Size Matters: Small Screen, Big Women

Tasha Fierce
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Tasha Fierce is a writer living in the occupied Tongva territory known as Los Angeles. You can follow them on Twitter at @tashajfierce and read more of their work on their website.


While there are endless examples of fat female characters portrayed in an unappealing light on television, fewer and farther between are positive portrayals of female fatness. When you come across one, even if it's on an otherwise dull show, it's refreshing to see. I'd like to take in a few of those breaths of fresh air here, for your reading pleasure.

Grey's Anatomy: Dr. Callie Torres (see above picture)
Played deftly by Sara Ramirez, Callie is a strong, complicated, nuanced and gorgeous woman of color who happens to be fat—a characteristic that doesn't hamper her ability to get it on with some of the hottest people on the show, from Dr. Mark "McSteamy" Sloan to her current love interest, an attractive, thin blonde woman by the name of Arizona. This relatively recent development in Callie's love life earned her the adoration of legions of queer women (myself included). Her character proves that fat female sexuality can be portrayed in a tasteful, positive light without the partner of the fat woman being positioned as a "chubby chaser" or in some other way a fat fetishist.

Grey's Anatomy: Dr. Miranda Bailey
Chandra Wilson's Emmy-nominated portrayal of Dr. Bailey presents us with a petite powerhouse of a Chief Resident. Commanding despite her diminutive stature, the fact that she's fat doesn't detract from her authority or ability to be taken seriously; so many fat black female characters on TV are forced to play off their fat in comedic or Sapphire-type roles. Although she doesn't get involved in the sexual antics of her co-workers, it's not because she's considered unattractive, it's because she's no-nonsense, married, and not the type to buy into the soap opera nature of her colleagues' personal lives. Dr. Bailey is a wonderful example of how a black female character can be written as assertive and at times aggressive but maintain a level of vulnerability and sensitivity that jibes with the overall nature of her personality.

Roseanne: Roseanne Conner
While some may say Roseanne, with her caustic wit and sarcasm, is not a positive portrayal of a fat woman. I beg to differ. On the show, she is not weight-obsessed and her fatness is not positioned as a Big Issue in regards to her interpersonal relationships with co-workers and other family members or her romantic relationship with her (also fat) husband. She is portrayed as an average, realistic working class woman. Many average working class women are fat. She's simply playing a character that represents a large number of USian women, and being as how she is the lead character and her fat is not something that is constantly brought up with a lot of hand-wringing surrounding it or subject to cheap jokes playing off it, I'd say she's a pretty positive representation. In and of itself, seeing an average working class fat woman on a top-rated sitcom every week was a positive development.


Gimme A Break: Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper (see above picture)
Honestly, Nell Carter's character on this show was the first character I thought of when I started thinking about positive portrayals of fat women on television. Yes, she's playing a stereotype—the black housekeeper of a white family—but folks, this was 1981 and any black woman, especially a fat black woman, on TV not screeching at her husband or wearing a kerchief was a milestone. Nell Harper was attractive, pulled together, funny AND had a love life. She dated, had a boyfriend, and was sexual without it being a joke. The show was not immune to playing off her weight, but it at least did so along with playing off the weight of the male lead on the show, Police Chief Carl Kanisky. Nellie was a positive character, as nuanced as you're gonna get for a fat black woman on a sitcom in the early 80s, and was played expertly by the Tony-award winning Ms. Nell Carter.

Disparate as these roles are, they all have something in common—they're not caricatures, they're real characters, something very rare and very special for fat women on television.

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100 Comments Have Been Posted

Size Matters: Small Screen, Big Women

Don't forget Drop Dead Diva's Brooke Elliot!!! She is beautiful and plus size. I love the Show and she portrays her character Jane Bingum perfectly. Even my kids and husband enjoys the show ;)

I've never seen that show!

What is Drop Dead Diva about? What channel is it on? My interest is piqued.

Love that show!

I found Drop Dead Diva by accident and was able to catch up with last year from my cable On Demand feature. It's a Lifetime Show. I love that actress and she does such a good job portraying a thin woman becoming accustomed to being fat, without making it condescending. It's funny, dramatic, and just plain entertaining. I get a Boston Legal kind of feel from it.

Drop Dead Diva is on the Lifetime cable network

It is in it's second season. Hasn't it been written about in this blog already?

Also, what about that new show "Huge" on ABCFamily? I'm hearing a lot of buzz about it, but little, if any analysis from a feminist lens.

Check out fatshionista dot

Check out fatshionista dot com (spam filter!) - Leslie has been recaping HUGE from a Fat Acceptance and Feminist angle. Awesome! The show is great, BTW. I'm absolutely impressed with it.

