It’s Not Even About My Fat

conflictEver 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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Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 11:55 am  Comments (60)  

60 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. God almighty. How do these people lives with themselves?

    • They can’t, hence the issues. It’s pitiful.

      • From my interactions with fitspo people, they are the definition of a toxic person. They will hurt anyone who gets in their way.

        One person cyberstalked and harrassed me on Tumblr, taking sadistic pleasure in making me feel terrified by collecting posts I made when I had a mood disorder as proof I was a bully. All because I stood up to fitspo people. It’s as if they think on a primal level, that they must take down anyone who criticizes them to survive.

        My pity is with the people who have to interact with these monsters. They lack empathy, except for those who are a part of their fitness tribe. They are abusive, and they hate fat people, because unlike them they aren’t emotional vampires. Fitspo people feed on the happiness of fat people, to fill their desire for food. I’m sure you can understand I have no tolerance for any excuses for their toxic behavior. I don’t like feeling like I hate people, but with the seemingly unending amount of emotional abuse fitspo types push on fat people, they make it very hard to like them.

        • I think it’s that Jillian Michaels aggressiveness that teaches them to do that. Obese folks *DESERVE* to be shouted at, threatened, and bullied. Her aggressiveness is toxic and has unleashed the toxicity of many others because they see her getting praised for it. It’s sick.

  2. You’re a few pounds shy of this guy who ran it:
    http://www.worldrecordacademy.com/sports/heaviest_person_to_complete_a_marathon_Kelly_Gneiting_sets_world_record_112164.html.

    Then there’s this: http://completerunning.com/archives/2007/10/11/chicago-marathon-defending-slow-fat-poorly-trained-runners/.

    How many people sent you hate mail over the marathon?

    • Thanks! Kelly is definitely one of my heroes and, despite an off-putting title, the article about the Chicago Marathon was good, thanks for passing them along. I got a few hundred hate mail e-mails about the marathon and some of them let me know that there are entire forums online dedicated to discussing me including the marathon but I haven’t checked them out.

      ~Ragen

      • I guess you’ve made it if fitpo forums are discussing your desire to marathon! These people need to get a life…And don’t go read any of their crap!

  3. This is a very thoughtful and gentle column, Reagan, and I thank you for it. It’s nice to see t his side of you (no pun intended.)

  4. Today (and every day), I’ll be sure to walk the halls of this office building without feeling shame or guilt for existing. I will smile and claim the world as mine, feeling joy and serenity that I am alive and am part of a greater revolution. I will live my life on my terms and no one else’s. I will be my own person – fat, wonderful, intelligent, amazing, and undeniable. If “they” don’t like it, I’ll give them the directions to my fat ass, the one they can kiss.😉

  5. I’m not really sure if this relates to your post today, but this is what came up in my head when I read it:

    I realized some time ago that my “best friend” in high school was really only my best friend because my presence made her feel better about herself. I, of course, was way fatter than she was. And to make things even better, she ate like there was no tomorrow (without gaining an ounce, of course) and did her best to be sure that I ate too (I gained a ton, of course). She was one of those who would laugh when the other kids made fun of me or when I fell down (which I often did because I was a nervous wreck).

    One of the problems for me was, even though I knew she really didn’t give a shit about me, I needed her so that I had at least one friend. I’m still pissed at myself (now at 50 years old) for allowing that behavior from someone who I let be in my life. We don’t speak very often anymore and I don’t miss her in the least! I really don’t think she ever understood what she was doing. The popular girls wanted her in their group – but only if she stopped being friends with me. I think she needed me as her security blanket and couldn’t deal with being with the popular girls that she didn’t feel equal to. She needed to be in a group of people where she felt superior.

    It’s really too bad that we sometimes fail to see what’s right in front of us. I was really stupid!

    Thanks Ragen for all that you do and I can’t wait to see the pics of your marathon. I’m pulling for you!!!!

    • I’m so sorry for your experience. I had a similar friend who approached me at the beginning of high school because I made her look tiny.

