I got an e-mail today that said “I don’t care how athletic you are, there is no such thing as a fat athlete.” Why would someone use their limited time on Earth to send me this? Who the hell knows. But it got me thinking about the way that so many people try to maintain their sense of superiority/maintain their stereotypes/oppress fat people by creating “thin only clubs.” They tell us that being an athlete isn’t just about athletics – but you also have to be thin; being stylish isn’t just about style, you also have to be thin; you have to be thin to be beautiful; you have to be thin to be sexy; you have to be thin to like your body and on and on and on.
At its base, this is about creating clubs that exclude people based on how they look – whether the club is athletes, fashionistas, or just confident people who are happy with their bodies. I think a lot of it stems from people who have built their self-esteem on a foundation of weight bullying and fat shame. Their self-esteem is predicated upon the idea that they are automatically better than a fat person because they are thin. Since they can only feel good about themselves by convincing themselves that they are better than someone else, they have to protect this at all costs – their self-esteem requires that the fatties go along with the idea that we can’t be part of these clubs until we are thin.. When this is threatened, whether its by a fathlete, fatshionista, or just a fat person rocking a bikini on the beach, they seek to restore the balance of power by insisting that thin is a prerequisite for the “club”.
I suggest that we just say nay, and insist on our place in the club. You don’t have to want to be an athlete, but if you want to. you can be an athlete an any size (and the Fit Fatties Forum has over 1,000 fathletes of all abilities proving that.) You don’t have to care about fashion but if it interests you then you can be a fashionista at any size.
Those who think that they get to decide the identities we claim for ourselves are making a massive Underpants Rule violation. They are laboring under the misapprehension that they are the Underpants Overlord of fat people’s identities - that we need their consent or acceptance to claim our status as athletes, fashionistas, sexy, beautiful, or confident. The truth is that they only have that power if we give it to them. So we can simply claim and own these identities for ourselves and reject the idea that it’s anyone else’s job to tell us what we can or can’t be. So if someone tells you that you can’t be what you are unless you are thin, you have some options in reply (we’ll use athlete as an example but you can substitute fashionista, beautiful, sexy, etc.) Also, remember that these are just suggestions, if they don’t resonate with you then obviously you’re free to ignore them! If you have some ideas of your own, feel free to throw them in the comments:
“What in the world…I mean…what in the WORLD, would make you think that you get to tell me what I can be?”
“Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, – you actually think you can tell me whether or not I’m an athlete – dude, that’s hilarious.”
“I was not aware that you were made Underpants Overlord of the Athletes – I’m going to need to see the decree.”
(looking genuinely perplexed “Sorry…I’m just having trouble imagining what would lead you to believe that I care what you think.”
“Oh, I see you’re looking for your beeswax. Sorry, but it’s definitely not here.”
Or you can not respond at all, regardless remember that it’s always about how your reaction makes you feel about you and never about the bully.
Update: Speaking of bullies: Don’t forget to check out the Better than the Bullies Project and maybe consider adding your own submission!
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