Respecting Realities

Published February 14, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our realities as fat people are so regularly questioned, doubted, or denied.  I guess the triggers have been a few things.  From the repeated “just put down the cheeseburger and get some exercise” comments on the threads stemming from the fabulous Frances’ page on Triple J Hack being promoted on Facebook, to a commenter suggesting that “If you can’t seem to find clothes I think you’re trying the wrong size. :)” (Complete with passive aggressive smiley face – don’t you love when people tack those onto the end of a rude statement?), to friends suggesting that “perhaps you’re imagining it” when I try to talk about the way I am treated in public by some people, it’s something that is constantly done to fat people.

I don’t know about you, but I get bloody sick of it.

I get sick of people who have never lived in my body, never seen what I did to it for 30 years to try to get it thin, who don’t know how my body feels or what it is capable of, insisting that they know a) what I am eating and what I am doing and b) how to make my body thin c) that my body is somehow in pain and incapable of doing what I want it to do.

I get sick of people who have never tried to buy clothes to fit my body, who’ve never been with me when I’ve been shopping for clothes, or never seen me try clothes on, insisting that there are “plenty of options” for clothing for my body.  I get sick of them not trusting my judgement when they suggest an item of clothing that I know won’t fit me or won’t be comfortable for me to wear.

I get sick of people who don’t live in my fat body tell me that I’m imagining the woman trying to sneakily take my photo on her mobile phone as I eat my lunch in a cafe.  Of people saying “But I’ve never heard anyone say anything hateful to you!” refusing to acknowledge that it doesn’t happen in their presence because fat hating shitweasels are usually cowards who wait until I am alone to have a go at me.

I get sick of people who look at my body and assume that I am in pain because of my fatness, without ever asking me how I feel, or even seeing me show any signs of pain.

I get sick of people who dismiss me when I say I feel better now than I ever have, and that my body performs better now than it ever has, now that I have accepted that I have a fat body and I am best to just love it as it is.  People who don’t know anything about my health, people who dismiss my past and the experiences I have been through.

But most of all, I get so very, very sick of people who cannot accept that my reality is different to their reality, and that fact in no way minimises their reality.  Those who cannot fathom that if someone else needs fairness and equality, it doesn’t mean they will be missing out on “their share”.

I saw a good quote on Tumblr today, not sure where it originated, it wasn’t credited:

Equality is extremely threatening to people who have always benefited from the lack thereof.

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33 comments on “Respecting Realities

  • Right on Kath, all individual experience is subjective and valid and it is as simple as that. This is a great rant and I know exactly how it feels :( xxx

  • So much (sad) truth here. What really gets me is that quote, I think the biggest road block to fat acceptance is that so many people judge *their* worth based on how much they don’t look like us – that we are *their* vision of failure. So when they are shaming, belittling and mocking fat people, they’re really trying to reinforce that they have value that they can only keep by reminding everyone in their world that fat is bad and because they aren’t fat, they are somehow valuable. As much as their behaviour is revolting, I really feel for people who can’t see value in who they are as a human being and not just a human body. I understand why they get so defensive about fat when by accepting it they would lose their self worth. It’s all so sad.

    • Absolutely Sassy. It’s all about feeling superior to someone. And I really feel, how pathetic a little life one must live if they need to put others down to make themselves feel good?

  • I am trying to imagine what it would feel like to be eating my lunch in public and realize someone was trying to photograph me. That’s so violating. Can you imagine the outrage if someone tried to photograph a differently abled person eating? They’re be a moral uprising!

    • Ahh but differently abled people ARE subjected to things like that. And there is no moral uprising. Yes, if it were known, there would be more objection to it than a fat person, but it definitely still happens.

      And it happens to me on a fairly regular basis too. One friend said “Oh they’re taking your photo because you’re cool!” Umm… no they’re not. The good folks who think I look cool come up and ASK me if they can take my photo, because they love my outfit/hair/tattoos/whatever. These shitweasels sneak photos in the hope of uploading them to snark on Twitter or some douchey website like People of Walmart.

