Amazing Unscripted Humanity

Today I want to talk about an incident that shows the diversity of human behavior.  Karen Huff Klein is a 68 year old bus driver who has worked for the Greece School System for 23 years.  She was working as a bus monitor when, inexplicably, the kids began to bully her about her weight, income, and being a widow.  Trigger warning to the end of this paragraph for horribleness:   They called her a fucking fat ass, a child rapist, they threatened to hurt her, the comment she said hurt the most was “you’re so ugly your kid should kill themselves” Her son took his life 10 yr ago. I don’t even know how bad it truly got because I was unable to watch the entire video. Karen started crying but, amazingly, remained professional and got through it.

The video went up on Reddit and that’s when things got a whole lot more awesome.  There was a massive outpouring of support for Karen. she received videos from all over the world (including my favorite from these Marines.)  And over 5,700 strangers have rallied to Karen’s side, donating $110,000 so far to fund a vacation and maybe even an early retirement for her (you can donate here if you are so moved.)  In other awesome news, the diet companies seem to have managed to restrain themselves from offering “assistance.”)

I am so happy that she has received such a unanimous outpouring of support. There is absolutely no excuse for those kid’s behavior.

I thought it was really interesting when I read that members of 4chan – a community that has been instrumental in coordinating “Fat hate days” against Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size blogs including this one  – added their support.  It was clarified for me when I received this e-mail [trigger warning through the end of this paragraph] “Don’t think we hate you any less. This woman isn’t on the internet telling people how she is proud to be a fucking fat ass and telling people it’s ok to be a fucking fattass and putting up videos of her fucking fatass landwhale dancing when she should hide inside and never come out.  This woman deserves to be treated better than she was, you deserve to get cancer and die.”  It was signed “Sincerely, 4chan”

So that answers that question – at least from the perspective of one person at 4chan. Points for having better grammar and spelling than usual, even if there was a consistency problem with “fat ass”, and even though it’s unnecessary to make up an animal since there are fat animals that live on land to which you could compare me.

What I hope people notice is that these kid’s behavior is a direct and predictable result of the War on Obesity.  However well-intentioned people may be, this War tells people that they should look at fat people as the enemy.  First the government suggests that we have a war on people based on how they look and that, as a country, our goal should be to eradicate these people whether they like it or not.  “Researchers” then take the assumption that fat people are bad and run off with a basket of confirmation bias to figure out how to prove it  – what can we be blamed for?  How can they make us look expensive?  HBO creates a documentary explaining how expensive obese people are based on the researchers biased conclusions.  Public and private interests are encouraged spread the stereotype that fat people are gluttons who take more than our share. Everyone including  and especially healthcare professionals (and celebrity barely-doctors) spreads the idea (which is refuted by all the evidence that exists) that everyone can be thin and those who aren’t thin just aren’t trying because we’re too busy being gluttonous, drains on society.

This conditioning makes people think that it’s ok to attempt to eradicate a group of people based on how we look, because now they believe that we’re costing them money because we’re too lazy to look a different way. The media reports all of it like it’s fact, always accompanied by a picture of a fat person with no head so that we are further dehumanized.  People are conditioned to see us as our weight, and to see our weight as a direct threat to them.

That’s how we become the enemy.  If you look at the actual evidence you’ll find that this is not based on fact or even strong suggestion –  it’s nothing more than a very effective propaganda campaign.  Those studies that seek to calculate our cost, the comments about fat people being too expensive… that’s gateway bullying.  It’s stereotyping and bigotry that people find a way to “justify” in their heads. Once they justify that, it’s just not that far to mooing at a fat person from their car or making a hateful comment on the internet, and then you’re ganging up on someone making fun of the tears you caused.

Imagine if all the people who supported Karen also supported an end to the war on obesity?  It makes absolutely no sense to try to stereotype, shame, bully, and oppress people into better health.  Neither being treated like a second class citizen nor self loathing is the first step to greater wellness. In face plenty of research shows that it’s just the opposite.

Those who are interested in public health can focus time, money and attention on access instead of individuals – making sure that everyone has access to the foods they choose, safe movement options that they enjoy, true information, and affordable, evidence-based healthcare. Then everybody gets to make choices for themselves and nobody has to be scared to ride the bus.

Two Blog Projects!

First:  Remember the awesome “Thank You Hater” video?  Well I e-mailed Isabel Fay and Humble Pie and they are awesome enough to have given me permission to use it.  So, if you’ve been the victim of fat hate and want to be involved, you can make a video like the ones that start at 1:56. (You don’t need any of the background, just the raw video and please – short and sweet and in the same style shown on the video) and e-mail it to me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org.  It will probably be part of the first cabaret show in LA (auditions for the cabaret company are scheduled by the way) and then go up as part of a YouTube video.

