Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"It Takes Hard Work to Look This Good"

[Content note: discussions of weight, fatphobia, diet, exercise.]

My love of Lesley Kinzel is well documented. (Seriously.) So when a quote of hers was floating around Tumblr last week, how could I not reblog it? It's just fantastic:
The people who get angriest about fat girls looking good and feeling hot are the people who are the most strongly invested in the idea that a person has to be skinny in order to be happy, healthy, and loved.
Very often it’s people just projecting their own body-loathing onto someone else; if you’re truly comfortable and confident in your own skin, it shouldn’t make a difference to you what anyone else is wearing, or how they look. It only affects you if it’s making you question your assumptions, about both other people and about yourself.

I couldn't agree more. How in the world could someone who is happy, fulfilled, and who truly loves themselves ever be mad at a fierce and feisty fatty just for existing?  Today, I saw a similar quote also shared on Tumblr (seriously, y'all, if you are into body acceptance at all, Tumblr is your place.)
As I've alluded to in the past, it can be quite the revolutionary act to fearlessly love and embrace your body, especially as a fat person. Because, if we buy into the media hype, we're supposed to feel disgusting and ashamed, and be working, daily, to change ourselves. And, as both of these sentiments above hit at, saying "fuck you!" to this system and being happy despite it can actually bother other people.

I see this fear/resentment/anger/annoyance at loud, proud fat people frequently shared by individuals who buy into what I will call the "it takes hard work to look this good!" mentality. (Clearly fatphobia is expressed by many different types of people, but I'm going to focus in one this particular mentality for this post.)

These people are the ones who have bought heavily into the notion that there is a particular kind of body that is best/right/most attractive and they work really hard to do everything they can do to achieve this body. They frequently engage in restrictive dieting or excessive exercise routines. Now, let me be clear, I'm not talking about people who have a diagnosable eating disorder (although some of them may display this attitude too.) I'm talking about the kind of person who would typically be described by your average person as a "health nut" or "gym rat" or "really disciplined." I think it's important to add another caveat. I'm not talking about people who adhere to a specific diet/exercise routine because they have made a personal choice to sculpt their bodies in a specific manner. That's their right, and I have no problem with that, when it is just that alone. But I am talking about when this goes beyond a personal choice and turns into a world view about attractiveness, healthiness, and how everyone should think/behave through the food policing and body shaming of others. That's when we have a problem.

[Image which displays this idea: A thin woman with visible ab muscles poses with her three sons ages 8 months, 2 years and 3 years. Caption reads "What's your excuse?']

People who are deeply invested in a sense of self worth that is dependent on working hard to achieve this "ideal" are threatened when they see someone who is fat and yet really happy and carefree. These espousers of the "What's your excuse?" "It takes hard work to look this good" mentality can become venomously angry when they experience the cognitive dissonance between seeing such a person and their deeply held mentality that "hot" is the body we see in magazines. The outrage feels a bit like they think these fabulous fatties are cheating the system, or something. Like they've found an illegal shortcut to happiness and it's not ok. I'm serious--if you don't believe me, check out some of the hateful comments that fatshionistas receive when they share a picture and it makes it over to "fitspo" spaces.

It's really sad, but like the quotes above highlight, these hate comments only reflect back upon the people who say them.

So really, it's a very basic concept, but I ask you to consider it...if you have a problem with the way someone is, maybe take a minute and think about why you are having this reaction. Is it because there is something that really rubs you the wrong way about them? Or does it perhaps say more about you? I know that for me, the process of loving myself more and more has opened me up to feeling less threatened by others. It's a pretty great thing.

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