When you are fat, you are viewed as, well, a fat person. There’s more to you, but not to most people – there’s a whole lot of stereotypes that come attached. It’s easy to say that you don’t care about what other people think of you. But growing up looking the way I do I’ve realised that it does matter, because what someone thinks of you affects how they treat you.
When someone looks like this, like me, there are very few things that are acceptable to people beyond the idea that I am overweight. You can be fat, but you can’t be anything else unless it’s in relation to your body-size. I think about this is terms of loud women; loud and fat women. Those two things seem to go together in such a way that if you’re fat and you’re loud, you’re a stereotype. Those two things about you can’t exist without each other. If you’re lazy and you’re also fat, well, why wouldn’t you be? Does your body allow you to move at all?
Bulky, loud, slow, rigid, immobile and fat. If you can’t run very fast, and you happen to be fat, it’s simply expected. It’s not that you don’t try, it’s that your body doesn’t allow you to move as fast as you want it to. During athletics in school, and while warming up for other sports, I would be among the last to complete my rounds of the field. It’s embarrassing to fit into that stereotype when you know that everyone’s probably thinking it – yeah, yeah, she’ll take some time. That is my body defining what I am to another person, and when is that ever okay?
Also read: Size+: ‘My Body is My Business’
Fat people dancing becomes something to be ridiculed, because we don’t know how to just let people be. How can we look at a big woman who likes to shake her hips to some music and have a good time without looking at it sexually? Isn’t it an inherently sexual concept to find fat women dancing “unattractive”? Let’s say that it’s anti-sexual, to make more sense of it. But a woman with a smaller bum and a thinner waistline dancing? Yes! That’s a joy to watch. The bigger girl is, what? Disgusting? Shaking in all the places she supposedly shouldn’t be and it’s making you uncomfortable?
It’s things like this that made me want to do things that would push me out of the boxes that society puts us into. I strived to run faster than the tiniest, thinnest girl in class. But she was like a bullet passing me by while I, a fat lump, was not made for moving very fast, according to society. I can do (almost) a full split with my fat thighs and big butt. My boyfriend used to be able to put my legs up on his shoulders when we had sex.
I loved to dance when I was little, but for some forsaken reason which I don’t even remember, I stopped as fast as I started, after having done a bunch of shows and performances here and there. My belly button is constantly sticking out from under my clothes and I just don’t care. There’s no particular shape that belly buttons should be, so what difference does it make if mine is horizontal because of being pressed between two lumpy belly rolls?
Someone once told me that tall, thin and pretty girls don’t have a hard time finding a job, because they are likeable by default. How can we possibly explain this natural inclination towards ‘shapely’ women being automatically desirable and trustworthy without inherently partaking in shaming fat people? I do not know. You probably cannot. It’s not intentional, no? But the stereotypes are inbuilt, aren’t they?
My life has been about breaking out of stereotypical boxes, and no, this is not a joke about being fat. I have been careful to navigate my life, lowering my voice when I think I’m being too loud, because I don’t want people to associate me with being loud, with me being loud because I’m fat.
Sometimes, the world behaves as though each of us has been given a certain amount of space that we’re not supposed to exceed. It’s as though fat people take up more space than they’re supposed to, and then our lives are spent being penalised for overstepping our allotted spaces with our loud voices and chunky arms.
It’s not that I’m not proud of who I am, but who I am need not be inherently related to my fatness, although a large part of my personality has developed amidst trying to accept my fatness. It’s absurd to me, that something you’re born with, born in, is something you have to learn to accept – what a truly idiotic concept, a problematic concept, that we all invariably deal with every day of our lives.
I don’t want to give out the idea that I think fat people have it worse than non-fat people. I just want to clarify that if I do ever feel lazy, if I run slower than the people around me, if I’m louder than the people around me, it’s not because of being fat. Not everything is about my being fat.
Drishti Sahay is a student in Bangalore.