discrimination

All posts in the discrimination category

It Sucks to be a Fat Woman

Published May 17, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you’ve all seen this snippet from the TV show Louie, but it has done the rounds of the fatosphere quite a bit over the past few days.  Just in case you haven’t seen it, or want to refresh your memory, here it is again.

I’m not a watcher of Louie, and I have mixed feelings about Louis CK, and his show as a vehicle for social politics, but I want to move away from that aspect just now.  That’s a conversation for another time.

This clip has garnered a lot of criticism within fat activism circles.  Some of it is valid criticism, some of it I disagree with because I think it is viewed through a lens of privilege and internalised misogyny as well.  I’m going to do more than one post about it, so please hang in there ok, and we’ll hit the issues up one by one.

But for me, well, I connected with it very deeply.  Not only because Sarah Baker gives one hell of a performance, but because she voices a lot of things I feel and think.  I have a lot of thoughts on being a fat woman and dating, but I think those are for another time.  I will actually have a post on that coming up soon.

What I want us all to focus on here is the statement that seems to have got the most criticism.  “It sucks being a fat girl.”

So many people have complained about this, saying that it doesn’t suck to be a fat girl and that her saying it sends a “bad message” to the rest of the world, that it’s “so negative, we can’t see it as a win.”

Well I’m going to be the one to say it as a real life fat woman.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

It really does.  But not because of physically being fat.  It doesn’t suck having a fat body, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  It sucks to be a fat woman in a world that treats us as second-class citizens.

It sucks to be treated with contempt, derision, ridicule and outright hatred.

It sucks to have a lot of men act like their dick is going to fall off if they are seen with you in public.

It sucks to be sneered and tutted at on public transport as though you don’t have the right to be there.

It sucks to go to the doctor for a cold or a sore toe and be lectured on your weight instead of being given treatment.

It sucks that retailers who know they could make very good money off you refuse to stock reasonable quality, fashionable clothing at a reasonable price because they don’t want to lose their thin customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit as a fat woman.

It sucks to have random men scream abuse at you in the street.

It sucks to get hate mail and trolling because you dare to be a visible fat woman.

It sucks that furniture often isn’t made to include your body.

It sucks that you can’t turn on the television or open a magazine without being shamed for your body.

It sucks that strangers take your photo in public without your consent.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

I find the whole idea that we must be positive at all times, and only represent the good things about being fat at all times really damaging.  It’s not helping anyone to expect that fat women are always depicted as everything being perfect and rosy.  Or that we’re 100% arse kicking, take no prisoners, school every nasty dude that crosses our path at every moment of our lives.  Not only does it provide a false sense of “Everything’s fine!” to not fat people, but it doesn’t help we fatties.  It doesn’t help we fatties to think that so long as you’ve got good self esteem and don’t hate your body, suddenly the world gets all sunshine and roses.  It doesn’t.  People told me back in my self hating days that when I learned to build my self esteem and be confident, people wouldn’t be as horrible to me as they were when I hated myself.  That’s a blatant lie.  It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get better.

What does change when you find self esteem and confidence is YOU.  You get better.  Not better as a person – you were already perfectly fine even before you found self esteem and confidence.  But better at dealing with the crap.  Better at valuing yourself.  Better at realising that other people’s crappy behaviour is no reflection on you.  Better at self care to deal with other people’s horrible attitudes.  Better at advocating for yourself.  Better at saying no.  Better at shrugging off the haters and living your life anyway.

I also don’t want us to have to deny any vulnerability.  You know what, people are shitty to and about fat people, and it’s hurtful and bloody stressful!  We’re dealing with a constant level of stress that thin people generally don’t have to think about.  Will I physically fit in that furniture?  Will people be rude to me for taking up too much space?  Is the doctor going to take me give me treatment or are they just going to prescribe a diet?  Can I take a walk without someone mooing at me and calling me a fat bitch?  Will I be able to find a suitable outfit in my size for a job interview?

But most importantly, the answer to “Being a fat woman sucks.” is not “Well become a thin woman then.”  Firstly because there is no proven way to do that and secondly because our bodies are not the problem – our culture is.

Note: Please keep to topic in the comments and any “But thin people have it hard too!” denial of privilege will be sent to the spam bin and banned from commenting permanently.

