12 Good Fatty Archetypes

– a comic blog post by Stacy Bias.
This is now available as a zine!
















I welcome comments and questions (either below or in private — click Contact above) about this blog! I’ve also made the full text available as a PDF here for those using screen readers or who have trouble reading graphic text.

* – Note: The fat unicorn in this post is NOT the same kind of unicorn as THE Fat Unicorn superhero at bigfatunicorn.wordpress.com

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  1. I love this so much, humor, great drawing, and sharp analysis rolled into one. The paleo dino and gf quinoa chips were an amazing touch–my sides!

    • Ha! Yay. I was hoping someone would like that whole Gluten Free Quinoa Kale Chips ridiculousness. ;) Thanks for noticing!

  2. that’s excellent!! lots of stuff tp think about… thanks so much for this!

  3. Awesome! Definitely something to think about.

    It seems some text is missing under Fatshionista – “When we argue for acceptability based on our
    ability to maintain”

  4. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! And until we, as a culture, become less obsessed with and attached to labeling everyone, scrutinizing the labels with humor and accuracy is a great navigational tool. Thank you for the time you spent on creating a grand blog post! Warmly, Dr. Deah

  5. Interesting read and gives me a lot to think about. A bit depressing, though, because i realize that as a fat, Black, SAHM, I fall into some of those categories of “good fatty”, and yet still have no value to anyone other than the folks who are within my 4 walls. I really don’t know how to think about that.

    • Good point! Even though the images above aren’t all of white people, one question that should appear at the bottom of the whole thing is:

      Are the privileges that can go with these roles equally accessible to everyone who fits into them? For example, how does being a person of color, being queer, or having a disability affect the mainstream US reaction to a Rad Fatty, Natural Fatty, or Mama Hen?

      • Excellent points, Dani — and yes, I see here that could have done more to make that explicit. I think my intention/hope was that these kinds of questions would arise in discussions related to the questions I pose (e.g. ‘Who gets left behind?’) but I didn’t discuss directly in the main text the disparities of access to the privilege *within* the archetype. In future edits, I will work to make that more explicit.

  6. Love love love this! It becomes really easy to fall into that trap of “I deserve to be treated like a human being because [good fatty behaviors]”, often because it seems like no one will listen otherwise — but the fact is we deserve to be treated like human beings because we ARE human beings. The inability of fat-haters to see that is not something we need to accommodate by throwing other people under the bus.

    I love how you presented these ideas, and I really appreciate the critique of capitalism and the role it plays in privilege and oppression — that’s something I think a lot of people ignore, either willingly or unknowingly.

    Great job! Will be sharing this far and wide.

  7. I love this post so much! I teach and undergraduate, intro-level course in the sociology of gender and you have explained the issue of fat shaming so well! The ways you connect it to social power and morality is SO. SPOT. ON. I love it! Thank you for posting this eloquent piece. I will be sharing it with students for years to come.

  8. Amazing. Amazing. Both entertaining and thought provoking. I have many thoughts burbling around in my head right now. In particular, I wonder how much of the “good fatty” is perception, not fact or even self identification. I see the last one, the rad fatty and I know people think of me that way… because they tell me they do, but I don’t think of myself that way. I *wish* I was more that way to be honest. I have some of that in me, but mostly it’s other people’s perceptions of me and my own wish to be that way. Does that make sense? I’m mostly just rambling as I process right now!

    Brilliant post, will share like crazy.

  9. Thank you Stacy for this! This is so valuable and insightful. And Fun. I will be using this in class for sure.

  10. Stacy I love you sooooo much right now! I see myself as Mama, No-Fault, Natural and Rad, with a sprinkle of the Unicorn. Oh…when I was reading some of this my 15 y.o daughter came up with this interesting description for me: “You’re not fat, you’re hot; heat expands!” I guess science taught her something after all *big grins*

  11. I probably count as no fault fatty. Rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue, fibromyalgia and more. Not to mention that at least two of meds contributing weight gain. I’ve probably doubled weight over ten years. It gets old explaining I’m fat because I’m fat because I’m ill not ill because I’m fat. I also feel the need to look good to cope. My mum was anorexic around 17-20 and I grew up with her odd eating habits. Her commenting on my weight after she promised not to in family therapy. That was the last straw for our relationship. I’m formally estranged from her.

