Photo courtesy of the author.
“I’ll never understand how someone as beautiful as you can fuss so much in front of the mirror.”
This is something my husband has said on many occasions, and while it can be annoying when I am trying to get a last-minute fuss on before running out the door, it’s also utterly heart-warming and uplifting. This man loves and accepts me as is, crooked eyeliner wings and all. He affirms me on many plains, including my body. This is what a partner does. This is what friends do. The script of a true ally, however, is a bit different.
Don’t get me wrong. When a male model proclaims his love for plus-size bodies or a hot guy with an accent tells me I can wear anything I want because I’m fabulous, the blush is real. My immediate, pre-programmed emotional response is, “OMG someone with more sexual capital than me thinks I’m cute and not an actual leper.” This right here is the product of experiencing a lifetime of fatphobia. I will never not have this response. But it doesn’t mean I appreciate any man’s two cents about my body or the way in which he delivers that message — publicly, with a hint of cookie-hunting desperation.
Many people struggle with finding ways to demonstrate their solidarity with marginalized people, like plus-size women, in a non-problematic way. The reason for this is simple.
True allyship is often done behind the scenes.
Making space and standing up for marginalized people usually will not give you, the ally, much visibility. And that’s the point. When these curvy-girl proselytizers use our pain as a platform for their own visibility, the message becomes moot, and the intentions become suspect. Most importantly, I want these men to think carefully about who they should be talking to in the first place. Is it me or is it my oppressors?
Dudes, let’s get this straight — you’re not telling us anything we don't know.
We know we have it going on. More and more of us are waking up to the realization that we can do what we want, wear what we want, and live life unapologetically, #fatandfree. Fat women have been doing the heavy lifting (pun intended) of empowering each other without your help for quite some time. Furthermore, we know you love us. Many of you straight-size men have been in our beds. Some have been proud, visible partners. Some have been undercover lovers. The only difference between the two is their subscription to fatphobia, not their desire for us. That’s something we’ve always known, too.
Who you would-be allies need to be talking to is literally everyone else but us — your friends, your families, your co-workers, anyone who others or belittles fat people whether overtly or subconsciously.
And what you need to be saying, in no uncertain terms, is fuck fatphobia. Not sure how? Take a look at what these straight-size men, some of them partners of plus-size women, have to say about the oppression fat women face regularly.
Nick Holliday on his wife, model Tess Holliday:
“The politicising of someone else's body without their consent is disgusting to me. My partner’s body isn't symbolic of laziness, or disease or gluttony. She's a person, whose body has carried her through and tells the story of 11,000 odd days on this planet. She has opinions and dreams and goals, and her value isn't tied to how many of those are focused on weight loss.”
Dalton Sanchez on the Nike plus-size line backlash:
“Tell fat folks to exercise. Get pissed when exercise industry markets to fat folks. Sounds like haters need to acknowledge they just want someone to hate.”
Adam Kalar on what he would scream at a fat shamer:
"What in the entire fuck is wrong with you? Get the fuck out of here and go mind your own god damned business."
My husband, Mark, with some questions of his own:
"Why do you care so much about how some random woman looks? Her appearance has nothing to do with you. It's fucked up when men just can't be neutral about a woman's appearance. They either have to be attracted or disgusted? That's bullshit."
Anger, questions, call-outs. This is how you ally.
This is how you empower women of size in a way we desperately need. To the cookie hunters, thank you for attempting to validate our bodies through the male gaze. That’s sweet. But if you really love plus-size women, if you really think we should be able to live free and without judgment, save the love note and share that message with the rest of the class.