I haven't seen Huge

I haven't seen Huge either, but since y'all are mentioning these shows I may have to check them out and do a follow-up post. And yeah, Lesley at Fatshionista has been recapping Huge.

check out lesley's recaps

check out lesley's recaps and analysis at she is recapping the entire season, and often, her recaps are more entertaining than the episodes.

team ian! woo!

I never thought of Sara

I never thought of Sara Ramirez as fat. I however do agree that she is super hot.

Well I guess

I guess she would fall on the "chubby" end of the fat spectrum. Either way, she's definitely smokin'.

Ms. Ramirez describes

Ms. Ramirez describes herself as "plus sized" or larger. While she is not on the larger end of fat, I am not inclined to invalidate her <em>own</em> identity as it relates to her body, and neither should anyone else. Policing bodies sucks. She has been targeted for her weight, and fat policing and shaming the author because Ms. Ramirez is not a size 20 + is really problematic.

Also, isn't the idea of "fat enough" a bit anti-feminist and reductive. Fat is not a destination, it's a spectrum and includes people that other folks might not frame as "fat".

Those of us at the chubby end of the spectrum are targeted because of our weight and often feel left out of conversations about fatness because of our "inbetweenie" status. Seems the last place one should be marginalized in a community (and a blog post) where fat bodies are given space to be explored in a thoughtful way. This isn't to suggest there isn't inherent privilege in being on the smaller end of fatness, but it also shouldn't allow folks to ERASE our lived experiences simply because we do not meet their standard of FATNESS. Not cool.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I'm still waiting for the

I'm still waiting for the Almost Fat/Kinda Fat movement to start. Except in the meantime, I've ventured into full-time fatness.
Sheesh, we have these kinds of conversations over in the transgender community, and they make no sense over there, either.

"Fat is not a destination,

"Fat is not a destination, it's a spectrum and includes people that other folks might not frame as "fat"

Thank you Snarky! I really hate the tendency of "she's not fat enough, or not plus-sized enough" in a lot of feminists circles. I mean, seriously, isn't it about body acceptance? It shouldn't matter where you fall on the "chart" of fat.

And another suggestion to the list (since the lovely Delta Burke was already suggested): Camyrn Manheim!

I am 5'5 and weigh 190 lbs.

I am 5'5 and weigh 190 lbs. I do not consider myself "fat" and would be seriously offended and upset if someone referred to me as such. Nor would I ever feel "left out" in any discussion regarding "fatness" in the media because I can only assume I'm on the lower end of the "fatness spectrum". My weight does not define who I am, it is a number on the scale. And likewise, I don't want other people to define me by my weight, either.

"Fat" is a completely subjective adjective, as I have met women who wear a size 6 who consider themselves fat. Is it also "policing" their body to reassure them that they are, in fact, *not* fat?

And anyways, who is considered fat and who isn't?


No one's trying to make you call yourself fat if you don't want to be called fat. But you might want to to think about why you'd be so offended and upset about being called fat, since fat is not a negative descriptor. Saying "she's fat" defines someone by their weight about as much as "she has brown hair" defines them by the color of their hair.

I wouldn't go by dress size to define "fat" if you're trying to define it. There are size 6 people who many of the people arguing here would consider fat because of their height to weight ratio. And why should I "reassure" someone they're not fat. That again assumes "fat" is something horrible.

I am a Fat Acceptance

I am a Fat Acceptance activist and I definitely am on board with the reclamation of the word "fat" (especially given the alternatives out there).

I think I'd argue that it's not at all like using a neutral descriptor like hair color. It's more like reclaiming a pejorative like queer.

Just now, I went to the Bitch store to check out the merch, and there are two t-shirts. One features a female model in a "slim-fit" shirt. The text reads, "Not all T-shirts are created equal." Obviously, not all people are either. I appreciate that the model has a belly, but there's no way I could wear this shirt. It only goes to a Women's 12-14.

The other option has a male model and is called "classic washed." The sizing info on that says, "If you normally wear men's clothing, we recommend you order the size you normally wear: S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL. If you normally wear women's clothing, we recommend you order one size smaller than you normally wear."

So the "classic" (sans fairy dust) is sized (and designed) for a "classic" male body and only goes to a size women's 2X and is a straight up and down model with longish "short" sleeves (and I've got to say that the design tends to look like shit on this curvy body).

Even Bitch Magazine's store tells fat women that we aren't worthy of the name, "Bitch."

Think how much harder it is to embrace the word "fat" when Bitch doesn't?

BitchMart sizing

Derailer alert!

