Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You might not MEAN me, but you ARE talking about me

[Content note: discussions of fatphobia and body shame]

I write and talk a lot about my experience as a fat woman and the wider systems of fatphobia I see all around me. I'm not quiet about my views on ending fat shame or advocating for body positivity and the respect of personal bodily autonomy.

And yet, despite all of this, I still hear some people in my personal life make casual fat hating comments. Namely using fat as an insult against someone else...a celebrity, an animated character, whoever. Stuff like "they're so fat and lazy." Or a "fat fuck." Or just a general "Ewww" in regards to them.

I have a theory. I think it's a classic case of "Oh but I didn't mean you" and "You're not one of those type of people" exemptions that privileged people try to bestow on others when they're talking shit about someone who is actually just like us. (Whether they consciously think these thoughts or not.) Also, because fatphobia operates on a continuum and I'm not extremely fat, I possess some relative privilege. Many people in my life don't think of me as "fat" (but instead might try to describe me as what they see as a kinder term like plus sized.) I know this becasue if I say I identify as fat, they start the whole "You're not!" nonsense. Many of the same people don't think about how their offhanded fatphobic comments actually can and do affect me. And deeply bother me. They don't think about my actual lived experience and the context in which these type of statements exist and how the same hateful attitudes have been used against me. Because they know and like me, they see me as a person and understand my humanity. But there is a disconnect which prevents them from seeing the same humanity of the people their comments are aimed at.

I want to shut it down. I want to call them out and humiliate them for being so insensitive. But sometimes speaking up is much easier said than done. In a moment, just casually hanging out with friends, it's not always easy to be the one who turns things serious for a moment...who plays a "buzzkill" role, (especially when the comments are very small.) It's a role I sometimes effortlessly play while other times I just simply don't feel up to it. I try not to beat myself up about it, but missed opportunities pick at the back of my mind (and make me write rambling blog posts.)

So I'd like to put a reminder out there...using fat as an insult or generally disrespecting someone's body, even if that person is not around, even if that person isn't actually REAL, is a shitty thing to do. And it affects those around you, whether you mean it to or not.

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  1. What are your thoughts on plus-size as a descriptor? People often use it as a euphemism for fat, but it puts extra importance on clothing size, which is already considered so important and misunderstood. I often see people arguing a very tall, relatively slim size 12/14 model is not plus size because she isn't fat, even though her size is considered plus by many clothing manufacturers.

    1. As someone who is "plus sized" it doesn't bother me and I tend to use it with people who aren't quite "there" in their body acceptance journey to get on board with unapologetically saying FAT.

      I can certainly see why others wouldn't like it, however, for the reasons you shared but also because it tends to imply that there are "standard" sizes and then plus sizes are like the extended versions...


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