Every day, plus size people who dare to be fat, happy, and publicly visible are targeted by hateful Internet trolls. Many of these trolls' comments, while hurtful, can be explained by society's beauty standards and people's individual insecurities about their own bodies. Often, the plus size community bands together to stand up to fat shaming. But what about the comments that come from within the community itself that still do damage?
I am certainly not equating comments from plus size individuals to those of Internet trolls, because I believe that intention does make a difference here. When you're living with fat shaming on a daily basis, it can be difficult not to internalize that struggle and recognize that we are all at different stages of our self-love journeys.
When thinking about body shaming comments made by plus size individuals, I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible via social media and email. I was in search of unique perspectives and experiences, and also hoped to include some opinions that were in direct contrast with one another. The plus size community is arguably more visible than ever, after all. We need to raise up the voices that cover the vast ranges of our experiences, even if that means elements of the conversation may be uncomfortable. Here are just a few body shaming things that many plus size people are tired of hearing from other plus size people.
1. "I am fat, but I work out five times a week and eat salads for most meals."
Blogger Nicole Rieder of The Hefty Hideaway tells me that she is most frustrated with the "good fatty" complex. A "good fatty" is essentially a person adamant about separating themselves from stereotypes surrounding fat people, including those surrounding exercise routines and diet (although it can also refer to plus size bodies that fit the "aspirational" plus size aesthetic of the hourglass figure).
"I dislike all the self-hatred, but I realize we are all in such different stages of self-acceptance," says Rieder. "I know when I was less secure with my size, I used self-deprecating statements. Now, when I hear women trash themselves, I do have empathy and understanding. But when that is moved past them and they are calling out other fatties, that is when I get upset. We are in this together."
2. "I can't believe that person got that gig. I'm as fat as her but I eat, like, nothing."
When I talked to Jordan Sebastian Bonner, he also echoed Rieder's sentiments. As much as many of us get mad about health concern trolling (because you can't tell someone's health by looking at them), Bonner points out that this same argument is used within the plus size community to tear people down.
"Not only does this kind of thinking make enemies in our community, [but] it's an internalized fat phobic logic that if we're 'good fatties,' or if we're trying not to be fat, then we deserve better things than other fat people," he says. "We need to destroy the idea that striving to be thin is noble, and celebrate fat people's accomplishments without searching for a false indicator of 'willpower' in their bodies. No thin person's body has that kind of responsibility."
3. "I want you to do well, but not too well."
Competition among plus size women was something I heard about from a few people. There are still so few opportunities for plus size women in fashion, especially for those above a size 16. Any opportunity for a plus size person is still something to celebrate, though, and we can do that while we continue to push for more visibility for people of size who are not cis, hourglass, white, and under a size 20. Ultimately, we shouldn't be fighting each other. We should be fighting against an industry that has made us invisible.
Model Katana Fatale sums it up by saying, "When you are doing really well as a fat woman, profiting off of being a fat woman, and I'm not, instead of seeing your success and how that makes our community succeed, all I see is where I'm lacking in comparison and instead of sitting with that and assessing those feelings, I'm going to project my bad feelings into you."
4. "Your weight is the cause of your problems."
When Jolene of the blog Boardroom Blonde told me that this quote was the thing she was tired of hearing from other plus size people, I was honestly surprised. The amount of self-loathing that goes into saying something like this is shocking. Jolene told me that she has heard this several times, though, even coming from fellow fat people. This statement is fat shaming, however, plain and simple.
5. "I'm on the smaller side of fat."
Specific size was a very divisive issue that I heard about from multiple people. Blogger Maui Bigelow of Phat Girl Fresh says she sees calling out size as "in-house bashing." It can be another way of asserting that you are better than someone else because you aren't that kind of fat.
"There should not be any body shaming among us, but there is," says Bigelow. "We should not be name-calling and competing, but some do. It is sad that while rejecting society's beauty standards and loving ourselves, some have become mean girls."
6. "It's OK to be voluptuous or a BBW, but not fat."
"Basically, I'm tired of fat women apologizing for taking up space," says Hinkle. "I'm tired of them looking at me and others sideways for not apologizing. I'm tired of fat women seeking validation in men and how men view their bodies. Like it's OK to be voluptuous or a BBW but not fat. When it's in the context of sexual desire, a fat body is acceptable. That pisses me off."
7. "If only I had a flat stomach, I'd be OK with everything else."
Model Saucye West points out that this damaging statement isn't just anti-body-positive to oneself, but also pits bodies against each other.
"The body hate that goes on in the plus size community is ridiculous," says West. "We are so brainwashed from the images that we see from plus size fashion and the body types they use [that] we do not see our big bellies as something beautiful and worth appreciating. A flat stomach does not take away the fact that you are fat everywhere else! True acceptance is loving your bakery."
8. "You're not fat enough to call yourself plus size."
As I touched upon earlier, people who have been fat shamed often want their experience validated, and seek a community of humans who have gone through the same things. I do believe that thin privilege and hourglass privilege are valid phenomenons that affect the way that fat shaming is experienced by people on the smaller side of plus. However, I don't think that means these people don't have a place in the plus size community. Making space for all experiences and listening to each other is necessary.
Blogger Margot Meanie says she's tired of the dismissal of small fats, and sums it up by saying, "It's a statement that pits our community against each other instead of working together to make the change we want to see."
9. “So you’re saying I am not fat enough for the fat positive movement?! That’s divisive. All bodies are good bodies.”