  12. This was such a thoughtful and provocative (in a good way!) piece. It occurs to me that, in addition to the capitalist- and patriarchal-noncompliance aspects explored here, there is another perception that so-called “bad fatties” are up against, and I think it is just as consequential: the idea of unchecked emotional instability. There are widespread cultural tropes about ‘eating your feelings’ that implicate some kinds of fat people as being outside the “healthy” “norm” in a way that is much more visible to strangers than things like alcoholism, gambling addiction, or hoarding; and much less socially acceptable than things like compulsive exercising, compulsive overwork, and perfectionism.

  13. regarding the dead fatty: i believe instead of “science” you should have said corporations, industries (pharma or diet and pharma). true science (with actual real honest FACTS) as we all know does not condone eliminationism. what’s happening is that the pharmaceutical industry (and diet industry) is funding the creation of misinformation and disinformation and calling it “science,” which not only serves to demonize US, but it demonizes science, too. science is being manipulated to condone eliminationism, but that’s not science at all.

    the fact that these industries are controlling information and manufacturing information presented as fact is part of this whole huge problem.

    great post tho.

  14. Oooooh this is so comprehensive and intriguing. What do you call someone who is all of these depending on the day? It’s so amazing to me how HUMANS really feel the need to put a label on us. I love it… LEAVE NO FATTY BEHIND! Thanks for this. What an awesome tool and can only barely imagine the work that went into creating this. This fatty is grateful!

  15. http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2014/06/bad-fattiesgood-fatties.html

    Seriously what is wrong with truth telling as a fat person? The diet industry wants the entire country as it fattens up to believe it is all their PERSONAL FAULT, so they are invested in the silencing of those of us who tell the truth about the different causes of fat. If fat people are silenced on their individual experiences, what does that do for anyone? I don’t like political correctness being used to silence fat people. I don’t think I am better then any other fat person, for other supersized mega-fat people like myself, I think many are UNDIAGNOSED.

    With fat unicorns I could write a whole article about how science and others are ignoring METABOLISM. Why diss these people as they TELL THE TRUTH about their eating.

    Don’t serve the diet industry seeking the silencing of different fat experiences.

    • I think maybe the waters are muddied here. Nowhere in the blog does it say it’s not OK to tell the truth. I think it’s easy to fall into polemics (e.g. stances that assume something to be resolutely true or resolutely false) when what political arguments really need is more complex and nuanced discussion and understanding. I know what you mean about political correctness and silencing, but that’s not what this is. Rather, it’s speak your truth *and* add an addendum. For example, it’s perfectly OK to say “I’m a fit fat person, and fit fat people exist, contrary to popular opinion — *and also* — health and fitness should not be preconditions for social equality.” We can safely and unproblematically embody all the different archetypes above (except maybe the ‘dead-early’ one) while also being careful not to say that the reason we deserve social and political equality is *because* we embody them. The last thing I want to do is silence anyone. In fact, I want them to say more! But language is powerful — and we need to be careful not just with what we say, but with what is implied by the things we don’t.

      • You are amazing, talented, brave, insightful and a gift to us all. Beautifully stated…it’s the “yes, and” versus the “yes, but” that I love so much about this. This work will become a classic! All humans deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

  16. Wow. That was fantastic.

  17. I actually fall a little bit into a number of these categories. I wish I could still have my full on “bad fatty” attitude that I developed after discovering size acceptance. Alas, my crap endocrine system now includes Zombie Pancreas, in other words, diabetes. Although I was actually glad to have gotten the diagnosis because after I started treating the problem my kidneys started functioning normally again, it made me angry that I can’t just eat what I want. Also, now that I’ve started losing weight due to treating this stupid disease, I’m afraid of the damn unwanted weight loss compliments, which tend to trigger my E.D. behaviors and lead my subconscious into thinking that starving myself into sainthood is a great idea.