Hi Miriam,

Thanks for your comments. I just wanted to point out really quickly that the classic fit t-shirts available at BitchMart actually go up to a women's 4XL, since we recommend that you order one size smaller in the classic than you'd typically wear in a women's size (thus the classic 3X is equivalent to a women's 4X). We looked at a lot of distributors to find something that was ethical, sustainable, and size-inclusize, and 4XL was the best we could do. It's not perfect, but I also don't think that offering shirts up to a 4XL is sending the message to fat women that they aren't worthy of wearing our shirts. Of course they are!

Hope that helps—sorry about the major derail, everyone!

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>

"fat" is NOT a dirty word!

"I wouldn't go by dress size to define "fat" if you're trying to define it. There are size 6 people who many of the people arguing here would consider fat because of their height to weight ratio. And why should I "reassure" someone they're not fat. That again assumes "fat" is something horrible."

i completely agree with this statement, Tasha! as a fat black woman, i was once told (by a thin white man) that my referring to someone as a "fat chick" was tantamount to using the N-word. luckily this was a facebook exchange so he didnt have to experience a look that would have made him back up a few steps after spewing such bullsh*t.

i mean really? is it that deep? he was saying that referring to someone as a "fellow fat chick" while talking about how she was being portrayed on TV meant that we were only HALF offended because if we were really offended i wouldnt use that term. and i told him that "fat chick" is a descriptor the same as "black chick" might be and HE was the one assigning all the negativity to it. its really rather ridiculous the way people act about that word. telling me not to call myself fat when its CLEAR that i am. like that somehow takes away from everything else that i am!

i will admit to not taking the plight of the chubby girl seriously at times and have apologized for it on occasion. i will not apologize for it when its clear that this person is fishing for compliments and LOOKING for me to reassure her that she's not fat. then, i have no can go play those games with a fat chick that cares!

Why not judge yourself on the inside!

I don't think fat should be a label. Not what size you are, it doesn't matter as long as you're healthy. Being healthy should be a priority in everyone's life. If you're a size zero and you eat crap then you're no better than a 500 pound person. But I don't think the priority should be what everyone else thinks about you! I don't think someone should be judged for being skinny or fat. Don't compel everyone to accept another person because they're "plus sized" and too lazy to change. Compel people to accept you as you are and the best you that you can be. If you eat well and make other healthy choices you should be a role model regardless of how thin or wide your hips are.

Gorgeous and not fat

<p>Though I've never thought of Sara Ramirez as being "fat" or a "woman of color" the column is about "fat". And as we say in show-biz, "There's no such thing as bad publicity". Sometimes there can be too much publicity though. And stressing how much women weigh and other superficialities borders on being beyond catty. Oh, and correct me If I'm wrong but since when did Mexican-Americans earn the label of people "of color"? I have green eyes, red hair, and brown freckles. Do my freckles make me a "woman of color"?</p>

I don't see any fat women in

I don't see any fat women in the top photo. I also don't see anyone who is plump, chubby, Amazonian, etc. I don't watch the show, so maybe I'm missing something?

Adjective police.

I gotta say, I'm a little concerned with the fat language policing. Fat is not an insult, not a necessarily negative word. It's a word to describe bigger women.

Serious question, is fat an

Serious question, is fat an acceptable word? I just have an image of talking about body types with a fat girl, calling her fat and her bursting into tears because I didn't say "bigger" or something less blunt.

Straw woman much?

Fat is a value-neutral, potentially positive adjective as far as I and to the best of my knowledge the fat-acceptance movement are concerned.

I'd be very insulted and

I'd be very insulted and hurt if someone called me fat. And as I said above, I'm 5'5 and 190 lbs, and I'm sure people think I am, but I do not consider myself to be fat in any way.

Then don't use it. It's none

Then don't use it. It's none of my business how you identify.

Fat is an adjective we're using about other people; this is not about you.

Definitely identify how ever

Definitely identify how ever you wish, but also allow others to do the same. Some of frame the word "fat" as VALUE neutral. It goes beyond merely reclaiming the word from its hurtful origins, but also to shift its focus back to what it actually describes, which is - well - fat. Nothing more. Nothing less. Granted, for some it's still a loaded word, but for those of us who don't feel that's the case, there is no reason we should refrain from applying to ourselves and those who do not find it as polarizing as you do.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I'm sure that if any woman

I'm sure that if any woman mentioned on this blog felt that it was a loaded word, you would refrain from using it to describe her. And just because YOU don't think it's a loaded word, does NOT give you the right to identify other people as "fat." If you said that to me, "Hey, you're a fat woman" I'd say "fuck you" and walk away. Some people still find it hurtful, and you and everyone else who uses it needs to respect that.

