Tag Archives: fat shaming

Fat Shaming Is A Thing, But It’s Not A Helpful Thing

Fat shaming has never made anyone healthy…ever. I doubt that it has ever made anyone skinny either, and before I go any further, I want to highlight the fact that these adjectives are not synonymous with each other.

Being skinny doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy, and being fat doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy. My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, resting heart rate, etc. is all excellent now. There are a lot of risk factors associated with someone my  size, but you can’t judge a person’s health based on how they look.

You can’t look at me and know that I significantly reduced my chances of having a heart attack or stroke by dropping a significant amount of weight or that I exercised today, nor can you know that I’ve struggled to keep a lot of it off because of thoughts that swirl around in my mind. You can’t know the reasons why.

One of a few significant reasons is that I allowed an airline’s perception of me to take up space in my mind. I allowed one seemingly disgruntled gate agent’s blanket prejudice to define me long after his hurtful comments were an old headline in the news, and it didn’t cause me to lose weight. I didn’t thrive off of the negative attention that followed his comments either; I caved.

I take responsibility for that. I am the only one who can make a decision to change or to let others define me, and I accept that. It’s all on me to change what I need to change for myself, but if fat shaming worked I’d be skinny by now.

On of the reasons that I stopped blogging as much is that I no longer wished to put myself on a chopping block for trolls who think I shouldn’t exist or that I don’t have a right to share my story because I’m obese. That’s nonsense, of course, but eradicating that negativity has been good for me.

I’ve been quiet here for quite some time. I’ve shared opinions, pissed people off and taken a break, but that break is over because it’s time to stand with other voices and to say, Hey, it’s none of your beeswax if I’m fat or not. Your opinion of me doesn’t define me; it defines you.”

kenlie

I’m not skinny…not even close, but I love myself.

I’m lucky to have a supportive group of people in my life who love me and accept me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to undo the damage that I allowed to take root in my heart and mind when I allowed society’s opinions to define who I was.

I gained a significant amount of weight that I had lost, and I’ve felt a lot of shame as a result. Never has that led to a lower number on the scale. It doesn’t work that way, nor should it.

The last few weeks have been healthier and more successful for me because I’m enjoying my life. I’m reclaiming a lot of the confidence I lost thanks to my friends and family, a significant other who loves to remind me that I’m brilliant and sexy, and I’m making healthier decisions because it makes me feel good (not because people think I should feel bad.)

I don’t hate myself, so that will never be a driving force in my fight for better health. I exercised today because I value my life. I shopped for groceries and prepared for a healthy week of meals because I want to be around for a long time to love people, and I can only hope (and assume) that these small positive steps will lead to other positive steps.

If you truly care about my health go for a walk in the park with me, or take me to lunch and order something healthy and delicious. There are people in my life who do that. There are people who want me around for a long time, and they offer support, not criticism.

I’m not going to link to that newest fat shaming video that’s making its way around the internet  because plenty of others are doing that. I don’t know when it became acceptable to spew hatred on social media, but I do know that there’s no end in sight.

I do know that the responsibility for my life falls on me, not on a skinny girl who could benefit from some acting classes or a gate agent who was probably having a really crappy day. I get to decide what I’m worth. I’m just sorry that I didn’t always know that.

At our core, we’re all the same. We desire to be loved and accepted (even the jerks who spew hatred…especially the jerks who spew hatred.) One important lesson I’ve learned is that I’m lovable, and I don’t have to care if others agree with that or not.

 

 

 

 

How Would You Handle This?

I joined a new gym a few weeks ago, and I love the gym. I do not love the way I was treated on my third trip to the gym, and I have avoided going back since. I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until I drove up to workout yesterday afternoon.

I had my gym bag and everything that I needed to workout, but I convinced myself not to go in. I didn’t want to be mocked like I was last time I was there.

