I see a lot of weight loss schemes sold based on the idea that life will be “easier” when you’re thin. It’s a common question that I get asked when I’m talking about fat civil rights activism and demanding respect – “But wouldn’t your life be easier if you were thin?”
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 in various situations that would make my life “easier” based on people’s social expectations, religious beliefs, stereotypes etc. but that doesn’t mean I should make those changes.
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 (or attempt to change) in order to gain acceptance. I do not believe that the solution to bullying is to give the bully my lunch money and hope they stop beating me up. I think that the evidence is pretty clear that, in the absence of some pretty drastic circumstances, I’m not going to be thin. I don’t think that’s a choice.
But that’s not what it’s about – it’s 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 get some modicum of approval from the stigmatizing group because they are ‘trying” to do what the group says they should), and puts me firmly in the “Bad Fatty” category- someone who opts out of the diet culture and so is subjected to the full vitriol of the stigmatizing group. (It’s important to understand that the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy is never the fault of the fat people involved – it’s a function of the people who stigmatize us and it needs to die. )
So, though 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 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.
No, I won’t do what they want me to do just to gain begrudging, conditional respect and humane treatment that I will only enjoy until they want me to change myself again to suit them. I will demand my civil rights now, as I am, and I will fight for them if I have to. They need to back off my fat body, if they want a war on obesity, I will give them one.
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