Good fatties in a pandemic

An acupuncture student practices taking the Chinese pulse of another woman. Both women seated at the large wooden table are Caucasian; both the student and volunteer are in their 30s. The low-key lighting and their comfortable positions indicate a casual environment. Lighting: low key, neutral colors, natural light, artificial light Environment: indoors, coffee shop, coffeehouse, cloudy, day, daytime, autumn, October, fall Themes: Chinese medicine, acupuncture, alternative medicine, holistic medicine, graduate students, practice, pulse diagnosis, experiments, cooperation, two women, plus size women Ethnicities, genders and abilities of note: Caucasian, female, woman, 30s, 40s Location: Washington State, Pacific Northwest, United States

Hi friend, I’ll be honest. I’m grieving. For everyone ill with the coronavirus. For fat folks sick with fear over the weight stigma they know they’ll encounter if and when they catch it. For those who’ve lost their jobs and businesses. And for my beloved cat Tansy, who passed away a few days ago.

I’m not holding it together right now, and that’s okay. If you’re not holding it together, that’s okay too.

So just a quick note before I go back to my own self-care:

From many places within the communities of fat acceptance, health at every size, plus-size fashion and fat-friendly fitness (which are all distinct circles that overlap), I’m seeing an interesting trend. Small business owners are of course moving as many of their offerings online as possible, both as a service to their communities and as a survival method while we’re all distancing. 

But I’m also seeing fat folks within our communities jumping to prove themselves lately, going above and beyond in a frantic show to demonstrate their creativity and productivity and professionalism and worthiness. It’s an entirely valid anxiety response, and a logical response to a culture gleefully making fatphobic jokes and claiming fatness as a risk factor for COVID-19 without evidence. (It’s not.)

These shows of worthiness are part of the “good fatty” dynamic, which pushes fat people to prove that they’re worthy of existing in their bodies by virtue of superior health, fitness, flexibility, nutrition, weight loss, compliance with gender appearance or roles, personal fashion/style, or other “achievements.” If you’ve ever heard that phrase “It’s okay to be fat as long as you’re healthy,” you’ve encountered the good/bad fatty dynamic.

As Kitty Stryker says over at The Body is Not An Apology, “The Good Fatty is the fatty people will tolerate. So being ‘good’ has become a survival strategy for many fat folks, myself included.”

Of course we shouldn’t need to be “good” to deserve healthcare in a pandemic, but here we are, responding to a barrage of media scare pieces and viral fat jokes by trying to prove ourselves once again.

Fat folks’ art and creations and work should always be elevated (thin allies, if you’re waiting for a sign, HERE IT IS), but we also have nothing to prove.

We fat folks deserve to live and be treated with respect and dignity because we are of equal worth, regardless of whether we’re able to go above and beyond in these times (or at any time) to prove that worth.

Let’s dig deep.

Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.