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"we’re not used to seeing fat people represented positively in media"
July 15, 2014 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Doing this – fucking the programming – is actually really freeing. It means I can stand up at a reading and give a performance in a loud, snarky voice. It means I can sit on and moderate panels without fear. Because I know how fat shaming works. I know that if somebody wanted to try and shame me using the “fat” call-out, the same person would say that whether I was 70lbs lighter or 70lbs heavier.
Science fiction writer Kameron Hurley on public speaking while fat.
posted by MartinWisse (143 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kameron Hurley was my hero when she wrote We Have Always Fought, and she's my hero now for writing this. And a bunch of other stuff, too. Seriously. Read her essays. She's amazing.
posted by Mogur at 9:22 AM on July 15 [12 favorites]


I liked the "We have always fought" essay, so I'm looking forward to reading this.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:26 AM on July 15


I am so fucking tired of my body and the bodies of other women being up for debate and conversation. This piece was top of the Facebook shares last week, and I cringed because "she's so brave" and "way to go girl" comments abounded, but at the end of the day, Jenny Trout wore her bikini because she wanted to. End of story. She's a person in a bathing suit, like all the other people on the beach.

Get over it, fat people exist. We wear clothing we enjoy and have wonderful relationships with our partners and work, and pay bills and all the other thing normal people do.

MUST every little thing a fat person does that goes counter to the cultural norm (whatever that is these days) be called out and applauded? How about we just live our lives and do what we do, without comment, positive or negative?

I mean would any of these things even be worthy of being published if the story was, "Lady with a big bruise on her leg wears shorts." HELLS no!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:28 AM on July 15 [25 favorites]


Podcastle just had Kameron read the We Have Always Fought essay for a podcast.
posted by garlic at 9:29 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


My name is just one letter off from blogger a prominent fat acceptance blogger. I am a woman of normal build and I write about food. I occasionally get nasty comments about weight when people think I'm her. They never have to do with what I wrote, they are just simply there to dismiss me because they think I'm fat.

It's really sad because it makes me realize how if you don't fit society's weight ideals, people somehow make everything about your weight. Write an article about how people are eating more butter? Suddenly it's not about butter or the statistic you quoted, it's about the writer's personal weight.
posted by melissam at 9:38 AM on July 15 [14 favorites]


I'm fat. Whoopdefuckingdo.

I watched the new Tacky (Weird Al, Mandatory Fun) video with a friend who is not as fat as me, but who is not in as good shape as me (I've kept my flexibility and am not currently debilitated as they are by chronic pain due to still-unknown issues).

Her comment was something along the lines of "Jack Black is surprisingly agile", whereas I thought he was about right for his age and height and weight and standard level of intensity.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 9:47 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


From the article: "I vowed from that moment on, crying in my too-big pants, that I would never, ever ever beat myself up or hate myself for being fat ever again."

This is immediately after a half-dozen excuses as to why the author is still fat.

This article appears to self-defeat itself before it ever gets to the premise. :(
posted by Setec Astronomy at 10:07 AM on July 15


As a woman, you are always going to be fat.

This is so, so true it should be on a t-shirt. Or at least on some kind of wallet card that can be issued to every woman and girl so they can see it every day, be reminded and stop some of the stress and self-flagellation. No matter how often my pediatrician told me my weight was normal for my height, I was mercilessly fat-shamed in school from the first day of nursery school, literally any time a boy had an opportunity to speak to me. The worst offenders were the really fat boys, the ones spilling out over their trousers, whose faces shook when they screamed at me.

I became heavy through the intermediate grades, through a combination of puberty and not giving a fuck from damned if you don't. A long illness brought all the weight back off in junior high until I was clinically underweight, occasionally dangerously so. But I couldn't see it. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was gross corpulence. And guess what - there were still enough boys saying the same thing to reinforce that false mirror, that nobody could get through to get me to see the real one.

If I had a child, one of the first and most important things I would want to teach him or her is, "It's none of your business how much anybody weighs until you're a grownup. And even then, it's only your business if that person is your partner or your child, or if you're a doctor and the person is your patient. Until then, you do not talk about it, ever."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:08 AM on July 15 [11 favorites]


I think the actual value of her post is not "rah rah I have a sense of self even though I'm fat!" but the observation of the near-universal experience that American women have that no matter what they weigh, it's too much. Being able to internalize THAT is a huge paradigm shift for any individual, and if we can all get there (regardless of gender), it would be real, valuable progress.
posted by spindrifter at 10:09 AM on July 15 [11 favorites]


One of the things I envy about my husband (besides that he's brilliant) is that he doesn't have to think nearly as much as I do when he gets dressed. T-shirt, pants, done. I think about how much time I spend shopping for clothes that look cute and will hide or disguise my stomach, my thighs, my upper-arm jiggle, not to mention how much time I spend working out or planning meals that aren't composed entirely of carbs and cheese (just mostly) and how little time he spends on those things in comparison. Then I try to stop thinking about it because it's too exhausting and depressing.
posted by kat518 at 10:12 AM on July 15 [10 favorites]


She seems to be trying to rationalize her recent 70 lb weight gain (she mentions it like 5 times) while also cavalierly brushing it off like it's no big deal.

I have always considered fear and hatred of taking up space as a feminist issue, as it’s so often used to shame women, no matter what their actual size.

I profoundly disagree and don't like this train of thought. What bothers me about the FA women is that they reduce everything down to how they look, either by proclaiming that being fat doesn't matter or that they're gorgeous. With all the serious issues women have, this naval-gazing under the guise of being a feminist statement is irritating to me. Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:12 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


This article appears to self-defeat itself before it ever gets to the premise. :(

I don't think you understood the premise.
posted by kagredon at 10:18 AM on July 15 [17 favorites]


With all the serious issues women have, this naval-gazing under the guise of being a feminist statement is irritating to me. Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.

But fat-shaming--and, more generally, having your appearance used as a stand-in for your worth--is something that is primarily deployed to undermine women, and thus a feminist issue.
posted by kagredon at 10:21 AM on July 15 [48 favorites]


I don't think you understood the premise.

The author is saying that she is rejecting (what she interprets) as societal pressure to silence and shame morbidly obese females.

The article starts with a whole slew of excuses as to why the author is morbidly obese.

Clearly the author has not internalized the message. (i.e. The author still feels shame for the morbid obesity and feels the need to rationalize it away before getting to the premise of the article about not feeling shame about being morbidly obese.)
posted by Setec Astronomy at 10:23 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


As a woman, you are always going to be fat. People are always going to trot that one out to try and insult you, like taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do.

This feels very true to me, and it's why I think this is a feminist issue.
posted by sweetkid at 10:26 AM on July 15 [15 favorites]


I'm an epidemiologist, and my work in the past has crossed over a fair amount into nutrition and health outcomes (mostly related to a very specific subset of carcinomas). I read commentaries like this one with some difficult confusion. There is a feminist (humanist?) issue here, for sure, because no one deserves foul treatment because of their body. And yet, talking about weight and its implications is a very real and pressing endeavor. In many instances, clinical presentation of a number of serious cancers is significantly impacted by bodyweight. That should be equally ok to say and discuss publicly as promoting a more sound social conversation about bodyweight, yes? In order to do so, I feel a need to make sure that the social issue is discussed in its own right, and separately from statements like:

"There are perfectly good reasons for this gain, as my metabolism is super efficient; I come from a long line of overweight people with a host of immune disorders who could, however, survive famines quite well."

"I have done a lot of broken things trying to get back to that 220, including calorie counting, which ended disastrously. I lost 25lbs, sure, but the minute I stopped, I gained it all back plus 30 lbs..."

"...the fact that I take up a lot of space in the world – no matter the range on that massive sliding scale – is not going to change either, unless I’m dying."

That last one, especially, is so false as to be damaging. And counting calories is not a "broken" thing--it's a quite reasonable and healthful thing.

Make these points, but do not blend falsehoods into the philosophy of body comfort.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:27 AM on July 15 [24 favorites]


What bothers me about the FA women is that they reduce everything down to how they look, either by proclaiming that being fat doesn't matter or that they're gorgeous. With all the serious issues women have, this naval-gazing under the guise of being a feminist statement is irritating to me. Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.

Why are you bothered? I mean, in actuality, why? Does it have any real effect on you, that certain members of the population live as unashamedly fat people? That they like to talk about it? Or celebrate it? Does it really take away from the "real" struggle of feminism, whatever that means?

I would offer that no, it does not. You do not know the health profiles, genetics, or anything else about a given person you see walking down the street, fat or thin. Very thin people can be extremely unhealthy. Very fat people can be healthier than you think.

None of that is your business, or mine's, or anyone's. It is absolutely not any of your business.

The right to control your body, to live in it free of shame or fear, is absolutely a feminist issue.

She is not apologizing for her weight, or even celebrating it necessarily, but sharing her experience with weight in general. Her point is that she will be called fat no matter what she actually weighs, because fat-shaming is one way we control women, and she has decided not to let whatever her current weight is be used as a tool for shaming her.
posted by emjaybee at 10:29 AM on July 15 [36 favorites]


The author is saying that she is rejecting (what she interprets) as societal pressure to silence and shame morbidly obese females.

The article starts with a whole slew of excuses as to why the author is morbidly obese.

Clearly the author has not internalized the message. (i.e. The author still feels shame for the morbid obesity and feels the need to rationalize it away before getting to the premise of the article about not feeling shame about being morbidly obese.)


I didn't interpret those as "excuses", so much as examples of how that social pressure has impacted her throughout her life, at a variety of weights. I'm reading through again and really having trouble seeing how you think they're "excuses", apart from a possible perception that any time a fat person who is still fat talks about their history, it's treated as "making excuses"
posted by kagredon at 10:31 AM on July 15 [5 favorites]


As a woman, you are always going to be fat.

This is so, so true it should be on a t-shirt. Or at least on some kind of wallet card that can be issued to every woman and girl so they can see it every day, be reminded and stop some of the stress and self-flagellation.


