There’s a new book about fat on the block, and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy (ask your local library if they’ve got it, if not, ask them if they can get it in for you) and having a read. It is Fat by Deborah Lupton.
It’s not perfect, there’s quite a bit of privilege denial (ugh, thin privilege) and she completely misses the point about much of fat activism a fair bit, but it has been giving me some real food for thought.
One of the things it has triggered a lot of thinking about lately is how those of us with fat bodies negotiate our way through the physical spaces of the world. I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”. The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world.
People with thin privilege do not see that as well as the general stigma and shaming around having a fat body, the act of simply existing in a fat body is something that constantly has to be monitored so as to minimise further shaming and stigma.
Even at home it starts…
The first thing I do in the morning is jump in the shower. In my flat, the shower stall is quite small, smaller than the one I had in my previous home. As I get in to the shower, the glass door sometimes swings wide open as I bump it, which means water sprays out onto the bathroom floor. After my shower I get dressed in clothes that I have had a lot of difficulty to find (correct fit but also clothes that I like and reflect how I wish to dress, and are suitable for the place I intend to wear them). Once dressed and shod and ready to leave the house, I grab my handbag, which I had some difficulty finding one with a long enough shoulder strap that it would fit cross body, so that I could have my hands free. As I leave my building I squeeze through a space between the stairwell and the garden edge, that is cut to narrower than my body.
I walk to the train station, often facing abuse that early from cars that pass me, or if nothing else stares when I get to the train station. I sit down on the benches on the platform. People usually avoid sitting next to me, and often make it clear that they find me repulsive. I wait for the train, usually catching up with Twitter while I wait. Once I get on the train, I am lucky enough to get on at the second station so there are usually plenty of seats. I sit on one facing the direction of travel, move close to the window and put my bag on my lap or between my feet. My body, while very large, does not take up more than one seat width, though my shoulders do a little. I usually read while commuting. I make my body take up as little space as possible. As people get on the train, and it begins to fill, I notice them looking for seats anywhere but me. Some of them sigh or tsk as they pass me. Many would rather stand, or sit next to a man with his legs widely spread and his newspaper out open than sit next to me, as though my fat is contagious. I see them staring (I wear sunglasses which hide my eyes so they don’t know which way I am looking) sometimes they nudge the person they are travelling with and not-so-subtly point me out. Semi-regularly I catch someone photographing me on their smartphone. Occasionally if I don’t have my iPod on, I hear someone say something like “If it wasn’t for fatso there, we would have more seats.”
When I get to my destination, I leave the train and walk through the station. I walk down the stairs to the subway, no slower than most other people, but there is always someone who huffs and puffs behind me like I am holding them up. Usually my speed is determined by the people in front of me, but the eyes on me say “Fatty you’re holding people up.” Sometimes people even say this out loud. As I line up for the GoCard gates, I am acutely aware that my body only just fits through the gates, and when I am wearing my bag across my body I have to adjust it to be in front of me so that I fit.
I walk to work, still facing comments, nudges and stares from strangers. As I walk into my building and get into the elevator, often people eye me up and down, sigh or tsk as if they’re offended at the amount of space I take up in the lift. When I get to my desk, the standard office chairs are not wide enough between the arms for me to sit comfortably, in fact, they’re not wide enough for MOST people to sit comfortably, almost everyone in the office has a different brand chair to the “standard” but as the fattest woman I’m the one looked at askew for using a different chair.
Anywhere I walk in public I constantly have to be aware of the space I am taking up. I am expected to apologise for not fitting between groups of people crowding a walkway, or through the gaps in chairs in the building’s food court area if I go to buy a coffee or my lunch. Furniture is arranged so that it is too narrow for my body to pass through, and I often have to move chairs, squeeze sideways or ask people to move because I don’t fit the designated space for a body. Bathroom stalls are narrow, the sanitary bins often dig into my side if they are not far back enough. Meeting anyone in a doorway means that I must again apologise for my size, because we won’t both fit through at the same time.
The kitchen and bathroom basins in our office building force me to lean over them and my belly gets wet from water people have slopped there beforehand and not cleaned up. If I go into shops, I have to manoeuvre my way around racks, displays and other people who are all closer together than fits my body. Chairs provided in public spaces are either too narrow for me, or too flimsy or both. If I go to the movies, the chairs there are uncomfortable, older theatres have narrow seats with inflexible arm rests that dig into my sides, and again I face the constant tsks of disapproval from strangers for sitting in chairs near where they want to sit, even though none of me protrudes out to other chairs except my shoulders, which would be the same if I were thin. The same goes for restaurants and other places with public seating – either seats are uncomfortable for me, or I get shamed for taking up too much space.
