I am a fat woman and the trouble with a war on obesity is that you can’t separate me from my fat – a war against obesity is a war against me. And so the body I live in 100% of the time has become political. No longer do I simply venture out of my house. Oh no, I commit PDFs – Public Displays of Fatness.
EWF: Eating While Fat
This one is always tricky. Any time you eat in public when you’re fat you risk having people comment to you. Things that have happened to me:
Eating a burger and fries: A perfect stranger says “This is why you’re fat”. I respond “You are way out of line and you don’t know what you’re talking about. How dare you. Move on.”.
Eating a salad: A perfect stranger says “Good for you for working on it, but you should skip the cheese next time”. I respond “You are way out of line and you don’t know what you’re talking about. How dare you? Move on.”
Either way, because I’m fat and have the “nerve” to eat in public, people feel that they are justified in commenting if my food choice doesn’t pass their test for what a fatty should eat or, alternately, they feel that they are doing me a favor by encouraging what must be an attempt to change the size and shape of my body, rather than just a tasty salad.
WWF: Working out While Fat
Picture this. I am at the gym doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I’m working as hard as I can, tracking my heart rate and my interval time. And the person who has been walking on the machine next to me reading a magazine steps down and, before she leaves, says “good for you for starting an exercise program, stick to it and you’ll lose the weight. “ Now, I have no problem with someone walking on a treadmill reading a magazine – especially if they enjoy it, but I do have a problem with someone who has watched my intense cardio routine feeling comfortable making an assumption OUT LOUD, TO ME that I’m a beginner exerciser. On a related note, why does it always seem like the same people who are telling me that I should lose weight and are subsequently offended by my body in the gym? Dude, I don’t care what you think so please feel free to keep aaaaaall of that to yourself.
DFA: Displays of Fat Affection
Remember when that goofy Marie Claire blogger said “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other, because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.” That’s real people. That’s something that a blogger for a major women’s magazine’s site felt comfortable publishing online, under her real name. And her editors let it through. So not only do I have to be aware that some people who think that I’m awesome would never consider dating me because they find my body repulsive, I also have to know that there are people who are grossed out at the thought of me receiving physical affection or, you know, doing anything.
HFP: Headless Fatty Photograph
Anytime I’m out in public I run the risk of being photographed from my feet to my shoulders and tacked onto an article about obesity or health insurance or whatever. Since they don’t use my face they don’t have to get my permission, or compensate me, or anything. I’m just another headless fatty.
FIP: Fat in Public
This covers all the rest of the time. I’m always fat, but being fat in public can mean anything from a car full of high school boys making mooing sounds or a well dressed gentlemen lecturing me about how I’m costing him insurance money.
So what is to be done? If we want change I think that the first step is realizing the culture that we live in, and the next step is choosing not to participate in that culture. Then take some actions:
- Stop body snarking (and that includes “That model needs to eat a sandwich”). You are better than that.
- Discourage other people from body snarking, or at least stop participating in the conversations and walk away.
- Educate yourself and see if you still buy into the idea that weight and health are the same thing.
- Actively seek out pictures that aren’t the single standard of beauty that gets shoved down our throats by the media and realize that all things in nature come in different shapes and sizes.
- The Rudd Center at Yale has some very cool tools to test your own weight bias if you are so inclined.
- Even if you personally believe that obese people are lazy, unattractive drains on society or that losing weight is just a matter of calories in and calories out or whatever – consider the effect of your words and then consider keeping them to yourself. You can’t make someone hate themselves healthy and I can assure you that the person you are about to talk to has already heard what you are about to tell them.
- Commit the absolutely revolutionary act of loving yourself and your body right this second. Even if you want to change it’s shape and size, consider recognizing all of the amazing stuff that your body does for you and choosing to love it no matter what.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go EWF, then head to the gym for a little WWF, hopefully avoid a HFP, and then see if I can’t get involved in a DFA. After that I think I’ll just be FIP for a while.