I'm not sure it's about "always going to be fat", it's more about "you weight is always up for commentary". My wife is 5' 8", 118 lbs, or BMI of about 18. She's been slim all her life. Nobody ever told her "you're fat", but plenty of people say "you're so skinny!". And btw. that's not just about women. My BMI is around 21 and we both get this when we're together "you guys are so skinny!"... though oddly enough, when I'm alone, nobody comments on my weight. Furthermore, I believe this is more of an American thing. When we lived in Europe, I can't recall anyone ever commenting about our weight. Now, perhaps that's been changing recently, but the only weight-related commentary I've heard is "Americans are so fat"; of course, now that Europeans are just as fat, it's something of an eye-roller.

If I may be optimistic for a second, I do think this is changing. People are relaxing. Bagging on someone's weight is seen as in poor taste, and increasingly, people just don't care - which is as it should be. I predict in another 20 years, it'll be a non-issue.
posted by VikingSword at 10:31 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


She is not apologizing for her weight

Except for the tiny detail that she absolutely is.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 10:31 AM on July 15


Except for the tiny detail that she absolutely is.

Well, if it's so unambiguous, you should be able to direct us to a quote, yes?
posted by kagredon at 10:33 AM on July 15


Ruthless Bunny: I mean would any of these things even be worthy of being published if the story was, "Lady with a big bruise on her leg wears shorts." HELLS no!

More extreme, but still..
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on July 15



sfkiddo: With all the serious issues women have, this naval-gazing under the guise of being a feminist statement is irritating to me. Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.

Who gets to arbitrate what is important enough for women to fight back against? I've slipped on that path before; trust me, the answer is not "you" (nor me).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on July 15 [9 favorites]


Setec Astronomy: Except for the tiny detail that she absolutely is.

If you're going to snark this much, then you at least owe us a quote of the exact passage where you feel she's apologizing, because I just re-read it, and I see nothing resembling an apology. You'd also do well to engage on the other substantive points emjaybee raises instead of cherry-picking.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.

Being unashamedly fat is being an activist for feminism... given how hard you're working to dismiss her, I'd say she's struck some sort of nerve with you. Maybe you should examine that, instead of slagging off people who actually care about something.
posted by palomar at 10:39 AM on July 15 [23 favorites]


"...the fact that I take up a lot of space in the world – no matter the range on that massive sliding scale – is not going to change either, unless I’m dying."

That last one, especially, is so false as to be damaging.


In the context of the article this reads to me as if you are scolding her for acknowledging that no matter what she actually weighs she will always be perceived as taking up to much room in the world.

Since it's an excerpt immediately following her discussion of how people approved her weight loss even though it was due to a life-threatening illness it is exceptionally callous.
posted by winna at 10:49 AM on July 15 [16 favorites]


"...the fact that I take up a lot of space in the world – no matter the range on that massive sliding scale – is not going to change either, unless I’m dying."

That last one, especially, is so false as to be damaging. And counting calories is not a "broken" thing--it's a quite reasonable and healthful thing.
That's of course an utterly moronic and irresponsible thing to say, when it's well known and should be known even to epidemiologists that dieting and calorie counting just does not work.

That in fact, if you're fat, you're are quite likely to remain fat your entire life, regardless of the variances of your fatness and as Hurley understands but you clearly don't, it doesn't matter if you're at a "healthy weight" or not, society will still treat you the same.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:49 AM on July 15 [13 favorites]


Who gets to arbitrate what is important enough for women to fight back against? I've slipped on that path before; trust me, the answer is not "you" (nor me).

You are apparently correct: it is absolutely not me, but it's OK for her to decide.

Being unashamedly fat is being an activist for feminism... given how hard you're working to dismiss her, I'd say she's struck some sort of nerve with you. Maybe you should examine that, instead of slagging off people who actually care about something.


OK, I will examine that: it fucking irritates the shit out of me because I don't believe that being a woman is all about how you look, be it fat/thin or pretty/ugly, and to have feminism reduced to your appearance like this bothers me immensely. I feel like it diminishes women as people. Please do let me know if I am allowed to say that.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:58 AM on July 15


when it's well known and should be known even to epidemiologists that dieting and calorie counting just does not work.

Worked for me. It's not fucking rocket science by the way, although it is a bit of a slog. I was motivated by the fact that I was going to die if I didn't change my diet. I will acknowledge that people likely perceived me differently because of my weight, and it affected my career. But compared to dying of a stroke or heart attack, who cares, really?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I don't believe that being a woman is all about how you look, be it fat/thin or pretty/ugly, and to have feminism reduced to your appearance like this bothers me immensely. I feel like it diminishes women as people.

I mean, in a perfect world, yeah, it wouldn't be a thing at all. But we don't live in that world; we live in the one where even the most powerful women in the world are routinely subject to incredibly rude and invasive commentary on their looks, then I think blaming people who are trying to call out and push back against having women judged by their appearance is off-base, to say the least.
posted by kagredon at 11:08 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Please do let me know if I am allowed to say that.

You can say whatever you want. So can I. That's the beauty of this place. I disagree with your stance that because this woman is standing up for herself and other fat women, that she's reducing a woman's worth to her appearance. I think you've badly misread the essay if you come away thinking that her point is "your appearance is all that matters" and not "your appearance should not matter and should not be used as a tool to deny you agency".
posted by palomar at 11:09 AM on July 15 [17 favorites]


But we don't live in that world; we live in the one where even the most powerful women in the world are routinely subject to incredibly rude and invasive commentary on their looks, then I think blaming people who are trying to call out and push back against having women judged by their appearance is off-base, to say the least. (emphasis mine)

I'm agreeing that we do live in that world. However, I don't see how I'm "blaming people who are trying to call out". I am not agreeing with fat = feminism. That's it.
posted by sfkiddo at 11:13 AM on July 15


That's of course an utterly moronic and irresponsible thing to say...
And your qualifications are what, exactly?
...when it's well known and should be known even to epidemiologists that dieting and calorie counting just does not work.
Worked for me too. Obviously it wouldn't for everyone, but to take it dismiss it out of hand would be utterly...nevermind.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 11:14 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


So...fat women should just not talk about their experiences (including being discriminated against) while fat? Fat women should not try to counter the overwhelming, gendered message that if you are a fat woman, you're ugly/dirty/undisciplined? Because it makes you uncomfortable?
posted by kagredon at 11:16 AM on July 15 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure it's about "always going to be fat", it's more about "you weight is always up for commentary".

That's entirely possible; nobody's experience is universal. But I can say that I've never personally known a woman or girl of any weight, shape, or body type who has never been called fat at some point in her life.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


This article really hit home for me. I also hit my minimum weight while very ill, and it was amazing how many compliments I got from people who knew EXACTLY how sick I was, even when my BMI went below the healthy minimum. It really made me think about how much I hate hearing about my weight from others, and so I finally started standing up for myself.

Now whenever anyone comments on my weight I respond with some variant of "You know I appreciate that you were trying to give me a compliment, but I really don't like when people comment on my weight. It makes me really uncomfortable." (I am lucky that the commentary mostly came in the form compliments, but when the compliments only come when you have been starving yourself and spending all your free time exercising they can cause as much stress as insults).

It has been about five years since I started doing this, and the lack of comments (from my mother in particular) has been so freeing. It hasn't changed how much effort I put into my health. I still put a lot of work into exercising and eating well, because these things are really important. It just doesn't cause me as much stress when being healthy is a personal project instead of a source of constant public judgement.

The best part is that I recently went through a pregnancy, and no one from my family said a word about my weight during or after. So wonderful. I only wish I had told them to stop when I was twelve and they first started making unwelcome comments. Weight commenters of the world: just shut up. Please.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 11:25 AM on July 15 [26 favorites]


kagredon: Sigh. All I'm saying is that I do not agree that merely being fat is a feminist statement. That's it. She can talk about her experiences all she wants to (where did I ever say she shouldn't?).
posted by sfkiddo at 11:36 AM on July 15


sfkiddo: I am not agreeing with fat = feminism. That's it.

Be sure to tell this to the zero people who've asserted that equivalence.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:37 AM on July 15 [8 favorites]


If you agree that's not what she was doing, it was an awfully weird derail to drop into this thread.
posted by kagredon at 11:39 AM on July 15


tonycpsu: Did you actually read the article?
posted by sfkiddo at 11:43 AM on July 15


Sigh. All I'm saying is that I do not agree that merely being fat is a feminist statement. That's it. She can talk about her experiences all she wants to (where did I ever say she shouldn't?).

Actually, you started out complaining about Fat Acceptance women, which is about talking about their experiences as fat women, and said that "This naval-gazing under the guise of being a feminist statement is irritating to me. Just be fat."

So what you're asking is for fat women to just be fat and shut up about it. But also that they can't claim that "just" the act of being fat is feminist. Perhaps you're not intending this, but when I follow that logic it sounds like you want to remove body weight/acceptance issues from feminism entirely. It's not surprising that you'd receive pushback on that, as body acceptance is a major feminist issue due to the fact that women are so harshly and primarily judged by our appearance.
posted by misskaz at 11:44 AM on July 15 [24 favorites]


sfkiddo: tonycpsu: Did you actually read the article?

Twice, as I noted in my first comment above. Since I'm clearly not the only one who missed what you are asserting to be an obvious case of making that equivalence, you'll surely be able to quote the passage where you feel that equivalence is being made?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:45 AM on July 15


This isn't about why people are fat or the health implications of being fat. This is certainly not asserting being fat is a feminist statement. If you want to talk about getting slim there is literally an entire industry devoted to that.

What it is about is being able to have a voice without people constantly derailing by using your appearance as a weapon.
posted by melissam at 11:46 AM on July 15 [29 favorites]


But I can say that I've never personally known a woman or girl of any weight, shape, or body type who has never been called fat at some point in her life.

