Inferior Superiority Complex – A Rant

Fair warning, it’s an angry, ranty day.

I saw this as it went around Facebook the past couple of days (with this picture):

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:
“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

It made me smile for a moment.  And then I started to read the comments.  I was drawn in by the first couple that were really positive, but then it went downhill, and when I got to the one that said “It’s time to get real and get healthy. You fat people need to learn that life is not only about eating” I got angry.  Really angry.  Angry like I don’t often get.  And I have a policy of not posting comments in places like this so I’m going to work it out here:

I got angry because for those of us who are fat in this culture there are people who feel like we don’t deserve even a MOMENT’S reprieve from the constant drumbeat of fat hate: fat is unhealthy, fat people are lazy, all we do is eat, blah blah blah.  There are people who want to make sure that we don’t even get one Facebook post to consider that it might be ok to not hate ourselves, or to opt out of the cultural standard of beauty. People who inexplicably claim to believe that we will somehow be healthier if we are tortured with a ceaseless stream of stigma until we look the way they think we should look – which, even if we wanted to do it, may be completely impossible.

These people with their superiority complexes who actually believe that from my body size they already know what I eat, how much I exercise, and my mental state. Because, goes the argument, all fatties, think, and act, and eat the same and thank the gods that these people are here to tell us what to do and cheer shame us on and save us all never mind that we don’t want or need their saving.

How dare they presume that they know anything about us let alone what’s best for us.  What makes it more crazy to me is that if you believe the statistics more than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. We are an oppressed MAJORITY – and these people take every opportunity to try to push up down.

I could explain that there are healthy people of every shape and size, I could give facts, figures, studies and logical arguments.  And I will do exactly that tomorrow.  But I’m not going to do it today because today I’m angry – because it is not difficult to comprehend the idea that nobody hates themselves healthy.  It’s a curb two inches high and somehow there are still people who can’t step up onto it, so I’m thinking that if these people were capable of logic, or intelligent thought,  or actually cared about anyone they would never be trying to torture people healthy to begin with. Or trying to disguise their inferiority complex with a superiority complex. But that’s just for today so never fear, tomorrow when I go to the doctor for my annual exam I will patiently explain it all again.

Somebody left a comment  saying that they really like my work but that I’m not going to get anywhere because I’ll never change these people’s minds.  That’s ok because I can’t change anybody’s mind – I can provide information but what other people do with their minds is on them.

More importantly, I don’t write for the kind of people who spread hate around the internet. If they find me and choose to think differently that’s great, but I don’t write for them.  I write for the intended victims of their hate.  For the majority who they are trying so hard to oppress, who deserve a couple minutes to read blogs in the fatosphere and realize or remember that it really is ok to love yourself and your body as you are, and that the herd may be stampeding in the wrong direction, and that it’s ok to step to the side and let them go by.

I don’t apologize for getting angry now and then.  I think that it’s a natural and healthy reaction to a situation that is this crazy.

But in the end I am happy because everyday there are more of us standing up and saying “enough”.  Because I am part of a civil rights movement and history tells me that we can win, and I believe that we are making a difference in the insanity that is our culture’s attitude toward people of size and health right now.  Because I love my life, and the only way that I can lose that is to let somebody take it away from me, and I have no intention of surrendering my happiness to someone who can’t grasp the concept that a constant torrent of hate and stigma doesn’t d0 anybody any good – including them.

And, because I saw this on Facebook today too:

Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 8:04 am  Comments (49)  

49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Looking forward to a rant you may make regarding the crazy negative press about Chris Christie’s fat. Don’t know if you saw the rants on MSNBC. I was snarling at the TV.

  2. Incredibly inspiring post. Thank you for the work that you do. It has helped me tremendously.

  3. You may not target this website at people like me, but I just wanted you to know that you do reach people. I’ve always been thin and have often (and I’m ashamed to say this) sat in judgment of friends and family who’ve been overweight. I’ve never been the type to make rude comments or observations–online or on the internet–but I know my eye-rolling and quiet judginess caused pain. I wish I could undo that.

