The Other F Word: Why Are We Still Uncomfortable With The Word "Fat"?

When I wrote about Gabi Gregg’s capsule collection for swimsuitsforall just a couple weeks ago, I honestly was not expecting the level of ire that came with using the term “Fatkini,” a term coined by Gregg herself.
You see, I’m fat. You can call me plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, or full-figured, and they’re all accurate descriptions of my body shape. And so is fat. That word once had a huge negative connotation behind it to me, and I’ve shed tears over being called “fat,” so I can understand the anguish that can come with such a tiny word. But I have embraced my body, my weight, my size. I’m active and I eat a plant-based diet; I know I’m healthy, and no amount of pounds is going to tell me otherwise. This is my body, and I accept it as such. So, I no longer view “fat” as an insult — to me, it’s become more of a descriptor word (like skinny, tall, short), and nothing more. But not everyone views “fat” the same way.
The most vocal of our readers jumped to the attack, or the defense, on Refinery29's Facebook page. With comments running the gamut from, “That is the most horrible thing you could have said,” to, “My fat ass will look fabulous in one of those bikinis,” it was clear that “fat” can bring up some heavy feelings.
While the body-acceptance movement has encouraged us to embrace the word fat, the feelings within the plus-size community are still mixed. There are those who accept the word at face value, like blogger Gabi Gregg and Cult of California designer, Jen Wilder. “I learned about women reclaiming the word eight years ago and haven't looked back since — it changed my life,” Gregg explained. “Realizing that I could be simultaneously happy, beautiful, AND fat was definitely a turning point in my life. I still strive for health, but I realize that my health is between me and my doctors, not strangers on the Internet or on the street, and it isn't determined by a specific size.” Cult of California designer Jen Wilder shares Gregg’s sentiments. “It’s true I am FAT. I cannot deny that. But I am NOT any of the things you are really calling me, which are stupid, lazy, slow, outcast, etc. It's not the word; it's what they MEAN when they say it!”
But not everyone is eager to start calling themselves fat. “The word ‘fat’ has negative connotations, and is never used to compliment. I prefer being called curvy, full-figured, or plus-sized,” explained plus-size model Katherine Roll. “Plus means ‘in addition to’ and therefore, simply defines my size as additional sexiness added to the straight-sized woman!” Aimee Cheshire, founder and CEO of Madison Plus Select, can see both sides of the spectrum. “I personally do not use the word 'fat,' not on or in my personal life. I have too many sad memories associated with the word. I do appreciate that the plus-size blogger community wants to reclaim the word back, and more power to them. While I understand why, and I truly love what they are doing, it just won’t find a place in my vocabulary. I have too many other battles to fight.”
In a society where we’re striving for body acceptance, is supporting “fat” a step in the right direction? Whether you’re embracing the word, appalled by its usage, view it just as a descriptor, or feel altogether something else about it, we want to know. What does fat mean to you?
Photo: Courtesy of Lydia Hudgens

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