So if Sara Ramirez explicitly uses the term plus-size to describe herself, then use that to describe her. Otherwise, you're using *your* terms to describe someone else. And like I said above, it's exactly like using the f-word (not fuck) and the n-word. Some people find it offensive and hurtful. Respect it.

What does it mean to you?

"Fat" only has the meaning you give it! But I agree, just b/c you have one meaning of it, doesn't mean someone else has that same view. So it would be good to respect someone else's view on the matter.
Personally I don't care for the term "plus-size" either. We get so caught up in labeling ourselves that we forget that we are just humans...period. Why the need for the labels?
Just my two cents. ;-)

It's not only about what it means to an individual

"'Fat' only has the meaning you give it!"

I understand the underlying sentiment here, but I beg to disagree. I could (and do) choose to use "fat" in a value-positive way, but that in no way means I can just easily remove the intended meaning when someone else calls me fat in a derogatory way or behaves toward me based on a negative evaluation of being fat. Like it or not, words also carry the meanings that OTHERS give to them.

Do you realize

Whitney -
Do you realize that you being so disgusted by the word "fat" is hurtful to those of us who are fat? You're perpetuating the idea that fat = bad. We're trying to work to be able to use the word "fat" and not have it seen as a negative thing.

Disgusted? Thank you for

Disgusted? Thank you for putting words into my mouth.

As I said before (and you have quoted me in your other article) I am 5'5 and weigh 190 lbs, and some might call me fat. So am I saying that because I don't like the word "fat" and find it offensive, that I am thus calling myself disgusting?

I don't care if YOU are trying to rework the word "fat" into a positive thing. I think it's derogatory word used to hurt people, like f****t, and n****r.


Sara Ramirez states she is "plus size". It's not like "fat" is a negative descriptor, and I'm not willing to make a bunch of distinctions between "fat" and "curvy" and "slightly overweight" and what have you. I think that's counterproductive.

Sookie St. James!

I have to admit that I was reminded of Sookie over on our Facebook page, but she was my favorite character on <i>Gilmore Girls</i>. A super-talented chef, a hilarious best friend, and an active love life with her cute husband—and no one ever made her fatness a big deal. Go Sookie!

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>


I second this motion! Sookie was such a great character, and totally adorable.


Oh man!! She was such a cutie! What ever happened to that actress?

Sookie - New Show!

Melissa McCarthy (Sookie) was in that show with Christina Applegate "Samantha, Who?" and she has a new show coming out this fall "Mike & Molly" on CBS.

Synopsis of new show:
The series, set in Chicago, follows two overweight people — Mike Biggs, a police officer who wants to shed some pounds, and Molly Flynn, a fourth-grade teacher who wants to embrace her curves — who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group and become an unlikely pair. However, they also have to deal with the comments, jokes, and criticism from Mike's fast-talking partner Carl McMillan; Molly's attractive sister Victoria and mother Joyce; and Samuel, a Senegalese waiter at the cops' favorite restaurant. (wikipedia)

Oh I loved Sookie so much!

Oh I loved Sookie so much! If any of you watch America's Test Kitchen there is a chef that looks/sounds just like her (Julia Collin-Davis), she's awesome:

callie torres wasn't fat....

wait a minute.

since when was Callie fat? are you serious? i'm not saying fat is an insulting thing. it's just that she in no way meets that behavioral characteristic.
while i'm also pro positive depictions of fat women on telly, can we at least make sure they're actually fat?

Sara Ramirez DESCRIBES


"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Plus-size =/= fat.

Plus-size =/= fat.

I'm plus sized and fat. Not

I'm plus sized and <em>fat</em>. Not sure what you're getting at. Would it be helpful if Ramirez flogged herself before identifying as a label <em>you</em> feel does not apply to her?

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


How are you defining fat? What is "actually fat"? Is there a weight you have to reach before you're fat? Are we going by BMI? I mean seriously.


since when is fat a behavioral characteristic? a physical characteristic, void of any moral or ethical implications, absolutely. but fatness is not a behavior.

unless you mean going out in public and living your life without regrets as a fat person, ie, being fat at someone. ;)

I was going to say Drop Dead

I was going to say Drop Dead Diva, too. The show is great and Brooke Elliot is a wonderful find.

It is sick you are calling

It is sick you are calling Sara Ramirez fat!
What is going on in this world when a woman who doesnt look like she is dying of starvation is called fat! Her stomach is flat! And two of those shows haven't been on in like 20 years. Trust me there are NO positive portrayals of real big women on TV. The idea that its even an issue is size- ist in itself.

First off, what is so wrong

First off, what is so wrong with being sick that it's such a synonym for wrong? Ableist language alert.

And second of all, what in the hell is wrong with calling a larger woman fat? Fat is beautiful. Sara Ramirez is fat and beautiful. The two things are not mutually exclusive.

