From fat suits to revenge stories, we’ve really seen the fatphobic side of Netflix these past few weeks. Insatiable, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is a Netflix series about ‘Fatty Patty’, a fat girl who takes revenge on her bullies after she loses weight and becomes ‘hot’.
This series is a hot mess - it perpetuates the idea that to be attractive is to be thin, that fat suits are a good idea, and that this is a narrative that teenage girls really need to be consuming in 2018. There was a petition going around to try to stop Netflix from releasing the series. As it rightly points out, ‘this series will cause eating disorders, and perpetuate the further objectification of women’s bodies’.
As a fat girl who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, I absolutely agree that this series will cause harm to teenagers, specifically girls, who are already under so much pressure to conform to a specific body type. This is an insidious type of fatphobia that tells teenage girls that if only they could get their mouths wired shut after being punched in the face, they’d become ‘hot’. That violence against women will lead to that holy grail of consequences - losing weight. That ‘hotness’ should have anything to do with the shape of your body, rather than a sparkle in your eye and a confidence in your step.
Luckily, there are a few YA authors fighting the good fight when it comes to fat acceptance and body positivity. Here are some of my favourites.
1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Dumplin’ is one of the original fat positive novels in Young Adult literature. It follows Willowdean, a fat girl who enters her local beauty pageant to show the world that it isn’t just thin girls who can become beauty queens. Full of Dolly Parton, cute boys, and a sprinkle of positive female friendships, this book is everything that a teenage me could have wanted, and more. Dumplin’ is to be made into a film, releasing in 2018.
2. Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
Puddin’ is the sequel to Dumplin’, which is about Millie, one of the fat girls who participated in the beauty pageant, and Callie, a biracial Mexican-American ‘mean girl’. The two are thrown together in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and start to become friends… Also, the catchphrase in this sparkling YA novel is ‘riots not diets’ - what more could you possibly need to know?
3. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Author of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (recently made into a film titled Love, Simon), Becky Albertalli is here for fat girls everywhere. Molly is a fat girl with anxiety who has had crushes on over 26 guys. She’s never acted on her feelings, until she meets Will, a hipster boy, and Reid, a Tolkien-loving nerd. Now that her twin sister has found a girlfriend, maybe it’s time to act… See also Becky Albertalli’s novel Leah on the Offbeat.
4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
A novel told in verse, The Poet X is the story of Xiomara, a plus-size Dominican teenager by renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. Throughout the novel, Xiomara discovers the power of slam poetry, and questions what it means to be a fat girl of colour in modern day Harlem.
5. The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding
Finally, we have The Summer of Jordi Perez, which is about Abby, a gay teenager who runs a plus-size fashion blog. She’s always been willing to play second fiddle to her friends and sister, until she meets fellow fashionista Jordi Perez, who she is competing against to get a job at a fashion boutique.
Since we clearly can’t rely on Netflix to bring us the fat positive stories that we need right now, I would highly recommend these novels for anyone looking to learn about body positivity, or who needs a feel-good story of fat girls falling in love. Because we deserve the happily ever afters that thin girls get, too.
[Header image description: Debby Ryan's character 'Fatty Patty' is sat on a kerb outside a minimart, eating a chocolate bar with a carrier bag laid by her feet. It's nighttime and the pavement is wet from rain. She is wearing a black and white horizontally striped sweater with black trousers and a pair of Converse. The store is lit up with fluorescent lighting and there's a multitude of advertising posters in the windows, alongside a neon 'Open' sign. Source: imDb]