The other day, when I was thinking about what I'd like to write about on le blog this week, I decided I wanted to discuss the word "fat." I've been doing a lot of body image talk in the past few months, and you guys have shown a lot of interest and support (and for that, I'm really grateful, just so you know). I've been trying-- dunno if anyone noticed-- to write something related to that topic every week. I don't want to sound like a broken record, though, and I've been hoping to think of different angles to tackle and all that.
That said, I'm an English major, which sort've implies I'm in an ongoing love affair with words. I love picking apart meanings and really thinking about the things we say, their implications, and their origins. I think language is endlessly fascinating and that, even if it's not your cup of tea, you can probably acknowledge it's pretty darn interesting.
"Fat" is the word I've been thinking about lately. After discovering the whole boundless world of plus-size lifestyle and fashion blogs, I began to use the word more freely-- even in context of myself. Though what everyone considers fat is very different, I see my body every day and feel it falls somewhere toward/on that end of the spectrum. Many larger bloggers out there today seem completely accepting of the word, even using it in blog titles (Young, Fat, & Fabulous, for example), without being judgey. In the plus-size blogging word, it seems that "fat" isn't as judgey as it can be out here in the "real" world. It's a word that can be used either with pride or as a simple acknowledgment of size, just as someone who call themselves "thin." Of course, the two words have two completely different connotations. Fat bad, thin good. You know the deal.
I was going to write about how I think the process of co-opting the word "fat" is incredibly positive... but then... well, I didn't know. Is it? Why not another, more P.C. word? And considering that I think co-opting hurtful racist or sexist language is usually incredibly harmful, what is it that makes this word so different?
So then I didn't know what I thought.
At my college, we have a lecture series called Difficult Dialogues, in which speakers come and discuss topics that people are often too uncomfortable to deal with. We've had speakers on Invisible Children, the conflict in the Middle East (Norman Finkelstein, after some scheduling issues, gave a lecture), and aspects of Black culture in American society, to name a few in very broad terms. I wanted to think of this post sort've like that, like a dialogue among me, you, and everyone else that reads and comments. I thought maybe we could exchange opinions, engage in-- respectful, please-- debate, and learn something from each other about a topic that's a bit controversial.
So shall we? Wanna? Let's go!
What do you think of co-opting words? Are there "negative" words that you use, positively, to refer to yourself? What do you think the boundaries are for co-opting? Are there any? I'd love to hear your thoughts!*
EDIT: Georgie brought up an interesting quote in the comments from Mean Girls: "You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores." This reminded me of an old news story that The Boondocks satirized (if you watch both clips, they basically copy it exactly) where a White teacher calls a Black student "nigga." While there's a lot that's WRONG about that (the teacher was obviously out of line), you can't ignore the logic he used: Black people who use the n-word tend to imply with an "-a" it's positive and with an "-er" it's bad... so why can't anyone say "nigga?" And if Black people don't like the word, why do they use it?
(Both clips NSFW due to language).
* As always, please be try to be respectful of one another. I'm all for differing opinions-- and I want to hear it all, don't be shy!-- but anything that seems to be blatantly hurtful will be deleted at my discretion.