July 03, 2011

The F-Word

It is no secret that the word “fat” comes with negative connotations for everyone in our society.  It is also safe to say that the negativity of the word in many cases weighs far heavier (no pun intended) on females as apposed to men.  In fact, this has been proven in research tests in which people were shown pictures of overweight individuals and where the men were given cute labels like “cuddly” or “stocky”, the women got branded with “lazy” and the classic, “fat”.

This gross word is one that has rolled off of mean girls’ tongues for so long, but there is a group of people who think they can turn it around.  The Fat Acceptance Movement, in particular, NAAFA, The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is a group of people who are committed to creating a society where no one is discriminated against because of their size or health situation.  Many of them believe that part of their battle is taking back the F word by making it either neutral or synonymous with words like  “fabulous” and “beautiful.”

I think that sounds lovely! The damage that the word has done on our girls is immeasurable. It’s true that people should be able to live their lives free of discriminatory words no matter what. But can it’s meaning really be taken back?

Although I am obviously crazy about the idea of women being encouraged to love themselves and their bodies regardless of its shape, as a woman of a certain size I find it hard to imagine a day when someone drops the F bomb on me and I don’t immediately deliver them a swift punch to the face.  So is the word’s ickiness too tightly knit into our cultural vocabulary to be turned into a positive? People in the fat acceptance community say no.

I decided to talk to my friend, a believer in the fat acceptance movement who often attends conferences and events within the community. When I asked him why he prefers to use the word “fat” as opposed to a less controversial adjective, he told me that he doesn’t think it’s a term that needs to be avoided, “I think that using a euphemism implies that there's something that needs a euphemism, you know? Because I don't think of fatness as having an intrinsic negativity, I don't want to speak about it in a way that makes it sound like I do.” When I asked my friend if he could see his positive use of the word contributing to the construction of a world where fat was used in a friendly way he was hopeful, “Obviously that's going to take a long time, but I'm personally really excited about the impact that it can have on individuals. You have to admit that it's a pretty revolutionary concept. A lot of people have never ever been told that fat can be ok, and that's hurting them and the people around them regardless of their size.”

What do you think? As a woman, can you picture yourself standing in front of the mirror asking your friend if you look fat in a dress and their response being “Yes, and it’s fantastic!” Could you be able to take the power out of that 3-letter weapon and feel comfortable hearing the word connected to you?

For more information on NAAFA and the fat acceptance movement, here’s a link to their website: www.naafa.org.


Blog contributor Julia A. Birnbaum is a 19-year old student at Sarah Lawrence College. Having lived outside the city since she was 3, Julia is a proud Philadelphian who has begun a recent love affair with New York. Though she is not entirely sure of what she’d like to major in during her collegiate years, Julia anticipates focusing on something involving writing and art. Julia suffers from an addiction to reality television and likes to spend her time with friends, writing poetry or blowing bubbles for her cat to pop.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Julia for your fantastic post! I am looking forward to your next one!


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