Sigh… my dear fellow fats, there’s something you all need to know…
You don’t owe anyone jack shit.
No seriously, you don’t. You don’t owe anyone any of the following:
- An excuse for your body/health/size/weight.
- Justification for your existence.
- A “debate” (or argument, whatever they want to call it).
- Justification for your fatness.
- Proof of your “health”.
- Proof of what you eat, or what physical activity you do.
- Apologies for taking up the space your body happens to take up.
- Answers to any of the private information people demand of you.
- Proof that you are “happy”.
- An education into the human rights of fat people.
- Corrections for dodgy science.
- Politeness or respect when they demand any of the above.
Further to Lindy West’s excellent piece in The Guardian this week, where she quite rightfully points out that after having answered the same question publicly for six years, she’s no longer going to bother responding to it any more, I think it needs to be expanded upon to include refusing to engage in any of the above activities with people who demand you jump through hoops for them, and then completely disregard your response anyway.
We’ve just got to stop doing this. And we’ve got to stop tiptoeing around the people who demand we do this. We’ve not only got to start saying “No.” but also we’re completely justified in telling them exactly where to shove their intrusive questions and demands.
Oh I know, those same people demanding you do all of those things will say “Well you’ve clearly got no argument then.” Or they’ll say “I’ve approached you respectfully and now you’re being RUDE to me.” while clutching their metaphorical pearls in horror.
Here’s the thing. Demanding fat people justify our existence, asking intrusive personal questions, trying to force us to “debate” them about your rights as a human being, and expecting us to educate them are all acts of violence towards fat people. These intrusive, disrespectful behaviours are deliberate attempts to push us into a “lesser” category of humanity, to waste our time in repeatedly answering their demands with absolutely no intention of either believing us or allowing us to move on and to generally just be disrespectful. It is NOT polite or respectful discourse to demand or expect you to respond to these things, and therefore you’re not beholden to some kind of polite response.
Tell them where to shove their damn demands for you to justify your existence. Because the truth is, even if you were to respond, you’re not going to change their mind anyway. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for YEARS now, rapidly approaching a decade, and I have never, ever had anyone who came at me expecting me to either justify my existence or prove my life to them in any way, actually change their mind and start recognising my right to exist in this world as I am, a fat woman.
The people who are genuinely going to change their minds actually just listen – they don’t demand you jump through hoops for them. The people who are going to respect you are going to take their time to do their own reading/research. They’re going to listen to you when you speak in the first place. They’re not going to demand you politely respond to their intrusive grilling of your right to exist fully as a human being. This constant waving of “Well I WAS going to consider your argument but… “ under our noses as though if we just answer them the right way, and show them the right aspect of our humanity, they’ll treat us with respect, is so false. You’re not going to get respect from anyone who expects that of you. Not now, not ever.
What you do owe is to yourself. You owe living your life to the fullest you can, in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. You owe yourself kindness and value for your body, even if it doesn’t always look or behave the way you want it to. You owe yourself the right to exist in the world, as you are, right now, no matter what changes might or might not come in the future.