If you’ve not heard by now, someone on the subway in London was giving out fat shaming cards to women and then, like the cowards these people always seem to be, running away off the train.
The cards said that they were made by a group called “Overweight Haters Ltd.” When the story first broke there was nothing online about the group and then, predictably, a member of a reddit fat-shaming group claimed responsibility. Of course there’s no way to know if they really are the person who did it since those groups aren’t exactly chock full of honest, high-integrity people. Police are investigating and have asked that other victims come forward.
Today I’m not going to talk about the fact that this is the predictable consequence of governments waging war on fat people, though it is. I’m not going to talk about the fact that it’s the natural next step to the cyberbullying that fat people face (and that those of us who speak out against it get told is “no big deal”) I’m not going to talk about the likelihood that this will spiral into violence since many of us are all too horrifyingly aware of the ways that cyberbullying and cyberstalking turn into in-person bullying and in-person stalking.
What I want to talk about today is what fat people can do, knowing that we live in a world where disturbed people do this kind of thing to us. (Just to make sure it’s clear, although I think that there’s obviously something wrong with people who would join a group dedicated to hating fat people, or pass out fat shaming cards on the subway, I would caution against the common mistake of calling them mentally ill. People who deal with mental illness also deal with a tremendous amount of stigma and oppression, and symptoms almost never include appearance-based bullying and harassment.)
Before I get into what we can do, I also want to be super clear that this is not fat people’s fault, even if it becomes fat people’s problem. and the idea that we should lose weight to stop fat shaming (basically giving our bullies our lunch money and hoping they stop beating us up) is total bullshit. We shouldn’t be talking about this because people shouldn’t harass us online and terrorize us on subways. Each of us gets to deal with this in whatever way we want and any choice – including doing nothing and just trying to get through the day, is a totally valid choice.
Put the Problem Where it Belongs
Fat bodies are NOT the problem. Fat people existing in public spaces are NOT the problem. Fat people wearing clothing that other people don’t approve of are NOT the problem. Fat people accessing healthcare are NOT the problem. Fat shaming IS the problem. Fat shamers ARE the problem. So whether you feel anger, pity, both, or something else toward these people, it’s important to remember that they are the only people in these situations who are doing anything to be ashamed of.
For me, the most important thing is to keep living my life, even though I know that it will result in continued (and possibly escalating) attempts at cyberbullying and harassment. There’s an old adage that “happiness is the best revenge” and for me it’s also the best response to fat hate. Let them spend their lives yammering endlessly in their sad little online playgroups, writing about us, blogging about us, being pissed off and miserable and obsessed with us, while we live happy lives. I’m working to stop fat hate, but in the meantime I’m stopping it from ruining my life.
Name and Shame
Call out the bad behavior. Take their picture, post it on Facebook, or a Tumblr like Smile, Sizeist Report them to whatever authorities you can – including their boss (who might love to know that they are spending their work hours cyberbullying people) and their mama. Yell “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS JERK JUST TRIED TO FAT SHAME ME?!!” (Obviously please keep your own safety in mind)
Be Excellent to Each Other
Post fat positive things in your online spaces. Make your online and real-life spaces fat positive. Support fat people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as a fellow fatty or in solidarity) Speak out for affirmation of the full diversity of body sizes. Navabi Fashion is doing something super cool. It turns out that the genius behind the fat shaming subway cards failed to register the domain name and so navabi fashion registered it and created what I think is a really cool response.
If you have other ideas I would love for you to leave them in the comments! Regardless, I’m sorry we live in a world where this kind of bullshit happens, and I’m committed to continuing my work until every fat person knows that they don’t deserve this, that they aren’t the problem, and that – no matter why they are fat, what being fat means, or if they could become less fat or not fat – fat people have the right to exist, and be happy, and thrive, in the bodies that they have now without being shamed, bullied, harassed, or oppressed on the subway or anywhere else.
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