In the last year or so, there has been a (re)emergence of the term “thicc.” On social media, it has been almost impossible to scroll through your timeline without someone being referred to as “thicc,” “thick,” or some other variation of the word. As celebrities like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and others began to gain weight, headlines began to circulate where writers were celebrating the celebrities’ “thickness” and not their fatness. It is for this reason that I have grown a strong disdain for the term “thicc/k” and am adamant about being clear in the fact that using the term “thicc/k” as a compliment while still actively denying fat people our humanity, our right to love, and proper medical care, housing, and jobs is anti-fat.
Mainstream—whereby I mean hegemonic—powers have created a dichotomy between “thicc/k” and “fat.” Anti-fat domination determines who gets to be the former and who is always understood as the latter. This is how desirability/beauty politics show up in our language. The reality is that these two terms are the same; thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k. How one defines and understands beauty is what informs their language around other people’s weight and appearance. Said again, how someone’s fatness sits on their body determines whether they are read as “thicc/k” or “fat,” and I posit that this plays a major role in anti-fat discrimination/oppression.
thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k
When discussing anti-fatness, people oftentimes reduce this form of oppression to discriminatory, brutal language—most notably referred to as “fat shaming.” Language does, in fact, play a role in anti-fat oppression. It is why, for the most part, fat people prefer terms like “thicc/k,” “big,” “big-boned” because “fat” has always been weaponized against us. Many fat people have anecdotal tales about the times we’ve experienced anti-fatness in the workplace, in school, in the medical field. However, anti-fatness does not begin and end with anecdote. In fact, anti-fatness’s reach extends far beyond the language that reinforces its existence. It is systemic. According to North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), in 1999, a 14-year-old girl by the name of Gina Score died due to anti-fat biases and prejudices. It is said that Gina, who had been part of a camp run and operated by military veterans, had been tasked with a 2.7-mile run. She fell on the ground, gasping for air. After four hours of her instructors laughing, drinking soda, and accusing Gina of faking, a doctor came and called for an ambulance immediately. Gina’s organs had failed. She had died. Just a few years prior, Canadian doctor and columnist, Kenneth Walker, wrote in a popular and well-cited newspaper column that “For their own good and for the good of the country, fat people should be locked up in prison camps.”
In a study performed by Steven L. Gortmaker and other scientists, it was proven that fat men were eleven percent (11%) less likely to marry and fat women were twenty percent (20%) less likely to marry. In 49 out of the 50 US states, it is legal to fire someone for no other reason than their fatness. In other words, unless a fat person is fired for being fat in Michigan—the only state with a law which protects people who are overweight—they can be fired and nothing can be done about it. Fat people—women and queer folks, specifically—are so often not given the space to discuss their histories with sexual abuse away from desire. We are met with “why would anyone want to rape you?” People read our bodies, be it consciously or not, as undesirable and, thus, do not understand what would compel someone to violate us sexually—even though rape is generally about engaging sex as an avenue through which one can maintain power over a person/place/thing. Herein is why we do not hear fat people’s #MeToo stories.
When Black Panther was released earlier this year, many people celebrated the casting of a “thicc/k” Winston Duke, who played leader of the Jabari Tribe, M’Baku. Folks wrote on the barriers someone of his stature would break in a film of Black Panther’s magnitude; many lusted after Duke on social media, noting his height and “massive thighs” as something they looked forward to seeing in the film. At one point, Winston Duke even went on record to thank Black women for helping him “heal” from the scars associated with his size. While I recognize that a Black man who towers at 6’4” with 250 pounds resting on his body likely does have a lot to heal from, I am more thoughtful of the many people whose weight does not rest so easily on their bodies. I am forced to think about the darkskin Black man who also towers at over 6’, but weighs 600 pounds, and how that leads to him being antagonized, and not celebrated, on social media. I am forced to think about Black women like Roxane Gay, who stands at 6’3” with over 400 pounds on her body. I am mindful of my own nonbinary body; a body that is 6’ and well over 250 pounds.
