When fat people try to talk about, well basically anything, online (and sometimes in person) it seems like someone always has to bust in with the trifecta of fat shaming, often with a bonus VFHT. This happened in a conversation that I was involved with on Facebook yesterday.
The conversation was about how plus size costumes are often not available at dance conventions with vendor fairs. Somebody decided that their contribution to the conversation would be to say that they hoped companies did not make revealing costumes for fat dancers because “some things shouldn’t be seen.” Roughly a million people responded to let the person know that their fat shaming “Its not you it’s me mistake”making bullshit was not welcome.
Someone else jumped in to suggest that it’s not about aesthetics, it’s about health. It was pointed out that size and health aren’t the same thing and that, even if they were, the idea that someone’s current state of health should dictate whether or not they can wear revealing clothes (and/or the idea that it promotes obesity, or creates unhealthy role models) is completely ridiculous.
They then went for the trifecta, pivoting to a hand-wringing “won’t somebody think of the fat children” argument. When that was shut down they finally shifted to the VFHT -The Vague Future Health Threat. It sounds like this “Well, you may be healthy now, but it will catch up to you someday” (“it” here having the meaning of “being fat.”)
So for those playing the home game, we went “blatant sizeism and fat shaming” to “using healthism to justify blatant sizeism and health shaming” to “using a bullshit won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children argument to justify blatant sizeism and fat shaming” to “trust me I’m psychic.”
For fat shamers the VFHT seems to be their ultimate trump card because, basically, they are claiming to be able to predict the future, and who can argue with that?
I can. I find this to be paternalist, ignorant, unsupported, and annoying for the following reasons:
1. The psychic friends network went out of business for a reason. If we take a step back we soon realize that this whole mess is based on us believing that this person can predict the future of every fat person.
2. This seems to be designed to make sure that fat people never ever believe they’ve done “enough” for their health or healthcare which is neither helpful, nor evidence-based.
3. Everyone is going to die. There is a 100% chance. I just happen to live in a culture where if I die because a runaway truck drops 30,000 pounds of bananas on me – someone will blame it on my fat. That doesn’t make it true.
4. What if I changed the rules of the lottery so that if you lost, you had to pay the lottery money as a penalty? Now not only is your chance of winning almost non-existent, but there is a near 100% chance that you’ll end up with LESS money than you had after you bought the ticket. Would you play? Now imagine that this isn’t your money we’re talking about – it’s your long term health. These are the odds that we play when we diet.
The person VFHTing me is asking that I do something they can’t prove is possible, for a reason they can’t prove is valid, with a very high percentage that I’ll end up less healthy at the end. I’ll pass. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that health isn’t an obligation, a barometer of worthiness,or entirely within our control regardless of our size.
So what do you say to the VFHT?
Here are some possible responses broken down by category.
Quick and simple:
- Please don’t make wild guesses about my health.
- My health is not your business. (If, at this point, they bring up tax payer dollars or health care costs, I ask them for an itemized list of things for which their local, state, and federal taxes pay, or health problems that people develop for which causation cannot be proven; broken down into categories of things they are happy to pay for, and things they don’t want to pay for. If they don’t happen to have that list on hand, I let them know that I’ll be happy to discuss it once they do.)
- I don’t know of a single statistically significant, properly controlled scientific study that supports that statement. So, either cite your research or I’m going to assume that I know more about this than you do and you are just talking without actually knowing what you’re talking about. (Or “talking out of your ass”, depending on my mood).
- You have no way to know that. Cite your research or I will assume that you are putting my health at risk by talking about things for which you have no actual knowledge or qualifications.
The pointed response (feel free to mix and match questions/responses with boundary statements)
- How dare you make assumptions about my health? You may not discuss my health with me.
- I find you completely unqualified to make that statement. Please keep your opinions about my health to yourself.
- My health is not your business and you are not allowed to comment on it.
- You will immediately stop making guesses and assumptions about my future health or this conversation is over.
The snarky responses:
- I had no idea you could predict the future! If you give me tomorrow’s lottery numbers I‘ll split the money with you.
- I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal – thank god you told me or I might have died someday.
To put it quite simply, the VFHT is BS.
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