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Fashion has long discriminated against fat people and curvy bodies but body shaming has no place in 2020

Fashion has long discriminated against fat people and curvy bodies but body shaming has no place in 2020

Reclaiming our body

Text: Gordon Ng Jolene Khor


Ten years ago, Kate Moss, at the high of her career infamously said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". While the model has expressed regret over her statement since, the fashion realm hasn't always caught up on its own prejudices and practiced accountability as quickly. Not only are a heavy majority of women who walk the runways of the biggest shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, of concerning weight, diversity in terms of race and body types (from the curvy to the physically challenged) of the people who are most photographed in the trends the world buys into, is scarce.

It would seem that public outcry and heavily worded op-eds fall to deafening ears. But we're not giving up.

You see, the human body can be a difficult thing to live in. It's the site of generations of political injustice and discrimination of race, skin colour, and sexuality. Yes, in the last handful of years, we have seen more inclusivity and desire for understanding, yet the stigma around fatness is in serious need of work.

Fashion has long discriminated against fat people and curvy bodies but body shaming has no place in 2020 (фото 1)

Fatphobia is, broadly, the discrimination that society has against fat people and their bodies. For most of us, it's a cultural bias that you might not have even realised was being inculcated as you grew up. To be fat has often been seen as "letting yourself go", as a moral weakness for not keeping your body thin. That is, of course, all a social construct. Consider that fatness used to be a social marker of wealth in the earlier centuries. Today, fatness is constructed as a polar opposite to the thin, Eurocentric beauty standard that guides most of the world.

Lots need to change, but here are five things to keep in mind when talking about fatness. Consider it our checklist for the fatphobic person who needs a little reminding.

Reclaiming the word "fat"

It's only been a few years since the industry and the media co-opted buzzwords like "curvy", "plus-sized", and "thick". These are all euphemisms for fatness, but there are those in the body positivity movement today who would sooner you simply use the word "fat". Think of it as reclaiming what should really be a neutral adjective, to shift the perspective on fatness such that it isn't a pejorative. Pop star Lizzo is at the forefront of championing fat bodies, with a bold message to learn to love yourself.

Fat bodies are sexual too

If you had a problem with Lizzo wearing a thong dress and not Rihanna nearly nude in a Swarovski crystal dress, it's best you reconsider your biases. Sexuality is an almost universal aspect of being human, and fat bodies have just as much claim to it as stick-thin or gym-built models.

Rihanna pictured at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards

Jokes where being fat is the punchline

Discrimination can be very easily normalised through lazy humour. Many comedians such as Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K., or any other male comic, really, has turned out to be a misogynist. Recognising that being fat isn't inherently funny quickly dispels a lot of the low-punching insults that disguise themselves as jokes.

Calling someone "brave" for being comfortable in their own skin

This one owes itself to a media that's still learning how to talk about fat people while skirting around its own biases. No more magazine cover lines that call men or women "brave" for simply being photographed while not a sample size, please.

Pretending to care about fat people's health

"But," you say, "being fat is a health concern and I'm obviously being a righteous person by pointing it out!" It might be surprising to some, but the truth is that the health of other people's bodies is none of our business. Unless we're close enough to actually discuss our health with a friend — and vice versa — this more often than not gets bandied around as a moralistic excuse to shame fat bodies.

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