hypocrisy

All posts in the hypocrisy category

Creating the Problem In the First Place

Published March 6, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

This morning I awoke to see a constant stream of retweets and shares for an article on a major Australian women’s online magazine (give you two guesses – I’m not naming or linking to it) about a woman who found a note in her 7 year old daughter’s bedroom, labelled “Diyet”[sic] and listing the food she ate (not much) and quite a considerable list of daily exercise.

Now yes, I agree, it is awful that a 7 year old child is making diet plans.  It is awful that a 7 year old child is obsessing over her body and diet and exercise already.  It shouldn’t be happening and I understand her mother being horrified that she would find this item in her child’s room, and despairing that her daughter is being influenced by this stuff already.  I find no fault at all with the author of the piece or the story she tells.

But seriously, for this particular online women’s magazine (let’s be honest, most online women’s magazines and most mainstream media) to be clutching their pearls over children dieting is a bit fucking hypocritical if you ask me.

This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  These same media outlets publish story after story beating the “obesity epidemic” drum, and wringing their hands over “childhood obesity”, and then wonder why children obsess over their weight from a ridiculously early age?   These media outlets crap on about being “healthy”, which is just diet-talk reworded with no actual conscientious addressing of holistic health of all people, and then they get all up in arms about children dieting?  They allow the most hateful, bigoted crap about fat people to be published in the comments and call it “opinion”.  Not to mention that every single time I go to a mainstream media site, women’s or not, I am bombarded with ads for weight loss.  Where do they think kids, and their parents, get all of this stuff in the first place?

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother dieting.  From as early as I can remember, there were stories in her magazines, and on the TV my father always had on, and in the Sunday paper, talking about the latest, greatest diets, the importance of being thin and how fat was “bad” (think of lazy, fat, beer drinking, old Norm in the Life: Be in It ad campaigns, fellow Aussies of a certain age).  Even if I hadn’t been told I was fat from my earliest memory (I wasn’t fat for most of my childhood) by my family, all I had to do was pick up one of the women’s magazines laying about the house, or sit and watch TV with my father and I was getting those messages.  Right from my earliest memories, I was hearing that fat is bad and that I should do ANYTHING to avoid being fat.

So what did I do?  I was put on my first diet at 11.  But I had already been experimenting with dieting and exercise regimes some years before that.  I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I put myself on a “diet”.  I was very good at sneaking the various diet products that my mother had about the house, and I was an excellent reader, so I just read the magazines and followed the diets in those.  I was 13 the first time I was put on meal replacements (powdered shakes that were VILE).  Soon after I started engaging in purging after an older girl taught me how to do it.  I also started stealing laxatives and worming medicine because I’d heard those helped you lose weight too.  Once I got busted for stealing those out of the medicine cabinet at home, I started stealing them from the local chemist.  I can remember watching an article on one of those current affairs shows about childhood obesity when I was in Year 8, and this was in 1985 – long before the current obesity epidemic hysteria kicked off in the 90’s, which has magnified the situation hundredfold.

It has to stop.  The media are never going to take responsibility for the shit they publish, so we have to stop supporting the media that publishes shit.  Even when they do publish something that is worthy, like the story I mentioned above, we have to view it through the lens of the other stuff they publish as well and call them out on it.  We need to promote outlets that share the worthy stories without all of the fat shaming and stigma.  If we are worried about what our children are being exposed to, perhaps it’s best to start by examining what WE are exposed to.  Because if you think kids aren’t seeing this stuff, you’re seriously delusional.  Even if you don’t give it to them directly, if it is around, they find a way to get to it.  Or they hear a second-hand version from other kids at school.  We need to teach our kids critical thinking.  But first we have to learn it ourselves.  To question the source of information and to ask what their motives are.  We need to discuss these issues with kids and teenagers and each other, openly and critically.   We need to look at the ethics behind these outlets and their sponsors.

If these media outlets come up lacking, we need to stop supporting them.  We need to walk away and not give them clicks, not give them airtime, and not signal boost them.  Instead, find alternative outlets that take responsibility for the messages they are sending and don’t engage in hypocrisy.  Or that at least TRY.  If you know that an article that people are sharing from a media site is a cross post/re post from a blog (most of them say so somewhere on the article) – share the original version, not the re-post in the dodgy mainstream media.  We need to tell our stories and have them untainted by fat shaming that undoes the message that we are sending.  Want some suggestions?  Try here, here and here.  You’re welcome to share others in the comments that you like.

I dabbled myself with writing for mainstream media (was also offered a regular writing gig at several of them) and was burned more than once by them selling me out to some disgusting fat shaming story as a “follow up”, so I decided that I would rather tell my story here and keep it’s integrity than taint my readers with contradictory information.    It might mean I reach fewer people here and now, but the message gets through clearer and un-sullied by shaming to those it does get to.

