No Fat Chicks.
That was a popular phrase when I was a teen… a chubby teen. Fat, if you will. At least, that was how society and the media rated me, and I just love to be rated. One of my favorites is the “on a scale from 1 to 10” rating system.
Yeah, all women just live to be rated by society and the media (I meant love not live, but actually it works just as well).
So I was fat according to a collective group of stranger’s opinions.
Can I just say I hate that phrase? Hated it then and hate it now. I was shocked it became such a big part of pop culture here in Southern California. How come this idiotic phrase was directed at girls, but not guys? That was a question I asked myself repeatedly, because all of my guy “friends” were saying it, and saying it frequently, like it was a mantra or something. Funny how they considered themselves flawless.
I thought it was bullshit and so did all of my girlfriends; we were so pissed off at the injustice of it all. How come girls were only allowed to be loved and admired if they were “skinny” (a value that holds as strongly today as it ever did) rather than on our accomplishments, our characters, our strengths? As we sat around one night ruminating over the impact this was having on us, we decided to do something about it.
We didn’t have any illusions about changing the world, believe me. How can a group of young girls change the ingrained misogynistic attitudes of boys, men and media in which we only orbited. I mean, it was (is) a man’s world, after all, and we were expected to just “fit in” somewhere. But I gotta tell ya, there’s nothing like the resolve of women who decide to challenge societal norms head on; it’s powerful stuff.
So we came up with a plan.
We armed ourselves with determination, a can of spray paint, and a camera. We had to do God’s work under the cover of darkness too, because it was that important. Okay, not so much important as it was risky; we were going to do something possibly illegal. Okay, not possibly illegal, definitely illegal. Look, no one said God’s work was gonna be easy.
I hope law-breaking doesn’t offend your delicate proclivities like the phrase No Fat Chicks should.
Our first stop was a local strip mall, because if we were starting a revolution, we had to start strong. We didn’t need the spray paint just yet. That’s because this strip mall had one of those gigantic lighted signs containing removable letters that were used to spell out whatever it was the shopping center wanted to promote at the time, which also meant a group of girls could change the letters to spell out whatever they wanted to promote at the time.
And that message was:
No Fat Dudes.
That’s right, fight fire with fire, Sister!
Speaking of sisters, mine was the boldest of the group, so she was the one who climbed up the sign and rearranged the letters to display our message of hope and solidarity. It was pure divine power that the sign happened to contain all of the letters we needed to spell out, too.
We snapped some photos of the words lit up on this gigantic sign so we could remember and cherish our work. Then we headed to our next destination: The beach. A famous beach. A beach so famous, they made a movie about it.
You may have heard of it.
This beach is met with swarms of people during the summer; thousands of hardy beachgoers are there every day. What a perfect location to spray our message. But we didn’t just limit ourselves to this one location, no. Along the way, we continued to spread our message of joy by spray painting it wherever we thought it would be most noticeable. For instance, on one of the tunnels you have to drive through on the way there.
We finalized our mission by spray painting the phrase on the exterior of one of the beach bathrooms. Scrawled slightly sideways, we made sure it was clearly visible and facing the ocean so everyone having to use the facilities would be sure to see it.
We drove home feeling victorious, like we had engaged in a battle and won.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we put something into motion that night. Something bigger than us, and something we never would have imagined in our wildest dreams. First we bragged to all our guys friends about what we had done, then we uttered the phrase as much as we could at parties and gatherings, or whenever we heard a guy say No Fat Chicks. We even had pins made up that said No Fat Dudes, in bold, colorful lettering, and we wore them every single day. Girls were constantly approaching us, asking where they could get one, proof we weren’t the only ones aware of the disparity between genders. It was amazing!
Then to our surprise and delight, a journalist from Surfer Magazine happened upon the one we had sprayed on the beach bathroom wall, took a picture of it, and included it in one of his articles. You gotta understand something… this magazine was hugely popular in the 80’s, it reached hundreds of thousands of readers, and not just in Southern California, but nationwide.
It was validation that we were having an impact after all, that how we felt mattered. We were looking at bias straight in the face and saying “We’re not putting up with your shit anymore, we’re neutralizing the destructive impact of your No Fat Chicks campaign, and we’re winning, assholes!”
It was a triumph!
I like to think we changed things that night, that we showed people how to challege a social structure that was put in place by a system that had no soul. I believe we did.
I have the photos buried somewhere amongst the many photos from my youth. I could’ve looked for them… probably would’ve taken me half a day to find them. But then I’d have to do something I’m not really ready to do: See photos of myself when I was young, bold, beautiful and full of life, then I’d have to face how much I’ve aged and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to because I feel like I still am the same person, I just don’t look like her anymore… except maybe the chubby part.
But you know something? I can close my eyes, take a deep breath and go inside myself to find her, because she’s still there; that innocent young girl who is bold and beautiful, who just wants to be appreciated for who she really is, and to not be devalued by how her body compares to others’ ideals.
She wants to be loved, just like everyone else.