You might be forgiven for thinking that plus-size women have low self-esteem, given the amount of crap that we’ve had to put up with for most of our lives, but you’d be wrong. This tweet hits the nail on the head: it is so tiring that the go-to reaction when someone meets a plus-size woman, is that she must have low self-esteem. The lengths that society has gone to to present our fat bodies as something to be ashamed of has fully integrated itself in our media, in our conversations, in the way that we look at food and in our ideas about bodies and self-esteem. The body positive movement has been a godsend to many plus-size women in terms of self-esteem, and many of us are now proud members of the ‘I Love My Chub Club’, but that doesn’t stop others from judging you before they even know how you take your coffee – but how do you tackle this? The idea that plus-size women have low self-esteem is represented in so many different ways and it would be difficult to discuss all of them, but here are a few of the most common scenarios that I have come across in my life as a fat woman.
- THE SHOULDER TO CRY ON
The force of nature that is Virgie Tovar recently tackled this very topic in her ‘Dear Virgie’ series for Wear Your Voice. In my experience (although this may differ from yours), I have always been the person that people come to for advice, for help, I have been described as ‘mumsy’ on more than one occasion and been told that I’m ‘easy to talk to’ more times that I can think of. Whilst it’s nice to feel trusted and comforting that people like talking to you, I had never really considered that people were doing so because they assumed that my self-esteem was low. Inadvertently, these people who assume that you are willing to listen to their problems, are assuming that you are a space available to them. Virgie describes it as slighting behaviour. “A slight can take the form of people expecting emotional labor from you because you are positioned in society as someone who is not a threat because they have been taught that you are inherently inferior to them. [It can also] take the form of people taking advantage of your professional or personal time because they see your time as less valuable”. So you see, whilst it feels good to help people, you might consider how people are viewing you before they impart their problems on to your shoulders. If you feel that you are being taken advantage of, or if you feel that they are assuming that you have low self-esteem and therefore are an open space to be filled – don’t stand for it.
2) THE EASY SEXUAL TARGET
Misogynistic expectations of fat women are often disguised as ‘banter’, particularly where sex is concerned. In the bedroom, plus-size women are often considered to have low self-esteem and therefore are ‘easy’ and ‘eager to please’ because we are oh so thankful and grateful to have the attention. Excuse me? This is a load of BS. Women are conditioned by society to believe that we should be thankful of any sexual attention, we are told that we can only be sexy if we fulfill a man’s idea of what sexiness is. Ha! Speaking from experience, since I’ve banished my body positive blues and embraced my body instead, I find that I feel more attractive than I ever have before. We voluptuous vixens have acknowledged the fact that we deserve better sex, we are as entitled to respect in the bedroom as our slimmer counterparts and ladies, we should never, ever be left unsatisfied. Simply put, if someone cannot mentally grasp the truth that you are worthy of having an undeniably pleasurable sex life, then you’re better off taking matters into your own hands.
3) THE EMOTIONLESS SPONGE
If I had a penny for every time someone commented on my shape or size, I’d be living in a purpose-built barn conversion with six bedrooms, a swimming pool, a landing pad for my private helicopter and my own personal live-in Krispy Kreme chef… you get the point? Plus-size women’s bodies are not a commodity, they are not open for discussion and unless you exist in that body, you cannot comment on that body – or at least that’s what I wish people would learn. Fat women are often treated as emotionless sponges, ready and willing for you to soak us in negative body-talk. People often assume that plus-size women have low self-esteem and want to change the way that we look and are there with a ‘helping hand’ to talk about diets, weight loss, exercise, what we need to wear to ‘flatter’ our bodies, where we can buy the latest detox tea or how we can be slimmer in just five steps. In the midst of such conversations, my internal self is shaking her head in despair whilst my external self glazes over just like my favourite glazed Krispy Kreme. People need to stop assuming that plus-size women have low self-esteem and want to hear their toxic diet culture, weight loss and health speeches. We’re fine as we are, thanks.