No More Media Excuses

Published July 8, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Well.  Just a little while ago I received the following email and I was outraged.  I think my response sums it up pretty clearly, don’t you?

Morning,
I was wondering if you’d be around for a chat over the phone this morning about a story we’re covering.
We’re going to be talking to Katie Hopkins who has come out and said that she wouldn’t employ an overweight person as they’re all lazy….
Wondered if you’d be up for challenging this remark?
Can you call me on [redacted]?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Natasha Bateman
Producer
Mornings with Adrian Goldberg

And my response:

Natasha,

Katie Hopkins and her ignorant, bigoted attitudes are not worth me getting out of bed for, let alone making a long distance phone call from Australia to the UK for.  It shows an astonishing lack of respect from you to expect me to respond to someone who so openly hates people like me.  In fact, it is completely shameful that you would even have someone like that on your radio show AT ALL and expect your listeners to tolerate it.  Would you allow someone who would discriminate on the grounds of gender, sexuality or race on your show to spout their bigotry?  Would you ask a woman, a gay person or a person of colour to also appear on your show with someone who is going to openly spout hate at them?  I would hope not, so why would you ask a fat person to participate in such a programme?

We are led to believe that the BBC is one of the quality broadcasters of the world.  Yet you still entertain the notion that it is acceptable to allow people who openly and unashamedly discriminate against other human beings to have air time on your shows to promote their hateful, ignorant attitudes, and that the people who are the victims of their hate are in some way obligated to spend their time responding to them.  That is not the mark of a quality broadcasting service.  It is the mark of gutter media trying to stir up ratings.

Please do not waste my time in future unless you are willing to ensure that I am treated with the basic dignity and respect that I deserve as a human being, by both your programme and any guests you intend to have on it.

Yours sincerely
Kath Read

It’s time we started calling out the media for this kind of behaviour.  It is time we responded to these media outlets and told them that they are both wasting our time and are deeply disrespectful to expect us to tolerate such hateful attitudes, let alone respond to them.  The media have stitched up so many of we fat activists over the years, that it’s time we name our terms and start valuing ourselves as worthy human beings, as busy people who have better things to do in our lives than be subjected to people like Katie Hopkins and their bigotry.

No more excuses about “it’s what people want to hear” and “it’s just debate”.  We don’t want to hear people like Katie Hopkins any more.  If people want to hear someone like Katie Hopkins spouting bigotry in the media, then they should be ashamed of themselves.  Not to mention that our rights as human beings are not up for debate with anyone.  People don’t get to “debate” whether we fat people deserve to be treated with basic dignity and respect.  We do, as do all human beings.

I Am NOT a Disease

Published June 19, 2013 by sleepydumpling

One of the things about being a highly visible, deeply combative fat activist is that everyone seems to think you’re made of steel.  That you are so strong and confident, that nothing ever hurts you or makes you feel bad.  Nobody believes that you have bad days, that there are times where the fight just goes out of you and you can’t face another moment of trying to claw your way out of the hatred and stigma that surrounds fat people.

But that’s not true.  It’s not true in the slightest.  Even the most radical fatty, the most sartorially brave, the fiercest fighter, the strongest critic of the dominant paradigm around fatness struggles.  Every single one of us have those times where we just run out of oomph.

I am having one of those days today, and have been really struggling all afternoon.  You see, the American Medical Association today declared obesity as a disease despite a report from their own council on science and public health urging them not to.  According to the AMA, we fat people are no longer just people, we are diseased, defective, damaged, broken.  We are officially diseases to be cured, prevented, eradicated.  And this news has shaken me to the core.  I simply feel so defeated right now, like all the work that I and many other fat activists have done, and are doing to claw back our rights and improve our quality of life has just been taken away from us.

