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Why We Need to Stop Equating “Fat” with “Ugly”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

Disclaimer: I am going to use the word “fat” instead of other, more positively connotated words, like “overweight,” because the point of this article is to show that “fat” is just a word describing body weight. “Fat” has a negative connotation because it is always associated with “ugly.”

Beginning at a very young age, we are taught to be afraid of being fat because being fat means that you are ugly. If you have just a little more chub than another second-grader, society teaches you to be ashamed of your weight, even as a child. This way of thought continues into adolescence and adulthood and is extremely toxic to one’s feelings of self-worth. Although we are all people with passions, dreams, and unique personalities, fat people are treated as being somehow lesser than thinner people.

Of course, obesity is a major issue as it can lead to widespread health problems, and maintaining a well-balanced diet and engaging in physical activity is important in terms of self-care. However, not all fat people are obese or have health problems. A lot of the time, they just have slower metabolisms.

Skinny is the norm. This norm, in turn, causes fat people to feel abnormal, like the world does not accept them and they live on the outside of society. For example, in film and TV, a fat person is seldom portrayed as the main character. If they actually do play a prominent role, they act as the sidekick or a device for comic relief, or their characterization is centered around their weight struggles. Fat people do not see examples of themselves achieving success in the media, which curtails their feelings of worth and potential.

There are countless reality TV shows about weight loss journeys, like The Biggest Loser and My Diet is Better Than Yours. Some of these shows can be inspiring for those who do wish to change their body. However, they use fat people as entertainment in a way thin people are not used and they teach fat people that the only way they will ever be accepted and loved by society is by losing weight.

Sometimes, movies and TV shows actually directly associate “fat” with “ugly.” Little comments about fat people and the fear of being fat are nonchalantly thrown about in comedies, dramas, romances, and the like. In fact, the 2015 movie, The DUFF, which stands for “the designated ugly, fat friend,” does not even feature overweight characters. The F for fat acts a reiteration of the U for ugly.

Society is trying to shift towards being more body positive and accepting. The body positivity movement conveys that being fat is okay, but that still treats “fat” like “ugly.” If being thin is preferable but being fat is accepted, fat people are still treated as inferior humans. Additionally, being “thick” is now considered a good thing, so society is moving forward, but it really only refers to the girls with the “right” kind of curves – which is still an unrealistic body ideal – not actually overweight people.

Although body positivity is progressing, derogatory statements are still used in common conversation. When the phrase, “Does this dress make me look fat?” could easily be replaced with “Does this dress make me look ugly?” you should not be saying it. Even when you are simply trying to reassure a self-conscious friend by saying, “No, you’re not fat,” you feed into the norm that fat is an awful characteristic to possess.

People are so scared of being fat because society equates the word with “ugly,” but “fat” is just a word that describes body weight. What’s the big deal about being fat anyway? Fat people are people too! They should be respected and celebrated, and not just when they lose weight. As a society, we need to stop dehumanizing people for their weight. We are all humans and weight does not determine someone’s beauty or importance. Let’s remember that.

Cover from people.com


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Alexandra Kallfelz is a senior studying journalism at Boston University. Besides writing, Alexandra's passions include color guard, travel, Netflix, music, and Disney. She is a pure-blood New Englander and a dog fanatic.
Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.