If I want to eat in public, I have to decide whether I have the sanity points to deal with comments people make, or more stares and nudges. Often some of the rudest comments or behaviour comes from the staff of the place I am purchasing food. I quickly work out the places I can go where they won’t shame me for buying any food, and never return to those that do, if I have a choice. In supermarkets, people stare into my trolley/basket and don’t hide their disapproval at finding food in there. Sometimes they make comments about foods I have chosen, either chastising me if they deem it unhealthy, patronising me if they decide it is healthy. I have even had people remove food from my trolley, scolding me that I “don’t need it”. I always use the self checkout units at the supermarket, even if there are cashiers free, because it’s not worth putting up with the comments the cashiers make, or the scrutiny of the shoppers behind me.
It even affects my friendships and relationships. One ex-boyfriend left me because he couldn’t tolerate the stares and nudges in public. Several of my friends have told me that they find themselves getting angry when they are out with me, because they see how people behave. I find myself getting angry after a few hours in a public place like a shopping centre, because I’m sick of being stared at and openly judged, which ruins my enjoyment of time out with my friends.
When I take a walk or a bike ride along the beautiful waterfront parklands near my house, I get more stares, more comments. People stop me to make patronising comments “encouraging” weight loss. One afternoon I had stopped at a picnic table to rummage through my bag for my purse when a woman came up to me, indicated I should take my earbuds out and then said “You are doing SO well, keep going and you will lose ALL that weight.” She didn’t like it when I responded “Mind your own business, I’m quite happy with my body, now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go buy fish and chips for dinner.” In the heat of the past few weeks I have packed a salad in a lunch box and taken it down to the waterfront picnic tables to eat in the sea breeze, much more pleasant than the heat of my home. People stare and make comments about “people like that eating”.
Most people parrot “Well just lose weight then!” with no actual experience in what it is like to try to make a fat body smaller, or no true knowledge of how a fat person lives. They believe the stereotypical myth of fat people rather than take the time to actually know what a fat person’s experiences are, what it is like to live in a fat body or to even believe not just fat people, but science that tells us that 95% of people can not lose weight permanently. Instead of making the world variable enough to fit all of us, they insist that we make ourselves fit the world.
This is why when someone says for the millionth time “But what about your health!?!” I get angry. What about our health? Do people really think that stigma and shaming, and a world that is deeply uncomfortable for fat people is actually good for anyone’s health? Do they really think that by not allowing us to live our lives in peace and dignity, we’re going to suddenly go “Oh wait! I should get thin!” as if we have never tried it? It is also why when people parrot the old “Just put down the cheeseburger and get off the couch” bullshit, I get angry. Every morsel we eat is policed, and every moment in public is too. Do they really think that this helps us live full, happy lives? Do they really believe that they have the RIGHT to intervene in our lives?
There is not a day goes by without these micro-aggressions coming my way, as they do for most very fat people. I don’t share these things so that people feel sorry for me, that’s not what I want at all. I want to highlight just how fat stigma and shaming forces fat people to spend their whole lives mitigating unpleasant, embarrassing or painful incidents caused by a culture that refuses to share its space with them. There IS plenty of space for all of us, big or small, on this planet. The problem is that fatness has been so demonised, so dehumanised that everyday people feel they have the right to be police AND judge, jury and executioner for fat people in the world.
I never feel discomfort because of my fat body. I constantly feel discomfort because of the way the world treats me and refuses to accommodate me because of my fat body.
You take my breath away lady friend. And move my heart.
Ahh thank you lovely Bri.
A really interesting article (as always). Having read your blog now for about six months, I always reflect back on your topic, as it relates to me. I like this about your writing. It makes me think. When it comes to the hurtful comments and stares, I am either totally oblivious, or I do not encounter them. Either way, I’m happy with that 🙂 However the physical space makes me feel very self-conscious. Planes are the worst. The absolute worst. The experience can be bad enough that it takes away the excitement about wherever it is I am travelling to. Having flown in Business class once, I know that it’s okay to be big if you can afford Business/First class. Unfortunately my finances dictate that I can only do this on a free upgrade. I wonder why it is that you have to be slimmer to fly Economy? Hmmm…..
You are very privileged to not have to deal with strangers staring or making comments about you Jen. I only wish I didn’t have to deal with it.