Seriously! Be careful what

Seriously! Be careful what you label "fat."

What's wrong with labeling

What's wrong with labeling someone "fat"? It describes like wet describes water.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I think what's wrong with it

I think what's wrong with it is exactly the thing you and Tasha described in your own argument (though the more subtle points made about Ms. Wilson – the descriptors for whom "petite" and "attractive" have always come first to mind for me personally – are well-taken).

You've said Ms. Ramirez describes <i>herself</i> as plus-sized.
Who are any of us to say "No, that's wrong, you need to call yourself something else – so my feelings won't be hurt?"

Land Sakes!

There sure are a lot of anonymice in this thread eager to spank you for identifying Sara Ramirez as fat, Tasha!

People, fat is an adjective. In the case of a woman who self identifies as plus size in interviews and participates in promotions for plus size designers, it's an entirely appropriate adjective to use.

People, listen

I'm not going to tolerate anyone acting like "fat" is a negative descriptor, or suggesting that there's some kind of threshold for qualifying as fat, or that a woman identifying as plus size is not fat, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Seriously, I'm just going to mark those comments as spam.

Well, I guess you don't want

Well, I guess you don't want people to genuinely discuss the article. Cutting out comments that you disagree with is immature. What sort of comments would you like? "This article is perfection!" ,"I wouldn't contradict a single thing!", "Way to present an unbiased text that reflects the feelings of everyone!" -- something like that? Are those ok? I would think that, as a writer, you would want critiques on your argument and its presentation. On that note, what is your argument? Here are some women that aren't tiny in the media? End of discussion?

Fat is historically negative. I'm surprised it hasn't occurred to you that someone who is technically fat does not wish to be identified as such. Additionally, it's important to address what society considers fat, otherwise, what's the point of raising awareness about the topic?

Oh my stars, *really,*

Oh my stars, *really,* MaggiePie?

Tasha put together a piece discussing positive portrayals of fat women in pop culture, of which there are few and far between. Other commenters are chiming in with more examples, and there's a discussion going on about what makes a positive portrayal. There's some great conversation going on in this thread if you can wade through the fog of derailing.

Tasha's choosing to exercise her moderating powers to keep the focus of the conversation on discussing fat bodies in pop culture, rather than having a moratorium on whether 'fat' is a dirty word. That's not 'immature,' it's called 'curating a conversation.'

People choosing to use 'fat' as a reclamatory adjective are well aware of this word's loaded history as a pejorative epithet. That doesn't mean we shouldn't use it and it certainly doesn't mean we should contribute to the stigmatisation associated with fatness by refusing to call things by their proper name.

Re: Well, I guess

Hi MaggiePie,

Actually, Tasha is not cutting out comments from people that she disagrees with. She is cutting out comments from people who are trying to shame her into admitting that fat=bad, or from people who refuse to accept the premise of this blog series (fatness and pop culture). Fat may have negative connotations in pop culture, but those connotations are largely unfounded and are certainly not given credence here.

Hope that helps.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>

Just repeating

Just repeating what s.e. and Kelsey said -- I'm not silencing critics, I'm keeping the comment thread free of derailments. This article isn't about the negative connotations of the word "fat". If and when I write that article, feel free to discuss the topic at that time. Thanks.

Historically negative?

@MaggiePie there are many times and places where fat has been a positive and desirable attribute. If you're talking about the bias against fat in current North American dominant consumer culture, though, there are many people who are working to change this perception.

Your perception of what is

Your perception of what is historical is quite narrow. Throughout history in many cultures being larger, even fat, indicated prosperity. While the work of Rubens is well-enough known to have spawned the term 'rubenesque' to refer to a larger woman, you can see many examples by other artists of fuller figures among those who were able to afford to have their portraits painted. There are still societies where fat is acceptable.


Echo-ing Tasha and others, comments that body-police or question why this post is talking about body size will not be tolerated.

Also, a reminder for commenters to read the ENTIRE thread (it's not that long, seriously) before commenting.

Did someone say "<a href="/comments-policy">Comments Policy</a>"?

Great Post!

I love your choices. All beautiful, fat, fantastic women and actresses. To the commenter who mentioned Sookie on GG, I'd also add Miss Patty and Babette. Both of them were gorgeous and fat. Babette was married to a man she adored, and Miss Patty had been married three times and had the most active social life of anyone on the show.

Nell Carter's character

Nell Carter's character evolved as the series progressed. After the unexpected death of Dolph Sweet (Chief), Neil took center stage (along with the hilarious, cheeky Grandpa) in the parental role for the children. Another trope subverted on the show was Nell's friend Addie, who was conventionally beautiful - tall, thin, etc - possessed many of the personality traits generally associated with fat characters on sitcoms.

