Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The F Word

Image from Loli_Secret

"Have you lost weight?"
If one of your co-workers said this to you, it would probably make you feel good about yourself. After all, looking thinner than you used to (whether you actually lost weight or not) is a good thing, right? Thin is in!

Recently however, I was asked "Have you gotten fatter? You look like you have!"
And yes, it was said by one of my co-workers. While this may seem like an unreasonably rude thing to say, it actually is not uncommon to be much more direct about weight issues in Asia. Being called "fat" is not even an actual insult - it is merely stating the facts.

This secret has spurred a minor debate in the comments section on whether "fat" and "fatty" is offensive or accepting, rude or cute, etc. Personally, I feel that the TONE has much more to do with it than the actual words. Do you need to be fat in order to use terms like "fatty-chan"? Who determines who is fat and who isn't? What about "skinny fat" people?

Right now, I am considered "fat" or at least several kg overweight in Taiwan. In America, I was average or "skinny fat" (skinny fat meaning thin, but could use some toning up). Would fatter girls be offended if I used the term fatty-chan?

In America, weight, or being overweight, is a rather taboo subject. We beat around the bush and always say "You aren't fat!" to any of our friends who complain about feeling fat, needing to watch what they eat, etc. It doesn't actually matter whether the complainer is fat or not, the standard answer is still to deny it. And heavens forbid if you should ever bring up the subject of anybody's weight-gain!

Contrariwise, in Chinese "fat" (胖) has been used as nicknames and general terminology. The top search for 小胖 or "Little Fatty" on YouTube turns up this video from the Taiwanese version of singing contest American Idol, where the singer's nickname is Little Fatty:

(Side note: Isn't his singing awesome?)

I have also seen people go on television with the nickname of 胖胖 (Fatty),阿胖 (Fatty or Fatso) and fat girls are referred to as 胖妹 (Fat Chick) even on the news. In my opinion, being much more open and straightforward about weight issues actually helps prevent obesity. If being chubby gets you labeled as fat, you will be more likely to watch your weight. Of course, getting TOO extreme will have negative consequences (eating disorders, magic diet pills, etc.) but in my experience, being babied about my weight with the constant "Oh, but you're not fat!" "You're too skinny!" has led me to become careless with health and fitness. It's not just the numbers on the scale; the numbers on the tape measure are just as, if not more, important!

What is your opinion on the F word? Should fat, fatty, and fatty-chan be accepted terms? Should they be replaced with chubby, plus-sized, lovely-sized, queen-sized, large, curvy, etc.? Does avoiding the topic of weight gain help or hinder our society as a whole? Let me know your thoughts!