These Shirts Aren't For Skinny Bitches

The way folks talk, you'd think fat people and skinny people are locked in a battle to the death over the acceptability of bodies and that, Highlander style, in the end there can be only one.

Jan 31, 2013 at 10:30am | Leave a comment

Rebel Wilson has become a lot of people's perfect fat icon. She's blonde and pretty and outspoken about body issues -- and she's really, really snarky. My own familiarity with her only goes so far as the Bridesmaids gif sets I've seen on Tumblr (bless you, Tumblr, you're so much better than actually going to the movies).

When I found out she was making T-shirts, I was really curious to click over and see what she was offering. I found T-shirts with cupcakes and doughnuts where the boobs would be -- but I also found what has become a really troubling phrase to me as a fat acceptance activist: Not For Skinny Bitches.

On the one hand, I will be among the first to tell you that "skinny shaming" is not a thing the way fat hate is. Thin women, talk to me when it is society's goal to eradicate your body, OK? I say this not to excuse the body shame that gets tossed your way but to point out that it is different and that's OK -- we can address both because body policing is crap no matter who it is directed at.

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Actually, anyone is allowed to enjoy (or not enjoy) doughnuts. 

And there we have the other hand -- which is that, man, this shit does not actually do anything to bust the ever-narrowing beauty paradigm. The goal of fat acceptance is not to say that thin bodies are bad because that is basic bullshit. The goal is for our culture to understand that bodies are all different -- and are all worthy of respect.

The "skinny bitches" thing is pretty common when you talk to fat people, mostly fat women, who are developing both a better relationship with their own body and a red hot sense of rage over how they've been treated, both in their personal lives and in the media. There's a lot of anger there, and I do believe that anger is justified. 

Here is a very personal example: I was a fat kid and I have grown into a fat adult. Because of my experiences, I am nervous around groups of teenaged white boys (the worst of my harassers) and thin, conventionally pretty white women (the other worst of my harassers). I am wary of people who fall into these categories because I've suffered a lot of judgment and abuse at the hands of people like these. 

And I'm allowed to be angry and mistrustful. I know this has come up in some articles recently -- a lot of folks have been making the tone argument (calling out how something is said rather than listening to what is said). What often gets ignored when people are feeling defensive is, I think, a pretty simple concept: people who get shit on are angry at having other people's shit all over them.

But my anger does not supercede my desire to create a world in which bodies are not public property. I absolutely get to have my anger and I get to have my fat acceptance, but I hesitate to explicitly combine them into a political stance; rage-chocolate and activism-peanut-butter do not always taste great together.

Let me be perfectly blunt. I'm not actually concerned with how this kind of tagline will make thin women feel. I mean, I AM sorry that people will feel insulted and excluded because I have an infinite capacity for feeling overly responsible for the emotional well-being of other people.  

But because people's anger is valid, I don't even want to play around with telling them how they're allowed to express that anger. No one is required to think all thin people are awesome, in large part because experience has taught many of us otherwise. I care about thin people as individuals but maintaining their comfort is not always my top priority.

What concerns me is that this sentiment pulls fat acceptance back down to the level of a playground battle royale. The way folks talk, you'd think fat people and skinny people are locked in a fight to the death over the acceptability of bodies and that, Highlander style, in the end there can be only one acceptable body type.

It's the ultimate derail of fat acceptance. 

I don't need to make you feel bad about your body in order to feel good about mine. Any sense of self-worth dependent on putting someone else down is a sense of self-worth based on perpetuating oppression. On the individual level, people are in a lot of different places and they do what they need to do and what they can do -- but on a systemic level? I think we shortchange the entire radical philosophy of fat acceptance when we denigrate other bodies. Other people's bodies are just fucking fine the way they are, too.

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I have taken a lot of shit from a lot of thin people about my body. That makes them shitheads but it doesn't make their bodies unacceptable.

I shall continue with my personal example and, in fact, make it even more specific. When Annie K started writing for xoJane, I was nervous about interacting with her. She looks a lot like the girls and women who have bullied me my whole life. I was braced, during our brief interactions, for her to say something, anything.

That's about me and my history way more than it is about Annie; that's what trauma does to us, after all. But Annie was (and is) consistently awesome in conversation and has never put down anyone's body where I've seen it. This does not happen with everyone I meet so it's a big deal. And now I think she's fan-fucking-tastic.

So, there you go. Sometimes the things we're afraid of just don't come to pass. Which is good. (Olivia also totally made me nervous because she's that kind of cool. She is also an amazing person. So maybe it's just the xoJane magic of not hiring body assholes.)

Here's some delicious, delicious irony for you. Those T-shirts that aren't for skinny bitches? They start at a size 12. But the size range stops at a size 18. So those shirts aren't for Annie -- but they aren't for me either, apparently. And I just don't have time for that limited a concept of fat acceptance or body acceptance in general.

Instead of a doughnut T-shirt, maybe I will buy some actual doughnuts. They can be for every body.