Yesterday, I wrote that a fat woman "requires supernatural strength just to get through every goddamn day." There are people who will read that and think it's hyperbole.
They are people who don't understand the world is filled with bigoted assholes who have absolutely no compunction about unapologetically expressing their seething contempt, naked hostility, and rank hatred for fat people, right out in public.
Yes, it's the people who shout fat-hating epithets at us while we're Being Fat in Public, doing outrageous things like riding our bikes or eating or crossing the street, but it's also people like the writer who questions, without a trace of irony, whether she is being "an insensitive jerk" at the end of a piece in which she writes of fat people:
The other day, my editor asked me [with regard to the television show Mike & Molly], "Think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?"This is what I face every day: The knowledge that there are people who are "grossed out" just seeing me walk across a room.
My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
This is a fact of my life: All around me are people who are repulsed by my very existence—and many of them make no pretense of it, make not a modicum of effort to conceal their revulsion.
A few months ago, Iain and I were having lunch at Panera Bread; we'd just picked up our food at the counter and I was walking to a table with my tray, which had on it a turkey sandwich, an apple, and a drink. The place was busy, and as I wound my way between tables toward empty seating, I noticed people staring at me. Like, everyone. This is not something that typically happens to me, so I thought I must have something on my face, or on my shirt, or snot hanging out of my nose...something.
I left the table and went to the restroom, where I looked at myself in the mirror. Nothing seemed out of place; my face and shirt were free of anything that didn't belong there, and my hair wasn't in some sort of shocking disarray. I noticed nothing unusual at all. I shrugged, and went back to the table.
Again, the staring.
I was quite genuinely mystified, and feeling really paranoid, until I passed a table and heard a woman not-really-whisper to her companion: "Well, there goes my appetite. Yuck."
I froze. I felt this ping in my gut as the reason for the staring became evident, as the realization washed over me that the thing I'd been missing in the mirror, the horror, was just me. In my entirety. In my enormity.
I wanted to turn to her and do something remarkable, to say something funny, to waggle my fat fingers at her and give her goggle-eyes and chant at her, "Ooga booga!" But I had been rendered numb by her casual cruelty, so unexpected.
I turned and looked at her. I don't know what the look on my face was. Hurt? Shock? Anger? Confusion? She looked momentarily startled, maybe even apologetic, an expression which was quickly replaced with a steely look of disdain. She averted her eyes and threw her napkin onto the table, as if to underline her disgust. How can I be expected to eat in your presence?
I turned back around and sat down to eat my lunch, and swallowed back tears with every bite, trying not to crumble.
There are days when it doesn't get to me and days when it does.
I don't hate myself for being fat, and I don't hate my body, and I don't let my being fat stop me from living a full life, and I am, genuinely, happy.
But I am hated by other people. Openly and brazenly. And I am unhappy about that.
I am especially unhappy about it because there are people with fewer resources, a weaker or nonexistent support system, and/or a crushing self-hatred who are subjected to the same thing. Who never have days when it doesn't get to them. Who have chosen to live their lives behind closed doors, because the world is too difficult, too cruel, to bear.
I could write yet another post about how being fat is not always a choice, about the intersection of fat and disability, about the intersection of fat and surviving sexual assault, about the intersection of fat and poverty, about access to fresh foods, about how there exist plenty of healthful fat people, about the changing parameters of obesity, about the correlation between HFCS subsidies and obesity, etc. etc. etc.
But, ultimately, none of that matters when it comes down to the basic fucking decency of treating fat people with dignity, irrespective of their particular reasons for being fat.
The author of this piece is comprehensively ignorant about granting to fat people the basic dignity and agency that any human being should be granted. That's beyond being "an insensitive jerk." That's being an asshole so thoroughly cloistered in privilege that you can blithely engage in the most vile dehumanization and then wax cluelessly about the possibility you were "insensitive."
Privileged white assholes used to (and sometimes still do) write articles about being disgusted by seeing two people of color (or—horrors!—a white person and a person of color) making out, too. Privileged straight assholes used to (and sometimes still do) write articles about being disgusted by seeing two people of the same sex making out, too. Privileged able-bodied assholes used to (and sometimes still do) write articles about being disgusted by seeing two people with physical and/or mental disabilities making out, too.
That shit isn't just dehumanizing: It's borderline eliminationist. When we acknowledge that ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and body size can be in total or in part inherited traits, to express revulsion at expressions of sexuality is to implicitly express revulsion at the potential for reproduction, and thus the creation of more of "those people."
Add in concern trolling about having to pay for "their" healthcare, and you've got a stinking heap of "the world would be better off without fatties" on your hands.
This is considered acceptable public discourse.
In response, let us recall, to the fact that two fat fictional characters on a television show no one is required to watch, might be depicted showing one another physical affection.
I could write about this all fucking day, but ultimately all I really want to offer in response is this picture of my nonfictional fat self kissing my nonfictional fat husband:
Two Fatsronauts in Love.
Did the world fucking end? No? Shocking.
I'm sure there are thin bigots barfing all over the world right now, at the site of two fat people (not even) making out. And when they're done, they can kiss my fat ass.
Fat people should not be expected to hide evidence of their humanity, in deference to other people's bigotry.
It's shameful that remains a radical statement.
Contact Marie Claire and ask them why they are promoting virulent fat hatred.
[H/T to Shaker skirt.]