Playing the Victim? It’s No Game

Published March 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

On more than one occasion recently, I’ve seen commenters on fat acceptance blogs and articles refer to fat acceptance writers as having a “victim mentality”.  Or it said that they are “playing the victim”.  It has bothered me, and stuck with me, so I want to talk a bit about that in tonight’s blog post.

The thing is, the fatosphere, or whatever you want to call the communities and blogs around fat acceptance, I know there are several different communities popping up around the place, is our space to have our say, to give a voice to our lives, the issues surrounding our fatness and the experiences we have.

I can’t speak for all fat acceptance bloggers, but the reason I talk about my experiences, especially the really difficult ones, is because a) I realised that I don’t have to suffer in silence anymore, b) I want the world to know the shitty treatment that a vast number of human beings are being subjected to, and most importantly c) I want to reach out to others who are suffering with the shame, the embarrassment, the humiliation, the self loathing and so on and let them know that they are not alone.  I’m quite sure I’m not the only fat acceptance blogger that does so for these reasons.  In fact, that’s why I read fat acceptance blogs and articles, to hear the very same things.

When someone comes along and starts claiming that many in the fat acceptance movement are “playing the victim” or have a “victim mentality”, it’s a very subtle way of telling us to be quiet.  Telling us that we’re making too much noise, getting too much attention, gaining too much momentum.  It’s designed to have us doubting what we are doing, questioning our motives and our right to have our say.

It also lays blame on victims.  It says “If these things happen to you, it’s because you have that mentality, because you play up to it.”  It’s lays the shame at the feet of someone who has had to endure something awful, as though they are the ones who brought this upon themselves.

For me, there is nothing to be ashamed of in standing up and saying “This is not acceptable.”  In giving a voice to the shit I’ve had to put up with, especially in helping other fat women (and fat men) realise they are not alone, and to bring attention to those who’ve never suffered this kind of treatment just what the reality of being fat is.  There’s no shame at all in being hurt by other people’s atrocious behaviour and saying so.  Nor is there in any shame in saying what behaviour is acceptable, to articulate the way we want to be treated.

Which put simply is to be treated as the valuable human beings that we are.

I know I don’t share the experiences I’ve had with the purpose of having everyone say “Oh you poor thing!” and I’m quite sure most other fat acceptance bloggers don’t either.

I refuse to accept being told that we have a “victim mentality/are playing the victim”.  I don’t believe that anyone has the right to suggest we are at fault for the shitty treatment we have received just for the “crime” of being fat.  I don’t believe anyone has the right to try to shame us into silence or make us feel like we are somehow inconveniencing the world by speaking up about what bothers us.  Even from those that are well intentioned, it’s unacceptable.

I, as a fat woman, have been the victim of some disgusting behaviour from other people, but that is not because of my mentality or I’ve played up to it.  It is because those people are bigoted, narrow minded and hateful.

I will continue to speak up about my experiences, and demand respect, dignity and fairness, no matter how often others try to lay blame or shame at my feet.

38 comments on “Playing the Victim? It’s No Game

  • As has been pointed out by someone wiser than me in other contexts, “stop playing the victim” is used to silence experiences other than the default. Silence serves nothing except the status quo.

  • Since I am vain enough to think this blog post is about me, or at least a mirror of my beliefs I’ll explain myself.

    I do not want you to shut up or suppress your views or your plight in any way, shape or form. I am just simply saying: You are doing it wrong.

    By first stereotyping and excluding yourself (“non-fats”) you are guilty of the same crimes you are hoping to challenge. No one will sympathise if they are constantly wrongfully vilified. And we are.

    The victim mentality comes from blaming others instead of acting. “Fat acceptance” becomes a blame mentality instead of what it should be: Pride. Not pride on the expense of others, but the true pride that comes from actually accepting the self, not by playing the victim.

    Most people, despite your perception, are quite accepting already. Most people are not racist, homophobic or fat-hating. Learning to accept your perceived flaws are what humans are about, and everyone suffers stereotyping to some degree. What people absolutely hate is being stereotyped into something they are not. I speak on behalf of the “privileged”.

