Can the word “fat” be reclaimed?

Belly Songs was made “in celebration of fat women” (Stinson 0). The term “fat” has a negative connotation attached to it when it is simply another adjective, a way to describe a person. Why is it seen as a derogatory term? Reclaiming that word into a positive context is difficult today that pushes for the Western ideal of beauty. However, that does not mean we should stop urging for change from society’s values which Stinson helps to alter. This specific poem’s title, “The Good Servant,” hints at how society views fat people. The first stanza has our narrator call out to a rich man who walks by and tells him “I drink oceans. / I eat mountains of bread” (Stinson, 31). This is all to make her presence known, she will not shy away from being honest about her eating habits and appearance. The rich man then says “be my servant,” which hints at the fetishization of bigger women. This degrading language shows how society views fat people as beneath others, to belittle them solely based on appearance. This is important because for so long fat people were treated differently from skinnier people and this degradation from a wealthy man shows his effort to assert his dominance and superiority. She then goes on to say, “He has read enough / to show cordiality to oddities,” which explains a lesson many children are taught at an early age which is if you do not have anything nice to say it is better to not say anything at all (Stinson, 31). Also, to be polite to people who look “different” from the norm and be extra cordial. Does this stem from a place of concern, guilt, or both?

Many features that are down upon in society that may be described as “unflattering” or “unwanted” include: fat rolls, sweat, or stretch marks the list is infinite. Stinson writes of how she “glisten[s] in [her] tight clothes,” to show how proud she is of her appearance despite the “the stains over [her] breasts” (Stinson 31). She has her hem of her pant legs dragging along the dirt on the floor as she walks which may allude to her height, meaning falling on the shorter side. The western ideals of beauty typically include being tall, skinny, blue-eyed, hairless, and blonde. Being a fat, short person is not seen as the ideal when these attributes are all normal and what makes us human. Stinson beautifully describes her stretch marks as “colored marks [that] web [her] upper arms, / breasts, belly and thighs” (Stinson 31). Imagining a graceful web of strings that a spider creates is unique to think of when describing a beauty mark that is seen as unfeminine or unattractive. She describes herself as a wonder, which can mean as hard to interpret, understand, a confusing yet fascinating idea. She is admired, beautiful, captivating despite these supposed flaws she possesses in the eyes of society. Eating disorders and body dysmorphia is heavily prevalent today and Stinson admits to starving herself “to unmarbled red meat” (Stinson 31). Searching up the term “marbled meat” which means to have streaks or layers of lean and fat and so she admits starving herself to make herself skinny. She “bleached [her] heart” meaning she damaged her heart and health both physically and mentally all to reach a false conclusion of happiness. Why should we aim to follow a false reality of happiness when we are enduring more harm than good to gain this ideal of beauty? This poem matters because it serves as a reminder that we should learn to love and embrace our insecurities and supposed “flaws.” The reclaiming of the term fat is a continuous process, one that is lengthy and against difficult odds, but it begins with the individual. The individual holds the power to fight at society’s toxic values and begin to care for themselves both mentally and physically, heal from a society seemingly against them.

https://www.biblio.com/book/belly-songs-susan-stinson/d/1206757243

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