Today I read a ridiculous concern trolling article written about Stacy Bias’s super fabulous Rad Fatty Merit Badges. The article title appears on Facebook as “Badges Rewarding Fat People Make Me Retch” and is a testament to concern trolling, condescension, stereotyping, fat shaming, and healthism. The author actually trots out the tired old tropes of “normalizing obesity” and its boa-wearing extra fabulous cousin “glorifying obesity,” and then says “I’m not being unkind.” Ok, let me just stop you there Chloe.
First of all, whether or not Chloe is being unkind is not her call to make. While I can see that it’s convenient to make up both sides of the conversation that’s not actually how it works. To borrow from the brilliant Deb Burgard it’s rather like stepping on someone’s foot in an elevator and then, when they point it out, refusing to move your foot and insisting that you are not stepping on them. Those of us who Chloe is concern trolling, stereotyping, and condescending to get to decide if she is being unkind. At best she could go with “I’m not trying to be unkind” in which case she missed not only the bullseye but the target and the giant hay bale on which it hangs.
I’m not as worried that the author is unkind as I am that she’s just ignorant – making assumptions about everything from behavior, to wardrobe, to thought processes based on body size, confusing body size with behavior, comparing living in a fat body to blowing cigarette smoke at someone. People are allowed to be ignorant, it’s just unfortunate when they prove it so publicly.
She also advises people “the next time you see a bigger person in the gym or trying to exercise make sure you find a way to encourage them.” Noooooo. No No No No. World of no. Galaxy of no. Universe of no. No. Do not annoy fat people who are working out because you want to get your “Save the Fatties” merit badge. Do not be that guy.
This is one of the most frustrating things to me as a fat person -that we are constantly told that we are not the best witnesses to our experience and that thin people, who are all experts on weight and better than us by virtue of their thinness, should be allowed to speak for us – telling us who we are, how we think, how we should feel, and how we should look.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that every thin person does this on purpose in the way that the author of this ridiculous article did. My point is that our fat-prejudiced society elevates the voices of thin people and devalues the voices of fat people, whether we want it to or not, including caring what thin people think about things that fat people do to deal with the oppression we experience. Fat person created fat merit badges, news outlet publishes random thin person’s rant about it. Who cares? This isn’t about her.
I think that it is vital to the fat rights movement that we stand up to people try to substitute their idea of what it’s like to be us for our actual experience, and insist that we be seen as the best witnesses to our experience – and to our reactions to fatshaming – and have our voices heard.
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