    I started reading your blog after seeing a post highlighted on Jezebel, and it completely changed the way I see myself and bodies of all shapes and sizes. Your post about why “calories in, calories out” doesn’t work was especially powerful for me.

    Although I can’t undo the hurt I’ve caused to family and friends, I can and have changed. I share your post about “calories in, calories out” with friends on the regular, and I’ve apologized to the people in my life that I’ve hurt.

    I know your work makes a huge difference to people who’ve been on the receiving end of fat hate, but I wanted to tell you that you are changing the hearts and minds of perpetrators as well. Maybe not as quickly, and maybe not as many, but you ARE reaching us and we can and will change.

  4. Your voice is incredibly powerful. Please don’t ever doubt that you ARE making a change – even if our message only gets through to ONE person, that person then takes our message onwards with them. Every change, no matter how tiny, makes a difference in the end.

    I wish you wrote for a major newspaper/magazine. I think people are too used to reading the fat-bashing stuff. They need to read your stuff more and realise that it’s NORMAL and OK to be fat too. To become familiar with your message rather than it being a shock to them.

  5. Theres nothing in the world that tells you have to keep doing what youre doing. Im only going to ask you, please keep it up. You have changed the way I think about other people, fat and thin and everything in between. Its so good to have a place to go where the size of nobodys ass matters more than the tiniest bit of the content of thier heads. What you write and do and say matters. Nobody can tell you how much because we dont know but I guess it is just the power of the sleeping lion- maybe not now, maybe not soon, but this has power.
    Your anger is justified and please dont stop being angry. When you stop being made angry by oppression you become party to it. I feel like Fiona in wishing that you could write for a really high-readership publication. This needs heard.
    But most of all, thankyou. You dont need to do this. Im sure you have plenty else to do with your time. So the least I can do is give you the heartfelt appreciation you deserve.

  6. Another fitness certification sending a confusing message. Have you seen this?
    http://www.acefitness.org/article/3288/?utm_source=Health%2BeTips&utm_medium=email&utm_term=October%2B2011&utm_campaign=Consumer%2BOutreach&CMP=EMC-HET_1011

    Your message is powerful and needs to be heard by everyone so we can change the mindset that holds us all prisoners to this obsession with weight!

  7. I think the above link is a good article (please correct me if i’m wrong) but it sends the very real message that thin is NOT necessarily healthy and it does say that there are obese people who are more healthy than thin people.

    • Both of these things are true. Heck, a lot of diseases, or treatments that are hard on the body, *cause* extreme thinness.

      Some diseases cause or help cause fatness too, so there’s no real way to tell by looking. Just like you can’t tell if a thin person is thin because they’re built that way or because they’re on a starvation diet, or because they’re on chemo, you can’t tell if a fat person is fat because everyone else in their family is fat, because they sit around eating donuts all day, or because they have PCOS or hypothyroidism.

  8. I saw this too, and while the glurgey text that went with it was a bit much, of course it was posted in a closed women’s group I belong to. And of course it spurred conversation. I almost closed the thread because I didn’t want to get in it, but I ended up in it anyway. I talked about how I see a lot of these women running down their own bodies and they need to stop. About how an industry counts on, cultivates, and benefits from their self loathing. I talked about my own body, and how many things I’ve done with it just the way it is, and how I got off the train of diet cycling and learned to love it. I talked about HAES, which they had never heard of. Stupid as the whole thing was it was a way to have THAT conversation, so for that reason I’m glad it went up. My copy of Dr. Bacon’s book went in the mail the other day to a woman who said she’d never heard of HAES, that she’s tired of hating herself, and she’s ready for something better.
    Haters gonna hate. At 41, I have no more time for them.

  9. I think I can explain why so eloquent an article can draw in hate like that.

    They’re afraid. Those people have had such power and superiority over this marginalized group for so long and, look, here’s one of them about to take that power away. They are so afraid and with good reason too.

    We’re an unstoppable force, I like to think….