Second:  If you provide a product or service  for people of size, I would like to talk to you about it so e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and I’ll tell you what super secret cool thing I have going on (nobody panic, it’s not blog ads or anything like that!)

Pre-ordering is almost over!  Pre-order my book now to  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann, is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 9:32 am  Comments (79)  

79 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Let me see if I get this right: According to some douche-nozzle at 4Chan, because this woman is a fat VICTIM, and has the good sense to act like the VICTIM she is (not only a VICTIM of fat hate but a VICTIM of her fat), and because she is seen as weak, pathetic, and ashamed of her fat (whether or not she actually is), then she is deserving of respect or, at the very least, better treatment then being told she should fucking die.

    But, if a fat person decides NOT to be a victim (of society OR her fat), or pathetic, or weak, or ASHAMED, then she’s a “land whale” who deserves to get cancer.

    That’s along the lines of people mad at those (us) “darkies” getting all “uppity” by learning to read, and rising above their slave roots, and shit.

    • You said a mouthful, Sister. I am regularly STUNNED by the amount of hate directed towards fat people in this world, and I am even more stunned by how often words like “you deserve to get cancer and die” come out of the mouths of people whose mothers would probably fling them across the room for saying something so vile. How have we become so depraved as a society that people don’t even recognize the heinousness of such a thing???

      Anonymity has its place, but it also has become the bane of the internet and thus society as a whole. There are times when I think that everyone should have no choice but to own their own words. What a sick and sad individual. On one hand I’m hoping it’s just some toxic 12-year-old who wrote this because someday he might grow out of it, but on the other hand, I’m afraid it’s some 12-year-old who already has his mind permanently warped. Guess I have to leave that part in God’s hands and just pray for this person. FAR easier said than done.

      • Thanks for your replies below. Sorry I can’t reply, because WPs blogs are screwy and cut off replies at a certain point. IDK why. LOL

      • I usually just go up to the last “reply” button and click there. :)

      • Yay! :D

      • OK, are you on LiveJournal? Because we need to be friends! LOL

      • I don’t have a livejournal, no. Are you on the Rolls not Trolls fb page?

      • LOL, no, I don’t have a FaceBook!

      • Ah. I love fb. There are several good fat acceptance communities on there.

      • But I have a wordpress blog. Click my avatar here and you should be able to find it.

      • Ah, I see.

        FaceBook is just too much for me, plus I have real concerns about the privacy issues over there. And they won’t let me register with a pseudonym… I never use my real name anywhere on the ‘net.

      • *follows your blog*

      • Huh. I have a ton of friends with fakely named fb pages because of all sorts of issues. I even have a secondary page that I made so I could friend myself for playing games. :D

        But I totally understand the “too much for me” part because if you have a lot of friends it can be a real timesuck. For me, it’s how I connect with most of my friends because I have a huge circle of folks I know all over the globe from various sites. Some of us even get together once a year for a vacation. :)

        You should be able to email me through my blog page.

      • Awesome! :D

      • That’s exactly how I feel. We’re “bad fatties” if we stand up for ourselves, but we’re “good fatties” as long as we know our place.

  2. Well, Ragen, you are well known enough that these asswipes are acquainted with the famous “land whale dancing.” You are really sticking in their craw, and that’s actually a good thing. One of these days these cretins will be extinct, as they should be.
    I swear to what deities there may be, if I had ever had a kid who I discovered treated another human being as deplorably as these heinous little s**t stains treated this woman, they would be hog-tied, branded, and horsewhipped. Well, at any rate, they would have all their privileges, video games, computer, anything they might entertain themselves with taken away indefinitely, and they would be forced to do volunteer work for a damn long time. And they might well not be able to sit down for a week. Sometimes a good ass whuppin’ is what’s warranted.

    • Agreed on both points!

      I’ve taken to referring to bullies as “toxic skinsacks” in my head.

      Oh and I was truly dismayed that 4chan not only is responsible for much internet hate of all flavors but also originated LOLCats! Ugh – I love LOLCats! (Note: LOLCats has since been sold to another entity for 2M – don’t know who).

      • Well, that explains why I had to stop reading lolcats for all the fat hate and ablism in the captions!

      • I like toxic skinsacks! I am also prone to using the word “shitweasel” for these types.

    • “Well, at any rate, they would have all their privileges, video games, computer, anything they might entertain themselves with taken away indefinitely, and they would be forced to do volunteer work for a damn long time.”

      Well, that’s what *parents* do. The people who raised these children would probably think that’s too much like work. It’s easier to let them run wild.

      Though it might be another story if any of the kids were to be identified on the national news: *then* they’d be punished, if only for making those so-called “parents” look bad!

