"Phat" Girl in a Skinny World
When you're the only fat girl in your 2nd grade class, kids can be pretty mercilous. As someone who's been overweight their entire life I've heard every joke and jab imaginable: ugly, fat-ass, puffer fish, ugly fat-ass puffer fish. And even when some of the other kids would try to make me feel better, sometimes saying I was just "big-boned," that never did any good because I still knew 99% of the kids in my class - probably my school - were looking at me and seeing "the fat girl." Not Danielle. Not me.
I don't think people realize how hard it is to grow up fat. There seems to be this underlying hostility towards overweight people, and in many cases, it's worse against overweight girls. After all, I'm supposed to be skinny, toned, and tan; not flabby, soft, and pale. My hair is supposed to be shiny and long; not quirky and short. My chest is supposed to be big, my waist small, my skin smooth and blemish free, my eyebrows perfectly plucked . . .
Heck, if beauty truly is what we see in the magazines, I've failed epically.
It's taken me a long time to be okay with who I am. Maybe you wouldn't even call it "okay." I mean, it's not like I look in the mirror and say "I love you, arm flab!" But I've realized a few things in my time as an "all-knowing teenager":
1. People who call you names are hurting inside. When you're happy with yourself, and your life, you don't have to gain confidence by putting others down.
2. True friends don't care what size you are. True friends love you for being nice, funny, smart, fearless - not because of your size, race, or anything else.
3. Don't give a [frick] about what you're supposed to look like. The media that tells women they need to be impossibly skinny is the same media that tells us we can't have pores (just look at any make-up ad ever). If we spent as much time doing the things we love as we do hating our bodies, we'd all be a lot happier!
4. People don't care about you. Wait, don't take that the wrong way! We're always obsessing about our tiniest flaws - the way our shirt doesn't match our shoes, or that we're having a bad hair day - and we're convinced that everybody in the world is staring at us. But the truth is, they've got their own lives and their own problems. People aren't sitting there obsessing about your bad hair day, so neither should you!
5. "If something doesn't matter in five years, don't worry about it." I don't remember where I heard that, or if I just made it up myself, but it's helped me in too many situations to count. So when you spill that ketchup down the front of your shirt, the world is not going to end. It isn't going to matter in five years, so laugh and shrug it off.
I'm a lot different than I was in elementary school, even middle school. I'm not a wallflower. I speak my mind. I don't put myself down. I try not to care what people think about me. I respect myself. I surround myself with people who really care about me, and work hard to be a good student, citizen, sister, daughter . . . you catch my drift. In other words, I'm proud to be me! It just sucks it's taken me a decade to realize it.
On a slightly different note, all this got me thinking about the portrayal of overweight women in the media.
Are there overweight women in the media?
As Laura Frasier stated in her article Fear of Fat: "On television, for the most part, fat people are as invisible as in fashion magazines. When fat people show up on TV, they aren’t usually serious people, but are either comics (the jolly fat person) or pathetic talkshow creatures whose lives are miserable because they can’t lose weight."
That is so true! When overweight people (i.e. women) show up in TV shows they always have to be the subject of some moral. If they're not, like Frasier stated, for comic relief or to remind us how difficult dieting is, they're there to teach us to "love and accept ourselves." Sheesh, can't there be a plus-size woman in popular culture that's taken seriously, with absolutely no mention to her weight? Or is that an impossible dream?
Food for thought (ha!): Have you seen the new show Huge on ABC Family, and if so, what did you think? Is the show going to shed some much-needed light on the struggles overweight teens face, or is it going to do more harm than good?
Danielle blogs about this and other teen feminist issues at her own blog, Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Media
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Gender bias, Social media, Film, Television, News