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; dehumanization.]

#17: Fat people's choices are always dictated by their fat.

This is not as obvious a narrative about fat people as something like "All fat people eat enormous amounts of food and never exercise," but it is just as pervasive in the lives of many fat people.

It's a common narrative of oppression: Anything a woman does can be attributed to her femaleness; anything a person of color does can be attributed to hir race; etc. Intersectionality only throws a wrench into the words so much as bigots have to decide whether a lesbian, say, is doing this or saying that because she's a woman or because she's gay. Sometimes: Because she's a gay woman!

It's a ubiquitous way of marginalizing people via their identities, frequently "justified" by evo-psych studies that argue X people's habits can be explained by how they had to fend off the wolfosaurs or whatever. It's in our DNA!

Anyway. This shit, generally minus the evo-psych science because fat is viewed as a behavior, happens to fat people all the time, because fat is such a visible part of a person's identity. Whatever explanation there might be for a fat person eating a salad, the axiomatic conclusion is that it's because zie's trying to lose weight. Whatever explanation there might be for a fat person avoiding airplanes (y'know, like the very common fear of flying), the reflexive presumption is that it's because zie can't fit in the seat. Whatever explanation there might be for a fat person having a bad knee, many people will simply assume that the injury is a result of one's fatness, not because of, say, a tumble on an icy sidewalk or a bad twist during a friendly soccer league.

I get this all the time. If I pass on fried food, someone may comment, "Oh, yeah, I know it's so bad for you; I should be watching my weight, too," though I'm passing because it upsets my stomach to fuck. If I mention walking the dogs, I am likely to hear what great exercise it is, though I primarily walk my dogs because they need to piss and shit, not for my own health (which isn't to say there aren't also health benefits). If I don't want my picture taken, it must be because I am fat. If I don't want to wear a particular style of clothing, it must be because I am fat. If I don't want to do a certain activity that requires physical exertion or getting onstage, it must be because I am fat.

(And, as an aside, there are legitimate reasons why a fat person might not want to do some of those things for reasons specifically related to fat bias. But not wanting to do something because I'm fat and not wanting to do something because fat people get harassed and bullied in those situations are not actually the same thing.)

Probably 99% of my life, I don't wear a wedding band, and, when I do, it's one of four different rings: My great-grandmother's wedding band; the wedding band Iain put on my finger at City Hall; the ring I chose when we updated our rings after Iain's band fell down a vent; and the ring I chose when we got new rings for our 10th anniversary. They all fit; I love them all very much; I'm just not someone who's keen to wear a wedding band all the time, for various reasons having nothing to do with my feelings about my relationship and my husband, and some things to do with my feelings about maintaining my individual personhood with people and culture outside my marriage.

I have a complicated relationship with my wedding band! Is what I'm saying. Which is a whole other post.

But despite this complexity, it has been assumed, out loud, to me, that I don't wear my wedding band because it doesn't fit anymore.

I'll allow you a moment to appreciate the irony of my not wearing a wedding band because of reductionist assumptions about married women, only to face reductionist assumptions about fat people.


Here's the thing: Fat people are people. (Still a radical concept!) We are denying fat people their comprehensive, individual personhood when we assume everything a fat person does can and must be explained by their fatness. The name for that is not "common sense," as it is so often euphemized, but dehumaniztion.



#16: You are helping fat people by shaming them.
#15: Fat people hate having their pictures taken.
#14: All fat people are unhealthy.
#13: Fat people looooooooooove Twinkies!
#12: Fat people don't like/want to see media representations of themselves.
#11: No one wants to be fat.
#10: Fat people need you to intervene in their lives.
#9: Fat people don't know how they look.
#8: Fat people don't deserve anything nice.
#7: Fat people are permission slips for thin people to eat what they want.
#6: Any fat person eating a salad or exercising is trying to lose weight.
#5: Fat is axiomatically ugly.
#4: Fat people eat enormous amounts of food.
#3: Fat people are jolly/mean, and fat people are shy/loud.
#2: I can tell how someone eats all the time, because of how they eat around me.
#1: Everyone who is fat is fat for the same reason.

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