We Are Not the Problem

Published April 7, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I had planned to write some more about #notyourgoodfatty tonight but I had something happen to me on Saturday night that has really been bothering me and I want to talk about it and why it happens. Not to mention the feeling it leaves with the people it happens to.

I’d had a lovely day on Saturday. I had a delicious brunch with one of my best buds and her adorable doggie, then we went for a paddle down on the waterfront near my home. The water had been so lovely, warm and relaxing, like a bath. We had a little chill time by the bay, and then we went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in Gold Class, which is always an indulgent experience, cosied up in those comfy recliners in a sparsely populated cinema. My friend dropped me home and I decided to nip up to the local Chinese restaurant to get myself a stir fry for dinner, since I had been out all day and was a wee bit sun burnt.

So there I was, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, minding my own business while I was waiting for my dinner. I was reading Instagram and Twitter on my phone, when this kid of about 16 or 17 rolls up to the doors of the restaurant on his bike, and it seems like he’s talking on his phone, but he walks right into the restaurant, holds his phone up to my face, and takes a picture of me – he even left the sound and flash on so I knew exactly what he did and knew his headphones weren’t plugged in. Without any attempt to hide what he is doing or any embarrassment on his part. As he does that, the girl on the counter asks him what he would like to order and he says “Oh… I dunno, hang on a minute” and then just walks out, gets on his bike and rides away.

Now I am not easily shocked by people being shitty to me in public, but this one just had me absolutely stunned. It was like I couldn’t register what he had done. I’m used to people sneaking photos of me (I now photograph them back and post them to my Tumblr) and I don’t doubt there are all sorts of shitty posts out there with my photo and people being douchebags about my body and my appearance. But to have someone just blatantly walk up to me, frame me up right in front of me and take my photo, and then walk away without batting an eyelid just gobsmacked me.

It honestly wasn’t until a couple of hours later that it sank in what he had done, and I can tell you, I felt so violated. It hit me like a wall, this feeling of being violated, assaulted. I think I had to get past the initial shock for it to register just how it made me feel. Usually when people try to take photos of me, they try to sneak it thinking I won’t know (I usually do) and at least have the humanity to look embarrassed when they are busted. Some of them even get pissed that I take their photo back. But this kid had no shame at all, spared no thought for whether or not I knew what he was doing, or how I might feel about being photographed by some complete stranger. My shocked response clearly meant nothing, and who knows where the hell that photo will turn up online.

The thing is, this is what happens when society demonises fat people so much that we are considered sub-human. People like this kid don’t see me as a person, because they’re bombarded with the message day in and day out that fat people are diseased, defective, less than. So our feelings, and our rights, matter nothing to them. Every time they see a headless fatty in the media, it gives them a message that we’re nothing more than a pile of fat. Every time they hear that fatness is a disease, it removes our personhood from their minds. So they have absolutely no qualms in behaving in such an invasive, abusive way toward us.

This isn’t the only thing that happens to us because of the dehumanisation of fat people in the media, but is simply one prime example. Every time we are subjected to abuse and harassment, every time we have someone yell at us from a passing car, every time someone tuts or scowls at us for taking up space on public transport or in other public places, every time someone passes comment on what we eat or do with our bodies, right down to every time someone targets us online for abuse (on our blogs and other social media spaces), these are not because we are fat and somehow cause this abuse ourselves. It is because the constant message from marketing and media tells people that we are sub-human, and then people who are broken and bigoted enough to believe that propaganda act on it.

But it’s not “normal” to spend your life harassing or bullying or abusing people. If these bigots want to talk about what is healthy, they need to look in the mirror first. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to dehumanise other people. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to be abusive or bullying. It is an unevolved, narrow mind that feels they have the right to police other people’s lives and bodies. Only those who are not comfortable and happy in who they are themselves are going to spend their lives looking for opportunities to harass and belittle others. People who are emotionally and intellectually healthy are far too busy focusing on their own lives, and those of the people they love to spend time harassing and bullying others.

The problem does not lie with us. We are not the ones who are damaged here. It is not our fault that we are abused by those who are so messed up that they genuinely believe that it’s a worthwhile pastime to abuse, harass and bully people.

We are NOT the ones who are broken in this equation.

It is NOT our fault.

It is NOT your fault.