While swimming a mile in the pool I was mocked by a woman who snapped a couple of pics of me on her phone. She told me that I wasn’t doing myself any good swimming that slowly, and my response to her was that I was doing a lot more than she was.

If you read my blog you know that I have endured more than my fair share of hurtful words from strangers who think I’m worthless because I’m overweight. I experienced during my first few experiences in New York City, and I didn’t go back to that gym for a long time either.

I only used my free trial a few times, and now I’m paying for a membership that’s far from inexpensive that I don’t use. I think I’ve decided to go in and cancel my membership tomorrow, but I think that sucks for a few reasons:

1. I need a gym, and this one is conveniently located. There’s a branch close to my school and one close to my apartment.

2. I can swim laps outside all year because this is Louisiana and the pools are heated. There’s a pool inside too for days like today in which it’s too cold to be outside.

3. There are Zumba classes and a lot of other classes. I loved doing Zumba and looked forward to doing it a few times a week.

4. It’s big, and the staff is really friendly.

5. There’s a lot of space to shower and get dressed after my workout which means I can do it before school too.

I have allowed myself to miss out on something positive for myself because of something negative that someone did. The easy answer is “brush it off. Go back and forget about that person.” But doing that is exhausting. Google me, and you’ll see what I have a lot of experience in “brushing it off.”

My gym should be a place where I can go and sweat like an animal without being ridiculed. It should be a safe place, shouldn’t it?

My plan is to go in tomorrow to cancel my membership and to make membership aware of why I don’t plan to go back. I think they should know even if it doesn’t matter to them.

What would you do? Would you brush it off, or would you take issue with it? How would you resolve it and convince yourself to go back?

Update: I’m not saying that I’ll abandon all gyms. I have to have one, but if I’m paying $80 per month I expect to be in a place in which I am not harassed.

Guest Blog – The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

Hello everyone! I am Alexa (I blog about weight, fitness & fat in the media at  The Curvy Nerd), and I am thrilled to be doing a guest post on All The Weigh!

When Kenlie asked me to write a guest post on one of my favorite topics — fat hate in society and the strong influence of media — I was honored and excited. Then I tried to write. Needless to say, this enormous, weighty (ha!) issue ballooned into a post of monstrous proportions. So, I shall preface the following by saying: I edited it down. A lot. I hope to expand on many of the topics I’ve merely touched on in future posts, and through discussion.

For many of you, especially if you’ve lived any portion of your life overweight, that society hates and discriminates against fat people may be horribly obvious and my statements redundant. However, I find that sometimes stating what seems blatantly obvious can set off light-bulbs for others, and yourself. It’s especially important to second-guess the media and how it portrays reality — is something so because the media reflects reality, or because it SHAPES how we perceive and create the world around us?

People like to associate a variety of negative words with "fat people." Most are not true. All of them are hurtful and cruel.

No one likes to talk about discrimination against fat people

We’re a progressive society, constantly making strides against disgusting and demoralizing practices such as racism and homophobia. Minority and underrepresented groups, including but certainly not limited to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and LGBTQ, are becoming increasingly (and rightfully) visible on TV, in film, in music, media and advertising.

Yet hatred continues to be spewed against fat people, in the most extreme incarnation (see: Internet comments). And, more subversively, poking fun at fat people (see: token fat character); making assertions about their bodies, eating, health and fitness habits (fatsplaining, “fat as a lifestyle choice”); and, simply, not including them AT ALL in media, rage in society and culture. Fat people are simultaneously invisible and derided for possessing a number of negative characteristics, thrust upon them by virtue of how they look on the outside.

Fat hate — so bad, we even hate ourselves

The hate that is lobbied against fat people is staggering, pervasive and subversive. It’s so omni-present in media and society that most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they explain it away. Like misogyny which is also so entrenched in society that women themselves don’t realize it most of the time, people tend to have a laundry list of excuses and reasons for why it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just whining” or “you’re too sensitive” when you call them out on fat hate. Fat hate is so pervasive, fat people hate fat people.

