Human beings seem to feel a great need to put each other in boxes, which is why stereotypes exist for all different classifications of people – people of different ethnicities, income levels, and sexual preferences, just to name a few. We BBWs are no exception. Plenty of stereotypes have been foisted on us by the masses.
All people (including thin ones) adopt some mannerisms and traits of certain stereotypes occasionally. There is always some truth in every stereotype, which is what gives it power and why people get so angry at being stereotyped. People don’t mind being associated with the positive aspects of a stereotype nearly as much as the negative aspects. However, the belief that anybody embodies one stereotype completely is just silly. Human beings are very complex creatures, and we all have a vast array of traits that combine to make us uniquely who we are.
It's tempting to dismiss anyone who believes these stereotypes as ignorant fools, but there are also many well-meaning, otherwise intelligent people who believe them as well, simply because they have been brainwashed by the media, the medical establishment, or simply by the attitudes of people around them.
Here are a few of the stereotypes most commonly associated with BBWs:
This BBW is usually perceived as sitting in a corner looking lonely and miserable, watching her friends have fun and live life while it passes her by. She is quiet as a mouse and rarely calls attention to herself because of her chronic low self-esteem. She is the perpetual bridesmaid living the cliché Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. (Positive aspects: Modest, humble, nice, sweet, kind.)
The JokesterThis BBW is outgoing, gregarious, and extroverted. She seems to be extremely confident and uses her outgoing nature to “compensate” for her size. She is the ideal party guest. Everyone likes her and she has no shortage of friends. However, when it comes to her love life, the laughter stops and she gets depressed because no one takes her seriously as a love prospect. (Positive: Fun, exciting, interesting.)
The FrumpThis is probably the most offensive stereotype associated with BBWs. This is a BBW who is perceived as sloppy, doesn’t take care of her appearance, wears asexual, unattractive clothing, and doesn’t give a shit what she looks like. She lives in sweat pants, sweatshirts, and T-shirts. Oh yeah, and she eats a lot. Constantly. All day long. (Positive: Down to earth, practical, not superficial.)
The BallbusterThis BBW is loud, rude, brash, aggressive, and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. She doesn’t care what you or anyone else thinks of her because she is angry at the world and goddammit, she’s going to let you know it. (Positive: Confident, smart, brave, well-read or well-informed.)
The Mother/Nurse/CaretakerThis is a BBW whose life is dedicated to everyone but herself. If she’s a wife and mother, she lives for her husband and kids. (Her husband is often abusive, berates her for her weight, and has a skinny girlfriend on the side, which she tolerates.) If she’s a nurse, she’s devoted to her patients. If she’s a caretaker (taking care of her elderly parents, perhaps), she’s devoted to them. She has no life or interests outside the people she is devoted to. (Positive: Nurturing, caring, gentle, warm, kind.)
The CookThis BBW is renowned for her cooking. Everyone wants to come to her house for the holidays because she puts out the most unbelievable spread imaginable. Most of all, she is an incredible baker who specializes in the most mouth-watering desserts. You won’t find anything low-calorie or low-fat in her pantry or fridge. She is all about food and when you’re finished eating one plate, she’s quick to freshen it with another helping. (Positive: Talented, creative, pleasure-oriented.)
Do you recognize yourself in any of these stereotypes? Can you see aspects of several of them in yourself? As I said above, everyone adopts the traits of each stereotype from time to time. For instance, I totally adopted The Wallflower stereotype for many years, and I’m sure many people see aspects of The Jokester in me from time to time as well.
Food and sex are crucial aspects of these BBW stereotypes. People associate us with food because they think our lives revolve around eating, and negatively with sex because we’re usually seen as too big or unattractive to partake in it. All too often, we’re perceived as gluttons and spinsters by the majority.
Thankfully many BBWs have broken the mold and shown the world just how ludicrous and misleading these stereotypes can be: women like Velvet D’Amour and Beth Ditto have shown the world just how gorgeous, sexy, and confident plus-sized women can be – not to mention leaving The Frump stereotype in the dust where it belongs. Women like Kelly Bliss and Jeanette DePatie have demonstrated that plus-sized women do care about their health, exercise, and take care of themselves.
I urge all of you to show the world just how erroneous and misleading the negative aspects of these stereotypes are. Embrace the positive aspects: the gutsiness and outspokenness of The Ballbuster, the fun-loving nature of The Jokester, and the kindness of The Mother/Nurse/Caretaker. We big girls cannot be simplified by such narrow descriptions. Let’s show the world just how complex and multifaceted we are.
How do you show the world that you are not a stereotype? What do you do to make the world see how unique you are, how you can’t be pigeonholed into any one of these stereotypes? Find out what it is and keep doing it.
I hope to see this stereotype regularly acknowledged one day – not just by other women in the fat community, but the global community:
The Fabulous Fat GirlA large woman who walks proudly, who turns heads with her own unique style, who speaks confidently and enjoys all aspects of her life equally. A woman who does not need anyone’s approval to realize how amazing she is.
If you’re lucky enough to feel this way already, pass it on.