55 comments on “We Are Not the Problem

  • Oh what a shitty kid! Teenagers have less empathy than adults – they are so absorbed in their own “needs”, they do not spare a split-second on other people’s thoughts or feelings. Good on you that you were shocked, I would probably have used violence.

  • Some people have balls of steel, don’t they! I was brought up better than that, but he sounds like he was kicked in the arse and told to get up. Don’t let it get to you – I saw your article in one of the magazines, and just loved it! Well done for loving who you are.

  • Love this post. You are so right. We are ‘not’ the ones with the bigger issue. I can imagine your shocked response. I have experienced some occasions when I thought I must be hearing things. Some of these occasions occurred when I was critically ill in hospital. Previous to this I had never been belittled and shamed as much. It is the blatant disregard for another human being that stuns me. Never, would I think about others in the same way I have been treated in the past. At the age of 49, I have developed a slightly harder skin but some times I am still taken aback by the hate toward the bigger members of society.
    Love you Kath

  • Personally I think the kid was just being a dick in general and not so much focused on the Fat aspect. A lot of kids nowadays are unfortunately like that and will take pictures of others who they think will get them some pathetic attention. Whether due to social status, clothing, ‘too skinny’ or ‘too fat’ in their and their piss-ant little butt-buddies eyes. It is more of a general disrespect as we can see by the on-line and real life bullying of victims of sexual assault who are teens. Who knows, he may have recognized you from his mums copy of the magazine.

    Either way it is a sign of the disrespect the little asshats have I reckon of this generation of entitlement and arrogance that so many seem to wallow in. :/

    • No, I have to disagree there Jean-Yves. Because the vast majority of people who photograph me without my consent are not teenagers, they are adults of 30+ years. This kid was just particularly blatant about it, where usually it’s the sneaky phone shot where they’re pretending to send a text or something. Yes they do it to other people as well as fat people, but fatness is one that is constantly shamed by photographing and sharing online. You only have to think of sites like People of Walmart (horrible, horrible site), or the reddit “Fat shaming week” where they were promoting photographing fat people in public with “Snap one, shame one.” or the guy who went around a magic convention photographing fat men from behind to show off their ill-fitting pants (he didn’t do it to a single thin guy). We are a repeat and frequent target of these people.

      • What an awful experience! Thank you for sharing and your response to this comment. The whole “kids today are bad/teens are ill-behaved” argument is a major pet peeve because it seems like such a cop out, as if we’re just supposed to accept this because “that’s how kids are.” As you pointed out, lots of adults do these horrible things too, but also who is showing these kids and teens that this is acceptable? Adults. Thanks for not letting them bully you into silence, and just generally being awesome.

    • @Jean-Yves I disagree. When someone is being a dick towards skinny people, fat people, or others it’s a very different situation. Yes the physical act is executed in the same way, but in the context of our society which systematically oppresses fat people, the act of taking a photo without asking for Kath’s permission is an act of oppression.

      Thin people are allowed to feel comfortable in space, they are over-represented in the media and positive traits are associated with them. Where ever thin people work, live, catch public transport, turn on the TV or visit another country, guess what, other thin people will be around them and will allow them to move withing their society without their size being an issue or even acknowledged. They are allowed to feel like they belong. Thus in a society which clearly states fat people do not belong and are being constantly vilified, taking a photo of a fat person without their permission is another way to take away their right to their space and to deny them a position in society as a human being. Irrespective of the kid’s motives, his behavior is still oppressive. If he is ignorant about privilege and oppression, his actions are still oppressive. If his behavior is “normal” for kids his age, guess what, it’s still oppressive.

      Finally telling Kath her experience is not real (he was just a “general dick” not an oppressive dehumanizing asshole”) is to deny her experience. If Kath experiences something which makes her feel dehumanized and violated, in a fat-hating society, guess what? It’s a dehumanizing and violating experience. It’s not a “general dick” thing that “all kids have” and hence that “all people” experience equally.

      @Kath, what an awful experience :/ and thanks for your fabulous blog.

  • You are so right. No matter how far I come with self-acceptance, I’m always just STUNNED when something like this happens. It’s completely dehumanizing and fills me with rage. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Fuck that kid. Fuck fat haters.

  • A-Fucking-Men, Kath!

