When it comes to being a fat woman, there are rules to this sh*t. And I wrote me a manual.
Actually I have not. But I totally should.
Anyway, just like Biggie Smalls’ Ten Crack Commandments, there are rules to govern all aspects of proper womanhood. You know, a step by step booklet to keep your game on track, and of course and hopefully, to keep your wig from getting pushed back (because the violence against women statistics are simple proof that womanhood can be just as risky as the drug game). But unlike the musical genius’ simplified assessment of the drug game, the rules are always evolving, often plentiful and barely make any sense.
Seriously, we have policing women, their thoughts and their bodies down to an exact mastery in which even the smallest detail has been combed through and micro-managed for compliancy. Take for instance the midriff.
On men, the exposed chest – no matter how robust and flabby – is a birthright of masculinity. They can be brash and unapologetic peacock around shirtless, looking like every from-the-neck-down stock footage of every “war on obesity” segment on your nightly news and most times, the act is regarded as empowering. Or amusing. Or even sexy and a sign of security and safety, just like a teddy bear. But never are they shamed into a button down or a turtle neck. It’s the privilege of conceit which enables folks like Rick Ross and Bone Crusher, with their huge and hanging tribal mitties, fat stomachs and sunken belly buttons, which often looks like a whirlpool in the ocean threatening to pull us all under, the expansive liberties to be proud of the way God – and the boxes of Entenmann’s donuts – made them.
However for womenkind, anything other than a flat stomach and six pack abs is usually deemed gross, unsightly and opposite of empowering. She doesn’t even have to be a big girl; just posses the misfortune of a round tummy and a muffin top and watch as folks verbally shame, guilt and drag her to the front steps of the nearest Weight Watchers. Therefore, it is our jobs as respectable and proper women to hide our shame and failures of femininity from the rest of the unsuspecting general public – you know, for the innocent children’s sake.
Jenny Trout writes in a piece for Huffington Post about her seemingly “brave” decision to wear a bikini, thus showing her non-sculptured midriff, without losing weight and adhering to all the concern trolling about her comfort, her health and how her mere existence glorifies obesity. After ignoring her naysayers opinions and opting to wear a two-piece “on a cold beach in Copper Harbor, Michigan,” Trout said she discovered something amazing about the experience: basically nothing really happened.
That’s right: despite all the protest and threats of public scorn, Trout showed her midriff and not a single solitary thing changed about her. More specifically, she writes:
“I’m not stupid; I know why people didn’t want to see me in a bikini. But apparently, I seem stupid to the people who tried to discourage me. I wasn’t supposed to see through their excuses, or realize that the connections they were making were flawed. Our cultural discussion of fat bodies and how we clothe them has nothing to do with health concerns, the obesity epidemic or the comfort of fat people. It has everything to do with what we expect from women, what we’ve been told by the fashion industry and the value we place on “perfect” bodies.
The reason these people do not want to see a fat body in a bikini is because traditionally, that garment is something a woman earns by proving herself attractive enough to exist. If fat women begin wearing them without shame or fear, what’s next? Will they have self-esteem? Will they demand respect? Then what will keep them in their proper place? How would conventionally attractive people judge them?
If you have time, check out the full essay as it is a really beautiful read – although I will disagree with Trout about the lack of impact her bikini-clad big body was having on others. Sometimes as a society, we tend to gloss over or even discount how much the right to view one’s self and so-called imperfections in affirming way is such a revolutionary, as well as life-changing, act.
Something happens when a person takes ownership of their own bodies, which is something I recently discovered during my own foray into fat-tummy showing. Sure, there were some glances, but nothing in their eyes or other facial expressions gave clue to how they felt about my flash of “inappropriate” skin. But quite frankly, it didn’t matter – not even if the glances were meant in the positive. For me, it just felt nice having the sun touch a part of my body, which I had long hidden away out of fear of ridicule. And because of it, I felt empowered. And I’m sure the confidence I exuded during my midriff baring act of rebellion, managed to inspire someone to – in the least – reexamine some of their long-held beliefs on how a woman should look.