Pop-Culture | Posted by Danielle B on 07/20/2010

“Phat” Girl in a Skinny World

When you’re the only fat girl in your 2nd grade class, kids can be pretty mercilous. As someone who’s been overweight their entire life I’ve heard every joke and jab imaginable: ugly, fat-ass, puffer fish, ugly fat-ass puffer fish. And even when some of the other kids would try to make me feel better, sometimes saying I was just “big-boned,” that never did any good because I still knew 99% of the kids in my class – probably my school – were looking at me and seeing “the fat girl.” Not Danielle. Not me.

I don’t think people realize how hard it is to grow up fat. There seems to be this underlying hostility towards overweight people, and in many cases, it’s worse against overweight girls. After all, I’m supposed to be skinny, toned, and tan; not flabby, soft, and pale. My hair is supposed to be shiny and long; not quirky and short. My chest is supposed to be big, my waist small, my skin smooth and blemish free, my eyebrows perfectly plucked . . .

Heck, if beauty truly is what we see in the magazines, I’ve failed epically.

It’s taken me a long time to be okay with who I am. Maybe you wouldn’t even call it “okay.” I mean, it’s not like I look in the mirror and say “I love you, arm flab!” But I’ve realized a few things in my time as an “all-knowing teenager”:

1. People who call you names are hurting inside. When you’re happy with yourself, and your life, you don’t have to gain confidence by putting others down.

2. True friends don’t care what size you are. True friends love you for being nice, funny, smart, fearless – not because of your size, race, or anything else.

3. Don’t give a [frick] about what you’re supposed to look like. The media that tells women they need to be impossibly skinny is the same media that tells us we can’t have pores (just look at any make-up ad ever). If we spent as much time doing the things we love as we do hating our bodies, we’d all be a lot happier!

4. People don’t care about you. Wait, don’t take that the wrong way! We’re always obsessing about our tiniest flaws – the way our shirt doesn’t match our shoes, or that we’re having a bad hair day – and we’re convinced that everybody in the world is staring at us. But the truth is, they’ve got their own lives and their own problems. People aren’t sitting there obsessing about your bad hair day, so neither should you!

5. “If something doesn’t matter in five years, don’t worry about it.” I don’t remember where I heard that, or if I just made it up myself, but it’s helped me in too many situations to count. So when you spill that ketchup down the front of your shirt, the world is not going to end. It isn’t going to matter in five years, so laugh and shrug it off.

I’m a lot different than I was in elementary school, even middle school. I’m not a wallflower. I speak my mind. I don’t put myself down. I try not to care what people think about me. I respect myself. I surround myself with people who really care about me, and work hard to be a good student, citizen, sister, daughter . . . you catch my drift. In other words, I’m proud to be me! It just sucks it’s taken me a decade to realize it.

On a slightly different note, all this got me thinking about the portrayal of overweight women in the media.

Are there overweight women in the media?

As Laura Frasier stated in her article Fear of Fat: “On television, for the most part, fat people are as invisible as in fashion magazines. When fat people show up on TV, they aren’t usually serious people, but are either comics (the jolly fat person) or pathetic talkshow creatures whose lives are miserable because they can’t lose weight.”

That is so true! When overweight people (i.e. women) show up in TV shows they always have to be the subject of some moral. If they’re not, like Frasier stated, for comic relief or to remind us how difficult dieting is, they’re there to teach us to “love and accept ourselves.” Sheesh, can’t there be a plus-size woman in popular culture that’s taken seriously, with absolutely no mention to her weight? Or is that an impossible dream?

Food for thought (ha!): Have you seen the new show Huge on ABC Family, and if so, what did you think? Is the show going to shed some much-needed light on the struggles overweight teens face, or is it going to do more harm than good?

 

Danielle blogs about this and other teen feminist issues at her own blog, Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist.

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  • The Raisin Girl @ at 12:53 pm, July 20th, 2010

    I, too, grew up heavier than the majority of the girls in my grade. I got made fun of up until about sixth grade. I distinctly remember a guy named Harrison yelling across the school parking lot, “Hey, you’re pretty! Yeah, pretty ugly!”

    I also remember a boy telling me he might have dated me if I weren’t so fat.