Rationally, I know why the AMA has made this ruling.  They’ve done so because big pharmaceutical companies, the weight loss industry and big health insurance companies, have lobbied, threatened, bullied and bribed them to do so.   Rationally I know that the reason these big corporations have done this is because it’s in their best interest financially to do so.  After all, they’re raking in HUGE amounts of money by convincing society in general that appearance = health, and that if you don’t meet the arbitrary levels of appearance that you must be sick, and surprise surprise, they have a drug, or a surgery, or a device, or a diet plan or an extra expensive health insurance plan to sell you to fix it.  The weight loss industry alone was worth almost $800 million just here in Australia.  Can you imagine what could be done for $800 million per year in this country?  We could all have completely free health care for every Australian, more than we would ever need.  People with disabilities could have all of the equipment that they would ever need, and any support and care they would ever need.  No human being in Australia would go without food, water or housing.  Education would be free for our whole lives, from kindergarten through any university studies that we would care to take on.   Medical research into every known actual disease, from the common cold to cancer could be funded fully.

All this just from the money that the diet and weight loss industry is worth in a single year, and there would be change.  In fact, if we only took their profit margin for ONE year, approximately $63 million dollars, and applied that to public funding annually – we could fund a lot of the things I’ve listed above.  And that’s just here in Australia, a country of only about 22 million people.  In the US, the weight loss industry is worth 66 BILLION DOLLARS.  Let alone the cumulative value of the rest of the world’s weight loss industries.

There is NO WAY ON EARTH that the weight loss industry is not behind this ruling from the AMA.  They have $66 billion dollars worth of power per annum in the US alone.  $66 billion dollars they can spend on lobbying, propaganda, graft, legal threats to anyone who opposes them, you name it to make sure the ruling falls the way they want it to.

Rationally I know this.  I know the facts.  I’ve done years of my own research into this because what I was being told about my fat body wasn’t matching up to reality.

But despite that knowledge… I feel so defeated today.  I feel so disheartened.  I feel so cheated.  I feel like I’m being marked as inferior, defective, broken.  Simply because my body happens to fall on the far end of a bell curve of diverse human bodies.  Simply because my body doesn’t fall in the small peak of the bell curve, the median of human bodies, a tiny arbitrary band of people who are granted the “normal” status just because they’re in the middle statistically.

But being at one end of the statistics doesn’t reflect who I am.  It doesn’t reflect how I feel.  It doesn’t reflect what my body can do.  It doesn’t reflect my value as a human being.  The AMA doesn’t know what it feels like to exist in my fat body.  They don’t know what it’s like in my body to wake up after a deep sleep, stretch and feel that stretch go down to my toes and up to my outstretched fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to go swimming, feeling the cool water soft and cocooning around my body, and the wonderful sleepy feeling I get afterwards.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to walk along the waterfront near my house on a windy but crystal clear winters day, with the sun warming my back as the wind nips my nose and fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to laugh with my friends, my belly rocking, tears rolling down my face and my ribs hurting from giggling so hard.  They don’t know anything about what it feels like in my body.  All they know is that I am at the far end of a bell curve, and that someone out there can make money from making me hate myself and by encouraging society to hate me, and to repeatedly attempt to move myself to another point on the statistical bell curve, something we scientifically know fails for 95% of all attempts.  And with that they have marked me, and people like me, as diseased, defective, broken.

The only time I feel diseased, defective, broken is when society repeatedly pushes me down because of how I look and what numbers show up on a scale when I step on it.  I don’t feel those things unless I am taught to feel them.  Not even when I actually suffer illness or injury.

How is simply declaring me as diseased based on statistics, and despite how I feel or the quality of my life, good for my health?

How is that good for anyone’s health?

The inimitable Marilyn Wann has started a petition against this AMA ruling here.  Please sign.

*Edited because the figures I got from a study were incorrect – not that they change anything.  Let’s try to not kick me while I’m fucking down, OK?

Stares, Sneers and Snickers

Published February 14, 2013 by sleepydumpling

If you follow me on my Fat Heffalump Facebook page, you may have seen this article I posted yesterday.  Photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero has documented the reactions of people around her, a fat woman, in public.  If you go to Haley’s page, you will see the full suite of photographs called Wait Watchers as she documents people laughing at her, sneering, and generally just being douchey.

Now I don’t advocate reading the comments on PetaPixel articles (actually, on any articles about discrimination and bigotry for that matter), but I did, and I also saw them elsewhere, suggesting either that Haley just captured “general expressions” (not necessarily aimed at her) or that perhaps they weren’t deriding her because of her weight but because of the way she dressed (which is no different than most of the thin people around her – only fat people are considered “sloppy” in shorts and a top), her looks, or as one said “Those people aren’t looking at her because she’s fat! It’s because she’s doing x, y, z. But if she doesn’t want to be ridiculed in public, maybe she should lose some weight.”