You just described every day I have to leave my house and go to work, and just live my life. Very eloquent. You make me feel less alone. Thank you.
VickiR I’m sorry you have to deal with this too. It’s exhausting and takes up far too much of our time in our lives.
I felt moved to reply, which is something I don’t do very often when reading blogs.
Your writing is very raw and honest, and some of your experiences remind me of my own. the main thing I wanted to say, though, is that you describe these incidences as ‘micro-agressions’. I disagree. I think that the behaviour you describe from other people is nothing short of prejudice. If you were to suppose that you were black, rather than fat, the comments and actions of others would be seen as disgusting expressions of racism. I wish that I was bringing my three children up in a world where this isn’t acceptable, but I fear it may get worse before it gets better.
Are you familiar with the Microaggressions website, Michelle? The idea of micraggressions is that you’re right, they’re definitely prejudice, but they’re prejudice expressed in quick, brief, sometimes even subtle ways that people who aren’t subject to them don’t seem to take very seriously. The term was originally coined to talk about systemic racism – ““Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of colour.” (more here: http://www.microaggressions.com/about/). Microaggressions are little things that might be said or done casually or in ignorance, but that build up to a picture like the one Kath presents here, of relentless abuse and victimisation.
Thank you Sarah. I hadn’t heard of that. I’ll look into it.
Hi Michelle. As Sarah has explained beautifully below, microaggressions are indeed moments of prejudice, only they are those things that are generally dismissed by those privileged enough to not deal with them as “nothing worth making a fuss over”.
I can relate on pretty much everything you’ve said here. And I’m sorry that you and I (and so many others) have to go through it. I know it’s hard to share stuff like this. I sometimes write about it, sometimes I don’t. The times I don’t, it’s fear of judgment. Fear of being seen as the sad victim, or fear of being seen as weak because I haven’t learned how to be all punk rock and badass and not care what people think, or because I don’t lash out – or if I do lash out, being seen as the angry fatty. I can make myself crazy thinking about all the possible ways that exist to judge me for having my experience and it’s all that stuff I have to get through before I can post anything as vulnerable as this. And yet when I do, I know it helps other people. Same way that reading this helped me — to see your strength in navigating this every day while still remaining willing to tell your story, and to see my own strength mirrored because of it. So thanks — for both making me feel less alone and reminding me that it’s OK to speak the truth, even if the truth is hard.
I totally understand how you feel Stacy. When we talk about these things people so often read us as attention seeking, or looking for pity or worst of all “playing the victim”. I don’t need to play at anything – this shit happens to me all the time. I would love to not have to talk about it, for it to not be an issue that needs highlighting. But the reality is that we do deal with this shit and staying silent only helps those who inflict it on it continue to do so.
I can’t believe you face all that every day. This is not pity; it’s astonishment (and anger). I don’t know if it’s a culture difference between AU & the US, or simply that I live in Texas, where I, as a fat person, am in good company, but I have rarely had someone verbally mock me, to my face or where I could here them, since school. Also, I feel really lucky to live in Austin, city of the rainbow-haired, tattooed, and extremely liberal. Everyone here is pretty much accepting of, well, everyone else. Of course there have been exceptions, but I do not have to deal with them on a daily basis. I have personally faced most of my fat-shaming from family members (nearly all of whom are/were/will be fat as it is obviously genetic to some degree); some are well-intentioned and oblivious, but all are inappropriate nonetheless.
HOWEVER, I can completely relate to the consciousness about how much space my body is taking up, especially when weaving through restaurant tables, having to let the seatbelt out all the way on a plane, etc. The worst is sitting on the ground with the kids while my daughter’s class sings to us while other parents sit in the tiny kiddie chairs. (I finally tested one out–tentatively–but even though it didn’t break, I’m always conscious of how much of my bottom is extending from either side.) How much space I’m taking up has been almost a subconscious voice in my head for as long as I can remember. This worry has even shaped the way I gesticulate and move my body (not very freely).
I have lived in the UK and the limited amount of space available was astonishing to me as a naive 24-year-old. I have perceived a difference between the crowded Northeastern states and southern ones, especially Texas, when it comes to space as well. I would be interested to know empirically how much cultural factors from country to country or even state to state within the US actually make a difference with fat-shaming, and how much the availability of space affects people’s attitudes. If that is not in the recommended book, I’d like to read about it somewhere.