    Put in perspective, you are one too.

    • You are a very, very vain man. Your one comment is but one drop in a waterfall of misinformed attitudes that I am addressing.

      You’re not saying anything original. You’re not offering a new perspective. You’re just parroting the same thing people who feel uncomfortable with hearing about the injustice to others constantly throw out to deflect that discomfort. I or any other fat acceptance writer does not need you to come along and tell me what I am doing right or wrong. You don’t know what is right or wrong for me or any other fat acceptance writer. You don’t speak for me, nor do you reflect what is important to me. And I certainly don’t need you to tell me about pride. That’s absolutely laughable.

      As Fatadelic says below, silencing experiences other than the default is what victim blaming is all about. And this is one “other than the default” that won’t be criticised, belittled, shamed or bullied into silence.

      You worry about what you’re doing right or wrong, not what the rest of us are doing.

      • But you’ve got to admit, ‘I speak on behalf of the “privileged”’ is a wonderful piece of dialogue.

        Can you imagine the film in which some guy said that? I’m thinking sleazy real estate agent. Or a hired goon. Or just a total dick.

      • Don’t get me started on “privilege”. I just don’t go anywhere near that one on my blog, because both sides of the argument just get feral. I never claim privilege nor lay it at the feet of others as I just don’t feel it’s worth the drama of the anger it raises on both sides of the argument.

        • I don’t HAVE to do anything Erik. It’s all very patronising of you to think that you’re the one with the answers to an issue that you don’t deal with. Again, you have nothing to give me that I haven’t heard before, nor that adds any value when it comes to the topic of “victim mentality”. What makes you think that you’re of so much importance that I or any other fat acceptance activist HAS to listen to you?

          • I never made this about person, why do you have to?

            Just simply listen to reason: Your abrasive tactics are more likely to hurt your cause than to promote it. I am not the only one saying or thinking this.

            And keep in mind, this is coming from a friend and sympathiser. How are you going to win over people who aren’t?

            • You made it about person when you stated that you thought this post was about you, which it was not (except that you were one of the many voices who chimed up the same old tired hack.)

              Let me say again, it’s not just patronising of you, but anyone else who does it as well. Nothing personal in that.

              I vehemently disagree with your “reason”. It’s reason in YOUR mind, not mine. I consider victim blaming/shaming abrasive – far more than standing up and saying “The way you treat me as a fat person and patronise me is not acceptable.”

              Besides, if that is abrasive, then good, it will wear the bastards out there down.

              And whether or not I win people over I don’t give a toss. I’m not here to win, I’m here to DEMAND. I’m not asking for sympathy, I am demanding the same respect as every other human being is entitled to.

              Until you can see that your perspective is not the same as mine and many other fat acceptance activists (notice you ARE the only commenter here thinking that this is acceptable), you’re never going to get it.

              And the old “I’m not the only one saying it” is a prime example of passive aggressive tactics. I don’t care if a MILLION people are saying it. They can say it until they’re blue in the face, I’ve heard it all before and I’m sure I’ll hear it many times again.

              That doesn’t mean I’m just going to fold up and stop challenging it.

              Time to just deal with that fact I’m afraid.

              • Why are comments all out of order? I swear I hit reply to 23, yet it is listed as 18? In any case, the need you have to label me as “patronising” pretty much sums your abrasive tactics up right there. Stop labeling everyone who challenge you as enemies. The whole “us versus them” is what is off putting in the first place!

                • Erik:
                  Trying to be right? You are doing it wrong. By your own admission, you consider yourself “privileged”. By default, you do not get final say as to how fat people should share their experiences and insight. Yes, it’s okay to have an opinion, but try listening to what others are saying, instead of stubbornly insisting you are right.
                  By the way, the whole guilt tactic of “But I was only trying to help!” doesn’t work if you won’t even try to understand why we are not buying it.

                • You are patronizing in the same way as every other person that makes the same points you make is.

                  You just can’t hear it, we can.