Wait, what?

Regardless of the reason why people behaved like they did, they were behaving in a judgemental manner, and judging her negatively, which their expressions and behaviour showed.

Well, I can tell you now, I have further proof to add to Haley’s testimonial of the derisive surveillance fat people are under.  Because some time ago, I engaged in an experiment with Stocky Bodies photographer Isaac Brown, where I spent time in the Queen Street Mall here in Brisbane doing things that I am normally likely to do in public, as anyone else is (reading, using my phone, eating a salad, eating an ice-cream) and Isaac blended into the crowd and photographed people’s reactions to me.

Before anyone says “But it’s because you have bright pink hair!” let me address that.  Firstly, lots of people have bright coloured hair these days.  But many of them are not ridiculed in the street.  I am a fat woman with pink hair, I get a very different reaction from Jo Public than a thin woman with pink hair.  Secondly, I currently have my natural hair colour (dark brown with a bit of grey) and I get the same treatment no matter what colour my hair is.  Just two days ago I spotted a guy on the opposite train platform to the one I was standing nudge the woman next to him, point me out (brown hair, tattoos covered up, wearing quite a conservative dress and plain ballet flats) and they both laughed at me.  When they realised I had seen them pointing me out and laughing, they both clearly knew they had been busted by me.

And finally, do people with pink hair or any other bright, bold appearance deserve to be ridiculed in the street?  No they do not.

Others suggest people stare because “You look awesome Kath!”  People do not scowl, laugh derisively, or have expressions of disgust at people they find awesome.  They do not nudge and point.  When people find me awesome, and yes, some do, they smile at me.  They pass and say “I love your hair!”  Their faces are open and friendly, not closed and hostile.  Believe it or not, fat people are emotionally intelligent enough to be able to distinguish between negative and positive reactions to them.

I asked Isaac to send me some of the photos he took, so that I could share them with you.  You will see quite clearly that these are not the expressions of people who are thinking “That pink haired, fat lady is awesome!”

KathQSM-14

Some people just stare.

Sometimes I'm stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Sometimes I’m stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

It's not just women that stare either.

It’s not just women that stare either.

Even "nice little old ladies" stare and grimace at me.

Even “nice little old ladies” stare and grimace at me.

Some don't even bother to hide their laughter.

Some don’t even bother to hide their laughter…

... until their companions stare too.

… until their companions stare too.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Even sunglasses don't hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

Even sunglasses don’t hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

As you can see, it’s not just a phenomena that Haley Morris-Cafiero experiences.  I do too, as do many other fat people who spend time in public places.

But what is most offensive is the routine denial of those experiences, as though we are either imagining the stares, disapproving/disgusted looks, the nudging and pointing and laughter, or they are somehow our fault.  Having our experiences dismissed is actually part of the systematic oppression of fat people.  Portraying us as overly sensitive, or imagining the way we are treated is also a form of abuse.   It labels us as “deluded” or emotionally damaged.  It is ironic, many of us do have emotional damage, not because we are fat, but because of the way society treats us as fat people, which includes the regular dismissal of our experiences.

The thing is, it’s not just me that notices the way people behave towards me in public.  It affects my relationships with others as well.  I have had a boyfriend leave me because he couldn’t handle being subjected to so much derision from strangers (yes, I am aware that I am better off without such a man!) and it often diminishes the enjoyment of time out with friends, because they see how people behave towards me and because they care about them, it upsets them and makes them angry, as they want to defend me and respond to the general shittiness of strangers behaviour.  Not to mention that even though I’m mostly pretty thick skinned about it, some days it gets too much for me and affects my mood – it’s hard to relax and have fun with your friends when you are being subjected to the kind of derision and judgement shown in the photographs above.

It is sadly just another example of the way fat people are viewed as inferior in our society.  Not only do we “deserve” the vilification, ridicule and judgement, but if we acknowledge it, we are viewed as irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.

If you are experiencing these things, you are NOT irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.  Your feelings and experiences are valid, and you are not alone.

