dignity

All posts in the dignity category

If You Could Magically Become Thin Overnight, Wouldn’t You?

Published May 23, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Hands up if you’ve had this question.  If you’re a fat activist I’d say the likelihood is pretty high.  I hear it pretty regularly myself.

It’s usually followed by “Of course you would!” before I even get the chance to respond.  Which tells me from the outset that my answer to the question was actually irrelevant, since I wasn’t even given the opportunity to answer for myself.

I’ve just had another round of that question fired at me.  Anonymously of course, though it hasn’t always been so.  This time the asker hit me up in several places (Tumblr, Formspring, in the comments on this blog…) with the same question.  Seems they really want to tell me that “Of course you would!”

The thing is, it’s a redundant question.  There IS no magic way to become thin, either overnight, in a week, a month, a year, a decade.  The asker assumes that the concept is really worth entertaining because they believe that if I really, really wanted to, I could become thin.  But I know, and it’s becoming increasingly documented in science, that no matter how much a I could possibly want it (if I did), I can no more become thin than I can become a unicorn, the President of the United States of America, or marry Hugh Jackman.

Well, there is an outside, remote, very distant chance I could marry Hugh, but even that is more of a likelihood than my becoming thin.

However, there are some things I would like to happen, and I do believe are possible right now, without any magic, is for people with fat bodies to be treated with dignity and respect.  For our bodies to exist without being treated as objects of derision, fetish or ridicule.  And for fat people to be allowed to live their lives without the intrusion of strangers and the general public on our own private matters, such as health, sexuality and comfort.

I would like to see all bodies, regardless of their size included in all aspects of life.  I would like to see all bodies included in public spaces, on transport, in education and health without moral value being attached to them.  I would like all bodies to have access to clothing, furniture, safety gear and sporting/recreational equipment equally.

But most of all, I would like to see people in general focus on the wellbeing of their own bodies, rather than intruding on the wellbeing of other people’s – even fat people.

This is what could happen, without “magic”, and without wishing for something that is simply a fairytale.

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BADD 2011 – Fat and Disablism

Published May 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

This is my first every foray into BADD, or Blogging Against Disablism Day.  I heard about it on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and thought it would be an excellent way for me to bring the topic of disablism to my blog, to begin a discussion over here.  I firmly believe that as a social justice movement, Fat Acceptance has a responsibility to address disablism within our sphere, which then I would hope, leads to further discussion about culture-wide disablism.

Please let me state very clearly that I very much consider myself a person of privilege in this area, and feel that I am constantly in a state of learning about the issues that surround disability discrimination, disablism or ableism.  I hope that in talking about this here, an opening up the discussion, I too can learn from those who live the experience.  I particularly look forward to reading as much as I can from the many other posts for BADD, and I urge you to read as many as you can too.

What I particularly wanted to talk about tonight is disablism in context of fatness, and how people with disabilities are often ignored or excluded by Fat Acceptance.  I think all too often we spend so much time trying to bust open the stereotypes of fat people being mobility impaired, suffering chronic illness and other health issues, that we completely ignore the experience of fat people who DO live with disabilities and illness.

As Brian over at Red No. 3 says, Fat Acceptance is for ALL Fat People, or at least it should be.  That includes those who happen to be within the range of the stereotypes placed upon fat people.  As far as I’m concerned, the fact that those who loathe and fear fat use people with disabilities or illness to heap their scorn upon all fat people is doubly insulting to those who live those experiences.  Not only are they reviled for their fatness, but they are then used yet again as cautionary tales, threats and ridicule for all other fat people as well.  If anything, we need to be standing up against that bullshit even more now than ever.

One of the things that I believe Fat Acceptance absolutely has to be about is the basic, fundamental human right of all people to live their lives with dignity and respect and without fear of being vilified for simply being who they are.  That’s why I believe that Fat Acceptance needs to benefit ALL fat people and that we have a responsibility to acknowledge those who regularly have their experiences erased because society has deemed that they embody what happens to fat people who don’t “take care of themselves”.

I think we need to call that shit out for what it actually is, which is double prejudice.  Instead of just defending our own health and ability, I think we need to call out the disablism as well.  When we get those threats of “Yeah well you’re gonna get diabetes/heart disease/end up with damaged knees/hips!” and so on from fat haters, we need to point out the sheer douchiness of using disability and illness as some kind of punishment for fatness, when people of all body shapes and sizes actually live with disability and illness, and should never be treated like they must have done something to “earn” it.

