It's Okay to Cry

[Content Note: Fat hatred; body policing.]

Everyone in the multiverse (and thanks to each and every one of you!) has asked me if I've seen this tweet from Gabby Sidibe, responding to people fat-shaming her on the night of the Golden Globes:

screen cap of a tweet authored by the fat black actress Gabby Sidibe reading: 'To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK'

I saw it care of my friend Elle soon after Sidibe had tweeted it, and my thoughts were, in order:

1. LOL! I love her!

2. I love recalling all the nasty critics who said she'd never have a career after Precious and thinking about what awful specimens they are. The best revenge is living well indeed.

3. I can't wait to see a bunch of thin people who don't really give a fuck about the harm fat hatred causes fat people reposting this.

Responses to fat hatred like this one are like catnip to people who want to give the illusion of agreeing that fat hatred is A Terrible Thing, but never actually expend any effort on fat advocacy. They love evidence of fat people who don't care, who rise above fat hatred. It's a consoling thought that victimization is down to personal choice and the will to overcome. Fat bootstraps.

That tweet is awesome. Full stop. And it is also something more.

#JK. Just kidding.

Gabby Sidibe, even in her private jet on her way to her dream job, knows that a fat woman can't be too serious about defending herself against fat hatred. Even as she conveys that she doesn't care, she is caring. She is aware that to be unyieldingly strident in rejecting fat hatred is to be marked as angry, oversensitive, unlovable.

To be marked as vulnerable. To show that it's gotten to her.


I don't know how Sidibe was feeling in that moment, although I have every reason to believe that she really didn't give a flying fuck what people were saying about her. Survival as a fat woman of color depends on nurturing some ability to process a lot of this shit in a way that it passes through without lasting harm.

I am not remotely a subscriber to the belief that a person who sniffs haughtily in the direction of hatred is masking a secret pain. Sometimes, there is truly nothing to express but contempt.

But I wonder how many thin people who have enthusiastically shared this tweet understand that, even if Sidibe was breathing fire with confident disdain in this moment, she might not feel that way in every moment.

Which matters at least as much as one killer tweet.

And I wonder how many thin people understand the enormous pressure on visible fat women to convey strength and tenacity and resiliency; to model an impervious armor of deflective wit.

And I wonder if they understand how it's so much easier to conform to the expectation of brash indifference to the hatred constantly aimed in our direction than it is to talk about how much it can hurt.

Hurt to admit it, and hurt to have thin people respond with pity disguised as compassion. Who seek to cheer and console us, because they cannot abide the discomfort our pain brings them. Who elide our reality that, even though we may be writing about harm this day, we're writing about something that happens every day. Who don't understand: I'm not in a funk—this is my life, and sometimes it's hard.


I don't know if Gabby Sidibe has ever cried because of fat hatred, and I wouldn't presume to speak for her.

I have cried.

There are days when I am breathing fire with confident disdain, and there are days when I cry. Sometimes those days are the same day.

It's okay that Gabby Sidibe wasn't crying. And it would have been okay if she had been.

But I suspect if she said, "This fat hatred hurts. I am crying." that tweet would not have gone 'round the world. Because we are prepared to deal with evidence of fat people not being harmed by hatred, and not with evidence of fat people being harmed by it.

Which puts fat women especially in a position where the only acceptable response to hatred is to say it doesn't matter.


Gabby Sidibe's tweet was important and empowering to me as a fat woman. I want thin people who want to act as my ally to understand that her tweet is, genuinely and profoundly, awesome. But it also doesn't exist in a vacuum.

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