People have a hard time with the word "fat." Mostly because our society has turned it from a simple descriptor into a hideous insult couched in implied terribleness; a scarlet letter in regard to the worthiness of one's own existence. And this uneasiness around that dirty, three-letter word may have played a part in Fargo star Allison Tolman's takedown of some Twitcritics who were harassing her because of her weight. "For fuck's sake, internet — I'm not fat, I've just been wearing this GIANT EFFING COAT FOR 8 WEEKS ON YOUR TELEVISION," she tweeted. Which points to many a terrible thing about how we still — still! — regard women, but also proves it's time to change the conversation.
We don't really fault people for going on the "I'm not fat!" defensive, even if it does play into the wrong point. Heck, we were terrified and scared of the word ourselves for a long time, shying away from the adjective because of what it meant in our society: Fat equated to being lazy, slovenly, selfish, depressed, over-indulgent, generally gross, and worst of all, unfeminine. In order to stop thinking like that — continuing invalidating women's existences — we need to equalize the playing field.
Tolman's points are valid, and she reiterated the heart of this particular matter when she went on the defensive, tweeting afterwards, "I'm not sad, y'all. My points are: A- Christ on a cracker, stop defining women by size. B- I'm AVERAGE- women on TV are TINY."
As someone who has interviewed her fair share of actorpeople, I can confirm exactly what Tolman said: the women (and a lot of the men, too) that populate our TV screens are by and large are very, very tiny. Call it the desirability factor, call it a Napoleon complex, call it whatever you like, but it's true: they are by no means a visual representation of the average. And to see the differences in relation to each other (and not played up as some terrible frat joke) can sometimes be dramatic for our trained-to-only-see-size-2s eyes. But that's still not the point.
The point is that we need to stop defining people's merits based on size/weight/looks. On both sides — men and women — but particularly for the latter. Because that's all people want to examine when it comes to women: a frustrating thing, particularly when women like Tolman are so good at what they do. We have to change the conversation and make it normal to treat women as something more than their bodies. It's not a radical idea — we give men this sort of consideration, de facto — but in order to make it second-nature for women, we have to normalize the idea that women are not limited in their abilities due to a perceived societal sexual viability.
Tolman's body has never been the point of her character — a move on Fargo's part that is both commendable and exactly how it should be — but that's still a huge portion of what people want to talk about, simply because she's a woman. She exists, and therefore, the conversation often goes to the physical: it's what our society has trained us to do. All one needs to do is look at, say, the opening credit's for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon to understand that.
By harping on the physical, frankly, we're condoning feelings of inadequacy. Really, the conversation should be about normalizing the fact that our bodies do not have to play a role in everything. That our bodies, though important, are not everything and they certainly do not define us. The human form is merely a vessel through which a brilliant mind and soul exist. THAT'S the truly important part of a person. If some women just so happen to have pretty packaging, good for them, but we're moving on.
The more we experience, see, and allow women to experience a world wherein their body is not the major topic of conversation, but rather the merits of their abilities and minds, the less we'll have to talk about it, and the less shitty we'll all feel.
Image: FX