dissonant bodies

The world is not kind to fat women. I say fat - because over time, the insults reverberating in the adjective cement themselves into a self-identifying noun. I say fat - because it isn't just a noun, it is a teaching, a culture, a geometry of shame etched onto the skin.

In 'On Earth we are briefly gorgeous', Vuong wrote: "All this time I told myself we were born from war—but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty." All this time-  a time when my body didn’t precede me, when I wasn’t driving myself out of spaces, changing rooms and romances that didn't fit me. But I was wrong - wrong not to ask for my body to be loved without it sounding like an apology. These photographs by Farheen feel like the antithesis of that apology.


Margaret Atwood wrote that “your body is not a word, it does not lie or speak truth either” ... as though it is ever that easy to un-nail oneself from one's body. She is, indeed, incisive with words. Of all the words I know, the cruelest ones have been the adjectives I put next to my body. How incredible the geometries of the body are. How painful, sometimes, the narratives we inscribe on them.

Fat women are taught that our biggest aspiration is being small, that the happiest thing to happen to our body is for someone to love it in spite of its shape. We are generation after generation of women squeezing ourselves into clothes and places and people that make us feel small, because anything that makes us feel desired is, what Rachel Wiley would call - 'a novelty'. She says -

The phrase “Big girls need love too” can die in a fire.

Fucking me does not require an asterisk.

Loving me is not a fetish.

Finding me beautiful is not a novelty.

I am not a fucking novelty.


Art on/for fat women offers only a partial glimpse into their experience. There isn't enough of it to chronicle their desires, self-worth and experiences. Dissonant bodies is a consolation, an ode to all the times the mirror (I) was unkind. Dissonant, like the years spent unlearning geometries of body and beauty, and learning the other things that mark our relevance outside of, and not in spite of the body. Love, for what else do you put in the space cleared up by the unlearning?

I think I will be learning and unlearning for a while.

I say it again, this world is not kind to fat women, and I am tired of compliments blanketed in prefixes and suffixes, like 'beautiful in spite of my fatness' and 'hot for a fat girl'. I am tired of waiting for kindness to arrive, for my friends to acknowledge their thin privilege, or for men to treat fat women with respect. I am tired, but this work by Farheen feels refreshingly kind.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in all it's voluptuous, pink grain against soft satin glory:
Dissonant Love.

All photographs by Farheen ~ @farheenay