Not a single person who has ever fat-shamed me has even bothered to asked me if I want to be thin. I don't.I hate the gym. It's a traumatic space for me. Being a fat person in public is hard, and being a fat person in a gym is even harder. It can shatter your confidence in a split second, with one chuckle, one smirk, one look of disgust, one eye roll from another patron. Gym culture is toxic, and like many other institutions centered on physical appearance and desirability, it's built on a foundation of fatphobia and antagonism, whether the gym rats on Instagram want to admit it or not. For a long time, I hated exercise, too. When I was growing up, I wanted to wrestle. I wanted to play football. I wanted to take up boxing. I wanted to lift weights. I wanted to climb the trees in our front yard. Instead, I was limited to gymnastics, cheerleading, and basketball, activities that were acceptable for a girl to be engaged in. I still defied my mom and climbed trees sometimes, and I was always reprimanded for it. I quit cheerleading after one season because I hated it, and did the same with basketball because I had no passion for it (even though it did sometimes help me feel the masculine energy that I had always longed for as a girl, but had not the language to take about it). For financial reasons, gymnastics was no longer accessible to me, and while I did enjoy it, it was incredibly gendered and classes for girls never focused on strength and conditioning like the classes for boys. I played in the marching band in high school (which burns way more calories than you “cool kids” think it does, by the way), but apparently that wasn't enough. Countless fat kids and teenagers, and people who just weren't thin enough for their family's liking, are unfortunately familiar with forced exercise and degradation from the people around them growing up. My mom forced me to exercise in the way that she wanted me to, punctuating her disgust for my lack of a trim body with comments like “You can't honestly say that you're satisfied with yourself” and “Don't come crying to me when the boys don't want to date you.” One year, I actually did lose some weight, unintentionally. It was the year I played basketball. My jeans would no longer stay up on my hips without a belt and my mom praised me in a way that she never had before, and hasn't since. It made me self-conscious. It made me anxious. It made me feel like shit. It made me hate her, and myself.
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We can’t look at Patty and feel empowered by her character when she is a walking testament to everything we are told is wrong with us.Netflix loves revenge stories, especially super problematic revenge stories that push harmful stereotypes and reinforce dangerous narratives. 13 Reasons Why has had a controversial run on the platform, and now they want us to make way for Insatiable—an obviously fatphobic upcoming series whose creators are promising that it’s not as terrible as it seems, and it seems pretty terrible. The story follows Patty, a fat teenager played by Debby Ryan, a thin actress. In order to play both fat and thin Patty, Ryan wears a bodysuit that honestly it looks someone just strapped a maternity belly on her and said, “That’s good enough.” Despite the fact they put a thin person in a fat suit and did a terrible job of it, I have to say that, for me, this is preferable to having to watch a fat actor take this role and serve as a real-life “before picture” for Ryan. After a fateful meeting with someone’s fist, she spends the entire summer with her jaw wired shut and shows up on the first day of the new school year with a smoking hot bod, as rated by conventional beauty standards. She decides she will get revenge on the people who made her life he'll when she was fat. Her vengeance is where the story is supposed to be “empowering,” but we’ve already boarded the fat-shame train before we even get to that point. This series is marketed as a dark comedy, in the vein of Heathers or Jawbreaker. In reality, it is nothing more than a revenge body narrative that begins from the idea that fatness is undesirable and fat bodies must become thin in order for those who inhabit them to be truly happy. Patty does not come back from her summer still fat and decide to let her tormentors have it. She only seeks this revenge after she returns as a thin person who suddenly has access to a world of options that were blocked to her before. Regardless of what she decides to do with that social capital, this entire story still rests on that fact.
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Body positivity, as a movement, was meant to give space to bodies that an oppressive society says are not worthy of love and acceptance. The body positive movement has a lot of problems—not in the general message that we all deserve