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:
High School Students Stage Sit-In Protest Against Racism
In response to how school faculty have handled a racist video, students of Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx have staged an overnight-sit-in protest. Dissatisfied with faculty’s response to demands to address racism on the school’s campus, students have rallied and locked staff out of the administration building until they reached an agreement.
Outrage Lead to Action
More than 200 high school students of the K-12 academy occupied the building to demand action. They were outraged by the response to a video which featured White students counting down before blurting racist, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs. The video gained attention after circulating Twitter and eventually being reported on by The New York Times. However, school administrative officials did the bare minimum by only condemning the video without stating a plan for disciplinary action. Knowing only one of the students involved had withdrawn from the exclusive academy, students developed a plan to hold staff accountable. Thus, Students of Color Matter was born.
The standoff between students and staff lasted for 72 hours before an agreement was met. Each day the students, who developed a Twitter, Instagram, and petition, posted demands to their accounts. March 11th, the students began with a statement on Instagram:
“We are here today in light of recent events imploring those who desire to see out institution more forward to stand in solidarity with the students of color and white allies of the Ethical Culture Fieldston Community. Today a lockout will take place in the administration building (the 200s) as a means to force our administration to acknowledge the concerns we’ve been bringing to their attention over the past several years”
After outlining the reason for their cause, Students of Color Matter organizers detailed updates as well as their demands.
All or Nothing
The administration was sent an email by students which resulted in the head of the school, Jessica Bagby, alerting parents and students that “Fieldston campus will operate on a normal schedule.” The students also integrated a hashtag, which added pressure due to its discovery by major media sources. Despite the non-violent protest, there were two physical altercations which involved a history teacher and a parent attempting to enter the closed facility. Jessica Bagby’s inadequate response to the students’ demands and inability to commit to change is what ultimately caused the 72-hour standoff.
As of March13th, the students had roughly 3,000 signatures on their petition. Housed on their Students of Color Matter website, the organization calls for the following:
The use of racist and bigoted language are symptoms of systemic and institutional racism that plague educational institutions across the country. For this reason, we command the implementation of structural reform, such as long term curriculum changes, the admittance of more students and faculty of color, and racial sensitivity training for all community members.”
Jaden Smith Brings Mobile Water Filtration System to Flint
Flint, Michigan has been ravaged by a bad city-wide deal that resulted in tainted water for nearly five years. Now, Jaden Smith’s startup may provide a solution to the city’s needs water needs.
Called “The Water Box”, Jaden’s mobile water filtration device was unveiled in Flint at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. Able to produce 10 gallons of clean drinking water per minute, the actor-rapper turned philanthropist hopes the invention will help the community. Housed within the church, which previously distributed over 5 million bottles of water to the community, residents will be able to fill any container of their choice with clean water. However, they are required to do so during distribution times.
After Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ended the free bottled water program initiated by the state, Jaden and crew stepped up through JUST Water. JUST Water is a company that Jaden Smith became a partner of at just 12 years old. The company, which “combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives,” began from a desire to develop a filtration system to benefit poorer areas and nations. Making clean water more accessible, the company first launched in August 2018 in the UK.
Speaking about his community effort, Jaded remarked, “This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally. He added,” Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and designing something to help them has been a journey I will never forget.” Jaden Smith plans to continue deploying more filtration systems across the city to benefit those in need and looks forward to aiding more places experiencing similar issues.
Jussie Smollett | In The Middle
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