I realize that this quote contradicts the previous one, but stay with me here. Oftentimes, people on the larger side of the fat spectrum asking for more visibility can be misinterpreted as telling smaller fats that they don't belong.
Rachel Wiley of Dangerously In Chub helps to clarify this statement for me. "Yes, all bodies are good bodies, and people can and should be allowed to self-identify in various ways on their path to body positivity. However, it is important that your identification doesn’t erase an already underrepresented group of people," says Wiley.
Doing something as simple as acknowledging any kind of privileges you've been granted as a "smaller fat" can go a long way in helping others feel like their struggles are still visible, too.
10. "You're too political."
As fat people, many of us are fighting towards size acceptance. I realize that some plus size fashion bloggers do not necessarily want to get involved in the activism and social justice side of the body positive movement. However, to dismiss the voices that are pushing for change is a disservice. Blogger Kiddo True is one of my favorite voices in fat activism. She expresses her frustration with fellow plus size women keeping silent about issues we need to be discussing.
"It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to talk about the trickier issues. Making honest inquiries about the things that are happening in your community and the things being done by people who want your money and support isn’t being divisive. The answers may not always be easy or comfortable, but an open dialogue is one of the best things we can have to support each other and make change happen [...] We should be asking questions about things like the privileging of certain sizes and body shapes, the frequent lack of racial diversity (especially darker-skinned women of all races), the lack of aesthetic diversity and the almost complete erasure of some bodies in advertising. We should challenge big brands using 'radical' slogans to sell the most diluted versions of that message possible. It is more than OK and necessary to challenge 'that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s done.'"
11. "You don't look big enough to be a size 26 or 28."
When you are publicly visible, there is often a lot of discussion about what size you wear. Blogger Bella Moxie tells me she gets frustrated when she hears this statement. Sizing for plus size clothing is far from consistent, and someone may wear an 18 in one brand and a 24 in another. The guessing game can be counterproductive. If you like the way someone or something looks, why does the size on the tag matter?
12. "Well, I'm a big woman too, and I would never wear that, because I know how to dress for my body."
Sarah Chiwaya of the blog Curvily took the words right out of my mouth with this one. People shouldn't justify policing what other women wear just because they are also plus size. If anything, we should be encouraging women of all sizes to define their own style.
"I know how to dress my body too: With whatever I want to wear to express myself and my personal style," says Chiwaya. "Only wearing the most 'flattering' things would be immeasurably boring — I don't want to wear an A-line LBD every day. Also, being plus size doesn't give you a free pass to be rude to other plus size women. I might hate your boring outfit, but I won't be a jerk and tell you how to dress yourself."
13. "Why does it cost so much? It's just a dress!"
Jeniese Hosey of The Jenesaisquoi knows that fast fashion brands that manufacture a high volume of products at a low quality can totally taint perspective on what actually goes into making a garment ethically.
"I'm tired of the constant discussion that some plus size women have over the cost of clothes," says Hosey. "We seemingly want great-quality items for low cost. That doesn't happen in the fashion industry. Most of our products, especially the well-made ones, are right on trend with the cost of straight size clothing. I don't understand why plus size women feel like our clothes are too expensive or overpriced."
14. "Big brands taking baby steps is better than nothing."
Bustle Fashion and Beauty Writer Amanda Richards has always been an advocate for change in the plus size fashion industry. She believes in holding major plus size fashion brands accountable, as their attempts at body positivity can sometimes miss the mark, despite having the resources and visibility to make major changes. As consumers, we are responsible for pushing for these changes.
"I'm tired of people telling me that I should be satisfied with brands' halfhearted attempts to sell us clothing, especially when that brand has co-opted the body positivity movement that fat women have pushed forward," says Richards. "Plus size women should not be crying 'baby steps,' when it comes to big brands, and instead demand more from the brands that are taking their dollars and capitalizing off of their hard-earned self love."
Instead of sticking a "body positive" hashtag onto something, retailers can take steps to actively be part of and understand the movement. Having a dialogue with customers, making the effort to talk to established activists involved in size acceptance, and designing clothes that are made for plus size bodies and not simply oversized versions of those made with slenderly proportioned measurements in mind would all feel a lot more progressive.
15. "I'll travel when I get down to (insert some magical number here)."
Being fat doesn't mean you have to stop living your life. Travel is possible at any size. Blogger Lei-Loni Greenhow of Clothe Your Curves reached out to me about this statement while in Greece.
"Any travel takes planning, so plan to be comfortable," says Greenhow. "Look up the seat widths for your flight. It may be more money, but you can budget for it and be comfortable! Research the transport companies and ask about their seating. You'll be surprised how many options there really are."
16. "Nobody supports my plus size events."
Entertainer and body positive advocate Chenese Lewis points out that people can be quick to gripe about a lack of support, especially for their own events, without ever taking the time to attend and support other people's projects. It's important to remember that when you stand for a cause and have any kind of visible platform, you have the power of aiding in the visibility of other marginalized identities.
17. "You're so brave for loving your body."
Body love is something that we should all be striving towards, regardless of size. However, Model Kat Stroud points out that while people likely have good intentions when they say this, loving one's fat body shouldn't be considered a courageous act.
"To love one's own body isn't brave; it should be expected," says Stroud. "Our bodies are incredible and just because I love mine with a few extra pounds doesn't make me brave. Bold maybe, but not brave."
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Images: Alysse Dalessandro; sweetwhatsername/Tumblr