I’ve been thinking a lot about bullying today. I was reflecting on how Michelle Obama is simultaneously leading a National anti-bullying effort and a National war on childhood obesity, how she doesn’t see any conflict between those two things, and how that’s fucked up.
Just like it’s a problem that prescribe for fat people what we diagnose in thin people, it’s a problem that we treat (and encourage others to treat) fat people the same way that we tell them they must not treat anyone else.
We’ve talked before about how fat people are oppressed, but people often tell me that the treatment of fat people doesn’t constitute bullying so let’s break it on down. I went to wikipedia…
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power.
So, for example, when someone’s employer forces them to go to Weight Watchers in order to keep their benefits. Or when the government launches a war against citizens of a specific size. Or when a forum has a “fat hate” day and sends members to this blog to leave hundreds of comments from calling me names to threatening my life. Or when supposed “healthcare” organizations create billboards meant to shame people for their size.
Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more ‘lieutenants’ who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his bullying activities.
So when the government enlists schools, parents, television networks, doctors, the diet and beauty industries and anyone else they can get onboard, to give everyone the constant message that the goal is to eradicate people who look like me whether we want to be eradicated or not. Or when people are encouraged to police other people’s body size, eating habits etc.
“But but but it’s for your own good” they say. “It’s not bullying if it’s for your own good, and besides you can just get thin. It’s not bullying because we’ll stop once you do what we think you should”.
There’s been a lot of focus on LGBTQ kids and I think that’s a good thing. As a queer fat woman I’ve noticed some parallels between the bullying of queer people and the bulling of fat people.
Many people justify bullying people who are LGBTQ by arguing that being queer is morally wrong and that it’s an “unhealthy” lifestyle, and that we could just be straight or just fit our socially constructed gender role and biological sex if we wanted to.
Of course queer people assert that we are the best witnesses to our experience so if we say that this is who we are, then people should damn well take our word for it since, as they are not us, they do not know better than us about us.
As a bisexual woman I, somewhat unbelievably, often face bullying from other queer people who claim that there is no such thing as bisexuality and that I need to “pick one”. I find it shocking that people who are fighting to be considered the best witnesses to their experience turn around and do the Exact. Same. Thing. to other people, but it happens more often than you might think. (I once went out on a date with a woman who started in on this diatribe – you’ll have to buy me a drink to hear to whole story of the date, but I explained it to her in small words and she said “Now I’m feeling ashamed” to which I replied “that is because your behavior is shameful”. There was not a second date.) At any rate, I am the best witness to my experience and so if I say that this is who I am, people should damn well take my word for it since, as they are not me, they do not know better than me about me.
When it comes to fat people, the belief behind the bullying is that being fat is morally wrong, that it’s an “unhealthy” lifestyle, and that people can stop being fat if they want, and so they should.
As a fat person I assert that I am the best witness to my own experience so if I say that this is who I am, then people should damn well take my word for it, as they are not me, they do not know better about me.
Because of these arguments, the controversy incorrectly falls on whether or not people can stop being queer or fat. Based on the research there is almost no chance for queer people to stop being queer or for fat people to stop being fat. But that’s not why queer people and fat people (or any people) shouldn’t be bullied.
People shouldn’t be bullied because they don’t have any obligation to do what someone else thinks is morally right. People who think it’s not right to be fat and people who think it’s not right to be queer are no more damaged by fat people and queer people living their lives than people who don’t believe that eating pork is morally right are damaged when someone else eats bacon. Which is to say – not at all. Nobody is forcing them to eat bacon, but they don’t get to eradicate bacon for everyone else because of their moral beliefs.
People don’t have an obligation to do what someone else thinks is best for their health. People don’t have an obligation to do what THEY think is best for their health. The health of people who exercise regularly is not effected by people who choose not to exercise. The health of people who think that a raw food diet is the healthiest choice is not affected by those who think that paleo is the way to go. Even if fat is unhealthy, it does not affect the health of others, and anyone wishing to make a “won’t somebody think of the tax dollars” argument may mosey over here.
What is happening to fat people in this culture is bullying, period. It does not matter if people think it’s for our own good, if they think that we could be thin, or if they think that we will be healthier if we do what they think we should. Our bodies are uniquely ours and trying to force or coerce us into changing our bodies is bullying and it’s plain wrong. Any anti-bullying campaign that does not include bullying based on body size is making a major mistake.
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