Opinion: Your fatphobia is harming me

By Marisa Johnson | October 9, 2018 8:55am
Marisa Johnson says Beachamp has a fatphobic culture. Photo by Ruby Becker

Fat: an adjective. Something with an excessive amount of flesh. Fat: a noun. A natural substance that occurs in the body under the skin and around organs. 

Based on these definitions, I have fat and am fat. This is something that when people look at me, or when I look in the mirror, they know and I know. 

This is alright with me because I am fat, beautiful and smart. But have you come to terms with this? Are you okay with me being fat and beautiful? After three years on this campus, I can say from my own personal experience that I have not been allowed to be fat and thrive. 

Beauchamp has continued to be the most terrifying and most uninviting space for me. This is not because I don’t like to exercise, but because it is an un-inclusive and often hostile space. Freshman year, I remember getting strange looks when I would walk in. After getting in a good sweaty work out, I would receive even worse looks. 

My most shameful and embarrassing memory is of going on Yik Yak and seeing someone describe a girl who looked exactly like me, saying, “Who does this fat girl think she is kidding?” Not only was this posted, but it received numerous upvotes. I can’t remember the exact number, but it was enough to feel like public humiliation. 

The hurt from this experience was enough to make me change my gym habits. I only go very early, very late, or skip the gym entirely and just do at-home workouts. This is upsetting because now I feel isolated from a space that should make me feel good, a space that should be promoting my wellness, a space I pay to access. To all of you that look at me and think, ‘That girl doesn’t go to the gym or wouldn’t want to go to the gym,’ I hope you see that you are right. But it’s because it’s an unsafe and uninviting space that you have created for me. 

Denying someone their passion is bad for their mental health. Loving the outdoors and being active has nothing to do with the size of my body. Numerous times since I’ve been at UP I’ve been met with surprise and disbelief when describing some of my favorite things to do. 

For example, I love hiking. Hiking is a way to clear your mind and reconnect your body with the earth, while seeing beautiful and unforgettable sights. Hiking was one of the reasons I chose Portland for college, because there are so many great opportunities to be active outdoors. When bringing up this love of mine to many of my peers, I have received, “I wouldn’t have guessed,” or “Really, you don’t look like it,” in response. I’ve been puzzled by this because I don’t know what loving to hike is supposed to look like. 

These are only a few of my negative experiences with UP and our fatphobic culture, but there have been many more. The reality is that unless someone looks like whatever you have defined as healthy, you are going to assume I am somehow the opposite. 

That if a “healthy” person works out, I certainly don’t. That if a “healthy” person eats healthy, I must certainly have an unhealthy relationship with food. Lastly, you probably assume that if a “healthy” person is beautiful, then fat me certainly cannot be. I am going to give you some insight: I am all the things you assume I am not when you look at me. I am fat, healthy and beautiful.