It’s funny you know. The more blatant the evidence, the more desperately some people cling on to their notions. After my last post, which was showing evidence on the public ridicule that fat people endure, I received more hate mail than I have in quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, there is always a low level, annoying hum of hate mail that I receive, like a mosquito buzzing around my ears all the time, but it really peaked over the past week or so.
It strikes me as interesting that I receive the most hate mail usually under the following two circumstances:
- I provide evidence of something really shitty happening to fat people.
- I post pictures or text showing myself as the happy, confident, secure woman that I happen to be since I gave up accepting fat hatred.
It doesn’t just happen online either, and not just to me. Countless fat women have told stories of going about their daily lives, being out in the world enjoying themselves, when someone has felt the need to cut them down with some hate. Eating out in a restaurant, on holidays with the family, at a party or nightclub, playing sport, at the pool, out shopping… or you know, just walking down the street happily minding your own business. This is something that happens to people from all marginalised groups, and of course the more ticks in boxes you have for points of marginalisation, the worse it gets. (See intersectionality.)
One only has to read the comments on any news article about fat that gives the remotest idea that perhaps the dominant paradigm about fat is not quite right (it doesn’t even have to be a vaguely positive article), and you will see people hating on fat people. Not that I recommend ever reading the comments anywhere – except here on Fat Heffalump, where I police them pretty strictly to keep them safe for you.
I’ve been reading bits of bell hooks again lately, thanks to a manuscript I am currently reading, and thinking about the way she talks about dominance as being part of oppression and marginalisation. Dominance is that constant effort to push a marginalised person down. To “take them down a peg or two” or make sure they’re “not getting too big for their boots”. It is that constant assertion that a marginalised person is inferior because of whatever it is society has deemed them “other” for. In my case, being a fat woman.
Many of those with privilege are most threatened by finding that there is ever a reason why they are not superior to someone without the same privileges as they. Some without privilege do it too, because they have internalised the stigmatising messages so deeply. So they must be hateful, or build false arguments (which are inherently hateful) to cut those of us down and attempt to make us feel bad about ourselves.
When we as fat women, refuse to hide ourselves away in shame, make ourselves visible and are openly happy and enjoying our lives, many people feel threatened by that. So much to the point that they fixate on us and spend time they could be spending actually getting on with their lives. That’s the thing – us gaining our freedom doesn’t cost them anything! By fat women being happy and living their lives to the full doesn’t actually reduce anything at all from theirs. Our getting adequate clothing options doesn’t mean there will be less clothing options for straight sizes. Our getting decent, non-stigmatising health care doesn’t mean there will be less health care for not-fat people. Our feeling happy and confident doesn’t detract from anyone else feeling happy and confident. The world just doesn’t work like it’s some kind of zero sum game.
What it is, is a kind of false reassurance for some people. They convince themselves that so long as someone who is fatter them (or “uglier” or “older” or “unhealthier” whatever other thing they deem inferior) hates themselves, well then at least they’re better than that “loser”!
I think that’s why, since I stopped hating myself and started living my life as I please, the abuse has actually got worse, not better. The big difference is in how I handle it, not in whether or not it is still happening. An example, I was walking to work one morning, merrily skipping along, idly thinking about the fact that my friend Toots was coming down to visit me on the coming weekend, which always brings a smile to my face. A man was standing outside a 7-11 shop on the corner as I crossed, I was really paying no attention until I noticed him scowling heavily. Our eyes met briefly, as they do when one is walking around with one’s head up and facing the world merrily, and he growled at me “You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.” All because I happened to be a fat woman who wasn’t deferring to his perceived superiority.
