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I read this article recently talking about “mixed-weight relationships” and it got me thinking. What does that even mean? I found myself uncomfortable with it but couldn’t really pinpoint why. When I talked it through with my partner, I came up with LOTS OF FEELINGS.
Let’s Define “Mixed Weight Relationships”
Simply put, mixed-weight relationships are couples who have different weights. Their bodies are different in size.
However, its not just that the people involved have a difference of 20 some-odd pounds between them. They must have a perceived physical difference and experience the world differently because of their sizes.
Basically, it means one person is fat and the other is not. Sure, some folks believe that the word “fat” is a feeling and can be subjective or whatever. But my opinion is, if you don’t need to shop in the plus sized section at clothing stores, you’re not fat.
Fatties Come In All Shapes…And Sizes
For a little context from inside the fat community, “small fats” are more widely accepted in society. They’re generally folks anywhere from a size 12 to 20. For the most part, they can find clothes at the mall and in places like Old Navy and Target. They also tend to fit more comfortably in seats at the movie theater, a booth at a restaurant etc.
“Super-fats” are sizes 26+. I myself as a size 28/30 identify as a super-fat. We struggle with accessibility in all kinds of places. We often have to shop online because clothing stores don’t carry our sizes in-store. We experience a lot less of the sexualization of our bodies that small fats do (though it is not unheard of, and fetishization is definitely a thing) and a lot more of the ridicule.
Clearly there’s a bunch of folks in the middle called like, mid-range fatties or something. Keep in mind, this is all pretty grey. Bodies are all shaped so differently, I’m in no way trying to define these types of fatties by super strict terms. However, from inside the fat community, this is generally how we define ourselves.
(Oh, and just an FYI – the average woman in the US is a size 16! That makes the average woman in the US a FATTY)
When I say “mixed-weight relationships,” what does that make you think of?
It makes me think of interracial or “mixed-race” relationships. When we recall the history of racism, race based oppression, and violence in this country, we remember that people started using the term “mixed-race relationships” when talking about the legalization of interracial marriage. I, as a fat person, am not comfortable equating the “fatty dating a thin person” experience, to that of folks living through segregation, and black Americans fighting for access to the same rights as white people.
Also, bodies can change. Weights can fluctuate, tend to naturally, and can unnaturally. Races do not. And there have been literal laws prohibiting specific races from having rights and access to resources. Not quite the same for us fat folks. So why make a fat/thin couple’s trouble sound similar to that of an interracial couple?
What Other Messages Does It Send?
Now, I’m not saying that the “mixed-weight relationship” experience is not a unique and challenging one for a couple to have. But let’s delve deeper into what people are really saying when they talk about mixed weight relationships.
When referencing a “mixed-weight relationship,” people are most often talking about someone fat, dating someone thin. A small fat with a thin person, a small fat with a super-fat, and a super-fat with a thin person. The pairing that a “mixed-weight relationship” doesn’t include is for example, a size 6 with a size 10. Why?
Because that’s seen as normal.
We, the fatties in this scenario, are seen as abnormal. We are the piece of this pairing that makes the couple look unusual and therefore need further defining. Why are we defining it? Because we are trying to express the challenges that the couple faces because of these differences.
But here’s the thing…in a thin+fat relationship the couple as a whole is not experiencing ridicule and oppression. The fat person is. The idea of a thin person claiming to be in a “mixed-weight relationship,” as if that is some sort of hardship for them, is really irritating.
You do not, as a thin person, get to claim victim for dating a fat person. Your shame for dating me and my fat body is not oppression. You having to explain why you’re with me is not ridicule. And further, men wanting praise for being willing to date fat women is not something I care to entertain.
There’s already a term for describing this kind of experience, its called fatphobia! And also, fat oppression. There’s no need to use the term “mixed-weight relationships” because there’s only one person in that relationship experiencing weight based oppression. Its the fat person.
Totally agreed with you J, is not a term to be used. It generates more damage that people can imagine. Quite a few years ago, when I was at my highest weight almost 240 pounds, which I know is much but make me chubby. She was a It less than me but her body looked like more, be a Use of her complexion. She did not like to go out much. We just go to certain places we knew already or just stay at home. Avoid family meetings, etc. Is hard to deal with the world that seems not being in mood to change for #bodyacceptance #stopfatphobia, etc. I have learn to speak out things try not to worry about what others say or think. As a man you may say well for him is simple… depends… inside the book there might be a different story… but to my wife was really hard and I am sure it has been on of the big bunch of other things that she hide and make her have that big stroke that took her away from us. I appreciate what you are doing at your blog. Is my belief that we have to make this a better world with no harmful tags. Never stop with your blog you are doing awesome things. My best regards.
I’m glad you wrote this one, I personally saw the term a little while ago and felt really weird about it because I myself am a small fat and am currently dating a thin person and it’s so interesting to notice our unique differences, but I never felt like there should be some special word for our relationship. Everyone has little differences in their lives and relationships, even if that’s just things like education, socioeconomic class, or gender identity and all the difficulties associated with each of these. So it’s refreshing to read your thoughts on this put so eloquently.
I’m also glad you have some general idea for the terms like “small fat” there, because while I identify with fat communities I know I don’t experience the same accessibility issues so it feels wrong sometimes to say so. Your articles help bring a sense of community and identity for me personally, and I’m sure I’m not the only one ?
In such a situation you describe (a couple in which one is fat and one is thin) such as I have always been involved in, it always seems to raise eyebrows—even to becoming almost a media event if it occurs somewhere where there are very few fat people (like maybe a posh restaurant). Or one part of the couple is introducing the other to their parents or relatives for the first time. Most people seem to have this harebrained theory that fat people must date other fat people. Very annoying, but one has to get used to it.
I think you put far too many labels on people in this article.
Label yourself as a ‘fatty’ if you wish.
But please don’t label other people.
And I disagree with the last bit too, because unless you were once slim and in a ‘mixed-weight relationship’ then I don’t think you can know what the slim person experiences, and I think the stereotype and oppression of what a couple should look like affects partners of both sizes. And impacts everyone differently.