I’m back in Austin from San Francisco (I will be posting all about the trip, but not today). I literally just arrived (driving 14 hours on Saturday, sleeping, then starting again at noon yesterday and ending now). Normally I would just go to bed and blog whenever I get up, but I was checking my e-mail at a red light on the way home and after reading a comment I decided that I had to get this off my chest before going to be for what I can only assume will be a very long time.
The comment said “Oh Ragen I adore you. Of course we’ll never change things but I think I speak for everyone when I say how much we appreciate that you try”.
She started off well (from my, admittedly biased, perspective) but then took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. This is the second comment that said something like this that I’ve received in the last few days and I’ll admit that the first thing I thought when I saw each of them was “haven’t you seen Newsies?” Seriously though, I know that both of these commenters had the best of intentions, but I really struggled with the comments.
I think part of it is because of my business history. In my consulting career I did a fair amount of turnaround (going into a business that is failing and attempting to turn it around and make it succeed). This often presents as a near impossible task. Once the turnaround team decided that a business was salvageable we did a lot of analysis, change implementation, change management, planning, goal setting etc. in order to succeed. You know what we never did? If you guessed “say that the task was impossible” give yourself 5 points (or a cookie, your choice). Because there’s nothing to be gained by predicting failure except feeling better about failing which nobody on any turnaround team I’ve ever been on was interested in.
So that’s where most of my initial reaction to the comment came from, but there’s another layer. And that is the fact that for me there is no alternative than to try to change the status quo. The more I see fat people stereotyped, recieving subpar or no medical treatment, being made to pay higher insurance premiums, having people claim that our body size constitutes a disease diagnosis or proof of a mental illness (more on that tomorrow) etc. the more it reinforces to me that this is a civil rights movement. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a fat person who is happy with their body and size or a fat person who wants to change their size and/or shape. We all deserve respect in the bodies that we live in right now and that doesn’t change even if our body size does. I absolutely believe that we’ll see substantive change in my lifetime, but even if I didn’t believe that I would continue what I’m doing because when it comes to fighting for civil rights, the odds just don’t matter and history is on our side. People can say “that’s reality, deal with it fatty”, but we know better than that.
I was originally planning to re-post last years Halloween post and fortuitously it turns out that last year’s Halloween blog is highly applicable to today’s topic so here it is:
Fair warning – this starts and ends with Halloween but the middle bits strayed a little…
I was shopping for Halloween Costumes yesterday. There was one that said “One Size Fits Most”. In small print it said that it fit women’s sizes up to 14.
That really made me think. Every time I turn around, I hear that 60+% of Americans are overweight or obese, so shouldn’ t the tag read “One Size Fits Less than One Third”.
Let’s be clear, I seriously question the validity of the percentage of overweight and obese Americans because the standard for what constitutes “overweight” was set by diet companies. But let’s pretend that it’s a true statistic. In that case, we’re the majority in this country and yet we’re still not treated very well.
If we’re really 60+%, then why don’t lobby the media: We want to see more positive representations of ourselves and less body hating and photoshopping or they’ll lose 60+ % of their customers? This doesn’t just affect fat people either, studies show that 8 out of 10 women are dissatisfied with their bodies. As the majority, I think it’s time we stand up for our thin body-dissatisfied sisters and say that enough is enough – we aren’t buying any more magazines that promise “our best bikini body in 15 minutes”.
At 60+%, we control to vote in the United States, but 25+ states have considered or are considering taxes on fat people - despite the fact that nobody has any proven way to lose weight. It doesn’t even matter that I have perfect health at my current size. My picture of health doesn’t fit my state’s frame so I could get taxed for my size.
At the end of the day, if we want change then we have to take responsibility for claiming our power as the majority, or (just in case those numbers are as wrong as I think they are) a community. Many people of size choose to buy into the idea that their size determines their worth and that they don’t deserve to be treated well. It’s an easy thing to do - we are constantly told that we are lazy, we are unhealthy, we are costing billions in healthcare and lost work. When you look into those studies you’ll find that there are some serious questions as to their validity. For example, the Congressional Budget Office released a report saying that Obesity WAS NOT the reason for the rise in health care costs Using that article as a basis, the Boston Globe published an article called “Obesity’s Punch to the Gut” where they said that Obesity WAS the cause of the rise in health care costs. How did they get from point A to point B? They left out words in quotes, and they used those partial quotes to construct a message that was polar opposite from the source material. I have no idea why they would do that, but they weren’t the only ones who did.
There is no such thing as a “healthy weight” and that insidious little saying needs to be pulled from the collective vocabulary. We know that two people can fit the same profile – sedentary, non-nutritious diet, health problems – and one can be fat while the other stays thin. Ignoring that facts that healthy is multi-dimensional, not in our control and that other people’s health is not our business this is still problematic. Even if you believed that people should be held fully responsible for their health, it’s a big, flaming sack of duh that it’s absolutely unfair to single out the one who is fat for higher taxes, workplace discrimination and poor treatment, while the person who remains thin doesn’t suffer any of those consequences despite the same lifestyle and choices. You could say that’s all trick and no treat (you might especially say that if you were trying to fit this blog into the Halloween theme).
No matter what, you deserve to be treated well with respect and equality in the exact body that you have now. So have a fun, happy and safe Halloween and at some candy corn for me, because I’m planning to sleep through the whole thing.