Edited By: Kavya Mittal
Trigger Warning: Body Image
French philosopher, Rene Descartes, in his essay Discourse on Method said – “I think therefore I am.” In my humble opinion, that is absolute rubbish. His statement has been extrapolated to mean that looks do not matter and that the mind, besides being obviously superior, is also what makes us us. The problem with that understanding is that it misrepresents Descartes’ work by glossing over the duality he causes in the mind and the body – immediately demeaning it by placing it under the mind. My fatness is something I cannot hide. There is no bandage that can cover up the space I take. As the biggest kid in class pre-puberty to the fattest one post it, my weight, my appearance and the fat I carry has been a shared burden carried by everyone around me. I have also had the curse of being grossly unathletic and uncoordinated – I have forever been the kid who falls on her face or gets hit with the ball. However much I wanted to stay home and read or draw, my body needed shedding and I have never not been reminded of that.
The problem with how fatness is approached is that you look at it through a lens of dehumanisation. In the process of reminding a fat person of the space they take – their autonomy is stripped off. To keep in check my square footage on this globe, who I am becomes insignificant. I am just fat and the fat is all of me. Fat is not a thing that has happened to me, it is quite literally a part of my body. The resonance of hate and disgust that is sometimes masked as concern and sometimes not, has taught me that taking space is not okay. The argument here is not that everyone must find me attractive – it is that the conventions of beauty and you cannot dictate how much worth is deemed to me and my body.
Girls have to be delicate and slender – that is what we are taught. We are not to be seen or heard and if ever seen, then in the same body that pleases society. That is also how we are represented, as vestiges of the male gaze – its fantasy and its construction. My body’s construction fails to meet this gaze and so it is punished for the same. Besides the obvious issues of abysmal representation and the issue of euphemising big bodies as ‘curvy,’ the constant policing of bodies is shameful. The idea that curves are the attractive circles of the body and bulges the unattractive circles of the body – delineates how the idea of the body is considered solely through the sight. The body is a physical entity that performs many functions. The body is functional – my body is functional. How appealing it looks is a fringe issue. When actresses and models who have villages engaged in maintaining their height and body composition, are hailed as ideal forms of inhabiting a physical form – the joke is on everyone.
I am not here to educate you on the issue of throwing someone’s BMI in their face, or the flaws in labelling someone overweight and obese with the flick of an eye. I am not here to be vulnerable either – there is not much vulnerability left in your body when it has been consumed by the world around you. Do that research on your own, and if you care about people’s health, speak to them – we do not need education over the body that houses us. The judgement of my well being is in no way (nor will it ever be) related to my double chin or my chubby wrists or the fact that uncle jis have stared at my chest for years. Somehow, the discomfort that is caused in a public space when people who believe they are completely entitled to pick into and pull apart my presence, is also my responsibility.
The miseducation of fat people over their bodies is disgustingly prevalent. From aunties with all the time in the world to questionably qualified homeopathic uncles who look you in the eye and tell you that your early death is certain due to flabby arms, to being told that you may never be loved or dated because of your big body is grossly unattractive – we’ve heard it all. The avenues of movement are villainised and distanced from us – they are hostile. Eighteen months ago, people slammed Nike for making leggings and bras for big bodies. There were op-eds and crying testimonials of western moms who said they did not want such a prominent brand to promote obesity. That did not do much harm to the brand – people bought them because the human body is 7.6 billion times unique. However, we were watching as our bodies were mocked and othered as slabs of meat detached from a soul or a mind. This is also why I curse Descartes. The appearance of a fat body is enough for people to gauge a person’s intellectual capacity, their work ethic and their propensity to perform well.
Despite the placationary wave, there is no subtle way to explain to people how it feels to inhabit a body that is treated as not human. There is no politically correct, appropriate way to elucidate how much trauma these bodies carry in the public, how their innate state of being is weathered down. The distillation of me into my body and the exclusion of me from the discourse around my body are not issues that can be solved by self love. One cannot ‘outlove’ a system of institutional inequality. There is no room here for adjustment – ironically a statement almost all fat people have had to hear some time or the other.