And thanks for sharing so fearlessly. Getting a taste of your personality makes those obnoxious people in your stories seem even more, um, douche-y. They might be attempting to shame you, but you are showing the world
I feel the same way. I live in Massachusetts, which has fewer fat people than Texas, but is also pretty accepting. I’ve read so much about the abuse that many fatties experience in the public sphere, and it’s horrifying. I haven’t experienced it myself–if anything, I tend to get positive comments from strangers on my outfits and accessories–but I don’t know whether that’s due to luck, cultural differences, or both. Either way, it’s fucked-up that so many fat people deal with this constant stream of prejudice from the people around them.
Australia is becoming increasingly intolerant and self-entitled. It disgusts me – we used to pride ourselves on fairness and tolerance. Not any more.
Just to clarify I Carol I don’t experience all of it every day, but I do experience some of it every day. Unless I stay home, and do not turn on any outside media (tv, DVD, music, internet, anything) there is no way to avoid fat shaming and stigma.
I wouldn’t have thought that Brisbane was particularly provincial or gauche, but it seems it is. I wouldn’t have thought a fat, tattooed woman with coloured hair would be that big a deal, but it seems it is. And I have to say, the Gold Coast is even worse!
*just how shameful those rude people are.
i have dealt with all this ever since i was little. all through high school i was called a fat lesbian (like being fat made me gay). i have never been a thin girl and have bullied about it all my life. it took me a really long time to be comfortable with my self, how to wear my self, how to dress. amusement parks people act you will break the rides. i get nervous sitting in chairs at other peoples houses (what if they break). i am 260 with DDD boobs. my life is no cart wheel. but i absolutely love my self,i taught my self how to sew because nothing i bought i liked. so, i dress super cute, wear nice dresses, buy good bras and just project awesome. i love where i am now. im sure i could benefit from losing about 70lbs, still be fat and still be awesome. but i have a beautiful daughter and loving husband who are so proud of me and love me. I am such a happy person and it took me a while to not care what other people think. im happy being me and that is all that really matters ❤
Thank you for wonderful and beautiful. and thank you to an awesome Corinna for helping me find you.
laceystarseven I still get called a fat lesbian… so I just thank people because some of the nicest people I know are fat lesbians!
And you are most welcome.
Every day you fight to redress this crap and make the world a better place. I wish you didn’t have to be strong in the face of all this prejudice, rudeness and cruelty, but here you are fighting for human rights in the face of a fatphobic world. Thank you for your work and writing.
I consider it sanity saving Jo. I couldn’t survive if I didn’t keep fighting.
Thank you so much for your activism and sharing.
I am not chubby, or even obese. I am told there is a new category: “Super Obese”. This is where I fit in the world and it just seems like I should have a cape and tights to go with that identity.
I have had some variation of most these circumstances you listed but I must say really not all that often. I can think of maybe a half dozen instances of anyone saying anything to me in public about my food, body, or exercise as an adult. I used to be aware of stares at my largest but then I played a game where I pretended I was a famous Sumo wrestler and that was why people were staring but they were just too shy to approach me.
Any stares since then, I’ve tuned out. They may very well be staring today for all I know but it could be due to my devastating hotness. Yeah. I know you know what that is like.
I have other fat friends who seriously get harassed, and it seems to be especially notable on public transit.
I am am wondering what the factors are for my receiving far less harassment than others report.
Could it be:
1. My attitude that I just don’t give a (insert expletive) anymore and embrace my size as I would my queerness. Which is, there is nothing wrong with me, there is something wrong with you for thinking there is something wrong with me. No doubt (most days).
2. Could it be that I am a butch dyke with a buzz cut and am often mistaken for a man? Really. I am thinking this is a big factor. When I lived in Oakland I had been frequently called Big Guy, Boss, and Chief by “other” men who mistook my gender. There was a lot of respect and some awe in their tone. Whereas my fat femme friends would be mooed at and other equally messed up commentary came their way.
3. My location. I have lived in San Francisco Area and, strangely, received most of what comments I’ve received from there. It was usually “well meaning” folk like the woman who says “Good for you!” while I am happily riding my bike at the marina just having a good time…until her attention suddenly made me a lazy fat ass who finally got of the couch for once so I could cycle off the pounds. Seriously, why do we have to share the planet with such idiocy!
But in Austin, TX and Ohio, I don’t get any attention and there seems to be a lot more people of size, out and about, at swimming holes scantily clothed, in shopping cart scooters, and not huddled in there homes afraid to be seen. Overall, there seems to be less emphasis on appearance in general.
