How to support fat women in the time of Trump.

This month has been an especially taxing time to be a woman in America.

We watch coverage of the presidential race and see thin women talk about being called “not my first choice” and “Miss Piggy.” It is outrageous, and it is visceral.

A wave of shame washes over us. The memory of a stranger’s hands on our skin sends an electric charge through our legs, willing us to run. Blood rushes to our cheeks as we try to figure out where we would fit on a bleak one-to-10 scale. Would he call me a one? A zero? Would he reach back into negative numbers? Who else thinks about us, about me, in such reductive terms?


As a woman, this wondering is all too familiar. Often, it is forced upon us, a biting reminder of the simple mathematics of femininity — that appearance only and always equals worth. It impacts every woman.

Photo by Maddie McGarvey/Getty Images.

But this televised bullying frequently targets women based on their weight.

It made Miss Universe into “Miss Piggy,” one of many women singled out for gaining weight. So many women have been called fat these last few months and so few are.

Those of us who are fat know that this kind of name-calling is just the beginning. It is only the tip of the iceberg that has struck our shared ship. Fat women have seen the craggy mass beneath the surface, its sharp edges cutting us down to size every day.

It is horrifying that a man running to lead a nation would talk about women this way. But to fat women, it is not surprising.

As a fat woman, I know that Trump is only the tip of the iceberg, the most visible part of a massive monolith of attitudes toward fat people. Humiliation of fat women happens daily, publicly, hidden beneath a waterline that can only be traversed by having a body within shouting distance of acceptability.

We feel the jagged edges of that iceberg in fat jokes in movies. (Whole careers have been built on pratfalls and fat suits.) We feel its cut when strangers give unsolicited diet mandates at the grocery store or when colleagues offer gym memberships to fat co-workers.

We have become accustomed to the rush of blood in our cheeks when our bodies are so readily commented upon — by anyone, in any venue. The stomach that drops like a faulty elevator. The hollow echo of friends’ laughter at cruel fat jokes. The thudding heartbeat when a family member insists “she shouldn’t be wearing that” about another fat stranger.

Image from iStock.

The way fat women are talked about is terrible. The way we’re treated is worse.

We know the sinking feeling of "grab them by the p***y." Because some fat women have been and, upon reporting our assaults, have been met with disbelief  — who would want you? The horrifying logic of who would rape a fat woman is so ubiquitous some of us never report at all. Others of us haven’t been assaulted and somehow feel invisible in a culture that conflates groping and rape with affirmation. All kinds of women are sexually assaulted. Fat women are told we’re too disposable to be raped, even after it’s happened.

We didn’t start with a presidential candidate who felt comfortable, all on his own, to comment on women’s bodies. He has seen  —  as so many of us have  —  the aggressive, prescriptive, dismissive fate that befalls women who dare to gain weight. He’s got the backing of a whole culture that demonizes all women, yes, and fat women in particular.

The comments about starting a diet or joining a gym, the unchecked bullying, the harsh jokes and slurs hurled at fat women  —  all of that softens the ground for this kind of public abuse. It comes from all sides:  movies, politics, family, friends, workplaces, doctors. It’s only from below that we can see the enormity of that slow, massive iceberg. It’s only from close-up that we can see its razor sharp edges, only from experience that we can know how deeply it cuts.

Thin women are under immense pressure not to fall from the iceberg into the frigid waters below. For fat women, it is not a cliff to fall from, it is a boulder to be pinned under. You may not feel sure-footed  —  you may feel your feet slip from time to time, may just be breathing at the surface  —  but you are breathing. Fat women are drowning. And we’re drowning with or without a bombastic fat-shamer on television each day.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

We don’t just need you to dispose of the noisiest bully. We need you to challenge the culture that created him.

You have the key to the oxygen we need. You can chip away at the heavy, hurtful iceberg. You can interrupt others when they call fat people names or pass judgments on their health, relationships, appearance, or value. You can talk to family members who offer unsolicited advice on dieting, exercise, fashion, or health. You can stop seeing movies with actors in fat suits, stop listening to comedians who target fat people.

You can ask better of those around you. You can do better for yourself and for the women you know. Because targeting women for their weight hurts all of us.

None of us owes anyone access to the bodies we have —  to touch them, to change them, to criticize them, to cut them down to size. You don’t owe strangers, pundits, or politicians your desirability. Your body is not a debt to be paid, not a problem to solve or an albatross to carry. Your body is yours.

All you need to do is have the body you have, keep yourself safe, and build the momentum of your own goodness. Feel it whirring away inside you. Fuel its engine. Remember who you are, regardless of the body you have.

You have the extraordinary strength of character that only comes from living in a culture that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge you, much less affirm you. You have an unparalleled ability to empathize and to know just how essential empathy is. You know the difference between the abundance of love and the mirage of desire. You know that desire leaves you with less; you know how to give the kind of love that makes us all whole.

You have the extraordinary love of friends, family, and partners — many of whom are learning to love you in their actions as they love you in their hearts.

It’s going to take all of our warmth to melt this iceberg. Thankfully, all of our hearts are furnaces. Now let’s get to the hard work of firing them up.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's