“My body isn’t up for public debate”

“Oh my god – what the hell is that? Looks like every thunderstorm and earthquake ever.”

I had just left my office at 16th & K to grab lunch down the block when a man sitting on the curb shouted this at me. In just a few words, I had become a “that,” and my body had become a public object, its fatness compared to natural disasters. I didn’t respond. I never do when harassed, usually because I am too shell-shocked in the moment. But the comment stuck with me, more than most usually do, because of its specific focus: my weight.

I quickly tweeted about the incident, musing that maybe on my way back to the office I would grab an ice cream cone to eat as I walked by him.

It’s no secret that I am fat.

However, in a world where fat bodies, especially feminine fat bodies, are seen as undesirable, sexually and otherwise, my experience with street harassment has always been affected by my appearance. A common misconception about street harassment is that when comments are made, the goal is to express a compliment.

While I also get these sorts of unwanted remarks, oftentimes my size is either admonished, as in this instance, or fetishized.

A few years ago in Foggy Bottom, a man came up to me to tell me he liked big women and that I reminded him of his ex-wife. And while I have never experienced it, other fat people have been approached by complete strangers concerned about their health and offered diet and exercise tips.

Fat and other non-normative bodies should not be up for public debate. Regardless of whether we’re walking down the street in a sundress or working up a sweat in the gym, it is never appropriate to comment on the state of someone’s body. My body is my domain and it not up for debate about why you like it or how it should change.

And besides, why would I want to change: didn’t you know fat women are as strong as thunderstorms or earthquakes?

– Submitted by Michela M.