      • Except as someone pointed out elsewhere, the parents seem absolutely horrified about this and one father specifically said he didn’t raise his child to think this kind of behavior is OK. I feel like it’s sort of taking the easy way out to automatically condemn the parents.

        You can’t always determine the way a child has been raised by the way the kid acts. I have seen loads of “Eddie Haskells” in this world – kids who act one way toward adults and completely different around kids. It happens.

      • It’s possible that the parents were oblivious to what their kids were really like, but now it is time for them to toughen up and let the kids know in no uncertain terms that this behavior is not acceptable.

  3. The link to the Marines’ video supporting Karen Klein says the video has been removed by the user. I searched YouTube for it, but it seems to be gone for good.

    • I saw it before it was taken down. It was a handful of Marines saying that they were displeased by the way the lady was treated, that no one should be treated like that, that they support her, and then they gave her a cheer (you know the kind the Marines do, heaven only knows how to spell it!) and signed off. I’m not automatically a fan of any military thing by any means but even I thought the video was adorable.

      • Would that be “hoowa!?” It comes from HUA, which is the acronym for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.” I believe the Army uses “Roger Wilco” (Heard and will comply).

      • That’s interesting. I’ve noticed both the “hoowa!” cheer, and roger wilco mentioned in cartoons. Especially the jokes like someone says Roger on a walkie talkie, and the other character will say “Roger who?” There was an episode of T.U.F.F Puppy where they did that, and Dudley the dog answered “Oh my friend Roger, he’s right here!” and Roger said hi, lol.

  4. I just went to YouTube to watch the video… I only got about a minute into it before I had to stop.

    Those kids are our future. Frankly, that’s terrifying to me. Their parents must be so proud… oh, wait. Their parents probably *are* proud, for where else would those kids learn that it’s OK to treat other human beings like that?

    • Actually, from what I understand, their parents (at least, some of them) are horrified. The father of one of the boys apologized, said that he didn’t raise his kids that way, and said that he will get his son professional help to address his antisocial behavior.

      How can anyone act that mean? It’s hard to understand. However, remember that adolescents have brains that aren’t completely developed, which can result in risky/uninhibited behavior. If you combine that with lack of empathy (which in most sociopaths is inherent, rather than learned), and in-group–out-group bias (which is inherent in all of us, and causes us to be biased against those who are different), then you get this kind of jaw-dropping behavior. While not every kid is a sociopath, almost every kid wants to fit in, and if a dominant, popular, semi-sociopathic kid starts to pick on an outcast, other kids might join in order to make themselves part of the “in-group.”

      While fat stigma certainly contributed to this case of bullying, I’m fairly certain ferocious bullying won’t disappear when fat is accepted. I recall riding a school bus with a (very thin) boy who was bullied terribly because he acted “weird” (he had a neuropsychiatric disorder, and he also displayed some inappropriate sexual behavior). I can’t recall exactly what they said and did to him, but it included physical violence/harassment, including hitting him over the head with a notebook or textbook. At one point, he got angry and fought back, and the bus had to be pulled over. I recall one girl attempting to stand up to his bullies, and she rapidly became an outcast. While I didn’t join with the harassers (who were boys, by the way), I also didn’t stand up for him, partly because I was a wimp, but mostly because I didn’t like him either because of something he had done to someone I know way back in elementary school which is still a secret (nothing SUPER serious, but enough to turn this poor boy from a playmate into an enemy). This boy needed medical help, therapy, and different family…NOT bullying. He probably acted out sexually because (a) he was already somewhat of an outcast due to his tics, and (b) his home life was unstable. However, most kids are too stupid to realize these things and act sympathetically. I was definitely too stupid. This is why we need campaigns that can get the anti-bullying/tolerance message across to kids.

      • Kids can absolutely be sociopaths: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html

        I was bullied all through school too, and I was thin. I was also weird, funny-looking, and socially inept. So there you go.

      • Please stop giving mental illness diagnosis to cruel people, treating someone perceived as the Other in a cruel is part of humanity, being cruel is a choice and it’s a thing most people are capable of being, it’s not a mental illness, it’s ableism to call every single bad thing people do a mental illness. I was bullied by normal people, they treated others they saw as normal in a good way, it was a choice and a social problem, not a mental illness, sociopathy isnot a choice,you can change it and when people use mental illness as an excuse for every bad thing it justify the abuse we mentally ill people suffer at the hands of nice normal people.
        Many bullies treat other people nicely except the one they abuse, many change how they are, sociopaths can’t do that, sociopaths are not cured, don’t change, don’t choose.

