Is ‘fat’ an insult?
Every month, Anna Rosenwasser writes about life and love in Zurich. In March, the head of the Swiss Lesbian Organisation explains why queer teenagers gather under the ‘fat angel’ at the main station – and why that’s a compliment.
I remember how difficult I used to find it to go to an event on my own – especially when I didn’t know the place or anyone else there. That’s why these days I sometimes arrange to meet people at the station so that we can go to queer events together. It’s a way of breaking the challenge down – first meet the new people, then go to the new place.
We always meet at the same spot, under the fat angel. You can’t miss it – even if you come from the depths of the Aargau and have washed up at the main station for the very first time. You can’t miss the fat angel. That’s why I love it so much.
You can’t miss the fat angel.
But, quite often, people write to me saying: ‘Hey, Rosa... The fat angel thing sounds a bit mean. Can’t we call it the curvy angel? Or the full-figured angel?’ Others say: ‘I thought you were into body positivity. So why are you calling the angel fat?’ And, of course, there are always the nerds who shower me with facts: it’s actually called ‘l’ange protecteur’; it’s the work of Niki de Saint Phalle. It’s easy enough to read up on the facts (such as here at hellozurich).
It’s humans who came up with the negative connotation.
But if I’m trying to fix a meet-up for a queer event with a teenager who is coming to Zurich for the first time, I’m not going to say: ‘Let’s meet under the Niki de Saint Phalle artwork.’ I’ll leave that to the art students.
That’s true – it’s just that I refuse to equate ‘fat’ with an insult. For years, people have made out that being fat is a bad thing. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Of course, I wouldn’t say to my friends: ‘Shall we meet at fat Sonja’s on Friday night?’ because I suspect it would hurt Sonja’s feelings.
But that’s not a problem for the angel.
But that’s not a problem for the angel as it doesn’t have any feelings. But it is fat. Not just fat, but massive, colourful and heavy. None of these are negative words, and that includes ‘fat’. It’s humans who came up with the negative connotation. Fat is a descriptive word, a word with a sad present, a word that people struggle with. Fortunately, there are people who stand up to this injustice! They say: fat isn’t a bad thing, so stop insulting fat people by using that word. Think about what you’re saying!
I’ll try to, every day. I’m going to call the angel fat, joyful and benevolent. The fact that the angel at the station is fat is what first catches your eye. It’s what makes it so powerful and beautiful. That’s what I admire about the fat angel – how it watches over the people in the station and makes them feel safe. In my own small way, I’m trying to do the same.