I am a fit fat person. When people find out about this they will typically do one of three things.
1. Deny what is right in front of them. I was being discussed in a fat hate forum and someone posted one of my dance videos. Another person on the forum said – “She’s definitely a fattass [sic] but I think it’s probably difficult to spin that fast that many times in a row.” Not even able to accept this half and half compliment/insult someone replied “If she’s doing it, it can’t be hard”. I have to admire their consistency and willingness to stick by a belief that is obviously wrong. Wait…no I don’t. Bite me.
2. Acknowledge that they’ve been stereotyping and re-evaluate their world view. Ding! Ding! Ding! This is the right answer. Although we would also have accepted minding your own damn business and keeping your judgments and stereotypes to yourself.
3. Try to find a way to deal with my existence while hanging onto their stereotype. This is the one I want to talk about today.
I like to call this Leprechaun Syndrome (there are actual psychological terms for this but I just finished a 13 hour drive so we’re going with Leprechaun Syndrome – just roll with it). It’s as if they’ve seen a creature that they previously thought was mythical. They can accept that this one Leprechaun exists and maybe a couple more, but that’s definitely it – they are right about all the rest of them not being real. It sounds something like this “Maybe you are fit and fat, but you are the exception – most fat people are lazy slobs who don’t exercise…blah blah blah”.
Allow me to translate “I can’t deny your existence, but I don’t want to question my stereotypes because I like them. So I choose to believe that you are a rare exception to the fatties who I will continue to stereotype, judge and shame because I so enjoy it (or because I just accept other people’s stereotypes without question, or because it makes me feel better about myself…whatever).”
First of all, you have no idea what “most fat people” do, you are making that up in your head. There are a bunch of active fat people – we are not mythical creatures. we don’t all have pet unicorns that poop rainbows on our lawns. We’re just active fatties.
If you’re confused about this I understand. When I first found out that I was “Type 3 – Super Obese” according to the BMI chart, I eagerly checked my mail everyday for a month waiting for my cape and secret identity to arrive. That never happened – it turns out that I’m just fat. And it turns out that fat (even “Super Obese” is just a body size and not conformity to a list of negative stereotypes, or a lack of kinesthetic awareness, proprioception, or general athleticism. My body is big, so by looking at me you can tell that…wait for it… my body is big. The only other thing that you can ascertain is what your judgments and stereotypes about people my size are – but that’s for you to deal with. I’m still thinking about making that cape and wondering if I could rock Clark Kent glasses…
If I’m an exception it has much less to do with my body size and much more to do with my ability to persevere in being active despite all of the negative messages that I’m constantly given about my body – that I am obviously lazy and un-athletic, that the same people who insist that I should exercise to lose weight then claim that they don’t want to see me work out. Then there’s the guessing – I was visiting my mom last week and so I worked out at a gym in her town and took a “dance fit” class. The front desk attendant showed me to the workout room and then said “Be sure to tell the teacher that you are new to exercise so that he can help you modify.” “What would make you think that I’m new to exercise?” I asked? She gave me a perplexed look and then gestured to my body. “So,” I said, slightly raising my voice, “We’re just looking at people and making guesses now – you couldn’t have asked me a question?” She just said “Have a good workout” as she speedwalked away. Now, I got my revenge at the end of class when students came up to compliment me and one of them jokingly asked for my autograph. But that doesn’t take away from how unbelievably frustrating it is to still have people assume that I’m new to exercise when I’ve been doing it consistently since I was in the 4th grade, or to have people “encourage” that if I stick to it I’ll “definitely lose that weight”, or to have some idiot in a coffee shop tell me that my size makes it too dangerous to dance. Even from a purely practical standpoint, it’s next to impossible for me to get affordable decent workout clothes in my size. If I’m an exception it’s because I’m willing to play against a stacked deck, not because I can haul my fat ass around the dance floor – plenty of fatties can do that and plenty more could if given a chance to enjoy it without fear of being shamed or ridiculed.
Most of the thin people I know struggle to fit movement into their busy schedules. Imagine having to do that while buried under a constant stream of negativity. It may well be a miracle that fat people are choosing to be active but it has nothing to do with our fat and everything to do with the social stigma that gets lobbed at us from every side all the time. And we know that weight loss is not the cure for social stigma. Ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.
While I invite people to rethink their stereotypes about active fat people, as usual I’m much less concerned about what other people think of fat people being active and much more concerned with what fat people think about fat people being active. If you want to do more movement or be more active, then find a way – over, under, around, or through the completely whackadoodle criticisms and stereotypes that you SHOULD NOT have to deal with. If you want to be an active fatty but you let these idiots stop you from enjoying moving your body, you are the only one who is missing out. Dance in your living room, get a group of friends together to dance in your living room or go for a swim or do yoga or take a walk – whatever you want to do. Check out Jeanette DePatie, Abby Lentz, Anna Guest-Jelley, Kelly Bliss, and Tiina Veer. ( By the way, I’m still looking for music for my online dance classe sso if you know of a singer/songwriter, band etc. who has the rights to their music and would like them used for my classes pretty please send them my way ragen at dances with fat dot org).
When it comes to moving our bodies, judgmental morons only have as much power over us as we give them. These people are like evil Tinkerbells – instead of needing applause to live, they need our pain and our shame. I say we stop giving it to them, taking our happy fat asses out for whatever movement that we enjoy, and see what happens. Bees die without their stingers, maybe judgmental assholes (or at least their judgments) do too. I’m willing to find out.
EDIT: Sometimes people read my work and interpret it as somehow suggesting that in order to deserve respect, or to be part of size acceptance, one must choose health or healthy habits or fitness. Of course people are allowed to choose to interpret my work as they wish and I’m not interested in telling anyone how to think. Though I have now addressed this subject very specifically a number of times, I did not always do a good job of expressing it in earlier blogs like this one. If you are wondering about my views on this subject I suggest the following post as a start:
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