Vive La France! (Is Quebec Sleeping…?)

Quebecois likes to pick on French (from France) people. Our French “cousins” like they always say. We find them loud, sometimes even condescending.That they don’t know the French Canadian reality. And expect dog sled in the streets, tepees, and igloos everywhere around here. Do they never miss a chance to pick on our accent…?

plus-size backpacker fatphobia france paris

And until quite recently, Canada had nothing to envy to France when it comes to how they treat their fat people. Plus-size people in France have it quite hard. Not easy to be a fatty in the Camembert country!

Southern Influence…

In Quebec, and in Canada in general, we “benefit” from our Southern neighbors. (Not for everything, for that at least!) The US, worldwide trendsetter, have an important plus-size population. 67 % of women in the United States are wearing a size 16-18 or higher. (And Canada  is probably not that far behind…)

Thanks to this proximity, we get a bit more choice when it comes to plus-size fashion. We also benefit from all the fat acceptance activism that took place in the US over the past 50 years. The very first fat-in happened in 1967 in Central Park in New York City. NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) has existed since 1969. The fat liberation movement was born in the US.

plus-size backpacker fatphobia new york central park sit-in

Until recently, plus-size people in Quebec were enjoying a much better place than their French counterparts, since the American influence echoed here too. (Don’t get me wrong: we are still far from actual fat acceptance. I don’t even think we can say we are into fat tolerance yet, no matter where you are in North America…)

plus-size backpacker fatphobia france gabrielle deydier on ne nait pas grosse one is not born fat
Gabrielle Deydier
“On ne naît pas grosse”: … And Then Came Gabrielle Deydier

Did you hear about the book “On ne naît pas grosse” (One Is Not Born Fat”) published at Gouttes d’Or?

With that book, Gabrielle Deydier started a debate that is still raging among our French cousins. Even the French Canadian press spoke to her about it!

Gabrielle is brilliant. Super smart. And nice on top of it! She depicted such a striking portrait of fatphobia (grossophobie in French) in France that, ever since the book was launched, she’s EVERYWHERE! Even here!

And here we are. Our French cousins that we like to tease for being loud-mouthed and obstinate and all… Well, look at them now, as they are having a REAL DEBATE on fatphobia! On the evening news and radio shows.  Even in talk shows and late-night programs.

The city of Paris now has a week dedicated to fighting against discrimination that includes fatphobia! (This year’s edition will take place next week, from December 8 to 16, 2017)

The least we can say is that there is a proper debate happening in France. Size/weight-based discrimination is now a hot topic. And it is spreading across Europe: Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom… All these countries came up to Gabrielle to hear what she has to say. She shares her experience and fights for the right of people discriminated for their size and/or weight.

Even one of my tweets ended up on the Swiss evening news…!

plus-size backpacker fatphobia swiss news tweet i know im fat

plus-size backpacker fatphobia swiss news tweet i know im fat
Message for yesterday’s trolls who thought they would insult me by calling me “fat”… 

Of course, there is still a lot of stereotypes and bias. Often, the debate remains rather basic and arguments can be quite unsophisticated but still… At least, there is something happening and the topic is hot!

France Paging Quebec…

The fatphobia debate still hasn’t come to the main table in Quebec. And when the media brought it up, they did it… with Gabrielle! A French Woman! No one – or nearly – asked the Quebecois their thoughts on the matter.

Newsflash: Quebecois also suffer from fatphobia and its consequences! And we also have people here fighting and reporting this discrimination. People like Gabrielle Lisa Collard (Dix Octobre), Emily Roy (Montreal + Fashion Week, Between Montreal & New York), Julie Artacho, Mickaël Bergeron…

Why weren’t they interviewed? Why aren’t they more often in the news? It’s not like we lack smart and articulated bloggers and experts on the situation HERE. They are RIGHT HERE and they are all fully aware of what is happening HERE. So much bad faith from the media, don’t you think?

I volunteer, if that’s what it takes!
(See, since Sophie Durocher has decided to be at war with fat people, my activist fiber is rather hyperactive to her cheap, uncalled for attacks!)

Good Job, France!

I envy what is happening there. I envy France for going from dragging its feet at the back of the race to something that looks like a formidable progression! It is still too early to announce who will “win”. As I mentioned earlier, we are barely into fat tolerance. But France’s surprising recovery is undeniable. On a social level at least. Because, clothes-wise, this fashion-forward country is far from being rich in plus-size options…

We Are Not Any Better

In the so-called “Western World”, we are in the main, average-paced group. Not leading, not behind. That doesn’t mean that there is no fatphobia or no discrimination. That means we are just as bad as the others. That we are not any better.

It’s not because we have plus-size singer and actresses and comedians that are popular that it’s all good. Because every time a public personality gains/drops weight, it becomes a headline…

So… What Do We Do Now?

We set the pace! We force the debate! Tweet, write to your favorite public figures and TV shows! Identify and report fat-shaming/fatphobic discourses, whether they are obvious or veiled. Collectively, let’s try to speak and write in a way that doesn’t add to the demonization of fat pêople. Let’s avoid expressions that contribute to creating or maintaining stereotypes about bigger people. (It’s tougher than you think!)

Why don’t you start immediately around you? The upcoming holidays should give you plenty of occasions to right some wrongs. I don’t think I have to remind you that commenting on someone’s weight (or the content of its plate) is wrong. I invite you to push this a little further even: react if others act that way! Whether you play it nice or more militant is up to you…

“Oh, you lost weight! You look great!!”
“What if she was sick? What if she’s not doing well and that is why she lost weight?”

The idea is to relieve – if needed – the person targeted by the comment. By the same occasion, you force the speakers of the comments to realize that, though they probably mean well, they can do a lot more harm than good. And not only to the person the comment is directed to, but to others around who hear it and could feel judged…

Do you know how you will try to change things? Are you afraid to speak up? (That’s understandable, by the way…) What scares you?

plus-size backpacker fatphobia on ne nait pas grosse one is not born fat gabrielle deydier gouttes d'orWhat’s Next?

I will read “On ne naît pas grosse” by Gabrielle Deydier during the upcoming Christmas Holidays and will write about it in the beginning of 2018…. (There is no way I can read it before I start my vacation time, haha!)


  1. Fascinating, perceptive! And you are a real activist! And thank you for the history lesson—as NAAFA’s founder in 1969, I am entitled to say that if we had people of your calibre back then, we would have seen so much more progress, faster, than we have!

    • Hi Bill ! I guess since my “activism” is quite new, I still feel like an impostor, somehow?
      Your constant encouragement remains a great source of motivation though. If it wasn’t for organization like NAAFA and CSWD, I’m afraid to think how things would be nowadays for us, people of size! But the web is a wonderful thing to spread ideas and reach out to people that we couldn’t get to otherwise, and I plan on using my platform to try to advance and change for the best the current perception and stereotypes that surrounds larger people!

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