Ever since I posted about doing a marathon I’ve been getting tons of hate mail. I got an e-mail that said “A part of me sincerely hopes you die doing that marathon so that others will see you can’t be over 300lbs and act like it doesn’t matter, you need to lose weight!”
This illustrates something that people who fat bash for fun, profit, or pleasure often try to disguise behind claims that it’s “because of our health” or “for our own good.” A lot of fat bashing has almost nothing to do with us being fat per se.
For starters, let me take a shot at re-wording this person’s comment: “A part of me sincerely hopes you die doing something that you like to do, so that other fat people don’t get the idea that they can do things that they like to do, as if the shame and stigma that I want to heap upon all of you doesn’t matter. You need to hate yourself like I want you to and do what I say!”
A lot of this type of fat hate is about insecure people who have put all of their self-esteem eggs in the thin basket, people whose only method of feeling good about themselves is to try to find someone who they are “better than.” For many people, that’s fat people. If fat people don’t play along by hating ourselves and valuing these people’s bodies above our bodies, then it can lead to an angry response.
A lot of the social stigma that fat people face can serve to make us second class citizens – clothing stores use our purposeful exclusion as a marketing strategy, hospitals don’t bother to purchase equipment that will help keep us alive, the government is actively encouraging our employers, friends, and families to stereotype us based on how we look.
When we refuse to bow to this and we live the lives we want to live – doing a marathon, wearing a fatkini, going to see that band we like, eating at the new restaurant- or engage in activism to make the world better for us, this can be seen as “rising above our station”. There are people who count on fat people trying to solve social stigma by changing ourselves. When we decide to solve social stigma by ending social stigma, the people who profit – monetarily and/or emotionally – from our attempt to change ourselves can start to get antsy. Or completely panicked and pissed off.
There are people for whom conforming to societal norms by getting as close as possible to the stereotype of beauty is incredibly important, and something at which they throw a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money. People are absolutely allowed to do that. It goes wrong when these people start to resent and become angry with those of us who make different choices.
I think that one of the most powerful types of activism fat people can do is live our lives unapologetically. In the world we live in, waking up and not hating ourselves is activism. So going to that show, or wearing the awesome sweater we crocheted, entering a 5k, getting a scooter and going to Vegas, or whatever we do that isn’t hating our bodies – are acts of revolution. Every single time a fat person refuses to be silenced, hidden, kept away, or kept out of an activity it is a revolutionary act.
There are many fat people who are afraid to do the things that they want to do and that’s totally ok and understandable. Outside of not trying to take away people’s civil rights, I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live. As I have said before, if someone reads my work and realizes that fat people deserve to be treated with respect that’s great, but the goal of most of my work is to suggest/remind fat people that we deserve to be treated with respect.
I don’t do things to inspire people (that’s way too much pressure) I do thing that I like to do. So I don’t care if I ever “inspire” anyone to do a marathon, but if my doing a marathon, or wearing a bikini, or stubbornly refusing to hate myself, helps another fat person go to bingo, or join a quilting circle, or go read a book in the park, or do anything that they want to do, then I’ll be thrilled.
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