Besides, even if someone’s fatness somehow does contribute to illness or disability, this should never strip them of their right to live their lives with dignity and respect.

Stop that Shit

Published April 30, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

When I think back, I’m embarrassed at how I used to behave and think. I used to do it all the time, without giving it a second thought. I assumed that “Everyone does it, it’s fine.” I never did it publicly, or to anyone’s face, as if that made it excusable, ok. If I ever did it out loud, it was only to trusted friends, the people who also thought it was ok.

But it’s not ok.

What am I talking about? What was the shameful behaviour that I used to engage in? It’s judging other people by their appearance, be it the clothes they wear, the way they style their hair, or the shape of their bodies.

We have ALL done it.  A lot of us still think it’s ok to do it, so long as you don’t do it to someone’s face, so long as they don’t know.

But it’s not ok.  Ever.

Take this quote from Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book Screw Inner Beauty*:

“At some point in your adult life, you’ve probably walked into a party and felt a frisson of relief upon discovering at least one woman there who was fatter, uglier, and/or dressed more inappropriately than you. We sure have. But if you want to have any hope of making peace with your own body, you need to knock that shit off.”

You’ve totally done that, haven’t you?  I know I have.

And here’s the real kicker, I still do.  There are still times I catch myself doing it.  But knowing it’s not ok has me doing something else.  Thanks to people like Kate and Marianne, and others who’ve shown me just how fucked up it is, not just because it’s nasty, but because it does me damage in the long run too, something else happens now when my mind goes to those thoughts.  A second thought tacks right on to that judgmental one, and it’s “Stop that shit.”  It’s becoming automatic now, the minute the synapses trigger in my brain that give me that kind of judgey thought, the next ones are “Stop that shit.”

Why?  Because I know it’s bullshit.  I know that every single person in this world should have the right to look, dress, and appear however suits them.  I also know that I have absolutely no right at all to judge another human being on their appearance.  And finally, I know that it only poisons me in the long run anyway.  More from Kate and Marianne:

“We’re not even telling you to stop just because it’s nasty, petty, and beneath you to judge other women so harshly; it is, but because you’re not a saint, and neither are we. We’re telling you to stop because it’s actually in your own self-interest to stop being such a bitch. ‘Cause you know what happens when you quit saying that crap about other women? You magically stop saying it about yourself so much, too.

Judging other women negatively creates a constant stream of nasty thoughts in your head. It is inevitable that you will end up applying those same standards to yourself. We think we’re building ourselves up when we do this but, really, we’re just tearing other people down to our level. And we hate to go all Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on you, but tearing other people down isn’t really productive. It leaves you in the same place you started, which is full of loathing for your own body.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

But most of all, I know I hate it when people do it to me.  When people judge me on the size/shape of my body, the choice of clothes I make, the colour/style of my hair, whatever, it really hurts.  So why the hell would it be ok for me to do it to someone else?

I still see it though, and done overtly too.  From people who consider themselves liberal, progressive, campaigners for social justice.  People who call themselves feminist.  Others who will fight against body politics in one arena, but then snark about someone’s hair, or clothing style soon after.  I even saw someone who calls themselves feminist post a photo they’d taken of a couple of strangers in a car park simply to snark at how those people looked.  And don’t get me started on the appearance-based snark that went on with the UK Royal wedding last night.  How can that be considered ok?

It doesn’t matter how weird, ugly, dorky, strange or just plain “gross” someone looks to you.  So what if someone dresses strange, or doesn’t hide their body as society rules they should, or even how you think they should.  So what if someone is “weird” or “dorky”.  So what if someone’s appearance or hair is outdated, unfashionable.    How are they hurting you or anyone else in any way, just for looking the way they do?

Nobody has the right to judge another on their appearance.  Assess people based on their behaviour, their attitudes, but appearance is arbitrary and gives no indication of the person behind it.  And ask yourself, how do you feel when someone judges you on your appearance?  When someone deems you “gross” because you’re fat. When someone suggests you’re low class because you don’t have the same fashionable clothes as they think you should.  When you’re judged on your appearance simply because you’re a woman, when a man doesn’t have to meet the same standards.  How does that make you feel?

If you’re going to fight for the right of people to be treated with respect and dignity in one arena, then you have to accept that you have to treat all human beings with respect and dignity in all other arenas, regardless of their appearance.

*Australian title.  International title is “Lessons from the Fatosphere“.