Today I want to talk about an incident that shows the diversity of human behavior. Karen Huff Klein is a 68 year old bus driver who has worked for the Greece School System for 23 years. She was working as a bus monitor when, inexplicably, the kids began to bully her about her weight, income, and being a widow. Trigger warning to the end of this paragraph for horribleness: They called her a fucking fat ass, a child rapist, they threatened to hurt her, the comment she said hurt the most was “you’re so ugly your kid should kill themselves” Her son took his life 10 yr ago. I don’t even know how bad it truly got because I was unable to watch the entire video. Karen started crying but, amazingly, remained professional and got through it.
The video went up on Reddit and that’s when things got a whole lot more awesome. There was a massive outpouring of support for Karen. she received videos from all over the world (including my favorite from these Marines.) And over 5,700 strangers have rallied to Karen’s side, donating $110,000 so far to fund a vacation and maybe even an early retirement for her (you can donate here if you are so moved.) In other awesome news, the diet companies seem to have managed to restrain themselves from offering “assistance.”)
I am so happy that she has received such a unanimous outpouring of support. There is absolutely no excuse for those kid’s behavior.
I thought it was really interesting when I read that members of 4chan – a community that has been instrumental in coordinating “Fat hate days” against Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size blogs including this one – added their support. It was clarified for me when I received this e-mail [trigger warning through the end of this paragraph] “Don’t think we hate you any less. This woman isn’t on the internet telling people how she is proud to be a fucking fat ass and telling people it’s ok to be a fucking fattass and putting up videos of her fucking fatass landwhale dancing when she should hide inside and never come out. This woman deserves to be treated better than she was, you deserve to get cancer and die.” It was signed “Sincerely, 4chan”
So that answers that question – at least from the perspective of one person at 4chan. Points for having better grammar and spelling than usual, even if there was a consistency problem with “fat ass”, and even though it’s unnecessary to make up an animal since there are fat animals that live on land to which you could compare me.
What I hope people notice is that these kid’s behavior is a direct and predictable result of the War on Obesity. However well-intentioned people may be, this War tells people that they should look at fat people as the enemy. First the government suggests that we have a war on people based on how they look and that, as a country, our goal should be to eradicate these people whether they like it or not. “Researchers” then take the assumption that fat people are bad and run off with a basket of confirmation bias to figure out how to prove it – what can we be blamed for? How can they make us look expensive? HBO creates a documentary explaining how expensive obese people are based on the researchers biased conclusions. Public and private interests are encouraged spread the stereotype that fat people are gluttons who take more than our share. Everyone including and especially healthcare professionals (and celebrity barely-doctors) spreads the idea (which is refuted by all the evidence that exists) that everyone can be thin and those who aren’t thin just aren’t trying because we’re too busy being gluttonous, drains on society.
This conditioning makes people think that it’s ok to attempt to eradicate a group of people based on how we look, because now they believe that we’re costing them money because we’re too lazy to look a different way. The media reports all of it like it’s fact, always accompanied by a picture of a fat person with no head so that we are further dehumanized. People are conditioned to see us as our weight, and to see our weight as a direct threat to them.
That’s how we become the enemy. If you look at the actual evidence you’ll find that this is not based on fact or even strong suggestion – it’s nothing more than a very effective propaganda campaign. Those studies that seek to calculate our cost, the comments about fat people being too expensive… that’s gateway bullying. It’s stereotyping and bigotry that people find a way to “justify” in their heads. Once they justify that, it’s just not that far to mooing at a fat person from their car or making a hateful comment on the internet, and then you’re ganging up on someone making fun of the tears you caused.
Imagine if all the people who supported Karen also supported an end to the war on obesity? It makes absolutely no sense to try to stereotype, shame, bully, and oppress people into better health. Neither being treated like a second class citizen nor self loathing is the first step to greater wellness. In face plenty of research shows that it’s just the opposite.
Those who are interested in public health can focus time, money and attention on access instead of individuals – making sure that everyone has access to the foods they choose, safe movement options that they enjoy, true information, and affordable, evidence-based healthcare. Then everybody gets to make choices for themselves and nobody has to be scared to ride the bus.
Two Blog Projects!
First: Remember the awesome “Thank You Hater” video? Well I e-mailed Isabel Fay and Humble Pie and they are awesome enough to have given me permission to use it. So, if you’ve been the victim of fat hate and want to be involved, you can make a video like the ones that start at 1:56. (You don’t need any of the background, just the raw video and please – short and sweet and in the same style shown on the video) and e-mail it to me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org. It will probably be part of the first cabaret show in LA (auditions for the cabaret company are scheduled by the way) and then go up as part of a YouTube video.
Second: If you provide a product or service for people of size, I would like to talk to you about it so e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and I’ll tell you what super secret cool thing I have going on (nobody panic, it’s not blog ads or anything like that!)
Pre-ordering is almost over! Pre-order my book now to get an autographed copy and free shipping!
Become a Member, Support The Work!
I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a one-time contribution. The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen