I’m pretty aware. Sensitive. Inclusive.
Translation: I can buzz-kill the crap out of things.
I’m PC as all get-out when it comes to the rights of women, the differently abled, marginalized races, the transgendered, etc., etc., …. you make a “joke,” I will fix you with my pointy glare and say something biting yet factual which leaves neither of us in any question about the state of our relationship. I was raised on Sesame Street and live in a 1980s Benetton ad. If you don’t want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, there’s the door.
But I have my blind spots. Some I know about and am frankly fine with. This is about one I was blind to (a double blind, if you will).
I was listening to the radio the other day and they were talking about this Whitney person who has a show called My Big Fat Fabulous Life. She said (I’m going to paraphrase so I can (eventually I swear) get to the point of this thing) that “fat” is just another descriptor, like “tall” or “blonde” and should not add or detract from how you perceive a person, but just describe them.
She then went on to add:
I have a campaign called the “No Body Shame” campaign … It’s just to show people that it doesn’t matter what we feel ashamed about because we all have something. If it’s not their weight, it could be a chronic illness, disability, race, gender, sexuality, and people try to make us feel ashamed about those things.
I realized that happiness is here now in the body that we have now and the life that we have now, and there’s going to be a lot of resistance to that but if you don’t fight for your happiness the only person who loses is you.
I was in the car when I heard this, and was trying not to hit other cars, so I wasn’t paying 100% attention to the radio. All I really heard was that someone was appropriating chronic illness and munging it into a conversation about shame and fat, and right there, in my car, I got on my high horse (and I drive a Mini, so that’s a pretty amazing feat if you think about it).
“Um, lissen lady,” thought I upon my horse in my car. “You can stop being fat. I cannot stop having this chronic illness (hence the word chronic). So stop co-opting my issues to make your issues ok. Maybe eat better.” So saying, I patted my horse, and myself on my back.
Then I went home, and looked up the full quote. Ah. Ah-hah, even.
Here’s the thing. I don’t feel ashamed of my illness. I never have. And I would have never had a spare minute for anyone who would have tried to make me feel ashamed of it. But I know other sickies who have had to work through this issue (and I’m not knocking them – I have my issues, believe it. This just isn’t one of mine.). And if I look at the rest of the quote, and what she’s communicating: there’s a lot of common sense there, a lot of sensitivity, a lot of kindness.
And it also gives me pause to think. I have never, knowingly, fat-shamed anyone. But I’ve thought things (“She looks so cute…for her size.”). I’ve looked in shopping carts and mentally replaced the crap food with carrots (which is oh-so-clearly my place, right?). I haven’t cut an overweight person the same slack I’ve cut others – including myself, probably most of all.
Is fat the last acceptable frontier? Are overweight people the last people it’s ok to be critical of, to judge, to be better than? If someone else is worse than me, does that make me better? Since I am sick through no fault of my own, does that make me better by default? If I am thinner and chronically ill but a mean, small-minded person who tallies up things like “better and worse” (because it’s healthy to quantitatively measure and compare people as though they were inanimate objects, like car tires or ceramic figurines), and she’s a bigger but nicer person spreading a meaningful message about acceptance and happiness, who is actually a better person?
Ohhhhh. So the worth of a person isn’t measured on a scale? Well now. Ain’t that a thing.
The challenge is for me to train myself to think about overweight people differently. Judgments are based on assumptions, and assumptions are based on stories we tell ourselves about people. What am I assuming when I see an overweight person? And what business is it of mine, anyway? Why do I have to tell any stories in my little head? It’s not like the world is panting for one more judgment, one more bitchy call. I can choose, instead, to simply accept. Accept that another person’s needs and reasons are as meaningful to them as mine are are to me (hey, what a concept. Treat people like I want to be treated. With simple respect.). And by so doing, generate a sliver less negativity in my brain (a brain that sincerely needs all the help it can get, ya know what I’m sayin?).
Suddenly it doesn’t sound quite so complicated.
When I said earlier (in my car, on my horse) that “You can stop being fat,” it’s worth noting that I actually have no idea if she can. For all I know, she has an illness or something. But up there on my high horse, the oxygen was thin, and my thought processes weren’t very good, and I could really only think about things that would contribute to the snarky little point I was wanting to make.
This also has nothing to do with whether or not she wants to stop being fat, something else I have no idea about. Maybe she’s happy. Maybe she’s healthy. There are skinny people who aren’t fit, you can be skinny just by not eating. That’s not healthy. There are large people who exercise a lot who are healthy who have both muscles and fat. I suppose I could learn the answer by watching her TV show but I already have so many conflicts on my TiVO that adding yet another show seems fraught with peril.
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