As a former “down girl,” I can tell you the importance of female and femme camaraderie alluded me for many years — in fact, all of my years minus maybe the last five. What’s a down girl, you say? She is a young and misguided thing with a fuckload of internalized misogyny who only hangs out with dudes. She plays the cool chick. She is “down” for anything. She is not like the other girls. She is wounded AF.
One becomes a down girl fairly easily when one feels judged, rejected, and threatened by her fellow femmes. She grows tired of the endless, fruitless competition that seems all the more absurd when she is fat and shouldn’t dare compete with straight-size girls in the first place. That was me. And nothing made me eat my words more than realizing all the cool points I had accrued during my tenure as down girl didn’t afford me immunity from institutionalized sexism and misogyny as an adult.
When “down girl” becomes “woke woman,” she needs a squad. And when she’s fat, she needs a fat squad.
Once I realized I had been icing out women in general, I, of course, knew that I had done the same to my fellow plus-size femmes for slightly different reasons. Community with fat babes has been a humbling, affirming, liberating experience I can only hope all fat women can enjoy at some point in their lives. Here’s why:
1. We Feel You
The bits and pieces of your experience living life in a fat body that your thin friends don’t get, we do. This is a basic need you may have pushed down for so long that you can barely register it anymore. Trust me; it’s there. No one else will understand the special brand of microaggressions you experience, the cutting wit and humor with which you use to cope, or how you aren’t self-deprecating when you call yourself fat. We do.
2. You’re A Little Fatphobic, Too
Just like I had to confront my internalized misogyny when I started brunching with the gals, so too did I tackle internalized fatphobia. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Society has really done a number on us all. We have a lot to deprogram and unpack when it comes to large bodies and how they exist. Existing with them, side by side, on the regular, is the best way to do this. Naming your own biases can be painful, but I’ve found it incredibly freeing above all. One person I am kinder to because of this process is myself.
3. Saying Hi To Your Privilege
Wait, but aren't ALL fat women marginalized and isn't that why we are buddying up in the first place? The truth is that not all fat women are created equal in our society. Smaller, curvier, yet still plus-size women are more revered for their bodies. White fat women have obvious privilege. Able-bodied and active fat women, otherwise known as "good fatties," are given more of a pass to exist at their size. If you're passionate about your own liberation, spending time with people who have it harder will remind you the fight isn't over.
4. You’re Safe Here
There are two major things I always feared as a fat girl. One was being food shamed while eating in public. The other was being at all assertive. Assertive women are bitches. Assertive fat women are fat bitches. If you called me a fat bitch back then, I most certainly crumbled into a billion pieces because as far as I was concerned, that was the worst. I used to dedicate a lot of emotional labor to eating “sensibly” in public and being pleasant and agreeable at all costs. While I’m better at knocking that shit off altogether, I am best at it when I’m with my squad. I’m safe to eat that thing. I’m safe to disagree. It’s pretty rad.
5. Feeling The Power
While you may be safe within the circle, the trolls are at the gates. There is something about a large group of large women that seems to really, REALLY bother people. This, in no uncertain terms, sucks. But it does remind me of one thing — we are fucking powerful. We must be if we can disrupt the fragile lives of literal strangers just by having brunch together. We remind me of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. People rioted over that shit, and it was just orchestral music! But that’s us — bold, beautiful, dissonant with rigid standards.
6. The LOLZ
Becoming aware of institutionalized fatphobia, commiserating, and supporting each other is all fine and good, but so too is taking a break from it all with some much-needed laughter. We’re experts at that. Many of us mastered humor to both make us socially acceptable and to cope during the times that acceptance alluded us. No one can make you laugh like a fellow fat woman. Coincidentally, no one laughs like fat women. Fact. Fight me.