It has been a bittersweet couple of days for me. If you’re not on Twitter and involved in Fat Acceptance, you might have missed the absolute flood of tweets with the hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold. The hashtag originated some time ago with Brian at Red No. 3, but was resurrected a couple of days ago after Catherine Deveny tweeted this damn offensive statement.
And it just took off. I think the last time Brian tallied up the tweets he could find in a search there were over 2000 original tweets in less than 48 hours. Mid afternoon I asked Brian to send me the word document he has been compiling, and the document is open here beside me as I type this, 216 pages long, with an average of 10 tweets per page.
I got into it, because it felt like an opportunity for me to vent all of the stupid, senseless, narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, bigoted things that have been said to me over the years. As the day went on yesterday, my feelings swung between bitter and sweet. Bitter because reading all these tweets, and sharing my own, dredges up the hurt, anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and general outrage I have felt at how I, and other fat people, are treated at the hands of general society. But also sweetness, because not only was it amazing to hear all of these people finally have a voice, and a considerably powerful one, but there was also a strong sense of community and fellowship building over the past two days. I gained dozens and dozens of new followers (though I also shed quite a few, who don’t like hearing the truth about the shit fat people are subjected to), and followed many new people myself.
But what I found most telling were the reactions from people who are not fat to many of the things that were tweeted under the hashtag. And in a way, it makes me angry that so many people are only horrified now at these things. I feel like “What the fuck have I been saying for the past two years if you’re only getting how horribly fat people are treated now?”
I’ll give you some examples of tweets that horrified some of the people who are not fat that I encountered today:
- @fatheffalump: [well dressed woman physically pushes me over on an escalator] Well you shouldn’t be so fucking fat! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
- @Nocturnal_Nyx said to me – fat people should kill themself and make more room for the normal people. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
- @lisa_n: No one’s ever going to love you if you don’t do something about that #thingsfatpeoplearetold
- @Mrs_Sprat: You should feel lucky you were raped. How else would someone sleep with you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
- @fatheffalump: “Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies.” (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
- @fatheffalump: “Keep walking ya fat cunt!” Yelled at me from a passing car as I went for an afternoon walk. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
These are just a few that I tweeted or retweeted that got horrified reactions from some of the not-fat folk I follow.
What people aren’t getting is that this shit isn’t one offs. This shit isn’t something that happens on rare occasions. It happens to lots of us, all the time. I myself am literally spat at, have things thrown at me from passing cars, have shit called out at me, am mooed and barked at, have people call me a fat cunt, am photographed in public without my permission, particularly if I dare to eat in public, am laughed at by strangers on the street and receive death threats here on this blog, all of these things several times per week. AND. I. AM. NOT. ALONE. Over 2000 tweets in 48 hours give testament that this shit is happening to fat people, every day, every where. God knows how many people out there are suffering without ever giving voice to the things that happen to them.
Simply because we are fat and we exist in this world.
Yet people are still surprised when we talk about this stuff. There are still gasps of horror, exclamations of surprise, and declarations of “How can people behave like that to another human being?!”
You know how? They can because to the people who do this shit, we are “the obese”. We are not considered “people”, we are considered an “epidemic”. Governments and the media declare a “war on obesity” – who do you think that war is on? It’s on US. We are those headless fatties you see on the news. We are the “the obese” that the newspapers refer to when they wring their hands over how we’re costing the average taxpayer millions. We are the “obese women” that journalists write pieces about how we should be ashamed of ourselves, hate ourselves and be shamed by society for being fat. We are “the obese” who are shamed for daring to want to travel anywhere in a plane and told that we should pay more, buy two seats, not fly at all. We are the ones who have no decent quality, attractive clothes provided for us at a reasonable price. We are the ones who are represented on television by fat characters gorging themselves or bullying the “heroes”. We are the ones that “non-profit organisations” have in mind when they say that childhood obesity is the equivalent to childhood abuse. We are the ones our own governments set up to be bullied as children in the name of “public health”.
We are the ones who are reviled, shamed, ridiculed, bullied and abused at every fucking turn by the media, the weight loss industry, the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, even the fucking government.
Why else do you think we are treated like this? Because we are not considered human beings, we’re considered sub-human, and that message is repeated over and over and over again, day in and day out. So much that most of us spend our lives repeating it to ourselves.
So I want to say this to all of the people who are horrified at the things they read in these tweets. Don’t just shake your head, gasp in horror, and cluck your tongue at how terrible people are to the poor fatties. Stand the fuck up. Say something when you hear fat hate. Speak up when you see someone being treated badly because of the size of their body. Challenge those articles you see in magazines, newspapers and on television that perpetuate myths about fat people. Ask questions of the “facts” you see spouted that shame fat people, think about who might just benefit from fat phobia. After all, fat activists have been doing just this for decades.
Use your voice and join us in speaking out against sizeism. How many of you will stand up and speak against the mistreatment of animals, yet just change the subject when you hear fat hate against your fellow human beings? How many of you won’t buy a product because it’s not idealogically sound to you, but will happily support an organisation or company that shames fat people simply for existing in their bodies?
Look, your sympathy is nice. I appreciate that you feel dismay that fat people are treated badly. But ultimately we need more than your sympathy. We need your solidarity. We need you standing beside us and speaking up to all of society, to say that these are not acceptable ways to treat another human being. And we need your vocal and obvious support.
We need more than quiet statements of dismay or disbelief.
We need shouts across the rooftops at the injustice of how fat people are treated.
I would like to dedicate this post to Dr Samantha Thomas, a woman who embodies what it means to be a true ally to fat activists, and who sticks her neck out and stands up for the rights of fat people every day, from getting her gorgeous mug on the telly to speaking up when she hears fat stigmatisation in public. I feel blessed to have her stand beside me and other fat activists in this fight, and even more blessed to call her friend.