It was similar after I posted that last post, demonstrating just how rude people can be to fat women in public. Of course there were the usual deniers of my experience, I expected that. But I got literally dozens of hate comments, hate emails and even hate asks on my Tumblr. People who catalogued all of the things they have decided my life is lacking in (none of them asked me, they just decided/made it up as they went along), told me I was a freak (I believe the correct term is Super Freak, thank you very much), call me a failure, told me I was going to die immediately (I’ve been hearing that for 35 years), telling me I was ugly/unattractive/unfuckable (that’s fine, I wouldn’t fuck any of them either, and I don’t need to see their photos to know that – but of course they’re always too cowardly to identify themselves), called me a bitch/slut/whore/virgin/lesbian/trans-woman/man/dog/cunt/bunch of other stuff I can’t remember and my favourite of all, declared that I’m fat (as if my blog title doesn’t give it away that I might already know that!) Plus a bunch of other stuff that was supposed to insult/hurt me.
All of these are attempts to dominate me. To push me down, to remind me of my place, to nip my attitude in the bud, to subjugate me, to mark me as inferior. Because we cannot, under any circumstances, have a happy, confident, positive fat woman. We have to knock that fat bitch down a peg or two.
But what it really shows is just how many people out there are so terrified that they have no worth other than being better than someone else. They’re so desperate to prove their value, they do it by attempting to disprove mine (and anyone else they can find to feel superior to). There are so many tells that give these people away. The pointed remarks about how many friends they have, or what a good time they’re having. The statement that they may not be perfect, but at least they’re not as disgusting as me. The demands that I “Shut up!” but are then offended when I ignore them – when they apparently wanted me to shut up in the first place! They are at great pains to make sure that they are not worthless, they are not inferior, that they are somehow better than others. There are a lot of not-so-subtle hints that they have these fabulous exciting lives that they just love. The hater doth protest too much, methinks.
Most of the things they try to shame me for are the very things they are ashamed about in themselves. As a psychotherapist I know once suggested to me, perhaps we should make up cards or jpegs of listings of good psychotherapists to help them. As he said “I could cure most of those people of their need to hate others anonymously on the internet with some really good therapy.”
For all the anger I have about the way fat people are treated, there is no-one on this planet that I actually hate, and no-one whom I dislike that would be worth me giving the time to go and leave anonymous rubbish on their blog or Tumblr etc. I have better things to do than try to prove my superiority by making others feel inferior. I really don’t understand the mentality of spending all your time thinking about and paying attention to someone you supposedly hate. Why would you do that? Where is the quality of life in spending all your time focused on someone you hate? Unless the issue isn’t really hatred, but envy or perhaps fear. I once read that there are only two base emotions in life, love and fear. The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. What makes these people so afraid?
I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have the time. I can’t keep up with blogs and social media of people I love, let alone anyone I don’t like or who pisses me off. My reading list is a mile long, and I don’t get enough time to spend with the fabulous people in my life, and do all the things that are fun and fabulous, let alone focus on someone I dislike. Even when I’m seriously pissed off at someone for being a complete douchecanoe, I’m either going to challenge them directly, without hiding my identity, or I’m just going to walk away and not give them any attention. And I’m certainly not going to abuse some random person in the street just because they look happier than I feel.
What I want you to know dear, lovely fatties, is that the problem doesn’t lie with you.
People hating on you is not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection on them. Happy, confident, positive people don’t send hate out to others. They don’t feel the need to push others down to make themselves feel better. You don’t have to carry around other people’s shit. Whenever someone tries to hand you a big, steaming pile of hate, don’t carry that shit. It’s not yours to carry, it’s theirs. And when people carry around hate, it can be smelled a mile away. You let them carry around their own stink of hate, and see just how many friends it makes them, how far it gets them in life.
Hold your head high. Measure your worth by the things YOU value in yourself and your life, not by what other people try to project on you.
Thank you for this. I’m a fat, black, queer woman. I’ve had hate thrown at me all of my life, from family, from strangers, from all sorts. It’s good to know there are others like me out there who can hold their head up high and be proud of who they are.
Hugs back J.Applebee. I understand that feeling of no matter which way you turn there is someone waiting there to throw hate in your direction. You are worth more than that. You are a fat, black, queer woman and you are awesome.
I’m shocked and appalled at how you are treated by people in real life, and through various mediums. I cannot understand why people find it necessary to be so hateful towards one another.
