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.


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18 Comments

  1. Posted June 22, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget the fact that fat really isn’t unhealthy in and of itself, and dieting really is! If I had a little blue card, it would just say “http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com” and I would hand it out to people.

    Although you’re right, questioning the Health Excuse on its own merits is also important. Maybe more important. But it’s good to know that science is backing us up.

  2. admin
    Posted June 22, 2007 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I think that’s a really important discussion to have with people who are actually open to having the discussion. Trolls are NEVER going to change their minds, though. And, really, once you get to the point where you are leaving combative, anti-fat comments on a fat-friendly blog, even if you aren’t a troll on other topics, you are when it comes to fat acceptance, you know?

    It’s totally fantastic that science is on our side and I think it bolsters us and our resolve to be educated about this stuff. But, as we’ve both seen countless times, most trolls just refuse to believe it.

  3. Posted June 22, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Yeah, hence why I would want to give them Sandy’s URL and not actually, you know, converse with them. :>

    But yeah, the only real way to deal with them is to refuse, over and over and over, to have the conversation on their terms. And you’ve laid out some great ways of going about that.

  4. Posted June 22, 2007 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Great stuff. I’ve been meaning to do an “anotated” Bingo Card with responses to all of the attacks catalogued and this is all pretty much about where I’d start.

  5. Posted June 22, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I like this list. One qualification, just in case you find yourself in an argument on it – epidemics don’t require either contagion or infection to be epidemics. When someone says there’s an epidemic of, say, lung cancer from smoking, they’re not being metaphorical. This is an appropriate use of the term.

    The real issue is the pathologizing of fat itself. Setting a threshold of “pathology” arbitrarily along the bell curve is the problem.

    On #3, I don’t question somebody’s “happiness” if they’ve lost weight – how would I know? What I question is the universalizing of an anecdotal example which is very uncommon in the population.

    If somebody’s lost weight – why do we assume that they have the same physiology as the 95%+ of fat people who don’t maintain a weight loss – or the even larger fraction – virtually all – who never become normal weight after having been truly fat?

    As an example I have an acquaintance who tells everyone how FANTASTIC weight watchers is because she lost 70 lbs and has kept off 50 for 10 years.

    The thing is – she lost all that weight 6 months after she gained 70 lbs after quitting drugs. For one brief blip in her life she was way over her stable weight and – gosh – she mysteriously found it easy to lose weight. But it’s absurd to compare her situation to someone who’s been really heavy all their lives.

    Everyone’s different not just in their weight, but how readily the gain or lose. This is what diversity is all about, and people just absurdly assume that we’re all identical. So if you can find one person out there who defies every statistic – then the statistics must lie. It’s bogus reasoning.

  6. Posted June 22, 2007 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    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.

    I have never heard it articulated that way, but that is EXACTLY it. Also, “You’re not that fat” is the same message. “You may be fat, but you aren’t THAT fat person, the horrible, gross one we think about when we think of a fat person.” It’s a way of making an exception to the rule for that one fat person you know and is *gasp* a regular human being…I mean, not smelly or anything!

    It’s like saying, “Fat people are so disgusting and lazy, but you’re really not that bad. I mean, isn’t it great that you beat the spread?” Personally, I think that statement is akin to, “I’m not racist, but….”

    Great post. Thanks.

  7. admin
    Posted June 22, 2007 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Fatfu, I wanted to express that fat is not an illness and that the whole concept of an epidemic is about sickness. I DO think the semantics of “epidemic” are an interesting discussion, but I don’t think most people who are using these phrases (the ones from the bingo card) are really looking to engage in that discussion, you know?

    As for questioning their happiness…. I find that I DO question the happiness of people who are pushing their body standards onto me. The need to make other people conform seems to generally be based in insecurity and insecurity never was happiness.

    I think you are right on when you pinpoint the absurdity of using your friend’s experience to judge everyone. That really is the heart of the matter.

    Withoutscene, it really is like the super fun “I’m not xyz, BUT…” statements.

