Keeping fat people feeling terrible about ourselves is big business. The diet industry makes well over 60 Billion dollars a year selling a product that doesn’t work. But we aren’t just oppressed for profit. We’re also often oppressed for other people’s self-esteem, or for their sport.
It sucks but there are sad people who base their self-esteem on being better than someone, and in current society fat people are easy targets for this. There are also seriously messed up people who think it’s fun to be hurtful jackasses for sport. These are the people who jump on the chance to say something terrible about a fat person any time we become visible for any reason.
So fat people stay out of the public eye. Not because we want to necessarily, but because we don’t want to be publicly humiliated (which is a completely legitimate fear.) So we don’t run for city council, take that class, go to the gym, go for our Ph.D to become a professor, we turn down that opportunity to speak at a local organization. Again, not because we don’t want to do these things (which is a completely legitimate choice), but because we fear the junior high school teasing that we know all too well can come along with it.
This is one of the many negative outcomes of a society where we use body size as a proxy for health, and where we think it’s ok to judge people for their health. Taken separately both of those are horrible ideas but together they create a toxic society where fat and the fear of being fat chip away at self-esteem, happiness, dreams, and eventually for some, physical and mental health. This is not fat people’s fault, but it can quickly become our problem. We do have options for activism around this. It may mean discomfort, it may mean sacrifice. The thing about social change is that to create it a lot of people have to be a little brave and make a few sacrifices, some people have to be brave and make a lot of sacrifices, and a few people have to be incredibly brave and risk everything. To be clear, none of these people have to be you – nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind ever and choosing to opt out of being treated horribly by jerks is a completely valid life choice. There are lots of options for activism and one of them is in the power of choosing when to say no and when to say yes:
No, I will not allow my life choices to be limited by your ridiculous juvenile bad behavior.
No, I do not care what you think of me.
No, I am not interested in losing weight. No, I’m not interested in your thoughts about that.
No, you will not succeed at bullying me into quitting [insert activity here.]
No, you cannot live in my head rent free. Hell, you can’t live in my head even if you paid rent.
No, I will not give you the power to hurt me or limit me in any way.
No, you cannot have my lunch money any more.
Yes, I love to dance so I’ll see you in class on Saturday.
Yes, I’d love to talk about how I xeriscaped my lawn at the homeowners association meeting.
Yes, I love myself and my body and it’s awesome.
Yes, I am running for Congress, vote for me!
There is power in yes and no and the ways we choose to use them. (Feel free to put your yes and no statements in the comments!)
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