On Easter Sunday, Twitter was arrested by yet another contentious issue: a user on the platform @ladytiffs_ posted a full-length picture of herself with the caption ”fupa szn,” and while she indeed looked gorgeous in a fitting, electric blue dress, her use of FUPA drew a lot of backlash predominately from fat women who felt that she, a skinny woman, was hijacking a term that has allowed fat women celebrate their bodies amid fatphobia and fat-shaming and besides, where is her fupa?
— מַלכָּה (@ladytiffs_) April 21, 2019
Tife, the skinny woman in question, took down the pictures ostensibly under an atmosphere of bullying and reposted the same pictures but without the FUPA tag. ”I’ve never insulted or body-shamed anyone. I will never,” she tweeted, and then apologised while also saying her bullies are vile. I think it’s a teacheable moment for Tife. That said, I had three observations about the controversy:
Many people don’t know what FUPA is
Browsing through online reactions on Sunday, I discovered that people were only just learning about the meaning of FUPA as the controversy gathered steam. I had a vague understanding of the term, attributed to Beyonce’s wildly buzzy 2018 Vogue interview wherein she spoke about having a FUPA after she had her twins. By definition, FUPA means fat upper body area or fat upper pussy area. Medically, it’s referred to as panniculus, which describes the loose layer of fat tissue left over from rapid weight loss or pregnancy that hangs over the lower abdominal area.
Even though FUPAs are normal and don’t particularly pose a health threat, women have been conditioned to despise it with the need to get rid off it.
FUPA is a slur targeted at fat women, but now a reclamatory term
Because fat women are more likely to develop FUPAs, FUPA became a slur embedded in the body politics that marginalised fat women. But now, fat women have defused the power in the slur and reclaimed the term for themselves. On social media, it materialised as a lovely, spritzy, refreshing catalogue of fat women showing off their bodies, luxuriating in a body acceptance that we rarely see.
Since there’s so much confusion on the TL about what a “FUPA” actually is… here’s a “Fat Over Pussy Area” thread full of visual clarification. We will have NO GENTRIFIED FUPAS on the TL going forward. Drop your FUPA SLAY so we can CLEAR THE AIR. Every REAL #FUPA is welcome! pic.twitter.com/m6zIDe9NLO
— FLUFFYANA (@FlawsofCouture) April 16, 2019
Skinny women thinking skinny-shaming is the same as fat-shaming
The beauty industry has largely been shaped by eurocentric standards of beauty (white, skinny, straight hair). As such, being skinny comes with privilege and it hardly matters if this privilege is acknowledged or not. This is not to say that skinny women don’t get body-shamed for being skinny. They do, but it’s nothing compared to fat-shaming and fatphobia because these are systemic prejudices, institutionalized – and sometimes unconscious – hatred that is ever-present in our society.
I can’t believe there are people acting on the tl like skinny women don’t get shamed. We all have our struggles abeg.
— buss down thotiana (@Bims_s) April 21, 2019
The fat-shaming and jokes were out in full force:
Call skinny people Lepa, Tirin gbeku, oparun wo gown, mosquito, sisi pelebe, and so on… and they’ll laugh it off.
Just mistakenly say Fatai around fat people…
“Are you calling me fat?”
“You definitely hate your mother!”
“Stop body shaming!”
— Matic (PhD) (@KR3Wmatic) April 22, 2019
I’m not surprised that these opinions are coming from Nigeria men. It’s interesting that a conversation on FUPA, and recognizing the right of fat women to use the word as reappropriation, gave people the opportunity to say how they truly felt about fat women.