Hi. I have never once been called fat. I've always been less than 100 lbs and people feel free to comment on this. Mostly positively, but sometimes in a lightly negative way (eat a sandwich!), and occasionally in a harsh way (I still have trouble wearing shorts because my legs have been compared to chicken legs and sticks). I saw a doctor shortly before Christmas and she encouraged me to eat a lot of cookies at holiday parties. Yes, a doctor wants me to eat more cookies. WTF.

I realize I'm probably an outlier but I think the point stands that people think every woman's body is open for comment.
posted by desjardins at 11:47 AM on July 15 [12 favorites]


I think fat men get more of a pass then fat women, but when I was a very thin man, I got constant comments on how thin I was, and rarely in a positive light (though sometimes in a neutral light). I did embark on a high calorie diet for sometime to try to even out, though it didn't work. Eventually age and stopping smoking fixed it right up for me (so now I have to watch food a little, though a recent illness that knocked off quite a few kilo's got lots of positive comments, so clearly I am now over the right amount). But I always found it curious -- and was troubled about it when I was younger -- by how much my low weight got comments. When I gained some, almost everyone I met who hadn't seen me for some time commented on how I "looked better now". I'm not claiming I was persecuted or the like -- I survived ok -- but I think it is, indeed, not just about fat but about not meeting the body image expected. In my case, not looking manly enough or something. In other's cases, not looking model-y enough.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:06 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


desjardins: I realize I'm probably an outlier but I think the point stands that people think every woman's body is open for comment.

Bovine Love: I'm not claiming I was persecuted or the like -- I survived ok -- but I think it is, indeed, not just about fat but about not meeting the body image expected.

These are both perfectly fine data points to bring to this discussion. Still, the fact remains that being fat is looked down upon in the U.S. far more than being thin is, and I hope we can all acknowledge this, whether we're fat, thin, or somewhere in the middle.

Now, I'm sure that individuals at the far ends of the spectrum on either side, be they women or men, deal with a lot of terribly rude and hurtful comments, but closer to the center of the distribution*, it's easier to be a little thin than it is to be a little fat, and if you're male, you can even be a more than a little fat and rarely hear about it. I don't see how these points are even disputable.

* Of course, there's the whole issue of the distribution here in America being different than what it used to be, or different than in other countries, or different than it should be, and there's been some controversy over whether the BMI range guidelines are properly calibrated, but, ceteris paribus, anyone who people see as "fat" probably has a harder time than anyone who's seen as "thin".
posted by tonycpsu at 12:23 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


And, of course, none of this changes the fact that people should STFU about other peoples' bodies or how they should be eating more or less.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:24 PM on July 15


-But I can say that I've never personally known a woman or girl of any weight, shape, or body type who has never been called fat at some point in her life.

--Hi. I have never once been called fat.


I know that you exist, and I have no doubt whatsoever that what you tell me is true, but since i don't personally know you my statement as it is still stands, even if it carries less weight to some people reading it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:37 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu: Well, I guess I could copy/paste the article. But, if we're gonna be literal: did she literally say "Being fat is feminist?" No, she did not. However, I am synthesizing the article which is specifically about being fat and that "taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do" because "[she has] always considered fear and hatred of taking up space as a feminist issue" and that "As with any other feminist issue, this one is meant to get you to stay home and shut up."

I'm starting to relate to the "shut up" part, so I'll leave you to it, haha.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:37 PM on July 15


tonycpsu, I think my point was not about equivalence between fat and skinny, or who gets it worse, is was rather then making it about fat, we should focus on treating people better who don't meet our expectations. Because ultimately, from the social treatment part, that is what it is about; not judging people on how they look.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:47 PM on July 15


it's easier to be a little thin than it is to be a little fat

Yeah I didn't mean to come off as if I was saying that my experience was equivalent to a fat person's; I know my life has been easier being thin.
posted by desjardins at 12:52 PM on July 15


Bovine Love: we should focus on treating people better who don't meet our expectations.

Sure, and my only point is that society's harder on people who are on one side of the distribution, so it makes sense to focus on that side, while not forgetting that skinny people get teased / harassed as well.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:53 PM on July 15


I disagree. If you focus almost entirely on fat, it becomes about diet and health, etc. If you focus on treating people better, it because more of a humanist issue. A lot harder to argue with.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:58 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


I see your point, but at this point we're well beyond the measurable and into our own beliefs about what kind of arguments people might respond better to.

Certainly, fat-shaming (and to some extent thin-shaming) have always had an element of "I'm saying this for your own good" In their mind, they are treating the (fat, or maybe thin) person better by trying to get them to be more "normal."

And, frankly, I don't know anyone who really responds to a message only slightly more specific than "be excellent to each other." From what I've seen, societal change happens when people are alerted to their specific blind spots. Talking about fat-shaming (and thin-shaming) as specific bad behaviors to avoid seems more productive to me than a general warning against judging people on how they look, just as calling out misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc. are all more productive than saying "everyone should be equal." That just lets the offending person off the hook as long as they get to decide who "everyone" is.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:10 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Hi, I'm fat. It's true. I'm fat when I work out 5 days a week and eat less than 1500 calories a day, I'm fat if I don't work out, and eat cake. I weigh about the same +/- 10 pounds, so either way, I'm fat...but one way has cake. Cake is good. I like cake more than I like starving myself and constantly focusing on whether or not I'm pleasing to the male gaze. Also, I'm old, and mean, and fuck anyone who dares to try and fat shame me, because I'm eloquent and cruel and will make them cry just to amuse myself.

That said; I admit that I disarm the whole fat thing at the outset, when people say "How are you?", I say "I'm short, fat, and happy, how's by you?" Everyone laughs, usually women of a certain age will say "Oh girl, me too!".

I was a dancer, way back in the day; I lived on celery and yogurt, and worked out 10 hour+ a day, every single day...and I still had trouble maintaining my weight. I finally realized that I could never make prima, because I would have to be dead before I could fit into the tights.

And the medical community is among the worst offenders in the "fat is evil" camp. Seriously; I have a thyroid tumor (benign) that is the size of a robin's egg. The endocrinologist who did the biopsy...did she recommend a thyroid surgeon; someone board certified in that type of surgery? No she did not. She recommended a fat surgeon, a gastric bypass surgeon with no experience in throat surgery. (I subsequently made appointments with the best surgeon in the southwest who said that surgery wasn't necessary, and in fact she recommended against it until it started pressing on either an artery or my windpipe because of where it is.)

But the fact is, that the endocrinologist, when asked why she recommended a gastric bypass doctor said "Well, you need to lose 40 or 50 pounds." When I asked if perhaps thyroid medicine wasn't in order instead, she said "No, you're too fat. You go get surgery. You'll get skinny. You'll see." (Needless to say, I'm looking for a new endocrinologist.)

And weight/body image/shaming is absolutely a feminist issue. Are there health issues with being morbidly obese? Certainly...but women who are my size (about an 18 in US sizes...or a 1x), are nowhere near morbidly obese; we're just not swimsuit models. But we offend the male gaze...because we are not swimsuit models, and because we are obviously not trying hard enough to be swimsuit models, because if we were, we wouldn't be out there showing cellulite and eating a brownie.

Fuck that noise. I figure, best case scenario, gods willing...I've got maybe another 20 years or so on this blue marble. I'll be goddamned if I'm going to live those years in fear that someone is offended by my fat ass.
posted by dejah420 at 1:20 PM on July 15 [90 favorites]


Really well said, dejah420.
posted by sweetkid at 1:29 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


I think your perception of your own weight depends a lot on how old you are. Once you turn 40, you realize that you have the choice of making the final 20 years on the planet somewhat enjoyable, or succumb to chronic illnesses that rob you of quality of life for the rest of your life.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:35 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


What it is about is being able to have a voice without people constantly derailing by using your appearance as a weapon.

Exactly.

Which makes it really ironic the thread derailed into 'I'M JUST TELLING YOU THAT BEING FAT IS BAD BECAUSE I CARE!!!'
posted by winna at 1:37 PM on July 15 [13 favorites]


And you really never know when you are going to be called fat. Even if it's never happened to you before, it's always a lingering kind of thing for women. I wrote this comment on a post about relationships and weight a little over a month ago: "Holy shit, the things she is reporting on men saying, I just feel really lucky I've never heard them, because it would make me feel insecure too."

In the span of that month, the person I was dating told me I had gained too much weight and they were no longer attracted to me. And I'm at the lower end of normal on the BMI. It was a bombshell. I never imagined I had attracted the kind of person this essayist was dating, this person who could only tolerate a size 0.

Beyond using people's weight as a weapon to derail their work, it's just crazy how much in our world revolves around people's weights. How the ideal has become so narrow that even small deviations from it one way or another become almost like crimes that other people prosecute you for. And even when you are trying desperately to control it, that also becomes a field for public policing– "oh you are doing the wrong kind of exercise," "your diet is TOO strict," "you can't eat that and still lose weight," etc.
posted by melissam at 1:51 PM on July 15 [15 favorites]


But I can say that I've never personally known a woman or girl of any weight, shape, or body type who has never been called fat at some point in her life.

I don't think my girlfriend has ever been called fat. On the other hand, at her last job, her boss kept leaving her sweets on her desk because she was "too skinny."

So they get you coming or going. One way or another, your weight is always presumed to be something men get to have an opinion about and police. And if that doesn't make it a subject for feminist examination, nothing ever makes anything anything.
posted by maxsparber at 1:52 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]


This thread is really hard for me to read. I've been desperately wanting to be healthy for the better part of a decade but due to mental illness I've been unable to push through psychological barriers on my own. It's taken me 18 months of therapy and so much effort to be able to be where I am today.

Yesterday I became statistically overweight instead of obese. It's the culmination of an extreme amount of effort and determination and I've still got a long way to go in weight, diet and fitness. But I'm doing it because if I don't, well, I look at the morbidly obese pensioners whizzing around on the scooters while I shop and I know that's my fate if I don't arrest the slide and give myself a lifestyle that's sustainable in the long run. I refuse to end up like that.