The mainstream media is never going to change until we walk away from it and stop giving them the clicks, the reads, the purchases and the support.  Give that support to those who don’t perpetuate bigotry and hate while then decrying the state of the world that THEY created.

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We Don’t Imagine It, We See It

Published March 26, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I noticed the old woman at the table beside me first. Watching every morsel of food I put in my mouth with a look of disgust on her face.

Then I notice the two guys in high vis vests, their hard hats on seats beside them, nudge each other and look my way.

So I sit back and start to observe people around me.

I’m sitting in the food court of a large suburban shopping centre, somewhere I rarely visit, on my lunch break from work. We’re working on a big new project due to open this week, which is a high pressure, messy environment, that I thought I’d take some time away from over my lunch break.

As I look around me, I would estimate that at least 90%, possibly more of the people here are not fat. There are a handful of we fatties, dotted around the place.

At the nearby McDonalds, there are about 20 people lined up. Only one of them is a fat person. Not an eyelash is batted at the not-fat people lined up, ordering their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and shakes. However the fat man is attracting sneers and giggles, all eyes glance over him and none of them bother to hide their disgust, disdain or their ridicule. Even the people ordering burgers and shakes themselves are staring and sneering at the man, lined up at the very same fast food restaurant as they are.

This scrutiny and public judgement is nothing unusual for those of who live in fat bodies. Most of us are used to it, many of us ignore it, simply because it is nothing unusual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Quite often we are told “You’re just too sensitive.” or “I think you imagine it.” On the rare occasion that someone who is not fat notices, they respond like its an anomaly, just the occasional rude jerk one encounters. Or they say “Just ignore it.” as if it is the singular occurrence of the day.

In my own case, I’m told that people sneer and stare because of my brightly coloured hair, tattoos and clothing. As if that is somehow a suitable excuse for their behaviour. But I can assure you that I got the stares and sneers back when I was a fat brown mouse, doing everything I could to be invisible to the world.

The truth is, in this “anti-obesity” culture, people are taught to sneer, stare and ridicule. They are taught that people like me are a scourge on society, that we are burden to humanity. You only need to look at the comments on my recent piece in The Hoopla (if you have the sanity points) to see someone refer to me (and people like me) as revolting, using up the public health system, slothful, idle and an overeater. Despite knowing nothing more about me than I have a fat body (though one claimed to know all about me from this blog, my twitter, though I think it’s my photos of myself as a fat woman she is judging me on) the judgement has been passed on my value as a human being.

Living with that amount of scrutiny and judgement is like physically carrying a load on your back. When you hear people referring to fat people as “struggling with their weight”, the reality is that our struggle is with the weight of society’s judgement and scrutiny, not with the weight on our bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say that physically, I do not feel limited or as if I need to struggle to do anything in my fat body. But the pressure of being under constant scrutiny and subjected to the assumptions and judgements of complete strangers is a burden to bear. I am quite sure however that I am not the only one who feels like this.

What really bothers me are the double standards. Thin people who eat fast food are considered “lucky” that they are “naturally thin”, yet no matter what a fat person eats, by default they must be lazy and greedy, with denial and stupidity thrown in for extra measure. Nobody ever suggests that inverse to the lucky/naturally thin that humans can be unlucky/naturally fat. Nobody demands thin people who are sedentary and/or eat fast food (or a lot of food) change their lives and “get healthy” because they are “costing us money with their unhealthy habits” – quite the opposite, they’re cheered on for their habits. Two people, both living the same lifestyle, can have vastly different life experiences if one is thin and the other is fat.

These double standards and snap judgements of people’s value based on their body size don’t help anyone. They don’t make fat people thin, they don’t encourage healthy behaviours and they certainly don’t change the number of people needing health care in our society.

All they do is allow some people to feel superior to others, which to me, is a pretty screwed up way to look at the world.

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“.

The Lazy Diagnosis

Published April 21, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I want to talk about death threats against fat people today.  Not literal ones, like “I’m going to kill you!”, which we do receive sometimes, particularly if we commit the “crime” of being publicly and unashamedly fat.  But the more subtle ones.  Brian over at Red No. 3 wrote about them a while back, in his post “A Culture of Death Threats“.

It’s the kind of message that fat people hear every day.  The message that boils down to “You’re going to die, fatty!!”  All those times you hear “But don’t you know being fat is unhealthy??” and “You’re going to get diabetes/high cholesterol/heart disease/bowel cancer/etc.” right through to the ridiculousness of “Your fat is crushing your bones!  Your organs are going to liquify into fat!  Obesity destroys your immune system!”

We, fat people, hear those messages every day.  From sources near and far – friends and family, the diet industry, mainstream media, the government, strangers on the street, and indeed, from many health care professionals.