Also, I am hearing from a couple of fat friends in UK that it is particularly difficult there.
I am wondering where you live and if you think the culture around you is a factor?
My turning point of dropping a lot of shame was when I went out dancing at a Holiday Gala in San Francisco. Formal, Fetish, or Drag were mandatory to get in. Drag was cheap and easy and my first time doing so. I was surprised to find I was not just playing dress up but actually embodying a male persona. As Dan, I didn’t feel shame trying to get out of the little Toyota my friend was driving us in. Instead, I grumbled “Damn foreign cars! Make ’em so small a guy can’t get out!” I wasn’t too big. It was the car! Then on the dance floor, for the first time, I danced with pelvic thrusts. I never did that before because I always felt like I was just exposing my big disgusting belly. But as Dan, “That’s right baby! Six packs are for wusses! A real man has a KEG!!!” And then I lap danced a chick! SOOOO not something I would have ever done in the past!
Since my night out as Dan, I have made a point of living his philosophy. I don’t always succeed and I definitely have days of fat shame. But rarely do I get commentary from anyone. I think I just don’t have room for it anymore. That’s what doesn’t fit.
Kids are the problem area for me. I once had a girl around 6, in a grocery store, point at me and repeatedly yell out in awe, “He’s a fat! He’s a fat!”. Repeatedly. Yelled. Pointed. Store full of people looking or trying not to look. Not exaggerating. OH! And she was carrying a large gold plastic axe. I was so blown away by this scene that was so bizarre and ridiculous on so many levels that I couldn’t find it in myself to feel the humiliation one would expect. Maybe it was the endorphins and shock that numbed out the humiliation. It’s hard to tell.
The mother pulled her to side and knelt down to quietly correct the child who may very well have been on a sugar high…or crack…I’m not sure which. I came by later and asked about the ax with a warm smile just so I wasn’t the anonymous “he fat” and let the mother know I survived her offspring’s assault without actually bringing up the unfortunate event. The girl stared on slack jawed as the “he fat” talked to her mom.
If anything, it made for a great story. Good times!
I apparently had much to share. Sorry if that was more comment than you may have wanted.
I very much enjoy your blog and am quite interested to know where you are in the world and if you think that is a factor.
Thanks so much!
Saint I hate the “O-words” as Marilyn Wann calls them. Overweight/obese or any other variant of are so offensive, they just pathologise fatness like we are not people but diseased, deformed. I prefer just “fat” – which varies from one person to the next, and is a simple descriptor of a body that is fat. Many people would like to label us as “morbidly obese” or some crap like that, but I refuse to be dehumanised by these terms.
As a smaller fat on the fat spectrum (18-20) I experience some but not all of this. But I see/hear it everyday. It’s disgusting that you deal with this all day, every day.
I hate the supermarket. I hate when my friends/parents/anyone asks me to buy them something considered ‘bad’ by the judgemental shoppers. I bought 4 tubs of 1lt ice creams in all different flavours to make sundaes with friends and the family. The check out person gave me the dirtiest look and told me I must be having a ‘cheat day’.
Because of this I rarely eat out and I tend to only have salad or a drink. I rather go hungry than deal with the looks and judgement of even my family when I eat something considered ‘junk’.
I feel for you Kath. I feel for all the fat people out there that are made uncomfortable by societies narrow view of the human body.
The sad thing is Kate – so many people would see nothing wrong with their behaviour, or the behaviour of those around them. They think it’s perfectly acceptable to bully and police fat people but would NEVER stand for it if someone did it to them.
Wow! It’s none of the checkout clerk’s business why you’re buying the ice cream. It seems that she’s an entitled beeyatch.
I remember the day I took the elevator at work down one floor to the lobby. My knees, long since gone, don’t like going down the stairs very much, so I don’t. The lady in was annoyed at first cause she thought the 1st floor was the lobby and then she muttered at me “Maybe you should take the stairs and lose weight.” I was flabbergasted, but not enough to forget who I am and out of my mouth came “Maybe your mother should have taught you not to be a rude c**t to strangers.” She huffed at my foul language, but somewhere in her lizard brain she knew enough to accept she was rude and marched out of the building without another world.
On top of being fat I am also rather tall, 6’3″, so I often feel like I live in Barbie’s Playhouse Fun World and must be gentle with everything I touch. It makes for a very unsatisfying life sometimes. Your article above is the first time I learned that other people out there feel and share the same things I do.
Much love from Montreal.
