I have the urge and this is going to be about as body politics 101 as I get so pull up.
This is your intro in how to know if your body positivity ain’t shit or if it is a lie.
First, let’s talk about Good Fatties who Exercise and why that particularly odious thing is a fuckin lie.
Let me tell y’all a little story about baby Chubby Me in 1994. I was heading into my senior year of high school and wanted to be thinner. So chubby lil me put on my running gear and headed out on a sunny summer afternoon.
I was not really fat. I was fat in the context of my peers, my immediate family and where I lived. Read what I said about fat in context and contextual fatness here (old blog post, there is an adult warning but there’s no boobs or anything) I was going along pretty well and a carload of young men probably a bit older than me slowed and they started mooing and oinking at me. I kept going and they went around again and that time they threw half full sodas and trash at me. I was so humiliated I didn’t exercise outside in my own neighborhood ever again.
Now, if we presume that fat people must be “doing something” about their fatness at all times and that to be a Good Fatty one must be exercising and proclaim a super love of fitness, wouldn’t people be all about seeing fat folks being active? They aren’t.
Read Ragan’s article in Ravishly about the backlash because Nike has released some plus sized active wear. There’s a video of a fat young woman ballet dancing, going around on facebook. We all know FB is a cesspool but, read the comments if it goes by you. People talk about how gross fat people are (while a fat person is doing really lovely pirouettes) talk about how she “can’t help it” etc.
There is no Good Fatty.
One of the other pitfalls of the Good Fatty is when folks who are newer to body posi/fat acceptance circles, is that they base their self-esteem on not being one of those fat people. They build a hierarchy of fatness where they are at the top because (based on things I’ve had said to me/seen in conversations)
- They don’t need to use mobility devices
- They eat X diet (vegan what have you)
- They don’t have X body type (large belly, double belly, they consider themselves “proportional”)
- They exercise
- They are “Real Women”
The fact is, none of those things are moral values. And setting oneself apart from other folks based on physical variables is gross. Setting oneself as the superior person because real women have curves is toxic nonsense.
If you by your behavior or how you talk about other people’s bodies are upholding the notions of the evils of fatness, you are not only harming those people you are harming yourself and rolling in a toxic stew of hatefulness.
There is nothing revolutionary, loving or accepting about replicating the hurtful behavior of the larger world in smaller circles. Basing your personal self-esteem off of the idea that you are magically so much better than them, won’t last.
The next thing is that we cannot be played Oppression Olympics. Let me make one thing crystal clear. Different experiences of oppression don’t negate yours. Don’t start trying to on up other people because nothing will come of it. In terms of bodies, let’s put it this way.
Let’s say we have you a person who is thin and super fit and can go literally anywhere and not be bothered because of your weight generally speaking (yes I know some thin folks get harassed, but that is not a global thing), you can pop into a random store and there is a 95% probability you can buy a pair of pants. If you go to the doctor with a say (this actually happened to me) ear infection, you don’t spend the whole visit being lectured on how if you’d just try to do something about your weight you’d feel better. Nevermind that your problem has zero to do with the size of your ass.
Then we have me. Chubby but not that fat. I walk around with the kind of privilege that says I have like a 60% chance of going into most stores to buy pants. Most of the time people don’t hassle me about my weight, except (again based on my life) sometimes people try to sell me diets on the street. My doctors aren’t super keen to look into some of my health issues until I “finish” losing weight.
Now we also have another friend, we’ll call them Bob. Bob is fatter than both of us, say about average. They buy at the low end of the plus size, scale and likely get told by the doctor to do something about their weight before it is too late. They probably get told they are pre-diabetic even if they aren’t. They probably have a hard time getting treatment for things like ankle or foot pain, they get told that any problem with their body, is weight related. Maybe, they don’t go to the doctor unless it is an emergency because they feel traumatized.
Next we have our friend Billie and Billie is death fat. Really fat. Billie can’t go into 90% of stores for pants. Billie, is a headless fatty. Billie experiences harassment for being fat and alive everywhere. Billie will not go to the doctor. Billie has been abused by society and let’s say they are very outspoken about it.
We are all humans right?
Yes, we are.
Now, Billie and Bob will have totally different experiences being human than you and I. It’s important that you and I give Billie and Bob space to talk about their experiences without insisting that we’ve got it just as bad. In terms of our personal lives, our mental health yes a lot of factors could make our experiences subjectively awful but, that doesn’t mean that every conversation has to be about us.
When we engage in the artificial hierarchies of who has it “worse” we waste time squabbling and it does nothing to make sure that NONE of us have to experiences bias because of our bodies.
If we don’t engage in Oppression Olympics and we remove the ideas about Good Vs Bad Fatties or bodies, we can focus on doing the real work of dealing with sizeism in the world.
If you read these things and get defensive, your body politics ain’t shit. Dig out from under and get to work.
This is just like coming to understand that when it comes to matters of race, a lot of the time we need to shut up and listen. Listen to what Billie and Bob have to say.
We’ll stop here for now, but if you are new to body politics or if you’re body politics ain’t shit, sit with this for a while. When you see those supposedly “inspirational” videos go by on facebook, read the comments. Next time, we’re going to talk about how to engage but not take over. And here from 2010, words for non fat folks. By me.