with Jay Hansen
I don't know if you know this, but I'm attracted to fat women.
Note that I don't say "plus size" or "fluffy" women; I am specifically attracted to fat women, and for good reason. The use of the word "fat" implies a level of self-confidence, self-respect, self-love, and a willingness to defy nonsensical social norms. It also implies a certain degree of pride in the word "fat," and a desire to reclaim it from those that have turned it into something ugly. So a woman that is willing to call herself fat is not just one I'd find attractive physically, but mentally as well.
Words are remarkable things. With just a few letters we can communicate so much more than just a literal definition. I've written several articles on my personal website about words, from the power and importance of pronouns, to picking the right words when framing an entire issue. Each word carries with it hidden meanings and emotions that can tell us so much more about a person if we know how to listen. Just as I explained the word "fat" above, "fluffy" is a cuter word more traditionally used by nerds and nerd-culture than mainstream society, while "voluptuous" has a certain sultry, flirty, sexual connotation.
(Though not to say that I dislike "fluffy" or "voluptuous" people, of course)
Other common positive substitutes for the word fat include chubby, fluffy, voluptuous, curvy or curvaceous, plus-sized or plus-size, or just "big." That's just to name a few, and each of them carries unique emotions and meanings that can vary from person to person. One may take offense to the word "chubby," but be fine with the word "fluffy." Another may love the word "fat," but hate being called "fluffy." Normally when talking to or about Heidi, I use simpler, more self-explanatory words like big, large, heavy, and yes, fat. Of course, "heavy" fits her well because she is heavy both in the gravitational sense and the metal-head rocker sense.
Heidi is fat. Neither of us are afraid to say that. We're no more afraid to call her fat than we are to call me skinny because they're both simple, observable truths.
(Cover of the book FAT!SO?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann)
Of course, there are plenty of negative substitute words for fat too, most of which I won't bother to list here, but the most common ones we get bombarded with every day are "overweight" and "obese." Overweight is the slightly less harmful of the two emotionally speaking, but it is a compound word that literally means someone's weight is "over" a certain standard, even though that standard is either socially-imposed, illogical, or just generally ridiculous. Obese is the primary slur used against fat people these days insofar as it is widely considered to be acceptable, even though it's a made up term based on junk science. Because people believe it to be a justifiable term given its (pseudo) scientific background, people don't realize it's become just as if not more stigmatizing than phrases like "lard ass" or "fat cow." Worse yet is the phrase "morbidly obese," which at face value implies that someone is literally in immediate danger of death because of the number of fat cells in their body, despite the fact that I've met people as low as 200-220 pounds that have been labeled as "morbidly obese" by doctors, and that, you know, fat cells aren't deadly.
Most people reading this or members of the size acceptance community as a whole are aware of the fact that weight is not an accurate determinate of health. Despite this, Heidi and I continually see one phrase over and over again from people both outside and within the community that has an implicit contradiction to this fact.
Recently, in our Oklahoma BBW Facebook group, we've had to amend our rules to inform our members that we are not a weight loss group. We encourage everyone to be healthy, but have placed strict rules against posts wherein people talk about how much happier, prettier, or more confident they are now that they've "finally lost weight." Just as the word "overweight" has inherent negative meaning, talking about what someone gains when they "lose weight" implies that what they gained - happiness, confidence, health, etc. - cannot be attained while fat. Fat people are more than capable of being happy, confident, and healthy. If someone can't love and respect themselves, practice healthy lifestyles, or just be happy before losing weight, then they will be equally unable to afterward. Losing weight does not magically make these things happen; but most people wouldn't know that with the way people continually frame the issue.
That's why Heidi came up with a brilliant idea. The equating of weight loss with being healthy is perhaps the biggest obstacle the size acceptance movement has to face, so why not simply re-frame the issue with better, more positive wording? Let's try switching "weight loss" with "health gain." For example, instead of saying "I've lost so much weight on my new diet" or "my husband is trying to lose weight," why not switch it to "I've gained so much health on my new diet" and "my husband is trying to gain health." In making this minor change in word choice, we could stop perpetuating false claims about fat people and prevent people from potentially diluting themselves into thinking losing weight alone will fix everything wrong in their life, not to mention simply change a negative - loss - into a positive - gain.
Don't focus on the negative you hope to lose, but rather the positive you hope to gain. That's a key to success and happiness for most things in life, so why don't we do it for weight and health? If we can re-frame the issue by saying "health gain" instead of "weight loss" whenever the topic comes up, we can improve the lives of others and take a major step in curbing fat shaming one conversation at a time, and all by changing two little words. Consider that when contemplating New Year's resolutions.
I'm sure by now most of you have learned that Large in Charge Magazine will be going on an indefinite hiatus after this issue. I suppose I should mark this day with something poetic and meaningful, but really this article - which I wrote months before knowing it would be my last - ends it pretty well. Heidi and I wanted to tell our story, and in doing so hoped to comfort those disturbed by archaic, oppressive, and nonsensical social standards of love and beauty, while disturbing the comfortable that seek to perpetuate this system, from simple internet trolls to medical professionals that lazily propagate junk science. Not only do we seek to help others find a way to love themselves in our work here and in Oklahoma BBW, BHM, and Admirers, but also to teach others that love knows no boundaries. People can look at me and Heidi and tell us that she's too old or too fat for me, or tell me that I'm too young or too girly for her. The truth is though, we love each other - ridiculously, frustratingly, confusingly, overpoweringly, madly, and maddeningly love each other. In our simple act of loving one another, and ourselves, we rebel against social standards that restrain us and keep us from finding happiness that we all deserve.
So by all means, rebel. Rebel by loving yourself without shame in a world that does everything it can to get you not to. Rebel by loving other people without question or limitation. Rebel by loving someone no matter what society may say about either of your ages, sizes, genders, races, religions, cultures, or any other man-made labels. Comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. That's what my mother always said to me, and I'd like to think I'm doing a good job of it in what little ways I can.
I'll still be writing for my own website, In the Reddest (www.inthereddest.com), if you're interested in following me. I have been granted permission by Raqui to continue my Skinny on Big Love segment there, or elsewhere should the opportunity arise. Both my wife and I also both actively manage Oklahoma BBW, BHM, and Admirers (www.oklahomabbwbhm.net) as the group's owners, and endeavor to spread size acceptance and love through there as well. Even though our time at Large in Charge Magazine is at an end (for now), Heidi and I will still have plenty of misadventures, conversations, disagreements, and challenges in our most unique of relationships to share with the world, so I hope you all will keep reading.