                  Listen to what we say, you are off putting yourself in your manner which is that of what I call “Johnson among the savages”- that is you assume that we are uncivilised and don’t know how to behave unless told by someone such as yourself who holds themself in very high esteem.

                  What we recognise is that you have little choice, if you respected the fact that we understand and are speaking of our own experiences, your delusions of superiority would collapse.

                  Understand that it’s not about you anymore, that avenue has been exhausted, it is now about us. By being the way we were before, we supported your view and your sense that you know better, if we change, you will have to, whether you like it or not.

                  That’s why you are not in control anymore and have nothing to ‘bargain’ with.

                  Wake up to yourself.

  • Brava! Keeping silent serves the status quo, which serves the system currently in place which victimizes us. Speaking up and demanding justice is the opposite of playing victim. It’s taking our power back and demanding to be treated like people.

    Victim? I have been, sometimes. What I’m being now is an activist working to keep myself and other fat people from being victimized. The only reason to call that ‘playing the victim’ is to shut me and my fellow FA activists from placing the blame where it belongs: on those who victimize us.

    • Exactly Twistie. All those years I hid at home, all the years I hated myself, all the years I cried and felt ashamed… that was when I was a victim. All the years I let the sons (and daughters) of bitches behave like douchebags at me without standing up for myself and others… THAT was when I had a victim mentality.

      Now I have a “Defender of Justice” mentality. I need a cape and my underpants on the outside!

  • Beautiful!

    The brilliant Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has the best response ever to people who act like she’s all complainy about feminist issues — “I’m not offended, I’m contemptuous!” It absolutely applies here as well. By describing ill treatment, we are expressing disgust at low behaviour, not unreasonably expressing helpless victimhood.

    And, of course, people say they’re hurt and others get all supportive, but those are community things, expressed among friends. When we’re talking to the haters, it ain’t whining. It’s spitting.

  • There are situations where someone does let their condition define them – and keep them from living. My fat is a defining factor, but it’s been no obstacle – and I have shared some of the stupid experiences you have written about here.

    I get about one trolling comment a year on my blog. This may be because I’ve got no trouble with a comment policy where I delete trolls because I’d rather not feed attention-getting crappiness for the sake of blog traffic. Just keep doing what you’re doing – people wouldn’t feel the need to shut you up if you weren’t changing something.

    • Diana I have the same policy, and it works really effectively. I mostly see it on other people’s blogs/articles (though I do get quite a few in my spam).

      And yes, it’s totally a defining factor, as is the shitty treatment I’ve had. But that doesn’t stop me from living my life for me, though it used to. I’m not going to stop speaking up about the injustice of it because while I might be able to fight back, there are a lot of others who don’t yet have the emotional strenth that I do. If I can help ONE of those people, it’s all worth it.

  • I don’t think that ‘victim mentality’ even applies to FA. I’d think that blaming your failures on societal demands requires compliance on some level, at least some gesture suggesting an effort to conform. Dieting, for example. You can’t resist and be a victim as well.

  • This comment pretty much sums up why you probably won’t win over any. Frankly it’s causing me to lose respect for you rather than the respect you are DEMANDING.

    And if you only listen to sycophants (ie the readership of your blog) all day then it is no surprise you feel validated in your views.

    You’ll catch more flies with honey. It’s all I am saying.

    • If we don’t think your way, we’re sycophants (now who is being personal and abrasive?) and we’re clueless, and sob sob, we’re never going to WIN. Winning is clearly very important to you, isn’t it?

      You just keep getting more and more insulting. I listen to those who have something of value to offer on the subject. I have made it abundantly clear that you do not, unless you change your attitude.

      If that loses your respect, then I (and fat women in general) never really had it in the first place. Which is what I’m beginning to suspect has been the case all along.

      I’m not going to continue to argue with someone who very clearly doesn’t respect me, the other people who read my blog, and anyone who has a differing perspective on the world than him.

    • You’ll catch more flies with honey. It’s all I am saying.

      Heard it all before, done it all before. Honey is exactly how we got here. That’s why we sound so bitter to you, because we’ve been so sweet to you and so sweet on you all this time.

