It is well known, and the punchline to many jokes, that people in the United States are stupid,war-mongering, love our Coca-Cola and Walmart t-shirts, and (perhaps even worst, and funniest, of all!): we’re fat. Not just fat. Obese.
We’re so obese that it’s an epidemic. Our obesity epidemic particularly burdens our working class, and it’s spread to the United Kingdom, and all other countries “in which there is significant participation in the global processed-food regime” (Berlant, 766).
It seems that as our flesh grows and expands, our aversion and disdain to fatness grows and expands. This aversion has many justified and self-righteous explanations, mostly related to health and aesthetics.
There is nothing particularly new about fatness, but what is new is the context of the world that this flesh is living in; the way we view health, responsibility, and epidemics. The poor throughout the contemporary world are not always emaciated, obesity is now another symptom of malnourishment. And what about responsibility? Our appetites, our lack of self control: “one cannot talk about scandals of the appetite – along with food, there’s sex, smoking, shopping, and drinking as sites of moral disapprobation, social policy, and self-medication – without talking about the temporality of the workday, the debt cycle, and consumer practice and fantasy.” The epidemic concept is “inevitably part of an argument about..causality, responsibility, degeneracy” and it also justifies “moralizing against inconvenient human activity” (Berlant, 755).
Coupling morality and health is toxic: even if you could have averted health problems by simply making “healthier choices” earlier in your life, are you suddenly a person less worthy of dignity and respect?
Is it unruly to be fat and not hate your body? Is it unruly to unapologetically and shamelessly occupy public space with your body? Unruly politics characteristically take forms that are “disruptive of the social order” or “rude”. They also “elicit a response”, and transgress the “social rules of the political game”, with a “preoccupation with social justice” (khanna, 166).
Tess Holliday is the first fat, short model to be signed to an agency. She is “super short and super fat and breaking all the motherfucking rules” (militant baker) – however, her instagram account receives thousands of intensely hateful comments, including all kinds of vicious threats. Why do people hate happy fat people? Jes at themilitantbaker.com argues that it’s because millions of people spend their lives and money working their asses off to achieve some kind of beauty ideal. Tess Holliday didn’t try to “fix her body”, she publicly says: I’m HAPPY, and succeeded – this is breaking all those social rules.
Gabi Gregg said, “If there is a fat person on television trying super hard to lose weight, crying about how hard life is, and talking about how they eat to cope etc, then everyone is at home crying and cheering them on. Put that same person in a crop top while they smile, and the pitchforks come out.”
Fat bodies are demonized and degraded. The fat acceptance movement says, “yeah… well, fuck all that.” Being body positive means transforming the control and hatred of your fleshiness to acceptance and love. I think that in this world, it is transgressive to not hate yourself… and, when you can manage it, to even love yourself.