    • That’s intense, for sure. The celebration of weight loss is something that tends to slip through the filter of even fairly critical minds — and I know of what you speak (e.g. that creeping self-righteousness that seems to be the inevitable byproduct of any weight loss that I experience). I had a friend once tell me, as she was experiencing an inability to process nutrients from food due to her illness, that the worst part about it was the re-triggering of that messed up pride around her weight loss — stuff she thought she’d worked through ages before. It’s really complicated. And you didn’t ask for advice, but I’ll tell you what I tell myself: It took me 30 years to figure out I had other options than to feel like I should be a smaller person and it will probably take me as many years to really believe otherwise all the way down in my core. It’s a process. But you have tools now to question it where you may not have the last time you felt that way. And the fact that you’re aware of the potential for those feelings means you’re perfectly well-equipped to handle them critically, even if it’s a cyclical and messy process. Anyway, that’s what I think. ;)

  18. I loved this comic, particularly the “questions to ask”.

    As a coeliac desease sufferer, I wish you didn’t feel the need to have a dig at gluten intolerance. It killed my mother before she could be diagnosed, and nearly killed me. The construction of GF eating as a fad makes eating out feel unsafe for coeliacs, as we worry that our requests are disregarded.

    I’m sorry the criticism has turned out longer than the compliments – I really do love your work!

    • Hi Esther — I’m actually gluten free myself due to inflammation from a budding auto-immune disease (Sjogrens, not Coeliac) so I suppose I felt that fun-poking was self-directed. I take your point and I also think there is an element of the GF thing that *is* part of a culture of consumption. The fact that it has become a fad doesn’t disappear just because some folks are genuinely allergic. It gets messy when we can’t talk about both realities but I do understand what you’re saying and I’ll definitely be careful in the future.

  19. I just saw this on ThisisThinPriv. Awesome post, and a great breakdown of modern society. I thought the paleo and gf was cute, as it’s poking fun at the “fads”. Like Esther, some of us can’t eat it at all, and I’m glad you responded to that in your comment. Except I didn’t know you could put quinoa with kale chips, I thought it was just kale. Unless that’s more of the joke.

    On the “dead fatty” section though, you say that the medical industry wants us all dead. I think that is the opposite, as the more “diseases” they come up with, the more drugs they sell, and the greater customer base they have, etc. ergo, “I’m filthy stinkin’ rich” syndrome. That is my understanding of the lower BP cutoffs, and the lower blood sugar standards. How can we win the race if the finish line keeps changing?

    I will pass this on to a friend.

    • Hey Mich — yeah, Quinoa is another thing that folks have really taken up, to the point where it’s actually problematic for the folks in the countries who are exporting it. The joke was basically just the unreasonable extremes we will uncritically go to in pursuit of ‘health’ while ignoring the larger implications that our actions have on global systems (like for instance, the fact that when the gluten-free craze is over, people who actually are intolerant will suddenly have fewer options available — at least in terms of manufactured/processed foods).

      Re: the ‘dead fatty’ stuff — I hear what you’re saying, I totally do. And it’s a totally reasonable critique. That said, I didn’t actually say (or at least I didn’t mean to say, if I did!) that Big Pharma wants us all dead. What I meant was that every death *that conforms* to their obesity doom prophecies becomes *useful* to them. So it’s not that they wish us all dead, but that they wish for us all to be scared, malleable, and convinced of our own apparently inevitable untimely demise — so that the ‘dead-early fatty’ which, in essence, becomes their ‘case in point’ then becomes a kind of ‘good fatty’ because they’re someone they can point to and say “See? We told you so! We’re right!” rather than dealing with the complexities of health/fitness and intersections of racism/classism/ableism that create circumstances in which bodies become ill due to poverty, stress, inconsistent or unavailable care, etc. hope that makes more sense!

  20. I think I am more of a bad fatty than a good fatty and I don’t quite see how I fit into this system. I mean, I am not sure how good fatty archetypes interact with bad fatty archetypes. Do you think bad fatties have archetypes too?

