The violent fat phobia in Michael Blackson’s terrible “joke” about sexual assault claims
"The value of a woman’s life hinges on how attractive she is, according to patriarchy’s metric."
by Alexandria Nicole
This essay contains discussion of sexual violence
Southern rapper Nelly was arrested on second-degree rape charges this month. As soon as the news hit the airwaves, the internet erupted in a wave of misogynistic victim-blaming, gaslighting, and assumptions about the credibility of the alleged victim based on the rapper’s celebrity status. Among the deluge of disgusting and alarming opinions, a tweet from comedian Michael Blackson stood out.
It is sad and telling enough that Blackson would call for the release of an accused rapist without any proof of his innocence, but the comedian took his misogyny a step further. The very real violence that fat women and femmes endure is sanctioned by the simultaneous dehumanization and fetishization of large feminine bodies.
Mainstream beauty standards generally exalt women who are thin, and even more so if they are white. Beauty privilege trickles down depending on one’s proximity to said standards. The value of a woman’s life hinges on how attractive she is, according to patriarchy’s metric. And based on that metric, fat women and femmes–stripped of our femininity and womanhood by these rigid ideas–are deserving of ridicule, violence, and mockery.
The general consensus is that nobody would ever want to have sex with a fat woman, because fat women are not “attractive.” And If you are not attractive (read: of use/consumable), you may as well not be a woman at all. When this unattractiveness that fat women are socially relegated to translates to a perceived lack of femininity, it sums up to a perfect space in which rape culture can thrive. The “manliness” or masculinity that fat women are seen as having works against them because a masculine person is expected to be able to endure more physical harm.
Because so many people cling to the idea that rape is about sex, victims need to be perceived as attractive in order for their assault to be believable (even then, it is a struggle). When a fat woman reveals that she has experienced rape, people tend to respond with some variation of, “nobody could have possibly wanted it that bad.” They are so repulsed by fat bodies, so conditioned to dehumanize them, that the rape of a fat woman is impossible in their eyes.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard someone assert that fat people have larger or deeper vaginas than their thinner counterparts. There is no proof or logic to support this idea, and yet it is widely held belief that is promoted as fact in many circles. Accompanying the assertion that vaginas on fat bodies are more accommodating, is the belief that they are capable of enduring rape.
Bigger body means bigger vagina means higher pain tolerance. This is the same asinine logic that has been applied to justify sexual violence against Black women throughout history–the dehumanizing belief that these specific bodies are literally built to endure more pain, so that no one can be held accountable for violence against them.
Whether they admit it or not, the average person feels more sympathy and empathy for small or thin woman who is a victim of violence, sexual or otherwise, because thin women are seen as inherently more fragile and therefore more helpless and in need of protection.
Not only is there disbelief that a fat person could be victimized in this way or feel the pain of sexual violence at all, but for many, there is also the subconscious belief that fat people deserve any of the harm, mistreatment, and disadvantages they encounter. This stems from the all too common notion that fatness is a moral failure.
If people “choose to be fat,” then their immoral behavior (read: laziness or unwillingness to work to be skinny) should be punished. This is what many people believe. Regardless of beliefs about the validity of sexual violence against them, fat women and femmes (more than other fat people) already suffer the very tangible effects of their humanity being challenged on the basis of their fatness to begin with.
Misogynoir absolutely informs fat hatred/phobia and the dehumanizing of fat women and femmes. Chattel slavery set the tone for Black women to be both dehumanized and fetishized at the same damn time because white people needed to separate enslaved Africans from the “humanity” of whiteness in order to treat them like livestock and keep a clear conscience.
Black women were regarded as more masculine, hypersexual, beastlike creatures built for work, and the perfect receptacles for white men’s taboo sexual desires. In the early years of colonization, while having sexual contact with a white woman was punishable by law, the rape of a Black woman was legally impossible. The aesthetic differences between white women, who were exalted as pinnacles of womanhood, and Black women were used to promote the myth that the generally larger, rounder bodies of these uncontrollably sexual beasts were unrapeable.
The implications of these violent, dehumanizing beliefs have not changed much since their introduction into social consciousness centuries ago. Society’s earliest constructions of race, sex, and gender norms are tied to colonialist ideology and its demonization of larger bodies. Fat people now are suffering under a system that was originally created for the dehumanization of Black women specifically.
Michael Blackson’s “joke” is violent. It promotes the notion that fat women are worthless and do not deserve protection, and it mocks the thousands of fat women who have been dismissed when seeking justice after experiencing sexual assault. This “joke” expresses the very real sentiments of countless people who believe fat people are subhuman, and anyone who laughs at it promotes its violence.
Alexandria Nicole is an East Oakland, CA native, with a passion for amplifying issues that are deemed taboo; her voice is filled with radical self love, righteous anger, and pride in her Black queerness. A.Nicole believes that writing is her conduit to emotional freedom, and prioritizes the pursuit of such above all else. You can follow her journey out of the ashes at @Deviant_Phoenix.