attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,
attack_laurel
attack_laurel

I do not wish that this too, too solid flesh would melt...

Shapely Prose has a post about fat visibility in YA fiction with a request for people to post commentary on any YA (young adult) fiction where fat is portrayed positively, or even in a neutral non plot-point manner.

I felt a strange wash of emotion come over me as I read the synopses of various books in the comments. I have no memory of any kind of fat acceptance (for those uncomfortable with the phrase "fat acceptance", substitute "you are a worthy person no matter what your size" or "you are so much more than your appearance"; messages I did not get as a result of being fat, because who thinks a fat girl is worthy? /sarcasm) in the literature I read, in the conversations of adults around me, or from the teachers in any of my English schools (don't even get me started on the kids). The end result of this was not that I lost any weight, as people seemed to think it would, but that my self-esteem plummeted, I became a target of the kids that heard the disapproval of adults and knew that I could be brutalized with impunity, and I hated everything about myself, retreating into a fantasy world so deep that I barely ever surfaced.

The only intervention a teacher ever made during the three years I was most attacked was to tell me that I was bringing the bullying on myself, and I should change.

This is classic victim-blaming, I learned later (too late to help my self esteem), and the whole bullying culture that surrounds the othering of anyone who is different relies on victim-blaming to give a veneer of legitimacy to its perpetuators. In FA/HAES, this is perpetuated in the meme of "fat people bring it on themselves by eating too much" (shorthand: "put down the doughnut"), which, in a society where many people are medicated with drugs that cause weight gain or have conditions that cause weight gain, or are simply genetically programmed to be healthy at a size 14 instead of a size 4 is not only wrong-headed, but unbelievably cruel.

But the memes and untruths persist. In the YA fiction universe, the person who is fat is always fat because they're unhappy, and all their problems are solved by losing weight (known as the fantasy of being thin). Or, like in Judy Blume's Blubber (which I cannot read because it is really triggering thanks to the systematic bullying I received), the fat person is simply there to serve as an object lesson.

I am a size 8/10. I am healthy at a size 8/10. I weigh 140lbs. I am healthy at 140lbs. By the standards set by the media and absorbed by the general public, I am gross, and therefore undeserving of being considered human. I, and women like me, are to be dehumanized, mocked, called names, photoshopped in humiliating situations, rendered sexless and only worthy of hate rape at the same time*. And I'm considered reasonably shapely by most people.

Imagine how much worse it is for someone considerably larger (some of you don't have to). You will only see your body size in the media when people are intoning about the "obesity epidemic" (scare quotes will always be around that phrase when I write about it), and the person will most likely be headless, even if they are a model expressly employed for that picture. Know why? Because it's easier to dehumanize someone and despise them if you don't have to look them in the eye.

And when all media tells everyone you are lazy, gluttonous, and destroying the environment, then the bullying is sanctioned (look at what was voted "best answer"). Especially for women, who are pigeonholed into an ever narrowing (usage deliberate) definition of beauty, and who are considered offensive if they have the nerve to look like anything outside that tiny physical range. People feel perfectly sanguine about mooing at you on the street, policing your food choices, or making you feel ashamed for daring to appear in public, like you have the right to share the sidewalk with them (among many other forms of subtle and overt bullying).

The current media dehumanization of fat has even made people feel righteous (trigger warning) in their abuse. And abuse it is. It's no better than bullying the kid with a lisp, or the shy kid with a birthmark on their face. It's bullying. And it's hateful. Anyone who participates in the shaming of anyone has sunk to the level of the playgorund bully who takes pleasure in causing emotional pain.

And when adults do that to children, when they humiliate them in public, when they single them out because fat is bad, whether it's five pounds or five hundred pounds over some arbitrary ideal set by a 19th century statistician, they cause lifelong damage. They contribute to possible ill-health, because a child who is humiliated every time they appear in public is a child who will grow up hating any kind of physical activity. They contribute to suicide rates in teens (two tries in my case, and the depression was definitely exacerbated by the fat hate), they foster a culture of abuse, and they are wrong.

I'd like to repeat this over and over again until people actually hear me: Being thin is absolutely no indicator of actual health, nor is being fat. All the measures of actual health have no correlation to body size, unless the body size is caused by a medical condition (this includes eating disorders - a bulemic or anorexic person may be the "ideal" size 4, but they are not healthy). Activity level, nutrition, good bone density, cardiovascular health - they are all found in people of all sizes. Fat shaming is not an effective tool to get people to lose weight - you'd think people would have figured this out after 50 years of it, but no. The attitude seems to be "Maybe we aren't being nasty enough", like mooing at people on the street, calling them horrible names, charging higher insurance rates, physical abuse and refusal of treatment from doctors, and threatening to rape fat women isn't nasty enough.

And really, it's none of anyone else's business whether someone is fat or not, because it's not any more burdensome on the healthcare system than older men on beta blockers, thin smokers, people with heart conditions, and people who get in car accidents. We've just chosen a boogeyman to attack because it's no longer politically correct to rag on the mentally ill or physically disabled. It's a manipulation tactic to distract you from things that actually matter.

And, it's horrible for people to admit it, but sanctioned bullying feels good to a lot of people. It's a lot less work than empathy.

And dieting is healthy! Right? Riiiiiiiiiight????

No.

*I actually thought about linking to some of the more hateful** fat woman-hating sites just so you could see the ugly, but I don't want to give them the traffic.

**Oh, yes, there are much more hateful sites out there than the couple of negative ones I linked to, believe me. I did my research for this post.
Tags: bullying, fat acceptance, health, medical, rant
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