The Word "Fat" and Teaching Tolerance to Your Kids.

 Check out the #fatgirlshiking hashtag on Instagram! It's one of my favourites.

Check out the #fatgirlshiking hashtag on Instagram! It's one of my favourites.

I recently saw some women online discussing what words they won't allow their kids to say and I was saddened to see that a good few of them mentioned the word "fat". Please don't ban the word fat, fat is not a bad word, a slur or an insult, and it's definitely not a feeling, despite what society has led us to believe, it is merely a descriptor, much like I'd describe myself as tall or blue-eyed. A descriptor, nothing more nothing less, it tells me nothing about someone's character, their morals, their goodness, their kindness, their full and interesting lives separate from what their body looks like, y'know, the stuff that actually matters!

We must stop using it as a horribly loaded term and return it to a place of neutrality. Folks in the Fat Acceptance/Fat Positive communities have reclaimed the word and many people self identify as fat. I think that's wonderful. But by banning the word fat in our homes it sends the message to kids that fat is something wrong, ugly and shameful, something to be swept under the rug, kept a secret, marginalised. By including the word fat alongside truly horrible slurs and terms it further adds to the stigma that fat people experience every day. There is nothing wrong with being fat or having fat, we are all different shapes and sizes.

I am, what is known in the community as, a "small fat" (that is someone who is plus size but on the smaller end of the spectrum and has many privileges as a result: like being able to shop on the high street stores, or can navigate and fit the world without experiencing the prejudice that those in bigger bodies experience) and have zero issue with being called fat. I wouldn't be offended if someone called me fat, though unfortunately it is still often used as a slur but even if someone was using it to insult me I'd be all "Yeah I know, and? I have a f**king mirror, Susan." 

I understand not wanting your kids to talk about someone in a nasty way but instead of banning the word fat how about talking to them openly about intention, being tolerant and kind, and how we shouldn't comment on other people's bodies full stop, how we're all built differently, that all bodies are good bodies and body shaming of any kind is always wrong. Our kids should know that there is not one single physical characteristic that makes anyone deserving of prejudice and discrimination. Fat and fatness included. Our kids should also be encouraged to question the dominant narrative in our society that being fat, or not having the ideal body type that diet culture dictates, is a bad thing. Work on your own feelings and attitude towards the word and fatness in and of itself too, if you are discriminatory (and I'm not accusing people of this, it just is what it is, we live in a fatphobic society, I have to haul myself up for thinking fatphobic things ALL the time) then work on dismantling that, because your kids will learn it from you, if they hear you saying yours or someone else's body is wrong that gets in and is very damaging to how kids see both themselves and others.

So I hope it becomes less of a thing, banning this word, this word that should be nothing but a neutral descriptor. Once more with feeling: all bodies are good bodies and there is nothing wrong with being fat!