Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fat Phobia

I just read an article called "Offensively Fat" on Jezebel and it got my little brain a thinking. Discrimination against obese people has been making a lot of news recently. I mean, like seriously. There was Kevin Smith being told he's too fat to fly, and that all fat people should have to buy two airline tickets or they too could be humiliated and kicked off an airplane. During the Oscars all I heard about was Gabourey Sidibe, not because of her role in "Precious" (which is on my netflix queue and I can't wait to see it), but because of her size! From designers wanting to out fit a "full sized" woman, to this little gem from howard stern:

to now diet companies offering her a year supply of diet pills in return for a testimonial about how it helped her loose those "unwanted pounds." That's assuming her pounds are unwanted! From what I understand, in an interview with New York Magazine she was quoted as saying this:

“I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I’m fine with it. And if my body changes, I’ll be fine with that."

And then of course, their is this woman who is trying to make the Guinness Book by becoming the fattest woman. To this I say, go ahead girl, achieve your dream! I mean, FUCK! I can't even turn on the news without seeing that segment where they video tape fat bellies walking down the street! And I think to myself, do those people even know they made the news? Did they sign a waiver saying "hey, its cool, you can totally use my body to inspire disgust in the tri-state area." And if I had a nickel for every time I've heard "She could be so pretty if she just lost a couple pounds," I probably wouldn't have to take out any loans to go to grad school.

Fat Phobia is fucking deep. It is so embedded into our society. They experience discrimination on so many levels. Don't believe me? Check out some info from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. "Thin" people feel morally better then "fat" people to the point where they think its totally acceptable to berate them and shame them. They think shaming them will OBVIOUSLY make them eat an apple and jump on the treadmill. They think they're doing a great humanitarian service! I just want to go ahead and say.. YOU'RE NOT! You're being a total d-bag! You're making a lot of assumptions about someone based on their size. You're assuming that they're obviously just lazy and disgusting slobs with a weakness for big macs. And that fatties gonna die, so you gotta save them! It's an epidemic! Listen, yes, it's true... poor nutrition and lack of exercise can lead to health problems... NO MATTER WHAT SIZE YOU ARE! We need to separate the idea that size = health.. because it just doesn't. It's no secret that I'm a recovered anorexic and bulimic. I was pretty "thin" and also, I was about to die. Not too healthy, huh?

The fact is, the diet industry wants us to be fat and hate ourselves. If we weren't, they wouldn't make millions of dollars off of us. Let's talk to someone about their "dieting" experience... it just doesn't work! Let's say they did manage to loose the weight, odds are against them that they will keep it off over the following 5 years. It's a money making industry that needs us to hate ourselves and its perpetuated by an unattainable standard of beauty that looms over our heads. You know who I find more harmful then Gabourey Sidibe loving herself, or Kevin Smith, or that woman who wants to weigh 1,000 pounds? Kate Moss and her "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" motto. I see super models and actors that are perpetuating unhealthy standards of beauty, are clearly anorexic, and are being consistently rewarded for it... and I think to myself "OMG EAT A SANDWICH!!!!!" But the truth is, they signed a contract not to eat a sandwich, and if they weigh more then 95 pounds, they will loose their jobs. And the cycle goes round and round.

You know what I want? I want everyone to love themselves, feel great in their bodies, honor their hunger, and be treated with respect. I'm probably asking too much.


  1. I, too, have been thinking a lot about fat-ness, and fatphobia recently. I had this conversation the other day, where I was telling some people-- politically progressive, very smart people-- about how I try to address fat-phobia on my sports team. When people say things like, "fuck that fatass on the other team," what I've started doing is saying, "guys, I'm fat." It started out as a casual, solidarity-ish statement to just try to stop the blatant, excessive fatphobia. What happens is really interesting, though: my team will assure me that I am *not* fat, and when I told this story to my very smart friends/acquaintances at the table the other day, they all just fell silent, and I couldn't figure out why. The thing about all of this is that according to doctors, and western medical ideology more generally, I *AM* fat. Undeniably. I'm 5'10 and 180lbs, and according to every chart you could look at (not to mention my gynecologist, who told me to lose 10 lbs), I am between "overweight" and "severely overweight" (check out http://www.betaller.com/height-and-weight-women.gif or http://blog.internationaldrugmart.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/heigh-weight-large.jpg).

    Historically, I have never identified as fat, simply because I've almost never gotten shit or social derision for my size. But as I've been thinking about fat-phobia and fat positivity more and more over the past several months, I'm thinking that I might start openly labeling myself as overweight, as a reminder of how "fat" is so much more encompassing of a social category than "thin," or even "healthy." Medicine, among many other things, is a discipline, in a Foucaultian sense but also in the harshest sense of the word: it is a series of ideas loosely justified by "science" that often produce nothing more than more attempts to convince us to hate ourselves.

    Moreover, in my thinking about fatness and fatphobia, I'm reminded of just how bound up all of it is with misogyny. This is not to ignore the way that men are hated on (or kicked off airplanes) for being fat, because they are definitely not exempt from fatphobia, but I do think it puts special pressure on women, and in general I think it's very sociall acceptable-- even encouraged-- to censure fat women. and fuck that. I have been thinking, recently, about that cheesy statement that I probably read in a fucking Anne Geddes book or something, about loving your body because it's the best thing you'll ever have. But come on, SERIOUSLY, it IS. Why waste our lives hating ourselves? My cynical, paranoid side is whispering that if the state and its various apparatuses of control-- medicine, welfare and social services, etc-- are able to make us hate ourselves, we're so much easier to control, because we're too busy criticizing ourselves to criticize THEM.

    Anyway, this is all just to say that I liked your post. -Greta

  2. Holy mother fuckin shit and hallelujah! First and foremost can I start off by saying that I appreciate that moment in our friendship when you told me to stop making negative comments about my weight to be funny. It was a defense mechanism....because my whole life was one big "diet". My parents were obsessed with my weight and the way I looked and in all actuality the only time I got praise for ANYTHING was when I lost a couple pounds. I remember being pulled to the side before starting college and my parents saying, "your too big to ever be a lead role." and recently my dad said that because of my size I will not have the same opportunities or success in life. I couldn't help but thinking, "you seem to be doing just fine yourself fattie." Then I started to think about his completely misogynistic view on the issue, and that made me even more angry, but also empowered, because for the first time I didn't care that he had made yet another negative comment about the way I look. I am big, I am beautiful, and I am more comfortable with my body than I have ever been, and I am bigger than I have ever been.