By ROSIE WATERLAND
Apparently Lena Dunham is fat.
Lena Dunham, the lead actress in hit US TV series Girls, seems to have become some sort of poster-girl for fatties because of her shocking decision to be on television and not look like a model at the same time.
She has a normal body (as in, one you’d see walking down the street, not down the runway), and in TV, anything less than model-thin is considered obese.
Therefore, according to many critics, fans and those who just feel the need to comment, she has become ‘a hero to fat people’.
But she’s not my hero. She’s not my poster-girl. There is no universe in which Lena Dunham should be considered a ‘hero’ for fat people. Because Lena Dunham is not fucking fat. Not even close.
She is my hero in so many other ways. She’s smart, hilarious and talented. She’s achieved the career of my dreams and at 26, she’s less than a month older than me. Girl’s got skill.
But every time I hear her referred to as some sort of ‘champion for big girls’, my heart sinks a little. Because if she’s considered fat – the absolute exception to the rule when it comes to someone being allowed on a TV show that doesn’t have obesity as the running ‘we’re acknowledging the literal elephant in the room’ gag (Mike and Molly, Drop Dead Diva, Fat Actress…) – then we have a pretty messed up perspective of what being ‘fat’ actually means.
Does she look like what 99% of other actresses in the entertainment industry look like? No. She has a healthy body that hasn’t been dieted and toned like her life depends on it. She has flesh that doesn’t display her ribs like they’re some kind of trophy. I completely appreciate how out of place that makes her on television and I think that means we need many more like her.
But fat? No way.
If you want to know what fat actually looks like, it’s me. I’m fat. I am 75kgs overweight. That probably makes me (at least) double the size of the woman I’m supposed to be admiring as someone who has become successful in television ‘in spite of her size’. And let me tell you: that is really depressing.
I’ve written about how I got to this size and how it affects my life so I won’t go into that here. I am an obese 26-year-old woman; that is my reality at this moment in time.
And as a person who is dealing with the shame, discrimination and feelings of absolute worthlessness that come from actually being obese in a beauty-obsessed society, when I hear people call Lena Dunham fat (even the actress herself jokes about it), I want to scream.
Because being bigger than a supermodel is not the same thing as being fat. Your thighs not being the same width all the way up is not the same thing as being fat. Having love handles is not the same thing as being fat.
To use the word ‘fat’ like it means the same thing as the words ‘not skinny’ is an incredibly dangerous game to play. BECAUSE NOT BEING SKINNY IS NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING FAT.
Not that long ago, when I was a much smaller size, I would have never understood that concept. I was one of the people who thought you were either fat or you were slim. I remember when I first started gaining weight and I hit 80 kilos, I was devastated. I thought I was disgusting. I wouldn’t wear sleeveless tops. I wouldn’t go to the beach. I wouldn’t even let my boyfriend look at my naked body.
That sounds so ridiculous to me now, because actually being fat gives you a realistic perspective. At my current 135kgs, I get so furious at myself for having wasted so much of my time being paranoid about my weight when I was a perfectly normal size.
At this stage, I’d be happy just to be back in double digits; and if I ever got back to 80kgs – a weight where I was once desperately unhappy – I’d be jumping for freakin’ joy.
Because it takes actually getting fat to realise that there are countless beautiful body shapes in between fat and skinny.
Not being one doesn’t automatically make you the other. But the way people talk about Lena Dunham, it can seem like being one or the other is the only option. She’s not skinny; therefore she’s fat. And it’s that kind of attitude that made Howard Stern refer to seeing Dunham’s naked body as so offensive, he felt like he was being raped. It’s that kind of attitude that makes girls and women with perfectly normal, healthy bodies consider themselves totally unacceptable and worse, unlovable.
So I have a suggestion. And this is coming from someone who’s been on both sides: who felt crappy when she was a healthy weight, and then had the very confronting realisation of what really being fat actually feels like (hint: I cry a lot). Here it is:
Forget Lena Dunham. Use me as your fat poster-girl, because I’m an example of someone who is actually fat. I’m an example of someone who isn’t just ‘not skinny’ but is actually, literally, morbidly obese.
Every time you feel crappy about yourself, like maybe you should lose a few, imagine your head on my 135kg frame. Hopefully then you’ll look in the mirror and be happy (or at the very least, happier) with what you’ve got.
Do I want to be the poster-girl for fat women? Not really. But I have a ten-year-old niece who is already telling me that her friends skip lunch to lose weight. And in a world where a female’s worth seems almost exclusively reliant on her beauty, and her beauty seems almost exclusively reliant on her size, no wonder they’re confused.
I just hope that if people can picture me as an accurate example of someone who is fat, maybe they’ll start looking at Lena Dunham as an accurate example of someone who is not.
Let her be the poster-girl for wunderkind comedy writers who don’t give two shits about their thighs in a mini-skirt. Let her be the poster-girl for females who don’t think they have a place in television unless they look like… every other female on television.
But please, PLEASE, for the sake of warped body-perceptions of women everywhere, don’t let her be the poster-girl for being fat. Because Lena Dunham IS. NOT. FAT.
This post was originally published on Rosie’s blog. It has been republished here with full permission.
Have a look at our gallery of fantastic Lena Dunham photos below:
Lena Dunham at the 70th Annual Golden Globes
Have you watched Girls? What do you think of the public’s perception of Lena Dunham’s body?