Gabrielle Deydier – Author – On ne nait pas grosse (You are not born fat)
Extracts from the interview
In August 2015, 37-year-old Gabrielle Deydier went for a job interview which she passed with flying colours. The job was for a position as a teaching assistant at a Parisian special needs school and the interview panel, including the school’s headmaster, had been so impressed with Gabrielle that they even told her they were worried in case she left for a better-paid job. There had been only one uncomfortable moment: it came at the end, as Gabrielle was walking out the door. The headmaster said: “The teacher you’ll be working under can be rather difficult.” Gabrielle barely heard him, she was so delighted about her new job.
It wasn’t long before she realised that “difficult” was a colossal understatement. “You’re Gabrielle Deydier,” was the first thing the teacher in question said when they met. “I don’t work with fat people.” Gabrielle tried to laugh it off, but the difficult teacher wasn’t smiling.
In France, she says (and all the facts of her experience seem to bear this out), being fat is considered to be a grotesque self-inflicted disability. At any given time, 80% of Frenchwomen are thought to be on a diet. In the south of the country, there’s a lively gastric-band industry (50,000 operations a year).
There’s currently a vegan craze sweeping the land – a way for some people to cover up eating disorders. “Frenchwomen,” says Gabrielle, “pride themselves as being the most feminine in Europe. There is this feeling that women have to be perfect in every way.” Is it surprising then that the publication of Gabrielle’s book, You’re Not Born Fat, last month has attracted keen interest – a combination of both admiration and moral panic?
What it means to be fat in France is for the first time up for discussion in France. “I decided to write the book,” she says, “because I no longer want to apologise for existing. Yes obesity has doubled in the past 10 years, that’s much too much. But it does not mean we discriminate against the obese in telling them they can’t work and insulting them.”