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Reclaiming Fat

October 11, 2009

So I’ve been thinking recently about the words that we use to describe the corpulent among us. The term generally accepted as most-politically-correct in mainstream U.S. culture seems to be “overweight,” but I’d like question this moniker. “Overweight” makes it sound as though there is some sort of “weight” that you are supposed to be at, but you have now exceeded your hypothetical weight limits and have crossed the boundary into the OVERweight (oh noes!!!). As a member of the FA movement, I fundamentally disagree with and eschew any term that defines a point at which someone has become unacceptable due to their size, so “overweight” bothers me. I hate the BMI for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is that it creates these stupid little boxes labeled “normal” and “overweight” that make implicit judgments about the people crammed into said boxes. Any way you cut it, “overweight” means that there is some category of just “weight” that you should be in (if you weren’t such a damned lazy, ignorant, stupid fatty of course).

On the other hand, I’ve come to really like the simple word FAT to describe large people. Now I know a lot of people see “fat” as a pejorative and shaming word, but I’m reclaiming it. I want to reclaim FAT and make it into a purely descriptive word for someone who has a lot of adipose tissue on their body. For instance, if you have a body composition analysis done, and the result is that you have a high percent of body fat, then you are, literally, fat. Now that fat may or may not having any affect on your overall health (in fact, it probably doesn’t), but at least the term fat accurately characterizes your body. My point is that the term fat is both descriptive and also does not attach any value judgment about size the way that “overweight” (or “underweight” for that matter) does. So, I say we start using plain ol’ FAT again. FAT FAT FAT.


Lovely readers, what do you say? What are your favorite words for teh fatties?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    October 12, 2009 11:32 AM

    I think I feel best about calling myself fat, rather than any of its shaded synonyms. I don’t mind others calling me fat. I occasionally refer to myself as chubby, but generally don’t like other people to use that term for me. So, for me, “fat” is a solid word.

    Of course, “fat” still has some pretty nasty connotations, which is why when we call ourselves fat, most people will jump to assure us that we are not, specifically that we are not smelly, weird, or grossing them out. But you’re spot on in your analysis of overweight. I feel the same way about plus-sized.

    Other words I dislike: chunky, husky, and “big” (said with proper “OMGZ FATTIEZ!” intonation).

  2. Ashley permalink
    October 12, 2009 6:34 PM

    I’ve been trying and trying to reclaim the word fat but the people around me just will not let me. I don’t have issue with the word fat; it’s everyone else. When I refer to myself as fat there are lots of people who say the things they THINK I want to hear (cause you know, I’m a fattie so deep down I’m sad and need comfort or some shit like that) i.e. “Oh, sweetie, you’re not fat, you’re just a little overweight!” I don’t understand the logic in that sentence at all but I sure as hell have had it said to me a lot. And I’ve even tried explaining to people, NO, I don’t find fat an offensive term, I don’t think that there should be such negative connotations to the word but it just doesn’t seem to get through to some people. But regardless, for me personally, fat is fine. I don’t mind big either, since well, I am big. RECLAIMING FAT, FTW.

    • Jill permalink
      October 12, 2009 11:19 PM

      Ashley, your comment was spot on. I feel like I am kind of robbed of a way to describe my body that is at least on somewhat morally neutral grounds, and won’t insinuate something different to other people. There is no way to describe my body that has a meaning that I control.

      Maybe we should have a post dedicated to how to respond to “You’re not fat!” I’ve never had success with that one either.

  3. February 23, 2010 9:37 PM

    As a curvaceous and bodacious feminist myself, I dig whatcha sayin’ and I smell what you’re steppin in. Howevs, I have a huge problem with reclaiming. I know we see it as a tool within a marginalized group to gain access again to the power that was taken from us, but its never that easy. Language is so pervasive. Beyond its embedded nature, it is also generational. The only way that a connotation that can be separated from a word is through time and neglect of said word. As long as a word is only acceptable to be said by a member of the marginalized group- it will never be ‘reclaimed’ simply because the dominant group is still able to use that word as hate speak. Basically speaking, reclaiming Fat as a descriptive word, will not separate it from its negative connotations. The only way to make fat back into a description instead of a prescription, is to let it evolve generationally. In the meantime, I completely agree on your reasoning for the word overweight. But rather than ‘reclaim’ fat, I think I’ll just stick to the feel-good words that inspire images of women who find content and pleasure in their extra plush. Curvaceous, Voluptuous, and Bootyliscious are a few of my faves.

    Follow me on twitter if you like!

    Thanks for the good thoughts!


    • Lisa permalink
      February 24, 2010 10:46 AM

      You bring up a good point about reclaiming. I don’t really think that everyone in the world is going to stop using fat as the worst. insult. ever. But at least for myself, and within my group of FA friends I like being able to say fat with out it being an insult. Even though I don’t see fat as a bad word, I would never call someone fat unless I was pretty sure that they also don’t see it as an insult, because I’m a nice person and I don’t like offending people.

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