    That kid has been taught all his life to view you, me, and all the other fat people around him as if we were on display in a zoo. Clearly, he has learned the lesson disgustingly well.

  • This story has made me so fucking angry. What kind of upbringing has he had that makes him feel good about doing this? Still, our society is training young people like this to demonise fat people so I guess it’s not surprising he’s internalised that message. Still, I hope he gets his comeuppance one day, little shit.

  • He sounds like an extreme tool. I can’t imagine how awful and shocking that must have felt. No one has the right to violate you or anybody in such a way, its sick. I really hope karma kicks him in the butt. Your blog is so fantastic and has made me a much more open minded person, everyone is perfect no matter what size they are, you are so so beautiful and i love your pink hair and amazing smile! Keep being amazing! xx

  • I had this happen with two ten year old girls this weekend. I don’t think they saw me before I came out of the bathroom to know I was fat Or not, but I deigned to move my bowls in a public restroom. They waited outside the bathroom door in the video game nook and when I came out took my photo. I walked up to them, pulled out my best teacher voice, and said”and now you can delete it”. They looked like they were about to crap their pants and promised they would. I said “good because that is extremely rude” and wanted off. Later I was kicking myself and wished I’d made me take them to their table and made them talk whoever was responsible for them what they had done just n because I would want to know if my kids did something like that. Of course, knowing my luck, they would probably be offended who taught these kids to do it in the first place. I hope those little girl s learned a lesson. Guess I’ll never know but they were so surprised to be caught and called out that maybe they will. (Crossing fingers)

  • You felt violated because you WERE violated. You are a good person, and nothing he did that day can change that. This story angers me, and it makes me hopeful that so many of us are angered by what happened. Hopefully good will come from bad.

  • I think that kind of dehumanizing behaviour sounds psychotic. It’s frightening and soulless. I’m sorry you had to experience that.

  • I’m very sorry this happened to you. I know how hurtful it can be, as it has happened to me too. His actions say a lot about him and the kind of values he’s absorbing. Perhaps it has as much to do with an absorption in electronic devices and imagery as anything else. You have to wonder if it harms people’s capacity for normal interaction and reduces their empathy levels.

  • I just wanted to say that you are amazing and an inspiration. I think we are quite similar personality and dress style! I have been everything from an Australian size 10 to 26 and the difference in how people treat you depending on your size is staggering. I am currently a 16 but apparently that just makes me invisible to majority of the population rather than being considered ‘hot’ or ‘repulsive’ – which is something I prefer to either title to be honest. Why are women (in particular) only valued in society as pretty objects and only seen as worthy if a man finds them hot or attractive?

  • I would hope that karma got him as he turned the corner and came a cropper off his bike, smashing his phone into a million pieces!! little shit.

  • When will you fat people understand? We dont hate you, we are just tired of your pro-fat, pro-unhealthy, pro-unfit and anti-fitness agenda. If it isn’t already obvious, most of you fatties are blatantly hypocritical calling fitness models ugly and such. You are like the feminazis of fat people.

    • When will you trolls understand, we don’t care about what you think, and have no intention of living our lives to suit you. When will you understand that your CONSTANT sniffing around us online only proves that you’re totally obsessed with us and have no other life? Nor do we care about “fitness models” (except when they are perpetuating hatred towards fat people).

      You don’t hate us, you’re right. You fear us, and are totally obsessed with us.

      And I’m a proud fat feminist (only a moron would equate wanting equal rights to genocide), so your attempts at insult fall flat.

    • Are you still sniffing around? Doesn’t mean a fucking jot how you got here (like I’m going to click on any shitty troll link), you’re still sniffing around here obsessing over me and my life. A normal person doesn’t spend time poring over every little bit of a person’s life if they don’t like them. You losers are ALWAYS talking about me, reading every single word I publish everywhere. That’s PATHETIC.

      Now, I have better things to do than deal with the likes of you. God bless the spam function – right where you belong.

      • You know, Kath, it may just be a function of how early it is here in California as I write this, or perhaps the fact I haven’t had my coffee yet… or maybe just a glorious Freudian slip of the eyes, but before I read his comment, my brain read ‘Hugh Myron’ as ‘Huge Moron.’

        Hmmm… perhaps it was that I knew what was coming. Hey, I’m psychic!