  8. Posted June 23, 2007 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    An excellent post, with an excellent list (and excellent reasonings). I’ll be bookmarking this for future usage.

    xx Dee

  9. Posted June 23, 2007 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Love the Bingo cards and your list.

    I have to disagree about twins being dressed alike, however. I am a twin, and my mother dressed us alike for two reasons – it’s less expensive and time-consuming, for one (especially when many of our clothes were homemade) to buy/make two of the same than two different. But the most important reason was that I was perpetually getting lost (i.e. wandering off) and my mother would just tell authorities who joined in the search that I looked like my sister. That answers your objection to the cuteness – as far as I know, that wasn’t a consideration in dressing us. Also, we didn’t care. We were allowed to wear different clothes for as long as I can remember, and didn’t choose to do so until age 9.

  10. Meranda
    Posted June 24, 2007 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I was in VA with my family all last week & my aunt actually said to me (right after I explained to her why I now choose to be happy the way I am instead of embarking on yet another diet), “Well, that’s easy to say when you’re fat isn’t it?” Meaning, it’s easier to preach this whole size acceptance concept than to actually lose some weight and fit into society’s mold of what is ok. I am 100% sure she said this out of her own insecurity & self loathing, because a few minutes later I looked in her kitchen pantry and found a brand new month supply of nutrisystem. (Hello $$$) She was basically saying, “How dare you be fat & happy when I am about to kill myself & my wallet on nutrisystem for the next month!” Personally, I am just glad I finally reached a point in my life where I could detect the underlying message behind her words and realize it had nothing to do with me.

  11. Madge
    Posted June 25, 2007 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Yesterday on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert, he had on a journalist who made a very similar point to your #1, about qualifying things as an EPIDEMIC or CRISIS. He explained why immigration isn’t a CRISIS now, any more than it has been in the last 10 years. And he gave a whole list of reasons that made perfect sense, which i will not go into here since this is not a political blog. But i do very much think it’s similar to the fat EPIDEMIC! It’s invented by the media to shock! scare! and divert our attention from things that really do affect our lives. Because when is the last time someone else’s waist measurement really had a profound effect on your life? So while you’re busy judging your neighbors because they look FAT and their children must be UNHEALTHY because they are not SKINNY, you’re NOT thinking about how much you just paid for gas, and why, or the fact that millions of victims of Katrina have not been able to rebuild their lives or homes whatsoever.

  12. Posted June 25, 2007 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Interesting comments:
    Attended a fat acceptance club a week ago and had a blast, foud out about it by complete accident. Made me wonder what sites exist for us. Not clothing, diet or dating sites but sites that had:
    Products and accessories I cannot find in malls and typical stores
    References to size related magazines
    Blogs that have good articles on size acceptance and general insights.

    I have to go in for a surgery soon, is it worth me brnging my own hospital gown? ANy suggestions where to get one?

  13. Meowser
    Posted June 25, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I love this list, TR. “I want to lose weight and you’re discouraging me” comes up a lot for me. And it’s tough. I feel like if I say to them, “Yeah…well, I want to win the lottery, and you’re discouraging ME!”, I’m a giant wet blankie.

    The thin dream really does die hard. I know that when I had Skinny Fever, I wasn’t going to listen to shit about how I was fine the way I was. I craved that transformation like a drug. And I craved it a lot more when I was within “striking distance” of thinness. Now that I know it’s out of reach, it’s actually easier to reject.

    Now I just say things like, “I used to feel the same way. In this world, it’s hard not to,” and leave it at that. If they are receptive to more than that, they will signal me, and then I will give them more. I’m done with trying to find the magic thing to say to win locked-up-tight hearts and minds. I obviously don’t have that great gift of persuasion that will make someone switch sides on the spot. I’m not sure who does, actually.

    Gary, I Googled “plus-size hospital gowns” and found a supplier called nursinghomeapparel.com, which has them up to a 10X. But before you buy one, I’d ask the hospital if they have larger ones on hand. They might.

  14. Posted June 25, 2007 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    #8: “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?”

