Why the sexual harassment of fat people reaches a different level of offensiveness.

We were trading catcalling and harassment stories.

A group of smart, thoughtful, lively, funny women had gathered, as many women do, for a moment of catharsis and commiseration over the ways in which our bodies are taken from us, little by little, with stunning regularity.

One woman’s coworker had asked her out three times, unswayed by her declination. Another waited at a bus stop when a man, unannounced, wrapped his arms around her from behind. Gross, everyone agreed. Me too.


The stories gained momentum, building to purging crescendoes of laughter and irritation. This is how we unburden ourselves. This is how we loose tension back into the world that foisted it on us in the first place.

When asked about my own experience, I shared something about an acquaintance making a graphic pass at me months earlier.

“He kept telling me how he wanted to hold my arms down while I struggled to get free. It was gross.” I shrugged it off.

Friends’ responses sharpened. What had been lighthearted release turned to vigilance and concern. This moment, with this acquaintance, had felt routine to me. He was not the first man to tell me about a rape fantasy, and he wouldn’t be the last. I had assumed it was just a particularly unsavory version of a kind of harassment we’d all faced. Other women at the table assured me it was not.

Afterward, a friend asked why I hadn’t told anyone sooner. Just as she’d been surprised by my experience, I was surprised by her question. The answer felt so evident. Like many women before me, when I share stories of harassment, catcalling, unwelcome advances and violence, I am met with pushback.

Unlike other women, however, there is a common misconception that my body cannot be desired, because I am fat.  And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Fat people date, marry, hook up, get lonely, and get laid just like anyone else.

Yet still, we are regularly depicted on screens and pages, by media and loved ones, as undesirable and undesired. Those depictions give way to a belief that fat people are isolated, unloved, desperate, voracious. Grateful for what little attention we get and forever longing for more of it.

So when we are harassed, catcalled, and assaulted, I’ve noticed that those moments are supercharged with entitlement and violence. Those who harass us are emboldened by the belief that we’ll be flattered, relieved, or honored by the attention. Their expectations have been skewed by a culture that tells them to indulge in any impulse, disregarding any want that is not their own. A culture that tells them they are entitled to nearly any body they claim. A culture that tells them so many of our bodies are disposable, accessible, and theirs for the taking. A culture that tells them fat girls are easy — they want you more than you want them.

And when we don’t, they lash out.

A man asked me out years ago. I declined gently, in the way that so many of us do — a survival skill to avoid violence. My heart raced, straining against my ribcage as I gingerly chose my words. "You’re so sweet. I’d love to. I can’t."

Still, he became agitated, asking why. I told him I was queer. I didn’t want any part of him or the picture he painted me into. Still, my rabbit heart wouldn’t stop thumping. Still, it stung. Still, I cried.

Image via iStock.

It felt so familiar. As a fat woman, the messages I receive about sexual harassment are cruel and constant.

Be grateful for the attention you get. Even if it’s violent. Even if you don’t want it. Did that person really want to rape you? Really, you? Because we still think of sexual assault as being driven by desire. And who would want such a wretched body? Of course it gets violent. Of course we don’t tell anyone.

Recently, a friend told me over cocktails about the umpteenth time a man made an unwanted pass at her. "I’m so over it," she said. "I get it, you’re into me, move on." I related to her irritation — like her, I have felt the frustration of so many strangers’ entitlement to my body. As women, it seems that our bodies are always public property, there to be grabbed, judged, claimed, conquered. Her frustration I understood — I feel it too. But her boredom and disgust stung.

Her body is held up so often as an ideal. Her skin is the shape of desire. When strangers and acquaintances see that silhouette, they approach her, almost reflexively. She constantly spends time, energy, and effort making sure she can stay safe. She does not know when a spurned stranger will turn violent.

She longs for a day uninterrupted by a stranger’s assessment of her body. So do I.

But where she is sought after with lust and attraction, I am expected as a convenience, readily available. I have shirked my responsibility to have a desirable body, so I am an easy mark. The men who approach me believe I will not resist, and I will not report. I will not be afforded the thin, flimsy veil of courtship. They will speak to me of violent desires, the darkest corners of their intentions.

After all, who would want to rape a fat woman?

My friend has become exhausted with the value of her body. I am terrified with the debt of mine.

Harassment of fat people is so much more than sexual and deeply different from the harassment faced by thinner people.

Strangers on the street regularly approach me to tell me that I’m fat and how not to be. Sometimes, they tell me that I wouldn’t be fat if I were a better person. Some shout that I shouldn’t show my face in public. Others rage at having to see me at all.

The message is clear: Whoever you are, my fat body is more yours than mine. Fat bodies are always someone else’s property, open to prescription, lecturing, anger, pity.

Street harassment, catcalling, and sexual harassment don’t impact just one kind of body, though.

Street harassment happens when a stranger makes a pass a fat person then laughs derisively. It happens when trans people are asked what’s in their pants. It happens when people of color are told to "go back to" another country, regardless of where they were born. It happens when women in headscarves are accused of terrorism.  

To dig up the roots of this violence, we can’t just listen to the stories that sound like our own. We have to stretch beyond our own experiences and listen to the stories that are unfamiliar to us. Our safety depends on it.

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The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

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Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

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Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.