So now that I’ve talked about some of the difficulties and indignities of being fat in a fat-hating society, I’m going to tell you a secret. A rebellious, scandalous, practically illegal secret.
Now I am not “glorifying obesity,” as one Facebook commenter said of my last post. I don’t think my fat makes me beautiful. But I don’t think it makes me ugly, either. At least some of the time I think that. When I can raise myself up to my full psychic height and remember who I am, I think it…that I’m beautiful.
I mean, let’s face it—a woman of my size claiming beauty—she’s either got some serious stones or she’s insane. (In re: “stones” — in my case, I’m talking about the metaphorical power of ovaries. Fill in the tough, round, gender-breaking-bending-contributing metaphor of your choice.)
Or perhaps she’s neither of those things.
Perhaps, just perhaps, she’s beginning to break out of the iron maiden that the overculture had put her in. The iron shell of shame. The iron shell of the assumption that fat = ugly, just as fat = unhealthy, just as fat = death, as I mentioned in my last post.
How is this jail break, this prison escape happening?
For me, it’s been about claiming my gender, one piece at a time.
It was about claiming my identity as a priestess, as someone with power to help transform other people’s lives.
Then it was about claiming my identity as a woman (weird that they’re in that order, I know.)
And it’s been about claiming my identity as a femme.
This is really important.
When most people think of the word “femme,” if they think of it at all, they think of a few things.
Butches, as in “butch-femme,” as though femmes are only ever attracted to butch women. Or worse, some people think that “femme” is only defined in terms of “butch.”
Straight women in heels.
Queer women in heels.
Thin women. Smooth women. Classically beautiful women.
Women in makeup.
Fussy, frivolous women with false consciousness.
There are some other things I could list here, but if you can fill in the blanks, go ahead. If not, you’ve got a pretty good list.
My wife is not butch. Though don’t get me wrong, dear readers. A cute butch will Turn. My. Head.
I can’t wear heels.
I’m not thin, or smooth, or classically beautiful. In fact, in addition to being fat, I have a crazy gap in my teeth.
I LOVE makeup. (Also tiaras. Oh my goddess, do I love tiaras. Feel free to donate to the cause.)
I am fussy, frivolous, and sometimes deadly serious.
I do not believe my feminism, my queer consciousness, my commitment to dismantling ableism and racism are false. They may be flawed, but not false.
I am femme.
What that means for me is not what it means for everyfemme. Hear me. It is not what it means for everyfemme. Just as with anyone from any identity group, I could not, should not, and will not speak for anyfemme but myself.
I call myself a queen femme.
There are many versions of femme I do not call myself. Not a high femme. Not a low-maintenance femme (gods, no!). Not a stone femme. Not a princess femme. Not a soft femme. Not a genderqueer femme. Not a trans* femme. Not a femme man.
I am a cis-gender queen femme.
Because I am sovereign. Because my body, with all its bumps and overwhelming softness, is mine. My own. Because I have worked long and hard not to hear ever again, “But I don’t think of you as a girl.”
Because when I am able to reach them, I can hold Beauty by the shoulders and kiss them until
they’re mine too. Not everyfemme wants to kiss Beauty on the mouth and feel yourself and Beauty giving way to one another, but I do.
I am the kind of femme who loves makeup, dresses with flowing pants under them, tiaras, and GLITTER.
Yes, the Evil Glitter.
I love it.
For me, being femme is also about having fun. I loved playing in my mother’s makeup drawer when I was small (sorry, Mom) and I love playing in my own now. Okay, so it’s a small chest of drawers. So sue me.
I love playing dress-up, essentially.
I love it. It’s not compulsory. It’s not oppressive. It’s fun! And it’s powerful. Sometimes it’s armor and sometimes it’s just joy.
Just joy. Just I, unadorned, though paradoxically adorned with jewelry, makeup, and a manicure. Just I, as I am and want to be, unselfconscious and delighted. Just joy.
I’m white, I’m well-educated, and I was raised solidly middle-class (my parents were academics). I have a lot going for me that in a lot of ways I didn’t earn.
But I also recognize that the culture dishes out a lot of shit to people like me, as well. Fat people. People with mental illness and other disabilities. Women, even cis-gender ones.
Sometimes I can claim my power; sometimes I have the energy to tell the overculture to go to hell. I use the strength my ancestors and communities have given me, and I grab that power with both hands.
Part of my power is being femme.
No matter how fat I am. No matter how any hairs grow on my chinny-chin-chin. No matter that over 99% of clothes on the market don’t fit me and aren’t made for me.
No matter any of that I, I can claim my essential gender. And femme is part of that gender.
The self-expression that is as much a part of me as breath.
And the beauty I have held onto with my painted nails and my gap-toothed smile. Beauty isn’t part of femme for everyone. Just as people who are not femme can be jaw-droppingly beautiful (see comment about butches above). For me, though, claiming beauty has been part of claiming my very self.
Fat. Disabled. Femme. Joyful.
So what are you? Who are you? What are your identities like? What brings you joy about your very self?
I invite you, if you’d like to hear more from me, to receive loveletters from me, to sign up for Reflections, my Monday note. It’s not long, but it’s a weekly meditation on spiritual and personal matters. Matters like who we are and who we can be. Matters like courage and integrity and authenticity. Please do join me!
Oh, and if you haven’t read Part Two of the Fat Reflections and would like to, here’s the link: Fat Reflections Part Two.