As much as it hurts that her friends comment on her weight, Sofie Hagen knows that fatphobia has to be destroyed from the inside.
Every fat-hating thought is a product of brainwashing by media, where body image and exploitation of low self-esteem is a multi-million pound industry.
“This girl was unattractive. I’m not going to say in what way, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if you think brunettes are unattractive, imagine she was brunette. Or if you’re like me, imagine she’s FAT AND DISGUSTING! You’ve been a wonderful crowd, thank you so much!”
He came backstage. I love him: one of my favourite friends and a genuinely good comedian, despite… Well, that. It’s good etiquette among comedians to congratulate each other when one has done a good job on stage. But I could not. I could not make myself do it.
“You’ve been in the sun all day?” another comic asked him, as his face was bright red.
“It’s because I’m ginger and today I forgot to put on sunscreen,” he explained with sadness in his voice. “I don’t think you guys understand how hard it is. How many comments I have to listen to every summer. From friends and strangers. You guys don’t understand,” he said.
He looked me in the eyes. Fortunately for him, all the words I wanted to scream at him were trying to escape my mouth at the same time so I was rendered speechless. All fat people, including myself, know that fatphobia exists and most of us have to deal with it on a daily basis.
It can be walking down the street, which ignites something ugly in bullies and before you know it, you get comments thrown at you: “Lose weight, fatso!” “Eww, piggy!”. Or it can come in the form of mumbled comments from elderly family members, or from front covers of magazines or commercials on TV.
I have found a way to deal with ignorant hatred. I have figured out how to make the inner voice loud enough to silence them. I remind myself that I am worthy of existing. And that every fat-hating thought they have is a product of brainwashing by media, where body image and exploitation of low self-esteem is a multi-million pound industry. I can do that. I can silence the strangers’ voices.
It hurts when it comes from friends. You do not feel like excluding them from your life, because despite their tendencies towards fatphobia and passion for Adam Sandler movies, you actually love them.
There is a bright side. Fatphobia has to be annihilated from the inside. In some ways, I am lucky that I am able to call my friends and ask them to meet up. To explain to them, in the nicest way possible, that what they are saying is damaging to a person’s feelings of self-worth. That they are allowed to not find fat people attractive, but they are not allowed to assume that it is a general fact or that everyone else feels the same way.
Show them your scars and tell them, that it was just as much words like theirs as much as it was a knife that did that. Or show them your wobbly thighs and wait until they fall as much in love with them as you have. Show them the statistics that fat does not necessarily mean that you are unhealthy – in the same way as skinny does not necessarily mean that you are healthy. If they object, show them a piece of paper telling them that your health is none of their business. Ask them if they have any questions.
Then finally, in your calmest voice possible, let them know that their opinion of your body does not matter whatsoever, as your body was not made for them. Or anyone else.
Sofie Hagen is a Danish stand-up comedian based in London. She is also a body positivity activist and a comedy writer.