      By the time we were in Gr. 13 (I have always lived Fat Out Loud) she gathered the courage to tell me. She explained that while she began the friendship for visual purposes, that I had won her over with my kindness and optimism and apologized for not being a true friend.

      We do still keep in touch. But, while I am still Fat, she is still very thin and sadly, now has an epileptic brain disorder.

      People believe they can read my failure by my body type, but there are many sadder stories from those who carry their handicaps silently.

      Cheers!

    • My mother always thought that of my best friend as well. I realize now there was some truth to that. She has blossomed into a lovely woman who is now a first-time mother. I hope she will think of those things as she raises her daughter.

  6. I recently attended a week long art seminar, and planned to blog about it. I spoke to the town’s tourism rep who was taking photos about using some of her photos on my post. Well, I was there for a week, in classes with only 8 people, and there is no photographic evidence I was there. I guess only invisible fat people are good for tourism. Not sure I care to blog about it anymore- I might not have even used photos of me, but it’s just a little disheartening that my existence can’t even be acknowledged.

    • That happened to me. I worked for a company for some years and pictures of what happened at our various events would go into the media. I was the only person who never appeared. Ever. Invisible Me. The year I lost weight, my picture was front and centre.

      • Happened to me, too. Our company was invited to be on the Phil Donahue show. On TV. Everyone in the company. But me. It was a very small company.

        • It was sad, because I was really excited about the whole thing and it felt like a slap in the face. Plus my average sized friend was definitely the star of the show.

          • Ever go to a close family member’s wedding to find that there are very few pics of you if any that the strolling photographer has taken, only the thin and purdy ones tend to show up for some reason hmmmm….

    • How about blogging about spending a week doing something awesome and interesting only to find you weren’t considered ‘good’ enough to be in a single damn picture of the event?

      Just a thought.

      • I like that idea, Twistie. Why should we be silent when we’re treated like that. Oh hell no!!!!!!

        • I’ve considered it, but I am an infant on the activism front, and not sure I am up to it yt.

          • Remember that no one else has to see it until you’re ready for them to.

    • Crap I’m going to blog about this nonsense! How truly wrong! It especially fries me because I bet you paid a chunk of change to attend a week long art seminar. They don’t come cheap! I am spitting mad for you!

      • Thank you. I did learn a ton and had a good time while I was there, I noticed after the fact that I was the invisible student.

  7. You know…I heard something the other day, that reminds me of this, but also gives me a new perspective on any kind of hate. Fat Hate, This Hate, Just hate of what is different.
    My fiance was telling me a story from his youth. He was made fun of CONSTANTLY from the cradle until he graduated college. I could never figure out why.
    He has curly hair, can get freckles, has green eyes, is an average build. He can muscle up, but he can also get a little bit of a Belly. He is a little short for a guy at 5’5, but that’s all nothing bad. He is quite handsome, but yet, he was made fun of, he told me, for EVERYTHING.
    The hair and freckles, ok Kids are cruel, but the Eyes? I asked how? He told me a few ways, and it was stupid juvenile stuff, then he told me something else they made fun of and I was beside myself.
    Biology was kind to him, as it is to some people for many different reasons that some would consider a plus, some a negative. He was very well endowed, and no matter which way, or how he tried to..*ahem* position himself, there was always a bit of a bulge that was noticeable.
    He was made fun of…for that..
    I just looked at him and was like “What? How? and Why?”
    He said he didn’t know. But that people would go out of their way to find SOMETHING about him to make fun of, even something that is a nice positive attribute.

