I am not a small person – although I am short, I am also quite round. As an Asian American woman, I am expected to be small and thin and quiet and diminutive and submissive. I am none of these things. Yet this expectation is still thrust upon me – and this expectation is not only from the dominant culture – it also comes from the Asian American community. Yet, we know that all people, including Asians and Asian Americans come in all sizes and to discriminate and disparage people who are not the mythic “right size” is an equity issue.
Now people will say it’s a health issue – as a fat person, it is assumed that I am unhealthy. However, it is also the case that heavy people can also be fit. And how is it that my health issues are the business of others, even strangers, and not a private issue between me and my health providers? When someone sits in the sun and tans, they do not generally get disparaged despite the health risks associated with tanning. Why is it okay to do it with heavy people? In addition, how is it acceptable to judge and comment upon other’s appearance ever? Especially, when you don’t know them or their story – you don’t know what another is dealing with unless you walk in their shoes.
Yet, it is still okay to make fat jokes and to comment on people’s physical appearance – including their weight. Yet, for what purpose? Do people really think fat people don’t realize that they don’t fit into the mythic norm when it comes to size? If the point is to be mean, people should check their judgment and moral compass. In addition, as a fat person, I am acutely aware that I don’t fit the standards of beauty in either the dominant culture or AA culture. All the images and messages about beauty reinforce that to be beautiful (and happy) you need to be thin.
However, beauty is subjective and in the eye of the beholder. In addition, what is considered beautiful changes over time and across cultures. Happiness is not inherent to thinness, neither is despair inherent to fatness. In fact, what drives the unhappiness around size is the judgement and discrimination of others and the tyranny of thinness that this culture promotes. What if we let people of all sizes live without judgement? What if we were kind and compassionate toward everyone regardless of size or other attributes? What if we just didn’t judge?
I know when I participate in the Asian Women For Health’s fashion show that there will be the haters who judge me based on my size. They cannot see beyond their assumptions and stereotypes of “fat people.” The truth is that I don’t have to let them ruin my parade. I don’t have to accept their messages or opinions of me. I can accept myself at whatever size I am. I can embrace my authentic self, all of myself – which is an act of revolution in and of itself – especially for women of size and especially for women of color. As women of color, we need to support other women of color and speak up about sizeism when we see it regardless of our size. We need to understand that sizeism – external and internalized – is part of how we are controlled as women. And if we care about equity, we need to attend to the intersectional ways oppressions present, including sizeism. We need to speak up and fight oppression in all its forms.