Size acceptance at every size

by Tom Sullivan, Marketing Assistant at NYU Press

The only kind of scale you should own.

In recent years, the size acceptance movement has blossomed from a tiny academic circle into a burgeoning force set to demolish standards of beauty and stigma towards the fat body. However, it seems that a lot of people are still struggling in regards to what the idea of “acceptance at every size” means.

Combatting sizephobia and fatphobia is much more than patting Tim Gunn on the back for saying that there should be more clothing in a size 10.  If you support the movement, you do it at every size, even when it stops conforming to what’s conventionally attractive, heartwarming or “sexy.” If someone is 400 pounds or 90 pounds, you accept the way their body is because, for goodness sake, it’s their body and they can do whatever they want with it and it’s none of your damn business to begin with.

As Amy Farrell notes in her book Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture, in the early 19th and 20th centuries the fat body was (and still is) linked to inferiority and considered a mark of an uncivilized and barbaric human being. Many folks today try to preach in favor of the “civilized body,” but at the same time cannot seem to stop flailing their arms about in fear of the so-called “obesity epidemic” that’s sweeping the nation as we speak (hide your children!). We rant and rave about obesity, but in the end you have no idea about someone’s health habits and lifestyle choices from what they look like. We all know someone who is tall, thin and eats a ton of junk food yet never gains weight. We also know someone who is short, fat and exercises daily, but doesn’t lose a pound. Body size simply does not equal health.

For an example of how to not approach size acceptance, let’s turn to this recent article on the New York-based website Thought Catalog. One of the site’s many personal essays, “Big Girl, You Are Beautiful (Within Reason),” praises the size acceptance movement while at the same time drowns in a sea of classic body policing and sizeist thought. The author opens the piece by stating that she thinks that weight has nothing to do with one’s health. All right, fine. But as she continues onward she begins to completely contradict herself, criticizing the “morbidly obese” and “dangerously underweight.” Because size acceptance is clearly about accepting a person’s weight, unless they look really icky and gross, then it’s not okay because they’re clearly on the verge of death.

What the author of this essay tries to do is draw a line for what is acceptable and what isn’t in terms of body size, something she has no right to do. Your weight falls under the umbrella of health, which is highly personal. Dictating what is and isn’t a healthy size for others is the exact opposite of what size acceptance is. The key to acceptance at every size is to decide what is healthy for you and only you, and to leave everyone else well enough alone.

Want to learn more? Here’s a short list of recommended links:

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