In light of the recent Instagram booty blunder I have been thinking a lot about my fat body, and how the way I choose to dress or expose it relates to ideas of feminine "decency."
Apparently much like Instagram's content policies, there are many inconsistencies when it comes to what is deemed appropriate or decent and what is considered gratuitous or even obscene culturally when it comes to women's bodies.
While I can totally imagine Gisele Bundchen on the cover of Baby Gap wearing a loosely crocheted bikini (for instance) I feel like I can barely leave my house wearing a tight *turtle neck* without causing a stir. Much like Meghan's censored booty selfie, I find that the line between "ok", "sexy" or "tasteful" and "too much" can often be predicated on fatphobic visual norms.
In short, I am tired of my body being deemed indecent or lewd because my boobs, butt, belly and thighs are big and jiggle while I do almost anything. Mm.. jiggle!
A quick story about the first time I realized there was this double standard: I remember in college my boyfriend's brother dated a woman who was very petite. At a family gathering once she wore a short sleeveless dress. It was super hot that day and I wished I had worn a short sleeveless dress - preferably with no bra. But then I remembered - I didn't own ANYthing like that and going bra less would have invited an afternoon of ogling, poorly hidden boners, gasps and stink eye. I remember I noticed my reaction and the reactions of others to her outfit. No one - not even me, at first - even bat an eye. She didn't really get particularly positive or negative attention as far as I can remember. It seemed completely natural that she would wear a light outfit on a warm day. And I remember feeling frustrated that the very same behavior - if done by me - would have made me feel like I had taken my asshole out for a round of show and tell. So for a long time I always wore conservative outfits even when it was hot as balls.
Even though I don't follow those kinds of rules anymore I still feel the pressure.
Not only am I expected to cover up because I am fat - no matter how hot it is, no matter how much I want the air to touch my thighs or belly or shoulders or how DESPERATELY I don't want to wear a goddamn bra!! - but I am expected to cover up because my big boobs and big butt have been deemed indecent and the people on the subway just really aren't ready for this jelly. My bodacious bod is apparently distracting (Lewd? Pornographic?) and I am the one responsible for keeping it all under wraps.
A petite frame affords one a sort of cultural cloak of invisibility because the display of a thin woman's sexuality is considered her right - and not mine. The display of thin legs and "tight" torsos is considered a matter of course while mine is considered offensive or over-the-top because I am not supposed to be comfortable with my body or my sexuality. A display of sexual confidence from a fat woman goes against cultural norms that limit us. We are not supposed to feel sexy - or BE sexy - because those things are reserved for someone else. When I expose cleavage or a fat roll (or two!) I am asserting a powerful and subversive message: "suck it, patriarchy."
And I'm also sending another message: "I'm pretty sure this fat ass is the highlight of all y'all motherfuckers' day."
So, here's to my sweet ass and all the sweet fat asses in the #bootyrevolution.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.