I also liked how they handled reproductive issues - the infamous IUD episode - which portrayed the issue in a complex way, with limited sex shaming; addressing some of the controversy with that particular method of BC.

Bailey. At first I didn't like her. She seemed way too mammylicious, but over the course of the first two seasons, she developed and now she's up there with Karev and The Chief as my favorite characters. I really love how there is NO commentary offered regarding her weight - same with Callie and they are both portrayed as competent, fully realized, driven individuals with interesting story arcs that are respectful of where their characters are in their own evolution. It's refreshing.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I really liked Nell's character

I really liked Nell's character, which is why I thought of it first. That show definitely did a pretty good job with some sensitive issues.

I also think that just because a show is not on currently, doesn't mean it wasn't significant pop culturally.

Being that this article

Being that this article talks about a positive portrayal of fat women in media, I believe that questioning whether Sara Ramirez is fat is a pertinent question. The truth is that, as a society, we have been glorifying a skinny, unhealthy weight as the ideal weight. 50 years ago, Sara Ramirez would have been considered if not thin, at least average. The truth is she has a healthy way and the fact that she is a plus sized woman shows how even sizes tend to consider a healthy weight and figure as plus sized. I believe she probably considers herself as plus sized because, amidst a Hollywood where ultra thin women are the rule, a healthy and beautiful voluptuous woman is an exception when she should be the rule. In reality, I believe that nowadays the media is still not portraying fat women in a positive light.

I can't think of any reason

I can't think of any instance where it's okay for feminists to question another person's self identification. Nor do I feel it's appropriate to say things like, "a skinny, unhealthy weight". Body policing is unacceptable. Celebrating fat bodies cannot come at the expense of thin bodies. Empowering one does not mean devaluing another. Valuing a diversity of bodies is the goal, while the focus here is fat bodies it doesn't mean the space facilitates open season on thin bodies.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

"Healthy weight"

Basically you're saying that being fat is unhealthy and if you're fat you're not at a "healthy" weight, which is extremely problematic. I think what's pertinent is why people become so defensive when someone they think is "normal" is called fat, which positions fat as abnormal. Being "healthy and beautiful" is not antithetical to being fat.

You really need to analyze your prejudices regarding fatness.

this is totally untrue

Can we get rid of the myth that there was some magical time when flesh could run free? Women in the 1950s were buying girdles and going on crazy diets just as much as they are now, maybe even more--not to mention smoking to keep their weight down.

Loretta Devine

Also, the Chief (Grey's) who is clearly positioned as powerful and desirable has a gorgeous, big on again/off again wife, deftly played by the aptly named actress Loretta Devine! I love Adele Webber. I hope she comes back this season!

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

yay for Calliope

Anyone named for a Greek muse other than Cleo wins my affection. Callie is one of the many great characters that makes me wish Grey's Anatomy was a better show all around. While all the characters are attractive Kathrine Heigl's character former model Izzie Stevens was the only acknowledged "sexy" woman until Callie came along. Even though the writers chose to display it largely through cliche love rivalry it still put a plus-sized woman of color on par with the classic blond bombshell (and in my personal opinion totally winning.)

I heart Callie too

She is definitely one of the highlights of the show for me. I love her character and how she's developed over the course of her tenure on the show. You're right about her being positioned as a "bombshell" in the tradition of Izzie, and I agree she does a better job of it than Izzie did. I never really liked Izzie as a character and Heigl kind of annoys me.

I heart this post! I haven't

I heart this post! I haven't thought about Nell Carter for years, but used to watch her all the time when I was a young child. And she WAS a positive character. Also, in all the Roseanne Barr hate of the last decade or two, it's nice to see someone remembering how many working class American women she represented.

When I think of how someone like Delta Burke has endured so much hate for her weight (gain), I wonder why we do this garbage to each other.

Delta Burke

Delta has definitely been put through the ringer regarding her weight, and I know she's done the yo-yo dieting thing pretty publicly. Off topic, she has a line of plus size clothing and lingerie. I bought some of her underwear once. I mean from her line, not underwear she's worn. Ha.

Amen. Also, yay Delta Burke!

I have fond memories of Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker on <i>Designing Women</i>. It's been a while since I saw the show, but I distinctly recall an episode where Suzanne goes to her high school reunion and looks like a total knockout despite the rude comments some of her fellow classmates make about her weight gain. That episode also provided a very positive portrayal of plus-size clothing stores (Suzanne goes to one to get her knockout dress)!

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I loved Delta on Boston

I loved Delta on <em>Boston Legal</em>, she didn't let Shatner fat shame her. He chased her like whoa. She was fun on there.

