Yeah I know, I shouldn’t bite. But I did. On Facebook of all places. I jumped on into the debate about “Obesity in Australia” set up by the Triple J Hack programme. Frances from Corpulent/Hey Fat Chick and Dr Samantha Thomas (love you two!) were both on the radio programme yesterday afternoon (did an amazing job, go listen) talking about the stigmatisation of fat people.
So I won’t go into all the deets about the discussion, it’s mostly the same “But what about your health!!??” malarkey that we always get. However, I do want to talk about a repeat message or sterotype that I kept seeing from those who were vehemently anti-fat.
That repeat message? That fat people just sit around all day eating.
It seems that is the exact image that many people have of fat people. We just sit around all the time, doing nothing but eating, and usually eating something laden with sugar or fat. There is also an assumption that fat people have never ever heard of dieting, have no knowledge of nutrition, and don’t know anything about exercising.
It’s not just in this particular case either. I see it come up over and over and over. It came up during the John Birmingham thing. I was reading an article on ABC the Drum some months back about “obesity stigma” and a commenter said “I feel sorry for fat people, their lives must be so boring, all they do is just SIT.”
Where on earth to these people get these ideas about fat people? Well, television and movies mostly. The fat character is almost always portrayed as some lonely fatty, at home shoving food in their face. Then there’s the headless fatty footage of fatties sitting on park benches or in fast food joints. The print media sell that image too.
I don’t know about you, but getting the luxury of time to “just sit” is pretty bloody rare in my life. Even while I’m on holiday at the moment, I’m keeping pretty busy, when I really should be spending time “just sitting” a little more.
So how do we go about changing this perception of fat people? How do we get the message out that fat people are no different to anyone else? That we live our lives the same as anyone else? We work, we go to school, we care for families, we spend time with friends, we shop, we laugh, we have hobbies, we play sports, we dance, we actually live full lives that are the same as non-fat people live. The only difference is that our bodies are fat.
If fat people just sit around all day then how did all those headless fatties illustrating the obesity news get outside and walking around on the street or beach? Star Trek transporters? TARDIS? Floo network? I NEED TO KNOW!
Seriously though, I’m not sure. I sometimes feel that even though we try to counteract that sedentary glutton stereotype, people are really invested in the idea that fat people are [lazy, overeaters, ignorant, etc] and simply cannot let themselves believe that things might be otherwise. Lesley and Marianne had lots of great things to say about this in one of their Fatcasts, I think it was the Questioning Reality one.
That seems to be a common thread with a lot of assumptions about fat people. This horrible fear of letting themselves consider that the assumptions they have made may actually not be true. God forbid they change their mind or learn something!
oh man, and that dude was like ‘haven’t you seen the biggest loser?’ well if that is where you get your information buddy, of course you are going to think we are all the lazy gluttonous folk devils that those fat people are represented as….duh!
I don’t get how seemingly intelligent people buy into all the stupid shit on TV that THEY clearly spend too much time watching.
That dude, yeah, he was pretty inconsistent. He starts up with “put the cheeseburger down, fatty!” then moves to “well most of the fatties are like that, even if there are a few that aren’t” and ends with “OH YOU’RE OUT OF CONTEXT!”
It’s ironic isn’t it that those who buy into fatties sitting in front of the teev with a jumbo cheesecake are the ones watching the teev to believe the schtick that is sold to them.
I like to point out that something is wrong when a working single mother can be called “lazy” because she is fat. This often gets my point across, since almost everyone can think of an example of a fat working single mother. In fact, work and overwork are contributing to “the obesity epidemic” because it is both sedentary and stressful & it leaves less or even little time for less sedentary recreation.
It doesn’t matter the circumstances of the fat person, it’s always twisted into the fatty’s fault that something is wrong.
It is not only the media, before I began to read FA blogs, I thought that fat people eat themselves to fatness because of my experience and after looking at my family and friends.
I came from a family of overweigth and regular weight people, when we eat and we don’t move we become fatter, when we eat less or when we move more we lose weight. Nobody in my family is fat while exercising or eating less caloric meals. And this is not a judgement, they have the right to eat whatever they want, or to move or not move, it is their decision. Moral has nothing to do with fatness.
But that’s why I thougt that my experience was universal. And I was wrong, now I think that calories in-calories out is not exact, that is more the calories that you get from food (which can vary a lot depending of the metabolism), and the calories that you spend (which can vary a lot depending more of your metabolism than your level of exercising). But I can understand that a lot of people think that calories in-calories out is equal to calories in my food-calories that I exercise out. That can be true for some people, but it is not true for all the people.
So is that why fat people get so much crap for exercising? Because it’s breaking some people’s reality, and therefore pisses them off?
I think you’re bang on the nail there! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
No, because the people that insult the fat people for exercising are gilipollas (assholes in spanish).