    SO Ragen, you run that Marathon like a Boss, and the person that sent you that e-mail? They are looking for a way to bring you down because they aren’t getting off their ass and running a marathon. And what would it mean for “thin” or “seemingly fit” people if you, a Fit Fat Athlete runs a marathon, and they don’t?
    When my Sweety told me his story, I realized something new about hate.
    It is nondiscriminatory, if people want to hate, they will find SOMETHING to hate, and they will say stupid things, and hurtful things in order to take you down.
    But you won’t be taken down, you never will. You may slip a little as we all do when we get new hate that is taken to another level. But we will never fall.
    My Mom is a Marathon Runner, so I know what you are training for, and I wish you the best of luck, and can’t wait to see pics of you crossing the finish line.
    and the statement “haters gonna hate” could never be truer. But as long as we acknowledge that and know that it CAN’T hurt us or destroy us, then we can stand tall😉

    • *** stands and applauds the wisdom in the above comment – and the post***

      • Thanks. And I hope we all can take this that I learned, and use it! Fight Hate with Pride in one’s self!

    • This. So much this.

    • Brava!!

    • Wow. Your poor man.😦

      At least he came through alright.

      • Yeah. I mean all he was teased about I find a GREAT Plus. LOL!
        He is very hansom, and he makes me laugh. I Loved him from the inside out. I Fell in love with his personality. It never mattered to me what he looked like. The fact that he IS hansom is just icing on an already perfect cake🙂
        The well endowed thing..well that’s just extra sprinkles when you aren’t expecting it. He hides it well. As I am sure all of us have tried to hide our fat in the past when we have felt the need. It is interesting the dichotomy of being Fat with other things that can be socially stigmatized. I mean, basically as I said, if someone’s intention is to be mean, they will make fun of EVERYTHING.
        Sadly he was bullied and very badly abused as an adolescent, so he is in trauma therapy. But he is holding strong and facing his demons. This was why I shared it because it is something non fat related but given just as much hate and venom as we get.
        But now he knows he is loved, he is beautiful, and he is wanted for who he is. There is no greater gift❤

  8. Nothing enrages fat bashers more than fat people who are happy. “What do you mean, you have a loving marriage, great kids, and a job you enjoy? But…but…you’re fat!” Yes I am, and I have no plans to change. The fact that it infuriates and baffles the haters is just a bonus. Though I do have to remind myself that they are to be pitied, living well really is the best revenge.

    • It truly is.

    • It also makes fat haters fun to troll. Apparently from my results I’m quite skilled at it.

  9. Although I try to shield myself from negativity about fat (never reading comments to obesity articles, etc), I live in this society and therefore am barraged with it anyway. The sheer level of viciousness that fat incites in some people quite literally takes my breath away. I have such a hard time wrapping my head around it, because seriously, why can’t people just let other people live their lives however they want to? You’re not hurting anyone by running a marathon, or rocking a fatkini, or eating an ice cream cone in public.

    I think I’ve said it before, but I will happily say it again…Ragen, you are one of my heroes. Your work has inspired me to just be my fat self wherever I want to be, without trying to shroud myself in layers of clothing. I bought TWO sleeveless dresses this summer and walked around a cruise ship for a week in my swimsuit with no cover-up. I didn’t feel the need to justify myself or apologize for living my best life in the body that I have. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    • WOOOOOT!!!! Lori, that is FABULOUS. I am so glad you did.🙂

    • Last year I decided that I wouldn’t cover up so much in winter (cover up here means sleeved tshirts). Most of my shirts have mysteriously become tank tops that I’ve bought over the years, and they are made with softer fabric, so I wore all that during this winter, even though it can get down to -30C.

  10. I love the argument that you should not do a Marathon, since you need to lose weight. Basically you need to lose weight before you decide to publicly work your ass off. That’s essentially the stupid stigma around being plus sized. Good for you, best wishes, ignore the morons.

  11. I spent a lot of time in grade school and junior high being (sometimes quite literally) the school punching bag. I was teased, I was mocked, my things were stolen from me and tossed in toilets, and I was actually assaulted on multiple occasions.

    For a long time, I tried and tried to find a way to be invisible, to fit in, to do what I thought they wanted of me.

    But you know what? That never solved anything. It only told my tormentors that they could bend me to their whim.

    Then one day I woke up and said enough. Screw them all sideways with something sharp and rusty!