As someone who has been bullied through primary and high school to the point of visiting psychologists because I was being tormented by groups of other girls and boys. I was punched in the face by a boy because he thought I was fat and ugly. Boys constantly told me how fat and ugly I was, how I was thunder thighs and chunky and ugly.
I’m really sorry that you receive such constant hate. I find your writing both passionate and empowering. Your blog has been such a key part of me on my journey to self-love and fat acceptance.
I am really sorry you have been bullied too kateonthenet. It’s not right and it’s fucked up that you’ve been the one who has had to “fix” things for yourself. But that just adds to your amazingness.
Thank you for your kind words and support too.
You have tremendous strength and courage. I’m sorry I don’t have much more to say; I just read this blog and often find myself shaking my head speechless and in disbelief of some people’s behaviors.
Thank you Cosette.
Good for you, Kath, & good for all of us who stand up to this shit & don’t let ourselves be cowed & shamed. And it is true, as I know well from years living with very abusive people, that the need to dump hatred on others is born of self-hatred. If you are comfortable with who you are & truly love & respect yourself & are invested in living the best life you can, there is no need to hate or attack others. They don’t seem to get the message that their behaviors say a lot about them, but nothing about the people whom they attack.
That’s exactly it Patsy – their hate says everything about them, and nothing about us. Beautifully expressed.
I do believe you and I do believe what I read in your post. Down here -in Argentina- bullying is not that harsh for fat people yet but I notice that its growing fast. We should not let them!
Hugs from south america!
Thank you. I hope that growth stops quickly.
phenomenal post. phenomenal writing. phenomenal woman.
Keep doing your thing. you are so important to so many people, me included. I feel blessed to have discovered your writing.
haters are gonna hate. that’s their thing. but its important for us to keep doing our thing, through the hate, despite the hate.
Thank you so much Blaceyda. Keep doing your thing!
I needed this today, thank you. You’ve renewed my spirit and strength.
You are welcome Lael.
Kath, have I mentioned lately what a spectacular person you are? Because you are.
For years I was the ritual whipping person at my school, in my Girl Scout troop, and in several other social venues. Whoever was wrong, bad, ugly, stupid, etc., well, at least they weren’t Twistie. Whatever people could get away with doing to me was justified because it proved there was someone worse – me.
After a while, I started internalizing this whopping pile of shit and believed that I could be better only if there was someone even worse than I. At least I didn’t think this. At least I didn’t wear that. At least I wasn’t fat… because back then, I wasn’t. I’m better than someone. And boy, if I can find a way to get away with insulting that lower person, I’d better do it just to prove to everyone else that I’m not the worst.
Unfortunately, to this day, that little voice does its best to tell me to look down on others. It’s still there, lurking in the back of my mind and the less than savory places in my soul, urging me to kick others who are down, to find someone lower and less worthy. To try to puff me up by pulling someone else down.
But every day I resist that voice, every comparison I refuse to make to my advantage only makes me happier, better, and stronger. Every time I simply accept that other people come in all kinds of packaging and with all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, it frees me a little more. It allows me to accomplish more, to appreciate the marvelous variety of humanity, and to just plain enjoy life more. Nobody loses a damn thing. We all gain.
I truly pity those who are still stuck in that endless loop of terror and rage that compels them to continue the cycle. As long as they’re stuck doing that, they’ll never find anything better to do with their time and energy… and that’s just sad. I truly hope they find a better way. I know it’s possible, because you know what? I’ve been there, done a lot more of that than I’d like to admit even to myself, and am working hard to rid my mental closet of the tee shirt.
I’m not better than them. I just found a way off the merry-go-round. My life is better and richer now than it was when I was riding a wooden horse called Fear.
I enjoyed reading your comment, Twistie. It’s good to hear from someone who understands that mindset but has gotten past it.
Twistie, I think you’re a pretty spectacular person too. Takes one to know one!
