Thursday, June 21, 2012

Were You In Need of Your Daily Dose of Fat Shame?

(TW weight talk and fat shame.)

Well no worries! The commenters at Jezebel are here for you!

As someone in my office pointed out this morning, Jezebel ran a piece on gyms which are allegedly banning skinny people. Here's an excerpt from it:

Green [owner of one such gym] said three types of people join her gym: women who are "idle," women who used to work out but have put on weight in recent years, and the "do or dies" who need to get fit for medical reasons. But all have one thing in common: they don't want to get patronizing side-eye glances when they're on the treadmill. "It's intimidating going into a gym setting," one satisfied customer said. "I honestly think some people in a gym setting are judgmental to people who are overweight or have a different body type."
I am so, so divided about this. Part of me totally understands the intimidation of the gym. As a large person, who is there for any number of reasons, you do get glances and looks which feel very off putting, to say the least. On the other hand, I feel a gym like this would unnecessarily divide people by an extremely arbitrary standard. It reinforces the stigmatization of fat bodies and the idea that weight loss is of paramount importance. Basically what I'm saying is why do I need a special gym? Why can't people in the traditional gym setting just not be assholes? Novel thought!

Debate about the need for fat gyms aside, the comments section at Jezebel is full of really horrible stuff. I know this isn't shocking as Jez doesn't exactly have the best track record in the feminist world AND I broke the first rule of staying happy on the internet by even reading the comments in the first place. However, I thought this would be a really great opportunity to call out some common fat shamey go-tos and other generally crappy comments.

1) "Wouldn't the 'No Skinny People in our Gym' policy imply that their gym doesn't work? Are their members only encouraged to progress to a certain point, and then they either have to slack off on the workout or find a new gym?" (Plus about 100 other variations of this question.)
WRONG. There are fit and healthy fat people who regularly get exercise. For about the billinoth time fat =/= lazy, unhealthy, sedentary.

2) "I've found that seeing hot skinny people at the gym makes me work out harder."
Why does working out have to be about competition and creating a hierarchy of bodies? That habitually  bothers me--how can we learn to truly love ourselves so long as we buy into the narrative that some bodies are better? Look, there's no wrong way to have a body

3) "On another note, whenever I see overweight people at the gym and on the treadmill, I silently applaud them."
Thank you for yet again reminding me that a) fat people's bodies are wrong b) we should all want to change c) the only reason a fat person would be at the gym is to lose weight. /sarcasm Please note: just because a thought is portrayed as "nice" doesn't mean that it's not deeply rooted in stereotypes and judgement. Kindly take your condescending support somewhere else. 

4) "As far as I go, every time I see an overweight person struggling to do anything at a gym, I try to send good vibes their way and mentally give them a hug. Because I know the internal wars they had to fight just to get themselves in that gym that day. It can be a hard, long road. But it can be amazing and awesome and fun and life-changing, too."
Awwwwwwwww! You are so sweet! WAIT a second. Never mind. I think you might be a condescending jerk just like #3. You don't know anything about that person's "internal wars!" Maybe they fucking love the gym and they're "struggling" because they are working their body really hard and getting in an intense workout. And maybe you read their hard workout as "struggling" because they are fat and the same behaviors on a thin person you would read as "kicking ass." So you know what? Fuck you.

5) "Who gives the side eye to someone who is heavier?...I think this this gym idea is ridiculous and honestly - Im not plus-sized..." (sic) (Plus about 100 other variations of this statement.)
Translation: I'm not you, so I don't know what you've experienced, but I'd like to jump in and say, NO YOU ARE WRONG. THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN. YOUR EXPERIENCE AND CONCERNS ARE INVALID.

Ok, ok. I gotta quit! Reading through all of it is giving me a headache and raising my blood pressure. Thankfully, there were a lot of readers jumping in with non-fat-shaming contributions and corrects to the legions of horrible comments. But all in all, that piece over there is...well...the worst.

But more importantly: better stuff out there exists! For example, go check out Melissa McEwan's recent piece over at Shakesville in which she debunks the myth that any time a fat person is eating a salad or working out s/he is trying to lose weight. Do it! Do it. Come it.

1 comment:

  1. Ha - I saw this article a few days ago and thought it was ridiculous! (not yours, the original one >_<) ... why ban anyone from a gym? Aren't we all there just to get exercise and be healthy? Just because there are some bad apples doesn't mean you throw out the whole barrel. Let me just say, I don't think I'm necessarily plus-sized, but I have experienced the 'side eye' from thin and bigger girls alike. I just smile at them and turn up the Blue Oyster Cult. I'm there for me, not them.


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