Protect Your Fat Homegirls

“Protect Your Fat Homegirls” adapted for medium | Follow @ LonjaPower on Instagram

“Protect your fat homegirls” is both a call and a vision. A call to everyone that has relationships with fat girls and women, and a vision for fuller relationships for fat people that are grounded in true care. Care in ways we aren’t taught by mainstream thought; when mainstream is ruled by diet culture, and we call it health, tradition, or cultura. “Protect your fat homegirls” honors the mixture of experiences I’ve navigated socialized as a young fat brown girl in relationship with other young girls of color when I had no words for what I was experiencing, only a daily reminder in so many ways that I was inadequate, not the right size for cishet male approval, or “for my age”. Even though I know they love(d) me, my homegirls and my family affirmed that how I was treated was acceptable because it was customary that I, as a fat person, carry the burden of other people’s fat hatred. If I was unhappy with the treatment others forced me to endure, the solution was that I change myself. The solution was that I keep my truths to myself because who I am is wrong simply because who I am is contradictory to what patriarchy, whiteness and racial capitalism values.

I have been fat all my life, and growing up I was the fat girl in my friend group. There were other fat girls in school of course, and some eventually became a part of my friend circles but we weren’t able to nurture intimacy through our shared experience of fatness, only girlhood. Where I grew up in Logan Heights, San Diego, “Homegirl” as a term is more meaningful than “best friend”. To be someone’s homegirl is to be down for them, to ride with them, and to care for them especially in hard times. Your homegirls keep your secrets, help you leave your house to spend time with the boy you like, they ask their mom to talk to your mom so you can come over, and they walk the streets with you making sure you’re safe. It is specific to a racialized and class experience where you are surviving the streets, strict familial values, boys (usually trying to run the streets), puberty, falling in love, and drama, together.

Yet, being fat was an unspoken truth unless fatness was spoken about in the context of losing weight. In my friendships with thin girls it was the reason I could never fully build intimacy. I didn’t have the same experience because whether they said it or not, they understood that socially my fatness was undesirable and it barred me from dating, shopping for clothes, having social capital, and having meaningful relationships where fatness could exist as a part of myself, and not an issue to be fixed. In my friendships with other fat girls of color I was similarly unable to build intimacy around fatness because being fat wasn’t positive, it wasn’t something to be celebrated, and it was hurtful to point out. Instead, we shared the experience of sucking in our stomach, walking sideways down the school bus aisle, sitting uncomfortably in shared or small seating, and walking the mile run in PE class — all in silence.

In my memory, I was the fattest, the least popular but also someone that stood my ground when others tried to make me feel small or take advantage of me. My fat body protected me, and others but also made me a target. In the fifth grade, I defended a group of my classmates from a sixth grade boy who wanted us to play tetherball with his cousin even though he was consistently mean to us. The sixth grade boy was fat, tall, and white. When we didn’t heed to his demands he got in my face because I was the biggest, and everyone chose to fade into the background. The sixth grader slapped me, and even though it hurt I stood my ground. Alone.

Since I grew to expect that even the people closest to me would look the other way, just like everyone else, when I was targeted for my size, so I kept experiences like these to myself. I’ve never really talked about this incident even as an adult, but for weeks on end after the sixth grade boy slapped me I worked so hard to avoid him. I even hid in the bathroom during lunch time because I didn’t know care from white administrators in a white school in a white upper-middle class community. Needless to say, I wasn’t okay but I was expected to be because as a fat person I am expected to have thick skin. Growing up fat often means that regardless of your age you are seen as older or better able to take on people and conflict that could very well hurt you just as badly as someone thinner.

Being fat has felt differently in my body at different stages in my life. Right now when I think about myself as a fat person I feel whole and grateful that I survived and grew into my fat body so magnificently. I feel this especially when I recount the ways everyone around me worked overtime to take the possibility of this type of embodiment away from me. My hope now is that young fat girls of color, young fat people of color have deeper connections with each other and care for each other through learning their differences. I wish for elders that bring life out of them, like my tia Cecilia who once told me that some people are fat, and some people are not. Simple, sweet, and one of the few [fat] elders in my life that was affirming about fatness. I wish that when I was young my homegirls and I would have had more people around us that affirmed us as whole beings. I wish that my homegirls had words, tools, a framework to understand their own experience and learn mine. I wish I could say that I didn’t spend my childhood burdened with losing weight to make others see value in me as a person. I wish that everyone who said they loved me understood then that part of loving me is honoring me for who I am, not for who they want to be, and I am worth knowing.

“Protect Your Fat Homegirls” is both a call and a vision.

Don’t use fat girls and women as a listening ear if you have no intention of listening in return.

Don’t look the other way when they’re being harassed, made fun of, talked badly about — especially by the boys/men you’re into, don’t use them as a mirror of who you’ll never be to feel better about yourself.

This is honestly the bare minimum. Your fat homegirls deserve more than your minimum effort.

Show us with your actions not only that you care, but also that you are in this fight with us by unlearning and fighting against all the interpersonal and structural harm we are made to survive and are expected to overcome. Make our relationships with you safer. Build true intimacy where they can unravel and speak freely without teetering around thin fragility. Intimacy where they can set boundaries around harmful language and can ask for what they need to feel safe. Create a connection they can always come back to when the world beyond your friendship is heavy. Build a new present and future where more fat joy is possible.

Protect your fat homegirls, they’re worth it.

“Protect Your Fat Homegirls”, 2021 | Follow @ LonjaPower on Instagram

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Joanna Villegas

Joanna Villegas

Joanna Villegas is an educator, poet and performance artist existing loudly as a queer fat femme Mexicana, committed to social equity and holistic education.