There are several universal truths that all plus-size women can relate to: Our attire is policed, no matter what we choose to wear. We will encounter people who believe we're glorifying obesity by being confident instead of hiding our bodies. And when it comes to dating, the people we date are perceived as our brothers, roommates, or friends rather than our partners.
Fat acceptance writer and activist Lindy West knows these catch-22s all too well.
West has written extensively about the discrimination she's encountered as a fat woman who's vocal about fatphobia. She's also been open about how hatred for fat bodies has colored perceptions about her marriage.
As a columnist for The Guardian, West has even chronicled her engagement, wedding, and marriage to musician and writer Ahamefule Olou. Yet even with her public persona, West is still plagued with assumptions that are familiar for all fat women in mixed-size relationships.
In a recent interview with Australia's No Filter podcast, the 35-year-old spoke candidly about how she and her husband are perceived in public.
"There's this attitude that something's gone wrong. He's been duped. Something's broken in the universe," she said. "I get this vibe that sometimes women are hitting on him as if he'll be so relieved to move on to another option and get someone that's his number on the ratings scale, that matches him."
West also has to contend with the offensive idea that her husband's only with her because he has a fetish for larger bodies.
"The other assumption is that he has a fetish, which is also insulting," she said. "We're just in love. We just like each other. It's fine."
While there's nothing wrong with someone having a fetish, the idea that conventionally attractive men are only fetishizing larger women devalues the relationship and the plus-size woman in it. It renders fat women invisible.
Unfortunately, this has been an issue West has been confronted with time and time again, as she detailed in an essay for The Guardian.
"There are long, manic message board threads devoted to comparing photos of me with photos of my fiancé’s thin, conventionally pretty ex-wife, and dissecting what personality disorder could possibly have caused him to downgrade so egregiously," she wrote. "I can't tell you how many women hit on him right in front of me – and how many late-night Facebook messages he gets."
Fortunately, the "Shrill" author has positively spun fatphobic assumptions into political statements.
She even re-envisioned her wedding as a empowering moment for all plus-size women.
"Growing up, I never saw anyone with a body like mine in the kind of relationship I wanted," she told A Practical Wedding. "Thin girls were chosen, treasured, treated like a prize. Fat girls were settled for at best, and we settled, in turn, for whomever would take us. I never thought I'd be able to marry my hot best friend and have fun and feel wanted every day of my life. There just was no model for that."
Now, West gets to represent an endless stream of relationship possibilities for fat girls — fat-shamers be damned.