    I realized I was spending all my time trying to beg them not to hurt me anymore, and you cannot beg on your knees for your right to stand on your own two feet. I stopped asking permission to be me. I stopped trying to be what they claimed they wanted me to be (it couldn’t be what they actually wanted, because on the rare occasions when I could and did fit in, they still found fault and still smacked me around).

    Did the crap stop? No, actually. I still got people treating me like shit, up to and including actual physical assault.

    What changed immediately was that I refused to allow them access to my head and heart. I decided I was going to do what I damn well pleased no matter what, and if someone else had a problem with it, that was their damn problem, not mine.

    The crap continued, albeit in a slightly less extreme degree, for another year or so until I got to high school where most of the people who had been making my life miserable since the second grade suddenly found themselves on the low end socially and were too busy dealing with their own tormentors to be one to me. At that point I got lucky. Nobody decided I needed beating up anymore. A lot fewer people had time to hurl insults at me. Oh, and since I was the star of the school drama program and in the a capella chorus, I actually developed a (very small) cool factor.

    Isn’t that ironic?

    The point is the same as Regan’s: I gotta be me. You gotta be you. Haters gonna hate and you cannot change their choice for them. But you can live your own life in your own way on your own terms without asking their permission.

    Like they say in Kentucky Fried Movie, you only go around six or seven times in life, so you need to reach for all the gusto you can!

    • Twistie, I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story and your epiphany.

      • “Kentucky Fried Movie” is absolutely one of my fave movies of all-time!! I’m so glad someone else loves it!

        I could use some time with Big Jim Slade…hehehe…

  12. The phrase “If i go down, you go down” comes to mind. Some people who are drowning in their own misery can’t stand to see other people especially if they’re fat (cause to many, fat people shouldn’t love themselves; and society says they have to hide at home) be happy and enjoy life, so therefore spew their hate in hopes of pulling them down with them. It’s sickening that in order to feel “superior” people pin their own insecurities and self hate on others instead of trying to become a better person.

    • This! My mother is one of those hater/complainer types. I used miles once to get her upgraded to first class and she had to complain about it, hate on the snooty people she was stuck sitting with. Seriously?

      She hates on her granddaughters for being too skinny, me for being too fat. My sister is too controlling because she is well organized. I’m lamented for being materialistic because I care for my property and will save up for the nicer item (for the primary reason of it being more durable) rather than buy the discounted item.

      She can rant and rant and rant and rant. But if you dare to call her ont it, YOU are the meanie tromping on her feelings.

      There is a reason I do not see her except for at functions where it is impossible not to do so. I cannot fix her hatred of herself and others.

      • Is your mom’s name Jean? Because I’m pretty sure we have the same mom. May God be with you and help you endure her type of “love”. I get by knowing my dad was a loving person and knew the value of people by spirit and not by physical body.

  13. Ragen, I am just shocked that someone would actually sit down and write that. No one should have to hear that from another’s mouth (or fingers). It’s deplorable–wishing death on someone else, actually coming out and saying, “I hope you drop dead because you don’t deserve to live based on how you look…”?

    I’m too stunned even to swear or condemn that. How deeply can a hatred run if someone actually utters those words? It reminds me of racism–telling someone they should be killed because they’re black or Latino or whatever it is. We don’t need a Devil…the evil in the hearts of people is more than enough.

    I really, really feel sick now.

    • Yes.

    • I’m with Yorkie here. To even have the time to comment like that is saying something about that person’s life. It’s a sad sad world we live in…

  14. I just entered the Spartan Sprint. I asked several people to come with me. The biggest response I have gotten back is “I am fat” so they won’t be doing it. I responded back to them ” I am the oldest and fattest of the group but it is not stopping me, why should it stop you?” I am doing this because I have been shamed into fear of doing the things that everyone else does. I am not living that fear and shame anymore.

  15. I think that hater is jealous because YOU (impossible! You’re FAT!) are running a marathon, and HE (THIN! FIT!) is not running a marathon.

