‘Fat’ is just a word, doesn’t determine self-worth

“Fat” is known as a dirty word, the other dreaded “F word” that makes people blush and hastily retort with empty validation. It is a word of degradation, a word used to put others or oneself down. It has become synonymous with being unwanted, undesirable and ugly.

In reality, fat is not a dirty word that correlates to a person's self-worth. It is simply an adjective.

Too often, I have witnessed a friend look in the mirror and scrutinize every inch of flesh, seeing phantom flaws that only prove to them what the gaunt faces and bony rib cages in magazines portray.

Regardless of socio-historical perceptions of beauty, American beauty standards have taken an adjective that simply means having excess flesh and turned it into a mutated sign of unworthiness. It is a word people use to fill the gap of their own insecurities, as well as condemnation to a life that is inherently limited until a person is no longer perceived as fat.

Body image activists and intuitive eating experts have tried to repair people's relationship with this word for years. Jes Baker, one such body positivity activist and author, led the crusade against the brutalization of the word “fat” with the Instagram challenge #Fatgirlscan.

The popular hashtag features many women written off by society as “too fat” to partake in certain activities. From scuba diving to running marathons to pole dancing, these women are able to display their capability unhindered by the negative connotations of the word “fat.” The root of the movement is simple: It takes the destructive power away from a word that never should have been destructive in the first place.

According to Lillian Bustle, a burlesque dancer known for her TED talk on negative body image, realizing that the word “fat” is not tied to self-worth frees her to live the way she wants.

"Becoming unafraid of the word 'fat' has made me realize how often I used to keep silent about the matter to avoid being associated with the word, as if my fatness were a secret,” she said.

Constantly being bombarded with this kind of so-called “fatphobia” directly invalidates people’s lives and worth within society.

Many of us, myself included, are guilty of negatively using the word “fat” for as long as we’ve known the word. When I was a kid, I would look at the small waists on my Barbie dolls and the figures of Disney Princesses and compare their thinness to my own childish pudge. I would naively think that, until I looked like them, I would never be worth anything.

I’ve grown a lot since then and have realized a lot about self-worth and body image. I’ve personally found that self-worth doesn’t come from a word; therefore, it cannot be threatened by a word.

To detach from the negative stereotyping of the word “fat,” we can think under the linguistic pretenses that it is only a descriptor, a word, just like tall, short, exuberant and somber. To be fat is not a limitation nor a sentence to a life unfulfilled, but simply another state of being. Our self-worth shouldn’t be tied to size or shape.

culture@dailynebraskan.com