      You think that you can take us back there, but it’s over, there is no more old time sake, get used to that or it’s going to become upsetting for you.

      That’s me being nice, helping you to save yourself future hurt, not that it will be enough for you, it never is.

      You’ve never had any respect for us, so your threat of losing what you’ve never had is nonsense.

      I’m more interesting in finding a way to respect myself again after pandering endlessly to your view. I personally feel ashamed of selling myself out so badly, never once counting the cost to myself.

      Give it up Erik, there is not one thing you said that we have not heard time and time again.

      It’s over.

  • Note to all – I am sorry that you are being subjected to being labelled as sycophants as though you’re not grown adults who can make up your own mind. It’s disrespectful, patronising and offensive.

    I will be blocking any further comments to that nature – for anyone who is unsure of commenting policy – the rules are in a link under my logo.

      • Sorry about that. My partner’s been watching Deadwood in huge chunks. When every sentence you’ve heard coming from the TV for the last few days has the word ‘cocksucker’ in it, it just starts coming out inappropriately.

      • Discussion is fine, debate is fine – personal insults are not on. Keep that in mind and you’ll be groovy.

  • The comments are all out of order because WordPress can’t cope with threads very long for some reason.

    May I repeat – the discussion on this subject with you Erik is closed.

    • Really? “Discussion is closed?” That’s it? Really disappointed that your solution to this is to simply stop listening to people who have your best interest in mind.

      Good luck with your quest to further this cause, you have lost me I’m afraid.

      • *snort!* My heart is just broken. I must give up my life’s work now, I just can’t go on.

        I’m quite sure fat acceptance will go on without you Erik.

        Yes, I end a discussion that is going nowhere with someone who has nothing of value to give me.

  • Very true! I honestly have gotten this from my family, “Stop acting like the victim!” “Stop being a brat!” “Stop blowing things out of proportion!” “Stop being moody!” I get a little tired of it. Eventually I just stop talking to them because that’s pretty much the only response I get when I tell them what’s wrong.

    And I agree “speaking as one of the privileged” does sound a bit sinister, gives me visions of babies born with platinum spoons in their mouths. And it makes me want to hit something. Excuse me while I go play with a padded stick.

    • Ahh, don’t get me started on families!

      Yeah, I don’t touch the whole privilege thing (it’s just too loaded on all sides) but that had me really cracking up. Like white, heterosexual, “normal bodied” males need someone to speak up for them. We kinda can already hear, can’t we?

      It’s ironic that when the “other” of the world speak up they’re whinging, playing the victim, causing a fuss… but bring in a white hetero male and they’re “telling us the truth” and bestowing their wisdom on us.


      • Oh man, the biggest whinger I know is my white, het, able-bodied, masters-degree-holding brother. ‘Cause you know the world is so much harder to navigate when you’re pretty much considered the default setting for being human.

        Also, he can’t wait to take each and every opportunity to mansplain stuff to me. He was really, really put out the last time he came over and I kept doing what I was doing and changing the subject every time he tried to inform me of how hard he has life and that Everything I Know Is Wrong.

        It’s kind of freaky spending time with someone so determined to be completely victimized by life (not to mention by our mother who died twenty freaking years ago and never hurt a damn fly in her life) and also the World’s Authority on Absolutely Everything. Dude, make up your mind.

      • They don’t even realise they are mansplaining. It’s the whole “Yr doin’ it wrong” thing. “I’m not telling you to shut up, I’m just explaining that you’re wrong.”

        I like “World’s Authority on Absolutely Everything” as a term. They just can’t possibly be wrong, or mis-informed, or not have the perspective on something can they? Even when they have no experience as something (ie fat, female, gay, not-white) they’re still the fucking authority on it.

        And then when they decide they’ve had enough (and it’s always when THEY decide, not when anyone else does), it’s a big sweeping exit, as if the environment is going to collapse completely because they “withdraw their support”.

        I hear the same thing over and over and over again, from so many “experts” that it’s funny. It’s gone from frustrating to hilarious.

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