Y’all, Kate Harding has fat hair, as demonstrated in the comments to this post.

No, wait, I meant to say she has fluffy hair.

But what with all the people walking around calling themselves fluffy instead of fat, I got the two words confused.

How did this even get started? Was it those cutesy pictures of the little fluffy puppies that say, “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy” that just perpetuate the idea that fat is something bad to be?  Are people really walking around saying they are fluffy because puppies and kittens have said it in pictures?

Now, granted, I like a good cat macro (or LOLPresident) as much as the next person. But I’m not going to base my identity descriptors on them.

Now, the OED has this to say:

fluffy: 1. a. Consisting of or resembling fluff; of soft, downy texture. b. Of timber: (see quot.). c. fig., often with reference to personal character or intellect.

The timber definition is a new one by me, so that’s cool to learn. But let us look at the examples chosen to illustrate the concept of fluffy as applied to personal character of intellect:

1898 Westm. Gaz. 16 Apr. 1/3 Celia is strong-minded. You would not think so to look at her: she is what I call a fluffy girl. 1904 E. F. BENSON Challoners xiv, Begin instantly without playing any fluffy arpeggios. 1927 A. P. HERBERT Plain Jane 10, I like them fluffy,..With downy soft eyebrows and artful blue eyes,..With fluffy complexions, like plums on a wall, And fluffy opinions, and no brains at all. 1964 Punch 23 Dec. 967/3 His fluffy wife prepared to help him by seducing the boss.

Fluffy is used to describe flighty people, people of little consequence, people with no substance. Applying that to my physical body doesn’t pay me any compliments.

Fat, meanwhile, is, by definition, substance.

So to describe my fat body as fluffy is to attempt to take away my substance. It is to render me inconsequential. It is to render me, in many ways, invisible.

Calling a fat person fluffy is to DENY that the person is fat. It relabels the ample flesh as something weightless and thus pulls the teeth on the negative connotations but it does so by removing all of the power that belongs to a body of substance.

Kate has fluffy hair, y’all. And I am fat.

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  1. Posted August 3, 2007 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    When I was growing up, we had a cross-stiched throw pillow in the house that had two sheep on it and said, “Ewe’s not fat. Ewe’s just fluffy.”

    So. Many. Things. Wrong with that.

    And I agree x 10,000 with this post.


    Oh, wait. It is.

  2. Posted August 3, 2007 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to figure out why “fluffy” bugs me so much, other than the fact that it’s annoyingly cute, and you just nailed it.

  3. Posted August 3, 2007 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    As an active enjoyer of fat, I’ve never quite gotten how “fluffy” was supposed to make sense. I get that this isn’t the point, but more so than other euphamistic references to fat, “fluffy” seemed to be straining more to something desired that simply was. A desire to be airy, insubstantial. Fat is substance, though. It has weight and presence. I know its a tall order, but I don’t want people to run from that. We aren’t hellilum balloons. We have space and that’s a good thing.

  4. admin
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Now, Kate, do we need to have a Fluffy Acceptance movement? *laugh*

    Colleen – it took me a long time to really articulate why it bugged me beyond how twee it is.

    BStu – I don’t know what messages men receive but I think women are given the idea that we should take up as little space as possible. Really owning your mass is a tall order but it’s really worthwhile, especially for people who are working toward self-acceptance.

  5. Divajean
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “Fluff” conjures up images of being a non substance.

    I am a solid, real person. I have substance.

    Never, evah, call me fluffy.

    I am fat. Or maybe big (since I’m tall too),

  6. Posted August 3, 2007 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    “Fluff” is something that can be compressed into a tiny space.


    I am not my new (wonderful) sleeping bag, and life is not one big stuff bag.

    (Speaking purely in scientific terms, “fluffy” has always bugged me when applied to people because one just can’t fluff flesh. I mean, gross!

  7. Posted August 3, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Fluffy drives me insane. I hate it with a passion. “Fluffy bunnies” is a term used in some pagan circles to denote people who are just into the love and light stuff and dont want to know about the Shadow and darker stuff. So fluffy isnt a word I want associated with me in either way!

  8. Posted August 3, 2007 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d never heard the term “fluffy” until about a year ago and, yep, it makes me want to barf too. I also hate “thick chick” because, in the UK, that means “idiot chick” and I’m not one of those either. I’m a fat bird. End of frigging story.

  9. Posted August 3, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Aak! I’ve no idea why my name just mutated there. Sorry about that, guys!

  10. Posted August 3, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Fluffy. As if the slightest breeze could pick me up and blow me away.

    I’m with you – ain’t nothing about me that’s insubstantial. Great post.

  11. Brooke
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    OH MY GOD thank you. I HATE this word, it makes me insane.

  12. Shade
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    TR, you’re dead-on when you say that women are told to take up as little space as possible. If you don’t already know her, take a look at some of the stuff Jean Kilbourne has written/produced (Still Killing Us Softly). She makes that very point.

  13. Withoutscene
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. What’s dainty and crushable like a woman should be? *headdesk*

    When I think of fluff I think of cotton candy, pumped full of hot air.

    Just what we need…more ways to deny our bodies.


  14. wriggles
    Posted August 5, 2007 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Fluffy bad!? what compared to ‘bid boned’? that makes me want to chuck my guts up, and what about ‘obesity’, really gets on my nerves. Ditto what buffpuff said about ‘thick’, for the same reason!

    Also can’t stop laughing at ‘large and in charge’! although I get the sentiment.

  15. Posted August 5, 2007 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve only heard “fluffy” in context of the figure/fitness competition world. Then, it usually means a higher body fat percentage in the off-season, versus competition body fat levels.

    And in that context, I think it is a great term. It completely strips adipose tissue of any kind of moral signifier. Higher body fat just becomes what it is – something a little extra and not particularly significant.

  16. Posted August 5, 2007 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I had never heard of this whole fluffy as euphamism for fat before, until we watched comedian Gabriel Iglesias last night on the Comedy Channel. His entire skit, in fact, is called Hot & Fluffy and he refers to his girth as fluffy.

    To me, fluffy = airheaded. I’ll stick with plain ole’ fat, thanks.

  17. Posted August 6, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I like the word fluffy. It reminds me of blowing the fluff off dandelions in the summer. Or a big fluffy comforter.

    I’ve never heard the word associated with being fat. Which is a good thing because, yea, I ain’t fluffy.

  18. Posted August 6, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Because I am old, I remember seeing a Sandra Boynton card in the early 80s with a peevish-looking fluffy white cat saying, “I’m not fat. I’m fluffy.”

    I’m not sure if that’s the origin of it, but it does go back a ways.

  19. Posted August 6, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Ha! I just bitched specifically about this in a comment on BFD! I swear by my fluffy hair and fat ass that I hadn’t read this first.

  20. MizB
    Posted August 6, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Fluffy? Now we’re fucking FLUFFY?!? As we used to say in the old days, “Gimme a break, gimme a gun.” Just fluffing kidding, of course. Fluffy…God help us…

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