Firstly I want to share the amazing work of Rachele aka The Nearsighted Owl with you. Rachele has been doing a series of “shame loss” artworks, which I think are absolutely brilliant. You can check them out on her blog, or you can find them on her Tumblr. I want you to go and look at them on her sites, so I’m only going to share the one with you all now, because I want to talk about it. It is this take on the crappy Special K ad:
Isn’t it fabulous? I am loving that Rachele is creating lots of intersectional images of fat folk – people of colour, people with disibility, across gender and of varying shapes and sizes. Some of them are naked, some are clothed, the variety so far has been great and I look forward to the others she comes up with – I really do hope she comes up with more!
The reason I’m singling out this piece is because of the horrific healthism and ableism that has come out of people responding to the artwork. Most predominantly, that this fat woman “did it to herself” because she must have diabetes and has had a leg amputated because of it. I know, can you believe just how fucked in the head the thinking is around the image of a fat woman with a prosthetic leg that they’ve invented a whole fucking scenario for her… from a drawing!
Let’s ignore the logic of the whole thing that she’s clearly a young woman and people who suffer amputation due to diabetes are almost always elderly and it takes many years of suffering from vascular issues before things get as drastic as amputation. Not to mention that it’s a drawing, not a fucking photograph of an actual person. Logic clearly doesn’t come into play with these people.
Let’s focus on the bullshit attitude that somehow because she is a fat woman she “did it to herself”.
Let’s imagine that the image is exactly the same, only she is thin. What scenario do you think these people would dream up for her prosthetic leg then?
Car accident? Well let’s ask if the car accident was her fault? Did she “do it to herself” then?
How about through some kind of extreme sport/thrill accident? An accident base- jumping? Mountain climbing? Snowboarding? Surfing in shark infested waters? Would that come under “did it to herself”?
How about some of the cancers that are caused by lifestyle? Did she sunbathe? Smoke cigarettes? Live somewhere near radioactive material? Does that come under “did it to herself”?
I could go on. But what I’m really getting at is that if this was a picture of a thin woman with a prosthetic leg, there would be no question of “she did it to herself” and the image would not be met with the disgust and dreamed-up diabetes amputation scenario that came with it as it is above. There still would have no doubt been ableism, but the “fat chick did it to herself” people would have asked how a thin woman came to have a prosthetic leg, or assumed it was congenital, or some “tragic” circumstance
Only fat people get accused of “doing it to themselves” when it comes to disability or illness. Fat people are never allowed to have tragic circumstances, accidents, congenital illnesses or any other reason for their disabilities, no, it’s assumed that we must be unhealthy and have “done it to ourselves”. Even with NO information other than the person in the picture is fat and has a prosthetic leg, fat haters invent their own story for the person laying the “blame” on them. As Amanda at Fat Body Politics says on her post Speaking Hypothetically:
Attacking a drawing, that doesn’t depict a real person, gives people who are blinded by their own prejudice an ability to try and remove their own responsibility that is connected to the harm their words cause. The issue really isn’t that they are reading a drawing of a person that was meant to be positive, but that they are trying to negate the reality that their words have been said about real people, with real bodies that live in reality. Their lives and body should never be used as a hypothetical situation.
But what REALLY pisses me is that regardless of body shape or size, what if it was a picture of someone who had an amputation because of diabetes? (Since thin people get diabetes too – ie, my paternal uncles) It is disgustingly healthist and ableist to suggest that they “deserve” to be treated poorly. Every single human being, regardless of level of health, physical ability, size or general quality of life, deserves to live their lives in peace and dignity, without being vilified and bullied because of their bodies.
I don’t care if someone is the fattest person on the planet and they cut their own leg off for kicks, they still deserve to live their lives in peace and dignity, and to see themselves represented and accommodated in society – fat, with a disability and any other identifying features – as valid human beings.