I’m sorry you too suffered at the mercy of haters. It’s a tough lesson to learn, and the injustice of it makes me so angry. But it leaves us the awesome people, y’know?
Thanks. I’m feeling you.
This is a love comment. Thank you for your clear-sighted examination of this issue. ALSO? Love!
Absolutely wonderful post! So often you see that when someone from one or more marginalized groups talks about their experiences dealing with hatred, then someone tells them “You are imagining it” and then proceeds to say hateful things to them. I guess they are too blinded by their hatred to see that they are only proving the point that this group has to deal with such nastiness.
Sending you hugs, not hate. 🙂
“You’re over-sensitive!” is the one I hear a lot. As if my sensitivity negates the fact that people spit at me in the street and shit like that?
People tend to cut the “good fatty” a little slack. If said Fatty is engaging in self-hate, then that allows the thin privileged to continue to feel superior. I did it for years. I was the good fatty, always berating myself for my size, always filling my cart with Weight Watchers entrees, etc. People don’t know what to do with a larger person who’s not having that bullshit anymore. Well, that is their problem.
I think you might be on to something there Cie.
Superb post. You never fail to teach me something. I have recently retreated from leaving my home as I feel so horrible when the staring and comments occur. But with theses words in my mind I will try to get out there again.
I’m sending you strength CountryGirl. Don’t let other people dictate your life hon.
When I was a teenager, I was definitely one of those people. I had low self esteem, and thought remarkably little of myself, but it always made me feel better to be able to snark at other people. Trolling on the internet, commenting about other people’s “bad fashion” (ie; “ew, she should so not be wearing that!”) within their hearing, cheerfully doing all I could to make other people think they were somehow Less Than. Superiority came with being able to make other people feel like crap. And you’re right… it did actually take therapy to cure me of that! An unintentional side effect of dealing with my issues was identifying why I felt the need to drag other people down, why I felt so quick to judge others when I was always afraid of them judging me. An even better side effect was realizing that it didn’t make me better than other people, it made me not only a judgmental asshole, but a bully. So now, years later, I do pretty much the opposite of what I did then. I mentally congratulate people on wearing what they want and smile at them instead of being a bitch, I make an effort not to judge people based on ‘visual evidence’ and instead go by how they treat me or others, and I am So Much Happier.
Wow, thank you for your honesty. I don’t know very many people would own up to bullying. Congratulations for overcoming.
It is good to know that one can learn to be a decent human being.
I am glad I read your blog today, I really needed to read that last paragraph…. Thanks for an excellent blog.
This is very much an aside, but the reference to Superfreak is brilliant 😉
I am really glad you wrote this.
I’m so sorry that you experience people treating you like that. Do you get the same abuse when you travel to other places/countries? Could it be the culture where you live? It would be interesting to note where the people are from who comment on your blog. It may make no difference with anonymous commenters, when someone is invisible, it seems like ‘ugly’ comes out. Trolling is the perfect name for them!
I’m morbidly obese and rarely, almost never, get abused like that. I do see my friends getting treated nicer than me and an occasional snotty look. You are so courageous, I’m afraid I would never leave the house.
I love your style and bought me some boots to wear with leggings and tunics because you looked so cute!
I actually didn’t get the abuse in America, Canada or New Zealand like I get here. Australia is getting very intolerant. That said, OTHER people get abuse in those countries, so that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It could have been that I was obviously a tourist that meant I was left alone.
“You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.”
Whaaaaaaaaat??? I’m speechless. That’s one of those situations in which I’d be completely dumbfounded, and think of a million great replies afterwards, kicking myself the whole time.
Yeah, and there is nothing you can say that is going to make the situation better around an aggressive douchecanoe like that.
Your blog is always a breath of fresh air to me. I hope you never stop blogging. The world needs your voice.
I was going to say I can’t believe the 7-11 guy said that, but then I remembered the time I was telling my mom about how some guy in a pick-up truck drove past me and gave me the “thumbs-down” and she replied, “Well, there’s something you can do about that, you know”. Insecure people can come at a person from all angles, even your own family members. Of course she denies saying that to this day. Ugh Thanks for the post.