  • I understand your feeling of shock. I was in the supermarket one morning. It was early, hardly anyone around. I dropped the stupid trolley token and tried to pick it up as discretely as possible. From behind me I heard a comment along the lines of what a horrible sight to see that early in the morning just after breakfast. I turn and this skinny chick, that’s probably never had a decent meal in her life, one containing meat anyway, sidles up next to me and proceeds to demonstrate to me how I should have bent at the and squatted low to pick the token up of the floor. To be honest, if my ample thighs would have allowed me to get down that low without my butt poking out at the same time, I certainly would have. She continued walking on, all the while shaking herself off and muttering her disgust at what she’d witnessed. It was as though she’d come in contact with a leper or a carrier of the Ebola virus.

    I was so shocked and stunned by such a brazen display wasn’t sure if it really happened at all. It was definitely one of those times where, when you think about you wish you’d been quick enough with a few retorts to put them back in there box. To me many people are just judgemental arseholes making assumptions about things and people they know nothing about. >. <

  • I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you, I can’t even imagine! I’m baffled by it and I only read about it. What world do they live in where they think that this behavior is perfectly normal? I’m dumbfounded!

  • I’m so sorry you had this nasty, nasty experience. The more I live in this world of other humans, the more I love my dog. I truly had no idea that you have to experience things such as this. I can’t believe people do that kind of shit. I wish there was something I could say or do to make you aware that there are other people in the world who think you are fabulous. Take care of yourself. Vanessa

  • *blah blah blah I don’t agree with fat shaming but I’m going to go on and fat shame you right here myself. I used to be a fat person and I was gross and smelly and breathed heavy and hated myself, so I’m going to assume every other fat person on the planet feels the same way. What if fat people never stop growing and they take over the whole world with their fatness and there won’t be room for the rest of us?! Just because I overate when I was a fat person, I’m going to make the assumption that every other fat person does too, because I don’t have the understanding that no two people are alike. I hate having to sit next to fat people on the train, it traumatised me SO MUCH that I’ll never forget it. I think fat people should hide their bodies away – I did when I was fat and ashamed of myself, so you should too. Of course I’m ignoring the fact that I’ll actually regain the weight I lost like 95% of the other people on the planet who engage in weight loss dieting, but that’s because I really hate fat people and am terrified that I’m still going to hate myself.

    Blah blah blah, you’re fat and lazy and you deserve people treating you like dirt.

    But I don’t agree with fat shaming, make sure you understand that!*

    • My God, I have never seen such a stinking, patronising pile of fat hating bulldung than what you just sent me “Tanny”. I translated it for you. Because that’s what you’re REALLY saying.

    • Ahahahaha!! This dickhead keeps coming back and proving my point. Trolls are afraid, jealous and not very smart. Oh well, be gone to the spam folder where the trash belongs.

  • Thank you for sharing this! And. I agree, not our fault!

    But what gets me every time is, that I used to wish I could shame them back, but that is not the answer.

    i believe we just need to keep showing up, being present, stop hiding and love ourselves…and each other. there are still too many fatties hating themselves and each other to really change the world!

    Love and peace to you, us, everyone…even that kid 🙂

  • Thanks for the support ladies. I have a lot of people around me that love me for who I am. Because they know me.What others think doesn’t matter. But just once in awhile you experience something that shows how truly ugly some people are.

  • I came across this yesterday and thought I’d share. Someone from the HR department at work was promoting some guy’s book about how to be “world class” [sic]. So I Googled his name and found his blog. Amazing. You should see his book titles and what he says in his latest video: [redacted] (the comments are pretty good too) Here he is in full flow: [redacted] His theory that you should only hang around people you want to aspire to makes you wonder how many friends he has.

  • I am sorry for what happen .I was treated like shit for being fat too .And i often ask myself why my body is such a big ofend to someone else.I am not promoting and unhealthy lifestyle and never will , i am not proud of what’s usually on my plate , but hey when it comes to my body is my decision because this body is MINE so nobody should be disturbed by it , the same in your case .

    And i honestly believe a beautiful woman should have meat on her bones , not as much as me but still lol.

    • The thing is, women of all types are beautiful, not just those of one body type (yep, very thin, very fat and everywhere in between are beautiful) but most importantly, a woman’s value does not rely on her appearance. I’m not here to decorate the world, I’m here to change it.

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