  10. What I found interesting about the whole thing is that so many thin women were offended by it. They felt that it was bashing THEM! And in thinking that, I guess, felt the need to bash back. I saw this in on a parenting magazine page and the comments were just astounding. What amazes me is not so much that women are so much into body hating but that mothers seem to hate their bodies even more and many especially seem to resent the fact that the reason their bodies look like they do is because they had children. I’ve seen massive amounts of body hating in a parenting forum I frequent, some even to the extent of getting cosmetic surgery and yes, at the same time, I see a lot of fat bashing on there too.

    I don’t blame you for being angry. Doesn’t seem to matter what gets says, anything that is fat positive is seen as encouraging obesity. It’s a bunch of crap though. If people REALLY thought about it, they would know that people don’t just go into life WANTING to be obese. There are plenty of people out there (like me at one time) who fantasize constantly of being thin, being accepted, and being able to buy whatever clothes she wants. But it’s easier for people to hate, it seems and to act like they’re better than everyone else. No one is perfect though and I’m sure if they had their flaws pointed out to them all the time, they wouldn’t like it either.

  11. You do make people see things in a different light. For me the biggest thing you have done is teach me. You taught me that healthy isn’t about being skinny. That I can be healthy and do the things I love and be good at the them. I made the decision that its not about a dress size or a skirt size. its about being healthy and treating my body with more respect.

    I’ve always been a curvy girl. In high school I was the tormented girl because I had boobs and hips. That brought along the stigma that I was a slut or easy. after my daughters birth I had to lose some pounds to meet a military standard because I was active duty. It was painful at best but I did it. I’ve since regained the weight because it didn’t matter what I did. those that were supposed to love me and be in my corner still would get in my face and scream at me how much of a fat loser and a zero I was. for years I have hidden behind the veil of my weight not really giving a damn about what people want or think. I started to disrespect me and my body. A couple weeks ago someone posted this link on a website and I started reading. I started to watch you dance which is the one thing in life I’ve always wanted to do. YOU made a difference in me. I know I will never be that girl that has the rail thin body or perfect shape. You helped me to see that I can be healthy at all weights. and that its about being Healthy not about being skinny and that I can do anything I want to in this life regardless what anyone else has to say about it. I don’t even know you but I feel like at least I have someone out there rooting for me. I will never be a twig. But I can be a healthy plus.

    Thank you for being there for the rest of the world. But especially for being here for Me.

    • Just a thought from a dance teacher, Reylan–your body and any other body is already the “perfect shape” for dancing. And I’m rooting for you too.

  12. Thank you for the post, especially for the video. It gave me chills.

    I don’t think you write for the fat-haters. You write for the fat. You give us a voice and a choice. We can wallow in our despair because we are fat or we can rise and accept that we are gorgeous, beautiful, complex creatures.

    You’ve given me that and I am grateful…

  13. Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a cyberfriend I met through blogging. She was worried about me since it had been several weeks since I’d posted anything.

    I wrote her back that I was not posting because I was incredibly mad at all the fat haters and shamers (some of whom are fat themselves); and incredibly sad and frustrated by the (mostly) women who starve and exercise themselves into injury; and all those who binge and gorge out of shame for not sticking to diets that in many cases are no more than what people were “fed” in concentration camps.

    I’m really, really mad.

    But I broke my blogging dry spell today with a blog on health and weight and how they’re not synonymous.

    And I’ve finally, definitively come out as a proponent of HAES (R).

    I’m still mad, but feeling better. And continuing to read your blog religiously.

  14. Wonderfully written and you are so inspiring with what you say. I love the mermaid/whale story but your argument is much more powerful than that.

    Thank you for fighting our corner.

  15. Your post is awesome Ragen! It’s interesting to me, although not surprising, that this mermaid tale has been circulating on and off for a couple of years I wrote a post about it (March 6, 2011 in Tasty Morsels) but it didn’t become viral until coupled with a photo of naked woman. I am happy for the message that is getting out, but once again, it’s disappointing that a woman must be partially naked to get everyone’s attention. Thanks for everything you are doing!

