#thingsfatpeoplearetold: You Are Strong

This started out as a comment to Brian's guest post about the #thingsfatpeoplearetold hashtag, but it got really long, so I made it its own post.

One of the things by which I was struck, once again, as I read through the shared stories, is how truly tough the life of a fat person is—and how pointedly that belies the narrative that fat people are lazy.

Totally aside from whatever factors underlie 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.

Facing each day of one's life knowing that what awaits is navigating a sea of prejudice squarely rooted in the basic assumption that one is less than, a disgusting, shameful figure symbolizing sloth and avarice, too contemptible to even warrant pity no less dignity and respect, is not for the lazy, nor the faint of heart, nor the weak.

Knowing that just the mere act of walking down the street is likely to elicit moos and epithets and admonishments to hide one's body away from the world, that doing something, anything in public while fat may elicit exhortations to exercise, while exercising itself elicits exhortations to stop being so fat in public, does not make for a life that suits laziness.

Having to battle doctors for basic healthcare, and employers for equal pay, and friends and family for safe boundaries, and retail clerks for clothes, and ourselves for self-worth despite a metric fuckton of internalized narratives that we deserve nothing but scorn is not for the trepidatious.

Being criticized by strangers for what one is wearing, or eating, or looks like; receiving unsolicited "suggestions" about diets and exercise and weight-loss surgery; getting back-handed compliments about having a "pretty face" or not being "that fat" or being "proportional" or some variation on doing the best with the supposedly self-evidently terrible hand we've been dealt; being corrected when you describe yourself as fat, as if it's not a neutral descriptor but something of which to be ashamed; hearing people who purport to care about us express amazement that we have found partners who love us, or have found professional success at jobs we love, or have put together a stylish outfit; these are not aspects of a life that suits laziness.

Having a thin friend or relative look you in the face and tell you that zie can't believe you are happy, when zie is not, that you have a fulfilling life, when zie does not, that you are confident, when zie is not, with the clear implication that you don't deserve to be happy, fulfilled, confident, content, loved because you're fat, is not part of a life for the timid.

Moving through a world which marginalizes fat bodies and privileges bodies not like yours, a world which is designed to facilitate and uphold that privilege, a world which indoctrinates you and everyone around you into that system of privilege and socializes you to believe is the natural and right and immutable state of the world, a world full of shills for that system of privilege and bullies who crawl out of the woodwork in droves to kick you back into line if you dare to question the message, a world decorated with images to remind you that your body is wrong, your body is bad, your body is less than, a world in which it is acceptable for people to believe that accurate conclusions can be drawn about your behavior based on your body and that expressing negative judgments based on those conclusions is their right and obligation, a world in which eliminationist language about people with bodies like yours is not considered controversial, a world in which you, your personhood, your very humanity is challenged on a near-constant basis under the auspices of concern for your "health," is not a world that indulges laziness, cowardice, or weakness.

You've got to be strong to live the life of a fat person. Strong as fuck.

People who accuse fat folks of indolence, or pusillanimity, or weakness (particular of the emotional sort) have, quite evidently, no idea of what being fat, living the life of a fat person, is really like. At least not the life of a fat person who has the unmitigated temerity to believe fervently in hir own right to exist, to participate, to live in a space, internally and externally, which isn't ruled by self-loathing.

What would it take for you to live in a world that hates you?

It takes an indomitable will to live life while fat, in the shadow of ubiquitous reminders that we're doing so in direct contravention of the expectation that we should be secreting ourselves away, and the incessant grim predictions of an allegedly imminent demise.

I've said it before and I'll say it once again: It remains a radical act to be fat and happy. 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.

Of all the #thingsfatpeoplearetold, it is a scandal and a disgrace that "You are strong" is rarely among them.

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