat, the more people will only support fat acceptance as long as the fat people in question aren’t too fat. And that brings me to my second issue:

Issue 2: Supporting fat acceptance up to a certain extent. 

I’m fat. Very fat. Over 300 pounds fat. For a lot of people, both inside and outside the body-acceptance crowd, this puts me outside the acceptable range of, well, acceptability. This ties in very closely with the first issue I brought up because many people might see a smaller, slightly chubby girl touting fat acceptance and say “I’m all for fat acceptance if that’s what their talking about! I just don’t support those really fat people.” Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that every smaller fat acceptance advocate thinks this way, just that some do, and some people outside the movement see those smaller people and think that’s all they need to support. This isn’t news to anyone that has been involved in FA for a while. We’re used to people saying that it’s totally awesome to love and accept yourself but not if your, like, obese or anything! This is the big news, folks: Fat acceptance means fat acceptance. You don’t get to cherry pick the smaller folk and say, hey, they’re ok, just don’t expect me to accept really fat fat people. When I really hate to see this is when it’s coming from people claiming to be IN the fact acceptance movement, as in fat themselves. You don’t get to stand up and demand acceptance for your body and say that mine is outside the realm of acceptability. Onward to issue three!

Issue 3: Non-fat people speaking FOR fat people:

This is similar to issue 1 but slightly more specific. Here I am referring to people that are speaking up for fat acceptance and drawing attention to it, but not referring people to the work or words of really fat people that have already been saying these things. It’s great to draw attention to a movement you care about. But chances are, lots of people have already been speaking for themselves for a long time. If you’re a thin person, or maybe a little chubby, you have a voice that a lot of people are more willing to listen to, because you are closer to the acceptable body ideal than I am. So when you say that fat people should not be shunned, that we should all stop judging our own and everyone else’s bodies, that’s an awesome thing. People will listen. That’s powerful. But if you don’t point your listeners towards the work and words of advocates saying the same thing from a much bigger body, you run the risk of people thinking that fat acceptance stops with people that look like you. 

We all deserve love, we all deserve to accept ourselves and be accepted by others. My goal with this post is really not to alienate people from the fat acceptance movement, because it is a wonderful place to be. I just want people to ask themselves if they are helping or hurting. I want to make sure that in the fat acceptance movement, fat people continue to have the loudest voices. 

 

My Experience of Flying While Fat

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I recently went on a trip and I thought I would share my traveling experience.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve only ever flown Southwest airlines and had no issues with the staff. I find this amusingly ironic considering how often they make the news for harassing someone based on weight or dress. I do not fit comfortably into their seats but I find that as long as I check in online as early as possible, I am able to board early and avoid sitting next to anyone. For me, the worst part of flying is having to sit next to strangers. I feel obligated to squeeze myself into as small a space as possible so as not to end up on the wrong end of an angry blog post about how HORRIBLE it is to fly next to fat people, so I basically spend a couple hours being extremely uncomfortable unless I sit alone. Luckily for me, unless a plane is full,  no one willingly sits next to fat people!

Unfortunately on this last trip, I had to fly United. Now, I can’t speak for the airline as a whole, having never flown with them before, but I can say that the two planes I flew in were about the size of my apartment and about as uncomfortable as my apartment would be if you filled it with sixty strangers and couldn’t open the windows. On the first plane, going to my destination, I was one of the last people to board the plane as we were called by boarding group. Sadly, unlike Southwest, we had assigned seating. This meant I had no choice but to be wedged next to a stranger who was probably none too happy to be sitting next to the fat person on the plane. Since I was one of the last to board, my seat buddy was already in place, so she had to move while I did my best to load my luggage, and myself, without elbowing anyone in the face. I spent the ninety minute flight leaning as far against the window as I could.

On the plane ride back, I caught a bit of a break. Even though our boarding passes were labeled with boarding groups, we were called to board the plane all at once. I got my butt on that plane as early as possible and I beat my seat buddy to our aisle. I was able to situate myself and my bags comfortably and get settled in before the neighboring passenger arrived. This would be my number one tip to my fellow fat flyers: board as early as possible! Check in online as early as possible and get to the gate well before they start boarding. As a fat person, I can say I always feel like I’m being judged and scrutinized by my fellow passengers on public transportation. Even if I’m just being paranoid, that feeling is still a result of the fat-phobic  society we live in. That being said, getting on the plan as early as possible eases that feeling a bit, since there are fewer eyes on me and fewer people that have to move out of my way.

