I write about sex a lot. You all know this. But this is not about that.This is about the other ‘F’ word. Dare I say it?
“You could really use some more fat on your body.”
“There’s a lot of fat in that.”
We use it all the time. People write about it all the time. Most people are offended by the word fat when it is used to describe a person.
So,I’m sitting my Neuroscience of Exercise Psychology class today. My professor is using the phrase, “fit and fat.” He’s saying it’s better to be fit and fat than it is to be thin and out of shape.
“So if you’re ‘fat’, you can go tell your lazy,skinny friends who sit on the couch that you’re in better shape than them.”
He kept starting his sentences with “‘fat people’ this, and ‘fat people’ that.” I wasn’t sure if I should be outraged at his language or not. At the end of the class, I went up to him and asked him how he felt about using that word ‘fat’ in a society where many people are offended by it.
“Did it start off as a slang word in the scientific field?” I asked.
“You know, I’m not really sure,” he says. “Scientists who study exercise use it all the time. I’ve used the word ‘fat’ to describe myself. I used to be heavier. I think society has become more sensitive to the word.”
“I’m just curious,” I say. “You’re not offending me personally.”
“I hope I’m not offending anyone,” he says.
This professor, he’s a good guy. He’s a psychologist, a scientist, a brainiac of the body. And he uses the word fat like people would use the word ‘nice’ or ‘detailed’. To him, ‘being fat’ is a state of being. That’s it. To him, it’s not rude or cruel, it is simply a fact.
So, what about the rest of us?
Note: I’m not what society would consider ‘fat’. I’m thin to average at most. Nobody besides myself has ever called me ‘fat’. If someone called anyone in my family (that word), I would be livid. Maybe inside, I wouldn’t disagree if it were true, but I would be angry at the audacity that someone had to use such an insensitive word to describe someone I loved.
I would never look at a person and say “You’re fat.” I would never tell someone about my “fat friend, Sarah.” I might think it. I might feel unattracted to it, just like I might feel unattracted to someone with a long beard or excessively skinny body.
I, and I’m pretty sure most of you, would say it a little bit differently.
“They’re a little chubby.”
“They’re not heathy.”
“He/she is big.”
“He/she is hefty.”
But, how often do you hear someone next to you say the phrase “Wow, he/she is really ‘fat’,” and you haven’t felt uncomfortable or embarrassed to be standing next to the as*hole who said it?
We live in a society where there are social norms. There are ways to sugarcoat the truth. There is slang that we’re not even sure is ok to use until everyone else starts to use it.
Is calling an overweight male ‘fat’ the same as calling a gay male a ‘fa*got?’
Is it wrong to say “I’m breaking up with (insert name) because I’m not attracted to him/her anymore because he/she got fat?” Maybe we’d say it in confidence to our friends. But,I can guarantee that if an acquaintance asked us, “What went wrong?” you would never say that. You would make up some lie about how you couldn’t get along, when really, you just didn’t like the way they looked.
I don’t think my professor is a sh*tty person because he used the word fat to describe a group of people. I was just shocked.
Factually, ‘being fat’ is in no way correlated to ‘being kind’ or ‘being funny’ or ‘being mean.’ But when you hear most people talk about their ‘chubby, overweight, fat, etc.’ friend, don’t they usually always include a good quality afterward?” It’s as if they have to defend ‘fat’ by saying something else.
I’m just curious.
How would you say it? How do you talk about people?