I'm Making The Female "Power Paunch" Happen

You are literally unprepared for this jelly.
Publish date:
May 15, 2013
sexism, history, being fat in the world, England, mummies, bellies

Brace yourselves -- the "power paunch" is becoming a thing, if Sean Macaulay is to be believed. That’s right, dudes with guts aren’t being shamed for having them, they are being lauded. The gut is "in" for dudes. An expansive middle is no longer something a man should hide away or work off with the help of gimmicks like an electronic fatness shaking belt -- it’s a symbol of prosperity, of wealth, of mother-lovin’ status.

But wait for it -- don’t go cheer, begin chanting "vic-tor-y, vic-tor-y" and go jiggy-jogging for your second bowl of straight-up condensed milk topped with an entire living sheep. For lo, you are lady, and verily, your paunch gives no power. Your paunch is like the emblemless belly of a Care Bear.

All the other bears are screaming about blowing shit up with their intense belly-staring abilities, but you, you’re just standing there, arching your back and straining your blank, powerless belly to the heavens. Maybe you make a little noise to denote effort. “Is she -- is she pooping?” one of the man-bears asks. And then you burn Carelot to the ground.

To be absolutely fair (because this is a priority to me, lololol) Macaulay's article isn’t po-faced truthery* -- it’s meant with a sly smile. All the same, it left me feeling sad and gently stroking my baby-free but bumpin’ belly for consolation. Because while the article is funny in its way, you could never write something in its vein about women -- especially not on the Internet where you are sure to invoke the wrath of all trolldom. ("SIZES WERE DIFFERENT THEN, MARILYN WASN'T FAT, YOU CHUBBY BITCH.")

Because there isn’t a cultural tradition (not in the West, anyway) of proud successful women displaying their natural form. If anything, the female of the species is more familiar with inventing new and interesting ways to distort their lady-body shape.

Even our most famous fat women mostly concealed their fatness for fear of censure or rebuke. Take Princess Mary of Cambridge. You know, the mom to Queen Mary, wife of George V. She was a famous women in her time. Because of her morganatic marriage, the broad was the major moneymaker for her family. Her life was riddled with scandal, having married a man below her station at the "late" age of 30, incurring massive debts, and fleeing her creditors by going abroad. Bitch hung out in Venice! Eating and partying! She raised a woman who would be a Queen Consort! The first thing she did once she got her money sorted out was start supporting children’s charities!

If she had been slender, she would have been an interesting footnote in English history. But she was not slender. And thus, if you Google “Fat Mary," she is your first hit. Power paunch that, assholes. Her gut didn’t denote power, it was a mantel upon which to hang mockery.

You could say the same about someone like Egyptian lady-pharaoh Hatshepsut. She is like, the queen of queens, guys. She was a mother-fuckin’ powerhouse, all basically creating trade routes, ushering in prosperity for her people in a post-war age, she built a ton of shit, she cultivated many plants, she wore a false beard to DENOTE HER POWER. But if you Google her today, basically you get a lot of snide articles about how examinations of her mummy reveal that she was fat and losing her hair. Sure when we think of ancient Egypt we conjure up images of structures like her obelisks, but she was fat and so, tee hee!

On this very website, a well-meaning commenter responded to one of my articles insisting that I wasn't fat because I had a waist. I had to work really, really hard not to respond and insist that I be given my due. I am 5 foot two. I weigh 190 pounds. That is fat. I wish now I had responded with those words. Because maybe in so doing, and doing it over and over again, we can flip things so that people who admire us wouldn't feel like the ultimate compliment is to deny our rightful shape, like it's something bad, like a giant shared delusion is better than a reality that hurts no one, least of all me.

While it was easy for Macaulay’s ‘Power Paunch’ piece to put together a slideshow of historically paunchy powerful men, it’s a lot harder to put together art of successful fat women. I mainly got a lot of photos of Marilyn Monroe and Nigella Lawson and got distracted by their hotness. So I think it’s time I start embracing my own power paunch. The tradition can start with me.

Share your paunch proud moments with me! Tell me who your fav fat ladies in history are in the comments! Learn how to fly a helicopter! Wheeeee!

*Yes, you can use this as your band name.