I Am Ms. Unremarkable Fatty

In yet another horrendous dollop of misogynist slop masquerading as journalism at CNN.com, a bride-to-be makes 10 vows to us—"the public," as she deems us—as she embarks on a life of wedded bliss. Predictably, the frame is just another gimmick designed to afford a female writer the opportunity to shame other women's choices and implicitly announce to the world: "I'm not one of those women."

She's not one of those women who (1) publicly disagrees with her spouse, or (2) takes up too much sidewalk space with a stroller, or (3) refers to her husband as "hubby" or "hubs," or (4) calls dinner out with her husband a "date night," or (5) has the unmitigated temerity to politely ask to switch seats on a plane if she and her spouse are separated.

And she's certainly not one of those women who (6) shares a personal email address with her husband, or (7) plays matchmaker unbidden, or (8) engages in PDA (unless she's drunk), or (9) publicly calls her husband by her pet name for him, which is Fatso. Remember that, when we get to #10.

But before we come to the pièce de résistance, I'd just like to note how utterly foolish most of these vows to "the public" really are. Yes, I can understand if people don't care for diminutives like "hubby" or "hubs," but it's hardly necessary to judge negatively the people who use them—and making a public vow never to do so is just a passive-aggressive way of judging negatively the people who do. I'm not a big fan of the "date night" construction myself, but I don't give a rat's patoot if someone else uses the term. Who the fuck cares?

And, hey, if Ms. Exceptional Lady wants to spend a 12-hour flight separated from her husband just to be polite to people who probably won't find it impolite if she asked to switch seats, I guess that's her choice. But I've asked to switch seats when Iain and I were at ass-opposite ends of an airplane once (the gentleman next to Iain kindly accommodated me), and I've also been asked to switch seats on flights, which I've always been happy to do. I can't imagine why it would be considered rude to ask—except if one inhabits a world in which women asserting the merest hint of self-determination is regarded as a brash show of impudence.

The whole list is a sort of bizarro-world homage to genuinely independent women. One gets the idea, for example, that Ms. Exceptional Lady objects to sharing an email account with a partner because it's obvious evidence of subjugation, despite there being perfectly practical reasons for a shared account, like sending mutual birthday or holiday greetings to faraway family—and a shared account is more egalitarian than sticking Ms. Exceptional Lady's virtual signature in a note from hubby's husband's personal email (or vice versa).

But these are the sorts of things that don't occur to a woman who only wants the outward appearance of feisty independence, masking a anodyne center of safe, self-imposed conformity and rigid adherence to cultural narratives about What Women Should Be.

Which brings us to #10 (emphasis original):
10. I will not let myself go. (Okay, so this is really more a vow to myself than to you, but if you had any idea how bad I could let myself go, you'd thank me for not going there.)
Of course.

Leaving aside the reality that many fat people are not fat as a result of having "let themselves go," let us all take a moment to profusely thank Ms. Exceptional Lady for working so hard to keep herself in alignment with arbitrary beauty standards so that we don't have to look at someone who is in some way less than perfect.

Except for those of us who have "let ourselves go," and are in some way less than perfect, who should, evidently, in addition to our thanks to Ms. Exceptional Lady, be offering our profound apologies that we have "gone there." Because, you see, being fat/ugly/less than perfect is an imposition on all the Perfect People. That's why we should be grateful to Ms. Exceptional Lady for promising never to be such a hideous burden.

This, this expectation that fat people—and fat women in particular—are meant to be contrite for their fat, is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote:
If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.
Which is why I just love the stereotype of the Lazy Fatty. Totally aside from whatever factors caused Teh Dreaded Fat—which may in some cases include a lack of exercise, for a multitude of reasons, one of which might be physical laziness—being fat, living the life of a fat person, is not a life for a lazy person. It is hard work to move every day through a world that hates you.

I recently got a bike, which I am having to re-learn to ride in a whole new way because of a back injury that left me with severe nerve damage in my left foot. (It's hard to ride a bike when you can't totally feel the pedal; in fact, it's hard to do lots of things—I pretty much had to re-learn to walk, too.) And I had literally just ridden it out of the garage for the first time, and was still in my driveway, when someone yelled at me from a passing car.

I guess that's just my punishment for "letting myself go."

And I know there are people who expect me to apologize for myself, for taking up so much space in the world and forcing them to gaze upon my wretched form, but, the truth is, I'm not sorry I'm fat.

I'm sorry the rest of the world is full of assholes—including assholes who make promises to never look like me.

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