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Revisiting Fatphobia: Addressing the issue in One to Watch

One to Watch book summary [review here!]

One to Watch follows fashion blogger Bea, a plus size woman who works to help other women find fashionable and affordable pieces that flatter their shapes and curves. After a drunken tirade against the show Main Squeeze (based on The Bachelor and its tie ins), Bea finds herself courted to be the next Main Squeeze and break down some barriers for fat women in reality TV. She agrees, and despite the boost to her career, Bea finds the show rough going. First, she’s still in love with her friend, Ray, whose rejections of her sting still. Second, the producers have no idea how to frame a fat woman on television, forcing Bea into several uncomfortable situations where she’s forced to justify her existence, her happiness, and her size. And finally, Bea starts to actually develop feelings for some of the contestants, despite not wanting to form a real attachment during the show.

How does One to Watch address fatphobia?

One to Watch faces fatphobia head on. Bea herself is a plus size fashion blogger who openly discusses how fat women can dress themselves in a flattering and fashionable way. She doesn’t shy away from her issues, pointing out that she has to alter nearly everything she wears in order to make it actually fit her and her style. She makes deliberate choices in order to balance her self expression, and the inevitable backlash of the outside world. The book includes social media comments–responses to her blog posts, and later posts by the TV show Main Squeeze–that range from the good intentioned but still fatphobic “you’re so brave!” to the brazenly awful threats, innuendos, and nasty comments that a fat woman in the eye of social media will inevitably face. Bea reflects on these comments on occasion, knowing full well that her foray into reality television will bring out even more terrible trolls and well meaning but still ignorant health nuts.

Bea has some allies in her reality television experience. Her wardrobe consultant/outfitter is also a fat woman who regularly uses her own knowledge of plus size bodies to provide Bea with more comfortable and fashionable choices than the producers would have chosen. Still, the producers of Main Squeeze put Bea in a lot of tight spots, and she quickly identifies the reason for this: the producer, Lauren, who claims to be Bea’s staunchest ally, is a thin woman. She can’t even imagine that it will be devastating to Bea to have one of the men she’s meeting as contestants walk out upon seeing her size. The producers made the decision to hide Bea’s identity from the contestants until the night of the premiere, and considering all but one of them are trim, fit, and hot, Bea immediately points out to Lauren that the humiliation was intense.

The show’s producers make the choice to keep two men in particular on the show much longer than they should have, specifically to act as fatphobic villains. Luckily, Bea’s brothers teach the two a lesson about calling their sister a cow–and it’s a satisfying moment. Still, Bea is forced to suffer a lot of fatphobic rhetoric in her quest for love. One of her first group dates involves shutting down multiple fatphobic assholes–one, a personal trainer, who encourages her to lose weight for her health, and another who has a fetish for larger women. Though these moments are humiliating and uncomfortable for Bea, they are also something she’s used to. By presenting so many of them in such a short amount of time, the book manages to show someone who doesn’t experience the feeling of being fat every day just how overwhelming the emotional abuse can be.

What we can learn from this:

One to Watch has a myriad of excellent lessons on fatphobic thinking and rhetoric. Bea regularly calls out the fashion industry for alienating the majority of the population by promoting high fashion in only a small collection of sizes. She discusses how dressing fashionably is just as much about altering clothes and finding what fits your body as it is about trends. But she also calls out her own internalized fatphobia, such as her constantly facing pressure to look her best because otherwise she will be denigrated immediately. If she isn’t polished, pretty, and fashionable then she will be considered lesser. Bea calls out the internalized fatphobia in multiple men–including a fat man who doesn’t believe Bea will end up with anyone else. Bea discusses so many small things, such as seat belt extenders on airplanes and wanting to be able to enjoy food without being judged or it constantly. This book handles fatphobia head on and with care all at once, and is absolutely an example that other authors should follow. Because the lesson of One to Watch is that fat people also deserve happy endings.

Final thoughts

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I regularly address fatphobia in books that do not do a good job of tackling it. This book was a pleasant change of pace for me, because it tackles fatphobia so thoughtfully–and it handles a lot of other topics as well. Bea is allowed to be a person, she is allowed to have happiness and flaws that aren’t weight based and joys that aren’t food based and also enjoy good food. The care and consideration written into this book is so loving and so heartfelt. Anyone considering writing about a fat character and not coming from a place of experience should read One to Watch, should learn the lessons of tackling fatphobia in an informative, concise, and careful manner.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “Revisiting Fatphobia: Addressing the issue in One to Watch”

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