We are the Whales, we are the people . . .

Editor’s note: Here’s a great guest post by the great Marilyn Wann, fat rights troublemaker.  In honor of this post, I have changed my on-screen name here to Whaliam.  But enough about me . . . 

This past Thursday, the wonderful HAES and body lib proponent Stephanie Zone emailed me urgently to alert me that the Wikipedia entry for “fat acceptance” mentioned me by the name Marilyn Whale. 

A wee tangential loop that will bring us back to my point: Stephanie invites me to speak every semester in her fabulous course at San Francisco City College entitled the Psychology of Food, Eating and Weight. She always draws a full registration of students and the inevitable few who want a weight-loss-focused course make for awesome discussion. Whenever I give a talk about weight diversity, I do an interactive bit that I call Speed Anthropology. I invite people to imagine they are anthropologists looking in modern American culture for linguistic artifacts, in other words, *words* that attach to “fat” and to “thin.” The classic stereotypes for fat always come up: stupid, smelly, lazy, ugly, unhealthy, out of control. Also, I often get what I call the Five Official Fat Animals: cow, whale, hippo, pig, elephant. So Stephanie’s warning came with a wry comment from her about whale being one of the official fat animals. 

Here’s my point. I have always wanted a word that signals the solidarity that I feel with people of all sizes who had decided to renounce the false hope of weight loss and who fight weight-based bigotry. I have tried saying, for example, “fat brother Kevin Smith.” 

But what if the person isn’t fat? I feel profound solidarity and delight in knowing thin people who are just as fierce, just as angry, just as ready to mess shit up, as I am, when we come across the belief that weight is destiny. Just call that person sister or brother. Call people simply sister or brother. Nice, but I wanted some sort of honorific specific to our shared experience. I have sometimes wanted to say, “I am Fatacus!” and I have said that and it works to some extent. I have wanted to hear all of us by turns bravely stand and say that you and you and you are also Fatacus. But this is unwieldy and not quite the part of speech that I seek. 

Now, I totally LOVE the term “rad fatty”! I first heard it in Portland among the Fat Girl Speaks kids. I hear that Phat Fly Girls on the East Coast call out to each other, “Hey fatty, wait up!” I certainly hope that second- or third-generation body liberation includes not just use of the F-word with pride but also this casual reference. But again, what do we call freedom fighters who identify as thin? Not fatty. Thinny? No, this is not enough. This is not quite it. 

Now, thanks to some wanker making hateful edits to Wikipedia with the intention to hurt us for our solidarity, that sad little wanker has given us our family name. 

We are the Whale family!!! 

Hi. My name is Marilyn Whale. You can join the Whale family by using Whale as your last name. No one has to officially change names at all. Remember when people started adding Hussein as their middle name? It’s that sort of a name. A name of claiming, a name that refuses bigotry and shame, a name for solidarity among the righteously embodied body liberationist cool kids. 

Isn’t it a bit astonishing that I’ve been publicly fighting weight bigotry since the mid-90s and I’ve never come across this particular schoolyard-style taunt/pun on my name? Never? I’ve gotta credit that sad little wanker. I’m happy to be a Whale!

— Marilyn Wann Whale


18 thoughts on “We are the Whales, we are the people . . .

  1. I looooooooove whales and am so proud whenever someone compares me to them. However, as a friend recently said, she has a fondness for hippos. Loving hippos as I do, I caved and decided to slightly deviate and rename myself Lesleigh Riverhorse.

    Keep singing that whale song, my lassies and lads! Huge, fat hugs to all!

  2. I am Fattacus, Princess of Whales, and I’m moving in for the KrILL!

    (P.S. – What about putting manatees on the official list?)

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