Note: Any comments denying my or anyone else’s experience with judgement and ridicule in public will be marked as spam and have you blocked from commenting.  You are welcome to state that you are fortunate enough to have not experienced it, but DO NOT suggest that I or anyone else is imagining our experiences, as you will be doing exactly what I call out in this article.

No More Hoops

Published January 6, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Over the past few days there have been loads of pieces from awesome fat activists on fat and health, mostly in response to a couple of studies that reports that fat and fit are not mutually exclusive and that fat is not an instant death sentence.  It has been really heartening to see so many responses from fat activists that highlight how important access to health care is for fat people and the prejudice that fat people face both in the health care industry and because of the myth that fat automatically equals unhealthy.

However, I think we need to stop and reassess what we are doing here.  Yes, conflating weight with health has been a very pervasive myth that many people have used to justify fat hatred and addressing that is important.  But I don’t think that it is going to help fat people in the long run as much as we need it to.  Because no matter how many myths and stereotypes you bust, those who hate fat people are ALWAYS going to find a way to justify their disgusting attitudes.  Be it health, fitness, appearance, the cost of mittens in America… there will always be something used to justify fat hatred.

We need to let go of constantly trying to meet the bar set by fat haters.  If they say it’s because poor health, we spend our time proving that fat does not equal poor health.  If they say it is because we’re lazy, we spend all our time proving that we are not.  If they say it is because we are gluttonous, we spend our time policing and justifying our own choices for eating.  The list goes on and on.  No matter what myth or stereotype we respond to, there will always be another.

It is time we stopped looking to ourselves to be the ones to change to fight fat hatred.  It is time we started demanding that those who hate fat people are named and shamed for what they are – ignorant bigots who sincerely believe that some people are sub-human and do not deserve to live their lives in peace and dignity.  We, as fat people who are the victims of fat hatred have absolutely no obligation at all to modify our lives or our behaviours to suit those who hate us and to justify our existence.

You know who else believed that some people were not human?  Heard of untermensch?  How is it any different that some people believe that fat people are sub-human or inferior because of how they look and their bodies than it was believed that some people were sub-human/inferior because of their skin, hair or eye colour?  Is not the belief that thin people are superior evidence of the belief of a “master race”?  No decent, ethical human being would ever hold this belief.  Honestly, what kind of person would sincerely believe that they or others are somehow superior to other human beings?

That’s what bigotry is, the belief that there is some kind of hierarchy of human value based on those with power and privilege being higher up than those without.  It’s bullshit and we really need to stop buying into it – both externally AND internally.

Not to mention that every time we engage in the health argument, we are not only setting ourselves up to have to meet some kind of arbitrary requirement of health (which we owe NOBODY) but it’s also incredibly ableist.  What about fat people with disabilities or chronic illness?  What about anyone with disabilities or chronic illness?  How about someone in a coma or other incapacitated state?  Do they not get treated with respect and dignity simply because they’re “not healthy”?  How about those thin people when they inevitably get sick or injured?  Do they forfeit their right to dignity and respect at that moment?

Even if we buy into the whole thing that fat people “choose” to be fat (yeah right, like anyone would choose a life full of discrimination and hatred), that still does not justify the mentality that we are sub-human or somehow inferior to thin people.  Lots of people choose to do things that lower their life expectancy – for fuck’s sake merely driving a car statistically drops YEARS off your life, let alone all of the wild and extreme things human beings do to their bodies.  Just because someone smokes or skateboards or jumps out of perfectly good planes doesn’t mark them as lesser human beings, so why should it apply that way to fatness?  Because again, it’s not at all about health.  It’s not at all about life expectancy.  Fat hatred is simply about a fairly young (only about a hundred years) cultural stigmatisation of people based solely on their appearance, because someone, somewhere decided that money could be made by frightening people into trying to control their appearance.  All because someone saw money (and power, let’s not forget the intersectionality of the control of women in fat hatred) in getting people to buy products, diets, gadgets, pills and schemes to change their bodies, we now have a culture that marks fat people as sub-human.