      • As I said elsewhere, you can’t always determine the way a child has been raised by the way the kid acts. Plain old “mob mentality” – and it’s a real thing, by the way, can really affect kids. All it takes is one ringleader to start the torment and one to follow. It just escalates from there like a shark feeding frenzy. I would venture to say that most of the kids have a sense of remorse about this. I’ve been the victim of mob mentality as a kid once or twice, where I ended up making fun of someone, but once caught up in doing so, it was almost impossible to stop. I felt HORRIBLE afterward, knowing what my words had helped to do. I didn’t recognize it at the time because it snowballed too quickly and I couldn’t keep up with the effects mentally. It’s vicious, but it happens, and no, it’s not a mental disorder, just a fact of a particular set of circumstances.

      • @Alicia: I absolutely agree that xenophobia and cruelty (or more particularly, cruelty aimed at strangers or outcasts) is inherent. There’s lots of evidence for this (including bullying and warlike behavior exhibited by chimps, our evolutionary cousins). However, altruism and empathy are also inherent. When a human is unable to empathize, they are a sociopath, and their brains literally are different from those of healthy humans. I would suspect that bullies who “start things” are semi-sociopathic–that is, they lack the ability to empathize with their victim. Viciously torturing someone with words, and not feeling bad when that person cries, is similar to physically torturing an animal, and not letting up when it cries in pain. Both require a lack of empathy, at least to some degree. I do agree that the “mob mentality” can overtake otherwise healthy-brained humans, compelling them to commit atrocious acts that they would never have done under normal circumstances. Group hysteria is real, and is a force to be reckoned with. However, what about the leader–the one who starts the bullying? I think that person must have some sort of brain abnormality, resulting in increased aggression and decreased empathy.

      • I was bullied all through school. I was shy and had serious buck teeth. Then in seventh grade, I had to wear the Martian headgear to combat the buck teeth. My teeth got pulled back too quickly, which killed the nerve on the left front side, and they turned black. I tell you, I have never felt attractive or desirable a day in my life.

      • @TheRealCie: Wait…so your headgear basically killed the roots of ALL of your teeth? Was your orthodontist incompetent, or was there something unique about your jaw/teeth? If my teeth turned black from my headgear (I had to wear it at night when I was in 7th grade), I would’ve asked the orthodontists to cover the cost of veneers or implants, and if they refused, I would have sued them…

      • Let me try to reply here. I don’t know how to reply where I want.
        @A Elizabeth: You don’t need to be sociopath to be cruel, sadly cruelty is part of normal humans behaviour, you don’t need to be a sociopath to be abusive, most abusive people are capable of empathy towards some people except the abused person, in cases of prejudice empathy stops for one group but prejudice is not a mental illness. Of course some are sociopaths but they are probably an exception, not the rule.
        I was bullied by people that were really normal and treated other nicely, I am the one that people say have a “abnormal” brain.
        You should also know that the term sociopath is used in a ableist way to oppress mentally ill people, we are considered dangerous and blamed for all crimes, in the media every bad thing is done by a sociopath = crazy person with bad brain. The reality is we are normally victims of bullying and crimes. For most people sociopath mean violent crazy person, any with a different brain is considered dangerous.
        Normal people don’t want to deal with the fact that humanity is not based on pure love and compassion, some people are sociopaths but they are rare, most people are normal and with a great ability to be empathic or completely cruel and abusive and many are both for different people/type of people, it’s a choice, in case of children a traumatic home makes them more cruel, other things are bad education, schools and society that teach cruelty and that different is bad, tolerance of abuse in society, saying that words don’t hurt and weak people are the only one hurt, etc. All of that is normal human behaviour, not psychological pathologies, what helps is to teach people better, not therapy, brain scans, tests or medication. Real sociopaths are rare, dangerous evil mentally ill people are more rare than dangerous sane people.

    • I have chosen not to see the video. I think the more clicks it gets, the more folks get inspired that that this is acceptable behavior. I consciously make an effort to not feel in to anything that encourages bullying, or unkindness. I don’t always get right, but do try.

    • Yeah, reminds you of Children of the Damned, doesn’t it? Or perhaps, The Omen.

      • Right??? I just can’t even.

  5. I don’t see this as a result of the War on Obesity (TM), and it cheapens the fight against it to say that it is. I see it as the result of kids being assholes. Less than 15 years ago, I was in high school and having similar things screamed at me (“you’re so fat, why don’t you just kill yourself?) by classmates on the bus while no other students and no adults intervened. At least no one had a video camera.

    This is way worse because these kids aren’t thinking things through and imagining their (probably overweight) grandmother in that seat.

    • It sounds like we have a different of opinion. I think that these kids are a generation who’ve been told by their schools, doctor, and the first lady that being fat is bad, and that people who work hard and care about their bodies aren’t fat, and I think that fuels this kind of attack. That doesn’t mean this kind of attack never happened before (although in your case it was high school students bullying another high school student, not middle school students bullying an adult authority figure.) I do disagree that discussing fat shaming and suggesting that is derived from a National campaign of fat shaming “cheapens” fight against that fat shaming but again, difference of opinion is totally cool.

