Fatphobia has been a part of our society since the conception of this country. No matter what anyone says, we are all taught how to be fatphobic from childhood. But as we grow and learn, it’s our responsibility to rid ourselves of those teachings to become kinder, more open-minded human beings. Evette Dionne makes these central themes in her new memoir, Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul.
There’s one sure way to teach yourself about how to be a better fat ally, and it’s by reading books from fat authors to better understand their lived experiences. Evette’s funny and truthful prose is everything you need to not only inform yourself but to enjoy the story of a person laying their truth for all to see. If you’re looking for a book that tackles the different aspects of fatphobia, then stick around! Evette Dionne’s book is one that you’ll want to put on your TBR this year.
The Root of the Problem
This isn’t the first time Evette Dionne has spoken up about issues that affect our country as a whole. In her first book, Lifting as We Climb, Dionne tackles the power and struggles that Black women faced at the ballot box throughout history. This novel became critically acclaimed, winning the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book award. But in her memoir, Dionne becomes much more personal and speaks up about her everyday battle of being fat, Black, and chronically ill in a country that hardly listens to the voices of the marginalized.
Whether it be racism, fatphobia, ableism, or any other isms and phobias, we’ve all believed that these are separate issues that have differing solutions. But Evette rips the curtain of illusion off completely. Throughout her collection of essays, Dionne illuminates how these problems aren’t separated at all. Instead, they’re intertwined.
If there is fatphobia, there’s racism. Where there is racism, there’s misogyny. When there is misogyny, there is transphobia, and so the cycle continues. With this never-ending loop, the multiple layers of oppression are anything but separate. They survive by working off one another.
“Dionne examines and challenges America’s relationship with fatness and how fatphobia has seeped into every aspect of society including in schools, the media we consume, our health care system, and the movements such as body positivity.”USA Today
Evette sheds light on how the oppressions we face in this country are intrinsically tied to each other. We cannot be focused on one single issue since it shows its impact on different spheres of life. Especially as a fat Black woman, Dionne doesn’t simply just deal with racism or fatphobia on their own. The two oppressors work in tandem to break people down, but the fat and Black communities are resilient.
The Takeover of Body Positivity
Throughout the decades, there’s been one place where people from the fat, disabled, Black, and trans communities are accepted and protected, and that sense of belonging was found in the body positivity movement. For Dionne, the creation of this community was vital to the survival of these groups. Not only did it give a safe space for people who would’ve normally been excluded, but one of the most important aspects of the movement was to tackle the systemic problems that restricted these groups from living peacefully from day to day.
In an interview with USA Today, Dionne expanded on the movement:
“Body positivity…was always about ensuring that fat people, trans people, disabled people and anyone in a body that’s considered deviant is safe in our society and has equal access to jobs, housing and to all the ways in which they are penalized for being different. It was about changing those systems and eventually dismantling them and rebuilding systems that are equitable.”USA Today
However, within the past 5-10 years, this movement has been stripped away from those who need it most. Suddenly, the face of this community became White, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and thin, none of the traits that started the movement in the first place. In her memoir, Dionne recounts how capitalism only added fuel to the fire. With money at the forefront of the movement, there was no push to include plus-sized clothing or advocate for accessibility in society. They used the term “Body Positive” but never actually included products for marginalized communities. Now, it’s just a way to advertise and gain brownie points.
That’s why Evette Dionne’s memoir is so important. With every fat, Black, disabled person who speaks up, we gain our autonomy back from those who tried to make us feel invisible.
Fighting for Existence
Waking up every day knowing that your body is “deviant” and “wrong” to many people in this world leaves scars. And yet, Dionne and so many others continue to take up space every day, even when society wishes otherwise. In Weightless, Dionne recounts the incredibly challenging experience of getting doctors to believe her about her chronic pain.
For many fat people, going into the doctor’s office is just about the worst thing in the world, and in Dionne’s experience, it nearly killed her. After three long years of complaining of back pain, her ankles swelling, and fluid being found in her abdomen, many doctor’s just chalked all of her health issues from being fat.
“I had been experiencing symptoms for at least three years before my diagnosis…And yet doctors kept saying to me, “Oh, if you lose weight, you’ll feel better.” Any doctor looking at a person who was thin would have said, “Let’s run tests on you. Let’s figure out what is causing this.” But for me, it was just “You are fat.”
“The ways in which doctors dismissing women, especially women of size, especially women of color — Black women, even more specifically than that — leads to these missed diagnoses. Facing fat shaming at the doctor’s [office] sometimes prevents fat people from seeking treatment for symptoms, and it can literally cost them their lives.”Evette Dionne, Shondaland
Dionne’s candor and vulnerability about medical neglect due to fatphobia are eye-opening. When she says that fatphobia touches and influences most establishments in our country, she means it. From walking down the street to getting a yearly physical, living in this world while fat poses more challenges than most people know.
Living While Fat is Rebellion
The roots of fatphobia touch just about every institution and aspect of life we can think of. And while anti-fatness is still running rampant in our society, Evette Dionne isn’t afraid to use her voice. For many fat people, simply living in this world is an act of rebellion. It says, “You may not like this, but here I am!”
As a fat person myself, I couldn’t be happier with the stunning and honest tribute Dionne has shared in her memoir. In every aspect of life, fat, Black, and disabled people have been told “No.” But with books like Weightless, we’re shouting back, and proving that we are worthy of life, whether people like it or not.
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