My family used to pull that kind of shit too Teedee, and now they act all innocent and don’t “remember”. How convenient.
“You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.” Seriously? What a dick!
Thank you Kath for these words. At my age, just shy of 60, I have had a lot of “shit” thrown at me due to my size. I really appreciate your ability to summarize and explain the actions of the “hate” throwers. And to remember that they would throw the hate somewhere else if you weren’t there to attract it. Their lack of self-worth must never be mistaken for your level self-worth. Keep up the good fight. There are so many that appreciate it.
People do not like people who project self-confidence. People want to bring women like that down to make themselves feel superior. It is other people’s lack of self esteem which leads them to act in this way, we all do it sometimes, in our heads most of the time, most of us would never want to admit to some of the things we think, let alone say them aloud. But I think we all need to take responsibility of body shamin’ and fat shamin’ ourselves and others, accept that we have culturally embedded shittiness in-built into our brains and then try to overcome it.
I’m having thinky thoughts and I want to share, I hope you all don’t mind. This is not directly about fat, but about appearance and actions and judging people.
Today I went to Emerald City Comicon with and old high school friend and his two oldest daughters. As anyone who is into science fiction/fantasy conventions knows, dressing in costume is part of the fun for many people.
It’s also easy to get judgy about people in their costumes. Now, while none of these people came out with something obvious like ‘that person looks like crap’ there was a certain amount of ‘I could make a better costume than that’ or, ‘why are so many women dressed as Loki’ and ‘I don’t have a problem with a person’s sexuality’ but their clothes make me uncomfortable’.
In and amongst the other parts of the conversations/activities today was information that a) my old high school friend still doesn’t like himself b) the older girl (15) had been in a manipulative relationship and c) both the girls were not good at ordinary sorts of conversation, but tended to quote movies and songs and such.
What is currently swirling around in my head is the knowledge that as I work on being less judgy about myself, I get less judgy about other people and vice versa. I also feel more comfortable interacting with people directly and enjoying other people’s choices. Granted, I still have moments of ‘That choice? Really?” but I try to squish them when I realize I am doing it.
I’m wondering if any sort of judgy atmosphere, even when it isn’t blatant, is bad, or even maybe worse. Would these girls be more secure in themselves if they didn’t grow up with this?
I know I grew up with a judgy family and I recognize the problems it has caused and still causes me.
The other piece of this is that the previous night we watched a fan-made movie – Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0772251/ which is a shot for shot remake of the motion picture as done by two teenage boys and their friends over the course of six years.
Why this comes into is that these teenagers did not let the fear of being judged stop them. They wanted to do it, and they somehow got it done. (It’s very cool, watch it if you get the opportunity). There was a certain amount of support from their parents, but I think more importantly, nobody said to them ‘it won’t be as good, why bother’. Or maybe someone did say that and they didn’t listen.
My friend has the knowledge and skill to make short movies and so forth, but when I asked him if he would ever do that sort of thing for himself, he said he just hasn’t got the drive.
I know for myself, when I am being self-critical, or imagining other people being critical, I can’t do anything creative. It’s only when entertaining myself that i get anywhere.
I am rather grateful right now that I have stumbled onto HAES and blogs like this because it has really helped me let go of being judgemental. It isn’t very good conversation and really kind of kills general enjoyment of life.
Thank you all for being a part of this. And if you read all this, I owe you a tasty beverage.
Some nice points here! And I’m jealous of your being able to go to Comicon; I was going to, but it turned out to be the weekend after I moved, and the necessity of making our new house an even half-livable space overwhelmed, unfortunately.
There’s a huge issue at cons about people acting as if people dress in costumes for the audience’s benefit, rather than their own, and therefore should only do it if it makes the (bigoted) masses happy. Argh.
Darned moving! You are right about the costumes. I’ve certainly shied away from certain costumes because I didn’t have the right body type and I knew people would judge me. The idea of doing it just for myself never occurred to me.
