Palpable emotions in 140 characters or less:
- I say I am fat to own it, w/o shame & to destigmatize a word that has been turned into an undeserved insult
- it takes a certain kind of defensive readiness to be fat in the world and not personalize all that hate. Very difficult.
These tweets were from a young woman who I met on-line Saturday. I was disturbed by them. The insult part. The hate part. The pain and concepts behind them have been on my mind ever since. What causes people to be cruel to other human beings simply because they’re fat?
I’ve written previously about the word FAT, in a post entitled Is It Insulting To Call Someone Fat? What About Old? but I didn’t address or ruminate on the cruelty aspect. Although stating the obvious, I think it needs to be said: fat people, thin people, skinny-anorexic people, morbidly obese people and all the people along the weight continuum are human beings with human emotions. Everyone gets hurt, scared, anxious, frustrated, stressed, joyful and happy.
All the people along the weight continuum were conceived when sperm connected to egg, were carried in their mother’s womb and birthed into the world. So why are some people mean and nasty to fat people simply because they’re fat? It’s not right. Period. Then again, it’s not right for people to be mean and nasty to anyone, but I’ll stick to the subject of meanness to fat women, men, girls and boys.
Kate Harding (written about in the May 6 post) blogs and authored two books about fat acceptance. Since she’s smart and knows much more than I do about the subject of weight, I’m going to quote her. Her information is eye-opening. It doesn’t fit with what most people presently believe, making it hard to accept and consider. But it doesn’t mean it’s not correct.
Fat acceptance, as you can probably guess from the words “fat” and “acceptance” being right together like that, does not go over so well in some circles. Even in some progressive circles — which are usually known for not hating entire groups of people because of their appearances, not thinking what other people do with their bodies is anybody’s beeswax, and not uncritically accepting whatever moral panic the media tries to whip up. Fat is different! Don’t you know there’s an obesity epidemic? Don’t you know that fat kills? Haven’t you ever heard of Type 2 diabetes? Don’t you realize how much money this is going to cost society down the line? Won’t someone please think of the children?
So, before I start getting comments like that, I want to lay out ten principles that underlie pretty much everything I write about fat and health.
1. Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even diabetes. Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get fat for our health (which we wouldn’t be able to do anyway, because no one knows how to make a naturally thin person fat any more than they know how to make a naturally fat person thin; see point 4), but I’m definitely saying obesity research is turning up surprising information all the time — much of which goes ignored by the media — and people who give a damn about critical thinking would be foolish to accept the party line on fat. Just because you’ve heard over and over and over that fat! kills! doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that people in this culture really love saying it.
2. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes. This is why it’s so crucial to separate the concept of “obesity” from “eating crap and not exercising.” The two are simply not synonymous — not even close — and it’s not only incredibly offensive but dangerous for thin people to keep pretending that they are. There are thin people who eat crap and don’t exercise — and are thus putting their health at risk — and there are fat people who treat their bodies very well but remain fat. Really truly.
3. What’s more, those groups do not represent anomalies; no one has proven that fat people generally eat more or exercise less than thin people. Period. And believe me, they’ve tried. (Gina Kolata’s new book, Rethinking Thin, is an outstanding source for more on that point.)
4. Diets don’t work. No, really, not even if you don’t call them diets. If you want to tell me about how YOUR diet totally worked, do me a favor and wait until you’ve kept all the weight off for five years. Not one year, not four years, five years. And if you’ve kept it off for that long, congratulations. You’re literally a freak of nature.
5. Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how would you propose we solve it?
6. Most fat people have already dieted repeatedly. And sadly, it’s likely that the dieting will cause them more health problems than the fat.
7. Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings. [emphasis added by me, Cherry]
8. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. [just another emphasis-add because this is how I want people to treat each other and how I want to treat people and live my life, Cherry]
9. In any case, shaming the fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You cannot hate people for their own good.”
10. If you scratch an article on the obesity! crisis! you will almost always find a press release from a company that’s developing a weight loss drug — or from a “research group” that’s funded by such companies.
Kate wrote this post a few years ago as an informational and personal response to commenters who told her fat people are disgusting and unhealthy, which is why my Twitter friend talked about “defensive readiness” when you’re fat. I think those type of comments are disgusting and unhealthy for the world.
By being kind and respectful and treating all people with dignity we will each be the butterfly that starts a tsunami of peaceful change around the world.
What kind of butterfly to you want to be?