You’re fat in America if we say you are – USA TODAY
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After Schumer was listed with plus-size entertainers on the cover of the magazine, she said labels are unnecessary and seem to be reserved for women.Video provided by Newsy
I was four years old they tried to test my IQ, They showed me this picture of three oranges and a pear, They asked me which one is different and does not belong, They taught me different is wrong
– Ani DiFranco, My IQ
There is an imaginary line between fat and thin. Do you think you can see it?
Glamour thought it did, and it matter-of-factly placed Amy Schumer on the fat side of the impossible divide in its special plus-size issue this month, which the comedian found distasteful. On social media, Schumer said there is nothing wrong with being plus-size, but she is not.
Except, during a punchline at her Towson University show Sunday, when she was Amy Schumer, “a very famous plus-size model.”
Schumer was both celebrated and castigated for her response to Glamour. Supporters cheered her for expressing how the label made her feel, sharing her vulnerability and asking others what they thought. Critics slammed her for making fat jokes about her own body, making money off that self-deprecation and then trying to distance herself from a plus-size label. When Schumer said she was a size 6/8, people heard her rejecting the label not on principle, but because she didn’t like where Glamour drew the line.
Did Schumer’s remarks do right by women? Or did she expose her own self-loathing? Perhaps the answers lie in the conversation she sparked about the types of bodies we see, the types of bodies we don’t, and the difficult reality of what it means to live in a larger body, where you have to spend $12.99 on a special plus-size edition to see yourself.
“I think Amy Schumer has a really valid point, which is that if Amy Schumer ends up representing plus-size women, then plus-size women become invisible,” said UCLA sociology professor Abigail Saguy and author of the book, What’s Wrong with Fat?
In America, we live and breathe and die by invented divides. I am better than you because of my race, my gender, my sexual orientation, my weight. Culture nurtures these divides, institutions reinforce them. There’s been a shift to move weight’s dividing line to include larger women. On the one hand, it’s easy to applaud a change that makes more diverse bodies visible. But when Glamour publishes a “Chic At Any Size” issue and Sports Illustrated puts plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of its Swimsuit edition, it also reveals the body-occupied, beauty-obsessed, dignity-destroying cultural machine has figured out it can widen the pool of bodies for objectification.
Thin women. Fat women. Men. Everyone’s game. (Just ask Wentworth Miller.)
Paula Atkinson, a psychotherapist who teaches a Fat Studies course at George Washington University in Washington D.C., says in a perfect world, we wouldn’t talk about people’s bodies, because we don’t know the burdens they bear.
“I have anorexic clients that are saying they are literally dying, and people are like ‘oh my god, you look so good,'” said Atkinson, who herself has been obese and anorexic. (Atkinson was in the audience during Schumer’s Towson show. She finds her humor hilarious but flawed).
Weight is part of the lie we’re told in this country about what “normal” looks like.
Fat is subjective. Sizes are ambiguous. You’re a size 6 in the summer and an 8 in the winter. You’re a 12 in jeans and a 16 in dresses. You’re a small at the Gap but a medium at Old Navy. Schumer doesn’t think she’s “plus-size.” This “plus-size” model wasn’t “plus” enough. Remind us again where the line is?
Even the medical community struggles to find it. A high BMI alone doesn’t make you obese, just as a low one isn’t necessarily a mark of health.
The size of the average American woman, according to the CDC, is 166 pounds.
“I’m probably, like, 160 pounds right now and I can catch a d**k whenever I want,” Schumer said in November during the 2015 Glamour Women of the Year Awards. “Like, that’s the truth. It’s not a problem.”
But what was a problem was that Glamour’s issue put her in the fat camp. And the fact that she appeared offended hurt a lot of fat people.
Annie Maribona and Carlee Smith, owners of Portland plus-size clothing boutique Fat Fancy, found Schumer’s response problematic.
Both women are fat activists, working to reclaim the word “fat” much the same way “queer” was — by removing the pejorative. I’m tall, I’m brown-eyed, I’m Hispanic, I’m fat.
Maribona said Schumer’s emphasis on her size sounded like she was connecting her identity to it.
“Coming from a place of a fat, queer, half-Cuban person, I think it’s hard when somebody identifies you if you’re not out,” Maribona said. “People who don’t want to identify as fat are not out about it. They’re not comfortable with their body or that word.”
Smith also sensed duplicity.
“There was a contradiction when she came out in one breath saying, ‘It’s fine to be plus size, but I don’t want to be labeled like that,’ ” Smith said. “I think this speaks to a larger issue in our society where we are taught that being fat is the worst thing you can be. In just about every facet of life in America, for women and men, we are constantly being fed this idea that the way we look is tied to our self-worth.”
Fat isn’t just a word. It’s an experience.
Marilyn Wann lives that experience. The longtime fat activist and author of the book FAT!SO? said when she was 26 years old, 250 pounds and in excellent health, she was denied health care coverage on the basis of her weight.
“If a fat woman can’t get a pap smear, what they’re really saying is just go away and die,” Wann said.
Wann praises Schumer for her weight-liberated attitude, but says her next step should be to stop investing in the fat-thin divide (which entire industries are built upon).
“Nobody is at ease around that line,” she said. “I think she did a pretty good job navigating it.”
Glamour is trying to celebrate larger women’s bodies, but it’s still part of a cultural apparatus that connects women’s worth to their appearance, rather than to their skills, talents, personalities and intellect.
America is not close to a size-agnostic utopia, and we may never be. History has shown us that while the standard of beauty has evolved, there’s always been a standard. As more women pivot boldly in the direction of a world where weight doesn’t define worth, Wann hopes the tribe understands that when larger women are liberated, women of all sizes are liberated.
“It would be incredibly awesome for thin people also,” Wann said. “I don’t think thin people would actually lose anything, other than the anxiety from attaining their unearned privilege. All those goodies you get when you’re thin would be available to everyone. You wouldn’t have to fight over them.”
Or Amy Schumer.
You’re fat in America if we say you are – USA TODAY