*I want to start first by thanking everybody who commented on my last post regarding fat stigma, it was great to have so many of you share your stories with us and the experience really gave Fat Fox and myself a good idea of certain areas within fat acceptance that we need to bring up in posts that will be coming very soon.*
Today I want to talk about shame. Fat shame, the kind of shame that is fed to us for no other reason than because we just happen to live in fat bodies. I was very recently asked on Twitter (where I pretty much live) what fat shaming is, and, as it’s a term we use a lot in fat acceptance, I feel obliged to shed a little light. It required more than a 140 character response, so I will answer this question here.
I’ll start with a little story.
I had an interesting altercation today at the local mall. I live in a small town with a one-level mall (whose largest store is a k-mart), that has a food court at one end. I say court, but really, it’s five different food places with a bunch of tables and chairs in the middle. There’s not a lot of selection but it serves its purpose and I suppose you could call it “court-esque.” Anyway, I stopped for lunch, grabbed myself a plate of Chinese food, found a table and sat there quite happily, reading my book and not bothering anybody. Anyone who has dared eat in a food court can guess where this is going..
“Whoa, mate!.. think there’s any food left at (insert restaurant name)?”
One guy. One puffed up, smug little skidmark of society just HAD to pipe up and let it be known that a fat person had dared to eat in his vicinity. The nerve of me! Many of us are no stranger to these not so subtle jabs. They come in the form of disapproving stares, glares, sub-level mutterings, whispers, indirect comments mentioned a touch too loudly between friends as they pass by, and then you get the occasional fuckwit who thinks it’s hilarious to shout to all and sundry that “FATTIES BE EATIN’ Y’ALL!” No shit. You’re a freakin’ genius, bub. Seriously, your brilliance astounds me, clearly my fat-affected brain is no match for your quick wit.
Sarcasm aside, I would actually usually tend to ignore these digs at my self-esteem. That is to say, I’d pretend that they didn’t hurt, and that I didn’t feel completely self-conscious eating in public (even though I am only eating the same thing as everybody else). That I didn’t feel like all eyes were on me, watching every forkful I put in my mouth as though they could see the calories joining forces to settle in somewhere on my already ample frame, no doubt to form yet another fat roll. And to people who do look at fat people and think these things, I have a question. Does it feel good?
Is it richly rewarding to feel as though you lord it over us fatties because you just “know better”? Does judging us for doing THE EXACT SAME THING YOU DO IN A FUCKING FOOD COURT appeal to your smug sense of superiority and help you get through another day where you can feel like “my life may not be perfect but OMG at least I don’t look like that person over there.” Is that what it is? Or are you just so completely unaware of how deep down your fat phobia runs, that it’s easier to judge me than come to the realization that you just may be shitty at the whole human being thing. Could that be it?
Having recently being freed from my fear of eating in public (thanks to the fabulous world of fat acceptance) I couldn’t let this punk walk away without so much as saying a word. Nuhhuh, not today. I flew. I looked up at him, glared at him so hard that had I any super powers his face would have melted clean off, and let him have both barrels of my extremely fat outrage.
How DARE he feel it appropriate to harass me while I am minding my own business. How DARE he believe he can get away with being so disrespectful towards fat people. How DARE he try and make me feel guilt for eating ANYTHING as though fat people don’t deserve to eat or have to EARN THE RIGHT. How DARE he stick his face in my business and try to belittle me for simply existing. How DARE he breathe his fatphobic hate-filled vitriol in my direction. HOW DARE HE!!
I spat all this out in the middle of the court, standing up from my table, yelling and attracting the attention of all around me, only it was said with a lot more fucks thrown in. I’m sure I offended at least one older lady, but I was so furious that it no longer mattered if I was the fat girl making a scene in the middle of the food court. I just didn’t give a damn. In the middle of my tearing strips off this guy, a security guard appeared and stood quite close to us and I thought “oh, shit..” but when I had finished he just stood there, and the guy who had made the original comment (who was standing there looking very much like a stunned mullet) simply sniffed, flexed his pectoral muscles (maybe I imagined that), cracked his neck.. and walked away. I noticed that the court had gone very quiet, but as I sat back down, everybody went back to their meals and various conversations. The security guard asked me if I was alright and I apologised for creating a scene. His response was:
“Lady, I was ready to drop him if he even so much as tried anything.”
SCORE FOR THE AWESOME SECURITY GUARD!! If you are ever in my town, make sure to stop by the mall and high five this man!
So, why have I shared this story? Because it’s about me refusing to be shamed. We face so much oppression as fat people. We have people who tell us we shouldn’t be fat, we need to diet, we’re going to die, we need to look after our health, we don’t deserve health care, we can’t wear that, we have no right to expect the world to accommodate us but rather we should adjust ourselves to fit in the world made for everybody else.
We have people crying about the dreaded epidemic that is fat people taking over the world, fat parents being told they are failures for having fat children, fat people who are not allowed to adopt children because we are unfit to parent. We are told we are the reason the world is in recession, we are eating the world’s food resources, we are sucking up people’s tax dollars because we bring the big fat bag-o-diseases upon ourselves and don’t deserve the care offered to others without thought.
We are told by medical professionals that our only health issue is fat, the only diagnosis is fat, the only cure for every medical ailment we have is to lose weight. We have fat people dying while doctors fail to provide proper healthcare because they can’t see beyond our fat to treat our very real diseases that are NOT JUST FAT. We are called lazy, told we smell, are useless, and there are people that want us ERADICATED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
THIS IS FAT SHAME. The constant live stream of horrible, hateful messages we hear from everyone, even (and this can sometimes be the most hurtful) from those that claim to love us. The messages that tell us we DESERVE to be hated, we SHOULD hate ourselves. Messages that say we are unacceptable and ought be abolished, or hide ourselves away so that nobody has to be reminded that we are more than our fat, we are people.
I’m calling bullshit. I will no longer stand for being told I am not worthy of a happy and fulfilling life. I refuse to live my life in shame because anybody else says I should. I reject your fat shaming bullshit, fatphobes. I will stand up, spit in your face and tell you to fuck off without batting so much as an eyelash because I have spent too long listening to the internalised soundtrack of your hatred filling my head. My fat is not something I am ashamed of and it is not something I will let you use against me. This body is mine, you have no say over what I do with it or how I feel about it.
Fuck anybody who thinks they have the right to tell you how to feel.
Fuck anybody who thinks they have the right to tell you how to live.
Fuck anybody who wants you to feel as though you deserve their hate.