More Than Semantics, Part 2: The “F” Word
FAT—Those three letters can sure stir up a lot of emotions! Shame to joy, stigma to liberation, and these days, sometimes they cause confusion and questions. The word “fat” has long been used as a slur, a put-down, something used to intentionally hurt another person. Since the 1960s, fat activists have been working to reclaim the word as a neutral descriptor and as an identity (Bonner, 2022). There is, however, no consensus on its use, and often acceptable use depends on your own body size. Here are a few caveats with links to articles addressing the topic, and additional resources below.
- Before using the word, consider if you are impacted by systemic weight bias and discrimination in our society. If you are in a thin or straight-size body, then you do not face this in the way that people in large bodies must deal with it on a daily basis. (Luna, 2019)
- Avoid using “I feel fat.” Fat is a description or a characteristic; it is not a feeling. The phrase infers that being fat is negative.
- Avoid euphemisms, which are usually used when someone is uncomfortable talking directly about something. While they may seem “kinder,” they are usually just insulting.
- If you are in a smaller body and in a conversation with a person in a larger body, who uses the word “fat” to describe themselves or others, don’t assume it is okay for you to do the same.
- If you are unsure, stick with “larger body” or “higher weight.”