I was with some friends talking about how society can tend to assume that everything that goes wrong in fat people’s lives is because we’re fat. Single? It’s because you’re fat. Haven’t run a 5k yet? It’s because you’re fat. Stub your toe? Blame your body size. A friend of mine was telling me that she was in an appointment with her therapist when she had the realization that everything that had gone wrong in her life was not because of her fat – when her therapist told her that thin people sit on her couch with the exact same issues.
Let’s be clear – fat people are stigmatized, bullied, oppressed and discriminated against in our society and that has very real consequences. But those consequences are not because we’re fat, it’s because people stigmatize, bully, oppress and discriminate against us – the problem is with them, not our bodies. That’s why it’s crucial that we be clear that when someone suggests that we try to lose weight so that we can be treated better, they are working on the wrong end of the problem. It is suggesting that we keep giving the bully whatever he asks for and hope he stops beating us up which is not a reasonable request. The cure for social stigma is not weight loss. The cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.
It also means that we have the option to reject the societal idea that everything bad that happens to us is because of our fat. There are a lot of situations where this really hurts us. One is that people pursue weight loss with the belief that everything in their life will be better when they are thin – ignoring the fact that there are thin women who are single with knee problems. Speaking of knee problems – this tendency bleeds into our healthcare. I’ve happened to have had the same knee issues at two very different sizes and I got two very different treatment experiences. When I was smaller I was asked very specific questions about the pain – when it started, where it was located exactly, and what type of pain it was. The asked about my activity, how I injured it etc. I got 4 treatment options from physical therapy to surgery and a referral to a specialist.
When I had the exact same issue but was fat, the doctor asked why I was there and I said knee pain. He didn’t palpate my knee or ask any questions. He turned around and left the room without saying a word. Ten minutes later a nurse came in with a piece of paper with a list that said “forbidden foods” (had they bothered to ask they would have known that I had recovered from an eating disorder, making this dangerous for me) and an exercise plan for taking 10 minute walks (at the time I was dancing and working out over 20 hours a week.)
We can insist that people start recognizing the stigma, shaming, oppression and discrimination that fat people face, acknowledge that being constantly treated poorly by every facet of society affects fat people negatively, and work on ending that stigma and oppression- never asking fat people to change ourselves. We can also insist that people stop having the knee-jerk reaction of blaming things on our body size, especially since those things happen to people of every size.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (purchasing these also helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
The Dance Class DVDs: Fun classes for all levels! Click here for the details
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year. If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.