I’m back from my trip to Los Angeles, it was amazing. I got to meet a new friend (Hi Julianne!) I also got to spend time with the awesome Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick and if you don’t know her you should totally check her out!) I walked on the beach and played in the water. I now have some pretty severe beach envy.
I spent an afternoon with the always fun Darryl Roberts finishing up the filming for my part in his new movie – America the Beautiful II – The Thin Commandments. As part of that we climbed the famous Santa Monica Stairs. This was made extra interesting because I was wearing a dress and some slip on shoes. (This isn’t me in the picture, as soon as I have a picture I’ll be posting it):
I am a huge fan of Darryl’s work and I’m super excited about this film and the number of people who are going to be exposed to the idea of Health at Every Size because of it.
The trip was topped off by a talk at USC for their Love Your Body Week which was great fun and made me even more excited about the possibility of a Dances with Fat World Tour!
Now to the meat of the topic today. One question that came up a bunch of times this weekend was “But wouldn’t your life be easier if you were thin?”
First, I really reject this question on it’s face. There are a lot of things that might make my life easier – if I were taller some things would be easier (reaching stuff) but some things would be more difficult (standing up on a plane). There are plenty of ways that I could change that would make my life easier but that doesn’t mean I should make those changes. They may or may not be possible, easier doesn’t necessarily mean better, and there are typically trade-offs. For example, there is a freedom that comes from living completely outside the cultural beauty norm that I really enjoy.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the answer is “yes” – that my life would be easier if I did not have to live under the constant stigma that comes from not conforming (or trying to conform) to the social stereotype of beauty. This is still highly problematic:
First, even if being thin would make my life easier, nobody has any proven method to get it done. Currently the best that science can offer me is a 5% chance for success and a 95% chance of failure including ending up heavier and less healthy than when I started. I’m going to pass on that.
But it goes beyond that for me. Even if it was proven possible, the cure for social stigma is NOT for the stigmatized group to change and gain provisional acceptance. To me respect for all sizes is absolutely a civil rights issue. As a fat woman there are two layers to this. The first is my realization that I’m never going to be thin. I don’t believe that’s a choice for me – just a matter of facing reality. The second is the decision to stop trying to be thin. That is a choice and a difficult one because it takes me out of the “Good Fatty” category (people who are trying to be thin and therefore get some modicum of approval from the stigmatizing group), and puts me firmly in the “Bad Fatty” category- someone who opts out of the diet culture completely and so is subjected to the full vitriol of the stigmatizing group. So although my life might be easier if I were thin, or if I were at least seen as trying to be thin, I’m not interested.
Because where does it end? If someone else gets to tell me what my body should look like, what else do they get to decide for me? What other power do I have to give away? I got a fortune in a cookie once that said “The person who trims themself to suit everyone soon whittles away to nothing.” I think that if I want social change (and I do) then the first step is to stand up and say
No. I won’t do what you want me to do just to gain your begrudging, conditional respect and humane treatment, that I will only enjoy until you want me to change myself again to suit you. I will demand my civil rights now, as I am, and if you don’t give them to me then I will fight for them.
And you don’t want to mess with me because I can climb a whole bunch of stairs in a dress.