    Drawing polycistic ovary syndrome as an evil devil uterus that is laughing at me is pretty silly.

    • Or do you think all fatties fall into one or more of the good fatty archetypes because nobody likes to think of herself as “bad”?

    • Certainly not everyone falls into one of these archetypes (though I’d say even a willfully bad fatty probably falls into one of them, perhaps the ‘rad fatty’, now and again). I’m not entirely sure I’d bother attempting to define bad fatty archetypes given they’re not really ‘useful’ in creating arguments and bids for the social legitimacy of fat people. The fact of someone who conforms to literally every stereotype around fatness would only really be useful to those seeking to discredit fat activism, and that usefulness would only be effective if our movement was rooted in the idea of fat being *none* of the things that are stereotypically associated with it. Thus the call for a more nuanced discussion of fatness that allows for people to be both good fatties and bad fatties and for everyone to be equally valuable regardless of their level of health, beauty, etc. Being a ‘good fatty’ is a defensive position. Even being a willfully bad fatty (e.g. taking on stereotypical traits as rebellion) is a defensive position. Instead of saying we can be good, or we’re not all bad, we should be questioning what makes something good or bad in the first place. And yes, the devil uterus is silly — it’s a comic after all.

  21. I really enjoyed reading this and I feel it brought up a lot of important issues in the very new and growing body positive movement. Despite being a fat girl, I have had a hard time fully embracing all aspects of the fat activism community because of what I have felt as exclusion. The “fatsionista” community for me has been particularly problematic because as you mentioned the exclusion, but also I feel it can emphasize materialism and has failed to mention some of the unethically-made clothing industry by such retailers as Forever 21. At the very least, I hope that this comic opens up a much needed dialogue.

  22. Well – it has been my experience that there is NO such thing as a “good fatty”. I have pretty much fallen into most of these archetypes – and none of these helped me fit in to society more, I was always ridicule. And even after I lost the weight – I still don’t fit in because the weight stigma is something that society still judges me for. Your illustrations are great, but to be honest, I found this whole “good fatty” thing to be utterly pointless.

    • Hi Charlie-Rey — I’m sorry to hear that you’ve experienced such pronounced stigma. I want to clarify, though, that we fundamentally agree. The point of the comic above is to explain how the ‘good fatty’ archetypes are ultimately harmful rather than helpful. This isn’t a list of things that make you a ‘good fatty’ – it’s a list of flawed arguments or stereotypes that people use/attempt to fit into in order to try to gain acceptance — and it’s also an explanation about how each of these arguments ultimately throw other kinds of fatties ‘under the bus’ in attempting to do so. So while there are most definitely some folks who *do* fall into one or more of the above stereotypes, I don’t believe that claiming ‘status’ for having done so is ultimately useful in gaining social or political equality. Each of these ‘good fatty’ stereotypes automatically creates a *bad fatty* to hold itself up against (e.g. if it’s *good* to be 100% healthy, then it’s *bad* to be anything less.). Also, it does need to be said that conforming to any of these ‘good fatty’ stereotypes doesn’t automatically exclude you from fat stigma. It just creates a bit more of a buffer than others might have who *don’t* conform — (e.g. if you’re a ‘fat unicorn’, you can say that you’re fat in spite of doing EVERYTHING RIGHT and, because there’s no behavior that can be corrected, you are ultimately blameless so you get to be an ‘exception’ to the larger ‘rule’ of what makes fat *BAD* (and fat people therefore also bad.). But you still have to *explain* that before you get access to that privilege so even the most ‘faultless’ fatties still experience stigma on a daily basis. It’s just that they have some tools to access that others might not in combating it when it arrives. But *using* those tools ultimately reifies the stigma that others face, because you can’t wield a social privilege without reinforcing the system that grants it. If I say “I’m good because I’m healthy” then you’re saying “Healthy is good, and unhealthy is bad.” Better to say “I have value as a human because I exist” which also says “Existing is reason enough to see others as having value.” Hope that makes sense!

  23. Hey Author,

    Please consider making this readable to those who have text readers (which text readers cannot do on pictures). Thank you!!


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