I'm always happy when a new post from the Crunk Feminist Collective blog finds it’s way into my inbox. I love the women who write there- their points of view, and their desire to speak on things we often wish to ignore. This happened in real time when I clicked on blogger "Crunktastic’s" piece called “Big Girls Need Love, Too: Dating While Fat (and Feminist)”. I mean, I was all for the discussion of beauty standards and how big women are often “othered” because of their size. But I deplore the word fat, and had to ask myself why I was so emotionally attached to it- why I couldn’t embrace it as other women have. I realize my negative feelings are founded in the manner in which fat people are treated- unfairly and despicably if they are acknowledged at all. So I tuned in, wincing all the while at the word fat, but knowing that this conversation, in many ways, could be both therapeutic and freeing.
I had questions immediately as I read. First, is it really true that plus-sized women can’t find companionship and love, or is the author simply looking for a certain type of guy and finding that guy just isn’t interested in dating her. I immediately stopped that thought because I realized I was following suit with society in saying, basically, that fat women need to temper their standards. While having ridiculously high standards can be an issue for anyone trying to find love, I don’t think the message we relate to fat women is that they should lower their standards, but that they shouldn’t have standards at all, which is absurd.
We all deserve the kind of love we desire, and although I understand that there are plenty of people who are naturally not attracted to “fatness”, we also live in a culture where fat equals ugly, unsanitary, weak, lazy, and plain without value. And if fat women do happen to have standards, if they somehow manage to attain a decent amount of self esteem and self worth, they are oft accosted and blamed for bringing death in the form of diabetes, heart disease and more to the doors of their communities- a la Alice Randall in her latest New York Times Op-Ed about Black women and fatness. After all, our health issues are not a result of poor health education and food deserts, but instead that we are way too happy being fat. The way we are socialized to view fat people guides our interactions with them, wait, with US because I, myself, am a buxom size fourteen. So if the word "fat" didn’t automatically paint pictures in men (and women’s) head(s) of all things negative, we would be more open to seeing if sparks could fly- much like we might try dating someone who isn’t as tall as we would like, or who isn’t the complexion we desire (because apparently that still happens in our community in 2012… but I digress).
If the word fat didn’t automatically paint pictures in men (and women’s) heads of all things negative, we would be more open to seeing if sparks could fly.
That’s not the world we live in as Erika Nicole Kendall, writer and weight loss expert, and I discussed this morning in a conversation about my own weight loss goals and my negative feelings towards the word fat. When discussing fat women and dating, Erika made the following sound point:
[A woman] can always get "a man", but in Black America, where we're determined to assimilate and benefit from the privilege that comes with assimilation, we accept that with certain stature comes a certain appearance that has to be upheld. The higher up the pay scale you go, the thinner you're expected to be. Where once it was expected that girth came with wealth, now it's who can pay the most for the smallest plate and actually subsist on eating like that. So, with desiring a certain kind of man comes a certain body type that they desire and your challenge to fit it.
Amen. Zora Neale Hurston wrote once that she wishes she could get everything as easily as she could get a man. But fat women want to date men who are on their levels intellectually and otherwise, and who have made similar strides to them (as far as education and the like). What Erika alludes to is that not only will many men who are upwardly mobile not attach themselves to fat women, but that fatness can be a determining factor in whether fat women advance in the workplace, and socially as well.
Finishing the article, which also touched on ideas of certain types of fat women being “mammied” and other fascinating points, I definitely came to understand the author’s frustration with believing that she may have to lose weight in order to find the love (and maybe the life) she’s looking for. Her views echo a sad reality. We can be