      Thanks for the comment.

      ~Ragen

      • Discussing fat shaming does not cheapen it, but it dilutes the message to take an incident getting a lot of press and make it only about hatred of fat people.

        The incident in Greece is about many things, and fat shaming is certainly one of them. But the kids didn’t need a hysterical nationwide War on Widows to taunt her about that, too.

  6. 4chan is a random group of people at any time, it makes it impossible to say much of anything about them. I posted there years ago, and the same thing that would get ignored and ridiculed one day would totally take off the next.

  7. My brother having been a Marine, I was eager to see what the Marine video had to say. Unfortunately, it’s been removed from YouTube. What does “removed by user” mean, anyway? Did they regret having been supportive? I sure hope not!

    • It could be that they were told to remove it because it could be misconstrued as an official public statement by the Marine Corps instead of just those guys.

      Maybe, IDK. That was my first thought.

  8. My second though after hearing about this story was to wonder how recently those children had been exposed to some aspect of the “war on Obesity”. I’d really like to be able to know what was taught in their classrooms in the past week, or even if new “health posters” went up in the cafeteria recently.

  9. I guess I have been living under a rock because I had no idea there were people out there who blatantly threaten others for being overweight. That is not only barbaric but stupid. I am about 45 lbs overweight and considered “obese” on the charts and it hurts my feelings when anyone even accidentally says something inappropriate about weight in general. My wonderful husband weighs close to 400 lbs. He gets amused at parents’ reactions when children in public indiscreetly comment “Look at that fat man,” because he knows he is fat and the parents are so mortified. He usually reassures the parent that it’s okay because young children tend to say what they think. That is, of course, very different than a child being abusive or hateful to a fat person. The ability of people to hate in so many forms these days is unsettling to me. If my husband needs 2 airline seats to fit on a plane, what business is it of someone else? People need to live their own lives and mind their own business. Maybe then they would be happier and less hateful.

    • “My wonderful husband weighs close to 400 lbs. He gets amused at parents’ reactions when children in public indiscreetly comment “Look at that fat man,” because he knows he is fat and the parents are so mortified. He usually reassures the parent that it’s okay because young children tend to say what they think.”

      I remember reading an interview with Kenny Baker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_Baker) where he talked about how kids would see him in the grocery store and say “look at that little man!” and their mothers would be sooo mortified. He said the same thing that you did: kids tend to say what they think, and it’s better to teach them/answer their questions than to shush them.

      “People need to live their own lives and mind their own business.”

      YES.

      My personal opinion is this: let’s say for the sake of argument that being fat is a choice that people make by eating too much food or a poor diet or whatever. My question then is, “So what? Who cares?” Because it’s *not my business*! And to those who complain about fat people costing them money, well, I have to pay for Joe’s lung cancer caused by his three-pack-a-day smoking habit and Jack’s cirrhosis of the liver caused by his chronic alcoholism, too. No one ever complains about those things, do they? And yet they “brought it on themselves”, just like fat people (in our argument here) “brought it on themselves”. It’s OK to smoke or drink yourself into the grave, but eating yourself into the grave is OMG THE WORST THING EVER?

      I just don’t get it.

      • And the thing that really bothers me about that, to continue your analogy – if I’m eating myself into the grave, I’m at least not taking anyone with me. But smoking 3 packs a day around my kids (or anyone else) – that second-hand smoke is damaging to them. And drinking like a fish – if I’m so stupid as to drive while I’m drunk, what are the odds that I’m going to have an accident and maim or kill someone else as well as myself? So if it’s true that fat people are eating themselves into early graves, at least they aren’t killing anyone else while they’re killing themselves so what is all the hoopla about? Killing one person with a “vice” doesn’t cost nearly as much as killing several with a “vice”. And you’d think the haters would be GLAD we’re killing ourselves so early. After all, that’s the point of all these initiatives to end this “obesity epidemic” – get rid of fat people. And we know none of those initiatives will ever work, just like diets don’t work to turn fat people into thin people. (and just for the record here, I don’t believe that fat people are eating themselves into early graves, this is just to carry that argument to a further conclusion).

      • As a person with chronic illness and disabilities I can say we are hated too, the stigma of illness is just as strong as the one of obesity, disability, sexuality, etc. I had people blaming me for being sick, even doctors. If it’s a mental illness it’s far worse, I have physical and mental problems and I used to be fat before surgery, it’s not so different how people treat you. There is a war against one of my disabilities too and like the war on obesity it only harm us.