    You are on to something here. Our culture is so very afraid of anything to do with death. I work with natural medicine, and one of my least-favorite phrases is “Age-management medicine”. Aside from the fact that it is meaningless, it speaks very clearly to the unattainable fantasy of a world without death. Healthy people come in all sizes, all ages. Happy people come in all sizes, all ages, all levels of health. As far as I’m concerned, one can be dying and be healthy. As death is the natural end to life.
    Thanks, as always, for being you, and for writing so eloquently and so forcefully on the fallacies that abound (and oppress) in “conventional wisdom”.

  15. Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Lovely, TR.

    My personal favorite response to “but you’re not fat!” is: “You say ‘fat’ like it’s a bad thing.” A genuinely puzzled look on my face helps.

    You’re absolutely right that what they’re really saying is “you don’t conform to all the negative stereotypes about fat people that I totally buy into.”

  16. bryan
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I have one response to people who dont like fat people. My very large ex boxer fist landing on their petite little cute nose.

  17. Posted July 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Hello there! :)

    “5. ‘Skinny women are discriminated against, too.’ [...] 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?”
    I see what you want to say: that discrimination against thin people does not happen as often as discrimination of fat people. (Not to mention the media which is even worse.) BUT I have something to say:

    This seems to me like a downplay of violence (verbal AND also nonverbal (like the milkshake)) against thin people. The quoted sentence is TRUE. Many non-thin people discriminate against thin people, thinking it is OK, because they have in general a harder life (because, yes, fat people are more often discriminated against, that’s true). & the blaming part – woohoo. As if all thin people starved themselves.
    It seems to me the thin hate (which occurs maybe out of envy, that might be true) is kind of invisible to non-thin people if they do not practise it themselves just because it is not so present in the media.

    This sentence you quoted has nothing to do with fat hate. I repeat: It is the truth. Fat hate is part (yeah, OK, one of the biggest parts) of this body policing problem, discrimination against thin people, too. There are days when it makes me so sad that I am NOT taken seriously with all this “Eat something”, “Real women have curves” etc. stuff. It does not hurt less then a “Lose wieght” just because every advertisement girl is thin (thinner than me btw).
    I can understand that some people may use this sentence to justify their body policing (it IS used vice versa when discriminating against thin people!), but the sentence itself is definitely not an expression of fat hate. It is a sentence to rise awareness to the whole body policing problem. To end the invisibility of thin discrimination.
    Yeah, I’m naturally thin, I suffered a lot of bullying because of my thinness, it still happens often that people dicriminate against me (just yesterday: “you’re body is not a woman’s body”), & yes, I’m absolutely body positive & – logical conclusion – for fat acceptance.

    Beside that point your list is great.

    Hope you are not offended & hope, my English is not too bad. :D

  18. JUNEE
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    I have just recently realised one of my friends is a fat hater. I told some other friends about it and they said that if she was a fat hater, then why would she like me? I thought about it for a while and realised that she likes to feel superior because she is not very successful in her own life. She has been vey subtle in her hatred and very cunning at trying to hide her disgust but it has been coming out lately the more she feels insecure within herself. She is always talking about someone she knows who is fat and had had a heart attack or some other health crisis and spits out the word fat with real venom as if it is a crime!
    I have dumped her and she is hating on me saying she doesn’t know what I am talking about when I quote what she has said to me. She is saying I am taking it the wrong way and being nasty to her.
    I know Who is right in this and am glad to be rid of her abuse.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Lately, I feel beautiful « RANDA JARRAR on January 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    [...] The best messages I’ve heard, the ones I keep repeating to myself, are:  No one is allowed to care about my health except me. If you are “healthy” it does not make you a good person. I don’t expose myself to people or things that will make me feel shitty about myself. There’s an oldie but goodie list of inspirations here. And if you’re a hater, or are tired of people saying stupid fat-phobic shit in front of you, this list is GOLD. [...]

  2. By Does This Whale Make Me Look Fat? | akabetsy on December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    [...] Don’t make apologies for yourself. Believe in the righteousness of your cause. Believe that hate helps [...]

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