    • yeah but wow, she’s a gorgeous woman!

  16. “It’s time to get real and get healthy. You fat people need to learn that life is not only about eating”

    Dieting is 100% food obsessive. HAES is not. So who exactly needs to learn that life is not only about eating?

    • Very true! And that was one of the reasons why I had to stop dieting because it was an obsession and I HATED having to watch every little bit I was putting in my mouth.

    • If Steve Jobs had been fat he would have been blamed for his own early death.

    • I know that when I’ve die-eted I’ve obsessed about food more than ever! All I think about is food. In the psychology class I’m taking they talked about a study where a group of men were put on a 1000 calorie diet for several months. These men became obsessed with food. They even stopped having any kind of sex drive after a while. So yeah–what does that say about dieting?

  17. Anger is good. Anger is righteous. Anger changes the world. If anything, more of us need to get angry once in awhile.

    Ragen, I’m going to tell you the same thing I said over at Fat Heffalump. I was literally moments away from WLS. My doctor had convinced me that I was already diabetic (which wasn’t true) and I had my referral to the surgeon all set up and ready to go.

    And then I found you and SleepyDumpling and a couple of other blogs that changed my life. You guys gave me another perspective. A way to be healthy physically and emotionally without permanently damaging my body. So thank you for doing what you do. And know that your message does reach people that need to hear it.

  18. Oh facebook… an endless supply for blog posts. I just wrote a post/rant about a facebook interaction on my blog as well. I didn’t take the high road like you though 😉 I wrote out a nice long, civil, reply with plenty of references to studies and numbers.. then deleted it all, said “fuck you” and defriended the person. Sometimes I just can’t deal with it. Excellent post, btw. You’re right.. not a single freaking moment just for us!

  19. “Somebody left a comment saying that they really like my work but that I’m not going to get anywhere because I’ll never change these people’s minds. ”
    ‘Somebody’ is wrong. Your posts have caused me to rethink some of my attitudes. I have shared your blog with friends and it has caused them to reconsider how they treat their own bodies. Just last night someone new was asking about FA and HAES. She wasn’t asking me, she was asking a friend of mine who I introduced to your blog, that was talking about how she now reads it every day because what you have to say is just that awesome.
    You are affecting people’s attitudes. You are changing people’s minds.

  20. did you ever write “health at every size” as all one word?

    Healthateverysize

    look:

    (heal)t(hate)verysize

    Heal hate. 🙂

  21. Even though it’s an Angry Post, I still love it. And really, really needed to read this. Ah…Even though you probably won’t get through to the haters, you’ve certainly helped a lot of people.

  22. I completely empathize with your rage at the comments you saw on the Facebook post. That level of ugliness reflects so many terrible things in our society–the commercially funded fat-hate of the diet industry, fundamental incivility toward other people, etc.

    The idea that it’s impossible to hate yourself healthy keeps bringing to mind the one person I know who is a former fat person who really believes that he hated himself healthy, and that social derision for fat people is great because of it. About 5 years ago (before I met him), he started exercising daily and cut out commercially made junk food, and simultaneously gained massively in fitness and lost massively in fat. When I knew him, he was otherwise a huge supporter of civil rights and underdogs everywhere, but once in a while he would say something really hideous about fat people. I would really go after him about it, and though I didn’t have the health facts about fatness that I’m now starting to learn, he absolutely had no patience for the idea that creating an environment of fat hate is unhealthy, because he honestly attributed his current health to fat hate and his own self-hatred while he was fat. I finally just stopped talking with him because I found his fat-hate messages so repellent and didn’t know what else to say to him. I wish that I had had the health facts about fat and clearer thinking about fat issues that I’ve learned here and in other SA blogs. Not that it would necessarily have done any good, but he was otherwise a really admirable person who I enjoyed talking with and kind of miss.

