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  • Writer's pictureEmily Hankins

Fat Girls Don't

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

There is a revolution happening. A civil rights revolution. A social revolution. Not a revolution about skin color, or about sexual orientation, or gender equality.

This revolution is much quieter. Much less talked about. Much less understood. But just as necessary.

It is the body revolution.

For years we have seen a limited number of body types in movies and media.

The body types seen in sitcoms, "reality" shows, and action movies make up the vast majority of our media village.

When we look away from the screen to our real village we see everyone. All types of people with all types of bodies.

When we look away from the screen to our real village we see everyone. All types of people with all types of bodies.

They are not just the supporting actors of in our lives. They are the Leading Roles. The Main Characters.

You might have noticed some exceptions. For example, there have been a few fat leading fellows in the movie catalog.

Main characters like Paul Blart...the lonely fat guy.

Overweights... kids at fat camp blundering though life.

The Nutty Professor... eating directly from the fro yo machine.


Their weight is a punchline. An cheep laugh.

They save the day. They get the girl. But what they do NOT end up with is dignity.

Their weight is a punchline. An cheep laugh.

We laugh at bloated Baymax. We chuckle at Mr. Incredible who can't save the world until he tames the muffin top.

Is this really the best we can do in representing our village?

Notice these are all men? Where are the fat girls?

Fat guys = Funny

Fat girls = ?

The answer sheds light on another sad social convention.

Historically, larger women exempt from leading roles, but when we do see them they are only allowed to be villains...Cathy Bates in Misery, Ursula in The Little Mermaid, unhinged Mama from Honey Boo Boo, Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.

Fat Guys = Funny

Fat Girls = Scary

Why do we put up with this? Why do we allow these stereotypes?

Because we are scared of what we do not understand.

Rather than trying to understand fat, we laugh at it, we villainize it. We shame it.

It feels easy and safe to lump all fat people together and label them with unfair and unjust stereo types. And no one seems to notice or care.


Fat people notice. Fat people care.

I notice. I care.

I am fat.

I have carried this label - and the shame associated with it - my whole life.

I look back now at what the label of "fat" has meant in my life. The ripples that this rock has left in my pond.

Sometime around 2nd grade, some little person made a comment about my weight and it stuck. I accepted it as truth. And then that truth became my identity. An identity that shaped who I was, what I did, who I loved. Every. Part. Of. My. Life.

As a fat girl so many decisions were made for me and projected onto me.

I was not an athlete

I was not popular

I was not fashionable

I was bookish

I was smelly





And so on...

It was not until recently that I realized that I carried these labels.

Even worse I believed them about myself.

And worse yet, they became a part of my identity and infiltrated my whole live and how I lived my life.

In a self destructive cycle, I unconsciously embodied and confirmed these stereotypes. The shame driven stereotypes I hated made me fatter, sadder and less myself.

The fact that I did not see anyone that resembled me physically on the screen only enhanced the sense of shame.

I am still working to unwrap and unpack all the roles assigned to me, and that I adopted. Trying on each one to see if they are true or false. If they fit or not.

Who would I have been, or who would I be, if the label of "fat" (and all the stereotypes associated with it) had not been cast upon me like a giant red A in The Scarlet Letter.

No child, no human, should be labeled. No one should be told who or what they are or how to be.

We each need to be free to decide who we truly are and to live our truth!

We each need to be free to decide who we truly are and to live our truth!

There were things I never even considered... not because they did not interest me, not because I didn't have the talent, but because I was fat. And everyone knows fat girls don't ________________(fill in the blank).

I had a great group of friends in high school. We did everything together. We lived in a small town so we became really good at keeping ourselves busy and making our own fun. My senior year, everyone joined the drill team. Except for me. I loved to dance. Basketball games were the Saturday night social scene. But I stood on the sidelines watching my best friends get their grove on. No one ever suggested that I join. I never even considered it. And why the hell not?! Because there was that underlying social script. "Fat girls don't dance on Drill Team." And we all bought into it. My friends, my classmates, my teachers, and me.

I did not have the perspective, courage or defiance to show my true self. I was to caught up in those dangerous and destructive social scripts.

But I do now and I am working to break free and to create my own definition of self.

And do not say, "Fat is choice. Work harder, eat less and you won't be fat anymore."

I have been on a diet since I was 10!

In my mid 20s, when I was at my lightest, I was finally out of the "obese" category on the BMI chart that sat conveniently on the counter in my doctors office. Now I fell into the "overweight" section of this graph. I was grateful to finally be in the good graces of the medical community.

But, oh, the things I had to do to keep my body at that place.

I was finally seen as healthy, but I was anything but.

And of course it was not sustainable. I was (and always will be) at my healthiest and happiest when that same chart ranked me well into the "obese" range.

In his recent article Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong, Michael Hobbes sheds light on this misconception.

Diets don't work. Weight is a predisposition. Genetics determine your weight and build as much as they determine your race or gender.

So if being heavy is something you are born with, why do we torture people into becoming something they were never meant to be?

What can be changed?

Our attitudes and judgement towards ourselves and others.

Not only can our judgments change, they NEED to change.

It is time for absolute acceptance of people for being people. Not based on their outside appearance but on the basis of their human existence.

We are all beautiful beings that deserve unconditional love and respect.

We are all beautiful beings that deserve unconditional love and respect.

We could easily alter these famous words:

"I have a dream that my four little children will not be judged by the size of their bodies, but by the content of their character."

Luckily trends of discrimination are slowly changing. There is a slow but steady civil and social revolution. An awakening of consciousness and compassion.

Fewer and fewer people are facing discrimination based on their looks. People are asking to see their true village, the brave, empowered, and capable humans they know and love, represented on screen.

Fat people and people will all different kids of bodies are staring in movies, leading high level companies, and beating discrimination.

More and more people are taking charge of their lives and doing what they love, despite their outward appearance, and despite what others think, say or do.

These are the heroes and leaders of today.


I invite you to join the civil & social revolution.


What notions do I hold about myself?

What labels did someone else place on me?

What did I unwittingly and unwillingly adopt as truth?

Who do I truly want to be?

And in asking, change the world!

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