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; body policing.]

#10: Fat people need you to intervene in their lives.

Shaker Word_Wrestler requested an entry on "Fat People Don't Know What's Good for Them, and its corollary Fat People Will Welcome My Attempts to Educate Them on Health."

Or, of course, educate us on any one of a number of other subjects, such as: Exercise, How Many Calories Are in That, What We Should Be Wearing, Why Fat People Shouldn't Have Kids, Which Hairstyles Work Best with Our Fat Faces, Why Our Knee Hurts, or How Happy Your Cousin Is Now That She's Had Bariatric Surgery.

That is not a comprehensive list. Which is to say: Oh yikes, this topic. YIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKES.

This is a defining experience of many fat people's lives: Being constantly lectured like we are children about how to take care of ourselves.

There are, to be sure, fat people who emerged from extremely poor, isolated, and/or neglected families of origin (or state care) who have never had the benefit, at home or in sub-standard public education, of learning about nutrition, irrespective of their access to nutritious foods. And there are fat people who want to increase their fitness, whether that's attached to or detached from their weight, who aren't sure how to do it. And there are fat people who, by virtue of living in a culture steeped in thin privilege, aren't sure how to best dress their bodies.

That is also not a comprehensive list.

But here's the thing: This issue isn't really about fat people who genuinely could use some advice with some aspect of their lives related to fatness. Fat people, like any other person, can solicit advice as necessary.

This issue is about the fact that fat people are presumed to need help by lots of thin people, who are not responding to explicit advice-seeking, but instead constantly offer up "helpful" advice unsolicited, under the presumption we simply have no idea how to take care of ourselves ("be thin").

And it's generally doubly insulting in the sense that this unsolicited advice not only presumes we don't know how to take care of ourselves ("be thin," and could be, if only we knew), but also presumes we are unhappy with our appearance and desperately want to change it.

"You're stupid AND ugly! I am so helpful!"

And then these same generous advice-givers have the temerity to act aggrieved when we don't receive with gratitude their selfless acts of helpfulness.

Did I say yikes yet? Yikes.

This is one of those topics about which I could spend the next five thousand years detailing all the ways in which it is infuriating, infantilizing, and contemptible. But ultimately, this is all I really need to say: My fat is neither a permission slip nor an invitation for you to tell me what to do with my body.

If you understand how privilege works, and the history of how privileged populations interact with marginalized populations, including seeking to control their bodies, choices, and lives, then you should understand why offering unsolicited advice about what I should be doing with, putting in, putting on, or doing to my body is A Problem.

Generally speaking, offering unsolicited advice is ill-advised. If a fat person wants your input, they'll ask. If they're not asking, there's probably a reason for that.

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