“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
All of us can be characterized by a stereotype, it may be based on our race, class, gender, sexual identity, or even the where we grew up. We’ve talked about some of the stereotypes that Plus Size Princesses are faced with in posts like “Superficial Fat Chicks” and “Can a Big Girl Date a Hot Guy?“. After writing those posts, I was beginning to assume that the stereotypes surrounding overweight women were usually connected to men and/or sex. Big girls are desperate for sex… Big girls will do anything sexually to keep a man… Big girls can’t get a “good man” so they take what they can get….
Just when I thought I had wrapped my head around what people might assume to be true about me as a PSP, I was on twitter a while back and saw that a guy tweeted to the beautiful @CorporateBarbie, telling her that she had a “fat girl personality”.
This was a new one for me, I mean… what exactly is a “fat girl personality”?
I did a little bit of googling and found that we as Plus Size Princesses have yet another set of mass assumptions to deal with. From what I gathered via google, big girls are thought to have amazing personalities to make up for what we lack aesthetically.
At first I wanted to be offended, but then I had to be honest with myself, this actually isn’t a new stereotype. This is something I’ve been exposed to my entire life, I mean how many movies have we seen with a “token chubby girl” character for comic relief. You know, the girl who isn’t viewed as desirable, but everyone loves having her around because she delivers the perfect punchline and makes us all laugh… or is super maternal and gives good advice to everyone.
Fat girl personality, hmmm? I must admit, it stings a little but mostly because (…dramatic pause…) I think I have one! I can relate to being more comfortable helping my girlfriends through their boy problems than putting myself out there and finding a boy to have my own drama with. I can relate to being put in the “friend zone” so often that my personality, charm and wit had ample chance to be cultivated.
When I saw someone tell a beautiful woman with a great body that she had a “fat girl personality” I was frustrated. Frustrated for fat girls like me and for skinny girls like her. It’s not fair that Plus Size Princesses are assumed to overcompensate with winning character and it’s not fair that skinny girls are assumed to coast by on their looks alone.
But what I’m realizing is that the unfairness is in making one-dimensional assumptions about multidimensional people. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, it’s the single story that creates stereotypes. And she’s right, stereotypes aren’t necessarily untrue… but they’re incomplete and that’s where the problems lie.
If you follow @CorporateBarbie on twitter, you know that yes, she’s stunning. You also know that she’s worked super hard and has by no means coasted (I think she was in college at age 16 or something). Do I have a “Fat Girl Personality”? Absolutely! But there have been times that I used my looks, body and femininity to gain an edge. I’ve flirted to get things that I want. Yes, I’m a big girl but there have been times I’ve gotten ahead because people liked the way I looked and I’m not the only big girl with that experience.
We have to work hard not to let one single characteristic define us. If we listen to what society says we can do/be based on whatever stereotype applies to us we’ll live small and limited lives… and that is not what we’re here for.