It took me years to become a free spirit. I’ve had my heart crushed by a cheater and have gone through many states of true life regret in return. I wondered why the same person who cried on my couch because they missed me so much would, in turn, continue to have another partner outside of our relationship. We talked out our problems, we progressed at a slow and steady pace, and we supported one another’s individual goals. In the end, it came down to one realization: I was only ever a character to my partner, and never an actual person. This made it easy for them to envision me as disposable affectionate income.
The MPDG stereotype is not new to any film-lover or feminist, and it’s no secret to either group that the stereotype is damaging to how women are viewed in society. Men see that they have the right to walk in and out of my life at their own discretion because if I were to have any negative reaction to their flighty-behavior, they can write me off as “crazy.” (This kind of name-calling is also a form of gas-lighting.) I’ve taught myself to go-with-the-flow because women who confront men are labeled as unstable and not to be trusted. As every high school social status warrior told me, fat women who confront men are likely cranky from lack of sex and lack of food, so it has been in my best interest to accept any treatment I have received from men. My ability to keep a smile while being mistreated has often been mistaken for being a free spirit and wildly unaffected by the world. Growing a thick exoskeleton for mistreatment has only further boxed me into a badly written role.
I have been a fat girl on a pedestal. Most movies depict the fat girl as a disparaging, sad sack. While the fat stereotype is also one-dimensional like the MPDG, she is rarely a love interest and more often a punchline. I’ve had the privilege of being cool and feminine enough to rise above the character-“poverty” line and gain some serious meet-cutes within my twenties. I’ve dated around, dated plentiful, and dated again. I’ve allowed myself to enter a vicious cycle, where I dated those who treated me kindly until it was no longer their priority, and I kept them around with the hope and memory of when they were good.
Fat girls are expected to be thankful for any date that comes their way. Fat women are the subject of jokes where they should be thankful for the people who rape them, because no one in their “right mind” would have sex with them otherwise. These comments socialize me to feel proud of feeling wanted, because as a fat girl, I should take what I can get. As it turns out, there are thousands of people who are not in their right mind, and I’ve been wanted by all genders, body types, and social standing. My sexuality has been built off of being thankful for each one of them, which makes it really hard for me to say no to a date. One of my biggest goals in life is to make every jock question their sexuality, since they were always taught that fat women aren’t women at all.
There are many hurdles one must get over to love a fat girl in a visible way. My favorite example is the character Vanessa in the episode, “So Did The Fat Lady,” from Louie. The entire episode, Vanessa is built up to be a confident and forward fat character who is effortlessly cool and kind, despite the treatment handed to her. Louie CK highlights that she is only unwanted due to her size. With her persistence, along with an undying optimistic outlook, Louie agrees to a casual date. On this low-pressure walk through the park, Vanessa has her history making speech. At first, this was empowering. Yes! Fat women are frustrated! We deserve more! Though, this revelation ends on a sad note: she just wants someone to hold her hand in public.
In the physical world, it’s not all that hard to get someone to want to love a fat girl. I’m well over 200 pounds, and I’ve had many partners entwine their fingers with mine. I’ve had some kiss me in front of their friends and introduce to their families. Even though the term “BBW” (a highly sexualized term meaning Big Beautiful Woman,) makes the top ten most searched term for porn in many states, fat women are still being written as exceptions to a rule. When written into television shows and movies, the fat character knows they are not worthy of a committed relationship, they just want someone to hold our hand in public. Though viewers responded positively to see Louie corrected on his own show, holding Vanessa’s hand can be seen as placating the fat girl. The gesture shows how much Louie has accepted her, because she is now more down to earth, since she acknowledges her many years of romantic rejection. She admits that she’s aware of her fat, she has overcome it, and now he can learn to accept it, too. After this episode, his lesson is learned, and her character does not return as a love interest.
The last person I dated told me that he liked it better when I laid still when we got intimate. I was the girl who he was envenomed with because my character chart matched his. I was a book-worm who loved vintage style and was confident. In the practice of trying to fall in love with me, my real thoughts and emotions interrupted fitting me into his perfect description of a partner. A few short seconds into this experience, I knew I deserved better than this.
Most teenage boys have their first experiences talking with women as their mothers, sisters, or fictional characters. Even when defending the rights of women and trying to rally men on our side, the argument is often “what if this was your daughter?” Men have trouble seeing women in any way other than how we relate to them. We are accessories to men’s lives, and though sometimes we can make them cute, give them flair, and make them feel important and loved, it can often leave us feeling left high and dry. Vanessa taught Louie some valuable life lessons about judging a women by her stature, and once his lessons was learned, she was no longer needed. When I got intimate with someone who didn’t see me as an independent being, it was too much for him to let me lead for a little bit. I needed to be silent and still, just as the picture they visioned me as.
Donna Meagle from Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, is a strong black character who has had many male suitors drop at her feet. What makes her character successful and fun to watch is her element of surprise. Her confidence defies all we’ve ever seen from fat women. She does perpetuate black female stereotypes, with her “sass” and other words designated for the Fierce, Independent Black Women, but in this light, viewers accept it as inspiring. Donna did acquire love, probably more times than depicted on the show, but we have to remember that Parks and Rec is a comedy. Donna’s ability to be in charge of her sexuality and date any man of her choosing is meant to make you laugh and feel good. Look at the fat women living proudly! What a spectacle! Fat women can forever hashtag “lifegoals,” because this lifestyle is a figment of a comedian’s imagination, and not actually attainable for any fat body. Donna may not have been able to seduce so many interests if she wasn’t so dominating. She treats men like men treat women, which makes her an incredibly well-written character, and is also another level to this thick-written joke.
We are so focused, as feminist minds, on how media portrays women that we forgot how that makes people treat women in the real world. Women, and people in general, are so quick to accept blame for being treated badly because we think we could have stopped it by acting differently. Women who are written as one-dimensional in scripts teach others to treat women as one-dimensional in the physical world.
When men hurt the women in their lives, boys will be boys. Boys will be boys when they hide their feelings. Boys will be boys when they don’t acknowledge their partner. Boys will be boys when they put themselves first. Boys will be boys when they break our hearts. Girls will be girls when they are hurt by it.
I am worthy of being seen as a human being. I do have experiences that have shaped who I am and have given me a unique personality. While I’m proud to ascribe to the “like other girls” category, there are many ways in which it doesn’t matter whether I remind someone of their mom, sister, wife, or grandmother. I am a person, with experiences and feelings. I am a mixture of all the inspiration I’ve ever known, which includes the things that have happened to me and the memories that I’ve lived through. I am not manic for acknowledging my feelings. I am not defined by the relations I’ve had or haven’t had. I am confident because I am privileged enough to have had support in my positive attitudes. I am emotionally strong because I have chosen to fight when there were firing squads against me, and when I have fought, I have won.
Women do not need to change to be treated as more than a stereotype. Scripts must change. The way that media allows women to be seen needs to improve. Women are doctors, lawyers, heroes, thinkers, believers, and anything that can be under the sun. Women are powerful, sensitive, intuitive, and unique, and deserve to be written to reflect all the wonderful ways which women can be. It is time for women to choose to fight, because there are firing squads writing against us.