Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Open Letter to the Fat Haters

You may have already seen or heard about the YouTube video that portrays itself as an open letter to fat people. It’s already gotten a lot of attention in social media, so I won’t link to it or even mention the title or name of the YouTuber that posted it. If you haven’t seen it, you aren’t missing out. And although the original poster has since taken it down (claiming YouTube removed it, but that’s since been disproven), it has been reposted anonymously…so it’s out there if you really feel you must see it. I’ll provide a short synopsis here, and I will attempt provide it in the spirit in which it was originally intended in this not-so-verbatim recount:

A young woman sporting blonde hair with a hot pink stripe, a dark colored top (or dress, you can’t really see her in full), and glam-style makeup introduces herself, and lets you know right off the bat that she isn’t happy about having to share her world with fat people.

She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t real. That fat people made it up, using hashtags like #BodyPositive, #FatAcceptance, and #BodyLove so they can stay fat and be proud of being so gross. She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t a thing, unless you also allow such promotional hashtags as #TeamSmoker and #HeroinLove.

She recounts an experience she had at an airport, when she had to wait longer than she should have because a family of fat people was given the privilege of line jumping to the front…because they couldn’t breathe or stand because they were so fat. She not only called out the fat parents, for being disgusting (such as sweating Crisco), she also called out the fat child. And she went on to call out that fat child for invading her space when seated next to her on the plane; explaining that she had to literally hold this child’s fat away from her body or it would have been all over her.

She explains at a few different moments during the 6ish minute video that she isn’t talking about the fat people who have medical conditions that render them fat. She also makes a differentiation between people who are a little overweight, with some “cushion for the pushin’,” from the “really big, fat” people. She’s only addressing the fat people that are fat by choice…and she’s only doing so because she is selfish and wants those people around longer. She’s doing this, and saying these things, because fat people need to be told the truth; and she cares about the health of fat people. Because if you’re fat (and you aren’t fat because of a medical condition), you’re sick and you’re going to die soon. She diagnoses all fat people (who aren’t fat by medical disease) as having heart disease and diabetes, and all fat people will lose a foot to their diabetes…before they die young.

In this video, she advocates for everyone to “call out fat people for their bullshit” in order to save their lives. I am a fat woman. She negates any feelings I may have about her opinions by saying that there is no such thing as fat shaming. Now, I have my own feelings and beliefs about shaming, the word itself, and the actions that are referred to as shaming…

As an aside to the main character of this story (the video), my perception, of late, has been that the word shaming has been overused to the point of not meaning anything. It’s become the boy who cried wolf. Not that the actions aren’t still there; they are. But, much like the words “abuse” and “hate”, shame is being affixed to any behavior a person experiences that makes them slightly uncomfortable or doesn’t agree 100% with their own personal opinions. It’s the new “bullying.” This is not what shaming is. If someone doesn’t like the color of my hair, or the cut of my dress, and they decide to tell me so, I’m not being shamed. Ok, maybe the person who feels the need to share things like that isn’t being very nice or polite (if I didn’t ask for their opinion), but that doesn’t make them hateful, or abusive, provided that there is no malice or harmful intent in the delivery. My mother once told me, after seeing a picture of me in an outfit I felt pretty cute in, that I looked like a marshmallow and should never wear that particular shirt ever again. Did I feel bad? Sure. Were my feelings hurt? For a moment or two, yes. Did she say it to be malicious or to shame me? No; of course not. (I never did wear that top again…)

Back to the main topic…

Watching that video was my first exposure to this person, the original poster. She apparently sells herself as something of a comedienne, and from what I gather from things I’ve read on social media, she has had her funny moments but she is known for her “no-holds-barred” attitude when it comes to things she doesn’t like – including people she doesn’t like. I suppose in some world, you could consider her video satire. Satire, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a way of using humor to show someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.; humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. In my opinion, the only person who looked foolish or weak was her. Her diatribe showed that it is she who has the bad quality of hate in her heart, and the weakness to insist on spewing it to the masses. But, because humor is in the ear of the listener/eye of the beholder, I’m sure that some people did find it funny. Just like some people find racial slurs, the use of the word “retard,” and playing “spin the kitty” with a stainless steel bowl on a linoleum floor “funny.” However, there are a lot of people who didn’t find her video funny, or even satirical for that matter. I am one of those people.

The reasons why I didn’t find humor in her rant may differ from the reasons of others. I find faux-concern the worst form of condescension. Don’t tell me that you’re concerned for my health; bitch, you don’t know me. Why would you give a shit about my health? Just like the family on the airplane in her story. She didn’t know them personally, so why would she have a stake in their health and well-being? She doesn’t. She was inconvenienced so she decided to make it about their health (*ahem*, let’s be honest, their appearance). I wonder if it had been a family of athletically built Catholics (totally making this up for illustrative purposes here…) who insisted on being seated first because of their religious beliefs, and if the child was invading her personal space with his bulging biceps, would she have written a rant about religious people, or muscular people? I can’t answer that, so I’ll leave it for you all to ponder.

The darker side of these things, like her video, can happen because YouTube (and any social media for that matter) is available to virtually anyone with access to the internet. This includes people who may already have extremely low self-esteem. Not to mention that “fat” is a very fluid term; it means something different to every single person. How many teenage girls (maybe even yourself, when you were younger…or even now) love their body? When I was 16, I weighed 121 pounds, and I thought I was fat, because that was my perception at the time. So, if someone who is already feeling awful about the way their body looks, and perhaps doesn’t have the self-confidence to ignore skewed messages like that video, they may decide to take unhealthy measures to stop being “fat.” I wonder how she would feel if she discovered that someone developed an eating disorder as a direct result of watching her video. Would she be glad that they were losing weight, regardless of the method? Or if her video was viewed by someone already at their lowest; and that was the final thing that pushed them over the edge to commit suicide. Would she be thankful that there was one less fatty in the world?

In my own version of fat acceptance and body love, I am not asking anyone to be fat, advocating obesity or unhealthy choices, or for everyone to love the way my body looks. All I ask is that I be granted the same respect and human rights as anyone else. I believe that is the basis for all fat acceptance and body love activism. Not to “make the world fat” or force people to say that fat bodies are beautiful and should be revered. As a fat woman, I am very aware of the health concerns that can result from being fat. I see my doctor annually, and the results of those visits are the business of me and my doctor alone. I do not owe an explanation of my health to anyone, nor do I feel compelled to provide one. And if I choose to practice body love by way of increased activity and healthy choices at the supermarket, a lifestyle change that may or may not result in weight loss, those are choices I make to love the only body I'll every have. Just like I do not require anyone else to comment on my current shape/ability/weight/lifestyle, I do not require anyone’s congratulations, commendations, or high-fives if I lose weight or make healthy choices.

Get this….my body is my business. Not anyone else’s. My choices do not impact your life nor do they infringe on your choices and beliefs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother (or substitute any other unconditionally loved family member or friend), then don’t say it to a complete stranger (or an entire cross-section of complete strangers).

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