The Fat Studies Reader

By Esther Rothblum; Sondra Solovay | Go to book overview
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Part-Time Fatso

S. Bear Bergman

Sometimes I'm Fat, and Sometimes I'm Not

I look the same every day. I'm five feet nine inches tall, broad shouldered and white skinned, green eyed with short brown hair, roughly 275 pounds. I dress myself plainly—blue jeans and button-downs, boots or sandals. I wear glasses. All these things are true all the time, and yet even so I am only Fat in the normative, cultural, “Ew, gross, look at it jiggle” sense about a third of the time.

Whether I'm fat depends on whether the person or people looking at me believe me to be a man or a woman.

After the first reading of the above description, you got a mental picture of me, and it quite likely included a gender. But there are no gendered statements in that paragraph, in much the same way that (while I'm dressed, anyhow) there are no gendered statements on my body. You may be having the same dizzying gender experience that people have when they look at me on the street, in a restaurant, or on an airplane. If you are, then you already know what I'm about to say: whether the world thinks of me as fat depends entirely on how it interprets my gender.

I mean, certainly I am not a svelte specimen in any case. I'm broad beamed, and I have a comfortable belly (which I refer to affectionately as “the half-rack,” my little pun on the “six-pack abs” phenomenon), ham-like thighs, and a general XXL-ness about me. Society, however, does not see all fat as being equal. A man can be much, much fatter than a woman and still be viewed as comfortably within the standard deviation; most department stores carry men's pants up to a size 42, which is the rough equivalent of a women's size 24—a size that a woman would have to visit a specialty big-girl store or “Women's” department to find. Men are comfortable on beaches with their beach-ball bellies hanging over their swimsuit waistbands, bronzing their fat in the sun, whereas my fat women friends struggle to find swimwear that does not feature a skirt.

So me, I'm transgendered. It means that the gender I present in the world is not congruent with the sex that I was assigned at birth; in practical terms, I mostly look like a man but have a body that some would consider physiologically female. Even though I don't identify as a man (I am a butch, which is its own gender), I am taken for a man about two-thirds of the time. And when I am taken for a man, I am not fat.


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The Fat Studies Reader
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