No, really. If you are now or have ever been fat, overweight, obese — whatever you want to call it — have a nice, honest think about your past interactions with other fat people. Do you see another fat person — usually one who is bigger than you are — and smugly think to yourself “well, I’d never let myself get that bad!” or “Ugh, they clearly don’t exercise or try to eat right. Put down the cheeseburger.” Or, the slightly more innocuous but just as damning “how did *she* get such a hot guy — she’s fatter than I am!”

Many of these Schadenfreude-esque thoughts are somewhat natural — everyone does it, to almost everyone else — but many people take it beyond the “fleeting, dark thoughts” territory. If a fat person speaks out about discrimination, you certainly do see other large people call that person out for being a whiner, or making waves. Fat people are just as likely to guilt and fat shame as thin people — they do it on The Biggest Loser!

It’s often the fat person who reinforces the fat = bad; thin = good trope, because all our lives, this is what we are taught. One of the best places for this in popular culture? Shows like The Biggest Loser do a lot of good, but next time you watch a season, look at the adjectives the contestants use at the beginning vs. the end, and the clips editors choose to use. I’m not saying obese people can’t be miserable, but the subtle language of weight loss makeover programs is beginning/fat = bad, bad, bad, MISERABLE, unhappy, alone, bad, bad, bad which slowly transitions to thin = I AM SO PRETTY AND HAPPY AND NOTHING IN MY LIFE COULD EVER BE BAD AGAIN.

This just isn’t true! It’s not that you can’t want to be thinner and healthier. But equating being thin with happiness is dangerous. You will have good and happy moments in your life when you are fat, and you will have good and happy moments in your life when you’re thin. Same can be said for misery and feeling rotten.

Why do we think this about ourselves and our lives?

We are taught through relentless skinny images & media messaging that fat = bad... and thin is never thin enough

Blame the media! (no, really, let’s blame the media)

This is because we are taught, through every minutiae of our interaction with each other, through media — TV, film, music, advertisements, magazines, newscasts, etc. — that fat is Ugly. Fat is Bad. Fat is Stupid. Fat is Lazy. Thin (and sexy) = GOOD, LOVELY, AWESOME, BETTER. Most of the time, fat people are invisible. We don’t see people like us in magazines (Plus Size models = size ten. SIZE TEN), or on TV, or in movies. There aren’t fat newscasters (even the friendly, rotund weather man Al Roker is now a Skinny Thing), fat book heroines are few and far between (though better than TV) and, generally, TV and film are a barren wasteland of fat people. We are sent a message every day by the absence of larger people in these positive, informative, fantasy and “beautiful” roles.

Women, especially, rarely see representations of themselves. Teen comedies & dramas feature waif-thin beautiful people having Beautiful People Problems like juggling three boyfriends and finding the perfect dress for Prom. The intrepid, neurotic romantic heroines of rom coms are invariably a size 6 (whittled down the requisite size zero, nowadays), and even when they are meant to be “overweight,” they do it Bridget Jones style and have a size 2 actress “balloon up” to, what?, an eight? There being exceptions to every rule, I concede recent glimmers of hope: Drop Dead Diva & Huge (oh list, you are a short one. And also half cancelled).

In cases where we do see visible fat people, they only come in two “sizes”: trying to lose weight/makeover project and Negative Horrible Foil/Unloveable Sidekick. How many times have you seen the plump, dumpy sidekick crack jokes and end up alone? Invariably, either way, Token Fat Character eats. All the time. Whereas most characters on TV and in movies NEVER EAT (as in, actually chew food)… or use the bathroom (ever notice that?), we always see fat characters chowing down. On Glee, token fat girl Lauren DEMANDS A BRIBE of Cadbury Creme Eggs to join Glee Club. Fellow curvaceous character Mercedes was given an entire plot line about eating cafeteria tater tots. I mean… come on!

Probably the only positive plus size character I can think of from the last 27 years I’ve been on earth is Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.