    The thing is, I look back at pictures of myself. Not only was I NOT fat, I was actually pretty cute. I don’t know what their problem was.

    That aside, I think you’re wrong about something. People do not always make fun of others because they’re hurting inside. I think that gives too much pardon and excuse to many of those people. More often than not, I think the people who make fun of others just don’t have thoughts going deep enough for them to realize that it’s wrong. They do it because they view others as inferior to them in some way. They do it automatically, and for fun.

  • Danielle @ at 1:19 pm, July 20th, 2010

    I suppose that’s true. I guess I give people too much credit, assuming they’re deep (and intelligent) enough to know what they’re doing/saying is WRONG. But I guess you’re right: there must be people out there who truly DON’T understand how their actions affect others.

    It’s just hard to believe, you know? To people like us, empathy and compassion are common sense :/

  • Sarah @ at 3:09 pm, July 20th, 2010

    I am 5’1″ and 152 lbs. And you know what, I get a lot of shit for it. I get called fat, ugly, you name it, I’ve been called it. But when I look at pictures of myself, I see beautiful blue eyes, cute freckles all over my face, and great, soft, full lips. I see a pretty girl. And my friends and family see that too. So I’m okay with what people say to me, because I know that I look pretty damn hot. Even if you can’t see my rib cage, or shoulder blades, or spine.

  • Stephanie @ at 4:04 pm, July 20th, 2010

    One thing you spoke to was the media images of girls and women. And you’re right: this is a huge problem because it sends the message to girls and women that we are just not good enough the way we look now – we can always be skinnier, tanner, or more whatever.

    Well Girl Scouts is encouraging healthier media images of girls and women – for the benefit of all youth – by supporting the Healthy Media for Youth Act, H.R. 4925.

    This bill would create a grant program for media literacy programs, facilitate research on the health effects of negative media images, and set up a taskforce to create voluntary standards for more girl positive media.

    If you want to encourage your Member of Congress to co-sponsor this important bill, visit http://www.girlscouts4girls.org. Girl Scouts has drafted a sample email you can customize! Its so easy – but SO important!

  • Lisa @ at 5:42 pm, July 20th, 2010

    I honestly think that Huge won’t be anything special. It seems like another silly drama only the people in it weigh over 120 pounds. But that’s the impression I get from most shows such as Secret Life, maybe it’s just me.

  • GlenCoco @ at 9:27 pm, July 20th, 2010

    Great article. I’ve never been overweight, but my body has never fit the ideal, either, and I got a lot of shit for that in school.

    I love Huge, and I think it’s great that it’s bringing the perspective that it’s okay to be overweight (and that overweight people often diet, and exercise, and have eating disorders, etc) to a mainstream audience. I don’t have high hopes for it, though, since its official website is filled with diet tips.

  • Allison @ at 12:43 am, July 21st, 2010

    If Huge anything like the book, then no way will it shed light to issues.I read this review on Amazon:

    “This book, called Huge, is about two overweight girls, Wil and April that go to “fat camp,” officially named Wellness Canyon. Wil blatantly does not want to lose weight, and decides she would rather gain weight. April, on the other hand, is very much into losing weight and the fact that she weighs over 200 lbs. does not bother or deter her at all.
    I would like to mention how shallow and dull the characters are. Wil’s parents are hotel entrepreneurs and Wil has a personal weight trainer. Wil is also overweight. She takes the attempt to lose weight for granted and she thinks it’s a plot to harm her. She does not want to follow the plan, and when she is forcibly sent to Wellness Canyon, she vows she will come back gaining weight. In reality, no fat girl wants to gain weight. Wil is a shallow, un-developed character.
    I could not stand the character April. She was not even depressed about weighing 205. In fact, she was happy about it throughout and her problem solving skills were nonexistent. All she did was complain about how she hated Wil’s attitude.

    The lexicon in this book is extremely simple. I can almost imagine the writer of this book being a child at most. I was extremely frustrated that the wording was so awkward and was unable to convey real feelings.
    This book does not follow real life situations. In such a camp, in reality, there would be bulimics and people with food issues. The only problem these girls have is being overweight. And, no one, no girl is the least bit upset about it. It might as well take place in a more realistic setting, say a school, if the unique antics of a fat camp are not correctly applied.

