I blogged about this a couple of years ago, but based on a conversation that I had yesterday, I think it bears repeating:
I’m very vocal about being a fat dancer. I bring up my size. Reasonably often, someone asks me why – why do I have to be so “militant” about being fat? If nobody else is bringing it up, why do I?
Two years ago a judge named Cindi came up to me after I had competed. My waltz dress that year was a beautiful crushed velvet gown with spaghetti straps that I loved and got lots of compliments on.
Here I am in it:
At the end of the competition, Cindi caught me at the elevators and told me that she “couldn’t stand to look at me”. She told me four times that she couldn’t stand to look at me. I just kept saying “ok”, with no emotion. She kept getting louder and angrier, I kept saying “ok”. She put her finger in my face and said ” you have NO BUSINESS wearing spaghetti straps”. I said “ok”. She said “You’re such a beautiful dancer…with your arms out like that I couldn’t stand to look at you.” I made the (very difficult) decision to be classy, and said “In truth I probably won’t choose to change the dress, but I appreciate that you took the time to tell me it’s such a problem for you.”
For a lot of my life, I’ve been an “exception”, and I hear the same thing from a lot of my large friends. People say things to us : I’m not attracted to big women, except you. I would never take a class from a plus-sized aerobics instructor, except you. I think of all big people are lazy, except you. Plenty of people think that it’s a good thing to be the exception, I don’t.
It means is that if someone looks at us and we challenge their prejudice, instead of taking a hard look at their prejudice, they keep their prejudice and stick us in the “exception” category. That’s not ok and I’m not interested in being the exception.
It’s been said that dancing gives you a Physical Voice, and I agree. But it’s not just dancing that provides a physical voice, it’s all physical activities – just the act of being in this culture . When people discount us as non-physical beings, or as unworthy of being looked at because we’re fat, they are trying to silence our physical voice. When Cindi told me that I should hide my arms because they are just too disgusting to be looked at she was trying to silence away my physical voice.
The reason that I bring up my size a lot when other people would like to pretend I’m “normal”, the reason I don’t want to be the exception, is because when anyone claims our physical voice, we claim it for all people; when any large person claims their physical voice, they claim it for all large people. When we stand up for ourselves and raise our physical voices, we start to change perceptions, change prejudices, and make a difference.
So, how do you raise your physical voice?