I was on the train the other day and noticed a young woman sporting what has come to be derisively known as a muffin-top. That is, the small roll of fat spilling out over the top of a tight pair of jeans. Indeed, "muffin-top" is an apt visual analogy and in the world of derisive nicknames, that's a pretty tame one which is quite ripe for reclamation.
Anyway, it occured to me then that when a lot of people complain about how many about how many fat people there are, this is what they are talking about. Oh, I'm sure they hold a lot of disgust for very fat people, but how often do you see very fat people? In my regular life, I'll see a 350+ person maybe only once a week and often a lot less then that. And for those of us who are not that conspiciously fat, well, I kind of think we just blend in. A lot of moderately fat people take great efforts to be invisible because there certainly can be a lot of resentment directed towards. Just, in a regular day, we're nothing special. Nothing to inspire any great anger or disgust. Maybe its a background noise that justifies the hatred, but its nothing to really instigate it.
But, the muffintops, well that's different. Here is fat that you see and many people are very disgusted by. That's why they came up with a derisive nickname, after all. There is no shortage of disgust or outrage towards these women. Check out Craigslist some time. The fat hatred there is almost exclusively aimed at women who really aren't fat. They just aren't very thin and they aren't trying to be dutifully invisible. And yet, they still maintain the connection with the medicalized fat hatred and their obviously superficial dissatisfaction with these women. Just look at advise columnist Dan Savage who raged against "girl love handles". He was vigorously offended at having to see this small quantity of fat. Its clear that what is being talked about here are women are very thin by any reasonable standard who are wearing the tight jeans and short shirts that are in style. Yet, who called out for his insulting response, Savage fell back on whining about the "obesity epidemic". Health concerns are a fall-back justification for a cultural aesthetic. Those who are deeply offended by muffin-tops know they can't really get away with that as a reason, so they dress it up as an epidemic. But make no mistake, its not just the super-sized who are inspiring this offense. A lot of it is driven by women are very thin, indeed. Just not thin enough for cultural standards.