“On behalf of all fat people,” comedian Sofie Hagen says midway through How to Love Your Fat, “we don’t want to sleep with you either!”
Recorded in front of a loud and receptive audience, Hagen’s testimony about a world that punishes fat people is frank, lively and fed up. “I’m not unattractive because I’m fat, I’m fat and I’m hot. I’m not unintelligent because I’m fat, I’m fat and I’m smart. I’m not lazy because I’m fat – that’s a personality trait!” It is everyone else who makes the world an isolating place, she says: by making discussions around fatness taboo; by equating fatness to unhealthiness; by saying that fat people are going to die.
Hagen’s own irreverent anecdotes offset the surprising and brutal statistics she shares, including that 100 per cent of formerly fat people surveyed would rather lose a limb or go blind than be fat again. Her stories are told with bemused humour, as if time has loosened their sting: getting stuck “like a plug” in a spiral staircase out of the Paris catacombs; running away from a hairdresser whose seat was too small; sitting on a bar stool “like a head judge or a lifeguard”.
She might laugh as she recounts them, but their cumulative effect is bruising to hear, let alone experience. She goes on to lampoon corporate policies that declare they “don’t see size”. “See size,” she advises, “and then maybe get some better chairs.”
That’s the other purpose of the programme: to teach people how to be an ally. Because being fat is lonely when capitalist society, and the punitive diet industry in particular, is profiting from brainwashing fat people (especially women) into feeling ashamed and miserable.
And because nobody who isn’t fat will talk about it (“When we say we’re fat, people react as if we said we were actual Hitler”). Hagen does a few wry impressions of thin people, including strange platitudes such as, “We’re the same size” and, “You can wear my clothes!” All of which help no one. Instead, she says, “Be aware the world doesn’t treat us well” – and fondly remembers an old boyfriend who once waited for her to catch her breath. “Fight for us,” she concludes, snappily, “sleep with us” and “stop telling us we’re going to die.”
Sofie Hagen: How to Love Your Fat
BBC Radio 4
This article appears in the 09 Oct 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The fantasy of global Britain