I don’t remember when I first starting cringing at the word “fat”. I have no memory of it in the endless blurred images of ridiculous and somewhat dangerous shenanigans that I consider my childhood. I never noticed that people around me were skinnier or that they wore clothes smaller than the ones I wore. It didn’t matter to me. All that mattered were the animated flicks I binged and the pink blanket I dragged with me everywhere. I was also obsessed with being grown up. Apparently being grown up meant words like “fat” become just as bad, if not worse, than the curse words you whisper and giggle about in middle school.
When did society make weight something to be criticized? That’s a question many people consider when they discuss fat-shaming and societal beauty standards. They insert photos of beauty standards from a hundred years ago that feature “average” sized women looking happy and carefree because no one has thrown away who they are as a person because they’re bigger than a size two (did size two’s even exist back then? Note: research when sizes became a thing). And while that’s inspiring and wonderful, there’s also the whole Beauty Standards Across the World thing that keeps circulating where some women from other countries aren’t stick skinny. And that calls into question if the societal stigma of “fat” is actually a worldwide thing?
To quote Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “‘fat’ in America was a bad word, heaving with moral judgement like ‘stupid’ or ‘bastard’, and not a mere description like ‘short’ or ‘tall’.” (6). Viewing the opinion on the word “fat” from the perspective of a character who didn’t grow up in American society and seeing how she originally doesn’t view it as a negative word interests me. Does that mean, in other countries, you can call someone fat and it doesn’t demolish their self esteem? You can call yourself fat without feeling insecure? Or does it just mean that the word “fat” can act as a substitute for how people in America use the word “overweight”, as like a description without the nasty connotation?
It’s a sensitive subject to a lot of people and not something I love to talk about, but it’s appearance and consideration in Americanah made me think.
That it’s for now.