Sometimes you just have to verbally smack them back down again, don’t you aslanc?
So much of this is familiar to me. I am grateful I don’t have to take public transit more often than a few times a month. I usually stand to avoid the whole “strangers don’t want to sit by me, even when I make room for them” dance of awkwardness. The last line is something I say out loud, repeatedly, with much wonder and confusion. My body doesn’t do me wrong in any way, aside from the little indignities that all humans experience by virtue of living in bodies. I get acne. I have flat feet. Sometimes I get a sore joint through some misadventure (usually scrambling recklessly on big rocks at the beach.) But overall, my body serves me very well, and I consider myself lucky in that regard. The only source of grief that truly involves my body is the way it is viewed, and the way I am subsequently treated, by other people, usually strangers, and the fact that almost every motion I make through the larger physical world reminds me that no one took my existence into account when they were designing it.
Michelle I am TOTALLY going to employ saying that line out loud when I get huffies on the train next!
And yes, my body is pretty happy and serves me well too. No more issues than the average 40 year old. Probably fewer actually. And the only long term issues it has ever given me have been hereditary so that’s in no way blameable on my fat!
I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to gank that last sentence as a quote!
I feel like running off a bazillion copies of this and plastering the streets in hopes that even one damn person will read it and get a fucking clue.
Ahh thanks Twistie. I wish it would help to do so… but somehow I feel it doesn’t.
Oh, the bathroom stalls make me so angry. I don’t fit, at least not without bruising or scraping myself on a TP dispenser or sanitary bin. On days where I’m wearing anything (heating pad, TENS unit) for chronic pain, waiting for a disabled accessible stall becomes an absolute must. Anywhere there’s a line (shopping at Christmas, movie theaters, after lunch at work), it means standing there awkwardly, offering open stalls to the people behind me while I’m waiting for the stall I need to be available. And while this doesn’t happen terribly often, it’s not unheard of that someone will ask me why I’m waiting for that stall — ask or make a comment like, “It’s not like you need it, really.”
Which upsets me on two levels. First, I don’t like feeling pressured to disclose — and by implication, to justify — my disability issues to other people. At the same time, I feel like I wouldn’t be in that position if more stalls were sized to accommodate my body in the first place.
Oh Tori – I hear ya loud and clear!! I too require disabled toilet stalls pretty much all the time as I rely on a walker or crutches. This is due to MS but the general populace just stare or groan when I dare to use thise facilities or my mobility aids – i have even heard people suggest I use these items because I am too fat – I WISH IT WERE THAT SIMPLE!! Because I don’t look elderly, alot of people think I am being slack or lazy using disabled facilities or my walker but it is the only thing keeping me out of the wheelchair for now so I am trying to use what is left of my legs while I can and I am soooo sick of feeling like some kind of malingerer due to letting these morons out there get to me – I would much rather groovier accessories than these aids( like a new handbag or shoes lol) but I am trying really hard – with differing degrees of success – to not feel so self-concious about not blending in so easily – well it is a work in progress I guess but, like you, I object to feeling like I have to disclose or justify my position to complete strangers-most of whom seem to feel entitled to know my business. Hope this will change one day for all of us in this situation. Thanks for sharing your comments – don’t feel so isolated after reading others posts. Happy Christmas to you 🙂
I love the spirit in your reply. And though you and I deal with comments from strangers for different reasons, (I’m heavily tattooed), I relate to your sentiment that we should not have to explain our very existence to anyone, especially people we have never met before and will never meet again.
Absolutely Tori – not only do bathroom stalls ignore fat people, they’re bloody ableist too!
It’s very late here and I haven’t the time to spew forth all the numerous ways in which I respect and support you. For now, I’ll just offer a chi-hug from… up over, I guess – all the way around the world, which is awesome. Sorry if this is an idiot question, but do you have an Aussie accent? That would be wicked cool!
Jenna – no, you’re the one with the accent! 😛 hehehe
BTW, if you want to hear my accent, here are a couple of podcasts I did a while back with some other fab fatties:
Wow-as usual I gain so much from your posts. Today’s has given me some confidence to be ready to endure the usual Christmas gatherings with the “oh so perfect” thin–o-philes in this family of mine. I let myself consume what I like at Christmas and funnily enough I rarely gain in December/January BUT the disapproving faces around me when I find a seat and have a piece of pavlova would put most off consuming much anyway(with the exception of some vino perhaps). Hope all find a way to enjoy this time of year anyway. There’s got to be some way to let EVERYBODY celebrate special times such as Christmas instead of it turning into another competitive smug session.
