Saturday, June 15, 2013

Yes, Virginia, Fat Shaming IS Prejudice: For Denis and Everyone Else

I was going to write a nice, measured, thoughtful post about weight, privilege and intersectionality today. To use the colloquial, this ain't it.  While there are fat men who deal with sizeism, fat women experience it intersectionally with gender discrimination, so It's getting posted here as well as at Weight We Carry, my other blog.

This one is not going to be nice. 
It's not going to be measured or polite. 
It's not going to cite studies and logically weigh the value of different points of view. 
You've been warned.

Today my brother-in-law posted an article.  He posted it with the comment "I know the F word is offensive and there may be better language to get her point across. I also know this is a painful subject. Most importantly I know I don't want to lose people I care about because I was too uncomfortable with the conversation." as his qualifier.  This is my response, not just to him, but to all the people out there who feel like they have a right to treat me as different or lesser because of how much I weigh.

I've read this article, and ones like it, a thousand fucking times.  I suspect my readers have too, although if you feel a need to read this one as well, here you go.  Trigger warnings: fat shaming, cherry-picked scientific studies, acclamation of thinness as morally valuable, patronizing health care industry crap, an ill-informed doctor with a heavy dose of confirmation bias.

Its thesis is "Fat people are weak willed creatures who would lose weight if they just ate less junk food, and who are morally inferior to thin people, who are that way because of willpower".  It was written by a doctor in the condescending fashion of someone who considers what they're saying to be simple, self-evident truth.  Her evidence was mostly anecdotal; as a doctor she'd seen lots of unhealthy fat people.  You know, because healthy fat people love going to see doctors, who will inevitably fat shame us and treat us like crap.  Where she quoted studies, she failed to mention the portions of them that directly disputed her conclusions.

She spends plenty of time letting us know what a saint she is for being involved with a bariatric clinic, all the while talking about how dirty, sweaty, weak-willed, and dishonest her fat patients are.  She then bemoans how terribly miserable all her fat patients are, obviously because they're fat.

Here's the thing: fat people aren't miserable because we're fat.  Being fat is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and sometimes awkward, but the size of my body is not the thing that contributes to my depression, that makes me want to kill myself some nights, that makes going out in public an exhausting, demoralizing experience.  It's not my body that makes making new friends hard.  It's not my body that makes potential employers turn me away.  It's not my body that makes people decide at a glance that I am worthless, useless, lazy, stupid, and ugly. 

It is not my body.

It is your prejudice.


Your prejudice and the prejudice of people like you.  People who think they're good people.  People who go to bed at night convinced that they make the world a better place.  People who are tolerant, giving and kind most of the time. 

Your prejudice.

Here's a quote from the article. 

Is homesexuality inherently wrong? Ask Aristotle, Susie Orbach, Naomi Wolf. Their answers are different, their 

arguments from different places. It is not an empirical question although it reads as one. Today when we look at 

those who are straight, part of what we see is a triumph of will over desire, so the beauty is a moral beauty

Oh, by the way, I did you the favor of replacing references to "fat" with references to "homosexuality".  Does it still ring true?  No?  That's hideously bigoted?  Gee, you know what, I think so too.

When you look at me and make assumptions about my intelligence, my competence, my kindness or my will based on the size of my waistline, you are being a bigot. 

Your prejudice, and that of others like you, is the worst thing I experience every day.  It makes my life hell.  It is a major factor in why I stayed in an abusive relationship for twelve years.  It does me material harm.

You say you are concerned about my health.  One of my most damaging health problems is major depression.  You know what's the single biggest factor in that?  Living in a world where every person I meet treats me like crap until I've proven to them that I'm a "good" fat person, one who is clean and smart and mostly smells okay, and whose fat "isn't really her fault".  Even then, they don't want to be too close to me or touch me; after all, it might be contagious. 

I have to deal with this any time I leave my home.  I see the prejudice in the faces of many of my friends, although they are mostly kind and brave enough to fight it.  I hear it in the voices of people I interact with casually, see it in the way people studiously don't look at me on the sidewalk, or the way they stare. When I apply for a job, my biggest concern isn't whether I'm qualified, or able; it's whether some bigoted asshole is going to reject me simply because of my waistline.  I don't wonder if I'm going to experience prejudice when I walk out my front door; my only question ishow much there will be, and whether it will be blatant enough that I can't ignore it.

My body does not do this, any more than a rape victim's dress causes her rape, a gay child's sexuality causes his suicide, or a black teen's hoodie justifies his murder.  My body is not at fault.

Your prejudice is.   

Your prejudice makes my life hell and it is going to STOP.

I'm not asking nicely; I've done that.  I'm demanding it. 

You WILL stop treating me as if I am worthless, stupid, mean, smelly, lazy, ugly, disgusting, weak-willed and valueless. 

You WILL stop creating media that portrays me and all women like me this way. 

You WILL stop discriminating against me when I apply for a job or walk into a hospital. 

You WILL stop ignoring the fact that modern scientific data does not support your views. 

You WILL stop telling me that I can't be beautiful, special, sexy or wonderful. 

You will stop doing this because I and millions like me are done being "nice".  We are done being patient. We are done being quiet. We are done hating ourselves for your benefit.  We are done taking whatever scraps of acceptance you choose to throw our way and pretending they're as much as we need or want or deserve.

We are done.
I am done.

You can keep thinking what you think, behaving as you behave, but not if you want to be in my life.  If you want to be my friend, my family member, my acquaintance, you have to be better than that.  I don't tolerate bigots.