  • Gee, then I guess I was just making it up in my own head last week when I was walking to the grocery store and a pair of teenaged boys moo’ed at me. What a relief to know I just made that up!

    And a couple weeks ago I wrote about having been under the weather with a cold that would not stop for two months… one which most people (fat and thin alike) have reacted to with cries of ‘I know! What rung of Hell did that one appear from?’ or ‘I had that for five weeks!’. Sure enough, one reader responded by scolding me that if I just ate organic vegetables and got some exercise and didn’t depend on Big Pharma to take care of me, I would never have gotten sick at all in the first place.

    So… I guess those big boxes of organic, seasonal veggies I get from my CSA are a figment of my imagination. And I guess all the walking I do is in my head rather than my feet. And I guess I do have health insurance that I’ve just never noticed because I was so busy going to the doctor every time I had a headache or menstrual cramps.

    And I guess that a virus can’t get me if I just believe in fairies hard enough.

    • It never ceases to astonish me how fat people are expected to prove their health, and justify their existence. We are constantly thrown that “well if you’d just…” without any knowledge of what we do with our lives and bodies, yet if we don’t respond, it’s “You know you’re just living like a disgusting pig.”

      I vow from this moment on I will not be justifying my existence to ANYONE because they demand I do so simply because I am fat.

  • That quote rocks it! As does your post! I have a fear of people secretly taking my picture and posting it on the internet. It feels like such a violation of my humanity, but also triggers the terrible helplessness I felt when I was raped. That someone would use my body to exploit me or humiliate me….even if I never know they did it….brings up many of the same torturous feelings I still sometimes feel 28 years later. Do people EVER ask themselves if they would like someone secretly (or not) taking their picture so they can laugh at, humiliate, exploit and dehumanize them? You know..that old chestnut, “How would YOU like it if XYZ was done to you”? Or is the desire to feel somehow more valuable than others more powerful than true empathy?

    • I’ve actually raised this in earlier posts about friends posting pictures from douchebaggy sites like People of Walmart and such. I’ve said to them “What if it happened to someone you know? Someone you care about.” They’ve invariably responded “But nobody I know is that weird! Those people are just so weird!” I then tell them about the times my photograph has been taken in public by people. The guys who took my photo on a train, and texted it to each other making dog noises. The time I saw a photo of me turn up on Twitter with comments about the fat chick wearing tights. Usually that’s met with disbelief, because “You’re not one of those weirdos Kath!” To them, I am their friend, someone they care about. They can’t fathom that it might happen to me.

      I only hope relating it to someone they know might get it through to them how much sites like that SUCK.

  • Anyone who takes a photo like that needs a punch in the snout.

    My consolation when people are mean?

    I look at them and wonder how they will feel when they are old, and whether they will cope with being invisible and being shoved aside. Because it’s gonna happen…

  • I’m going through the comments for a post and spotted this gem: ” bwahaha.. She doesn’t feel unhealthy? Wow, so that’s how we judge health these days? … That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard…”

    Yeah dude, that’s what happens. You feel off, you go to a doctor. They diagnose based on the symptoms you present. Obviously this process is different for fatties.

    • I dip in and out of the comments as my sanity points will allow. Mostly I am just gobsmacked at the attitude of so many people who seem to think that my health, and the health of any fat person, is any of their fucking business. But even if we could demonstrate that we’re at the very prime of health in all indicators, we’re still fat, so we must be lying, and we must be in denial. We must have doctors who are negligent.

  • Fantastic post!!
    Isn’t it annoying when people look at you with “sympathy” in their eyes assuming that our weight is causing them problems?
    Best solution is to give them the one finger salute, smile and hold your head high! Way to go sweetheart! :)
    xx Lucy

    • Thanks Lucy. I think there are people who really do believe that our weight is causing them problems. To be honest, it’s a pretty sad way to live, thinking that your happiness and life is directly affected by someone being fat in the world.