    Really, are there any people who actually DO run marathons chiding you for training for it? I can’t imagine that they are, because they know just how hard it is to do, and so they would have to respect anyone else who is also training hard.

    These people hating on you for exercising while fat, and then telling you to lose weight (how? Via diet and exercise, of course), have something wrong with the logic centers of their brains.

    I’m so sorry you have to put up with those haters. Good luck monetizing it, though! Love your site!

  16. I just want to cry. I guess I’m just weak today, but what the hell is wrong with people? I’m so sorry. You are a hero of mine. It just isn’t right and I am having such a hard time accepting that there are people treating you this way.

  17. As much as I like to think that living fat and proud has changed people’s minds, I think it has probably only silenced them. But, I’ll take it. I am certain that people at work, members of my family and friends outside of the size movement, all have choice comments about my size. But, they know enough not to articulate them in range of my hearing. As I saidl, I’ll take it. If I do make some shy fat person feel better, I too would be thrilled. So, I know what you are saying Ragan.

  18. But if you genuinely can’t be over 300lbs and act like that doesn’t matter, whatever that might mean, then why do they need to hope for anything at all to happen to you? If the way you’re living your life is impossible then surely you’ll just stop existing of your own accord really soon, right?
    It is so very frustrating to watch people beat themselves up trying to fit society’s notion of acceptable and then turn around and see you being yourself and not engaging in all that self hatred and instead of being angry at society for imposing ridiculous and unnecessary standards they’ve put themselves through so much to try and meet, they’re angry at you for being living proof nobody ever needed to pay any attention to those standards. Not that they then stop paying attention. They just try to make you not exist instead.
    Have recently had a horrible falling out with a family member who is engaging in this in a very self-destructive way and eventually I’ve just had to walk away at least for now. I’m just way too tired of all the carefully-targeted personal attacks to try and provoke some reaction she can use against me. I feel bad because she’s in a mess I don’t know if she can recover from, but she seems to be trying to hang her self-esteem on all the ways she can prove she’s better than I am and I think maybe I’m just not a good presence in her life anyway if I bother her so much by not being miserable. I have no plans to become miserable, as I very much doubt it’ll make her feel better anyway in the long run. It’s just, she spent far more of her life being fat than I have and she’s clever and I don’t know why she hasn’t figured things out yet.

    • It’s so sad that your family member needs to hang her self-esteem on proving she’s better than you. But major kudos to you for distancing yourself from her and continuing to be anything but miserable in your life. You keep living for you, and hopefully she will learn that she is responsible for her own happiness and self-worth.

      • I feel more than a bit angry at the people in her life who encouraged this idea that we’re all in some big competition and that happiness must always come at the expense of someone else’s misery. It all seems very divide and conquer to me. And it has divided us, sadly.

        • Oh yes! Those who encourage this kind of thinking help create a toxic environment for all people, because it’s not just a competition to be the thinnest or prettiest but any comparison. For someone to build herself up over the misery of another is both sad and frustrating as hell.

  19. What a wonderful entry! I’m a plus size model and I still struggle with this issue even with my own family and friends at times. They are just convinced I’m wrong to be fat and they are right that we ALL need to lose weight. I continue to be fair, just, and firm in my response that what we ALL need to be is ourselves in a healthy way…whatever SIZE that may be! Love your post and congratulations on taking on a marathon!

  20. Another excellent and thoughtful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Butterfly

  21. I’m training to run a marathon and it’s a lot of hard work. No matter if you walk it or run it, or do a bit of both, 26.2 miles is a long way to go. So I wanted to wish you all the best with your training. And I wanted to also say that one thing I’ve learned through running is to never judge a book by it’s cover. I’ve had hundreds of people who are heavier than I am breeze right on by me in races. The size of a person in no way indicates what a person is capable of, and those who make assumptions based on a persons looks alone are usually 100% wrong in their stupid assumptions.


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