And even if we do ‘sit’, who is to say we aren’t being productive? (ie computer jobs etc). Sitting always = stuffing one’s face as much as thin always = healthy.
(Ans yes, I am writing this at 3.41am…)
Amen to that! Besides, do thin people not just “sit” a lot of the day too? I see a lot of them in my workplace, and clearly there are a lot sitting on the internet, cos they all have time to leave hate comments around the place.
It is that stereotype that I always find myself fighting against! I joke about it with puns, but in the end I am on my feet all damn day working my fingers to the bone! No one can say that about me, but if they don’t know me they do and that is bullshit! Between that and the “fat people are stupid” thing, I just wanna throw my hands up and walk away…but I can’t! Not when there are fierce fatties like you and the ladies on the radio program doing such great work! I’m with you! Always!
You could parade a million busy, active fatties in front of their faces and most of them still wouldn’t listen or change their attitude. It’s bigotry, through and through.
That’s one way to explain why you can’t *see* the “obesity tsunami”. All those fat people sit at home and eat!
I got fat on a lifestyle that would have been a challenge for a caffeeinated squirrel to keep up with. I was sleep-deprived, always in a hurry, always hungry and had a permanent cold from never having the time to get dry. Of course, I never let a chance to take a nap or grab a high-energy-snack pass — who knows when the next opportunity would come along.
Being able to sit down to eat three times a day? Heaven.
That evil hidden “obesity tsunami”.
You know what I reckon we should do? Get as many fatties as we can in a sports stadium and film us doing The Wave. Give them a real tsunami!
Ha! See, as a fatty, I love this argument because I actually DO spend a lot of time sitting. Except, you know, I’m sitting reading my textbook, or reading research, or writing essays. I go to college online so I spend lots of time sitting, and lots of time on the computer, but I am often doing things. Oh I sure spend my fair share of time reading blogs for entertainment and playing stupid games but I bet an awful lot of thin people do too.
I spend a lot of time sitting when I’m working too. An 8/9 hour day usually, a good 6/7 hours stuck at a computer and telephone. But I spend an equal amount of time running around like a blue arsed fly too!
That’s always been my argument–that if all us fat people just sit at home in front of the TV stuffing our faces, then where do all the media images come from? We can’t be sitting on our fat asses at home AND out in public!
But you can’t win with the haters. If we stay home, we’re fat and lazy and stuffing our faces. If we’re out an about, then we’re being fat at them.
If we don’t diet, then we’re fat and lazy and only interested in making ourselves as fat as humanly possible. if we diet, we’re not doing it hard enough, or we’re just doing it wrong. God forbid there is an actually slip up or a planned treat!
If we try to make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible we’re seen as lazy and anti-social and “jealous” of thin people. If we just try to live our lives and don’t worry about being inconspicuous we’re accused of flaunting our fat, of trying to coerce society into ‘being like us’, of defying all the health warnings and basically just BEING FAT AT EVERYONE.
At the top would be that at the very least we’re out to ruin everyone’s day by appearance alone.
I am all about Size Acceptance, and HAES, but every single day I still struggle with the ‘I should lose weight’ thoughts, because it would be easier to merely exist amongst “normal” people if I were perceieved to be one of them.
I’ve said this for awhile now. No matter what you do, you cannot win unless you cease to exist. Then of course, you lose, but the fat haters are happy.
We all struggle with the “I should lose weight” thing Kirsten. Every single one of us, even the most seasoned fat activist has those times. Take heart that it’s normal, but we keep working on it!
I sit a lot. I work as a Medicare claims processor, which means I’m expected to sit at my workstation for almost 8 hours five days a week and type. So if people don’t like the fact I’m doing that, so sad too bad. People don’t get to choose the lifestyle others lead unless it actually harms another person and the last time I checked, being fat doesn’t harm anyone, but just visually offends shallow, narrow-minded people.
And yeah, 99% of those headless fatty shots show them in public, walking, usually with water bottles in hand! Don’t tell me they’re all going to Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, the welfare office, or any other stereotypical place others think we go during the day.
But as Bri says, we don’t just sit, passive. Which is what some of these people think fat people do – just sit there, passive, in front of the TV and/or a bucket of food.
You’re right though – even if we did just sit passive, that doesn’t mean they get the right to hate on us for it.
Sitting is kinda mandatory for students. Professors tend to frown if we try to jog around the room. ^_^ I still say camel fleas and too short arms are the answer.
Butt boils. I’m voting for butt boils Barbara.
Thanks for this post. This is a myth I struggle with because I snack a lot at work (how am I supposed to get from 12:30 to 7 with a workout in between without food?) and always feel self conscious about the fact that I’m playing into the myth. Even though I see thin people hitting the vending machines all the time.