It’s been noted before that female-coded clothing is never neutral: no matter what tone you may be wearing or what cut or style, there is no point where that clothing will not be perceived as saying something about you. Large, gaudy necklaces tag you as “artsy”; short skirts, breast-crushing shirts and stockings mark you as misogynistic fratboy fuck-target. Mismatched clothing tags you as “punk,” pathetic, or hipster. Batik clothing makes you a New Ager or middle to upper class trustifarian. Sneakers means you’re desperate to fit in. High heels? Asking for it.
Female-bodied people have virtually no ability to control how they are perceived. Being able to say, “this is the kind of person I am” is something exclusively reserved for men—who, while they may have typed clothing, also have neutral clothing available to them—because women are property, and the kind of “packaging” they have defines what kind of product they are. Maybe you’re an S&M product? Or a Happy Hooker product? Perhaps you’re the Feisty Prowler type—what about the Shy Bookworm? Your identity—who you are as a person—is not as important as what kind of front you present, because your personality cannot be fetishized and objectified: your appearance can.
However, even then, many women have the ability to skew how they are perceived—either through judicious use of clothing tags or making their own clothing. There’s one group of women who have no ability to control how they are perceived, even in the limited scope that most women have. You know them—you’ve been taught that they’re disgusting, and that their fallen state is an external sign of their personal failures: if they weren’t such horrible wastes of flesh—if they just wouldn’t keep shoving fourteen pizzas in their mouth a night*—then they’d be… um… well, fuckable, I guess. That’s about as close as any woman comes to “acceptable,” though.
They’re fat. I want to take a minute right here and give a shout-out to all my fat comrades and the strength it takes them to get through a day, let alone still challenge the status quo.
Fatness is intersectional in nature: it is bound up in body-policing, femininity (of not taking enough, let alone too much), beauty ideals, race, class, and probably a lot of other things I’m not thinking of right now. Beyond anything else, people who are thin are given more institutional power—sexual, social, economic—and those who do not meet the unreliable definition of “thinness” are continuously disenfranchised by the same system. Fat men get farther, but that’s not saying much.
I want to specifically point out how little control fat women have over their projection and acceptance of identity, though. To a point, thin women have some powers of self-identification—again, they’re limited, but still there—but fat women have none because the totality of what they are perceived to be is what could be best described as infintesimal in scope.
My fat female-bodied friends have no option and no choice. If they act happy, they’re stinky and obtrusive; if they’re feeling sexy, they’re laughable and pathetic; if they have desires, they’re gluttonous and smothering; if they’re affectionate, they’re flippant; if they’re bouncy, they’re vapid and unintelligent; if they’re cute, they’re obnoxious and thunderous; if they’re loud, they’re overwhelming and don’t know how to control themselves; if they’re sad, they’re emotional eaters; if they’re angry, they’re bitter, shrill bitches. Fat women cannot win, ever, but with a totality that most thin women couldn’t even grasp at.
One of my friends a few years ago confided to me that her social anxiety and reticence developed when she realized that no one ever saw her as cute and bouncy—they saw her as obnoxious, overbearing and stupid. Her withdrawal was a way out: because she couldn’t bear to be seen as this stupid, silly thing that was such a distortion of who she really was. It didn’t matter that she had an eating disorder, and that she was eating high raw because it was one of the few ways she could make it disappear in totality: when people looked at her, they saw fat. That was the totality of who she was, to them—unhealthy, prediabetic at best, probably cancerous, and definitely an eyesore if not necessarily contagious. Even when people weren’t making “moo” sounds at her, she could tell by their awkwardness and skepticism that they condemned the hell out of her.
She chose to withdraw because that was the only option for control she had ever known: as a child, the only way she could get away mentally from her family’s abuse was to turn to stone inside and convince everyone that nothing mattered to her. The extent of people’s judgment and prejudice against her body didn’t just make her ashamed: it made her change into a different person.
Because the person she was didn’t matter, only the packaging. In a society where your presentation matters more than your personhood, and where your packaging implicitly justifies violation regardless of its austerity… you’re not safe. As someone who is trans, I’m not safe—because my packaging matters more than who I am.
Property status—that process and underlying ideology through which you are turned into a product—must be abolished. No excuses. No mistakes. No compromise.
I want to make clear that fatphobia will not be allowed on any part of this site. Body-policing is unacceptable and only reinforces the idea that womens’ bodies are communal property for whatever reason—though I’m sure it’s just because of their “health.” In light of a history that actively encourages women to starve to fit acceptable ideals of femininity, behavioral and physical, and in light of the fact that there is no known way to make fat people into thin people—you need to do better than a 95% failure rate—you get to shut your ignorant yaps.
*Does anyone actually know someone who does this? It’s highly eating-disordered even so, but apparently I’m eating baby-flavored doughnuts every night… silly fools! I’m vegan! Don’t they know I only eat dumpstered babies?