I’ve been doing a lot of reading on being fat and living in Australia recently (given I’m fat and living in Australia) and a recent article in Yahoo! made me squee with delight. It was a, “Should you tell people that they are fat? Yes/No” article with opposing views put by two different authors (both so full of fail), but I learnt something… because I’m fat, I’m going to die. It’s a huge relief, because I was worried, that like my thin brothers and sisters, I’d live forever, and that wasn’t ideal.
Michelle Bridges (our very favourite person) was on the “yes, tell them that they’re fat” team because:
If you are obese you can look forward to diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, cancer or even death.
Wow, I’m going to die… eventually… of something… whether I’m fat or not. Does every fat person get diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, and/or cancer? Looking at my family history (given I don’t have asthma which my paternal grandmother died from), I’ll live to around 70 and die from a heart attack or the effects of a stroke. My regular exercising, non-smoking, and fit paternal grandfather died of a heart attack when he was a little over 70. My maternal grandfather died at about 60 of a heart attack. My not overly fit, non-smoking, disabled (short-term before she had her stroke) maternal grandmother died at about 80 from a kidney infection some years after having a stroke. 70 years… that’s a good life, and I’m half way through it. Should I go “woe is mean, I is going to die” and be depressed because of that, or should I continue loving my life and my body and the awesome things it can do?
Michelle continued with:
More than this, though, is the emotional damage, the unhappiness, the depression and poor self-esteem that comes with carrying too much weight.
Now let’s look at that some more. Why is it that fat people suffer emotional damage, unhappiness, depression and poor self-esteem? Oh yeah, that’s right because they’re literally shamed, made to second guess themselves and their body, not believed, insulted, belittled and hated by large sections of society. Fat shaming and fat abuse are all far too common, on the internets, the streets, hospitals, doctor surgeries, the workplace, you name it and fat shaming probably happens there (with the exception of Fat Acceptance and Heath At Every Size blogs where it’s moderated out. Thank you so much for doing that).
Only once in my life have I had “Fat Slut” yelled at me, which made me laugh more than anything else at the time, though it upset my husband quite a lot when I told him about it later. I am generally quite… insulated might be the right word when I am out in public. I do not listen to words but to tones, so I may have had other comments made about me that my brain has not translated for me. When I am grocery shopping I wonder what people think of the things I am buying, whether I’m buying fresh fruit and vegetables or supplies for a party. I wonder when I’m shopping for clothes what people are thinking of me and what I’m buying. Most of my preferred medical practitioners do not comment on my weight, for which I’m grateful, but again I have this lovely insulation in my head which tends to sometimes refuse to hear certain things (and I honestly don’t know why that is), so things might be said and I just don’t hear them. I do also spend a lot of time thinking to myself that it is not about me (people talking to each other is not about me for example – unless it specifically is).
Spilt Milk put it beautifully recently, when she wrote, “I am not your cautionary tale“:
Obviously, his piece was about The Biggest Loser, a particular kind of “freakshow”. Me going to the shops to buy my bread and milk? Not so freakshowish, admittedly. But I am still there, I am still visible, I still jiggle, I still have a double chin, I still look fat enough to be a folk devil.
A friend on Twitter, Jennifer Gearing, mentioned this afternoon that Birmingham’s article “reminds me of time stranger told his 5-6yo she didn’t want Maccas or she’d look like me.” That’s right, children, fear and pity that fatty over there, and thank your lucky stars it’s not you.
One thing that can be missed in the debate about how horrible fat people are, and how much emotional damage they’re inviting by being fat (etc), is how much emotional wear and tear is suffered by people who love those who are busy being belittled by society. How children can be hurt by being told (or having their parent feel) that their parents are worthless because they are fat. How partners can be hurt by being told that they’re wrong or fetishistic for loving a fat person. The damage spreads beyond individual fat people when society pours hate and scorn on all fat people.
So I’m fat, I’m generally happy with my body, I live, vote, shop, work, exercise, cook, eat, love, fuck, and do all the fun things that I have time and energy for. The rest of you out there that have a problem with that, including you Michelle Bridges, can fuck off and get educated somewhere else.
Other recommended reading (both by Doctor Samantha Thomas):
Fat Acceptance: What it means to me.
Weight. An emotional issue.