Fat girls = 1;Thin People: ELEVENTY-BILLION.

In the one arena where arguably Americans get to see overweight women in highly visible roles — daytime talk show hosts — we get a) Oprah (on a perpetual diet cycle) b) Ricki Lake (couldn’t get work post-Hairspray/fat; starved herself to get her show) c) Star Jones (evil wench who got gastric bypass) d) Rosie O’Donnell (ridiculed in pop-culture for being fat/unattractive when she came out as a lesbian). Yes, we all love Oprah (and her positive contributions to fat issues I think are notable), but she’s Oprah. Daytime TV’s Goddess can be any damn size she wants. Everyone else? Get skinny, then maybe you’ll get work.

I mean, REALLY?

In the end, the message that not only fat people, but thin people get is: fat people are invisible/bad, and only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness/love/positive attention. It trickles down and is pervasive (and equally tied to disturbing trends of misogyny in society), and leads to the real problem: the Othering of fat people, and the rise of flat-out hatred of them.

People are horrible; aka: the Internet kills the filter of basic human decency

You don’t have to go far to see this ugly, judgmental attitude in people — just read the comments on any mainstream article relating to weight loss topics. On my blog, The Curvy Nerd, rather than engage with asinine comments on blogs such as The Huffington Post, Gawker and The Daily Beast, I highlight and poke fun at the worst of the worst — feel free to browse through some of my finds, so far.

Generally, you see the same key phrases over and over again: “fat is a choice,” (aka: Fat As A Lifestyle Choice) “eat less, exercise more,” “I don’t want a fat person to infringe on MY space/life/whatever”.

It’s amazing how little empathy people have for overweight & obese people. They don’t hesitate to dehumanize, denigrate and attack fat people, usually with comments that draw the most outrageous conclusions about fat people in general as well as specific larger individuals (usually in response to commenters and/or public figures who appear to be or confess to be large). These things include, but are certainly not limited to: that you are unhealthy, lazy, ugly, miserable, stupid, entitled (no, really!), dirty, sexless, alone and undeserving of love. Many people will flat out say these things.

Then there are the “concern trolls.” These are people who Don’t Like Fat People, but they translate this into acceptable terms, ie: Fat Is Unhealthy. Then they fatsplain to you/fat people how being fat should make you feel, how it’s essential you Get Healthy and Stop Being Fat. Because they care about you, they do!

People we love can also communicate the message that fat = bad, though generally they do not hate fat people, or you, and will unconsciously say things that hurt you. My favorite is “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” Translation (on your end): you’re not fat! Fat is BAD, and you are NICE and I LIKE you… so let’s talk about how BEAUTIFUL you are (to me). I didn’t realize what an insidious phrase this was until recently. I do it too! We need to divorce the ideas that being fat = bad. But it’s a deeply ingrained thought within society (see; media).

Let’s get academic for a moment

Beyond the anecdotal evidence of people being hateful on the Internet, numerous studies have been done on the attitudes people hold towards the obese. One study found that children not only ascribed patently negative attributes to fat people (and positive ones to thin people), but that their views were reflective of their parents (who also participated in the study). An indicative pull-quote:

“Specifically, research shows that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers and are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to an average weight or lean child.”

We pick up these attitudes young, and hold them for life.

More gems to illustrate a wide-spread trend of discrimination and hatred held against fat people:

Where does all this leave us? Well, the current trend is Let’s Beat Everyone Over The Head With Obesity As A Health Epidemic and OMGSHITTONS of fat reality shows. Instead of approaching the core issue of people hating fat people, the cycle of negativity, issues of food/eating portrayal in advertising, and Healthy At Any Size, we are trying to SHAME fat people into being less fat. Oi vey. But that’s another topic for another (LONG) post. 🙂

So thank you for having me, and sorry for the essay! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts — what has your personal experience been, with the media and with other people’s attitudes and expectations?