No, this is about creating hoops for fat people to jump through so that we are not allowed to EVER live our lives with the freedom and dignity that is our right as is every human’s right.  And we must stop engaging with it.  We must stop believing that we have an obligation to prove our health, to prove our lives meet some kind of arbitrary standard placed on us to prevent us being marked as inferior.  Instead of arguing that fat people are not unhealthy/lazy/gluttonous/etc, we need to be repeating over and over and over that to label any human being as inferior based on their health, their appearance, their size, their choices in food or physical activity or any other arbitrary measure that is nobody’s business but their own is bigotry.  We need to be naming and shaming people who honestly believe that they have the right to label us as sub-human/inferior.  We need to be reclaiming our right to live our lives in our own bodies without interference or intervention from anyone.

But most of all we need to believe that of ourselves.  We need to be able to walk through this world that is rife with prejudice against us with our heads held high in the knowledge that we are not sub-human, we are not inferior, that we are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on the planet.

YOU are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on this planet.  Your life is yours.  Live it for you, not to prove that you’re not a stereotype.

My Fat Body is ME

Published October 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Earlier today this post raced through my online networks like a brush fire.  With good reason, it’s an excellent piece that really lays out how fat hate has permeated so many people’s attitudes, and makes clear reasons why people need to think about what they are saying and what kind of stigma they are placing on the shoulders of fat people.

But, as is always the way with these pieces, the comments kick off with someone who simply doesn’t get it and makes the situation worse.  This person, who calls themselves a feminist (yeah right, as Flavia Dzodan says, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit) says:

But I’m also a public health scholar. I’m doing my Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health. Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class. We talk about markers for childhood obesity, what leads to adult obesity, and how to curb this epidemic.

The comment does go on further and she argues with several people who call her out on this fat hating crap.  You can go and look at it if you like, the link is up there in the first sentence.  You can see how spectacularly she misses the entire point of the piece for yourself if you like.

I won’t go into the ableism and classism of the attitudes of people like the commenter here, as they both deserve posts of their own.  What I want to do tonight is address the attitude that “obesity is a chronic disease” and that we need to “curb this epidemic”. *cough* eugenics *cough*

Not about how this is complete and utter bullshit that other people have busted more eloquently and thoroughly than I could ever do, but how people like this woman are so fucking blind to the hate that they spew.  I mean, this bigot has just compared fatness (I refuse to use the word obesity to describe our fat bodies – same goes to any other medicalised word to describe physical size) to “cancer and heart disease and communicable diseases”.  I shit you not.  How anyone can fail to see this as hatred is beyond me.

Let’s break it down with some statements…

  • My fat body is not diseased.
  • I do not have/suffer obesity.  I am a fat person.
  • I am not a diseased person because I am fat.
  • My fat body is not something to be prevented, cured or eradicated.
  • I do not need anyone, be they organisation, company or individual to try to rid me of my body.
  • My fat flesh is part of me, it is not some parasite to be excised.
  • My fat flesh is not a virus to be vaccinated against, it is my body.
  • I will never again give anyone the power of starving my fat off my body, with absolutely no regard to the damage the methods of starvation cause on my body long term.
  • I will never again allow anyone to force me to apologise for my body.
  • I will never again kneel in subjugation to those who feel they are superior to me because of my fat body.
  • My fat body is not a contagion to be quarantined from “decent” society.
  • My fat body is not an affliction, a blight on humanity.
  • My fat body is not a mark of shame, or an indicator of failure.
  • My fat body is not a communicable disease, nor is it a cancer.
  • My fat body is ME and I have a right to live my life without vilification and stigma.

Anyone who seriously believes that fat bodies are any of the things above or that fat people have a debt to humanity to starve or punish themselves to meet other people’s aesthetic standards is a fat hating bigot.  It’s time we stopped dancing around the subject and named them for what they are.  No one of us has to be polite or respectful to people who believe that we are lesser than others because of the size, shape, ability and function of our bodies.  We don’t have to justify our existence, our happiness, our peace, our dignity to ANYONE on this earth.

It’s time we cut the crap with the whole “agreeing to disagree” rubbish and allowing people to be “entitled to their opinions”.  No, I don’t have to agree to anything with a person who treats me as sub-human.  Nobody is entitled to an opinion that vilifies and stigmatises another human being.  Our rights as human beings get priority over opinion, every single time.

Be Your Own Expert

Published June 1, 2012 by sleepydumpling

You know what really shits me?

Every time I see an “opinion” piece on “obesity”, weight discrimination and stigma, weight and health or any other subject relating to fatness, it is almost always authored by someone who is not fat.  And more alarmingly, quite often authored by someone who has no expertise or experience in the fields of fat, health or stigma/discrimination.