  • Somebody took a picture of you eating in public? Wow, is that person so sheltered she’s never seen a fat woman eat out before?

    I am lucky that I have been spared that type of doucheitude but then again, I look too damn mean when I’m in public so maybe I just scare haters away.

    • Bree, it happens to hundreds of people every day. Why do you think sites like People of Walmart, or that one that makes fun of how people dress, or the one that is of “ugly people” getting married, proliferate? It’s because our current culture condones people taking photographs of strangers in public with the ubiquitous mobile phones and pocket cameras that are carried around everywhere these days.

  • Of course, this goes for other realities as well – I used to be one of those people who would think things like “Well, why don’t victims of domestic violence go to the police?” and “why don’t poor people just get a better job?” Finding out that my own privilege was very, very limited (in my case, having cancer misdiagnosed as “fat and lazy”) made me start to challenge my assumptions about everyone else’s lives, too.

    (I’m also disabled, and there is a great deal of intersectionality between fat and disability – including the public shaming!)

  • SassyCupcakes :So much (sad) truth here. What really gets me is that quote, I think the biggest road block to fat acceptance is that so many people judge *their* worth based on how much they don’t look like us – that we are *their* vision of failure. So when they are shaming, belittling and mocking fat people, they’re really trying to reinforce that they have value that they can only keep by reminding everyone in their world that fat is bad and because they aren’t fat, they are somehow valuable. As much as their behaviour is revolting, I really feel for people who can’t see value in who they are as a human being and not just a human body. I understand why they get so defensive about fat when by accepting it they would lose their self worth. It’s all so sad.

    Sad, stupid and mean. It’s the kind of thing that the bullies do.

  • It’s the subtle ones that really bother me. That have me second-guessing myself. Yesterday I passed a young man in a hallway. He gave me a cursory look up and down, and then as he walked past, sighed audibly. Now, perhaps, I told myself, he was just having a bad day and the sigh had nothing to do with me. And perhaps he looks at everyone’s body in that disdainful way. But, no. I’m pretty sure that he was thinking ‘ugh, look at that gross fat chick, how dare she be ruining my boner’ or something. And it made me feel like shit (not that I care a jot about his boner, mind, but that this is my reality). But of course if I related the story to anyone else, they’d be like: oh, he didn’t really think that about you, blah blah blah. I really hate being told that I am paranoid or that I’m imagining the fat-hate in the community. I think that’s one of the things that FA can offer fatties: a place where others *know* what it’s like because we’ve lived it. And something that FA can offer non-fatties – a place to learn empathy for what it’s like to have a marginalised body. And there are many other ways that bodies can be marginalised, yeah, yay intersectionality!

    • I hear you on this one. The look and sigh. The whispering as you walk past. The look and giggle. The subtle nudge to their friend. We SEE and HEAR and NOTICE all of these things, and then the very people who do it, tell us that we’re just imagining it.

      Maybe that’s why they dismiss our realities, because it calls into light their very own behaviours?

  • Fantastic post as always. It seems like the absolute best way to keep a group down is to deny them their experience, to call them liars and say that you are a better witness to their experience than they are. I’m so glad that you are calling bullshit on this and as always I am a huge fan of your work.

    ~Ragen

    • Thank you Ragen.

      It’s interesting that so many people refer to my calling these behaviours and attitudes out as “ranting”. Why is it a rant to point out a shitty behaviour and explain why it is shitty?

      • “Why is it a rant to point out a shitty behaviour and explain why it is shitty?”

        If they point out shitty behavior (you being fat at them, for instance) they are truth-tellers. If you point out shitty behavior (them making unwarranted assumptions about your general health and specific moral character based entirely on your being fat, for instance), then it is further evidence of your moral turpitude and mental derangement.

        I do hope that clears things right up for you.

  • I get sick of all those things too. In fact, I got so sick of it I had to rant about it on my blog for the past 2 days. Thanks for saying this and voicing what so many of us feel.

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