"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm not fat.

I'm also not disabled, or a person of color, or trans/queer/other, but the point of this particular post is that I'm not a fat person. (And yes, I'm using the word "fat" -- not as a derogation, but as an adjective.) I've been thinking about discrimination a lot lately, probably because I've been reading the shit out of Shakesville lately, but the point is that I have some things to say.

I'm not fat, but I've been made to feel "less than" (as they say over at Shakesville) because of my relative level of fatness, in a very specific area: breast size.

I'm 5'4" and 125-130 lbs and I wear a 32-34D bra. This does not make me, in any way, extraordinary. I know plenty of women with various combinations of the numbers I just threw out; most of my sisters come to mind immediately. And yet, it's so goddamn hard for me to find a bra, because apparently I AM extraordinary with my D-cup breasts.

My best friend, who I love dearly, wears an A cup. She, like many of the women I know, shop at Walmart/Target for bras, because they consider 3 things when buying a bra:
  1. It must fit me.
  2. It must be cute and/or sexy.
  3. It must be affordable.
She, like myself and many of the women I know, considers those three characteristics to be essential when purchasing a bra. You might say she considers it her right to obtain a cute, well-fitting bra without shelling out a lot of money for it. I also consider it my right, but here's the thing: she can accomplish this -- easily. Swimmingly, you might say. She wears A cups. She can breeze in and out of Walmart/Target in 10 minutes and come away with several bras that she likes and didn't really pay that much for.

I, as you may have already guessed, can't do that. I can't shop at Walmart/Target for bras unless I want to sacrifice characteristics #1 and #2 (anything that fits me properly at Walmart/Target is, frankly, the ugliest thing ever, and also, "properly" is a relative word). I can't shop at Victoria's Secret unless I want to sacrifice #3, and potentially #1 (they say they can measure you so that FINALLY you will wear your correct bra size, but I've found that their measurements surprisingly coincide with whichever size they currently have the most of). For that matter, I can't shop at Victoria's Secret, or Nordstrom, or any of those fancy bra places, because I live in a fucking ski town and we just don't have them here.

And so, my "bra rights" are severely limited because I have big boobies. My big boobies are not my fault; I have not had breast implants; I just have big-breasted genes. Does my best friend deserve more bra rights because she has smaller-breasted genes? Looks like it from the outside.

These days, I don't feel "less than" because of my breasts; it's just an annoyance that I do my best to get around. But in high school, when I was the dorky, shy girl with D cups, surrounded by my friends, who were beautiful girls with B cups, max, all incredibly popular, I did feel "less than". I felt that the reason I never dated was because I was Fat (by Fat, I mean the derogation and shame that generally seems to come with the adjective in our culture).

In gym class, we had this scale one day that told you your body fat percentage. Our teacher told us healthy women had around 25% body fat. Mine was 26.something%, and this made me feel Fat.

Seriously. I was like 1% above average, and it made me feel Fat. Luckily, I was a rather wise 17-year-old, which allowed me to quickly quash that omg i'm such a Faaaaatty impulse and remind myself that my teacher had said "around" 25%, and 1% was not that much higher than average, and I was pretty healthy and active and beautiful and fuck their stupid body fat percentage.

But really, those wise thoughts are beside the point. I should not have had to think ANY of those thoughts, and the society that put them there is to blame.

And the final annoyance: I'm told a lot, implicitly and overtly, that I should be delighted at my large breasts, because some people would do anything to have them. This is bad, in my mind, for several reasons:
  1. It's my body, and how I choose to feel about it is none of your goddamn business.
  2. You don't know what you're fucking talking about, because you've never had a hard time finding a bra that just goddamn fit you.
  3. Society tells me I'm supposed to have big breasts, in order to be a Sexually Desirable Woman, then turns around and makes it difficult to have big breasts on a daily basis, not just for 90 minutes of a feature film. Your succulent breasts exist only to feed my fantasies; dealing with them in the real world is entirely your problem.
I guess this last is more sexism and less focused on the topic of this post, but there it is.

*** *** ***

I went back and forth for a while over whether I actually had a right to discuss this. Like I said, I'm not fat, and I keep saying that I'm not fat not because I'm trying to establish right off that I'm not fat, lest anyone thinks falsely that I am, because I am not fat goddammit no fucking way -- but because I'm just not. Nobody who saw me on the street would give me the fat adjective, and neither would my BMI, if you believe that crock of shit. And yet, I have been discriminated against on the basis of my relative size.

Which is exactly what made me realize that I do have a right to discuss this, and not only do I have a right, I have a responsibility. I was feeling that perhaps complaining on t3h internets about my experiences would be something along the lines of bragging (oh hey I'm not fat, check me out everyone), or rubbing my neatly average body in your [fat] face (woe is me, I'm a size 4 but look at how hard my life is), but the truth is, if I allowed those thoughts to prevent me from sharing my experiences, I am no better than the fat-shamers, because why the shit should I feel like I'm bragging by talking about my average body unless that average body is inherently preferable to a fat one? Which would mean that fat people deserve shame -- which I do not believe.

If we want acceptance at every size, we need to talk about every size; I can't hide in my hole feeling guilty because I'm not *shudder* fat -- thank god i'm not fat! because it does nobody any good.

If I felt Fat (read: undesirable, unloveable, "less than") because of 1 goddamn percentage point, how much worse is it for the fat 17-year-olds?


  1. I "feel" ya! Man, I am also a 34 D. Actually I am hovering between a D and a DD since I have had, nursed, and weaned a child. I hate that being large busted inherently makes us "fat" so nobody makes bras in 34Ds that are cute or comfortable. It was even worse when I was breastfeeding because I was a 34 fucking G. Yeah. I had to buy $75 bras at a specialty shop. Fun. Maybe someday they will make bras for us skinny chicks with big boobies.

  2. I have a little lingerie shop and the average size is a 32DD, I opened it because I had the same problem as you do. Living on a little island and getting frustrated that I could just go into a shop and just pick up something pretty and well fitting. I have a lot of customers who find a brand they like and stick with it but getting something that fits and is pretty doesn't come cheap. $75 sounds about right. The bigger the boobs the more components and engineering involved. But a good bra works hard and you wear one every single day so it works out a much better investment than 100 bucks on a pair of fancy shoes you only wear once because they pinch and give you blisters.

  3. Amen! Seriously, you pinned it. My favorite line is this:
    "Your succulent breasts exist only to feed my fantasies; dealing with them in the real world is entirely your problem."
    Honestly, do people not realize how much of a pain-in-the-ass it is to have large breasts? Even my sports bras cost a fortune. They constantly get in the way, clothes don't fit, they catch everything like a shelf. My eyes are up here, sir. Up here.