I did my first training walk so it turns out the rumors are true, I’m going to do another marathon. I’ve already contacted Kel, who is going to do it with me because he is the best Best Friend ever, and “Team Never Again” is now team “Just One More.” Los Angeles Marathon 2015 here we come! Cross finish line, get medal, that’s still the goal.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is the idea of support, especially as it applies to the way that strangers say things that they think are supportive to fat people that are actually examples of preconceived notions gone wild. Recently this style of “inspiration” was brought into sharp relief in a Facebook post the someone wrote after watching a fat runner. The post, like so much of this “inspiration” is based on the writer heaping their preconceived notions on the fat person and then applauding them for rising above preconceived notions that may not, in any way, actually apply to them.
I wrote about it for iVillage, and I want to reiterate that all fat people, whether we run or not, have the right to exist in the world without bullying, stereotyping or stigma. The rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and basic respect are not size- or habit- dependent. Fat people should not have to “earn” the right to live in the world without condescension, we should not have to run to “earn” basic human respect. And that’s the major issue here.
I was thinking about this today and specifically the Facebook poster’s assertion that the runner’s gaze drops to their feet “every time we pass” and “If you’d only look up from your feet the next time we pass, you’d see my gaze has no condescension in it.” This person feels really comfortable making the assumption that the runner is not making eye contact because they are scared of condescension. It made me wonder about the Facebook post the runner might have written when she got home, maybe something like this:
Wasn’t feeling well today so I had to take a lot of rests but I made it through my run! This creepy guy kept starting at me the whole time, I tried not to make eye contact because I didn’t want to encourage it. Dude, I know I’m hot but it’s not cool to just stare me while I’m trying to get my workout in, pay attention to your own run. Freaking creeper.
I am aware that expressing the fact that I don’t enjoy being an “inspiration” for rising above someone’s preconceived notions (that have nothing to do with me), and pointing out ways that this is problematic, will lead to people accusing me of being ungrateful, too sensitive, too PC, and suggesting that I should just be happy that they didn’t throw eggs at me. Fuck a bunch of that.
It’s not ok to celebrate being “inspired” by someone we know absolutely nothing about because they are “rising above” our preconceived notions and stereotypes of them. This serves to reinforce the idea that it’s totally fine to stereotype people based on how they look, and it further oppresses those who aren’t somehow “rising above” those stereotypes – which they have absolutely no obligation to do. It adds to appearance-based oppression and that’s not ok. It’s fine if other people aren’t bothered by this, and obviously nobody is obligated to take offense or speak out about this, but to me that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is problematic on more than just an individual level, but at a societal level as well.
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