Given that every time I've visited Britain, I get constant (flattering and blush-inducing) comparisons to Dawn French, to whom I am almost identical in height and weight, I am indeed a pretty good candidate for speaking to Ms. Voak's claim that women like Dawn French might be better able to cope with being grotesque wretches, but they still can't possibly be happy.
Dawn on the left; Liss on the right.
And, as Kate predicted, I do indeed have something to say. But first, what Voak says:
"Of course, if you are somebody like Dawn French—who is beautiful, talented, intelligent and witty—then you can cope more easily with being overweight. But you still aren't happy, and I don't believe that she is."That's certainly convenient, isn't it? Dawn French—and all of the rest of us beautiful, talented, intelligent, witty, and fat women—can say that we're happy all we want, but Ms. I Can't Make Money if Fat People Aren't Ashamed doesn't believe it.
Well, I won't try to convince her. People who insist on their own happiness rarely come off sounding happy in the end, anyway—even if they are.
I will, however, note that I'm lucky. A very, very fortunate girl—blessed by chance, touched warmly by the fingertips of providence. The fates shine on me.
You see, Voak says she doesn't believe I could be happy, but, luckily, I don't give a shit.
Luckily, I don't give a shit whether she believes I'm happy or not. I don't give a shit whether she believes I am happy, I don't give a shit whether she thinks I should be happy, and I really don't give a shit whether she thinks I would be happier if I looked different than I do. Luckily, I'm all smiling, contented apathy in response to her furrowed brow, her firm insistence that I couldn't possibly be happy, given my big fat arse and my double chin and my stretch marks and my wobbly upper arms. Luckily, I'm nothing but a chuckle personified at her sad desperation to convince me I'm unhappy.
Funny thing, though—and here comes the irony; watch out!—one of the main reasons I am happy is because I don't give a shit about what Voak thinks, or any of the people like her. That freedom from the shame she wants to impose on people who look like me is itself a happiness, in which germinates the elusive Happiness of Self. And it wasn't really luck at all that I ended up with that freedom; it was hard work and the will, the undiscouragable determination, to love myself and my body—my big, imperfect, flawed body—for exactly what it is, whatever that may be. It shouldn't require hard work and will, but it does—because everything around us is designed to subvert the ultimately simple, but profoundly rewarding, nourishing, and self-fulfilling act of Happiness of Self.
And if you're fat, you've got exhausting old shame-mavens like Voak waiting for you to try to undermine you one last time, telling you even your happiness is bullshit. Well, Voak can believe whatever she needs to believe to make her happy. Me—I'll be over here, blissfully indifferent and happy-go-lucky. Because that's what I've chosen to be, and I won't be denied the splendor of this freedom by anyone.
As I've said before, it remains a radical act to be fat and happy, especially if you're a woman (for whom "jolly" fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.
I choose to be brave. That makes me happy.
On a related note, I'd also like to point out the image that the absurd Daily Mail chose to accompany Voak's obtuse article could not have been more disharmonious with her shrill fat-shaming. It's one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen of a fat woman, and when I looked at it, I smiled. And I certainly didn't feel as though looking like that was A Bad Thing.