Our Reading Lives

Faith Is Breaking the Rules for Fat Girls

Faith Issue 1, Variant cover by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic. Valiant Comics
Faith #1 Variant cover by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, Valiant Comics

Faith is fat. Not the average, or just slightly bigger than, size usually called “fat” in media. Not the curvy best friend or the athletically stout team member. This is a fat beyond that, a fat that means someone has to shop in special stores and can’t ride roller coasters and spends a lot of time trying to convince their doctors they really aren’t interested in weight loss surgery.

Fat like me.
Fat like Faith.

But the revolutionary and important thing about Valiant’s new solo title for the character Faith (aka Zephyr) is that you can see Faith’s fatness for yourself. When stories are told in pure text, even if an author goes into specifics, every reader can imagine a character differently, and each reader’s mind will make adjustments and assumptions that fit in with what they expect, what makes them the most comfortable, what best follows the rules they understand about the world. But in comics there is no hiding. So when we see Faith, right there on the cover, we see a fat woman.

A fat body.

I was pretty excited when I heard about Faith’s solo debut. But when I saw the first images, I recoiled. Despite years now of speaking out about body positive values and coming incredibly far in loving my own body, I was startled by Faith’s appearance. For days I pushed myself to face that reaction, to ask myself “Why?” Eventually the answer came: Faith was breaking the rules. Fat characters are fairly rare, but when they do appear (and aren’t evil or a punchline) they’ve usually had the edges smoothed out – no fat rolls, no double chin, no form-fitting clothes. Faith doesn’t follow those rules.

Faith #1, Valiant Comics
Faith #1, Valiant Comics, Writing: Jody Houser, Lineart: Francis Portela, Colors: Andrew Dalhouse, Letters: Dave Sharpe

When I turned a page to find Faith on the couch, in shorts, eating, I was blown away. This was a picture of me. A real fat girl living a real, normal life. But “Good” fat women don’t wear shorts where people can see them, and they are very careful about what they eat in front of others. The rules make these activities a secret. Clothing made for fat women (all of it, until relatively recently) is big, loose, billowy – curtains meant to help everyone forget there is a body underneath. Reminding people about fat bodies is against the rules. As a fat woman, I am aware almost constantly of how I stand, how I sit, who can see me and what they might be thinking. I don’t lean back in public because it makes my stomach stick out. I don’t wear sleeveless shirts in public because people can see the rolls of my upper arms. For years I wouldn’t eat fast food in my car if other drivers could see me. And worst of all, when I see other fat women do these things, I’m upset. I sometimes get a flash of anger, of disgust. “You are showing the world our secret. You are breaking the rules that protect us from attack.” Those thoughts have diminished with work and time, but I’m not sure I will ever be immune to them. So much of my life and experience have built on and reinforced those rules. But a comic like Faith gives me hope.

Faith’s story isn’t about being fat. It isn’t about how people react to a flying fat girl or how being fat affects her relationships with others. (I mean, she has a hot ex-boyfriend! Who SHE dumped!).

But Faith IS fat.
And she is not hiding.
And that is so, so important.

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About Amy Diegelman

Amy Diegelman is a Young Adult Librarian in Massachusettes. When not being paid to beat children at Mario Kart she lives on the internet and obsesses over werewolves, feminism, and spaceships. If you don't follow @amydieg on Twitter, you are not living your best life.

  • Love this, Amy! I’m definitely going to have to check out Faith!

  • *immediately buys digital copy*

  • Chris Gama

    So… what IS Faith about? This article spoke at length about being body positive and what the “rules” are and what breaks them. I’m all for that, that’s fine. Heck I’m a fat man, and yeah unless I look to The Blob in the X-Men comics, I don’t have many heroes that look like me (and he’s a villain).
    So I ask again, what is Faith about? Is she an actual super hero? Or is this a comic more about real life situations? What are her stories about? You really should have gone into more detail, because this article seemed more about you to be honest.
    If it’s just about showing an overweight woman breaking rules and stereotypes in comic books, well then I think it’s going about it the wrong way. If it’s just that, then that is the shallowest way to try to shoehorn a “body positive” character into comic books. I hope that she has more depth than that.

    • Jon E. Christianson

      Hey Chris,

      Panels actually has extensive coverage about Faith that should answer your questions. “Meet Faith from Valiant Comics” is a primer on Faith and many of her previous Valiant appearances and “The Art of the Start: Faith #1” is a review/breakdown of the issue at hand.

      This piece, unlike the two I’ve named, is a personal essay. That’s precisely why this piece features Amy’s personal experiences and doesn’t adhere to a traditional format—it doesn’t need to!

      Hopefully the following links answer your questions.

      Meet Faith from Valiant Comics: http://panels.net/2016/01/19/an-introduction-to-faith/
      The Art of the Start: Faith #1: http://panels.net/2016/01/26/art-start-faith-1/

    • What Jon Erik said — you can find other coverage of Faith on Panels. This is a personal essay. It’s supposed to be about Amy, and her relationship to this character.

  • mitziflyte

    Thank you, Amy, for introducing this 68 year old, fat for 60 years woman to this wonderful character. I have to admit to doing everything you say. I do NOT want to return to Weight Watchers. I’m not “fat” enough for surgery and there are too many side effects (including regaining the weight). So after all these years (with a short time after a divorce and losing a lot of weight…guess why I was overweight), I am learning to love myself (as much as my new husband of 4 years loves me).
    But I still have issues with other fat women. I stood behind one at a checkout recently and looked critically at her, wondering why she choose the clothes she was wearing that showed her curves (even though I do the same thing) and then she turned around. She was freakin’ beautiful. Then I wanted to slap myself silly. She’d been beautiful BEFORE she turned around.
    I keep working on my perspective on others while I work on my own.
    Thank you again.

  • Kiva

    This. Is. An. Amazing. Piece. Thank you for writing it. I love it.

    Not to toot my own horn, but if anyone in the comments is overweight or/and eating disordered, we are giving away free digital copies of the first issue thanks to a successful Go Fund Me. You can find out how to get a free copy of Faith issue 1 here: https://www.gofundme.com/faithforgirls

  • Inglevine

    Thank you. <3

  • Kristin Colyar

    GIRL. You hit it on the head. I think being a fat girl in the 2010s is really interesting because of all the things you said about secret betrayal. I have had all those rules for myself, but I didn’t get them from some kind of secret set of Fat Girl stone tablets or something — it was just something I arrived to by myself, constructed of what I’d gleaned from pop culture, I guess. I don’t remember even realizing the rules were there until fat writers started confronting them — and breaking them.

    Other rules included:
    – If you eat fast food at home, hide wrappers from your roommate or live-in partner. Do not put the wrapper in the trash, or if you do, shove it down and put all the other trash on top of it so they cannot see it.
    – If you are grocery shopping, you cannot just buy a bag of chips, or a pint of ice cream. You have to buy a bunch of veggies and healthy things, and then you can buy ice cream. And never more than a pint.
    – Eat before you go to a party, and don’t be caught dead anywhere next to a table with food on it, regardless of who is standing there. Also, constantly gauge how much room you’re taking up. For instance, if you’re sitting on a couch, move to the floor or stand if you surmise that two people could sit where you sitting.

    Anyway, yeah. I feel you. And I will totally go find these books.

  • Skeleton Skull

    Ugh……….This is fucking disgusting.