I challenge you to name one fat female love interest from a television show or movie. Chances are you had trouble coming up with an answer off the top of your head — or you picked Hairspray. Either way, this absence of representation reflects society’s views of the equation of fatness with unattractiveness. The TikTok hyper-fixation of the week is #PrettyPrivilege with 93.7 million views, and many TikTokers share stories of how gaining weight reduced their pretty privilege, making outsiders treat them worse based on nothing but their size.
society do be crazy #fyp
Pretty privilege is the idea that those who are conventionally attractive are granted more opportunities and social niceties than others. Many studies reinforce how attractive people are perceived as more talented, sociable, intelligent, and honest compared to others. While this privilege, also known as the psychological phenomenon the halo effect, or lookism, may be bestowed onto anyone, the term generally conforms to Westernized beauty standards that typically perpetuate colorism, ableism, ageism, and namely, anti-fatness. It is important to note, anti-fatness may also be known as fat-phobia. However, I believe the term fat-phobia is misinformative, as oppressive behaviors are not the same as phobias.
One TikTok user, @body_positive_bartender, shared her story telling how weight gain affected her life in the service industry. At the bar where she worked, people who used to laugh and talk to her throughout the night had turned cold and borderline rude after they were no longer physically attracted to her. She stated, “My whole life changed when I started getting help for my eating disorder, which resulted in weight gain. People don’t even look you in the eye anymore. They’re not nice to you. ” While struggling to love herself after an eating disorder rather than lift her up, society had justified those negative feelings and poor self-worth by reinforcing the idea that skinnier is better — no matter the psychological harm it does to those under the microscope. Her story is all too common and proves that the world is harsher to people navigating through life in bodies bigger than society’s definition of “ideal”. But body shapes go in and out of style like clothing trends, and while “being slim thick” and having thigh gaps are envied now, larger women were glorified in Ancient Greece and throughout history.
Another TikTok user, @mermaidkeels, highlights her experiences after losing weight and how her life changed after fitting into current-day body standards. She explains pretty privilege as “subtle things you wouldn’t notice before. Like not being charged for that extra drink or dessert as a restaurant or having someone offer to put the air in your tires while seeing you struggle doing it.” While these examples do not harm those left out, it highlights how physical attractiveness impacts how people treat you. She further questions, “Maybe they are just doing a good deed but, why didn’t they do that good deed when I was 257 pounds?”
Another example of pretty privilege acquired on the basis of thinness can be seen in model, Tess Holiday who was deeply criticized for her fashion choices regarding a strawberry dress just for the dress to go viral weeks later.
While there are much deeper issues regarding medical malpractice and workplace discrimination for fat people the examples given are easily understandable quantifiable instances that can be used to substantiate claims of discrimination and maltreatment on the basis of size.
While pretty privilege is typically not granted to fat people, the consensus is that it actually makes people treat you worse on interpersonal and systemic levels. Fat discrimination, also known as weight stigma or anti-fatness, exposes people to body shaming, workplace discrimination, increased ostracism, lower value medical care, and hostility. This is because fat bodies are culturally represented as inferior, deficient, devalued, disgusting, and even dehumanized. These varying levels of stigmatization result in increased levels of depression, body image issues, and maladaptive coping struggles for anyone with apparent or perceived negative self-body image (a.k.a fatness). This worry highlights the fact that even the fear of experiencing fatness is in and of itself belittling, whether weight stigma is occurring or not. These thoughts often lead to eating disorders, psychiatric disorders, and mental health problems, as one’s self-worth is mistakenly tied to the skin sack in which one holds their organs.
What You Can Do to Dismantle Anti-Fatness
1. Refrain on commenting about someone’s body regardless of size.
You never know what a person is going through and you may be validating their negative self-talk, reinforcing possible eating disorders, or calling attention to someone’s weight when there are many other things that make up a person other than the numbers on a scale.
2. Stop using “fat” as an insult.
The word fat is a descriptor and when it is interpreted or used as an insult it is weaponized to shame individuals for not fitting into society’s beauty standards.
3. Listen to new perspectives from fat-bodied friends
Opening your mind up to new perspectives will force you to see the world from a different angle to observe to aggressive anti-fatness and stigmatization.
4. Call for increased representation in media
Newsflash — the token fat character does not always need to be the comic relief or supportive side character. With increased representation of fully formed fat characters, society can normalize fat people being beautiful AND funny, and smart, and whatever they want to be regardless of preconceived notions that they must be the comic relief.
5. Educate yourself and others
There are so many resources at the tip of your fingers that can be used to educate yourself or others on weight stigma, pretty privilege, and anti-fatness. My top picks include the books, “Fearing the Black Body : the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia” by Sabrina Strings, “You Have the Right to Remain Fat” by Virgie Tovar, and the podcast Rebel Eater’s Club. In order for more people to combat anti-fatness it first needs to be seen as the problem it is. By educating yourself and sharing insightful information with others you can be part of the change towards a kinder more inclusive future.
6. Challenge your own beliefs on weight
While it is hard to live in a society that places so much pressure on your outwards appearance, change starts from within and it is important to notice and work on changing on your own anti-fat tendencies and mindset before trying to help others. If your find yourself thinking poorly after seeing a fat person stop and ask yourself why? It is in these moments it it crucial to check your own biases and remember that you don’t know who they are or what they have been through. Also, it is none of your concern. Internalized stigmas stem from learned biases and unlearning these beliefs are a difficult but essential part of dismantling anti-fatness. What needs to be normalized are normal bodies with stretch marks, cellulite and all. So challenge your own beliefs and combat body standards because all bodies are beautiful — no matter what society tells you think.