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.