The holiday season is so tough on fatties. It is so loaded with fat shaming and bullshit thin superiority. I wish everyone could enjoy the holiday without that crap.
I’ve never really thought about it before, but now I realise that I do feel like I have to apologise for my taking up space in public. Thankfully I don’t get my spoons stolen by others as often as you do. The mental strength it must take you to get through each day!
The attitudes that people have towards others disgusts me. It generates situations like I have now, where I can’t tell my mum that I’m pre-diabetic and get advice on foods and meals that have a low GI as well as being dairy-free, because, though she might not say it out loud, her attitude will be all “I told you so”. And it’s that which is making the whole situation so much worse.
Fae I fully believe that “pre-diabetic” is a load of bullshit. As a Type 2 diabetic – you either have it or you don’t. It’s like suggesting someone can be pre-pregnant or have pre-hepatitis. Any doctor that tells you that you are “pre-diabetic” is a quack.
I’m constantly stunned at how people can have attitude over someone that they don’t even know. Don’t they have more important things to attend to? Terrible.
Kath, thank you for so often writing the raw, honest truths that make me nod and re-read and cry over because seeing what I think and feel and endure (and occasionally overcome) all written out like this can be a challenge and a relief.
Every word in your blog makes me want to scream to the world how being fat makes me. Reading each word, I say to myself, this is exactly what I feel like! I wish I could show what you have written to a 1000 other souls! I am afraid of going on a walk for people stare at me. I live in India– it is no different here…
I, also, am in awe of your post. I felt so much anger not just for you but for all of us that are “taking up too much space”. Worst for me is the airplane. I’m now the person where the people are hoping they don’t have to sit next to me. Also, the weaving through the chairs in the restaurant. It can be mortifying. However, I really wish people would get their shit together about feeling the “superiority” they have just because they are thin. I mean, really, what kind of person says the things you’ve mentioned?
Having just spent 5 weeks traveling in UK and Europe it’s a constant case of finding it difficult to move in smaller spaces. The travel industry in particular is about how to cram as many bodies as possible into a delineated space . I remember one particular bathroom. It was quite spacious but they felt the need to add a wall to close off the toilet. It was quite wide enough until they added the paper dispenser on one wall and a telephone (seriously??? a phone call can’t wait???) on the other wall. I kept knocking the receiver off the phone. It was preferable to scraping myself on the paper dispenser. Looking back, I should have just left it off the hook. 🙂
I don’t get the awful comments. I might get stares. I don’t know. I’m not looking for them. If I’m out, I’m out. Either with friends, family or by myself. I focus on my own experience and enjoyment of the moment and don’t appear to have the experiences with people that you’ve mentioned here. Consider that the people who find it acceptable to be disrespectful are buying into the everyday culture of today’s society and brainwashing via the media. I live outside that anyway and am used to people being surprised that I don’t twitter, text or tumblr. I have a mobile phone that is about 9 yo (as old as my daughter) that I use maybe twice a year. I’ve sent a total of maybe a dozen texts. I have a facebook page with only friends who are actually friends. 🙂 So I am accustomed to being viewed as different and I’m ok with that. If people have a problem with me, that’s their problem. I can’t control how they think of me. I can control how I think of myself. If you truly love and accept yourself, what they say won’t affect how you feel about yourself.
I do think it’s important to stand up and be heard. It’s important to talk to people about preconceptions, misconceptions and prejudice. I do this. I talk to friends and family. I talk to retailers. I email companies with thoughts and suggestions. People respond to being approached with respect, assuredness and a measured tone. It is particularly effective if you are responding to a disrespectful, nasty tone. The stark contrast often makes the other party feel quite ashamed of their behaviour.
A few years back I was watching the Dalai Lama being interviewed. He was asked a question concerning how to deal with what other people think of you. His response (paraphrased) was that it didn’t matter what they thought. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself. He added, “Fuck them!” This made me laugh out loud so hard. It is so true. From that day on when anything starts to get to me I say, “Fuck them!” and continue on. 😀 It’s my life and it’s up to me to live it exactly as I am NOW. Waiting to be something other than what I am before I start to live my life has resulted in many lost years. Life’s eternal mystery is that you don’t know how many years you have left. Live NOW! Start this very minute. We all deserve that. ♥♥
Love and hugs to you all,
Wow, Vicki… I don’t know where to start with you. Aren’t you a special snowflake? I’m just going to say that your attitude of superiority is fucking offensive. That’s all the attention that whole steaming pile of dismissive crap you’ve served up in your comment deserves.