While I was as uncomfortable as ever on this particular trip, I can say no one was rude to me, no one made comments to my face or tried to make me buy two seats (as these planes were full, my main concern was getting kicked right off). The United planes carried seatbelt extenders so I was as safe as I could probably be. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t faced any of the bullying or discrimination that other fat flyers sometimes experience. The fact that I consider this lucky is sad indeed.

I wanted to talk about this experience to draw attention so something that doesn’t always get talked about during discussions of flying while fat. People are quick to point out how horribly uncomfortable it is to fly next to fat people. They might have to touch a fat person’s arm or thigh with their arm or thigh, the horror! Sometimes those fat people might be sweaty, or smell bad, oh no! Of course, if it’s a thin person who is sweaty, or not so great-smelling, or maybe hogs the armrest, that experience isn’t used as an example of how gross thin people are, how they should be forced to buy two seats, how they should just be banned from flying entirely. What I really want to talk about, what I really want you to understand, is that flying is infinitely more uncomfortable for the fat person in question than for anyone else on that plane.

We have to deal with the mental and emotional stress of worrying that we might get kicked off the plane, or asked to buy a second seat that we can’t afford. We have to be the recipient of dirty looks. We have to wonder if every time a part of our body makes contact with someone else’s, if that person is going on an inner rant about how they had to touch a gross fat person. We have to be extra conscious of how we smell or how sweaty we are, lest we be labeled a gross smelly fatty. Never mind the fact that travel is always stressful and airports often include lots of walking while carrying heavy bags, heaven forbid we break a sweat. You might have a little bit of your seat taken up by a fat person, but that means we take up our entire seat and then some. How comfortable do you think that is for us?

The next time you travel and start to feel annoyed by someone near you on the bus or plane, ask yourself, are they doing anything they can control? Are they blasting music through their headphones, wearing far too much perfume for an enclosed space, or kicking your seat? Or do they just have a body type that you are uncomfortable with?

Because….. they’re poison?

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Do you ever see something so ridiculous, so odd, so fantastically incorrect that you need to rush and tell someone as soon as possible?

A few minutes ago, I was checking a weather forecast site for my local seven day forecast. I glance to the top of the screen and what do I see but a banner ad excitedly and desperately trying to inform me of the five foods I should never eat in order to trim my belly fat. To the left of the ad were the words “Never eat” with an arrow pointing to…. a banana.

After I regained consciousness, I decided to see what the internet has to say about banana nutrition. If the nutrition chart I found is even remotely accurate, bananas have a couple hundred calories, quite a bit of potassium, and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. That almost sounds like… food! Calories, to give you energy to do stuff! Vitamins and minerals to provide various benefits! Clearly deadly and will make you fat! NEVER EAT THEM!

This is just a tiny sample of the ridiculous messages we are bombarded with every day. These messages range from the potentially dangerous (Take this non-FDA approved pill and drop weight fast!) to the simply laughable (Don’t eat white foods!). These messages build up, creating a conflicting, nonsensical jumble of misinformation and empty promises. This is the miracle cure that will help you lose that extra five pounds! No, this one, over here! NO, over HERE! Now apparently we should never eat a certain fruit if we really, truly want to lose that dreaded belly fat.

To you all I say; Enjoy that banana, or that bowl of cereal, or that white rice, or whatever you feel like snacking on today. And if you see one of these silly banners, have a good laugh on me.

A real post, really and for real

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Hello readers who may or may not be there!

I created this wordpress account some time ago, as a place to blog about fat acceptance. It sat empty as I struggled with what to say. I started blogging on tumblr, enjoying the quick and easy format. Lately, however, I realize I really do want a place for my thoughts solely on the issues surrounding fat. My concern, for a long time, was not I would not have anything new to say. There are so many amazing people blogging about Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance, or fabulous fat fashion. I thought, would my voice be able to stand out in this? Then I realized that as long as I use my unique voice and tell my own story, I could find a place in this community.

I’m here to tell my story. I’m here to talk about what it was like for me to grow up fat. I’m here to talk about losing friends and being wary of new ones due to how they view fat. I’m here to tell you how Fat Acceptance has changed my life. More than anything else, I’m here to reach out to other people with my story. I’m so excited to get blogging. See you soon!