Fatsronauts 101

Fatsronauts 101 is a series in which I address assumptions and stereotypes about fat people that treat us as a monolith and are used to dehumanize and marginalize us. If there is a stereotype you'd like me to address, email me.

[Content Note: Fat bias; bullying; eliminationism; misogyny; violence; self-harm.]

#8: Fat people don't deserve anything nice.

This expressed belief falls generally into two separate sub-categories: A. Fat people don't deserve to own or have access to anything nice; and B. Fat people don't deserve to have personal successes or happiness. I'll take them one at a time.

Fat people don't deserve to own or have access to anything nice. Several Shakers have emailed about the various ways in which it is communicated to fatsronauts who work out at a gym that they don't "deserve" the good equipment—disparaging looks, passive aggressive comments about how someone who "only walks" shouldn't be on a treadmill, overheard commentary about how fat people "break the machines," long-suffering, impatient, or judgmental sighs at having to wait for a fatty to finish on a nicer machine while a slightly less-nice machine stands empty.

This is one of the subtler (by which I mean less visible to other thin people) ways that fat people are discouraged from participating at gyms—this constant low-level hostility about fat people "taking away" the "good stuff" from the thin people. And it just another way in which we Can't Win—if we don't exercise, we are shamed; if we do exercise, we are shamed. It's also one of the reasons there are fat-only gyms starting to pop up.

There are countless situations in which I've evidently been given a less-nice version of something because I'm fat—from being ushered to an older go-kart at a fun park (even thought I still weigh less than the 6'6" muscleman who wasn't similarly presumed capable of destroying a go-kart with his ass) to being given a shitty table by the kitchen in an upscale restaurant.

(Dear Restaurant Staff: Your hushed debate while pointing to a floor chart of empty tables in between furtive glances in my direction isn't nearly as clever or inscrutable as you think it is. Love, Liss. P.S. If you're going to nakedly discriminate against fat people, you ought to have an excuse ready when one of us asks you point-blank: "Can we have that table by the window instead, please?" Not that I don't enjoy your flushed, stuttering acquiesce to not treating me like a monster.)

From fat friends, I've heard stories about always being given ratty gowns at doctors' offices; about being given the shittiest office at work, while others stand vacant; about arguing with a car salesman who could not provide a legitimate explanation for why he wouldn't allow a test-drive of the nicest car on the lot; about having to fight to see the nicest engagement ring at a store as less-nice after less-nice ring were offered instead, despite insisting I want to see THAT one. (Getting access to the nicest bridal stuff while fat could be a whole post on its own.) On and on and on. And while excuses can be made—and we fat people are always looking, too, for other reasons for this slight or that rudeness—the pattern is hard to ignore.

Especially since it is a pattern many of us have experienced since childhood, or witnessed in childhood: I was not a fat child, but I remember the boys in my fourth-grade class all agreeing they gave their worst Valentine's cards (from the classic boxes of cheapo cards used in class-wide exchanges) to the fat girl in the class.

There is a very common habit among fat-haters about saving the worst for the fatties. And sometimes people who hold this belief actually get angry when a fat person insists on something better, so deeply held is the belief that fat people don't deserve the nicest of the things.

Fat people don't deserve to have personal successes or happiness. This is evident in the constant exhortations to self-harm and threats of violence that virtually every blogger (especially the female ones) who engage in fat activism receive. The most vicious emails (and comments) I get are not just about my being a feminist female blogger but a fat feminist female blogger. I should kill my fat self. Iain should kill my fat ass. My correspondents want to kill me because I'm a fat cunt. The man who raped me should have killed my fat ass after he was done with me. Etc.

Fat people don't even deserve to live, no less live a meaningful life of joy.

And it isn't just soulless trolls who believe that. It's all the people who endorse or remain indifferent to all the ways in which fat hatred kills fat people every day: Emergency crews who laugh at fat people's weight or appearance while fat people die; doctors who can't see past patients' fat to treat deadly health issues, like blood clots, cancers, chronic diseases, internal injuries, or infections causing shortness of breath that's chalked up instead to a lack of fitness; medical research that does not include fat bodies or develop treatment regiments and proper dosing for fat bodies; medical equipment that cannot accommodate fat bodies; fat shaming that keeps people from seeking healthcare or exercising; fat-hatred that underwrites less-robust healthcare coverage; and all the other ways in which we tacitly support the notion that fat people don't even deserve to live, no less live a meaningful life full of joy.

And then there are the ways the people who purport to care about us bully and shame us, and the ways in which they communicate that we don't really deserve what success or happiness we have because we're fat.

I cannot speak to whether this dynamic exists between male friends, but among female friends—especially straight female friends—there can exist a very destructive dynamic in which thin women who endeavor to play by the rules of the Patriarchy and hew closely to its kyriarchal Beauty Standard are deeply aggrieved when fat friends achieve some level of professional or personal success that they have not.

It's ugly, but understandable—the Patriarchy promises them that they will be rewarded for compliance, and when it is instead their fat, hairy-legged, feminist friend who's got the great job and the great husband (or whatever), that is perceived as a grave injustice, particularly when fatness is coded as "letting oneself go" and noncompliance with feminine beauty ideals is coded as "laziness," while keeping fit and stylish and pretty is considered hard work, and costly at that.

It's not jealousy (for which it is frequently mistaken). It's anger.

A fatsronaut friend's success, when their contentment remains elusive, is bitterly regarded as evidence of a bad return on their investment.

And the embedded implication is that happy fat people don't deserve the happiness they've got.

At least not while there are thin people who haven't got the same.

There's a lot of stuff wrapped up in beliefs about what fat people do and don't deserve—a culture of judgment, a culture of competitiveness in which personal achievement is treated like a zero sum game, the gossamer promises of the Patriarchy. But at its root, it's the same old shit: Fat people being considered less than.

We are not. And we deserve all the good stuff in life, too.

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