When I was younger, thinner and totally obsessed with my body size/weight/shape, I was a beautiful young woman who was locked in a fight with her body. I made the kitchen and the gym my primary battlegrounds. I worked in partnership with diet culture to create so much suffering for myself, constantly comparing myself to thinner friends, constantly obsessing about what was going in my mouth, and constantly fixated on my next workout.
Going out in public, I would have the most intense inner reactions to seeing fat babes wearing tight, skimpy or sexy summer clothes.
I would see a woman in a bigger body than me and think, “How come SHE gets to wear a bikini and I don’t?” or “Why does SHE get to wear booty shorts when I can’t?” It’s not that I was jealous, exactly; I was genuinely confused. If women who lived in bodies bigger than mine appeared to feel free in them, where was the feeling of freedom I should have been “entitled” to as a smaller-sized woman?
(Advanced level answer: a) the amount of freedom you feel in your body has very little to do with what your body looks like and b) you can still hate your body, even when you have thin privilege and c) if you’re spending more time thinking about other peoples’ bodies than you spend thinking about, say, cat turds, then it’s time for some deep personal and political reflection).
Of course, at that time, even though I was a feminist, and even though I had a PhD in the study of power, I was so married to diet culture that I had no capacity to genuinely consider what it was exactly that was holding me back.
I was simply having a pure reaction to witnessing the liberation in others that I did not feel I deserved.
If I had actually properly reflected on this question of why plus size women were entitled to freedom that I, a (former) thin, wasn’t, I would have sagely advised myself, “Fuck, yes, you are,” and that would have been that.
Well, ok, that wouldn’t have been that AT ALL. I don’t think any woman gets to the threshold of freedom—where they truly understand that they no longer need to work so hard every damn day to shrink themselves—and finds it easy to step across. In fact, most find it terrifying.
It’s terrifying because, in the seconds before you do it, you realize that stepping across that threshold means confronting internalized fatphobia. It means being forced to entertain the possibility that the secret way out of all this bullshit is the active divestment from diet culture. It means understanding that those fat girls in skimpy summer clothes were the ones who had it right all along, while you clung to anemic notions of power that were supposed to bring you peace.
Once you do cross that threshold, though, the transformation is unlike anything you ever possibly imagined could happen to you. For me, it took years of a sustained practice of body acceptance/fat acceptance/fat liberation. But I’ve finally crossed the threshold and I would never, ever want to go back.
I’ve found a place of peace inside of myself that I am able to go back to again and again, an oasis of trust within myself that has transformed my life.
And now I get to be one of the fat babes, flashing my looks on the street and letting other women know: you can join us here in freedom, too.