And when Gabourey Sidibe was fat shamed by critics this week in response to her appearance at the Golden Globes, it became all the more clear that the punishment for this sin — be it in the form of derision, publicshaming, or an endless stream of weight-loss commercials — is swift andunrelenting. Encouragement is rare, and instead of fostering a cultural revolutionthat values self esteem instead of thinness, women of size are encouraged to eatless, exercise more, and sideline our passions and goals until the Body MassIndex deems our weight normal. Gabourey Sidibe, an actress currently starringin American Horror Story: Coven,reverses the singular “fat folks are destined for unhappiness” narrative withher unwavering confidence and unwillingness to conform. Being fat is blasphemous. It is a powerful and burdensome sin.
Gabourey Sidibe flaunted her confidence and beauty last night when she strutted on the Golden Globes red carpet ina shimmery, gold gown. A silver broach gathered the dress at Sidibe’schest and created an elegant cascade down to her stiletto-clad feet. Agold-and-silver clutch and dazzling ring accented the gown. Her continuoussmile told a public tale of a black woman living it up on the red carpet, but criticssnarked about an ill-fitting gown, attempting to embarrass a woman ofcolor and size at the Golden Globes. They projected their issues onto Sidibe,chiding the star for daring to be gorgeous, radiant, and comfortable in herfatness.
Sidibe tackled the criticism withunparalleled wit. She tweeted:
I’d imagine Sidibe is accustomed topersonal attacks. She’s been fielding questions about her chocolate complexionand wide waist since she garnered an Academy Award nomination for her first role as Precious Jones in Precious. The world conflated Sidibe with the illiterate,HIV-riddled character she portrayed in the movie,leading some to question her acting chops and her confidence. Fellow actress Joan Cusack even told Sidibe she should quit the film business because it’s so “image conscious.”
Her weightlingers behind her like a shadow that refuses to dissipate once the sun rises. Butshe handles faux, passive-aggressive concerns for her health with the eleganceof a scorned politician’s wife. In an interview with Parade, Sidibe said, “I was born to stand out. I don’t care whetheror not people will find me attractive on-screen. That’s not why I became anactor.”
Her focus on her craft, happiness andindividuality is a triumph for women of size. Happiness spread throughme as soon as Sidibe’s tweet filtered through my Twitter timeline. In choosingto address the criticism, Sidibe told the world that she’s heard their insultsabout her weight, her complexion, and her attire, and she’s tired of beingpolite. The actress also used her platform to rebut the cultural narrative thatwomen of size are supposed to chase thinness instead of our passions.
Demetria Lucas, writer and star of Blood, Sweat, Heels sums up the illegibilityof Sidibe to a weight-obsessed world when she writes: “There’s this reigningidea that fat somehow equals lazy or incompetent or self-loathing. Being fat issupposed to block blessings and keep folks from achieving their dreams. AndSidibe’s sizable body just doesn’t jibe with what winning is “supposed to” looklike.”
Women of size are told our bodies area result of gross negligence. We’ve used sweets and butters to destroy ourbodies, so our obligation should be to chiseling the fat away. Dreams andcompanionship be damned. We are defined and expected to be imprisoned by ourbodies. Sidibe offers women of size another option. Though the public’s gaze isfocused on her weight, she chooses to laser in on other pertinent aspects of herlife, like her booming career and red carpet invites.
Media images dictatethat women of size have no place in a culture that values thin bodies. Sidibe bucksthe trend, and tells other women to pursue happiness in whatever body they’rein. It is damning to halt life until we reach a goal weight. None of us, including Sidibe, should be relegated to that fate.