    On another note, I was also curious about whether people had gotten the same version of the “Whale vs. Mermaid” post that I did, because the one I received ended with the following:

    “We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies. We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated. Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I?!”

    It was ended by the original posting person saying that they were thin and not hating on thin people, but I felt called to say something about that last bit, because that paragraph seemed like just another not-so-swift piece of size polarism. Curves don’t equal “cultivation” or anything besides curves–that seems like the basic misconception that’s at the root of what we’re all talking about here.

  23. Excellent post. Excellent poem. Good stuff all around.

    As for myself, I’m gonna be a narwhal. 😉

    • Can we be narwhals together, Eselle? Please say we can! I adore narwhals!

      • Yes, we will be narwhals together and any who oppose us will be poked rudely. 🙂

    • narwhals lol

      • “The Jedi of the Sea” I love it!

  24. Not only is anger justified in this case, it’s absolutely necessary.

    I’m tired of being told that refusal to buckle under to hate directed at me is somehow an act of aggression. I’m tired of being told that to defend myself is an evil rampage. I’m tired of being told that acting like a doormat will make all the badness go away.

    Guess what? That didn’t work when I was being bullied in school. That didn’t work when my boss was trying to get hours of unpaid overtime out of me (note: this was a boss a long, long time ago and has nothing whatsoever to do with my current employment situation which is freaking AWESOME in the extreme) and refusing to let me take my required breaks. It didn’t work when my own brother was treating me with contempt in my own home for the dread crime of allowing him to mooch off of me for five and a half years while he didn’t bother looking for jobs and lied his ass off to me.

    There’s a thing called righteous anger, and dammit, this is the perfect time for it.

    I refuse to be quiet when I’m called a liar, a glutton, and a disease-ridden object for societal contempt. I am none of these things.

    What I am is a person, just as deserving of respect as any other human being. Period. End of sentence.

    Oh, and Regan? I think it’s clear from the comments on this article that you’ve reached a lot of hearts and minds. Even if the only measure of your success was the number of people whose minds you’d changed? Yeah, I’d call you a success. But I do think a lot of that success comes from your approach of writing for those who are being harmed by society’s obsession with our fat. Your writing provides a window for many who never thought about the people they might be hurting. It provides a counterpoint to those who never knew there was an alternative to hating themselves. Your visibility as a fat dancer is a big ol’ thumb to the nose of those who think our size determines our ability to move or express ourselves artistically.

    Can every fat person be a dancer? No. But then, not every thin person can, either. We’re all just people. Because of that, we all deserve to be treated decently and with compassion.

    And until that happens, we need to get angry now and again.

  25. I love your blog, Regan. Each and every one of your posts gives me peace and hope. I don’t always get angry when I see things like this- sometimes I just get hopeless and sad. But then blogs like yours remind me I am not alone and I am not worthless and that I can get angry and motivated instead. I credit FA blogs for keeping me strong in recovery from my eating disorder. I don’t know what I would do without knowing that I am not alone in this.

    • Hi Lindsay,

      First of all congratulations on your recovery! Thank you for you kind words about the blog, I’m so glad that you are finding support in the FA blogs, I know that the blogosphere provides a lot of support for me too.

      Thanks,

      ~Ragen

  26. I got angry because for those of us who are fat in this culture there are people who feel like we don’t deserve even a MOMENT’S reprieve from the constant drumbeat of fat hate: fat is unhealthy, fat people are lazy, all we do is eat, blah blah blah.

    I think some people are prone to irrational “If it’s not working, it must be because people aren’t doing it hard enough!” assumptions. (Sometimes a thing doesn’t work because it’s being done on too small a scale, but sometimes there are other reasons and it’s a good idea to try something else, and assuming that doing it harder is always the best answer is bound to lead to some really bad decisions.) Once that mindset kicks in, it’s nearly impossible to come to an accurate conclusion about something that doesn’t work, because it’s always possible to imagine doing more, doing it harder, doing it more consistently, and doing it more perfectly. Plus, when it comes to stuff like eating, there are enough ways that a person could conceivably not follow the rules that it’s always possible to decide anyone who’s not succeeding is cheating.

