To me, fat liberation is understanding that is it not my fat body that has failed; it is the culture that has failed for oppressing this body. To me, fat liberation is knowing that my body is not wrong because it is fat; it is the culture that is wrong for discriminating against and stigmatizing my body.
To me, fat liberation is refusing to "fix" my body because nothing is wrong with it; what's wrong is a culture that encourages every single body to look exactly the same.
To me, fat liberation is seeing that fatphobia/body discrimination is not an individual issue that can be solved through compliance (e.g. dieting). It is a cultural problem that will only be solved through the radical re-envisioning of body diversity.
To me, fat liberation is refusing to obsess about losing weight in order to get love or dates (because all obsession does is give me heart burn; it doesn't give me a different body); losing weight will not heal a broken culture's obsession with subjugating women and commoditizing romance.
When I talk with people about why they have spent so much of their lives pursing weight loss, inevitably they tell me it's because they want to be loved, they want to be seen, they want to be treated with humanity. Everyone wants those things. Everyone deserves those things. I have never met someone who wants to lose weight because it's something they think is fun or interesting or inherently useful.
But we live in a culture in which things like love, happiness, power and success are highly connected to thinness.
The meaning of thinness and fatness are created within cultures. That meaning changes over time, and even right now there are varying cultural attitudes toward thinness and fatness all over the globe.
When I think of my life, there are so many things I wish I could change! I want to be taken seriously by potential partners - not just seen as someone who's fun to sleep with but not appropriate to date. I want to be taken seriously by potential employers - not seen as someone who will detract from the overall professionalism of the workspace. I want to have more access to clothes I love. I want to fit more comfortably in planes and on trains. I want to be treated respectfully by doctors. I want to go out without holding the worry that someone will comment on my body.
The culture tells me that if I comply with dieting I can have those things and if I comply with hiding and self-loathing then I can avoid some of the other things. But I know that's a BIG LIE! What's real is that my body isn't the problem here. And since it isn't the problem then why would I change it? Now the moments I used to spend on hating this body are moments I spend plotting the deeply rad and mega sexy overturn of this gnarly cultural institution.
What I'm saying is that the solution to a cultural problem like fatphobia isn't more fatphobia.
Food for thought: Teach a girl to comply and she'll be safe for a day. Teach a girl to deconstruct patriarchy and she'll be free forever.
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.