    Also, the author’s attempt to create stereotypical school cliques in a fat camp have disastrously failed. Paley attempts to create the pretty blond skinny girls in a fat camp by dubbing them “Barely Chubbies” (This is extremely childish wordplay for an adult author, and keep in mind, they are in fat camp). She also adds two obese boys to the mix, who are described to, “weigh several hundred pounds,” and yet are still handsomely attractive with, “light brown hair…striking blue eyes, and long dark lashes….more muscle-y than chubby.” Here she a trying, but failing to create the hot boys that the hot girls go after. The most pathetic thing is that there is a feeble romance between these two cliques.

    She also tries to make the “followers” which is equivalent to the group of people that believe and follow whatever the popular people say. They follow the pops like, “a trail of little ducklings.”
    There’s even a scene where Paley tries her hand at drama, by creating a situation where April has to do sit-ups and doing a meager six sit-ups caused a,” symphony of pain in [April's] neck, stomach, back and arms joined together to form a concert of pain.” Then she goes on to describe how vivid the sky and grass are, like a dying man seeing the world for the first time. ”

    http://www.amazon.com/Huge-Sasha-Paley/dp/1416935177

  • Roni @ at 3:53 am, July 21st, 2010

    Great advice. I especially love number 5. I tell myself that all the time, but usually I find that it won’t even matter in a few months, or maybe even a couple of weeks. People tend to forget things pretty quickly, and after a while I stop thinking about it, too. After all, life’s too short to worry about it right?

  • scary joann @ at 11:44 am, July 21st, 2010

    I was about twenty to fifty pounds heavier than the girls I hung out with and didn’t mind it until my mom put my sister and I on the Atkins diet with her. I lost weight and it just sort of stayed off overall when I got a little older. For me it was easy to brush off fat comments and steel myself against my moms expectations. But I’m a sarcastic monster. Not so for my sister, who’s softspoken and extremely agreeable.
    For my younger sister, now going into her senior year, it’s harder. She consumes reality shows, teen drama, and Seventeen. I once found diet pills in her closet, I went to my mom about it and found out she had given them to her. She’s not overweight, she’s size twelve and curvy and adorable. She’s active, she’s smart, and she hates her body. I’m glad Huge is on and hope she takes a look. She even resembles the blond girl on it quite a bit and acts a little like her. It would be nice just for her to conceptualize herself as being BETTER the way she is now than trying to shrink down to her willow-esque friends weights. If not for her curves she would have nothing to shake all epic style and stun the visiting African elder when he randomly started asking students to get up and dance to drum rhythm. :)

  • Kelpie @ at 10:49 pm, July 21st, 2010

    I didn’t grow up big or “fat” per se, but in the last two years I have put on about thirty pounds for various reasons and it is amazing the difference in how I am treated. Technically, I am not even overweight, but I can tell that it changes how people view me to be a size 12. I used to hate my body for gaining weight, for not being able to lose it no matter what I seemed to do, but lately I have started loving my body for working at all, and have started to see the beautiful aspects.

  • Mädchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » HIV, Sexarbeit, inhaftierte Schwangere, social media, Verschleierung, Gaza, die Maus, Körper und Punk @ at 4:08 am, July 22nd, 2010

    [...] Auf TheF-Bomb schreibt Danielle über ihre Erfahrungen als “’Phat’ Girl in a Skinny World“. [...]

  • Stephanie @ at 9:18 pm, July 23rd, 2010

    I loved this article and related to it but in a different way. You see, I grew up (still growing up) as the skinniest kid in my class. But while the article is about a majorly different body type I related to the name calling. I remember once going home crying because these two girls were teasing me relentlessly about how my sweater was so loose on me. I also remember the countless times I’ve heard “eat a burger for Christ’s sake” or having to explain to people that it’s my metabolism not an eating disorder at work.
    Also, I’d like to point out “1. People who call you names are hurting inside.”
    I believe mob mentality has quite a bit to do with it. People in highschool naturally want to fit in (always with a few exceptions). Therefore when a few kids make fun of someone, other kids instinctively join in.
    It sounds cynical now that I’ve actually written it xD

  • Samuel W. @ at 9:33 am, August 11th, 2010

    It’s a cycle of brainwashing initiated long ago by the asshole elite (by which I mean greedy cosmetics companies, domineering yet simultaneously yahoo politicians and the societal higher-ups in this country); the people putting down fat people are convinced that everybody should look one way or another according to what the media regurgitates repeatedly every day. Likewise their targets feel that this criticism is all right and true, when in reality it’s coming from what is nothing more than a standard set in order to increase profits and make women obsess over detail like never before in order to match this impossible ideal.

