Embodiment, as a concept and a practice, poses difficulties for people who more or less fit into the range of “normal body,” given a beauty ideal that is really unattainable. Embodiment for people that do not fit into every dimension of “normal body,” for instance, gays and lesbians whose sexual bodies are deviant from the heterosexual norm, are at least protected from ridicule in that their sexuality cannot be read from their bodies (though it is often assumed). Conversely, fat bodies cannot disguise themselves. Fat embodiment poses an issue fundamentally; being in the body comes into direct conflict with subjectivity and identity through medicalizing discourse, the slender-body norm, and stereotypes about fat people.
The idea that everyone can/should be skinny and that fat is holding people back from being healthy, happy, and expressing their personality presents a real issue in fat embodiment. Fat is the enemy – it can be eliminated, no fail, through dieting and burning calories. If that doesn’t work, it can simply be surgically removed. The mental image of sucking cream-colored fat out of a body put under brings to mind the abject – the slimy, the internal, the unwanted, the bodily. Given this cultural attitude, how should we feel if we gain a few pounds, or find ourselves rather filled out? How can one be in their body when it isn’t truly hers? How can we accept fat when our culture is rallied against it?
These are the challenged of “fat acceptance.” McAllister comments: “as the founder and artistic director of Big Burlesque and the Fat-Bottom Revue, the world’s first all-fat burlesque troupe, I’ve learned that fat liberation occurs only when we embody it physically as well as accepting it politically and theoretically” (305). Similarly, Kent writes: “The ultimate goal is to reunite the self and the body, as the self within is implicated in the fat body’s desires. For this reunion to occur the body hatred at the heart of the mind-body split must be set aside and the body no longer abjected from the self” (137). In this way, the prevailing attitude that that body defines the person must be reworked to include the body as part of a person, a unified, subjective whole.