To watch people go past comfort into an almost celebration about their obesity just breaks my heart. More so since it's a giant knee jerk reaction to a bunch of absolute cockheads and their antiquated views on a woman's worth being tied to their body shape. Yeah you sure showed them by not giving in to their standards and being proud of who you are but you get vastly increased risks of heart disease and diabetes. It's like a pyrrhic victory in the purest sense.

I can't blame anyone for feeling this is the correct way to approach it, because really it's a human reaction to such extreme antagonism from assholes on touchy subjects. But it still breaks my heart.
posted by Talez at 1:59 PM on July 15 [13 favorites]


"taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do"

This isn't just a fat thing. Lavaballing is another scenario that shows us women aren't entitled to take up the actual space that their bodies require. Just saying.
posted by palomar at 2:02 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]


So, eh, we're talking about the woman in the purple top and beige cardigan in the middle of this picture (image uploaded April 2014). She looks chunky. She does not look like she's going to drop right now from diabetic coma or needs a mobility scooter.

Guys, it's nice that you're sharing your stories of worrying about the health dangers of obesity, but we're talking about very different standards of what counts as fat.
posted by sukeban at 2:23 PM on July 15 [9 favorites]


Talez, she does talk about trying to be healthier (as opposed to just thinner) and how hard it is when she works so many hours. I don't think the article writer is "celebrating" just saying "this is my life right now, I'm dealing with it, please fuck off unless I ask your advice."

Which is a good stance to take. It's really healthier for you to let go of the worry about what anyone else is doing with their body. Some people enter extreme hot dog eating contests, or body-mod to a ridiculous degree, or jump off cliffs, or eat mushrooms that some dude promised them would be safe. Some people don't give a shit about their weight, or accept the risk of it because they have other priorities. Or they look huge but used to be huger. Or are taking meds that have weight gain side effects. Or are hedonists or fatalists. Or just too depressed to deal with it right now. Whatever. You don't have to be heartbroken or worried about them; you can take that off your worry list. They don't need it, and it brings you down.

The media is constantly telling us "be worried about all this obesity!" but really, it's unproductive to worry about anyone but yourself or a child you are raising. Maybe a spouse. Outside that circle, you have to let people run their own lives. And without other people making snide comments, or scrutinizing them, they might actually have an easier time of it.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on July 15 [33 favorites]


We, overall, let people make bad choices that will erode their quality of life in the long term. It's not like people who are obese don't know they're obese. It's impossible not to. And yet the anti-obesity rhetoric doesn't magically make them all decide to lose weight, because if it were as easy to stop doing something as "knowing this is a bad idea", the world would be a better place.

[reposted to remove the response part to a deleted comment, I think this is ok]
posted by jeather at 2:48 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Just be fat. Don't act like you're being an activist for feminism.

The other day UPS delivered a package I'd ordered from Amazon. I live on the third floor of an old building which has a buzzer that can be rung from the entry, but no corresponding button you can push from your apartment to open the door or speak to the person ringing. So when a package comes, the UPS guy rings that buzzer then I have to run down to get it. So the other day he rang, and I ran down and opened the inner door to the entry, and saw him standing there with my Amazon box. I said "Hi."

Now, I am not FAT, in the sense that the author is. I weigh about 130 lbs, which makes me too big for my height/shape but hardly (at least I would like to hope) subject to sneers from people who have to sit next to me on planes. But in addition to being a little overweight, I'm also just not pretty, not in the way that men find pleasing. So anyway when I said "Hi" to this man he looked up at me, and an intense hatred or anger spread across his face. Not annoyance because the package was heavy (it weighted just a few lbs) or because I'd kept him waiting (I'd taken less than a minute) or because he was having a bad day. It wasn't the scowl of someone with a scowly resting face, dude was pissed and more than that, he looked personally affronted. Like I'd insulted him.

And I realized that expression was sooooo familiar to me, that I'd seen it hundreds of times, though it's not usually that intense. It is the expression of a certain type of man who is being forced because of the current circumstances to actually acknowledge the existence of a woman who is not hot.

And he said, with disgust, "I could hear you coming down." And I said nothing, because...? What do you even say? As I was going back up, quite literally l'esprit d'escalier, I thought I should have said "Sorry I didn't get all hot and skinny for you before I ran down, bro." God forbid a human woman would not only make a sound descending a 100+ year old staircase, but also have the gall to not make up for it by having a model's face.

So I'm a feminist, sure, because yay equality, but I'm not an activist type of person by nature. Yet I think much of the time just freaking existing as a non-skinny, non-gorgeous woman is being an activist for feminism.
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 2:48 PM on July 15 [44 favorites]


When I was younger, I was skinny and my little brother was overweight. My father put both of us in karate classes because I wanted to do it and he thought that if my brother did it, he would lose weight. He didn't. Today, he's a big guy. He's also a volunteer firefighter and EMT, he plays rec league hockey, and he takes his black lab on long walks several times a week. On the other hand, my husband can spend his time eating pizza and burgers while playing video games and odds are that he will lose weight.

Based on those examples and others, I'm always a little hostile towards those who seem to think that it's just so easy! to lose weight by working out more and cut calories. That might be the experience that you personally have had. That may be the experience that people in your life have had. That is not the experience that everyone everywhere has had. If only. The sooner that people stop seeing being overweight as evidence of a character flaw, the sooner we can focus our attention on finding solutions for those people who can't lose weight by cutting calories and working out more. Because they're out there and there are probably more of them than you think.
posted by kat518 at 2:58 PM on July 15 [26 favorites]


And I realized that expression was sooooo familiar to me, that I'd seen it hundreds of times, though it's not usually that intense. It is the expression of a certain type of man who is being forced because of the current circumstances to actually acknowledge the existence of a woman who is not hot.

I never liked looking people in the face but after I got fat I stopped altogether because that expression hurts every time.
posted by winna at 3:06 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


Once you turn 40, you realize that you have the choice of making the final 20 years on the planet somewhat enjoyable, or succumb to chronic illnesses that rob you of quality of life for the rest of your life.

Just speak for yourself - it sounds a lot less self-righteous. For instance, I realized in my 40s that dieting all the fucking time and never, ever being skinny enough anyway made me crazy and unhappy and that I was just going to start eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

And taking that crushing burden of guilt/recrimination/examination off every time I put food in my mouth is what will improve my quality of life for the next 20 years.

And personally, I really don't need to hear from any more men that a little calorie counting will fix me up in no time. Women store fat differently than men - your experience is not ours. I know my body intimately, thanks all the same.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:17 PM on July 15 [50 favorites]


I never liked looking people in the face but after I got fat I stopped altogether because that expression hurts every time.

There's a mention of something similar in Black Like Me, an unconscious, momentary look of pure disgust or contempt that black people sometimes experience when white people see them, and I find this sort of face-making, even if unintentional, so shitty I can hardly stand it.
posted by maxsparber at 3:21 PM on July 15 [8 favorites]


Based on those examples and others, I'm always a little hostile towards those who seem to think that it's just so easy! to lose weight by working out more and cut calories. That might be the experience that you personally have had. That may be the experience that people in your life have had. That is not the experience that everyone everywhere has had. If only.

I'm not sure which asshole thought that up but it's sure as hell not easy to lose weight.

It involves giving up some of the most comfortable things in your life while simultaneously trying to force yourself to be active and persevere through the inevitable set-backs that occur while trying to overhaul a lifestyle. It's why only a fraction of people (anywhere between one in five and one in fifty) who embark on weight loss programs make it a year with a 10% loss.

For at lot of people it's like saying "well it's easy to walk from New York to Los Angeles, just put one foot in front of the other for 2,769 miles". Technically that's all that needs to be done but all of the logistical stuff that needs to accompany walking for three months is illconsidered.
posted by Talez at 3:38 PM on July 15 [9 favorites]


Welp, definitely time to take God's War off the "to be read" shelf and give it a whirl ...
posted by kyrademon at 3:59 PM on July 15


Talez, I had a "fat camp" boot camp type place refund my money after two weeks where my every calorie was monitored, it was kept at 1200 or less per day, and during the day we did hikes with full packs, obstacle courses, horseback riding, gymnastics, and 3 full aerobics sessions per day. I lost less than 10 pounds, and half of that was water weight. I still have the body fitness of a gymnast. I get bulky when I work out, I don't have the long lean muscles of a ballerina, I have the muscle structure of a peasant farmer...pull plow, eat goat cheese.

Just this week I've gone on a 10 mile hike carrying the water for a pack of boys, rode horses for hours, and tomorrow I'm taking the boy skydiving. (Inside)

So, forgive me if I'm not going to enter my 5th decade continuing to torture myself because I will only ever see a size eight if I develop a heroin or coke habit.
posted by dejah420 at 4:00 PM on July 15 [32 favorites]


Anecdata for the fact that some people just get fat, without doing anything different:

I got pregnant at 20 and gained about 70 pounds with that pregnancy. I've never lost it and have slowly gained more weight over the years and now I'm settled at roughly 250, drifting between 245 and 255 depending on nothing at all, no diet or exercise or activity changes, I just sorta sit right there. I'm a solid 18/20 and I'm ok with it and have been these lo, 28 years.

My daughter is 23 and has my same body shape and style, we could tell as soon as she went through puberty. Her body is shaped like mine, just smaller. All through high school she was a size 8. She has steadily gained weight slowly for the last 4 years, even while working full time, going to college full time and being extremely active (she off shore fishes, hikes, camps) and her eating habits haven't changed. NOTHING about her activity levels, eating habits or lifestyle has changed, aside from probably actually being more active than she was in high school. But, she's gone from a size 8 to a size 12 and it's making her crazy. She's getting married and has been trying paleo diets, zero carb diets and weight watchers, but she might lose 5 or 6 pounds and then go back to where she is. She didn't get fat because she's pregnant (like I did) or because she hit the dorm and began to eat differently. She's just gaining weight in exactly the same places I did when I was in my 20s.
posted by hollygoheavy at 4:30 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]


I think it's interesting that people bringing up the "BUT, HEALTH PROBLEMS" angle of "Y U FAT?" in this thread don't seem to be interacting with the main point of the article or the commentary here, which is that weight is one of the axes along which womens' bodies are constantly judged and found wanting by strangers. No shit being overweight can correspond with a host of health issues, but I think focusing on that obfuscates the point that women's bodies are considered public property enough for total strangers to pass judgment on, and women with bodies that do not conform to public standard deserve to get mistreated as a result.

