Feminism, Beauty and Fat

I read a fantastic newspaper article yesterday about a women who was unashamedly fat on her wedding day. It wasn’t the first article she had written about the topic but it was a challenging read for me on one aspect.

“Male approval isn’t where my self-worth comes from – and that realisation was a huge part of what made my current relationship healthy and fulfilling. Respectability politics might boost mainstream attitudes toward fat people in the short-term, but what does it do for women in general in the long-term? How can I simultaneously fight for women to be free of patriarchal standards and for fat women to be allowed to participate in those standards?” Lindy West

Oooh shazam… that last line has a real kick to it. Why should women be held to a patriarchal system of beauty and why shouldn’t fat women be allowed on the spectrum of beauty in the first place? It has me thinking about my size acceptance stance big time. As a feminist I don’t want to have to live up to a standard of beauty mainly created by men for men, and yet as a fat feminist I demand the right to be accepted on those standards as an equal regardless of what shape my body comes in. There is a real tension between the two positions. One is for women in general and one side is specific to me as a plus sized woman; which side do I take? I’m not sure that I know the answer.

Lindy suggests that there is something political about being a plus sized woman getting married at all. I hadn’t ever thought about it to be honest.

Because being fat and happy and in love in public is still a radical act.” Lindy West

I think it is seen as more radical for Lindy in that she is a plus sized woman in love with a ‘normal’ sized man. When I was married my partner was a plus sized man, so it seemed that society thought it was acceptable for us to be together and I never felt any tension being in public, but I do wonder what it would be like to walk down the street holding hands with a conventionally good looking man. And I wonder if there is a difference in finding love as a plus size woman and finding love as a regular sized woman and growing into a plus sized woman as the years go by?

All in this entire article has me thinking. I love Lindy West’s stance and her attitude expressed in her work. I really admire her for being so public about her experiences and her thoughts on the matter.  And I love her message of self-acceptance and her challenge to rethink what it means to accept society’s standards of beauty.


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