To anyone else reading this I want you to know the following:
1. If you get instances abuse, you are not “looking for them”. You are not overly-sensitive, you are not at fault and you do not have to blame yourself for that abuse. It is not your fault for “not focusing on your own experience and enjoyment of the moment”. You do not in any way DRAW abuse to you, EVER, by living in a fat body. If you do feel particularly sensitive to how other people respond to you as a fat person, that’s ok. Don’t let anyone condition you to just sit back and “let it happen”.
2. It is your right to have an active social media/online presence, and widen your acquaintances to whoever you like, without it being suggested that that somehow draws abuse to you. Nobody is superior because they don’t bother with social media and are only “friends with actual friends”.
3. Do not let anyone tone police you for being angry, hurt, sad, offended, outraged, upset or any other emotion for the abuse you follow. You do NOT have to reason with abusers. You do not have to approach abusers with “respect, assuredness and a measured tone”. Fuck that shit. If you’re angry or hurt or anything, you have every right to express it. And as most of us know from experience, politeness does not make arseholes feel ashamed.
4. Never believe the bullshit about “if you truly love and accept yourself, what they say won’t affect what you feel about yourself”. Nobody is that perfectly content with themselves that abuse doesn’t hurt sometimes – if they claim they are they are possibly a sociopath. Do not let anyone dismiss your hurt and anger by suggesting that it wouldn’t feel that way if you just “truly love and accept yourself”. BULLSHIT. You can love yourself all you like, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny your feelings or that hurt and anger don’t happen.
5. Do not ever let anyone come along and dismiss your experiences and feelings. It’s rude, it’s douchey and you’ve just seen a really horrible example of it in the comment above.
Well, I was not meaning to be offensive in any way, shape or form and I’m surprised that you would open your reply with a personal attack. I was simply offering up my point of view and how I deal with situations.
Of course you don’t have to accept abuse, disrespect and prejudice. That doesn’t mean you have retaliate with anger though. I have found that getting angry and offended doesn’t help me. If I keep my cool I deal with it better. It’s not an attitude of superiority. I choose not to let them upset me. I won’t give them that power over controlling my feelings. I get to choose how I feel.
I deal with issues quietly but I do deal with them. It’s a different approach to yours and it’s offended you. Something I did not intend.
Of course people can use social media however they like. I was relating how I use it and highlighting how some people find that weird and unusual in this day and age.
Sometimes not being face to face to hear a person’s tone of voice or read their body language can lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. In no way did I intend this post to be anything other than putting forward my point of view and how I deal with issues.
I think perhaps the thing is that for some folks we have heard all our lives why we should hate ourselves, and so the outrage tends to come out when we finally realize what bullshit that is. I don’t know, that’s the case for me anyway. Also, it’s why the whole “New Age” thinking that one shouldn’t have an angry thought or ever express anger pisses me off so much. I have spent an entire lifetime stifling my feelings and sometimes letting it all hang out is the only way to heal. I think that perhaps some of your words implied that one should not have or express these feelings. I’m not speaking for Kath here, but for what I percieved.
I have to say, being a total deathfat, I haven’t had a lot of abuse and scorn heaped on me in public for quite a while. I’m sure people look at me and think nasty thoughts silently though. I’m going to safely assume that most people are sane and rational enough to realize they have their own crap to deal with and don’t care about some random fat woman walking around. I’ll probably change my tune when and if someone makes a smartass comment to me.
I think what irks me the most is when you see flyers posted about how taking the stairs and parking in spaces further away from stores is better—don’t the dolts who make these flyers realize not everyone can do this because of disabilities or physical conditions which make it impossible and how hurtful their healthist elitist attitude is?
If society spent the energy it does on shaming fat people on more worthwhile things, we could end poverty, homelessness and cure cancer!
I shared the link to this on my Facebook page and promptly had to remove someone that claimed that they had the same problems finding clothes for their size 14 body that fat people did. After years of comments from this person on any fat media I posted, I snapped and got rid of her, and good riddance!
I found myself nodding along to this post. The water down my front at the bathroom is the worst, and the sanitary bin against my leg always makes me feel disgusting. I work in a retail store with a big glass window, and often have I caught people trying to take photos of me through the glass, or when I’m doing my shopping, or sitting in a cafe. It makes my skin crawl every time.