Bad Fatty Manifesto

Sometimes my belly button smells. My belly button is a deep cave centered in my doughy stomach, with a slight downward tilt. Can I call it a belly button? That implies that something is protruding, or that it is, at most, a small indentation in the skin. The word belly button doesn’t seem to apply to me. Perhaps I am limited to calling it navel. Sometimes my navel smells.


Be a good fatty[1]
You have to earn it
Earn the respect
Earn your humanity
Love accessories, make-up and Beauty
Wear cute dresses
There are no dresses
In my size
Black, gray, blue
May I have a seat belt extender, please?

It is legal to discriminate against fat people. According to Swedish law, size is not grounds for discrimination.[2] I am forced to endure whatever hate or injustice I am subjected to. Dismissed by employers and displaced by airlines. That makes medical discrimination legal too. Doctors are within their rights to tell me to lose weight as though a diet would cure my concussion.


Are you really gonna eat that?
Don’t wear crop tops
Horizontal stripes make you look fatter
You have such a pretty face
But what about your health?


Last night I let my girlfriend caress my stomach. I didn’t flinch or tense. I let her hold it. Stroke it, love it. I let my belly enjoy her touch.


_____OMG, fat people have sex!

No direct correlation between fatness and overall health has ever been established. Weight cycling and yo-yo dieting, on the other hand, have severe negative impacts on cardiovascular health.[3], [4] You need to go on a diet. Fatness has been pathologized.[5] They call it obesity. Anyone with a BMI[6] of 30 or higher is sick. Thin people get sick too, but then doctors look for real causes — fatness can’t be blamed. What tests were run? No one took my blood pressure or listened to my heart. How are my glucose levels? Who knows? Hormones? Want to take a blood sample? Here, take it. I can donate! No. Not allowed. I’m sick. Obviously.


I’m fine.
Health doesn’t have an aesthetic.
Hahahaha, pardon me,
We should know, by now, that health doesn’t have an aesthetic.
Body size is predominantly determined by DNA.[7]

What we call things matter. Repetition creates new meanings that eventually become cultural truth.[8] I describe myself as fat. It’s an adjective. Not daring to say the word and instead replacing it with euphemisms, gives the word a negative charge, a new meaning. Not vocalizing it grants it power. How language is used and how value is added and subtracted to words changes the presentation of things. I present myself as fat.




Focus on the goal. With every image we make we create a new world. Don’t fuck it up. Don’t portray the problem, you will reproduce it. Create the desired representations and manufacture a world in which we can fit.

Who is represented and how is dependent on who is culturally accepted and deemed worthy.[9] The lack of fair representation of oppressed groups is a violent strategy to ignore and invalidate our existence.


“Headless Fatties are a version of fat people, a never-ending parade of us, taken from us and then sold back to us, hatefully and with ignorance. They reek of a surveillance culture with which fat people – whose bodies are policed by glares, and disapproving looks – are all too familiar.”[10]


Detached from humanity
………I am not an object
,,..,,Your honor, I object

There are solid laws in place to prevent and punish discrimination based on gender and ethnicity. But not size. In the eyes of the law, you are completely within your rights to discriminate against your fat colleagues, employers, patients, students, and peers. This effectively communicates that when fat people are discriminated against, victimized, and hurt it is our own fault. No one else can or will be held accountable. So it must be our fault. If we don’t want to be harassed or excluded, we could just lose the weight and submit to the norm, right? No, “studies indicate a weight-loss failure rate of 95 percent, while others paint an even more dismal picture, with 98 percent of dieters failing to lose weight and failing to keep it off.”[11] People don’t fail diets, diets fail because the human body is wired to protect itself from famine at all costs.


Just eat less and exercise more
Calories in vs. Calories out
Be a Good Fatty
The Active Fatty
The “Work-in-Progress”[12]
The I-want-to-be-thin-but-really-I-just-want-to-be-free
Let me be

Being fat isn’t inherently bad. BMI is nothing more than weight in relation to height, represented by a number. It is not a measurement of health and should never have been appropriated into medical science. “Even severe obesity failed to show up as a statistically significant mortality risk”[13] and “overweight” can be protective and healthy.[14]


I am not allowed to get pregnant.


