A question we often get at FFL is “Why do you use imagery of whales and pigs? Aren’t those terms often used in a negative connotation to describe fat people?”
It’s a valid concern, aren’t we as an organization supposed to be combating anti-fat bias?
At this point, you are probably imagining a thin ‘fetishist’ who chooses our images with no regard for the connotations. You’d be wrong! The whale on the front page of our website was an image chosen by a queer superfat elder woman who has been part of the fat liberation movement since the late 1980s, and an integral part of the founding of FFL. In fact, she chooses a lot of the images we end up using.
Since its beginnings, fat liberation has been a radical movement and as such when we engage with movement work it can be important to remember to be revolutionary in our thinking and how we respond. We’ve already started to see this happen in our movement as ‘fat’ has become more commonplace as a descriptive term. Other communities are experiencing a similar reclamation of controversial language.
At its heart, FFL is a fat liberation organization and we believe and stand by the idea that marginalized communities have the right to reclaim and destigmatize the words and imagery used against them. It is in that spirit that we proudly and defiantly use the images and connotations that have previously been weaponized against the fat community.
We are aware that whales and pigs have been used as harmful imagery to attack fat people, as some of us on FFL organizing have experienced such cruelty from society at large. Comparisons to animals dehumanizes us as fat people and infantilizes our needs and desires, vilifying the way we act and refusing to accept we make informed decisions around our interests. Our focus as activists working towards fat liberation is to challenge those who dehumanize us and make us feel inferior, not negatively judge, for example, pigs and whales as being harmful themselves.
Not only do we use these images on the level of reclamation but within a feedist context these words often bring joy and pride to fat individuals. While we are a fat liberation organization we will not separate ourselves from feedism as many of us feel it is integral to our identities. We believe that we deserve a space in the fat liberation conversation around this.
And so it is not from a place of disdain or derision that we use this kind of imagery, but from a place of self-expression, embracing our identity within the kink community, and radical reclamation of icons and imagery that had previously been weaponized against us. We don’t declaratively enforce that all fat people, feedists, or members of our FFL community assume these labels in a self-referential way, and in the same breath we affirm that they cannot be taken from us.