With our bodies in mind, I am unable to give as much thought to bodies like Winston Duke’s; the rest of the world will already do that. I am all-too-aware of the fact that this room which Winston Duke is given to discuss his insecurities with his size happens at the expense of fat people without his money, fame, or frame. It is this reality—a reality that dehumanizes and otherizes poor, darkskin, fat people—that would play a role in the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. For darkskin Black people with fat bodies that are undesirable, we live knowing that we are at a higher risk of experiencing violence at the hands of the state.To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. Click To Tweet
There is a particular currency in thickness that is not found in fatness. To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. This is, as it stands, a way to specifically remove any ability to locate desire in a body that is outright fat and place it solely in bodies with weight that is “proportionate.” For those of us who will never be seen as anything other than fat, we are being told through this use of “thicc/k” that our cages, as Roxane Gay calls the body, are not desirable; that only a particular type of fatness is capable of being beautiful/desired/whole. Not just desirable in the sense of beauty, love, and sex, but desirable as it affects and pertains to our health, our education, our livelihoods.
So, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and others assigned “thicc/k” as a label get to have others celebrate their weight gain—albeit, not void of misogynoir—while women and femmes like Roxane Gay, Jamal Lewis, and Ashleigh Shackelford continue to fight for bodies like theirs to be seen as valid. Winston Duke gets access to money and healing while boys and men like Mike Brown and Eric Garner meet death. This dichotomy is anti-fat. This is anti-fat violence, and it is this that makes the use of “thicc/k” anti-fat.
I am aware that, even after reading this, many people will not stop using the word “thicc/k.” Nevertheless, it is my hope that through this it is made clear that whatever desire someone locates in a body they deem “thicc/k,” what they find attractive really is fatness. We need to be honest about that to destigmatize fatness and fat people’s bodies. This is truly the difference between life and death.
To continue dissecting anti-fatness, both on a personal and structural basis, I suggest following these beautiful fat people with beautiful fat politics on Twitter:
Alexandra Shipp Doesn’t Understand Colorism and It Shows
Alexandra Shipp is suffering from the same light-skin plight that Tinashe claimed stifled her career two years ago. Oh well…
After hearing that KiKi Layne was in talks to step into her queendom as Storm, Alexandra Shipp wasted no time chiming in on Twitter. Her hot garbage take has since sparked yet another conversation about colorism in Hollywood. Alexandra stated, in so many words, that Black people aren’t supporting her because of her skin tone. Proving she, like so many, does not understand colorism as a system of oppression, Alexandra makes it clear there’s still work to be done.
You see, Alexandra, no one is attacking you for having light skin. They’re simply expressing joy over the much-anticipated portrayal of Storm as she was intended — a dark-skin, beautiful Black woman. This was a monumental opportunity for you to offer praise. Instead, you chose self-pity because a skilled actress is taking a role you aren’t entitled to. Let’s look at receipts, shall we?
KiKi Layne has been nominated for:
- The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
- The Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor
- The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble.
You, Alexandra, have been nominated for a Teen Choice Award and a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award.
Because you, and others who look like you, have not had to search for representation to feel included, you may not know how to respond to this. I get it, You think you worked hard, earned that role, did it justice. Sorry, baby, but you thought wrong. The one-time wife of T’Challa deserves to be a dark-skin queen and there’s nothing you should do about it.
It’s bigger than you.
For two decades, we have waited for the mantle of Storm to be assumed by a woman who truly looks like her. For once, little Black children who share that skin-tone would feel seen as they look upon their favorite superhero. Imagine children looking at Storm the way they knew her and the way they thought they could be; strong, beautiful, dark-skinned, and more talented than you.
Furthermore, your conflict with the change in the cast should not be conflated with other pressing issues. Don’t weaponize Black Lives Matter to represent losing a job because you’re talentless. Where is your grace, queen? You’ve been coasting on mediocrity in an industry that has made you proud of your light-skin privilege. Now that dark-skin is profitable, the industry is accepting of some actresses with melanin more popping than yours, and you want to play the victim? Ms. “90 percent of the racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime has been at the hands of fellow Black people.”
Protests Ensue Over Death of Jameek Lowery
Jameek Lowery streamed his final moments as he sought assistance from officers in a Paterson, New Jersey station. Having passed in police custody, community members and family want answers.
Scared and Alone
Jameek Lowery was disoriented, foaming at the mouth, and shoeless. Asking for water and visibly unsettled, 27-year-old Jameek admitted he’d taken ecstasy just moments earlier. Hoping officers would help him find proper care, Jameek trusted them with his life.
Police say they called an ambulance and accompanied him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, but what happened during transport is unclear. The Passaic County Prosecutor claims although hospital records do not indicate acute trauma, Jameek suffered physical force and compliance holds during the ride. While transport took between five and twelve minutes, the prosecutor alleges that Jameek was unresponsive upon arrival. Jamir King, Jameek’s brother, says Lowery suffered a fractured eye socket and broken cheekbone after the recording.
