“When you’re a fatty, eating a cupcake in public is a radical act. When you’re a fatty, wearing a short skirt or a tight dress is revolutionary. When you live in this world, loving your round, flabby body is avant-garde.” (176)
This past March I attended a Sister Spit event in Vancouver. The group is made of poets, novelists, feminists, and queer activists who load into a van and haul themselves across Canada and the US to spread their work. One of the women featured in the event was Virgie Tovar, a brilliant woman who has used her sharp wit and life experience as a full-figured female to put together a fat-positive anthology.
As a woman whose figure generally fits into Western ideas of “acceptable”, being 140lbs and 5’5, I have not had to contend with the type of mental, physical, and emotional abuse that women who don’t fit into this imaginary category of “ideal” have. I have been blissfully unaware that while I suck back my grande java-chip frappuccino with chocolate whip, the fat woman sitting at the table next to me would be silently judged, if not outwardly sneered at by the public around her should she happen to be enjoying the same drink. I have been ignorant.
Listening to Virgie Tovar at Sister Spit read from her book “Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion”, I was awakened to the politics all around me concerning fat shaming. I was sitting in the audience, listening to Chinaka Hodge perform slam poetry, when I noticed the large woman standing next to the stage in a skin-tight leopard-print dress. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I remember thinking, why didn’t she buy it in a size larger? It’s too tight, it’s putting every curve on display. Looking back now, I see how thoughtless and inappropriate it was to think that. I also see how ingrained this type of thinking is in both me and the rest of society. We idealize thinness, and when someone is not thin, we expect them to be ashamed of their body, to hide it, and to be actively working on changing it through diet or exercise regiments.
It turns out that the woman in the leopard dress was Virgie Tovar. Shortly after Hodge finished her performance, Tovar took to the stage wearing a Miss Piggy headdress. It was literally a giant muppet head. I first felt pity and cringed at what must be the comparison. Fat equals pig-like. I was so incredibly wrong. Tovar began her monologue with the muppet head on. She told us how she identifies with Miss Piggy, whose fashion is always on display, whose personality is larger than life, and whose self-worth is unquestionable and untainted by society’s version of ideal body types.
Tovar’s book is filled with many incredible stories. Kitty Stryker battles society’s tendency to think of the term “fat” as an insult. She argues that “Fat implies fruitfulness and richness. It’s succinct. It allows me to take up space, and I feel less and less like apologizing for it” (144). Jennifer Zarichnyj writes about her first fat-positive dating experience, and how through it she learned to love her body. Rachel kacenjar writes an intriguing piece on her blooming sexuality. It begins with the shame, fear, and hesitation of her first time as a fat woman, then leads to her realization that she wasn’t, “nor will [she] ever be to fat to fuck” (117).
Inspiring, perception-changing, educational, and emotional, her book forever changed the way I look at fat politics.
And next time a see a fat woman in a tight leopard dress, I’m going to recognize her for the fabulous fat woman she is.