It’s crazy how many blind spots I keep discovering over the years of reading non-fiction books. I keep learning about the world around me. And even more important: about the people around me. I keep learning about different perspectives. Today I want to talk about fatshaming, body neutrality and fatphobia. The book ‘Knap voor een Dik Meisje’ (translated: pretty for a fat girl) by Tatjana Almuli was the starting point for opening my eyes. Today I’ll tell you more about the book.
Knap voor een Dik Meisje
Almuli’s first book, Knap voor een Dik Meisje, was published in 2019. I’d say the book is a mixture of two things. One, Almuli’s personal story. Two, awareness about fatphobia and fatshaming. This mixture is the perfect cocktail if you’d ask me. Because of the personal story of Almuli’s, the book is easy to read. I couldn’t stop reading. She writes about her personal life, from when she was born till when the book was published, 2019. Almuli has always been fat and the book shows how this tiny detail controls her entire life. How she has been bullied, how she has always been on and off a diet, how she developed an eating disorder, how people always criticize her, about the prejudices.
This story really shows how hard life is when you’re fat. Not because of the fact that someone is fat, but because of society. It shows how much value we allocate to appearance. And through the personal story of Almuli it becomes so clear that we live in a fatphobic society. How compliments are always about someone’s appearance, how the prejudices we have about fat people are horrible but most importantly: how we treat someone’s body as if it’s a public good. Once you’re fat, everyone seems to be allowed to give you advice, tell you to lose weight or is suddenly concerned about your weight. The books really shows what a fatphobic culture does to a person. The subtitle of the book is ‘the weight of weight’, crazy accurate.
Since I’ve personally always fit within the cultural norm, I wasn’t aware of fatphobia or fatshaming at all. I never felt the social pain of being fat. And that’s why I am happy I read Knap voor een Dik Meisje, because I can do better now. I used give people compliments if they’ve had lost weight. I used to say I will go on a diet right away after the Christmas dinner. I was never bothered with the absurd small sizes in a clothing store. I used to even think of ‘fat’ as a negative word, a curse word. Now that I am learning, I see fatphobia everywhere and I realize how messed up this all is. Fatphobia is everywhere.
As I said, the word ‘fat’ is neutral. Just like being tall or short. If someone says: ‘I am fat’ we shouldn’t be like: ‘Ah, no, you’re not! You’re beautiful’. That implies that we can’t be both. We can! People are fat ánd beautiful. Fat is just a word to describe someone’s appearance. It’s not something negative. The word fat is often accompanied by negative associations like being lazy. None of that is true. Fat is just fat. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s neutral.
Minding Your Own Business
The most important personal lesson I’ve learned from ‘Knap voor een Dik Meisje’ is that should all mind our own damn business when it comes to fat. Sounds simple, but for most people it isn’t. Don’t talk about someone’s body if nobody as asked for it. Don’t tell people they should lose weight. Don’t tell them to skip a dessert. Don’t talk about dieting in public. Just mind your own business and leave fat people alone just like you do with everybody else.
That’s for the personal lessons, but I also learned a lot about society in general. Representation matters. We need to see more fat people on tv, films, magazines etc. And if fat people appear in media it should be normalized, it should not be about dieting or their size. Fat people are people like everybody else. I’ve also learned that there’s a big problem in fashion. The sizes in stores are ridiculous. Why should fat people shop online? Why aren’t their sizes in stores? I mean, the average size in the Netherlands is 42. However, that’s the biggest size in most stores. Where are all the clothes for the people above that average (just like there are people below it). You know, the examples are endless. But it starts with awareness, so read ‘Knap voor een Dik Meisje’ by Tatjana Almuli!