Dear Jennifer Lawrence, Saying "Fat" on TV is Okay
Dear Jennifer Lawrence,
Let me start by saying that I think you completely rock. It’s so rare to find a young actress completely confident and in control of her own wants, needs, and dreams. I enjoy every interview I watch with you because I know that I’ll be watching a smart woman who is determined to remain herself in an environment that’s dedicated to smoke and mirrors, glitter, and Photoshop. As a 31-year-old bisexual Canadian woman with self-esteem issues, you inspire me and give me a lot of hope. I firstly want to thank you for that.
But the reason I’m writing you today is because I want to bring something to your attention. I’ve been following your journey to encourage body positivity, not only in Hollywood, but among young girls. I have loved the things you’re saying. I’m a proponent of body positivity and body acceptance, partly because I’m someone that’s often on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to being hated for my body as a fat woman. But I do it also because I’m tired of society dictating what women should look like and how we should act. I originally started following your work because of your awareness that body positivity is more important than looking perfect. And that’s why I’m a little concerned.
In your recent interview with Barbara Walters, you stated that you thought it "should be illegal to call someone fat on TV." While I understand the context in which you said it – that the adjective "fat" is used to hurt and demean women – I am uncomfortable with this statement. I’m uncomfortable with it because the adjective "fat" is just that, an adjective describing someone’s body type. It’s already a negative thing. Why make it a taboo thing to say when for many people, it’s just a true descriptor of how they look?
I want to tell you a story. I grew up thin and became fat in my teenage years when puberty hit. Many women and men go through changes in their bodies, but I went from being a stick-thin child to a woman with curves, breasts, and a rather big butt. I not only didn’t know what to do with my new body, I also hated it. I hated it because "fat" was a dirty word in our household growing up. My mother’s side of the family all had these curves and they all spoke out against them. They were fat, but to them, fat meant bad. Ugly. Unbeautiful. And so calling someone fat meant all of those things. Calling someone thin, conversely, meant that they were beautiful, desirable, and worthy. Oh, those words were never articulated in quite those ways, but I grew up thinking those things about the words "fat" and "thin."
But you know what? They’re just words. Words that have been crafted to describe body types. Our society has made them into weapons, ways to tear women down and to make them less worthy than they are. And while I don’t pretend to understand what you, a Hollywood actress, go through when someone calls you fat, I do understand how I feel when someone calls me fat and they want to hurt me. They tell the truth. I am fat. But being fat doesn’t mean that I’m not worthy of respect and love. I think that banning that word on TV is going to perpetuate the way we’ve made those descriptors into weapons. I also think that you, as someone who fights so hard for body positivity, have an opportunity to turn the tide.
I use "fat" as a way to describe my body. I also use it as a way to illustrate that my body type is okay. It’s beautiful, even. And I agree with you that "fat-shaming" needs to stop, because it does. Fat should not mean that a woman is less than beautiful. It should not be a way to tell a woman you don’t like what she’s doing or saying. And it should not be the worst insult you can hurl at a woman. Fat means that your body is soft, puffy, and beautiful. It’s just different than being thin. Both body types are just different ways that human beings are made.
Ms. Lawrence, I can’t wait to see more of your interviews. I can’t wait to laugh at your jokes and to admire you for being the strong young woman you are. But if you ever happen to see this letter, I hope you see my point of view. Let’s make body descriptors back into what they are – ways to describe people’s body types. No judgement, no scorn, no loaded weaponry. They’re just descriptors. And if they’re said on TV enough times, maybe that’s what they’ll remain. Let’s not block and taboo them in the name of trying to be body positive. All bodies are valid and beautiful. All bodies are okay.
I hope you keep up the good work. You are helping us to turn the tide. I’m proud to have someone like you on our side in body positivity.