      • Kenny Baker is really a lovely person. I think it’s great when people can be confident in themselves in spite of not fitting the societal mode of “attractiveness.” It inspires someone like me, who has never been confident.
        When my son was little and pointed out a very large person, my reaction was to say “yes, there are people of all types in the world. There are big people and small people and dark skinned people and light skinned people and people with hair and people without hair.” I think that allowing the observation of differences but not seeing one type as better than the other is the way to go.

      • Cie, I LOVE your answer to your son. Outstanding.

    • I once saw a little kid no more than four who was hushed by mortified parents for practically yelling “she’s fat!” at me, only to follow up with great indignation, “but she’s *bad*!” The first part I didn’t care about, the second part made me deeply sad. The kid was just a baby and didn’t know yet to couch the ideas in a load of faux concern. she was appealing to the arbiters of justice in her world, parents, to recognize badness and act, and was outraged and continued to yell and protest as they pulled her away. Fat is bad, and bad people deserve to get punished; I am not sure how anyone can mistake that this bus incident is a direct result of such zealous conditioning. Those kids on the bus probably don’t see themselves as asshats, just as 4chan apparently missed that their hateful culture directly supports actions like those kids took on the bus–however they decide theyd rather be perceived after the fact. 

      • Gosh, that’s sad. Having learned that fat equals bad at so young an age. :-(

    • The thing about small children saying what they think, though, is that sometimes it can be really hurtful. My girlfriend is trans, and kids who demand to know — from their parents, not from her, usually — if she’s a boy or a girl really upset her.

      • I don’t think that children intend to be hurtful. They’re just curious. And I know, intent isn’t magical.

        I feel like we have to cut them some slack, though. They really don’t understand that what they’re asking might be hurtful. They’re just seeing someone who is outside the range of their experience, and they want to know. And maybe they think that it’s more polite to ask mom or dad than to march up to your girlfriend and demand, “Hey, are you a boy or a girl?”.

        I’m willing to cut children (especially really little ones) more slack than I would teens or adults. They don’t yet understand the world, and so they ask questions.

        And I don’t want to invalidate your girlfriend’s feelings in this either… I’m just not sure what the right answer is. Sometimes there are no “right” answers.

        Hopefully the parents will try to educate their kids respectfully. I guess that’s the best answer I can come up with, you know? I know that that’s what I would try to do if I were a parent.

      • That’s just kids, though, and try as we might, we can’t make other people’s kids do as we see fit. I would suggest that your girlfriend needs to remember that when it comes in the form of a child’s honest question it is not criticism, it’s mere curiosity and it’s a moment in which she can teach the child something positive.

      • Kittenmommy, you said it well. (Your answer came in while I was typing mine.)

      • I should seriously have known better than to even bother saying that. Of course people then have to tell me that it shouldn’t be hurtful, and people should just put up with it.

        Kittenmommy, if you know intent isn’t magic, don’t bring it up.

        Helena, please don’t ever tell a trans person what they should do in these situations. My girlfriend gets panic attacks sometimes when this happens. It’s not her job to educate other people’s kids, and even attempting to do so in public can actually place her in danger. Real, physical danger. Trans people, especially trans women can be attacked or arrested for talking to strangers’ kids, based on the presumption that they are perverts — the same presumption that gets trans women thrown out, attacked, or arrested for using the right bathrooms.

        All I fucking said was that kids “just speaking their mind” can be hurtful to adults. What the hell is wrong with that? I didn’t say they should be punished, I didn’t say they were horrible brats, I just said it can be hurtful.

      • I totally agree it can be hurtful, and I never said otherwise. And I’m truly sorry that people have hurt your girlfriend that way. I really, really am.

      • I can see how my words could have sounded insensitive or high handed. That was absolutely not my intent. I’m not in those shoes so I don’t know how it feels.

        I wasn’t trying to tell your girlfriend what to do; rather, I was offering what I thought was a possible helpful alternative way of looking at the situation. My intent was to assist, not harm.

      • Here’s the thing, Helena. Your intent doesn’t actually change what you do or what the effect of it is, because it’s bottled up in your head. I can’t tell what you mean to do, only what you actually do, which in this case was not helpful or nice at all.

        You don’t know much about trans people’s lives, do you? Perhaps you should remember that before you “suggest” anything to one.

      • See I totally get what you are saying here, it is absolutely right that it is still hurtful regardless. I think too often these days people just brush it off as though it is just kids being kids and asking innocent questions rather than taking the time to teach their children a better way. I mean with these kids they obviously SAW and KNEW that they were causing this person terrible hurt, there was no innocence here it was done to be mean and cruel, and yet even now a whole lot of people are saying well they are just kids they don’t know.

        That right there is the thing that guts me because why are we not teaching our kids to be better? When I was a kid if I was heard saying anything like that, you better believe I would be set straight, because my parents had very high expectations for my behavior and how I treated others. Yes I might not have understood it all fully back then, but as I matured I realized why that expectation was set so high and why you don’t treat people that way or even ask personal questions to people I don’t know.

