Alternatives to the F Word: the Language of Being Fat

Having made my aversion to the F word clear, it kind of begs the question – if not “fat” then what?

A lot of the adjectives people tend to use in place of “fat” get mocked. It’s said that they’re a form of denial and of avoiding the issue. However, when as previously discussed the word “fat” is so heavily loaded is it really any wonder that people look for alternatives? There are plenty of derogatory synonyms like chunky, blubbery, chubby and so on which are far too socially acceptable to use, yet sometimes it can be a struggle to find terms with more positive or even simply neutral connotations.

So what can we call ourselves if we don’t feel like accepting all that negativity? How does language play into things?

“I’m Mrs She’s-Too-Big-Now-She’s-Too-Thin”

Lyric from ‘Piece of Me‘ by Britney Spears

I have chosen to sign off on this blog as Curvy Girl. The reason is that I do in fact have a body shape with very distinct in and out lines, but curvy is one of the oft used alternatives for we bigger folk. It’s a bit of an interesting one in terms of its image and the picture it provokes – there’s no consistency. I’ve seen people mocked for using it, again that old claim of denial, but then I’ve also seen it used in a more complimentary way when describing an overweight person in a positive light. The Christina Hendricks and Kelly Brook type bodies are lauded for being curvy. Yet when it suits them people are very happy to pull out this word to rail against those who are perceived to be underweight. “Real women have curves!” you hear them cry. “Celebrity X celebrates her curves!” they pronounce as a skinny celebrity visibly puts on all of five pounds. I have seen the word curvy used to describe people of sizes all across the spectrum; from Jessica Alba to Melissa McCarthy they’re all curvy. That’s a pretty striking discrepancy. Voluptuous is another one. In some contexts it’s a word that oozes sex and sensuousness (is that even a word or did I make that up?) but in others it’s one that once again gets denounced as fat denial.

(Side note – I am not fond of the phrase “real women have curves.” I’m all for celebrating curves, but to say that implies that people with other body shapes are in some manner not real because they’re not in possession of them. Fuck that – real bodies come in all manner of shapes.)

I mentioned in my introductory post that “fat” is really just a name for a type of body tissue and really shouldn’t be so loaded with negative character assessment and moral disapproval. When you look at other alternatives though they’re equally as problematic. For some people they’re okay, others they’re bad, and the rules on who they’re applicable to seem to change about once a minute. One week Heat magazine is declaring Cheryl Cole curvy; 7 days later and with little discernible difference in the pictures she is dangerously thin. One minute people are hailing Beth Ditto as a beacon for the curvy girls and the next they’re saying she’s disgustingly obese. How exactly are people supposed to stop beating themselves up and berating their bodies when there’s no language which isn’t loaded with implied insults?

I have no brilliant philosophical wisdom to answer these problems; I have only the observation that it’s all pretty contradictory and a bit messed up. Language is a powerful thing, and it’s no wonder that people of all sizes are so confused and worried about their body shapes when these are the mixed messages they receive from the mass media all the time.

Much love, Curvy Girl x

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One thought on “Alternatives to the F Word: the Language of Being Fat

  1. Absolutely Brilliant!!! Love it ha ha!

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