Fat acceptance is often associated with the redefining of beauty standards to include fatness as a representation of beauty. We fight for our bodies to be considered sexy and desirable; we challenge the dominant beauty paradigm and attempt to present an alternative. Many words have been written, by myself included, to encourage fat women to love their bodies as they are and consider themselves beautiful. Books full of nude photos of fat women are published in an attempt to confront the reader with the reality of fat bodies and at least tolerate them, if not find them attractive. In positioning thinness as the beauty standard and attempting to change it so that fat women are included, are we merely propping up the idea of an across-the-board beauty standard by placing another more inclusive standard beside it? If fat is a feminist issue, why don’t we challenge the dominant view that beauty is a viable concept instead of just accepting that unilateral standards of beauty exist and trying to shoehorn fat women into the “beautiful” category?
Beauty is fleeting, subjective and variable. Different cultures have different ideas of what beauty is, but as Westernization runs its course throughout the world, more societies are being force-fed Western beauty ideals and assimilating them into their own. Western cultures’ ideals of beauty have fluctuated throughout the centuries, with fat coming in and out of favor. With the concept of beauty being so impermanent, is it really best for fat women to attempt to be included in what is currently defined as beautiful, or should we focus on dismantling the beauty system beside our smaller sisters? Of course there are many, many thinner women who benefit from this ideal and aren’t interested in challenging it, but if they are supporters of size acceptance, their interest should be piqued. We all have a stake in challenging the nebulous idea of beauty.
This is not to say that those fat women who feel they are beautiful should stop deluding themselves and just wear a potato sack and rock bedhead. The fact is, we don’t exist in a vacuum and although we need to actively challenge the beauty industrial complex, we can still have fun with makeup and fashion as long as we’re quite aware of the need to subvert the standard. Fat women who feel beautiful and don’t feel shame about adorning their bodies are subversive. Just as fat women who feel beautiful but don’t feel the need to adorn their bodies are subversive. But as we push for inclusiveness and the right to be seen and not just seen past, we also have to keep in mind that this system is inherently flawed and unstable and is in dire need of eradication.
Although the concept of beauty is a facade, I do believe it must be subverted before it can be removed. Fighting for fat women to be considered beautiful is important work. Being a fat woman and walking outside feeling beautiful, loving how you look is subversive. Reveling in your fat is ideal. But as you celebrate your sexiness, remember that even the paragons of beauty today would have been or will be considered ugly at some point—which makes it even more imperative that all women (and men) work together to first expand the standards of beauty and then eliminate them.