Friday, June 7, 2013

Fat Women and Worthlessness

[Content note: fatphobia, objectification of women, body policing]

OK, I know I've actually written about this before, but it's on my brain, so I'm just going to ramble for a moment.

It absolutely amazes me how demonized and hated fat women are. Take this piece by Michael Young, "Male Privilege and Transitioning from a Fat Woman to Fat Man."  He writes,
When I was perceived to be a fat woman, there was a real sense of not just disgust, but a poisonous, malignant contempt. People (most commonly men) commented on my appearance like I somehow owed it to them to be, in their view, attractive. Like I was breaking some kind of cardinal rule because I was happy with my body without their approval. Now, in complete contrast, I am barely given a second glance.
Occasionally, I still face discrimination as a fat man, but it’s not as vehement, societally sanctioned nor pervasive as it once was. My treatment has changed simply because of the way that society perceives my gender. This is male privilege in action. We live in a society that has built a whole industry on bullying women for not being what is considered ‘attractive enough’ to men. Think about that the next time you want to stare at a fat woman on the bus.
[Emphasis mine]

Young has hit on a really critical element here, in my view. There is a toxic combination of forces in play that really damages fat women:

1) We center the male experience and opinions as tantamount.

2) We are socialized to view a certain female look as most attractive: thin, large bust, young, white, etc.

3) We objectify women and reduce their worth to their attractiveness.

4) Women who do not meet the arbitrary standard of beauty are therefore perceived as worthless.

5) Straight men who buy into this arbitrary standard, and who believe their opinions about it are important feel justified in actively expressing contempt and disgust at women who they are not attracted to, simply because such women exist.

Rinse, repeat.

These cultural messages translate directly into the experience Young wrote about. It's the very definition of the intersection of fatphobia and sexism and it infuriates me to no end.

Listen, I'm fine with the fact that many straight dudes don't find fat women attractive. People like what they like and that is A-OK. Where I want to blow things up is when that personal opinion is extrapolated into disgust for fat women all together. It's like, "I don't think you're hot; therefore you should not exist." OK, so you don't want to fuck them, does that mean you have to hate them? That you have to harass them? That you have to humiliate them? That you have to make crass jokes about fucking them being the worst thing in the world? That you have to consider them all around worthless? In theory these dudes don't want to fuck their other dude friends, but yet they can still find value in them as people. Why can't they do the same for fat women?

When fat women reclaim their bodies, their sexiness, their happiness, and their worth totally on their own terms, it's a really beautiful thing. It is, in itself, a political act. It's a proverbial middle finger to the systems which tell us that unless the average dude bro wants to fuck us, we are worthless. Of course, no one has an obligation to love their bodies or to center their self-love on appearance, but for those of us who want to every now and then, it's can be an incredibly liberating experience.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

1 comment:

  1. I have hated my body since I hit puberty. Even though I actually wasn't overweight until after I had my son when I was 25, I always perceived myself as "fat" because I had big hips and a prominent posterior. "Fat" was the worst thing that anyone could be.
    I am now nearly fifty. Thankfully I discovered Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance when I was 45, or I would still be calling myself a fat, worthless pig every day. It's hard enough to navigate life when you have a trifecta of mental illness standing in your way. (Bipolar disorder type II, borderline personality disorder, and OCD.)
    I honestly could go through life okay with my body if it weren't for the hate and harassment. Even trying to watch one of my formerly favorite television programs, Bones, which does a good job with portraying the sexes and races as equal, I have been reminded more than once that society as a whole has been conditioned to see larger bodies as disgusting. They put the slant of "poor health" on it, but this is actually a fallacy. Nobody can tell the actual health of a person's body by looking at the size of their body.
    I started exercising again last year, and this time I'm sticking to it because weight loss is not my goal. Initially I lost some weight, but that plateaued, and I don't care. The old me is inside screaming "you need to care! You're still fat! If you're fat, you aren't working out hard enough!" However, I am working out EFFECTIVELY for what I want to accomplish: better strength, stamina, and flexibility. Weight loss should never be the goal of exercise, or sticking with working out, which is good for you regardless of your size, is doomed to failure.
    I really and truly don't care if anyone finds me "fuckable" or not. In fact I'd rather they not, as I'm not looking. I've been celibate for nearly 15 years, and I've never been more mentally healthy. Being involved in relationships makes me crazy. I pick the wrong guy every time, and I'm not motivated to go get counseling to help me figure out how to pick the right guy. I'd rather just not pick anybody.
    The thing that gets me down is not the fact that Caucasian Males In the Sanctified 18-32 Age Range (TM) don't find me fuckable. It's the fact that society as a whole thinks that its okay to harass and bully people who are deemed unfuckable. That is in no way, shape, or form okay.
    I'm going to reblog this comment with a link to you at which is a size acceptance blog.


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