When it comes to feminism, I aim to acknowledge intersectionality and the fact that all people have lived experiences, even when they are privileged.
The trouble is, every now and then a thin person comes along and says “but one time someone told me to eat a sandwich and that’s totally just as bad as never being represented in the media, being told that you’re dirty, stupid, lazy, disgusting, unhealthy, and unworthy of love, being dismissed by doctors and lovers and friends as nothing more than a failed body project with no self discipline and being told on a daily basis that you take up too much space and the world would be better if you didn’t exist!”
The phrase that best describes my point of view when it comes to body-shaming and policing is the Health At Every Size (HAES) motto of “All bodies are good bodies.” Yet I find myself, time and time again, fighting for people of all body types, only to continue being dismissed for my body.
Oh, it’s inspiring for a “fat” girl to post a picture of herself half-naked, but actually letting her talk about the problems she faces on a daily basis, especially those perpetuated by thin people? HOW DARE YOU. (Pssst. I see you putting the word ‘fat’ in quotations because you think fat is an insult and you don’t feel comfortable with me calling myself that. I see you. Stop that.)
I remember the first time I saw a picture of a fat person, half-naked, that wasn’t meant to be some cruel joke or an example of how not-to-be. I was 18 years old. It took me that long to find a picture of Beth Ditto peering into a mirror, in nothing but her underwear - her manicured fingers seductively tracing her lips, while a male model faced the camera. I was enthralled. I was ashamed and empowered, curious and afraid. Who was this remarkable woman? How could she have done such a thing? She’s gorgeous, but god, isn’t she afraid? I would be.
Fast-forward a couple years. I’m active on Tumblr. I’m learning about body-politics. I’m in awe of fatshion bloggers. I buy Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere and a shirt that says “Fat! So?” I’ve found something that speaks to me. I’ve found a space that makes me feel safe and accepted and normal. I’ve found a platform where I can share my ideas, hopes, dreams, and experiences with people who understand where I’m coming from. They know what it’s like to have to travel hours to be able to find a cute store that carries clothing in their size. They know what it’s like to be told that they don’t deserve love because they are fat. They know what it’s like to be abused physically and mentally and emotionally because someone doesn’t like their body. They know what it’s like to not be able to watch television for ten goddamned minutes without being told that their fat needs to be controlled! and eliminated! and melted! and blasted away!
There are things that I face, and have faced for years, on a daily basis, that a thin person will never have to think twice about.
- Is the chair attached to the desk? It is. Shit. I’ll sit in the back so no one notices how uncomfortable I am.
- My friends want to go shopping for prom dresses. I can go, but I’ll have to tell them that I already found one, so I don’t have to actually look for dresses in my size when I’m with them. (They’ll either be out of my size, or the dresses will be matronly.)
- Go to a friend’s house for dinner. Mom says “Oh, it’s a diet drink. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
- Friends want to take an impromptu road-trip in one car. Try to figure out how to choose the front seat every time without pissing everyone off.
- School holds a health seminar in the gym. You have to go to every station. Spend the entire seminar worried for when you get to the weigh-in table, because you know they’re going to read the number out loud.
These are few and far between, though. I can’t see a movie with a person who looks like me. Or, if I do, their character is only based on their weight, and how horrible it must be to be fat. I’ve never seen porn with a woman who has a body like mine. I’ve never read a book with an awesome fat character. I don’t see fat people portrayed positively in magazines on a regular basis.
My weight is seen as taboo. My weight is seen as something I need to compensate for. My weight is seen as a hindrance. If my body isn’t being criticized, it’s being fetishized. Even the men who are attracted to bodies like mine feel ashamed. They feel ashamed because they want to like “normal” girls. (Fuck you guys for that, by the way. I don’t have time for you.) Even my ex boyfriend, who became interested in fat politics because of me, has moments where he’s used people’s weight against them. He has thin privilege, and you better believe that made parts of our relationship tough as fuck.
Now, all that being said, I want to tell you why I say things like “fuck you and your thin-privilege.” First off, I don’t care that it upsets you. Sometimes we need to get upset so we can ask ourselves why we’re upset in the first place. When I have discussions with thin people on why they think it’s “no big deal” that fat people are oppressed, but I bring up their body-size, they immediately turn to “OMG WHAT DOES MY BODY HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING.” This is because their body-size isn’t usually brought into the conversation when talking about their intelligence, motivations, success, and worth. But guess what? MINE IS. Every. Single. Time. You feel violated when I suggest that we take your thinness into account, but when I explain to you that my fat body is used against me in conversations on a daily basis, you write it off as “well everyone gets bullied so deal with it.” Or the ever-popular “well, if you just lost weight, it wouldn’t happen.”
Exactly. If I looked like you, it wouldn’t happen. If my body was more like yours, it wouldn’t happen. But I don’t look like you, my body isn’t like yours, and it keeps happening.
I shouldn’t have to alter my body to be afforded basic respect. I shouldn’t have to alter my body for someone to listen to what I have to say.
Telling you that combating my oppression is more important to me than your privilege does not make me prejudiced. It does not make me “mean.” It means that I’m standing up for myself.
It means that I’m saying I want you all to feel beautiful, but that fat people deserve to feel human first.
This. This. This. This.