Sometimes you see a phrase you've seen a million times and suddenly have a new perspective on it. That happened to me a few days ago. I was looking at my Blogger stats and saw one of the search term referrals:

"massively overweight"

While not quite the go-to as some of the usual scare modifiers used to stigmatize fat people, its hardly rare, either. Its one of those terms people use thinking its somehow scientific and quantified when actually its essentially gibberish. It occurred to me, though, that massive has a couple different meanings. "Forming or consisting of a large mass" is certainly the leading contender, but you actually often hear "massive" used with more positive connotations. Merriam-Webster suggests "imposing in excellence or grandeur," which is certainly a different way of looking at it.

On an elemental level, though, the word can just reference "having mass". In some uses, massive is just something that takes up space. Which really upsets people about fat bodies. So many of the daily slights fat people endure are just related to taking up space. Space others feel entitled to. Space others feel our fat bodies are not entitled to. So much of the common hostility fat people are subject to is because our mass offends people. They imagine our mass as imposing on them, infringing on them. In truth, they often manufacture an imposition in order to justify their offense, but it doesn't matter. Every body has a right to the space it occupies. Every body has a right to mass. We are not an imposition. We are not an inconvenience. Some want mass to be a right of the privileged. They want to scold those with transgressive bodies for occupying space they don't "deserve". Massive isn't just a childish "omgz HUUUUGE!" taunt, its the heart of complaint about fat people. I guess its what we deserve for imposing our excellence and grandeur at them.


Mania said...

My primary online community involves MMO games - that is, massively multi-player online games. Shoot, we have a webmag called Massively! Which means that every time I see the term massively overweight, I immediately think of a networked virtual environment with hundreds or thousands of players represented by fat avatars ... which I have to admit would be one of the coolest things ever.

(Hmm. Not a very serious response to a good post, and I apologize for that.)

Well-Rounded Mama said...

My "favorite" scare modifier term I've seen in the medical literature was "grotesquely obese."

And that was for someone who was in the low to mid-200s.

Hmmm-mmmmm, no weight bias there.

William H. said...

I never knew that I was grotesquely obese. That's amazing. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.