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Rachel Zadok

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Shame on you, fat shamer. Shame on you!

The furore surrounding ANC MP Thandile Sunduza figure-hugging boob tube dress has left me wondering when diversity in South Africa became a limited ideal? We South Africans, it seems, have become hypocrites of the worst kind. Celebrate diversity, we declare on Heritage Day, turning the chops on the braai while resting beers on our boeps, but don’t let that “celebration” extend to fat women and their taste in clothing.

In fact, let’s not celebrate fat women at all. Let’s shame them for daring to come out in public dressed in clothing we’ve decided only the skinny are allowed to wear. Fat women should wear kaftans, dull ones, and hide their curves from view lest they offend our delicate sensibilities, lest steal the limelight from the skinny latte drinkers who work hard at the gym, eat according to the latest diet trend and sip on sparkling water at parties while sucking in their cheeks. Fat women are not allowed to feel beautiful, or dance down the red carpet or flirt with the paparazzi. And god forbid they throw their heads back and laugh in delight. Shame on you, Fatty Boom Boom, shame on you.

Fuck that, I say. Part of what is abhorrent in our society is that we’ve come to think it’s acceptable, and not only okay but fun, to make nasty jibes about a woman’s choice of clothing and the shape of her body. We’ve decided that bullying, when directed at fat women, is a social event we can all participate in, together, as a nation.

We’re living in a size zero era when gorgeous little girls grow up believing they’re ugly. When normal-sized women have body dysmorphia issues that turn beautiful bodies into sick ones in pursuit of an ideal that is, to anyone in the medical profession, unhealthy. Skinny and healthy are not the same thing. Fat people can be fit people, and often are. When did we decide that it wasn’t okay for a generously proportioned woman to show off her booty in a lemon yellow boob tube if she feels she can pull it off? Please note, I say if she feels she can, not if you think she can. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. If this affects how you feel about yourself; if you feel hard done by because you, Skinny Latte, feel you’ve earned the right to wear figure-hugging and she hasn’t, get yourself some therapy. Her dress is not about you!

Most of the time, a thin lithe body is the result of a genetic lottery that saw Skinny Latte land in a time in history when thin lithe bodies were the in thing. You, Skinny Latte, contribute nothing real to our society by looking pretty. Beauty, to quote karakamos, is not an achievement. Looking pretty did not eradicate polio, or split the atom, or chair the Portfolio Committee of Arts and Culture. Which is not to say that  Skinny Latte is not capable of those things. But, by the same token,  Full Cream Cappuccino is capable of rocking a figure-hugging dress if she wants to.

So next time you see a voluptuous woman on the dance floor in a slinky sequined number, ask yourself if she looks like she’s having a good time. Then ask yourself: what gives you the right to deprive her of that good feeling by fat shaming her?

And by the way, in my humble opinion: Thandile Sunduza, you looked fabulous.


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