    This all leads to a really nasty attitude towards the people one is ostensibly helping, as well as increasingly doing objectively harmful things (like bullying, psychological abuse, encouraging disordered eating, denying needed medical care, etc.) in order to “save” them.

  27. I posted this on my facebook had some possitive comments, but two guys comments made my blood boil

    1. Said she should lay off the cheeseburgers

    and

    2. Said all girls smell fishy, and he’d have to search under her layers of fat just as much as searching under a mermaids tail, so he’d rather date a hot mermaid!

    Some people make me sick!

    • I hope you unfriended this asshat. Douchebags like this are part of the reason I went celibate, I joke you not!

    • In a case like this, I sometimes like to flame back. The trick is to try to come up with something clever; just scolding or cursing them won’t work. Here are a couple off the top of my head:
      1) Because you want to hog them all to yourself, you greedy so-and-so?
      2) On behalf of human females everwhere, may I just say how grateful we are that you’ve switched your sexual preference to fish!

  28. The fact that you’ll never reach some (or many) people does not make writing the truth irrelevant or futile. I write for those who want to read what I have to say, not for those who don’t! The idea that you write ‘for the haters’ will only polarize them against you. Telling the truth isn’t about changing anyone’s mind – it’s about revealing the truth, and free people can read and reflect if they want. Anyway. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it not hate fat. It fires me up too! Why do some people still think shaming is helpful? If they actually gave a shit at all, surely they would see how futile and unhelpful it is? Aaargh! If you always ask – is this helpful? Or does it just serve some prejudicial agenda or… or…. I’m ranty too!!!!!

  29. She looks like she could be a mermaid. She’s very attractive. I imagine the sailors who dreamed of mermaids would have been stumbling all over themselves to have a chance to be with her.
    Here’s the thing: there was a time when a woman like that would have been seen as the ideal. If one looks at the paintings from times gone by, those women are all more fleshy. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being slim, but why can’t people be accepting of other body types too? It isn’t that I insist that anyone be attracted to my body, just that they don’t be rude. How about a little common decency?

    • I like to say that my body is very similar to one of those really really old fertility goddess pendants. You know, the ones with the really big breasts and belly. Yup, that’s me! lol

      • I’ve got the belly but the breasts, not so much. Mine are pretty moderate sized. I tell myself FERTILITY GODDESS when I start hating what I see in the mirror. It works part of the time. At least I’m not sticking my finger down my throat any more!

  30. I can’t thank you enough for writing this, everywhere I go I’m always treated as the fat girl that no body likes. People are so cruel and reading this blog has helped me believe in myself again and for that i thank you with all my heart. Now i believe in myself and no matter what that wont change thanks to you.

    • Hi Caitlin,

      I’m sorry that people aren’t treated you like they should. I’m really glad that you are getting support to believe in yourself and if there is anything that I can do to help just let me know.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  31. Right on! I have always been a bit on the big side (except for a brief period when I was twelve and shot straight upwards, but even then I was told how fat I was. I didn’t know I wasn’t until I saw photos from that time years later). Even now I carry extra weight, though I strive to be healthy. In the common eye, yes, I am fat, even though medically speaking, I am not obese and am pretty healthy. But to most people, unfortunately, “healthy” doesn’t matter. It’s all about how you compare to their ideal. I gave up on that a long time ago as an unattainable standard that I wouldn’t be happy living in anyway.

    You are absolutely right in what you said about people thinking they know how you eat and it’s all about food. Even though I am “fat,” I actually eat extremely little junk food. My diet consists of fruits and veggies, whole grains, seafood, and good protein. And, I exercise. A lot. And guess what? Still fat. But that’s perfectly fine, because I am loved.

  32. I stumbled upon this today, and I have to say I admire you. I admire anyone who can rant so articulately when all I tend to do with my righteous indignation is sputter. While you may be preaching to the choir, you are giving us the lyrics, so thank you.


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