I feel like every time we have a thread about weight or women or whatever people bring up the health stuff, and I wish people would cut out the health derail because it's not about health, we don't scrutinize people for engaging in all kinds of other risky behaviors with the kind of venom our culture reserves for scrutinizing fat womens' bodies.
posted by beefetish at 4:31 PM on July 15 [44 favorites]


My daughter is 23 and has my same body shape and style

Yup. I am 38 and have the exact same body as my mother. I used to tell myself that I would NOT end up with the same (very pear shaped, though not overweight) body. That I would work out my legs and butt and it would somehow magically not happen to me. This is back before I realized how fucked up it was to be so judgmental of my own mother's (or anyone else's) body type, BTW.

Well, it's starting. The shape of my ass is the shape of my mom's ass, and although mine is still smaller, it's getting harder and harder every year to fight. The couple pounds of winter weight I gained due to an extra shitty winter? Directly on my ass.

I just talked to my mom the other day and she mentioned how she's trying to lose weight and it's not working, and all I can think is "Good God, she's 64 years old and perfectly healthy. Does it ever end? This pressure to just look according to some specific standard?"
posted by misskaz at 4:58 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]



I feel like every time we have a thread about weight or women or whatever people bring up the health stuff, and I wish people would cut out the health derail because it's not about health, we don't scrutinize people for engaging in all kinds of other risky behaviors with the kind of venom our culture reserves for scrutinizing fat womens' bodies.


Hey, you know I quit smoking totally, for good, forever* about five years ago and actually had at least one acquaintance say to me: "It's awesome that you want to quit smoking, but I mean, aren't you afraid of gaining any more weight considering how big you already are?"

Somewhat more recently, a closer friend let slip one night, "It's terrible for me to say, but you know you were thinner when you were still smoking and drinking a lot more. Not that I think you should do that, but it is true."

*In the event of global catastrophe and/or if I live to be 85, all bets are off.
posted by thivaia at 4:59 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]


women's bodies are considered public property enough for total strangers to pass judgment on,

As a lifelong fatty who has endured total strangers commenting on her weight/diet/exercise for pretty much her entire life, I've found it fascinating to track how my thin-to-average friends have only truly appreciated how intrusive and enraging this practice is once they've gotten pregnant. The way that strangers think it's ok to touch a pregnant woman's belly or ask personal questions about how she's dealing with it is very similar to how people have felt that this fat body is also open for discussion. I think that a lot of women certainly understand intellectually how women's bodies are up for discussion, but haven't necessarily had the firsthand experience until their bodies change and, as is suggested here, take up more space (even if only temporarily).
posted by TwoStride at 5:08 PM on July 15 [18 favorites]


thivaia, congrats on quitting! I wish I had successfully crossed that hurdle. I've tried and tried, and never quite made it...and reading your story, I wonder how much failure may be that I've sabotaged myself because I feared the reportedly unavoidable weight gain. Also, fuck those friends. Sheesh. That you are not in prison after hiding the bodies speaks well to your temperament and restraint.
posted by dejah420 at 5:26 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


My life is living proof that fat is a feminist issue and that people deploy fat-shaming to shut women up in a way they don't use it against men. You see, I've lived in a bunch of different bodies.

Let me explain. I was raised as a girl, though I'm intersex by birth, and when puberty hit, I went from being a skinny person to a chubby one, and my parents freaked out. My father had this weird , all-too-common attitude that women owed men a duty to be skinny. "Men don't make passes at girls with fat asses," he would periodically quip. My mom, who'd had three children, had gotten a comfortably maternal body, which my father constantly criticized, so she was always on a diet, and I got put on one as well. I remember: I was 13 and weighed 123 pounds and was given the goal of losing 10 by my mother. At the time, this seemed like a good idea to me, because I'd enjoyed my androgynous child-body, and this new one with curves made me feel uncomfortable.

And thus began years of unhealthy dieting with my mother, and eventually my younger sister. We counted calories, and I started at 1000. But I only lost a couple of pounds, so it kept getting reduced, and by 17 I was eating only 700 calories a day, and taking Dexatrim (which was then full of speedy decongestants and ephedra in addition to caffeine) in order to keep my energy up with that little intake. My weight never dropped lower than 120 despite all this, but what did plummet was my metabolism. And when I left my parents' home and started eating a normal amount of food, I gained weight rapidly.

So, I spent my life between college and age 42 living as a fat woman. I was ashamed of my body, and all sorts of things were tangled up in that feeling: gender dysphoria, shame and secrecy about my sex-variance, and the internalization of constant fat-shaming. I experienced all sorts of things people have mentioned--friends complimenting me when I got pneumonia and lost some weight, the microaggressions of snorts and stares, and doctors. . . well. I could show up at a doctor's office to try to talk about an allergy, but the chances were 90% that we'd either wind up talking about my weird reproductive anatomy or my weight by the end.

Then, at 42, I had a hysterectomy and oo/orchiectomy, and I started losing a lot of weight. At first, I attributed it only to the fact that I was seriously ill with a hospital-contracted MRSA infection that lasted for many months. But eventually that cleared up and I was still losing weight. It turns out that without sex steroids in my system, my body changes a great deal. I went from a life of sleeping 8.5 hours a night to sleeping only 4. I lost my libido, and a lot of my sense of taste. And I get skinny.

Eventually, I started my gender transition with testosterone therapy, but by that time, 3 years after my surgery, i had dropped to 115 pounds, from a high of 230. I lost half my body weight. And in that skinny phase just prior to my gender transition, people were enthralled with me, as if losing weight is the most important thing a person classified as female can do. I got constant compliments from people at work, from doctors, from friends, from random people like the guy at the deli counter. My family was much more excited by my weight loss than they ever had been about my getting a law degree or a Ph.D. And in all my years of teaching, I have been given a standing ovation exactly once by a class, and that was the time I mentioned in passing during my lecture on fat phobia that I had lost over 100 pounds. Ironic, no?

Anyway, that was years ago, and now I've been on testosterone for 5 years, and over those years I have steadily been gaining weight. I wear it differently, and I've got more muscular bulk than in my years of living as as woman, but I've got a belly and am definitely once again fat. That's what my body likes to be, when it has sex steroids in it.

But you know what? Nobody really cares. When I was perceived as a fat woman, my body was everyone's business--more often in a concern-trolling way ("I"m just worried about your health") than in a fat-shaming way, but the fat shaming came up plenty. People always wanted to talk about diets with me, or exercise (out of some presumption I didn't exercise, when I in fact did), or trade secrets about slimming swimsuits or something. Now, as a man I enjoy blessed silence. My mother doesn't inquire as to my weight. My doctor said, "I see your weight is up," and dropped it when I said, "I know." Strangers don't mock me. Nobody suggests that I'd be taken more seriously professionally if I dropped some pounds. Because now that I'm living my male reality, I get the male privilege of weight being considered of minor relevance to my life.

If all the weight concern were really about health and not controlling women's bodies, then my experience as a fat man would be the same as my experience when I was fat and being perceived as a woman, and that's absolutely not the case.

Fat shaming is a feminist issue.
posted by DrMew at 5:35 PM on July 15 [177 favorites]


Once you turn 40, you realize that you have the choice of making the final 20 years on the planet somewhat enjoyable, or succumb to chronic illnesses that rob you of quality of life for the rest of your life.

My grandmother, who is a few months away from 86, is a solidly built woman. She never got any taller than 5 foot 7 or so, and at her heaviest she wore a size 18 dress. The smallest size I have ever witnessed her wearing is a size 14, but I've seen pictures of her in the 60's as a size 10... a size she only achieved by being on prescription speed and having her jaw wired shut for three weeks.

Now, she clocks in at roughly 5 foot 5, maybe a little shorter, and fluctuates between a 14/16 depending on how her body's retaining fluids that day. Aside from the typical complaints of the elderly (pooping issues, arthritis in her hands, spinal stenosis, wanting everyone off her lawn), she's in excellent health, and will probably live well into her 90's like most of our family. And most of our family, by the way, is built like her. And me. (I'm my grandma's taller doppelganger.)

You know what the hardest part is about watching her age? It's the constant self-hatred she dribbles out over the way she looks. She thinks she's the ugliest person on the planet, not just because of her fat face that she hates (her words, not mine), but because of her body. If I could just lose the little roll around my waist, she says, I'd be so happy. I'm so fat and ugly, she says. I don't even want to leave my house, she says, because I'm so fat.

She's 86 years old, and completely average in every way, and not ugly at all. But she HATES herself, more than almost anyone I've ever met, and do you know why? Because she's not thin. Because she's been told, over and over and over and over, her whole life, that she does not matter unless she's thin, that she cannot be thought of as attractive unless her body is smaller. That's a message she passed down to me, by the way... do you know what it's like to be told as a young woman, by your parental unit, that no one will ever love you if you look the way you do? Do you know what it's like to realize, as an adult, that she only told you that because that was the message she had been fed, and she was trying to protect you from being hurt by this fucked up, ugly world?

No. You don't. You're just here to let everyone know that being fat is bad and wrong, and true happiness only comes from being not-fat. Well, thanks for your message, but please jam it sideways. As you can see, it's very old news, and many of us are sick to death of having it shoved in our faces. Go peddle that shit elsewhere.
posted by palomar at 6:06 PM on July 15 [69 favorites]


No. You don't. You're just here to let everyone know that being fat is bad and wrong, and true happiness only comes from being not-fat. Well, thanks for your message, but please jam it sideways. As you can see, it's very old news, and many of us are sick to death of having it shoved in our faces. Go peddle that shit elsewhere.