  • Rabbit @ at 4:32 pm, September 16th, 2010

    I’m late to this discussion, but wanted to leave a brief note. I think that the term “fat” is used as an insult to all women, whether true or not. When I was in elementary school, I was pretty much the same size as everyone else in my class. For some reason (I think it might have been that I read too many books, but there is no way to be sure) I was the scapegoat of the class.

    The two who picked on me the most were the two fattest boys in my class. They called me fat, they called me ugly, they told everyone I was pregnant with another boy’s child (in fifth grade!) and many other things.

    Now, I’m 22 years old and I STILL think about the things they said to me when I was young and impressionable… and at 115lbs I still see an ugly, fat monster in the mirror every morning.

    People say kids will be kids, but that pain never goes away.

  • Help? @ at 7:40 pm, September 18th, 2010

    When I was born, I weighed a little over ten pounds, which was way over the norm of six to eight pounds. I grew up chubby — not fat, but just chubby. I didn’t really mind until I entered grade seven, where, in a new setting, I saw that all of the girls my age weighed less than 110 pounds at the age of twelve or thirteen. I was ten pound heavier than the majority of the girls in my class. Now I’m in grade nine, after an entire summer of exercising, body flex, and healthy eating, I went from a size nine to a size seven (size five in certain places), 136 pounds, and 5’5 — perfectly healthy for a girl of 14, completed with curves; but guess what? My friends didn’t really care, because I was still the biggest of them all, and everyday I feel so horrible because they’re so much skinnier than I am, even though I’m the tallest, and I’m always jealous of the skinny legs everyone else has; boys in my class talk to the skinnier girls more, and it’s actually almost obvious that all of my friends are glad that I’m bigger than them. Even in a supportive environment, people are very judgmental in their hearts; I’m still struggling with my weight, and my parents aren’t helping. My parents want me to be pretty and skinny and when I’m upset over how much I weigh, they always blame me and say that I eat too much, that I don’t exercise enough, and blame each other for letting me eat so much. I lack gag reflex, so I can’t throw up even if I wanted to (and believe me, I’ve tried). I really, really don’t know what to do — in another environment, I’d probably feel better, because my friends outside my school are the same size as me and when we go out we are checked out all the time, and I feel great; but with friends at my school I just really feel that my self-esteem can’t take so much comparison.

  • Taylor S. @ at 7:02 pm, January 21st, 2011

    Help?-

    I don’t know if you will ever read this, but you sound like a wonderful person, albeit one that knows pain.

    If your “friends” are making you feel like this, you may need to find new people to surround yourself with.

    You don’t deserve to be treated like that.

    You’re beautiful. <3

  • Marija @ at 12:37 pm, January 23rd, 2011

    I remember going on a summer vacation with a group of kids when I was 8, or 9. There was a boy who was much taller, but also wider than other boys. As if that wasn’t enough, he was on a feminine side. You can only imagine what the boys did to him. The girls would just stand and watch, without saying a thing. I was one of them. But I remember that boys face, and I will never foget it!
    I remember thinking- how can they hurt another person like that? How can they make someone suffer deliberately? And, more importantly, WHY?
    I will never understand that cruelty in children… Do grownups have it too? Maybe with time we just learn to act “civilized”. Well, at least, some of us!

  • Cherry @ at 3:48 pm, May 6th, 2011

    Sookie from Gilmore Girls is the only fat person I can think of where the show ignored her size. the only time she ever said anything about feeling huge was when she was pregnant with twins.

  • Catelyn @ at 9:53 pm, June 8th, 2011

    I know a girl that is mean because she is hurting inside. She has a low self-esteem, so to make up for it she puts others down.

  • Wain @ at 7:07 am, March 10th, 2013

    I have dated all shapes of woman but the warmest ever have always been the above average ladies. Beyond my wildest dreams…………

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