As Brian says in his post, this is a method of control, trying to get us to do as we are told.  We must diet, punish ourselves, be invisible, feel shame, loathe our fat bodies.  Be a good fatty and do whatever we can to stop being fat.

However, something else happens too.  Even if we opt out of the societal norm of loathing and shame for fat bodies, something happens to us that even the most deeply entrenched fat activist can be susceptible to.  We begin to fear our fat bodies.   We stop listening to them as part of ourselves, and see them as the enemy, something to be feared and fought, other than/outside ourselves.

It happened to me this week.

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before that I suffer from anxiety.  Some of it is genetic (most of my family on both sides have some form of anxiety issues) and some of it is a result of PTSD.  Of course, my anxiety has been blamed on my fatness too, but I have thin relatives who also suffer it, and that never gets acknowledged.

Most of the time, it’s well managed these days.  I recognise many of the triggers, I see the warning signs, and I have learned the skills to mitigate most bouts.  But sometimes it blindsides me, and then it’s very difficult to work through it, even with the recognition and skills I have learned.

So I got a cold a couple of weeks ago.  It swept through my office like a brush fire, and as I had a nice open tattoo wound at the time, I could hardly avoid it.  My doctor (who is awesome and I am very lucky to have found) and I have noticed this phenomena of me getting a cold every time I have a fresh tattoo – otherwise I hardly get the bugs that go around.  I had a pretty full on cough, got a rather interesting husky voice for a couple of weeks, felt a bit run down and tired, but wasn’t that bad so I didn’t have any time off work though many of my colleagues who got the same lurgy did.

However this week, I noticed a pain in the left side my chest.*

And every voice that ever told me that I was going to die because I’m a disgusting fatty, fat, fat came flooding back to me.  Every concern troll, every narrowminded bigot, every doctor who didn’t bother to examine me and just looked at my fat body and made a diagnosis, every arsehole on the street who told me I would die because of my fatness was suddenly back in my head, telling me that my fatness was going to give me a heart attack and I would die.  I was hearing those old recordings in my mind, and I was afraid.

It was stupid.  But it happens, even now.  Because the relentlessness of those messages, that are literally inescapable, means that even though I’m consciously rejecting them, they still get through from time to time, when I’m not feeling at my strongest.

This is what we’re up against in our culture.  Relentless messages that tell us, regardless of any actual facts about our personal situations, that we’re going to die, and it will be all the fault of our fatness.  People who are not fat, or who can pass as not fat, don’t have to constantly brace themselves against that avalanche of negativity every day.  But those of us who have unhideable bodies, bodies that can never pass as “not fat”, are subjected to it, everywhere.  Dozens and dozens of variations of that same basic message, “Fear your fat body.”

The thing is, having that kind of constant threat of death spouted at us is what makes many of us sick, not the fatness of our bodies.  Having that much negativity, shame and loathing constantly thrown at you has got to wear at times.  It’s the nocebo effect – where those messages are so deeply ingrained, that we start to believe that we are going to get sick, that we are going to die and that message is so powerful that we actually DO get sick.

But it’s still our fault.  Because we’re fat, and being fat means that you caused all bad things that have happened to you.

Of course, we are then accused of being “weak” when those messages weigh too heavily on our shoulders.  When the constant call to fear our own bodies actually filters through, and we succumb to that fear.  If we admit anxiety or stress, then it is somehow our fault, and we’re to blame for that as well.   If we go to the doctor, we’re often told that we’re hypochondriacs, or that we’re being overly dramatic, if we would just go and lose weight this wouldn’t happen.  Our anxiety and stress is dismissed as whinging or attention seeking, with no question as to what is causing such anxiety and stress.  We are tossed out the door yet again, with “lose weight” as the cure for all that ails us.

So what do so many of us do?  We ignore the REAL messages our bodies try to send us.  When we feel pain, we avoid going to the doctor, because we’ll only be told that we’re weak, that we should just lose weight and the problem will go away.  We won’t get a real diagnosis, they won’t care how we feel.  We’ll just be shamed and sent packing with instrutions to eat less and exercise more.

Is this ever factored into “studies” into mortality and health of fat people?  Is it ever acknowledged by those supposedly researching into issues around obesity that the very culture we live in is a) making fat people sick and b) preventing us from getting adequate health care when we do get sick?

It strikes me that the lazy ones aren’t those of us who are fat.  It’s those who don’t bother to actually listen, and investigate the health of individual fat people on a case by case basis.  It’s those who take one look at our fatness and diagnose every ailment we have as “obesity”, merely on sight.  It’s those who don’t ask WHY there may be evidence towards fat people having health issues and just assume that fat is always to blame.

Wouldn’t you say that’s pretty hypocritical?  I know I would.

*It’s ok, the pains in my chest turned out to be pulled muscles in my ribcage due to coughing with that damn cold.