Plus, Delta is married to Gerald McRaney, who is so foxy!!! Not that you have to be married or partner to affirm your fat, hot self, but if you wanna be partnered, you could do worse than Major Dad.

I have some of her panties and bras. I really like them! Wait, that came out wrong.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

*smile* Why am I so not

*smile* Why am I so not surprised you think Gerald McRaney is foxy?

Gerald McRaney

He is totally hot!! Just had to add that.

Major Dad!

To pile on the derail... Whenever I mount the "fat dad/ hot wife" sitcoms soapbox Major Dad is my gospel and Gerald McRaney in formal Marine dress is the promise land.


Is this the same episode where she talks about Elizabeth Taylor? I remember that soliloquy as being pretty moving.

Why is Sara Not Fat?

I don't watch Grey's Anatomy, so I had to google "Grey's Anatomy cast" to find photos of her. Umm, she is the only person people took issue with - yet she is bigger (including wider) than her castmate, Chandra Wilson. No one protested that Chandra was not fat or couldn't be because she had a flat belly.



Puzzling and telling.

This sent me on a lovely

This sent me on a lovely body-positive Google image search!

It's all about what people find sexy. Since they conceptualize fat and sexy as on opposite side of the spectrum, the two meeting challenges their idea of what fat and sexy are in a way they can't handle.

another one

Just to add to your list, Jill Scott, singer and actress is my current hero. She is gorgeous and fat with no apologies. She stars in an HBO show called No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, she has also been in a few movies (Why Did I Get Married).
She has a song out that has become my anthem called Hate On Me. Google her if you haven't heard of her, she is fantastic (can you tell I've got a crush?)

To add to the other discussion, I thought we'd owned the word fat, at least amongst ourselves years ago.

Jill Scott is a delight on

Jill Scott is a delight on No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. She nails the accent and her character is much more vivid on screen than in the novels, which I like, but don't love.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


She is one of my favorite singers and you're telling me she is on a TV show? Damn, where have I been. I knew I shouldn't have canceled HBO.

How about Whoopi Goldberg? I

How about Whoopi Goldberg? I just thought of her...


Sara is BEAUTIFUL. unbelievably beautiful and NOT fat. if she's fat then most of the world is freaking obese.

Is there something wrong

Is there something wrong with being obese? You say it like folks should be ashamed of their obese bodies. Perhaps they should hide in a dark closet until their bodies are acceptable to you?

*waits for the "obesity is bad and fatties are sucking up all the health care" speech*

That train is <em>never</em> late.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

You know

You know you can't be beautiful AND fat, so since Sara Ramirez is beautiful she must not be fat!


What the hell is up with all the body policing for this post? "Oh, no, fat is bad!" Maybe I've just been in my safe little bubble all this time, but I thought that we (as feminists, and I'm assuming commenters on the Bitch blog would be mostly feminists, or at least feminist allies) had gotten past this. "Fat" is not a bad word. Hell, anyone remember the Fat Acceptance movement? The word Fat is right there in the descriptor!

I positively hate fat-shaming comments, especially on fat-positive posts like the ones that Tasha writes.

fat is a feminist issue

Good book to read, if you haven't. Tasha, there's probably an opportunity here to step back and write a post about FAT and how we are conditioned to be afraid of the word FAT and the negative values that we associate with FAT like lazy, out of control, undisciplined, sloppy, pleasure-addicted, etc. I know there is a sort of protective bonding that happens amongst a lot of women*, including feminists, where we shield ourselves and others from FAT. "Do I look fat?" "No!" "Am I fat?" "No." There is even an ongoing cultural joke about how men (and women, really) are supposed to lie and <i>always</i> deny that anyone is FAT because if you say it out loud the world, or at least the evening will be ruined.

I mean what would it be like to live in a world where FAT is a neutral descriptor, like shiny, or nimble? It's an ongoing project for a lot of feminists, and the FAT-acceptance movement (hence the name!) to try and push into a world like that. It hasn't been been fun or comfortable for me to come to terms with my own FAT issues and my actually being FAT but it's something we all probably need to do.

And this is the end of my big FAT comment.

*I want to qualify that and say I suspect it's mostly white women, or at least that I'm white and my discussions on this subject with other women have mostly though not exclusively been with white women, I can't pretend to speak broadly about WOC and how they discuss weight, I prob am reaching a little even to say this is common amongst white women--prob more white, upper middle class women. Anyway.

oh, wait there seems to be more

In case it wasn't clear, "Fat is a Feminist Issue" is a book from 1996, I think. And of course there are also many great fat blogs out there.

