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Roxane Gay on how our culture hates fat people: it will not make “a space for you to fit”

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Original Bad Feminist Roxane Gay has not been having an easy book tour, but you wouldn’t know it by the interview she did with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show on Monday night.

Gay’s new book is called Hunger, and it’s about her experience navigating the world as a fat person. But it’s not, she hastens to clarify, a weight-loss memoir.

“Generally when people write about weight, there’s a woman standing in half of her fat pants on the cover,” she told Noah. “And she’s smiling, like, ‘Look what I’ve done!’”

Instead, Gay’s book is about how she responded to a horrific childhood trauma — she was gang-raped at age 12 — by becoming fat. “My world was shattered, and I just thought, ‘I want to be stronger. I want to be bigger,’” she said. “I thought, ‘If I eat a lot, those boys won’t do this again, because I’ll be able to fight them next time. And they won’t want to do this because I’ll be fat, and boys don’t like fat girls.’”

Hunger chronicles the way Gay’s world has shrunk since she became a fat person. She describes how people take food out of her cart at the grocery store or offer her unsolicited nutritional advice at her book signings. She talks about the double horned dilemma of whether or not to buy an extra airplane seat when she flies. “The bigger you become, the smaller your world gets,” she told Noah. “No matter what you do, you can’t fit, and the world is not really interested in creating a space for you to fit.”

The palpable disdain with which our culture treats fat people has extended even into Gay’s book tour. On Sunday, a podcast that interviewed her blurbed the episode by discussing the interviewer’s fears over whether or not Gay would fit into the office elevator. (That blurb has since been removed.)

“It is cruel and humiliating,” Gay wrote on Twitter.

“My body is not a problem,” she said to Noah on Monday night, but much of the world still seems to want to believe that it is.

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