I was watching America’s Got Talent (yup, I totally watched it) and there was a very young girl who did Aerial Silk dancing. She was incredible and had she been older everyone’s eyes would have been locked on her, but all the judges spent their time cringing and looking away – their perception being that as a little girl she was going to fall and get hurt. They missed out on her talent because of their preconceptions.
This caught my attention because I had just been featured in a fat hate forum where they showed my dance videos, pilates videos and pictures. They took the heel pull picture that you see on the left and put it beside a thin person doing a similar move – they claimed that because we looked different mine was wrong. They said that I lumbered and waddled and that I lacked grace, which is interesting because the most common compliment I receive is about how graceful I am.
I see this often when fat people post videos of ourselves being athletic. Even in the face of actual evidence of fathleticism, people deny it’s existence.
In some cases these people are just jackasses who enjoy bashing fat people. But for others I think that people are trained to see fat bodies as awkward, graceless, waddling etc. This image is so constantly repeated that I think people aren’t aware that they are operating from stereotype, rather than what they are actually seeing.
It doesn’t help that almost every person we see represented in the media being athletic, dancing, really in any kind of positive light, is thin. When we are spoon-fed a stereotype day after day it’s not surprising that it’s what we spit back up.
Fat people can be vulnerable to this mistake as well. We almost never see a body like ours shown in a positive light, shown dancing or being athletic, and so when we see our fat body doing stuff, it looks “wrong”. It’s an insidious form of internalized oppression that becomes a cycle because anytime a fat person dares to succeed at something (other than weight loss) we get accused of “promoting obesity” and anyone who dares to show us succeeding is called “irresponsible.”
So if you are looking for a way to fight back in the war on obesity, one thing you can do is just live. Commit public displays of fatness, be yourself and do what you want in the body that you have now. Refuse to apologize for your body’s size or shape – ever. Live your life based on your talents, ignore other’s perceptions. Be you, change the world.
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