I wanted to add that I didn't note that I'm also straight and sticking with the gender I was assigned at birth--weight and FAT issues in queer and trans communities probably differ from mine as described above.

tangent alert

Actually, Fat Is A Feminist Issue was originally published in 1978, but it's been reprinted numerous times. It's more of a "lose weight without dieting! ask me how!"-type self-help book than a straight-out fat acceptance book. It's complicated, though, because she talks about intuitive eating, which is a big thing in the Health at Any Size movement. Still, the author is definitely a proponent of weight loss, just not diets.

I miss Nell

Nell Carter's son was in my class in elementary and Hebrew school. She was such a beautiful person who definitely didn't flinch at the "f-word." Fabulous talented black fat Jewish queer role model. RIP Nell.

Nell is the only person who

Nell is the only person who reflected me to a tee. Fat, black, jewish, queer representing. I miss her too.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Miranda Bailey

Actually in the show, after the 5th season (maybe 4th, I don't remember) Miranda was single. Arizona ended up setting her up with her current boyfriend, who is also a doctor. She has some of the best scenes with Callie last season about dating/sex. Her boyfriend is gorgeous (there is no unattractive doctor on the show...) and they never focused on her weight, but focused on the fact she was a single parent and was worried about the fact she only had sex with her husband. They portrayed her character as scared to be dating again and I thought they did it in a rather tasteful manner.

I didn't read through all the comments, so if this was already brought up, sorry.

Thank you

Thank you for staying on topic! This is pertinent information!

Late to the party...

I'm late to this party, but I wanted to put in a mention for Bea Arthur as both Maude and Dorothy.

Blanche Devereaux!!!

Blanche had to find acceptance with both getting older and gaining weight as the Golden Girls progressed, and Glden Girls episodes in general never showed dieting attempts as something to strive for that I can recall. (More like temporary madness trying to hold onto youth or a man, which is silly, and please pass the cheesecake.)

Overall, Blanche was sexy and vivacious as hell and did so no matter what she weighed. Rue McClanahan seemed to do the same in her real life (her autobiography is the best, funniest, amazing-est, Blanchiest read btw - "My First Five Husbands...and the Ones Who Got Away". VERY feminist read btw.

<3 Blanche, R.I.P. Rue

p.s. There was also an episode with a daughter of Blanche's - who had been estranged - coming to visit with her new fiance. The daughter was a former model who had gained a lot of weight and due to self-esteem about her image had gotten engaged to someone who was totally verbally abusive. In the end, Blanche risked a permanent estrangement from her daughter in order to tell her why she was beautiful at any weight, deserved better, and should send that douche packing...with full support from the Girls for saying so. Finally her daughter realized her mom was right and stopped taking the abuse.


As someone who has always been on the thin side, I really appreciate those of you who make clear that this is not a fat women vs thin women war. aka "i hate skinny bitches", or who is a "healthy/average female size". the patriarchy loves to divide & conquer, after all. if we're busy being pissed off at our own bodies and resenting others for theirs, we're not going to have our heads clear to do much else. and we're a spectrum of sizes, shapes, curves, noncurves, you name it...we're all normal, it's not a binary of "either/or".

Plus, it's hurtful and messes with your head when people see you're thinner and call you anorexic or bulemic to your face as a joke, or even joke about that period. I've had more than one close friend struggle with that demon, including one my family and I had to take in while she was being hospitalized, and it's nothing funny.

This is why I refuse to get mainstream women's magazines and keep a scale around, I just hate how they fuck with everyone's body image. Too easy to obsess over it or feel like your weight or your bra size or whatever else is your self-worth. (Says the woman who learned to accept and enjoy her flat-chested self despite what all the boys said growing up ;)

Sorry if I'm tangenting, but being fat or skinny or short or tall or whatever else inbetween shouldn't be a negative or positive word on its own. I understand that it's hard to filter out society's use of words like "fat" or "bitch" despite our reclaiming them, but it is good to try.


How can anyone say she's fat? Seriously?
What is wrong with you people.

While I enjoyed this article,

While I enjoyed this article, I felt that it was a bit impolite and politically incorrect to refer to these women as fat. While these are bigger women than are usually seen on television, they are by no means necessarily overweight or any of the negative connotations we associate with the word "fat." This especially applies to Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), who barely makes plus-size at a size 12. Yes, she is bigger than we usually see on television. But if we saw her walking around in real life, we would think, "Wow, that is a tall, gorgeous woman." She is normal; pretty thin, even, for her height. While some of these women could be called "fat" I feel that it's a bit rude to refer to them as such. I love Bitch magazine but I feel like it's a bit anti-feminism to write about "positively fat" women when you could be using words that are more accurate to the women and less offensive.

I totally agree with the all

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