Fattism and Perfection

Posted on: 04/01/2010

by Isaac Lee

What is perfection? A size 0 model? Or a someone off of the cover of ‘men’s health magazine’? Or perhaps it’s the fat (fictional) receptionist sitting at the front desk at work? Or the obese kid leaving McDonalds?

In a recent BBC News story entitled “Why are fat people abused?” the word Fattism was coined. According to

    fattism [ˈfætɪzəm]
    (Sociology) discrimination on the basis of weight, esp prejudice against those considered to be overweight
    [from fat + -ism, on the model of racism]

I also recently read an article about how the image obsession that allegedly plagues women has recently stretched a toned arm of beckoning towards men. It mused on the gym culture that sees men frequenting the weights rooms and out in running shoes and tracksuits. Funnily enough I personally have heard both Chris Moyles and Greg James of Radio 1 telling us about their efforts to get fit. It seems as a society we have an obsession with physical perfection.

My dad used to tell me a story about a certain fat, lazy boy. This boy’s mother was going on a journey so she decided that the best way to keep her child nourished and warm together (for it was winter) would be to bake a giant pie. The boy could use this as a quilt; then he could slowly eat his way through this quilt and keep fed. When her journey ended mother returned to find her son had starved to death. He was so lazy that having eaten all the crust and pie within range, he had been too lazy to even lift his neck to eat the rest, let alone get up.

The moral of this story and this article is everything should be in moderation. Those who subscribe to the idea of fattism are very misguided – I doubt very much that people will deliberately forgo exercise and healthy diets in a concerted attempt to gain weight. No doubt the victims of fattism (mentioned on BBC article), even if they are comfortable with their physique and size, sometimes struggle to deal with their carnal desires towards a fry up. No doubt those dishing out abuse in said article struggle all the more to retain their healthy veneer. Each person must deal with their own problems in their own way – preferably without intervention from others who think they know better.

Having postulated and deliberated carefully I believe the conclusion to fattism is that it is absurd. What have fat people done to deserve any different attention than thin people other than pack on the pounds a little more than others (not a mortal sin in any book)? In fact, imagine a world where fat was the new fad, what if all our celebrities were fat and the ideal body image was fat, then surely thin people wouldn’t be ostracized? Rather encouraged by all the jolly fat people to join the feast!

In summation, the answer to the questions posed at the beginning of this, is that none of them are ideal. In English literature we have discussed briefly the ideal of perfection. We are studying Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are not the only Fruit’, here it says: ‘a perfect balance of strengths and qualities…harmony.’ Using this model I would pose that perfection is not having a sculpted body but one that is a balance of healthy fats (yes people, fats!) and muscles. The search for perfection must inevitably continue, but we should probably look closer to home – what we are all looking for is merely the parts of ourselves that make us complete.

This is article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

To address radical fattism perhaps we should add clothes size in here?

Finally I would like to say that this article is not meant to offend. To realise what it is we need and want, we must be able to understand both sides of the equation. I have tried to be equal towards fat, thin (and medium) sized people here, and I apologise if I have not.


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