I, The Non-Conforming Fat Person
I was twenty – five years old in the change room of a popular fashion store, tears of frustration ran down my face as I struggled to force my body into an Australian size 16 dress. It was a shock to me, up until now, I was always a “normal” size and even through childhood I was never considered fat. However, in less than six months I had gone from an Australian size 14 to a size 18, Why? Because of depression which lead to me becoming an emotional eater and a new diagnosis of PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Now I was not only fat but hairy too.
I was now a forgotten person, a fat person, exiled to the plus size section. The small section hidden between underwear and maternity wear. A section with a variety of choices, such as shapeless dresses, that looked more like potato sacks than actual dresses. Baggy plain tops, or if they were generous enough to allow them to have a pattern, it resembled that of curtains or a 1990's lounge suite and of course those “lovely” pants and jeans made from cheap synthetic material that didn't allow my body to breathe.
The message of this store and the fashion industry was loud and clear, Why should I, a fat person wish to have nice clothes? Or how dare I have the audacity to want to feel confident and beautiful in them. Instead, they were saying; “Hide your body in this baggy mauve t-shirt and these baggy jeans. You don't conform to society's beauty standards so you don't deserve to feel beautiful, just invisible. Look, this mauve T- shirt will definitely help you become invisible.”
"Why should I, a fat person wish to have nice clothes?"
The same attitude that fat people should be invisible or ashamed of who they are, happened to me again, 10 years later. I'm a geek at heart, and I used to love going to Conventions and cosplaying as my favourite anime character. Cosplaying used to be an inclusive hobby that accepted all types of body shapes. Until it got popular, and it seemed that fat people were once again shamed for being who they were, shamed for not fitting society's standard of beauty. I'm not saying this happens to every fat cosplayer or at all conventions, but it happens and this was my experience.
I tried to ignore the remarks made to fat cosplayers online and went ahead and continued to dress as my favourite anime characters. That stopped one day, when all I was doing was waiting in line for something to eat when a man walked passed and said to the person with him that the costume I was wearing was inappropriate. I was a dressed as a female Lolita version of Ken Kaneki from the anime Tokyo Ghoul. I was wearing a Lolita style dress with a petticoat, that came above my knees or a tad higher with the petticoat. Nothing was on show, and it was a family friendly costume. Now if I was thinner, and adhered to Society's beauty standards, would he have said the same thing? No, of course not, he'd stop and want pictures.
I've experienced body shaming in one of my two jobs by customers, I've been shamed while simply walking in public wearing my favourite Pokémon skirt, and of course online. I was body shamed while walking the dog, trying to be healthier. Yes, I was even body shamed when I was doing something healthy. The “person” who was entitled enough to give his unwarranted opinion on my body was a man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and who was also clearly intoxicated.
"I'm slowly accepting my body, but my worst critic, my brain, tries to slow my progress every day."
I'm now almost 37, some things have gotten better, but the attitudes towards fat people remain the same. I'm thankful for size inclusive brands such as Snag Tights. It's still a struggle as my fashion sense has evolved beyond the big chain stores, think Goth and Rockabilly styles. I now buy most of my clothes online from size – inclusive brands. I'm slowly accepting my body, but my worst critic, my brain, tries to slow my progress every day.
I know I will never fit society's standard of beauty or even its view of “normal.” Even when I was “thin”, I was different, and you know what, maybe that's a good thing.
All I want for fat people is the chance to walk into any store and find beautiful clothes in our size, I want to see clothes shown on people in our size and body type. I want fat people to be treated as a human, not as a thing who society wants to shame into invisibility or treat so badly that we are forced to hide or conform to it's standards of beauty. I want to go online and see an article on someone like Lizzo and find no fat phobic comments by faceless profiles or hurtful comments by men, who society deems fat too. I don't want to see fake “concern” for the health of fat people plastered all over the internet, by strangers with no medical training or limited medical training. A fat person's health has nothing to do with them, it's between the fat person and their doctor. Finally, I don't want the idea of a fat person merely existing as “promoting obesity”.
I hold hope that maybe, one day, society will change and people will become more empathetic towards those of us who don't fit into society's mould. I as a millennial put my hope in the younger generations to help change the hateful attitude towards those of us who don't meet Society's beauty standards.
By Rachael Hunt