Heads up for next year – this year sold out, so if you want to go next year, get your tix when they go on sale.
If you are “happy, confident, secure woman” why do you even run this blog? “Happy, confident, secure woman” are busy with their lifes, not with going on an on about their bodies. “Happy, confident, secure woman” do not describe themselves as “fat” in the first place. They are “happy, confident, secure woman”, they don`t care. But you’re obsessing about your “fat”, the first thing you write about yourself is “fat, as if it defines you. But does it really? You are sweet, caring, inteligent women, why not call yourselfe that?
Because I *AM* fat. Nobody can mistake that I’m fat. People only assume that “happy, confident, secure women” don’t call themselves fat if they think fat is a bad thing, as you clearly do. I am not ashamed of my fatness. And it DOES define me, it defines almost every experience I have in life. It’s like telling a woman that she can’t describe herself as a woman, “as if it defines you”. She IS a woman, so of course it defines her. Just the same as my fat and my womanhood define me.
And I am NOT a “sweet” woman, not in any way. Fuck “sweet”. I’m not nice, I don’t feel the need to be sweet, and I don’t want anyone else trying to label me that way. I’m fierce, not “sweet”.
As to why I write this blog, I write it for people who are fat like me who cannot believe that they are worthy, that they don’t have to take the abuse that hateful, nasty little people dole out to them every day. That they don’t have to be ashamed of their fatness and that fat is not a dirty word.
I call myself fat with pride because my fatness is nothing to be ashamed of. And because it shows other women that they don’t have to be ashamed either.
And with that, I am IN LOVE WITH YOU. And with all your incredible fat fierceness.
I’m pretty sure Sleepydumpling would be very happy to live in a world in which people didn’t constantly define her by that and impede her life by it. I know I would.
However, in my case, the description still fits. It’s an accurate descriptive term for me. What’s the reason why we can’t use that term to describe ourselves? Ah, because it’s supposedly a negative. I think part of the point is to fight against the way simple descriptions of our bodies are used to define us and judge us.
I’m fat. So what? Should I just go through life in a blissful haze of not acknowledging the nature of my body?
This comment about why do you call yourself fat is about empowering yourself by using a word that had been turned into knife and reclaiming it and using it for good.
I am a fat young woman. I am a fat student. I am a fat pilates enthusiast. I am a fat cyclist. I am a fat shopper, fat eater. Basically I do everything fat because I am fat.
It’s as if the word fat insults thin people/non-fat people sometimes. It’s as if even the idea of someone being happy and fat is such a travesty that they can’t get their head around the empowering nature of reclaiming words and types of language.
I heart this website so much. It has taken me from a place of self-hate to that of almost-love.
I love Kath and this website – it’s amazing!
Kateonthenet – it’s not like we can not acknowledge our fatness either. People say “Don’t call yourself fat!” and then in the next moment some arse on the street screams “FAT BITCH” at us, or we open a magazine or turn on the TV to see someone smaller than us called “Fat” as a slur.
It is OUR word. We own it. And we have no need to be ashamed of it.
Really want to know how you responded to the ‘keep your eyes lowered ‘ crack. I am curious because i probably would have punched the fucker in the puss which is not the best response. Did you have some clever comeback that put the fucker in his place or did you just let it slide? I am constantly in need of better resources. (One of these days i am convinced i am going to wind up hospitalized or dead with my knee-jerkiness)
Nothing. You must remember that ones safety must ALWAYS come first in these situations. What do you think I’m going to do when an angry man is aggressively hating me in the street? Give him another reason to behave aggressively to me? No, I just moved faster and walked away, the only safe thing to do. That’s not “letting it slide”, that’s taking care of my own safety.
btw – just found your blog – LOVE EEET!
Your wise words brought to mind one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems:
“I had no time to hate because the grave would hinder me –
And life was not so ample I could finish enmity –
Nor had I time to love, but since some industry must be –
The little toil of love, I thought, was large enough for me.”