Fatsronauts 101

Fatsronauts 101 is a series in which I address assumptions and stereotypes about fat people that treat us as a monolith and are used to dehumanize and marginalize us. If there is a stereotype you'd like me to address, email me.

[Content Note: Fat bias; medical malfeasance; body policing.]

#21: Fat bodies have no feeling.

So, on a recent episode of The Mindy Project, which has so many issues around fat shaming and body policing that it really needs its own post, there was a scene in which Mindy (played by Mindy Kaling) was a fish out of water at a sort of hippie music festival. And one of the "horrors" she experienced in this scene was a shirtless fat guy walking by her, after which she exclaimed: "I just got that guy's fat roll in my mouth!"

No. No you didn't get a guy's fat roll in your mouth.

And no, a fat guy did not end up with part of his body in someone else's mouth and not notice.

This is one my most hated fat joke conceits—the one where fat people don't have any feeling in our bodies and don't know what our bodies are doing.

The idea that a fat person would not know if a part of our body ended up in someone's mouth, that we would just keep on walking and not even notice, is predicated on this strangely pernicious idea that our bodies aren't real human bodies and don't have any sensation in them. Our bodies haven't lost feeling because they are fat.

(There are, of course, fat people who have lost sensation in parts of their bodies for one reason or another, e.g. nerve damage. But there are thin people for whom that is true, too. It's not a fat-exclusive issue.)

These types of jokes are also predicated on the equally ubiquitous idea that fat people have no idea what their bodies are doing, as if we have no sense of our own size. Sometimes that happens—like it happens to any human being of any size, that one doesn't realize what's behind them and bumps into it when they bend over, or that one has a moment of klutziness, or whatever. And fat people, like all other people, are not monolithic in their body awareness proficiency. Some human beings have keen body awareness, and some don't.

But the thing about fat people is that, in general, we are hyper aware of where our bodies are and how they're positioned and what they're doing and how they fill a space, because the pressure on us to be smaller, to be invisible, to not take up space, is so intense.

All fat jokes are dehumanizing garbage, but the "fat people just walk around throwing their fat around without a care in the world and don't even know when it gets in someone's way" somehow feels extra dehumanizing to me. It robs us of the very basic human sense of touch, and disappears one of the most defining aspects of many our lives—this obligation to be intently vigilant about our bodies at all times, to make sure they don't (fates forfend!) get in a thin person's way.

Or, apparently, their wide-open mouths at music festivals.



#20: Fat people aren't that bright.
#19: All fat people hate/want to change their bodies.
#18: You can diagnose fat people's health issues by looking at them.
#17: Fat people's choices are always dictated by their fat.
#16: You are helping fat people by shaming them.
#15: Fat people hate having their pictures taken.
#14: All fat people are unhealthy.
#13: Fat people looooooooooove Twinkies!
#12: Fat people don't like/want to see media representations of themselves.
#11: No one wants to be fat.
#10: Fat people need you to intervene in their lives.
#9: Fat people don't know how they look.
#8: Fat people don't deserve anything nice.
#7: Fat people are permission slips for thin people to eat what they want.
#6: Any fat person eating a salad or exercising is trying to lose weight.
#5: Fat is axiomatically ugly.
#4: Fat people eat enormous amounts of food.
#3: Fat people are jolly/mean, and fat people are shy/loud.
#2: I can tell how someone eats all the time, because of how they eat around me.
#1: Everyone who is fat is fat for the same reason.

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