When I was in high school, I lived mostly with my grandparents. They are LDS, so I went to church and through early-morning seminary, and the whole bit. And one of the things that was really brought home to me (especially when the church was spray-painted with Satanic symbols by a local youth group from another church with the tacit approval of their pastor) was that most people are just repeating the things that they have heard. Because they have not formed these opinions themselves (they have just embraced the opinions of some sort of authority figure), it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion with them. It is even harder to change their mind.
To that end, we were given little blue cards of the right size to carry in our wallet. The cards listed the ten most common untruths about the LDS church and a suggested response. I never used the card as a script, but it was amazing how many times I heard those ten exact things from people.
This sort of thing happens when we start talking about fat and fat acceptance and body politics as well. That’s why BStu had enough fodder to create not just one but TWO Fat Hate Bingo Cards. (Buy a t-shirt, by the way. I certainly plan to do so.) Some of my favorite statements ever are on these cards. And I know just how to respond.
To that end, I present to you some of my favorite Fat Hate Bingo squares and some helpful suggested responses.
10 Ways to Answer Fat Haters
1. “I’m sure we can all agree that we are in the middle of an epidemic.” Y’all, an epidemic (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, because words MEAN things) refers to a disease that is affecting a large portion of the community in a way that is not usual. My response to this first square in Fat Hate Bingo is simple. Fat is not a disease that you can catch. We are not in the middle of an epidemic. Because you know what? We can’t agree on something that is patently untrue.
2. “Won’t someone please think of the children?” You mean the children that are not your children? The ones about whom you know absolutely nothing other than that they look fat to you? Being a fat kid is not the same as being an abused kid. I disagree with people who dress their twins identically, but I am not demanding government legislation to stop it. Really, dressing twins identically is just needlessly cutesy and I think it encourages people to view them as two halves of one unit instead of as individuals in and of themselves. But that’s another issue. Maybe I SHOULD call for government legislation….
3. “I did it! So can you!” Generally, I am happy these people are happy now. Trouble is, I don’t generally believe they are really happy. If they were, they would not constantly feel the need to validate their experiences by trying to convince me they did the right thing. Congratulations. I am not you, however, nor would I wish to be. That last is probably a little bitchy, but I don’t think we need to completely retract all claws in these discussions.
4. “There’s a limit to what’s okay.” Uh-huh. Let me guess. The limit is what you consider to be the outside edge of attractive or a little less than what you were at your highest weight. A person’s worth is not dependent on how attractive you find them. Sometimes this is about sexual attractiveness and sometimes it isn’t. If it IS about sexual attractiveness, I like to add a little something extra. I am not asking you to fuck me.
5. “Skinny women are discriminated against, too.” First of all, can I just say that I love BStu because he punctuated this correctly. I love the comma (you don’t have a favorite punctuation mark?) and, all too often, people forget to use it. Ahem. Okay. Discrimination based on body size of any kind is not okay. I think I say that here on a pretty regular and consistent basis because I think it is important. HOWEVER. When is the last time someone threw a milkshake out of a car window at a skinny woman and people blamed her because she was skinny?
6. “Personally, I prefer women who aren’t stick figures.” That is great. That is one person who is not going to make fun of my thighs touching. This goes back to the people who think there is a limit on acceptable fat, though. A person’s worth is not dependent on how attractive you find them. Also, I think it’s important to note that these people mean well. They just aren’t getting, as is a problem with so many different people, that their aesthetic is not universal. You liking fat people does not mean fat hate is not a problem.
7. “So, it’s bad to be healthy?” Oh, man, I totally love this one. It’s usually trotted out by anyone who thinks their personal goals to lose weight will a) mean they are automatically healthier and b) a sign of personal “improvement” which is debatable, let me tell you. There is nothing wrong with being healthy but health is not a moral imperative. What I really want to say to these people is that this isn’t about them. It’s not about you, people who genuinely feel gratified by the weight-loss/gym-bunny lifestyle! You choice is valid for you! But it should not be the only option available! OMG! My body politics views do not invalidate your lifestyle choices!
8. “But you’re going to die!” Well, yes. We all are at some point. Honestly, I’ve been thinking more and more that our culture’s fear of fat might actually be grounded in a profound fear of death. If we just eradicate everything we think might be unhealthy, why, we surely won’t die anymore, right? So are you. So is everyone else. It is important to say this in a nonthreatening way. People who spout this are usually already pretty emotional about the topic. Their fear of death is large in front of their eyes, even if they don’t consciously identify it.
9. “I want to lose weight and you’re being very discouraging by being fat accepting.” Oh, man, I love my friend, even and sometimes especially the ones who are on diets, but some of them are never going to get it that I will not be an audience to their dieting. You are being very discouraging to my healthy self image and happy mental condition. Seriously, why do people continue to insist that we bear witness to their process when it is often times a process which actively harms us? Stop hurting us!
10. “Oh, you’re not fat.” This is probably my all-time favorite. It sends me into gales of laughter at this point when I hear it. Because I am so totally fat by any definition, let me tell you. Usually, the person doesn’t mean that I’m not literally fat – they mean that I’m not dirty, smelly, ugly, lazy, fill in negative fat stereotype here. For them, the connotations of the word fat are so awful that they are horrified when you use the word to self-identify. Yes, I am. And it’s okay. Because you know what? It really is okay.
I’ve made this list partially as a laugh. Though these really are the responses I offer up to people who have hit that square on the bingo card. The thing is, after I make my response, I also try to disengage. Because, much like those people who unquestioningly took on the opinions of their authority figures about my old religion, there is usually no convincing people who are really invested in fat-hatred. The best we can hope for, usually, is that other people, people who might not be involved but who are observing or reading, might take our words to heart and see the fat haters for what they really are. Which is narrow and intolerant.
Trolls aren’t arguing to be convinced. And, more troubling, trolls aren’t trolls all the time on every topic. Say your piece and don’t be afraid of them. But don’t play their argumentative game – we have better things to which we can devote our energy. Things like being happy and loving ourselves.
This entry was posted in Social Commentary
. Bookmark the permalink
. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post
or leave a trackback: Trackback URL