I almost cracked the phone hitting the favorite button.

As it is, I applauded out loud here on my couch.
posted by winna at 6:10 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


One of the things that bugs me most about people who want women to lose weight for our own good is that it's always a matter of individual bad choices to people who want to lecture us. Facts about how we as a society make and eat food, for instance that industrial food is often cheap and unhealthy and that healthy food is often expensive and time-consuming to prepare when it's available, are overlooked in favor of issuing the scarlet F onto someone else. It always seems to be me like a just-world hypothesis applied to weight. (And the health-problems answer feeds straight into that, which I say as a person with chronic health issues. But I totally sympathize with everyone who got told how great they looked when they lost weight because of serious illness.)

And really, if you're not my doctor, it's none of your business what I weigh anyway.
posted by immlass at 6:50 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


Like the person she mentions in the OP, I have been reading Kameron Hurley for years, since her blog was called Brutal Women. I remember when she almost died. She developed Type I diabetes in her twenties. That is not a typo--some people develop Type I diabetes in their twenties. She was suddenly losing all this weight but also feeling terrible, but she was happy to be losing weight without having to exercise nearly as hard as she usually did; in fact, she felt too bad to exercise much. And then she disappeared and then she came back to say that she had been in the ICU because she nearly died because she had developed Type I diabetes and nobody noticed. She was starving to death because her body was no longer absorbing glucose, and nobody noticed because she was losing weight and that was a good thing except for the part where she was starving to death.

People's bodies are different. Some people gain weight easily. Some people lose weight easily. Some people can work really hard and be the weight they want to be. Some people will never reach the weight they want to be. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And women frequently are not, especially not fat women.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:58 PM on July 15 [18 favorites]


I'm a fat dude, however:

I've had a doctor come roaring in insisting I must have diabetes because of my size and I needed to get started on medication right away. When I finally left because she wasn't treating what I came in for (a small rashy spot), she chased me out into the parking lot screaming "DIAAAABEEETESSS" like a demented female Wilford Brimley. It was a small, occasionally recurring patch of atopic dermatitis according to the dermatologist I saw later and I am not and never have been diabetic. I'm not even pre-diabetic. My BP and heart rate and hormone levels are all extremely good as of my last physical. "Extremely good for a man your age much less one as big as you are," said the very-boggled doc.

Any time I visit a GP, it's virtually guaranteed the dieting/weight issue will come up. When I tell them how I eat, I'll either be accused of lying (common) or dumbstruck disbelief (less common, but it happens). I start losing weight at about 1200 calories a day and start gaining at about 1500 calories a day. Which is, obviously, hard to maintain. It's pretty fun to be accused of lying, though. I usually pull out the food logs after that. One day I'll bring my iPad and give them a Powerpoint.

Sometimes they look at my blood tests and hormone levels and say it's medically impossible. I had one of those stress test things once and they just boggled as I jogged serenely (I run about 20-25 miles a week, slowly, but I do) rather than presumably collapsing in wheezing pile of butter as I was supposed to.

Anyway, usually I have to go through all that before we even get to the complaint I'm in for. One time I had to lay there and get lectured while the MRSA infection was oozing pus and blood and gore all over the table because it was much more important that I hear how I need to lose weight. Doc got mad when I said I'd already lost 100 pounds (true!) and could we please talk about something for the gaping, oozing wound with dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in lieu of this lecture?

So yeah, I'm with the ladies on this one.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:10 PM on July 15 [25 favorites]


Wow, DrMew and palomar, you are my heroes.

When I teach intro to gender studies, I ask how many students have ever been on a diet; then I ask how many had been on a diet before they turned 20; then how many before 10.

Every female-presenting student in the class who is, say, a size 8 or larger, including me, reports having started worrying about eating and at least trying to diet before they were 10 years old.

Every body is different. But girls' and womens' bodies are too often treated as if we were going to be entered in a 4-H fair one day.

But then every bloody day is the 4-H fair, and everyone's a judge, and it's bullshit.
posted by allthinky at 7:20 PM on July 15 [13 favorites]


I'm torn. I believe in health at any size, and no one's weight is any business but their own.

But my mom has been obese for most of my life, and I've watched the extra weight age her. It sapped her energy and hurt her joints. She developed diabetes - and then she had a stroke, when she was only 55. At age 56, her health and mobility are more like that of an 80-year-old than someone her age. Maybe the stroke was a coincidence, but diabetes is a risk factor -- and it may have been due to leg clots when she was immobilized by pneumonia (which she was susceptible to due to her weight and the compression on her lungs). I don't know - all I know is that I'm worried about my mom being home alone about 20 years before I ever imagined I would be.

I'm now at BMI 25 (border between normal and overweight). I've been at BMI 30 (border of overweight & obese). I lost the weight due to crippling depression and forgetting to eat. But I'm glad I lost it and I'm trying to keep it off (through sensible eating and exercise) - because I don't want to lose what health I have.
posted by jb at 8:13 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I'm torn. I believe in health at any size, and no one's weight is any business but their own. But my mom has been obese for most of my life, and I've watched the extra weight age her.

These things are not necessarily contradictory. My BMI hovers around 24-25 but my blood pressure and cholesterol are usually pretty good. Similarly, my mother in law is overweight but she's really healthy for her age otherwise. Some professional athletes have BMIs that would indicate that they are overweight.

On the other hand, my mother was morbidly obese and years before she died of a heart attack, she started getting nose bleeds because her high blood pressure was out of control. But she wouldn't go to a doctor because, in her experience, all doctors ever told her was that she needed to lose weight. Losing weight probably would have helped but she could have also quit smoking, stopped eating red meat, taken drugs to control her blood pressure, etc. Marathon runners, including Alberto Salazar and Jim Fixx, have suffered heart attacks.

TL; DR - Weight and BMI are only one part of your overall health profile. Healthy and unhealthy people come in all shapes and sizes.
posted by kat518 at 9:06 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Weight is more than a number with health. On large-scale population studies it evens out, so the woman whose family are generally large, healthy and long-living will have the same BMI as the woman who has uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure from yo-yo dieting. You can be healthy and large to a fairly wide degree, but it's a sort of body profiling almost.

I have a health issue where weight is a statistical risk issue, along with blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and alcohol. I've had every single controllable factor removed except for weight, because that does not seem to be shifting despite a nutritionist etc. But my underlying numbers for health are decent so my doctors have always been surprisingly indifferent about my weight because it isn't a factor for me.

Reading this thread, I am intensely grateful for that. I've been very lucky with doctors. Because losing time to dieting or weight-loss surgery (which would have been so dangerous for me) instead of actual treatment would have been terrible.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:45 PM on July 15


I'm sure all of the "just concerned about women's health" folks are spending equal time somewhere being just as vocal about their concern about the effects of smoking, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, reckless driving, unsafe sex, living in disease belts or areas of high environmental contamination, and having a family history of congenital diseases.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:10 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]


We were on the road, coming in from a day of work, myself and a co-worker, it was maybe five in the afternoon. We weren't in the country but not the city either, suburban towns that still had landed areas around them.

A young woman -- a girl, really, probably our age, 16 or 17, maybe a bit younger, maybe a bit older -- this young woman was riding a horse, same direction we were traveling, in a field next to the road.

She was riding beautifully, gracefully, her hair flying, you could see the joy in it, in her, as she handled herself on that horse. They were not in a gallop but rather a really smooth canter, that brown horses mane and tail streaming, its head up. I had a horse when I was a kid, and into my teen years, I've ridden plenty, I knew what she was feeling, I knew what she was hearing, I knew the rush of the air, the pleasure in it all. But really anyone could see it, no matter their experience around horses or not; she really was riding well, it was beautiful to see, you'd have to be blind to miss it. It was a gorgeous day. We came up from behind and then beside them, maybe 40 MPH.

"Sweat-hog!" That was my co-worker, Lou, shouting out the truck window, loud and clear, as we drew up even with and then passed her.

Maybe you think that there is no such thing as body language. I know for a fact that there is. That young woman sank, her shoulders dropped, her head dropped. Her spirit dropped. It was awful. Or awe-full -- awe, in how much a word can hurt.

That's over forty years gone but I see her drop as I type this in.

I can't imagine that anything would have taken the sting out of that. Nothing her mother could say to her, nothing her sister could say to her, her father, her brother. Had Lou himself gone to her and sincerely apologized, it would not have taken the sting out of his cruelty.

Words are powerful.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:33 PM on July 15 [15 favorites]


maxsparber: There's a mention of something similar in Black Like Me, an unconscious, momentary look of pure disgust or contempt that black people sometimes experience when white people see them
[In a bus station,] Once again a "hate stare" drew my attention like a magnet. It came from a middle-aged, heavyset, well-dressed white man. He sat a few yards away, fixing his eyes on me. Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man's face. I felt like saying: "What in God's name are you doing to yourself?"
Leaving aside the "not so much because it threatens you" -- the author, John Howard Griffin, was most likely able to brush aside any feeling of threat because the whole experience for him was novel and temporary -- this passage points out where the fucked-upness really is, in the disgust and distorted thinking of those who judge you as polluting their field of vision and hate and despise you for it.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:55 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


I think it's interesting that people bringing up the "BUT, HEALTH PROBLEMS" angle of "Y U FAT?" in this thread don't seem to be interacting with the main point of the article or the commentary here, which is that weight is one of the axes along which womens' bodies are constantly judged and found wanting by strangers

Uh, no, that's exactly what they are engaging with:

To watch people go past comfort into an almost celebration about their obesity just breaks my heart. More so since it's a giant knee jerk reaction to a bunch of absolute cockheads and their antiquated views on a woman's worth being tied to their body shape. Yeah you sure showed them by not giving in to their standards and being proud of who you are but you get vastly increased risks of heart disease and diabetes. It's like a pyrrhic victory in the purest sense.

posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:30 AM on July 16


I don't think that clip is engaging with the article at all, TFB. How is it doing so?