I am fat. I am in a lesbian relationship. And I am not eligible for fertility treatment in Sweden because I do not have a BMI under 30.[15], [16] This limit exists even though BMI is not a measure of health in any way, and despite The Swedish Counties and Regions’ recommendations regarding assisted reproduction procedures does not mention BMI at all.[17] Research shows that losing weight to be allowed fertility treatment did not have any positive impacts on women’s ability to get pregnant or their pregnancies.[18]

I have to argue and defend my right to buy clothes in my size, to wear a seatbelt when I drive a car, and to see people like me fairly represented in the media. I have to argue my right to equitable healthcare and my right to exist.



Activism of any kind has little effect if done alone and no one can shoulder that burden on their own. Building community is central to creating change.[19] Instead of reproducing the old, let’s create new representations and choose chairs that fit big butts.


Learn and teach in return.
Create photographs of the desired representation.
Join a community or build one of your own.
Spread the word.
Refer to the science, because personal accounts are easily dismissed.
Stand up for fatties and demand equal rights.


My voice alone surely is not enough. But it is an addition to Fat Liberation. A social movement can only benefit from more voices demanding to be heard. Representations and meanings only change when repeated enough. Focus on the goal. With every image we make we create a new world. Create the desired representation and manufacture an inclusive world.


Images: Petronella Åslund


[1] “Good/Bad Fatty: The good ones are the ones who eat the right things, do lots of physical jerks and can articulate their position politely in a reasoned debate. The bad ones don’t. We are all being pitched in a divide-and-conquer with each other by the obesity overlords.”
Cooper, Charlotte, Fat Activist Vernacular, 33editions, 2019, p. 49.


[2] Brandheim, Susanne, A Systemic Stigmatization of Fat People, Karlstad University, 2017. p. 17.  [Online: downloaded January 31, 2022.]


[3] Middlebrook, Hailey, Yo-yo Dieting Dangerous for Women’s Hearts, Study Says, CNN, November 15, 2016.
[Online: downloaded January 31, 2022.]]


[4] The Endochrine Society, Weight Cycling is Associated with a Higher Risk of Death, Study Finds, ScienceDaily, 2018. [Online: downloaded January 23, 2022.]


[5] Brandheim, Susanne, A Systemic Stigmatization of Fat People, Karlstad University, 2017. p. 45.  [Online: downloaded January 31, 2022.]


[6] “Body mass index (BMI) is defined as weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared. A BMI between 19 and 25 is considered “normal”, between 25 and 30 is considered “overweight”, and 30 and above is classified as “obese”. Bacon, Linda, Health at Every Size, Benbella Books, 2008. p. 124.


[7] Stunkard, A.J. An Adoption Study On Human Obesity, New England Journal of Medicine 315, no. 2 (1986): 128-30. [Online: downloaded January 23, 2022.]


[8] Hall, Stuart, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, SAGE Publications, 1997, p. 3.


[9] Pollock, Griselda. Frånvarande kvinnor: Ett nytt perspektiv på Kvinnobilder. I Kairos 6 Feministiska Konstteorier, Sara Arrhenius (red.), s. 99-128, Raster förlag, 2001. p.107.


[10] Cooper, Charlotte, Headless Fatties, 2007 [Online: downloaded November 18, 2021.]


[11] Solovay, Sondra, Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2000), p. 191.


[12] Bias, Stacy, The 12 Good Fatty Archetypes, 2016. [Online: downloaded January 30, 2022.]


[13] Gibbs, W., Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic? Scientific American. Vol June; 2005.


[14] Flegal, Katherine M., et al., Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity, Journal of the American Medical Association, 293, no. 15 (2005): 1861-67.


[15] Einarsson, Snorri, The BMI limit for state-subsidized fertility treatment should be changed, University of Gothenburg, 2021. [Online: downloaded January 15, 2022.]


[16] A few counties have a slightly higher limit, at BMI 35.


[17] Sveriges Kommuner & Regioner, Ulrika Vestin, Recommendation on uniformity in the regions’ offer of publicly funded assisted reproduction (revision 2),2020. [Online: downloaded January 30, 2022.]


[18] Einarsson, Snorri, The BMI limit for state-subsidized fertility treatment should be changed, University of Gothenburg, 2021. [Online: downloaded January 15, 2022.]


[19] Cooper, Charlotte, Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement, HammerOn Press, 2016, p. 85-125.