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As An Overweight Girl, Why Do People Assume I’m Ashamed Of My Weight & Try To ‘Empower’ Me?

I know ppl are trying to 'empower' an 18 yo overweight girl, but I love every bit of my body! Why try to empower someone who's already empowered? It's like asking a feminist to support equality.

As a an 18-year-old overweight girl, often I have experienced instances where people have made peculiar assumptions about me – that I am insecure about my body or ashamed of my weight. Then there is an obligation, to ‘empower’ or ‘uplift’ me and those similar to me. 

While such people are undoubtedly trying to be ‘good human beings’ and ‘supportive’ friends and family, little do they realize that it is a form of indirect pity. Being overweight is not a tragedy.

The body positivity movement is wonderful, but is unsolicited sympathy towards ‘fat’ people necessary? Often, such sympathy projects itself in a toxic manner!

Obesity is indeed a serious problem, but it’s not necessary that ‘overweight’ or as it is said it in a layperson’s term, ‘fat people’, are unhealthy. There are many examples of individuals that are perfectly healthy, despite being overweight. 

As an overweight girl, this has happened to me several times…

I am an 18-year-old, overweight girl. I do not hate my body; I love every bit of it. I am comfortable in my skin and have never shown any signs of being insecure about my appearance. Yet, I have been told: “Oh, you are so beautiful, just the way you are. Be confident.” “I’ve never seen a fat person prettier than you.” “All bodies are good bodies, you are pretty.”

I hear these and many more backhanded compliments, when I am doing the most normal of things, like dressing up or talking about joining a gym. What allows such people to assume that I am not confident, or that I cannot love my body without external validation, or that my idea of beauty is equal to being skinny?

I very much support the body positivity movement, but what I stand against is illusionary positivity, and shoving it down people’s throats. Trying to empower someone who is already empowered, amounts to a futile attempt. For instance, we cannot go to a feminist and force them to be a supporter of equality.

Helping people through support and encouragement, so that they can learn to love themselves, accept their flaws and flaunt them confidently is a good cause. But  why do the same to someone who already loves themselves and is confident? There is a prejudice that overweight people are insecure and under-confident. It does not mean that every overweight person is a chance to massage one’s conscience and gain a moral high-ground. 

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Where does this idea of ’empowering’ overweight people come from?

Well, it’s fairly simple. The movement against the age-old beauty standards has given rise to various forms of defiance to different beauty norms. For as long as we can remember, fat people were deemed unattractive, because their body shape was considered undesirable. This dichotomy between ‘attractive and unattractive’ has fuelled a sense of sympathy in those who support the body positivity movement.

This body positivity movement has amassed great importance and relevance. It attempts to inspire people to be confident in their bodies and to challenge the idea of perfection and flawlessness. 

It sheds light on the fact that perfection is a myth and that our natural bodies are enough, just the way they are. This movement does away with the norms that society has fabricated. As a counter-force, it aims at creating awareness about self-acceptance and eliminating the shame due to obsession with beauty. 

The root cause of this issue is unsolicited sympathy, which convinces people that for being good, they need to treat everyone politely and help them, even if the other person clearly does not need it. This, however, in reality, is unreasonable. Many times, such sympathy projects itself in a toxic manner making – the essence of the whole movement comes down to toxic positivity that is forced down on everyone who does not pass the standards that identifies one as pretty or not pretty.

The crux of this discussion is not the standards of beauty, but how the fight against it. It has deviated from its purpose, blurring away the concept of subjective feelings and experiences, and forcing a sense of empowerment, whether it’s called for or not. Thus, although the movement bought much hope, the narrative surrounding bodies, especially plus size bodies, has been manhandled. To presume that all of us need saving from the monster of perfectness, is to imply that we can never be our own version of perfect to begin with. 

Why do people assume that obese people are feeble victims in dire need of validation?

Performative positivity and farce pity goes against all the notions body positivity movement championed. At any given moment, we need to stop taking fat bodies as a commonplace for unloading woke, motivating messaging in the form of charity. 

While it all comes from a place of good will, one needs to understand that as long as people on the other side of the spectrum are in charge of the narrative surrounding our bodies, as long as they assume and preach, as long as they generalise the idea of empowerment, as long as they suppose that all obese people are feeble victims who are in dire need of validation, we cannot have a healthy dialogue on this. 

 Image source: Still from Veere Di Wedding 

(A version of this post has earlier appeared here: https://feminisminindia.com/2021/11/01/all-heavy-bodies-do-not-need-to-be-empowered-body-positivity-and-performative-sympathy/)


About the Author

Aditi Pandey

Hi , I am Aditi. I'm a student and I love to write about themes surrounding women and the feminism . I wish to pursue law at a later stage and work for women's legal read more...

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