Feature image via She’s All Fat on Instagram.
Reader, I spend most of my time with large, bright red headphones on my ears, bobbing my head to a beat. When I’m not listening to music I’m splitting my time between two loves: podcasts and audiobooks. Recently, I’ve been bingeing feel good podcasts and ones that make me think (about things other than COVID). Some podcasts in my repertoire right now are The Read with Kid Fury and Crissle, Comedy Bang Bang, Threedom, VS with Danez Smith and Franny Choi, and She’s All Fat.
She’s All Fat is one of my favorites. The host, Sophie Carter-Kahn, has a voice that is equal parts smooth and bright. If you haven’t guessed, She’s All Fat covers almost every corner and facet of fat life from the perspective of actual fat people and fat activists. As a fat person, the media I consume that is centered on fatness is crucial to creating an environment where I feel supported and uplifted. She’s All Fat is definitely a part of that line-up.
We live in a world where the “fat American” is a joke that permeates all cultures, even our own. With shows on TV like “My 600lb Life,” fatness and the fear of it is at the center of much of the media we consume. Fat people are not only the butt of jokes but are often treated cruelly at the hands of medical professionals who want to dismiss every valid physical ailment with “just lose weight” missives. Fatphobia and fear of the fat body are central to a lot of negative depictions in media from fat villains to the “bumbling big idiot” trope in cartoons and movies. People assume a lot of things about you when you’re fat. The first being that because they are disgusted by you, you must be disgusted with yourself. That losing weight and being thin is one of your chief goals. Thin and fit people also assume that being fat makes you undesirable as a friend, colleague, or lover.
Internally, many fat people struggle with the idea of being “healthy” versus being thin, but that vague marker is not as progressive as one may think. What “healthy” looks like is different for everyone and is affected by things like family history and genetics. You can be fat and work out every day and still not be healthy based on markers like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Many fat activists and models like la’shaunae and Jessica Hinkle have said far more eloquently than I that the focus should not be on “healthy” either, but on the ability for people, fat or thin, to treat each other with respect and reverence. Whether or not you are healthy should not be the reason someone treats you with humanity or not. For fat people, there is pressure to be a “good fat” which basically translates to a fat person that eats all the right foods and exercises a few times a week. If you’re not engaging in these behaviors, people assume they care more about your own well being than you do, and they aren’t afraid to get vocal about what they think you should be doing.
She’s All Fat has covered many of these topics in its now six seasons, but more than just a podcast, She’s All Fat has created a culture and community that has merch, a Patreon, and a book club (!) to boot. They even have a Facebook group for listeners to sound off on what it is like to live in a fat body. During one of my favorite episodes in the last season, Sophie and her guest talk about the fat jokes that have popped up in the wake of COVID-19. We’ve all seen and heard the memes and jokes about how terrified everyone is to gain weight while sitting at home. One of my favorite things that have happened over quarantine is watching people gain weight! I’m on TikTok a lot and people showing off the pounds they have gained has made me feel such joy. It is ridiculous and hurtful to watch people worry about having a body like mine, to have bodies like mine used as inspiration to lose weight or build an at-home gym.
On top of being a fat-positive podcast, many of the guests and even the host of the show are queer and talk about the intersection of fatness and queerness. In a time where there is still a prevailing image of queer people that is androgynous, white, and thin, giving voice to fat queer bodies is important as ever. Speaking as a lesbian, much of lesbian media is populated by thin bodies. One of the longest-running TV shows for lesbians, The L Word, still doesn’t have fat people cast in its reboot: Generation Q. Most of my friend circle is queer and many of us are fat, and that is an experience many people share. There is no reason for media aimed toward queer people shouldn’t reflect all kinds of bodies. In episode 4.16, titled “Queer Bodies”, Sophie talks to the hosts of the podcast Nancy, Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, about their bodies, fatphobia in the queer community, and how comfort in the body can lead to a personal revelation around queerness. The episode is in my Top 5 and is a great listen for fat queer people.
Each episode of the podcast ends with a segment called Call To Action where Sophie gives listeners the opportunity to support a cause, whether that be financially or physically, that they may not have heard about in their own lives. Recently, these causes have been focused on social movements for black and indigenous lives. These Calls to Action transform a podcast from a fun place to connect with others to a learning space where action is at its center. She’s All Fat is a place for people that live at the intersections of different oppressed minorities to share their voices and experiences about what it is like to live in their bodies, and being given that space is incredibly important.