I have been thinking a lot about being a sexy, fat woman and navigating my lifetime of internalized fat phobia. This internalized self hate that influences my own self perception is learned directly from the white male patriarchy. The poisonous messages that they have infected our entire world with affects us all, but some much worse than others (i.e., I recognize this struggle for me as a white fat woman is far less than that of a black fat woman or a fat woc.).
I’m trying to get a stronger online presence, one that matches my ultimate goal of creating and producing original content with my partner, and ultimately make some changes in all of our communities. Whether it be through my writing of a novel, or our television scripts coming to life, I want to always have this page, along with my social media accounts, as a obvious base of where it all began.
I am a funny, fat, beautiful, witty, and empathetic woman. In sharing who I am, that means putting my image out there for all to consume – even men. I recently had professional photos taken and went outside of my comfort zone and posed in a bra and panties. When I first saw the untouched images, I had a pit in my stomach because I saw what would be perceived as fat fetish shots. Like they were intended for men in hopes of getting them to like my fat body. Ugh gross. It makes me cringe imagining that was ever a goal, and yet it was my own gut reaction upon seeing photos of my fat body in lacy underwear. Why would I have this reaction to my own body, especially when I know that wasn’t the intent of the images?
And then it hit me.
This lifetime of living in a fat phobic world meant that I rarely got to see images like this. I rarely saw fat women in their underwear, and when I did, it was usually in some dark corner of the world where they stashed away their BBW porn collection. My reaction to seeing photographs of my body in lacy underwear was coming from the fact that men would label it as a BBW fetish collection. My body and bodies like mine have been hidden and covered up for years, and if someone wanted to see them, they were found behind that curtain of your local video store.
I wondered how others like me felt about the term big beautiful women, or BBW. I felt that it was associated with fat fetishism and porn, which wasn’t a bad thing, but also not my platform. I searched the hashtag on instagram last night and saw nothing that indicated a fat fetish tone, so I tagged a few of my photos. Then, after a brief discussion with a friend where she warned me that may not be the path I wanna take with my photos, I removed the tags. It appears the “damage” was done, though, and now those photos are getting a lot of likes from what appear to be foreign male accounts.
The phrase did have that cringey feel for me, so I wanted to research why – I found online that it was actually coined by a woman that started a BBW fashion magazine in 1979. Her name was Carole Shaw and the magazine stopped running in 1989. Based on the few vintage copies I could find in a google search, it was a very white magazine (shock), and it was very 1980s.
It appears that somewhere in there, the porn industry picked it up, as did dudes posting singles ads. But women also used it as a self descriptor, especially when fat was a much more negative term that it is now, since we have taken it back.
I asked a few other friends what they felt when they hear or see the phrase. Overall, they have no problem with it, but don’t use it themselves because of the sexual connotations. Both the friend that warned me about the tags and another friend said what we know is obviously true, the tag is used by men to find and fulfill that fat fetish – and we are tagging our images online specifically for the male gaze. It appears that based on the endless stream of men that I do not know currently liking my pics, this is an accurate description.
I gotta say that I am bummed because once again, white men stole something and made it for them. I wish I could look at my fat body in a glorious piece of lingerie and say, “I am a badass BBW” without it being an invitation for 100 men to agree.