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With few exceptions, most of the fat people we do see in the media and pop culture hate their bodies, from the contestants paraded around like circus animals on “The Biggest Loser” to celebrities who flog themselves in nationally televised weight-loss commercials.
Americans expect and enjoy the spectacle of the miserable fat person, so to challenge this narrative is a radical act.
In a Time magazine cover story on the doll, little girls testing the toy at the company’s headquarters laughed among themselves about the fatter Barbie.
This new Barbie is really just a doll-like approximation of an average woman’s size, but seems large compared with the unrealistic proportions of original Barbie.
I said I was fine, but in the hotel that night, I crawled into bed, relieved that I no longer had to perform as a professional fatty. I had begun to feel like the fat lady in a freak show, on display for public amusement.
The front lines of the obesity debate are an awful place to be for anyone who challenges pervasive “fat is bad” rhetoric and who asserts that the most significant problem for fat people isn’t their bodies, but hatred and abuse from society.
At the heart of this debate over obesity is a professed concern for health, as if the dignity of any group should be contingent on whether its members are deemed healthy.
Last month, Mattel introduced a new “curvy” Barbie — “curvy” being the only flattering euphemism for a woman who’s “a little bit fat”; “fat Barbie” obviously would have been the kiss of death.
Talking with people about my book taught me that we might think we live in an age when we can’t be shocked, but a novel about a 300-pound woman who learns to love her body as it is — losing weight — is a major taboo.
Since I dared not only to write this story, but also to appear in public as a fat woman myself, refusing to apologize for my existence or to hide my body in a burlap sack, I became an unwitting ambassador for the revolutionary idea that there’s nothing wrong with being fat and female.
The girls viewed the new doll as fat, but hesitated to use this word in front of adults.
One girl would only spell it out, “F-A-T,” the way one does with other bad words. Americans are obsessed with obesity, yet actual fat people are largely absent from our cultural landscape.