We want answers now!
Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale maintains everything that could be done to help Jameek was.
“They will do the autopsy, everything will come up and then we’ll know where we stand, and the answers will be given to you. I want you to have those answers. Right or wrong, I want you to have those answers.”
Jerry Speziale, Paterson Police Director
Unhappy with what Paterson Police have provided since Jameek’s death Saturday, protests have ensued. Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter attended the Tuesday night protest, providing his support to the family and commenting on what he knew so far.
“He was extremely paranoid, he was terrified, and he had no shoes on. What I did notice was his face looked good and within a few hours he was dead.”
Hank Newsome, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York
City Council members were also present during the protests, providing comfort to the family as they begged for answers. Lowery’s sister Jamilia Laurie said, “My heart hurts, I can’t explain how I feel because I don’t know how I feel. I can’t go to sleep at night. I’ve been up since this happened. I cannot sleep.”
Justice for Jameek
Late into the evening, things came to a head as protestors clashed with police on the street, spilling out of City Hall where the rally took place. Holding cell phones to record the officers, police lined up on the other side, equipped with mace. People began chanting “Justice for Jameek,” “Black Lives Matter”, and “No justice, no peace”. Police fired upon the crowd with mace and a large crowd was seen fleeing the Paterson Public Safety Complex building, shielding their faces and coughing.
Wana Fulcher, a protestor on the scene commented on the frightening state of police relations in Paterson.
“I have four sons myself and this is very scary. Your child can’t even walk down to the store without being harassed by an officer. Who can we run to?”
Wana Fulcher, protestor
Community leaders and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh are supporting the investigation into what happened to Jameek. Several news outlets have attempted to reach Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale for further comment with no success.
On the Subject of R. Kelly
I was 14 years old when R. Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. It was 2002. TP-2 had been out for a while and everyone was vibing to “Fiesta” and “Feelin’ On Yo Booty”. He was preparing to perform at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when the story broke. A videotape had surfaced, allegedly showing R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. The Black community was silent.
I overheard my adult cousins discuss the tape at family gatherings. Everyone that had seen it seemed to agree. Without a shadow of a doubt, they all knew they were watching Robert Kelly, the pied piper of R&B. Yet there was no outrage, no public outcry or demands for justice. It was sickening. At the time, I lived in Detroit, Michigan, home to DSA. DSA was known as The Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, but it was famous for birthing the princess of R&B, Aaliyah Dana Haughton.
When Aaliyah married R. Kelly in 1994 in that secret ceremony with forged documents, Detroit knew. When conversation surrounding the nature of their artist-protégé relationship was questioned, Detroit knew. In televised interviews and radio segments when their voices and body language could be dissected, the truth was bare and as a community we denied it. For the second time, I watched a city turn a blind eye to R. Kelly’s predatory behavior for the love of his music. For what? Because it was more difficult to hold one man accountable for his hebephilia than sacrifice music to bump to? We collectively did ourselves a disservice, the same disservice we do to little Black girls and boys who are preyed on by family and religious figures.
Ignoring the presence of sexual deviance in the Black community does not make the trauma survivors battle daily disappear. I couldn’t understand why people made excuses for rapists or held victims accountable for their pain. “Just separate the art from the artist.” How? Why? The artist is using his status and artistry to directly engage, lure, and abuse Black girls. R. Kelly isn’t the only person to do this. Many celebs have used the promise of fame for sexual favors. Hell, employers use this exact same tactic. In the working environment, people in positions of power will dangle promotion and incentive to bargain sexual favors and people excuse it.
As a community, we must demand better. From the moment those 21 counts of child pornography surfaced following the release of the infamous tape, R. Kelly’s career should have been over. But it wasn’t. He went on to release the Chocolate Factory album, selling more than 3 million copies and going platinum. With the help of a delayed trial, he worked diligently, released gospel music to clean his image. By the time he went to trial in 2008, the Black community had two-stepped his depravity out of their memory. He was found not guilty.
People use twisted language like “Those girls were fast. Where were their parents?” Working long hours to clothe and feed that child. No parent is in all places at all times so save that bullsh*t. Such rhetoric does absolutely nothing to absolve sexual predators of the reality that they took advantage of naive adolescents or starry-eyed adults. Just call it what it is. Or are you afraid that acknowledging his deviance means calling out the same evil in those around you?
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