Fat Gurl Culture – the truth about being a black fat femme.

By Ntombi’Zodidi Mazana

I want to start off by saying this – I use the word “gurl” instead of girl due to a number of reasons, but the biggest reason is that I want to always show that the experiences written about, are by a fat black femme for other fat black femmes. Most times, when you google or search the term “body positivity” or “fat positivity” the first thing that pops up is; white plus-sized women who are usually profiting off of body positivity while fat black femmes who started the movement, starve. Despite the fact that everyone is seen to fall under this banner held by white girls, intersectionality means the experiences are also not similar in anyway.

I think the biggest reason I started tweeting about ‘Fat Gurl Culture’ was because I was watching a show on TLC that is centred around people that are deemed “Too Ugly for Love”. I watched a black woman confess that her dating life is close to non-existent, because of her weight. She spoke about dating people who either had a fat fetish or being with someone who constantly pestered her about losing weight. I felt a deep pang in my heart, an unexplainable pain, because this woman was a direct representation of me. She was basically speaking for many black fat femmes in the dating world, whether this is in heteronormative or queer spaces, the dating scene is often the same fatphobic violence.

I remember a woman on twitter recounting how a guy accused her of being a catfish and being “thinner” on her online pictures. This all happened even after she sent him many untouched body pictures.

Most of a fat gurl’s time in the dating world is spent wondering whether people can truly and genuinely be attracted to you or if it’s all just a fetish or game. And often people argue that the whole fetishization thing is actual flattery, but it is not. Because how can it be flattery when the person that you are dating just sees you for your “fat” body and nothing else? They just love you for the outer satisfaction you offer them and not what you have to offer as a person. Trust me when I say, nothing about being fetishized is amusing. And this is why many fat femmes have a problem with the term BBW (Big, Beautiful Women), because it is rooted in fetishization and hyper sexualization of fat bodies. Also accounting for the fact that this term originated in the porn industry and was used to help men with fat women fetishes find their preferences quicker.

So, you move out of the physical sphere of dating, because nothing seems to be working. And you decide to try your luck online, because that’s what everyone is doing nowadays. You also assume that being on tinder or any other dating site will help you filter out the weirdos and help you get to know people on a personal level before they witness your body and make certain judgements. But that’s not what happens, instead what happens is that you end up being accused of being a catfish, even though you have a few full body pictures on your profile. I remember a woman on twitter recounting how a guy accused her of being a catfish and being “thinner” on her online pictures. This all happened even after she sent him many untouched body pictures. I also had tinder for a while and I remember putting up a picture written “FYI, I am fatter in person”. I did this so potentials wouldn’t accuse of me of being a catfish in the future. So basically, online dating as a fat femme means constantly having to worry about being accused of being a “catfish”, no matter how you present yourself.

But I must also add that ‘Fat Gurl Culture’ is multifaceted, it doesn’t just end with the dating scene.

You find yourself being labelled the “fat and ugly friend” amongst your group of friends.

It often also transcends into friendships too, where as a fat femme you often find yourself comforting your thin friends who call themselves fat every time they feel ugly. Basically, equating being fat to being ugly. Or you find yourself being labelled the “fat and ugly friend” amongst your group of friends. You also find that you constantly have to turn down invites to certain things because you know that the fat-shaming is much louder outside your confined room. Do not even get me started on the politics of shopping for clothes and having to explain why you cannot enter certain shops, because they really do not cater for your size. And often friends also do not understand why you don’t want to participate in certain things, or why you always have excuses. But it is mostly because you know that the experience of these places will be triggering for your mental health and emotional well-being, because of stranger’s fat-shaming you. Because according to society, fat gurl’s can’t be seen outside, living their best lives and being carefree like their skinnier counterparts without someone offering them unsolicited diet advice.

I think the biggest thing that stands out for me about fat gurl culture, is the constant need to over-compensate and be apologetic about your entire existence. You are often expected to be the loud and cheery one, the one who is always there for everyone (the mom of the group) or the one with the bomb personality. This is because you must over-compensate for not fitting into conventional standards of beauty, you must also give people a reason to see you as human and worthy. But also, on the other hand, if you are loud and proud and existing as a fat gurl who loves herself, people also expect some sort of apology. A disclaimer of sorts, as if you can’t be so fat black, unbothered and proud. As if your entire existence must constantly desire their validation.

You often notice this on the popular fat femme Instagram pages, how people often expect disclaimers about health. They expect you to constantly state that, despite your size, you are exercising and keeping fit, therefore you find hashtags such as #ThickAndFit. If it’s not that, people make you their yardstick for measuring confidence. Is it a fat gurl post if no one leaves a comment about how much they wish they had your level of confidence? Or how they wish they could also be confident enough to wear a certain item.  

Fat Gurl Culture is basically over-compensation, apologizing for existing, dealing with health concerns guised as “advice”, and constantly being told you are beautiful and not fat – because fat is super bad and ugly.

Also check out the post To Girl’s Whose Thighs Touch and also this piece about being fat shamed during the holidays with family called ‘I wish I didn’t care’.  There is also a podcast about sex as a bigger woman that we did with Bongi. 

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Posts from the magical women and gender non conforming people around the African continent. To have your voice on the site email submissions@holaafrica.org with your submission, title of piece and name you want to be published under. For inquiries email info@holaafrica.org. All rights remain with original authors.
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