Where does the author say anything like this:

Yeah you sure showed them by not giving in to their standards and being proud of who you are but you get vastly increased risks of heart disease and diabetes.
posted by sweetkid at 7:38 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


If it weren't so sad it would be funny that this thread is a perfect exemplar of what the article is talking about - women's speech is derailed based on the perception of their weight.
posted by winna at 8:08 AM on July 16 [16 favorites]


I'm sure all of the "just concerned about women's health" folks are spending equal time somewhere being just as vocal about their concern about the effects of smoking, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, reckless driving, unsafe sex, living in disease belts or areas of high environmental contamination, and having a family history of congenital diseases.

I am absolutely certain that if the article was about a proud chainsmoker, the thread would be filled with condemnation. We've had viideos of boy-racer idiots slicing through traffic on their sportbike; the thread was filled with anger at their behaviour. We've had threads about bare-backing and bug-chasing: again, the threads condemned these behaviours. Even the thread about Alex wozzname, the crazy freeclimber who scaled Yosemite, and who put only his own life at risk, was full of nope.

Threads about morbid behaviours and lifestyles naturally contain a lot of condemnation. I think it's because we don't like to see people die unneccessarily.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:38 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Oh man look the dudes are doing the thing again! Fuckin look at them go!
posted by beefetish at 8:43 AM on July 16 [15 favorites]


Threads about morbid behaviours and lifestyles naturally contain a lot of condemnation. I think it's because we don't like to see people die unneccessarily

How classy of you, to label people like me as having a "morbid" lifestyle.
posted by palomar at 8:44 AM on July 16 [7 favorites]


I don't think the article is talking about anything like the equivalent of motorbike racing or chainsmoking.

I mean people are saying she's celebrating obesity, or just wildly irresponsible, but these are some of the things she is actually saying in the article:

Having gained and lost the same 80 lbs three times in the last 15 years, I can honestly say I’m familiar with that first hand. The only time I’ve ever been praised for my weight repeatedly was when I was dying of a chronic illness, which winnowed me down to a (still considered “overweight”!) 170lbs. I’ll never forget my mother on the phone with my dad, having just gotten me out of the ICU, telling him how great I looked because I was so skinny (!!!).

Something broke in me after that comment, I think. When I pulled on my size 12 pants and they were loose, something I’d not experienced since the 5th grade, all the feels washed over me – how fake this all was, how our success was measured in the width of our asses, how my worth went up only as I lay dying.

I vowed from that moment on, crying in my too-big pants, that I would never, ever ever beat myself up or hate myself for being fat ever again.

And I haven’t.

posted by sweetkid at 8:54 AM on July 16 [13 favorites]


Being fat does not equal unhealthy, or even gluttony. You can be fat (and socially fat, not medically obese is a much wider range than most people like to admit) and be healthy and eat in moderation.

Being fat is not a morbid behaviour or lifestyle. It's been almost entirely conflated with that in a way that masks the complicated link between weight and health.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:56 AM on July 16 [5 favorites]


Like, she almost died and decided not to hate the healthier version of herself, even if it was fatter. That's...the healthy and responsible thing to do.
posted by sweetkid at 9:02 AM on July 16 [9 favorites]


Oh man look the dudes are doing the thing again! Fuckin look at them go!

But beefetish, they're just doing it because they care!

It has nothing to do with current cultural aesthetics!
posted by winna at 9:05 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of insidious responses here to a comment I made earlier about the scientific discussion on weight management. I'll single out one in particular, from MartinWisse, that is blatantly incorrect and misleading. Martin, reasonable food portions and exercise of any type and level of intensity is the cornerstone of scientific thinking about weight management. Calorie counting is a very effective and accepted mechanism for portion estimation. There is the health research establishment's consensus, contrary to your suggestion, and has been for a very long time.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:28 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Oh, ffs. This is classic concern-trolling: saying, "You must not take pride in your body, because to do so is to deny that you are sick, morbid, dying!"

Let's imagine the OP had been about a woman who actually had some deadly disease that made people see her as "disfigured." Say, she had a metastasizing cancer, and had to have part of her jaw removed, and people were always staring at her in disgust, and wrote a piece about the cruelty of the beauty imperative, and embracing her body. Do we really imagine there would be a big pile-on in the thread about how wrong she is because she has cancer and she's in denial about it's going to kill her and she shouldn't love a body like that?

Just a few reminders about empirical reality and body size: (1) people who are classified medically as "overweight" live longer than those classified as "normal weight," so if you really care about people's health, you should be telling all the thin people to gain a little weight, already. And (2), while 2/3 of Americans say they go on a diet in a given year, a tiny percentage of these diets result in weight loss that persists over years, while 83% result in weight gain.

You know what we've got real evidence to show that it shortens lives and ruins health? Stress. And you know what is a central cause of stress? Facing social discrimination. If you really care about people's health, fight social shaming and bias--don't defend it as being somehow in the victim's best interests.
posted by DrMew at 9:35 AM on July 16 [38 favorites]


It seems like these threads always come down to the same people saying "don't accept your body as it is, you're fat, therefore you obviously don't care about your health, how you are going to impact my insurance rates with your fat poor health, how you are destined to die a sad and early death, because if you did care about more than cake and sitting on the couch, you would be skinny. Like me." What I hear when I read those things is "you offend me personally because you don't care that I don't want to look at you when you're fat. I don't like seeing things that aren't attractive to me, so please lose the weight or stay out of my line of sight".

Also, it seems like people who've lost weight for their own valid reason are almost as zealous as AA members or someone who just found religion. It boggles the mind that some of us are not unhappy with our bodies, that we really don't think much about them at all. We have other important things going on in our lives that take precedence. Whether I'm a size 8 or 18 isn't very high on my list of things to worry about.
posted by hollygoheavy at 11:30 AM on July 16 [11 favorites]


But, but, but...how can you not be obsessed with this? We are telling you, missy, that nothing in your life could possibly be as important as the opinions of random strangers you will never see again. Think you're the best judge of your own body, its level of health, and what it needs? Think again, o foolish woman.
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:58 AM on July 16 [10 favorites]


I'm sure all of the "just concerned about women's health" folks are spending equal time somewhere being just as vocal about their concern about the effects of smoking, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, reckless driving, unsafe sex, living in disease belts or areas of high environmental contamination, and having a family history of congenital diseases.

If only obesity was treated like half of that list. A Big Mac would cost $37 because of the sin taxes, candy bars wouldn't have labels giving way to giant warnings about diabetes, and possession of artificial trans fats would be a felony.
posted by Talez at 1:05 PM on July 16


If only obesity was treated like half of that list.

You mean, if only people focused their efforts on systematic interventions aimed at industry rather than bleating "but diabeetus" at strangers on the internet? Yeah, that's an idea.
posted by kagredon at 1:12 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


I am absolutely certain that if the article was about a proud chainsmoker, the thread would be filled with condemnation.

Those rare discussions don't get off the ground, because the moment they start the chainsmokers GET FUCKING ANGRY, the same way they do if you ask them to put their cigarette out in a no-smoking area in real life. Nobody else puts up with, or is expected to put up with, this level of body-policing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:17 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Actually, another data point is down the front page a little, in the Constantine thread, where a fair number of people expressed disappointment about TV network shyness at portraying chain smoking.
posted by kagredon at 1:21 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


As a woman who has been obsessed to a literally life-threatening level with her weight and her body and with other people's (i.e. men's) perception of both for as long as I can remember, and who is personally nowhere near a place of body self-acceptance (yet), and who despite this still considers herself a feminist, this thread and this article are both inspiring and devastating.

Inspiring, because voices like Kameron Hurley's, and DrMew's, and dejah420's, and many others in this thread exist and are becoming more audible.

Devastating, because I know that too many young women will not be exposed to these voices until the damage is already done, and that too many women will, like me, continue to do the exhausting and self-harmful dance of fighting tirelessly against a culture that demands this vicious and pernicious gendered body shaming towards others while simultaneously perpetuating that culture within their own skin.

I can. not. WAIT until the day that I become able to speak with a voice like Hurley's, and am able to claim space as confidently as she does. Until then, I'm grateful to be part of a feminist community that is patient towards and accepting of people at every point along the body-self-acceptance spectrum.
posted by Dorinda at 1:29 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


A Big Mac would cost $37 because of the sin taxes, candy bars wouldn't have labels giving way to giant warnings about diabetes, and possession of artificial trans fats would be a felony.

Can we please stop with this nonsense idea that if someone is fat, they must obviously eat Big Macs and candy and lard by the fistful? Seriously.
posted by palomar at 2:17 PM on July 16 [16 favorites]


From a poster in my beloved former shrink's office: "Eat right. Exercise daily. Die anyway."
posted by GrammarMoses at 2:33 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


A very dear old friend of mine was telling me how concerned he was that his 9-year-old niece worries about getting fat. While telling me how upset he was about that, he pauses to assure me that I "look fine." He was drunk at the time, so I didn't bother getting into how he had just demonstrated what the big problem is . . . .
posted by JanetLand at 3:57 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I've been a fat man for 40 years, since I was a teenager. Let's not kid ourselves about male privilege giving us immunity from rude remarks shouted out in public, well-meaning but inappropriate and useless advice from family, friends and strangers in any conceivable situation, astonishing ignorance from (some) medical professionals, and yes, obvious discrimination in the workplace. I can well believe it's worse for women, but it happens to men. It's happened to me, all of it.
posted by in278s at 9:04 AM on July 17


Nobody has said that it doesn't happen to men.
posted by palomar at 9:29 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Can we please stop with this nonsense idea that if someone is fat, they must obviously eat Big Macs and candy and lard by the fistful?

Even if it's true, it doesn't really matter because if someone is eating Big Macs to the point where it causes extreme obesity, there are other problems to solve besides the obesity.

I lived in a dormitory with a morbidly obese woman - I'm guessing about 350 lbs and 5'4". Anyway, occasionally I'd go to the dorm cafeteria with her, and she'd invariably eat something like a plate of bacon smothered in nacho cheese and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert (I mean this completely literally, without exaggeration).

