I was floating in the pool on Saturday, practicing my newly learned basic synchro moves, and I was thinking about that magical pool party scene in Shrill.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty simple. Fat women, mostly in swimsuits, some in bikinis, having the time of their lives at a pool party.
Simple, but revolutionary. Almost every fat woman I’ve seen reference says that they were in tears when they saw it. I believe them because I was too. Arianna was brushing my hair, and tears started rolling down my cheeks within seconds of the beginning of the scene.
Fat woman are told we aren’t allowed this space. That our bodies are heinous, that we need to cover up. That we need to go to the pool in tents, lest the mere mortals be disgusted by the view of our obese flesh.
After I watched Shrill, I listened to the audiobook. There is a part where Lindy West talks about how she learned to love her body. “It’s simple” she said, “I looked at pictures of fat bodies like mine until they didn’t disgust me anymore.”
This advice sounds a little glib, if you haven’t experienced what this process is like.
But I understood what she meant, because I spent a lot of time on a certain Instagram account, @Shooglet, looking at naked pictures of fat bodies and trying to find them beautiful, but sometimes pulling back, sometimes disgusted.
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And I am a person who lives in a body like that. Like all the narratives of oppressive forces, fat phobia runs deep.
So this pool party scene, it lets it all hang out. It exposes us to the flesh of fat, super fat, small fat people. It radically stakes a claim in a mainstream outlet for our bodies. It says that we don’t have to cover them up.
But more than anything, it says we deserve liberation. That we deserve fun. Love. Sex. Sexuality. That we are more than the way our bodies are simultaneously objectified as women and shamed as fat women.
And it’s such a radical idea, especially to see on a series on a major platform, that it’s bringing us to tears.
I have a sentence that I’ve been afraid to write:
I do not love my body.
I. do. not. love. my. body. Ugh, it feels so good to type. I’ve been so afraid to say it.
I think I’ve spent most of the past decade feeling so ashamed of that. My politics should align me firmly in the body positive community that preaches radical fat acceptance and loving your body has always seemed like a prerequisite for that. But some how instant body love didn’t come along with the philosophical idea of it.
I don’t love how I feel encumbered by my body. I don’t like that my back hurts, or that I feel like I can’t live the life I want to because of what I weight.
I’ve felt so ashamed that I couldn’t occupy the new space for fat women authentically, like an imposter who couldn’t rock a crop top or a fatkini because I was still stuck in old ways of thinking.
But because of the movement for fat acceptance, I also don’t hate my body. Which is real fucking progress. I spent years trying to starve it into submission, years in shame. I can now feel the pride of what it CAN do. I am so strong. I can portage my own canoe. I can do things in yoga that are so much harder for me than many of the people around me.
Things are getting better. I don’t love my body, but I love myself.
I am working on loving my body because I love myself.
I don’t love my body yet. But I believe fat bodies deserve love.
Fat people deserve love. We deserve joy. We deserve liberation.
We deserve some fucking respect.
We deserve pool parties. Big spaces for our joy. Chairs that we fit in. We deserve to be seen as humans.
I deserve the love I am working to cultivate. I love myself, I love my brain and what it does, and this body carries it through the world.
I’m learning to love my body, and I am unwilling to be ashamed of it. And that is a radical act.