A reader alerted me to an article (trigger warning- for diet and weight loss talk) about New Jersey governor and Presidential hopeful Chris Christie that includes the phrase “Obscured by the ambition, loose-cannon personality and, frankly, the girth, is the fact that he is an exceptionally gifted and nuanced politician.”
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment, this idea that his body size “hides” his abilities is deeply problematic and speaks to the nature of fat prejudice in this country. Whether he is a great or a terrible politician, his size does not obscure that. (Not to mention that Christie did what his bullies wanted, got lap band surgery and, at least for now, has lost quite a bit of weight – and he is still being subjected to these cheap shots.)
Fat people’s talents are not obscured by our fat bodies, they are obscured by people’s prejudices, stereotypes, and preconceived notions about our bodies.
This is part of a larger issue of blaming fat bodies instead of blaming the shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression that fat people have to deal with. This is what happens when people suggest that fat people who don’t enjoy being shamed, stigmatized, bullied and oppressed try to become thin to “solve the problem”. As if the problem is that fat people exist, and not that people treat us poorly because of their own prejudices about how we look (and anyone foolish enough to make a “but they cost me tax dollars!” argument can head over to this post.)
This even gets medicalized when healthcare professionals suggest weight loss as a treatment for fat people who have depression or anxiety related to the poor treatment they receive from society, or in any way suggest that fat people should solve social stigma through weight loss.
We can see examples of this almost every day and for me it’s really important to notice when this is happening and put the problem where it belongs, which is on the poor treatment that I receive, and not on my body. So when you hear or see something that suggests that fat people’s bodies are the problem, you can substitute a phrase like “because of prejudice.”
So, for example: “Obscured by the ambition, loose-cannon personality and, frankly, people’s prejudice about his size, is the fact that he is an exceptionally gifted and nuanced politician.”
Here are a few more:
Wrong: Her size caused issues in their relationship.
Corrected: Her friend’s prejudice about her size caused issues in their relationship.
Wrong: One of the problems caused by obesity is bullying.
Corrected: One of the problems caused by weight-based stigma is bullying.
Wrong: She didn’t get the job because of her weight.
Corrected: She didn’t get the job because of the weight bigotry of the hiring committee.
If you have some of your own feel free to leave them in the comments. Either way, putting the problem where it belongs can be a powerful way to fight size-based bigotry, stigma, bullying and oppression.
I’ll Come to You!
Schools are back in session and I’m booking talks for Spring and Fall of this year. If you want me to come to your school, business, or organization (even if you’re not sure how to get it done), just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options. If you want to bring me to your community but don’t have funding or an organizational affiliation, I can help you with that too – e-mail me and we can talk about the possibilities. See you soon!
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I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
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