        So yes ok, kids don’t come out of the womb already knowing how to act and relate to people, they need to be taught, they need to learn. When we brush off insensitive junk like that and don’t use it as an opportunity to teach them the importance of being respectful and kind, then they feel ok to do even more hurtful things.

        Just because they are kids so totally doesn’t make things that are said hurt any less at all, and brushing those things aside makes it even harder to teach them to do better in the future because after we have excused a lot of rude inappropriate stuff until some magic age, it will be so much harder to get that lesson to take hold.

      • Yes! Thank you!

      • I’ve been thinking a lot about this thread & guess I need direction. I do have pre-school twins. I’ve been thinking what if they ask a question that’s truly innocent that does hurt someone? I’ve been asked some doozies by grown people wanting to know my fertility history once they see twins. Hurtful stuff I go home & cry about but nothing that would ever put me in danger. What would you like to see a parent do? In my mind, I wouldn’t make a big deal over what my child asked. I would just reinforce what we already do teach them about respecting all people no matter what. Something along the lines of “that’s just the size she comes in just like that’s the size I come in.” So far we haven’t talked about people come in different races, genders, sizes. I almost feel like if I talk to them about how other people categorize people in those ways then they might start to do it. I don’t ever remember my parents telling me that stuff. People were just people, you know? I really want to be able to handle something like that with grace. Thoughts?

        • I’m not a parent, but I have had kids say things that could have been hurtful. Basically, I think I would want a parent to explain that 1. People come in different sizes and that’s ok and 2. Some people try to use size to make other people feel bad so it’s nice to be sensitive about it

          …or something like that.

          ~Ragen

          ________________________________

      • The thing about not explaining things about body size, race, gender, sexuality, etc, to you kids is exactly the same thing as not talking to them about sex: If you don’t they’ll pick it up on the street, and they’ll probably pick up lots of idea that are wrong or that you won’t like. Prejudice is everywhere, and we don’t even notice most of it. If what your kids hear about size is that people say, “You’re fat!” like it’s an insult, they’ll pick up that being fat is a bad thing.

        I’ll tell you what I plan on doing, and what I do when I take my friends’ kids out somewhere with me and something comes up (which it does). I say, “Sometimes, saying things like that can hurt people’s feelings. That’s because some people make fun of people who are [different than they are in whatever way applies]. But people are all different, and that’s ok.”

        Particularly when it comes to gender (since that’s what I was on about), I tell kids, “Some people are boys, and some people are girls, and some people aren’t either one. Sometimes, people are born looking like boys, and everybody thinks they’re boys, but really they’re girls, and they know that. And sometimes people are born looking like girls, and everybody thinks they’re girls, but really they’re boys, and they know that. It’s important that when someone tells you they’re a boy or a girl or neither, that you believe them.” Sometimes, I tell older kids that if they want to know what to call someone, they should ask that person what their pronouns are, if the kid knows what a pronoun is. (This, by the way, is generally considered the polite way to ask in trans and genderqueer communities, although, as with most things, not everyone cares for it.)

        Many people think that these things are hard to explain to kids. They really aren’t. What they are is hard for adults to think about, because we already have patterns to the way we think about them, ingrained ideas we’ve had so long we don’t even know we have them, or that they aren’t necessarily congruent with reality. (For example, the old line, “Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina.” Not actually true all the time, and not the defining factor. Or “Fat people eat too much,” or “Black people are less intelligent than white people.” Nope, sorry.) So what we have to do, I think, is to break it down past that point, and explain it without all of those preconceptions, and be really honest about it. “Some people look different, have pale skin, or very dark skin, or different colors. Some people think that looking different means people are better or worse, but that’s not true. People are just people, and looking different is ok.”

      • Thank you guys! This gives me a great starting place!

  10. Please allow me to personally apologize to you from 4chan. I spend time there, and amid all the pr0n and hate I find nuggets of hilarity, even inspiration. 4chan is the steaming compost heap of the ‘net. Not everyone there is a hater; but because I count myself among their number, I must sometimes apologize for our misbehavior. Some of us love you and your beautiful dancing fatness.

  11. If that school system actually gave a crap, it would give the bus monitor the authority to kick kids off the bus for talking to her that way. Can’t get to school? Too bad. Learn to treat people with respect. Apologize. Unless your “right” to harass and hurt other people is more important to you than learning.

    Personal disclosure: I quit my job at a U.S. public middle school because of constant, daily harassment from students about my size, disability, and gender presentation. The principal did nothing, except to tell me to “be more assertive” and “if you respected yourself, they wouldn’t say things like that to you.” Calling parents (assuming they even answered the phone) did no good.

