I’m feeling angry and disheartened as I write this today.
The other day, I was called by my former manager at Addition Elle In the employment section of Facebook, I had written my job title: Sales Associate at Addition Elle. Underneath, in the short biography, I wrote, ‘Conquering the world, one well-dressed fat lady at a time.’
According to my boss, this was not okay. My district manager had found the posting on Facebook, and had instructed my manager to suspend my shifts until further notice. I immediately deleted the post, and called it a day. I called my manager to let her know that the biography had been deleted, and she told me to come in for my shift. I was told the matter was settled, and everything was fine.
Except it wasn’t. Because today, when I went in, I met the district manager, who proceeded to tell me everything was not fine, and that I was fired because I had “embarrassed the company.” Because I had used the word ‘fat.’ Because I had potentially lost some clientele who would be offended by the word. Because the word ‘fat’ does not exist in the company’s vernacular, and because in her house, ‘fat’ is a swear word.
Friends, in case you have failed to notice, I am fat. I have been fat my entire life. I have lived my entire life in a world that does not embrace bodies like mine. I am aware of the statistically sound ways in which fat people are discriminated against. For example, did you know that 54% of doctors surveyed in the National Health Survey in the UK in 2012 said they would be okay with not providing a fat person healthcare? Did you also know that that is a direct violation of the Hippocratic oath?
Because I continue to live in a world that still struggles to accept bodies like mine, I cherish the few spaces that carve out a place for women like me. Reitmans Inc., the company for which Addition Elle is a subsidiary, practically owns the market in plus-sized fashion in Canada, its other stores including Pennington’s, which carries sizes up to 6X. Addition Elle itself has been known for creating fashions that embrace every type of style, and encourage women of all sizes to express themselves. I was so excited to be a part of that.
If a company like Reitmans Inc. will fire someone for using the word ‘fat’ to describe my place in their company, what does that say about the company? For me, it tells me that, despite the leaps and bounds of the body positivity movement, internalized hate and stigma against fat bodies still runs rampant. This is one less store I can shop at, not because their clothes don’t fit me, but because what they don’t stand for doesn’t.
I have spent years hating the way I look. The word fat used to cut me like a knife — until one day, I looked in the mirror and accepted that it doesn’t matter how healthy I am eating, or how much time I spend in the gym. I’m fat. I’ll always have fat on my body, and that will never change. And I’m okay with that. I am okay with being fat. I’m okay with not hiding behind euphemisms like curvy or shapely. I refuse to let a three-letter word define the course of my life, or how loud my voice is.
And if you aren’t okay with being fat? If fat is still a word filled with hurt and hate for you? That’s okay. I applaud you for continuing to exist, because God knows it’s hard to do so in a world like this.
I’d like to conclude by saying that I I left the store today with a smile on my face, and a weight on my chest. As part of the body positivity movement, I feel that if companies like Reitmans Inc. are still censoring the word fat, then we are never going to get anywhere.
I embody many identities. I’m a daughter, a sister, a student, a Hufflepuff – you get the drift. But in a world where even the places that are supposed to be made for bodies like mine continue to silence and demean those of us who love ourselves, the only identity that matters is the one that manifests itself as a number on a scale.
#IAmFat, and that’s okay.
This is the status that I posted on Facebook the morning after coming home from being fired. I was tired, because I had woken up early to make sure I would be at work on time. I was angry, because I had been led to believe that the matter was settled. I was hurt, because I felt like I had been betrayed by someone who had made me feel like she was on my side. Most of all, I was disheartened, because it is 2016, and I am an adult woman whose language was being policed by an organization that has advertised itself as a safe space for women of all shapes and sizes.
I remember writing and editing the post, fighting the battle between conveying what I felt and remaining clear and concise – not an easy feat when all you want to do is Hulk smash everything around you.
When I clicked ‘publish’, I thought that I would maybe get a few likes, and a few words of encouragement from friends. I never expected the reaction that I received, the messages that were sent to me from strangers or for local media outlets to contact me, asking to hear my story. I never expected to receive an apology from the company who had let me go, and I sure as hell didn’t ever think that they would offer me back my job.
I also never expected the conversation that would begin to occur in the comments section of the Facebook post Addition Elle wrote apologizing to me for the situation. Many of the comments were in support of me, which was amazing – but there were also many comments that said I deserved to be fired, and that I was insulting women by referring to them as fat, and that they were disappointed in Addition Elle for offering me back my position.
If you feel that way, then that is okay. I’m not here to judge you or take away your right to free speech. I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, or triggering you in any way, shape or form. But please know that I try to do all things out of love and respect for other people and their experiences, and that all I ever want is for you to wake up every day feeling good about yourself. All I want for other women like me is to feel safe in whatever body they live in, whatever space they occupy and whatever identity they embody – even if it is unconventional.
Please keep talking, because I think after today, it’s pretty clear that we need to.