Last week, I was asked to be on a panel discussion for Lululemon for International Women’s Day. It was entitled Worth 100, aiming to highlight the idea that all women should feel worthy and valued, no matter what. I was a bit skeptical about being on the panel, not because it scares the fuck out of me to publicly speak, but because it was hosted by Lululemon. None of their workout gear or t-shirts fit me. Their merchandise doesn’t include people like me. I am not their audience.
I am too fat.
I thought about it and ultimately accepted because if I hadn’t showed my fat face, then who would? Perhaps they’d replace me with a smaller, less Black, and less Muslim counterpart.
I was surprised that among myself were other plus-size women on the panel. There’s a first step for everything, right? Perhaps corporate at Lululemon will see our curvy bodies, hear our plus-size voices, and get the idea that fat women also workout and become a size-inclusive company.
The room was filled. All 100 seats. And, a standing room in the back. The moderator asked each one of us to say three words that described us. There were two people before me. I had a bit of time to possibly change my answer if need be. My initial words were fat, Black, and unapologetic. I looked at the audience. It was mostly filled with straight-size white women. I contemplated switching out ‘fat’ for ‘Muslim’. I knew the word ‘fat’ would cause a Caucasian unrest as it does for many other kinds of people.
I stood up. My stomach churning with IBS issues as I prayed that I wouldn’t shit myself (because that’s a legit fear). I said, “My name is Leah V. And, my three words are fat, Black, and unapologetic.”
I heard scattered claps. Some faces remained stoic as their minds scrambled to figure out why in the world would this chick use such negative word to describe herself. I heard one ‘WOO HOO’, which I’m quite sure was my friend, as I smiled and took my seat.
I was going to blow their minds later on.
When people used to call me fat, I’d melt into a puddle. I’d crumble into a million particles and blew away with the wind. The word held so much weight—no pun intended—that it riddled me worthless, not valuable. I’d used to want to crawl into a hole and never emerge until I was perfect and thin. I hurt myself trying to be thin. I was almost thin only once in my life. And it wasn’t as perfect as I thought it was going to be.
Why? Because in my mind, I thought that thin people had more fun. I thought that they frolicked around in daisy fields and were debt-free and could pull any man they wanted. I thought that they were outgoing and smart and nice. That they didn’t have body image issues. That it was just fat people who hated themselves and their bodies.
And, was I ever wrong.
At my smallest weight, I believe I hated myself more during that time than at my heaviest weights. Mind blowing! Yes, I know.
Fast forward back to the panel. Stay with me. LOL.
It was my turn to speak. I told them a little story about why I reclaimed the word ‘fat’. Words only carry as much importance as we allow them to. And, I was tired of people having that much power over how I viewed my body. People—bad people—get off on disarming folks, making them think lowly of themselves. But, what if we could reclaim our power? Take that shit back?
By claiming fat-ness, I am taking back what is mine, rightfully. I am turning a negative into a positive. I am, hopefully, educating people about the word and about our bodies and how we view them.
Fat is a descriptor. Just like smart. Short. Tall. Busty. Brown. Pale.
Yes, I may be fat, but I am so much more. I am Black. Muslim. Obnoxious and impulsive. Loud. Loyal. Cute AF.
Fat isn’t a bad word. Its not forbidden or evil. It doesn’t mean worthlessness or ugliness. It means what it means. Extra rolls, curves, lumps and bumps, plump, and soft.
And, if someone does try to use it on you, or someone you know, negatively, then flip that shit around like I do. Tell em: I am fat, and so much more.