The Road to Self-Esteem is Probably Not Paved with Hypocrisy

Jezebel.com picked up my blog “Things I’ve heard about thin women”  http://jezebel.com/5531846/things-ive-heard-about-thin-women.  There are almost 500 comments.

I felt the need to blog more about this because I was so surprised by some of the comments.  Several  comments assert that, while bashing thin people probably isn’t ok, it’s not something worth talking about because thin people are protected by the tremendous privilege that the receive in our society and it’s distracting from the battle that fat people face.   Some of the commenters complained that talking about this takes attention away from the fat community and the horrible treatment to which we are subjected.  Some even seem to think that it’s ok to bash thin people because of the privilege they have in our society, saying “they’ll get over it, I promise you”.

Here is the thing though.  The fat community is extremely disenfranchised.  Many of the people of size who I talk to have internalized the oppressive messages that they get from society to the point that it has become an identity for them.  That’s not a foundation upon which you can build a civil rights movement.  It’s hard to demand respect when there are a chorus of your community members who are still convinced that they don’t deserve to be treated well.

So where can we start?

How about with our own actions?   This isn’t the Oppression Olympics – there’s no medal for being the group who has it worst.  I think that the most important thing I can do when I am looking for respect and equality is be an example of what that means in my day to day life.

Even if thin women’s privilege protected them from the pain of comments like “eat a sandwich”, “you’re anorexic”, “real women have curves” and other such bs (and I don’t think that it does protect them) I think it would still be an astoundingly bad idea.

Because even if it doesn’t hurt them, if I say it, it hurts me.  When I  do to others what I don’t want done to me, justifying it because it doesn’t happen to them very often, I think I become a bunch of things that aren’t good:

  • hypocritical
  • out of integrity
  • part of a system I claim I want to end
  • just as bad as everyone who has ever said anything to me about my size

To me this is not about someone else’s privilege, this is about my integrity.

Am I or am I not someone who believes that everyone, and their body, deserves to be treated with respect?  Are my actions consistent with who I say I am? If not then what the hell am I doing?

I know that fat people are hurting in our culture, and we absolutely deserve to be treated better.  But I’m here to suggest that the only way out is up – that we can’t get out of a hole by digging, and I don’t believe that we will ever get respect for our bodies by disparaging someone else’s.  Perhaps it’s a cliche but as I’ve said before I truly believe that you have to start by being the change that you want to see in the world.

While that may mean different things to different people I wish we could all be on the same page that it definitely includes not doing to others the exact thing we are asking people to stop doing to me.

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Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 4:25 am  Comments (15)  

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You’re too awesome! Keep up the good work!!!

    • Thank you Josh! You are pretty awesome yourself.
      ~Ragen

  2. There can’t be too many voices for personal integrity and your voice is exqisitely clear and strong. Thanks for being generous with your gifts.
    Your blog reminds me of the song by Sweet Hoeney in the Rock. “We are the ones we have been waiting for”

    • Thank you Stan! I adore Sweet Honey in the Rock but I hadn’t heard that song. I spent some time on iTunes and you have inspired a downloading frenzy! Thanks for always being such an inspiration!

  3. So clear, so straight forward and so very genuine. You are a gift to the world. Your voice is very powerful and your outlook is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    • Wow, thank you Brad. I’m so glad that you liked it. Thanks for always engaging in this dialogue – your daughters are very lucky to have a Dad who take so much interest in raising them with high self-esteem – that’s why you are Captain Awesome!
      ~Ragen

  4. I am forever fascinated by “The Oppression Olympics” (great phrase, by the way– I will be using it, and crediting you, rest assured) that people play. I’m better than you because I have fewer privileges than you. No! Skinny people don’t oppress fat people; it doesn’t work that way. A system is oppressive; people aren’t, even though sometimes it may seem that way. Just like patriarchy is an it, not a he, sizeism is amorphous; it’s not size 0. So why on earth is it considered fair to stick it to skinny people?

    • I appreciate the credit but I’ve got to say that I didn’t make it up…I’ve seen it lots in blogs where people talk about “thin privilege”. Beautifully said that ‘skinny people don’t oppress fat people”. It seems like if we quit fighting each other, we could turn around an all fight the system of oppression since it affects everyone.
      ~Ragen

  5. Oppression Olympics is a phrase that sums of so much of the worlds’ games right – not just around body image, but age, gender, work, overall reputation and entitlement attitudes in general. Awesome! I’ll be giving you credit for that phrase too. Time to move on to a different game!

    • I didn’t coin the term “Oppression Olympics”, I think I actually saw it on Jezebel.com first, but I totally agree with you, it’s time for a new (hopefully way more fun) game!
      ~Ragen

  6. Right on! I am a regular Jezebel reader and I was surprised by those comments as well.

    In addition to the personal integrity point, there’s also systemic reasons not to engaged in those behaviors. Telling a thin person to eat a sandwich is actually reinforcing the same narrative that is so destructive for large people, namely that there is only one acceptable body shape and any deviation from that should be policed/punished.

    Pitting thinner people against larger people is the classic “divide and conquer” we are too busy fighting each other (and ourselves!) that we don’t focus on the real “enemy” (for lack of a better word).

    • I think that the “thin people need to eat more” and the “fat people need to eat less” come from the same wrong assumption – that people will absolutely be the exact “correct” (socially acceptable) weight/size if they eat the exact “right” amount of food, and any other size is evidence that they are doing it WROOONG.

  7. Great point … and also I’d like to add an insidious inference i’ve noticed of late … that it’s “OK” if a few people die of anorexia becase there are so many fat people in the world, we need to keep up the shaming.

    It’s not OK to let anyone die when it can be prevented. it’s not Ok to put so much focus on body shape and size, whatever that shape or size is. It’s not OK to make uninvited comments on anyone’s body. This idea that if you’re thin, you’re healthy is dangerous. It gives people the illusion that eating junk food and not exercising is OK – we ALL need to eat well and exercise, regardless of size. There are so many health benefits of exercise, yet it’s presented mainly as a method of controlling weight.

    It’s not OK to cast insults and comments to anyone. I don’t even like compliments about my physical body. I don’t mind comments on clothing, hair or make up as these are things I have created, but my actual body is NOT open for discussion. End of.

    Sorry to rant – this is a subject I feel super strongly about. Our bodies belong to us as individuals. Body bashing of any sort is not welcome.

    • I absolutely agree that body bashing isn’t ok, letting anorexics die is rally really not ok, I disagree that we all need to eat well and exercise. I think that, just like people are allowed to jump out of helicopters wearing skis or not look before they cross the street, or participate in the X games, people are allowed to choose what you or I might consider a risky lifestyle. I think that if you understand the risks but you choose to eat junk food and not exercise then that is ok – it’s your life, your body, your choice. I believe that you give people accessible options for food and movement and then respect their choices whether they are what you would choose or not. I think that’s part of our bodies belonging to us as individuals. Just my opinion of course. Thanks for the comment!

      ~Ragen

  8. No, I’ve never really bought into the “normal” world thing, and while I have not experienced the stigma fat people get, and am not oppressed, my “privilege” does not protect me. In fact, it may have messed me up more, because when society loves your body but it’s at the expense of another group, that’s just a messed up thing. Because then there was that weird thing where I wasn’t feeling like I deserved to love my body because society was being oppressive and I felt I was too bony or something, and you know what? It’s not as big a deal as what a lot of people have gone through, but it still hurt me, and this blog helped a lot.

    The whole “real women have curves” thing is silly anyway. Do I look like a block to you?

    (I really hope I didn’t make a fool of myself here.)


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