She wasn't dumb, she must have known that wasn't good for her and that it would lead to gaining more weight. But the real problem was that she was horribly, suicidally depressed. All kinds of bad things had happened to her, from garden-variety teasing to violent sexual assault. If those things happened to me? I don't have the stomach for huge plates of bacon, but I might start drinking heavily.

At the time, I was judgmental (although I never ever said anything to her), but I've come to realize that she was dealing with far worse problems than ice cream and Big Macs. If she woke up and was 130 lbs, none of that other stuff would magically go away.

I think most people would feel better in the long term if they ate healthy and exercised, whether they lost weight or not, and I'm absolutely in favor of encouraging healthy habits in kids. But... I think a lot of this "just don't eat Big Macs!" is missing the point that some (many?) people eat junk because it's GOOD. It's comforting. When I've had a bad day, I grab McDonald's on my way home and eat cookies for dessert. It's only an accident of genetics that this hasn't made me gain weight.

If someone is fat and happy? I'm at best happy for them and at worst I don't care. But if they're fat and unhappy about it, or fat because they're unhappy, there are healthier ways to deal with stress than overeating, and I hope they are able to incorporate those into their lives. But it's ultimately something they have to figure out and implement. In every single AskMe about "my sister/coworker/friend is an alcoholic!" the responses are overwhelmingly "there is nothing you can do unless they want help, lecturing them isn't going to make a difference." The same concept applies here.
posted by desjardins at 9:34 AM on July 17 [11 favorites]


Nobody has said that it doesn't happen to men.

It happens, but apparently it's not relevant:

Because now that I'm living my male reality, I get the male privilege of weight being considered of minor relevance to my life.

I'm just saying, if we're generalizing from one person's experience, mine ought to count for something.
posted by in278s at 9:58 AM on July 17


Let me add this. When people say "Fat is a feminist issue" I take that to mean that fat women go through something that's different in kind, not just in degree, from what happens to fat men. But when I read what Kameron Hurley writes here, or when I listen to the testimony of other fat women, I'm hearing about things I know from my own life.
posted by in278s at 1:02 PM on July 17




I feel like saying "but fat men have it bad too!" is somewhat akin to walking into a discussion about racial discrimination and saying that sometimes people are mean to you, and you're white, so you get what it's like to be a victim of racism.
posted by palomar at 1:48 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


palomar, what you're saying is that I don't get what it's like to be a victim of fat shaming. How dare you.
posted by in278s at 2:19 PM on July 17


Nope, not what I'm saying at all.
posted by palomar at 2:29 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


It is possible to be discriminated against as an individual, but to not be a victim of systemic institutionalized discrimination. I am saying that that is what is happening to you.
posted by palomar at 2:30 PM on July 17


Eh, I'd split the difference here: men are victims of systematic fat-shaming as well, but women get a kind of amplified version, because of the coexisting perception that all women's bodies are available for public discussion.
posted by kagredon at 2:35 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I think this blog post does a good job explaining the difference in how fat-shaming affects males and females differently.

The key phrase for me is "fat men receive privilege because they are men, and that sometimes this privilege will stop the fat stigma from getting in the way of what they want to do." Whether that constitutes a difference in degree or kind is kind of irrelevant, because however it manifests itself, a woman and a man of the same weight (relative to the normal weight for their height/gender) are going to have vastly-different experiences, with the woman having a significantly harder time. Being pedantic about whether it's a difference in degree or one in kind seems like a strange hill to die on.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:39 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Okay, I guess I need to mention that I have weighed as much as 440 pounds. I can believe that women are judged to be fat at much lower "over normal/ideal weight" percentages than men. What I'm telling you is that I am a man who is fat enough to be a target of discrimination, and that based on the reports of fat women, the behavior of those who discriminate is pretty much the same in my case as in theirs. I can't look into their hearts and minds and somehow discern that they are discriminating against me as an individual and not as a fat person. I don't know how a nasty comment yelled out of a car window is or is not systematic or institutionalized.

If I were a less heavy fat man, I'd have it easier than my just-as-fat female counterpart. But I'm not, so male privilege does not benefit me in that way.
posted by in278s at 2:49 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu, thanks for the link. I agree it's a good explanation.
posted by in278s at 3:17 PM on July 17


palomar, if what is happening to me is discrimination against me as an individual, would you say that there is no systemic institutionalized discrimination against fat persons who are not women?
posted by in278s at 3:19 PM on July 17


Sure there is, but I'd say the shittiest part of it is aimed at women, and all the links I provided earlier back up that assertion. If you can find something that proves me factually wrong, great! But I think that's going to be difficult.
posted by palomar at 4:12 PM on July 17


Here is an example of what I mean: the first link I provided is to a NYTimes article about a study done at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale. That study shows that women face weight bias when they reach a BMI of 27, whereas that same bias doesn't kick in for men until they hit a BMI of 35. That's just one example. Check out the links I posted for even more.
posted by palomar at 4:22 PM on July 17


Sure there is, but I'd say the shittiest part of it is aimed at women, and all the links I provided earlier back up that assertion. If you can find something that proves me factually wrong, great! But I think that's going to be difficult.

If I've said something that gives you the idea that I disagree with the assertion that women get the worst of weight bias, please point it out. I think I've said exactly the opposite. I agree that women have it worse than men on this issue.

Here is an example of what I mean: the first link I provided is to a NYTimes article about a study done at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale. That study shows that women face weight bias when they reach a BMI of 27, whereas that same bias doesn't kick in for men until they hit a BMI of 35.

Yes, I read that, and you may have seen that in this very thread I said: I can believe that women are judged to be fat at much lower "over normal/ideal weight" percentages than men.

Now I see why you think I'm like the white guy who says he understands racism. I thought discrimination against fat people was like racism, but no. The problem is classifying people as fat who are not really fat enough to be properly discriminated against. My BMI is high enough that I'm just getting what I deserve.
posted by in278s at 4:57 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Also, we have talked about two types of discrimination. We'll define Type A as being "discriminated against as an individual" while Type B is "systemic institutionalized discrimination". You say that what I have experienced is Type A. You also say that there is such a thing as Type B discrimination against fat persons who are not women. What kind of discrimination would I have to have experienced to identify it as Type B?
posted by in278s at 5:02 PM on July 17


Eh, I'd split the difference here: men are victims of systematic fat-shaming as well, but women get a kind of amplified version, because of the coexisting perception that all women's bodies are available for public discussion.

Agreed. Women, at any size, are targeted for remarks about their bodies in a way that rarely happens to men.
posted by in278s at 5:16 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


My BMI is high enough that I'm just getting what I deserve.

I am not saying this in any way, so hopefully you're not trying to suggest that I am. And with that, I'm done here.
posted by palomar at 5:18 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


No, I am not trying to suggest that you're saying that, but if you needed an exit strategy I'm happy to be of service.
posted by in278s at 5:38 PM on July 17


That's something I've noticed in media, a man with a high BMI and a woman with a much lower BMI is pretty common, while the reverse is very rare. The fat shaming that happens to men tends to be health and lifestyle shaming, not as tightly linked to romance/sex. Like a fat man can be expected to 'compensate' with wealth or personality but a fat woman has morally failed for being a sexual or romantic partner. There's a huge overlap, and fat shaming is toxic - plenty of room at the table for fat men too!
posted by viggorlijah at 5:38 PM on July 17 [8 favorites]


Room at the table, but don't try to stick me in one of those damned booths.
posted by in278s at 5:40 PM on July 17



No, I am not trying to suggest that you're saying that, but if you needed an exit strategy I'm happy to be of service.


Well, I sure do hate to let such a snotty retort go to waste.

You asked what I would consider "Type B" discrimination against non-female fat people. If a man visits his doctor for treatment of symptoms of strep throat, and the doctor suggests weight loss as treatment for that issue, that would fit. If that same man needed surgery to replace a knee joint and was denied due to weight, that would also fit. If that man were denied government services that he were fully entitled to, and that denial was based on his weight, that would fit. If a male child were denied the ability to attend the annual BSA Jamboree because of a high BMI, that would fit.

I do not believe, however, that men are in any way subjected to the silencing that fat women are subjected to. And that's the subject of this FPP. If you want to talk about how fat men are systemically abused by the system, make a post about it.
posted by palomar at 6:31 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Oh, excuse me. The Jamboree is every four years, not annual.
posted by palomar at 6:37 PM on July 17


palomar, thanks for your reply. This FPP is entitled "we’re not used to seeing fat people represented positively in media" so I did not see its subject as entirely excluding fat men.
posted by in278s at 6:57 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Certainly didn't see Hurley as excluding fat men, but she was speaking from her own lived experiences as a fat woman and of course as always men can get away with things that women are attacked for, including being fat.

As a fat bloke myself I may see myself mocked in tv sitcoms, but I get rarely hassled on the streets.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:18 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


If being thin didn't matter more than being healthy, I wouldn't get people lecturing me on how I should go off the medications that make me gain weight because they make me gain weight.

Even after I tell them the medications keep me alive.

So many people say it with straight faces, too. They sincerely mean that I would be better off dead than fat. I have pursued this line of questioning. I have asked this question of people who say this shit, I ask every time actually because I find it just morbidly fascinating that they keep plowing along in their self-righteous "concern", and apparently the problem is that I am not making enough of an effort to go off the medications that keep me alive.

"That would kill me," I say.

"Well, you should TRY," they say.

"That would kill me," I say.

And then they are angry, apparently because I refuse to risk death for the cause of maybe being more visually appealing to strangers.

I really don't like having this conversation. I don't. It really sucks to find out this kind of stuff about people you thought had a chance of being decent to you. But I have it several times a year every year and it would be very very very nice if my size could stop being a measure of my worthlessness as a human being and I could stop having these conversations about whether my fat life is worth more than an AT LEAST YOU TRIED sticker on my gravestone. It really ruins my day.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:02 PM on July 20 [17 favorites]


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