    To those who say, “why didn’t she just quit?”: I was lucky enough to have a family able and willing to support me when I quit. Many people in similar job situations have jo option but to stay.

    • “If that school system actually gave a crap, it would give the bus monitor the authority to kick kids off the bus for talking to her that way.”

      I see a number of problems with that strategy. You can’t just stop a school bus and put children off at the curb.

      Not that I disagree that there should be consequences. I think that both requiring a public apology and being banned from the bus for a period of time would be appropriate.

      • You’re absolutely right. I phrased that badly. Dropping kids off at the curb would only escalate the situation.

        Your suggestion makes a lot more sense. I hope (but do not expect) schools would put a policy like that into place. (The school where I worked outlawed pretty much every form of discipline that might inconvenience parents, such as after-school detention for more thamn 10 minutes
        .)

    • “Dropping kids off at the curb would only escalate the situation.”

      That wasn’t actually my first thought. My first thought was that dropping children off at the curb would leave them open for kidnapping, etc..

      “Your suggestion makes a lot more sense. I hope (but do not expect) schools would put a policy like that into place.”

      Schools walk in fear of parents nowadays. I remember when it was otherwise. Of course, I was bullied mercilessly as a child and the school turned a blind eye…

      “The school where I worked outlawed pretty much every form of discipline that might inconvenience parents, such as after-school detention for more thamn 10 minutes.”

      And HOW DARE YOU criticize their PERFECT CHILDREN. Yeah, I know. *sigh*

      I really fear for our future as a society.

      • Remember that society tends to run in cycles. When the pendulum swings too far one direction, it eventually starts back the other way. We tend to move from one extreme to the other.

    • Considering the recent cases of (disabled) children being abused by bus drivers/monitors and teachers giving that authority to leave children behind would be bad. A safe system should exist, one where any abuse should be punished, bullying shouldn’t be tolerated.

  12. That email is pretty rich, given that 4chan knows, deep down in its little black heart, that it essentially IS those kids on the bus, writ large. Their donation to the cause is basically the biggest case of troll’s remorse in human history.

  13. I’m sorry someone from 4chan said that to you. They seem to really dislike the fact that you are an activist against fat hate, not just a fat person. They obviously don’t want you to be proud of your body. So screwed up.

    I’ve been hearing about the video for a couple days and just now got the time to watch it. It was very sad, heartbreaking, and made me angry. It’s crazy that this went on for at least 10 minutes due to the video length but probably longer. Why didn’t the driver or anyone else say anything? I don’t know how this woman just sat there the entire time because I have been thinking of all the different ways I would be so very tempted to react. These kids sound old enough to know better. I remember being 16 and a lot of my friends were thinking they could get away with murder to an elder because they were minors they couldn’t touch or say much to without it being illegal and sometimes I feel like all they needed was an adult to take them by surprise.

    My parents were friends with a guy who was a school principal. He was trying to deal with this one delinquent. They got into it by the school lockers and the kid spit in his face! Ok, take note that this was the 70s…. Principal said said something along the lines of “Don’t tempt me boy.” Kid says “You can’t do shit, I’m a minor.” Principal says “Yeah?,” picks kid up, stuff him in his locker, closes door, walks away from the locker and his job and tell staff on the way out, “Can’t do this anymore.” It might sound harsh but I can’t hep but love the story. Sometimes kids are just bastards and need to know that adults aren’t just going to sit there and taking their beatings.

    Anyway, back to this story…I’m going to take a stab and guess that this crowd of kids was the product of one main one who is just a problem child who may be quite powerful and popular within their group. They spoke up and the others followed their lead. Of course that is just a guess though.

    I’m not so sure behavior like this is always from bad parenting. I knew a kid like those in the video who rode my bus. He was a bully full on. He made fun of everyone. He was a few years younger than me but always called me anorexic and he told people he thought I was a crack head because my eyes were red some days (reaction to contact lenses), and I went through a period of wearing black so I was a gothic, devil worshiping, anorexic crack head. Ugh. But thing is, his brother was a peach. I mean he was so nice and well mannered. I got to know their parents too later on and they were normal parents who tried to teach their kids right, but the one guy was just a bastard by nature or something…I don’t get it.

    • It’s amazing how two people from the same family can be so very different. I knew two brothers who came from the same troubled situation. Their father had abandoned them years ago and their mom was a heavy drinker and a drug user.
      M was the sweetest guy in the world, always ready to lend a helping hand. He always had a kind word and treated everyone the way people should be treated.
      B was a sociopathic demon. He made fun of everyone and once killed a cat with a baseball bat just for fun. If I had ever met that POS in an alley with a baseball bat, I would have had some fun of my own. He was pure evil.
      That these guys came from the same family always blew me away.


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