Many of you will remember the piece written by Phil the Marketing Dude on The Hoopla a few months ago – an article published on a mainstream online magazine giving an opinion on weight and fat stigma by someone who works in marketing.  Someone who has no connection to fat studies or health studies or medicine and isn’t even fat himself, published as though he has the right to broadcast his opinion on a subject that he has absolutely no connection to.

I saw another one this week in The Conversation – another online journal, this one touting themselves as having “Academic rigour, journalistic flair” by a lecturer in politics of all things (no, I’m not going to link it, it’s the biggest pile of steaming crap I’ve ever read – plus it’s accompanied by a hateful photograph, ) giving his opinion about discrimination against fat people.  Of course, he starts by saying that he doesn’t believe that fat people should be stigmatised, and then goes on to do just that and to encourage other people to do it as well.

Over and over again, people who have absolutely no connection to weight or health get to spew their opinions in highly public forums, without regard to how their words affect the real lives of fat people.  It seems the only thing that makes one an authority on fatness in many publications is to be not-fat, and be vocal about it.  Or sometimes they will publish someone who was “successful” in weight loss, without examining just how long that “success” has been achieved (usually less than 2 years) or how that person’s life/resources or body may be at an advantage to those of long term fat people.

Even if it’s a positive bent to fatness – many publications will publish the opinions of thin people far before they will actually talk to fat people about their experiences, their history and their realities.  Not-fat authors are also more likely to be given a sympathetic/empathetic ear over those of us who are actually fat.  More often than not, fat people who speak up about stigmatisation and discrimination are accused of being angry, aggressive or too demanding.  As though if we just were “nice enough” we’d deserve to be treated like human beings.

This is why when mainstream media approach me for my input, I jump at the chance, even though I know the piece won’t be perfectly fat-positive, and is likely to contain the opinions of aforementioned “experts”.  Because so rarely do actual fat people, who live in fat bodies and face the realities of being fat in a society that openly loathes fatness actually get to be seen or heard.   Not to mention that when we are seen, we are portrayed as sad, lonely, depressed, dirty, lazy, gluttonous, smelly etc – almost always objects of ridicule.  For someone to open a magazine and click on a link and see a fat person who is happy and confident, and who is articulating the realities that fat people experience – it is a radical discovery.  I remember that it wasn’t too many years ago that I myself was completely blown away by a photograph of Kelli Jean Drinkwater being fat, powerful and confident.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was discovering writers like Lesley Kinzel, Bri King, Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby.

I think we need to call out publications that use people who have no connection or expertise to fatness for opinion pieces on fat.  We need to contact their editors, leave comments and ask questions as to why they’re publishing pieces by people who have no qualification to speak on the subject.  We need to keep telling our own stories and sharing our own experiences.  It’s bloody hard work – as well as having to find the time to do it, one has to have the sanity points to deal with those who think they know your body, your life better than you do, and those who believe that simply by measure of your body, they have the right to treat you as less than human.

That said, I don’t believe it has to be as political or even as wordy as the method I choose, which I think a lot of people assume that fat activism must be.  Being a fat person who lives their lives to the full is a radical, radical act in a culture that so openly loathes us.  Being a visible fat person – be it through fat fashion, art, prose and poetry, hobbies and sport, or generally just getting out there and enjoying life – your job, your family, your friends, etc.  If you can be a proud fat person living your life and sharing it online or anywhere else, without ever mentioning the more political side of fat activism.  When someone who has long believed that they are worthless because they have a fat body sees a picture of a fab fatty in a cute outfit, or a proud fatty talking about the job she loves, or her family, or a fatty having fun at the pool, in a dance class, at the park with her kids… their world is opened up to a whole new possibility.  It shows a completely different paradigm to the mainstream presentation of life as a fat person.

You are the expert on your life.  WE are the experts on life as fat people.

So get out there I say.  Live your life.  Have fun.  Love those in your life who are special to you.  Dress in ways that make you feel good.  Document your life – blog about your passions/share your photos/make videos/be artistic.

But most of all, in whatever way you can, tell your story.  YOU tell it – don’t let a fat loathing society tell it for you.

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