After my recent experience with the inappropriate image of me used by the SF Chronicle for an article on whether "obesity" is a disease, I found myself feeling a lot of things: hyper-vigilance, betrayal, a sense of shame for my own naivete, and exhaustion from the aforementioned emotions.
I allowed myself to actually feel all this rather than go into survival mode. My usual impulse is to beef up the emotional armor I've created for myself to buffer me from the culture's unceasing attacks on fat bodies, on women's bodies, on people of color bodies - the intersections where I exist.
I was frustrated because I knew there was something I was missing. Yes, images of faceless fat women have been used as fetishistic objects to hurt us, but there was something else that I couldn't quite articulate that I knew was there.
And then I figured it out.
My body is so powerful that they couldn't show my face because it would be impossible to hide the joy of my existence. My body is so powerful that they can only show it in bits and pieces, disjointed from the story of my survival. My fat body tells the story of my strength. My fat face sings the truth of my beauty. My body flouts "conventional wisdom," destabilizes a hundred years of lies and half-truths spoken from the mouths of charlatans. My body resists colonial rule; it refuses to be subjected to state-generated ideas of fitness or femininity. I am complete. I am hot. I am complicated. My body holds a lifetime of pain and joy and love, and you can't see me as whole because my fat body is so powerful that it would shatter your world view, make you question the very reason for your existence, thrill your heart, incite your soul.
The desire to suppress my body and my existence reveals the truth of my power.
Photo by Shilo McCabe
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.