Yesterday, the articles about fat being contagious starting showing up. I knew they were going to the minute I heard about the study they were based on. I expected the ZOMG FAT IS EPIDEMIC rhetoric and the alarmist (and hateful) language.
I didn’t expect people to come right out and say that thin people might want to dump their thin friends.
People who notice their friend packing on pounds might want to steer clear if they value their sleek physiques.
Now, that’s an article from Yahoo!News, but given how many people get their news from that source instead of newpapers….
So, I called some of my thin friends and I told them, “Hey, you might not want to be friends with me anymore.” And we laughed about it and did our best to deflate the Important News tone most of these articles are taking.
But it didn’t deflate a lot of the fear these articles caused me to feel.
I’m not used to feeling afraid. Not like this. I mean, yes, I’ve been confronted with a large, stinging insect and been afraid of it. But this is a generalized fear that something outside of my control is going to hamper everything from whether or not my friends chose to remain friends with me to my career advancement prospects.
Last night I went home and ate dinner. But before I ate dinner I had to debate whether eating dinner was going to be in reaction to reading these articles – was I eating because I was hungry, because it was dinner time, or because I wanted to pretend that the articles hadn’t had any effect on me? Was I eating because I had suddenly turned into an emotional eater? Would I feel better if I ate salad?
I ate dinner anyway because, emotional state aside, eating dinner is a good idea for me.
And then I went to bed. Because this stuff is exhausting and because I just wanted to hide for a little while before I decided how to deal with this. Sometimes, you know, we just need to take a little bit of quiet time.
Now that I’m rested and I’ve had a little time to think things through, I want to send copies of this response from Kate to every person who might possibly believe these articles. I want to send copies of this other response from Kate to other people who might possibly believe these articles. I want to tell thin people and fat people alike that, as a friend on livejournal said, if fat people are subverting the dominant social paradigm regarding what an acceptable body looks like, well, just by BEING fat…. Hey, that’s a GOOD thing. It means our definitions and standards are changing and that WINS.
Now that I’m rested and I’ve had a little time to think things through, I want to write letters to authors who are using phrases like “fat contagion” to talk about social networking effects. I want to write letters to authors who are talking about the viral spread of fat.
Hi, I’m fat. Recently, you wrote an article that advised my friends not to be friends with me if they wanted to stay thin. Rather than assume anything, I thought I’d ask you, “Do you really think it is in the best interest of journalistic integrity and responsibility to advocate the ostracizing of any social group?” I’m especially curious since the study you are referencing is nonconfirmable and doesn’t take into account a huge variety of social factors, much less the recent data from several sources that fat has a strong genetic component.
Don’t get me wrong, y’all. This is some scary shit. It would be infinitely easier to give in, to knuckle under social pressure and start myself back on the disordered eating carousel at the weight loss carnival. But, truly and deeply, I was miserable and I don’t want to go back to that. If fat-hatred is going to win in our society, well, I’d rather go out fighting.
And if enough of us continue that fight, we’ll be the winners.
There’s a lot of “but what should be DO?” going on right now. And so I will make a couple of suggestions.
1. Write letters. Write respectful or angry or analytical letters to writers and editors who publish these articles. Don’t call the writer/editor a nasty little bridge troll who must have mother issues. That won’t help you be taken seriously. But don’t be afraid to be angry and don’t be afraid to question the writer/editor about their motivations and whether or not they have seriously considered the impact their writing can have on people.
2. Share your response with people. Write in your blog or journal or just talk to your friends and family about how this makes you feel. Pretending it isn’t going on won’t make it go away.
3. Call people on fat-phobia. You don’t have to be rude, you don’t have to be all militant activist on anyone (though militant activists are awesome). But if someone says something anti-fat and you’re sitting right there, let them know that they are wrong.
4. Continue with your lives. You are not hurting anyone or making anyone else fat. Fat is not a virus. Be yourself, be confident, be happy.
5. Treat yourself to something nice, whatever that means for you, because this really sucks and self-care is an important way to guard ourselves against this kind of assault.
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