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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24 thoughts on “Would Life Be Easier Thin?”
you know what, Ragen? You don’t just think “outside the box” you think —and perfectly articulate—thoughts & concepts like there is NO BOX!
Truly a genius. Thank you. —-Jen
I love you and this blog so much. Thank you for fighting for the oppressed and giving me back my self-esteem. Keep fighting the good fight! I’ll do the same! I support you!
Yes, yes and yes! If being thin were possible for me, the last twenty one years of dieting would’ve worked.
Been a reader for quite a while though I seldom post comments. I just wanted to thank you for this blog and the affirmation that it is okay to be who we are. Your blog gives me my daily dose of its okay to be me just as I am.
It’s always a kick in the head for me that so many people refuse to acknowledge that no one has ever figured out a way to make people permanently thin. Even people who have yo-yo dieted all of their lives are convinced it’s just their personal failure. Amazing. You are absolutely right that life wouldn’t be easier if we were thin, because there will always be something else we’re failing to achieve. Otherwise, where would those billions of dollars go that we spend every year because we’ve been taught to hate our bodies, our faces, our hair, our everything?
I think at the end of each day, I still hold onto this same thought. There wouldn’t be so many struggles for me. I could start looking in the mirror again (haven’t been able to for about 6 months now). My options would be so much more vast. Clothes would be cheaper. There always seems to be a wall that I slam against and can sometimes see through where there’s a huge group of people having access to wonderful parts of life that will always be closed to me.
But at 42, I know enough of the world that you exchange one set of problems for another, and nothing is EVER as it seems. Took me a long time to let that trickle into my mind and heart. Because I know there are people who look at my life and envy it…which makes me laugh incredulously.
Nothing is EVER as it seems.
*hugs* Yorkie. *hugs*
Telling me my life would be easier if I would just stop being so damn fat is about as useful as telling a very good friend of mine that her life would be easier if she would just stop being so damn black.
Oh, and we have both been told that we should stop being so damn left-handed.
Guess what? Never. Gonna. Happen.
Even if it could be done, why should it? I am fat. My friend is black. We are both southpaws. And we are freaking amazing ladies.
Why would we deny the world our awesome?
I don’t think I could measure my disappointment should I be denied reading what you have to say. I feel very privileged for my little peek at your awesome!
You are AWESOME. Thank you for this. Thank you for standing up for yourself so that we may do the same. And hey, life wouldn’t be easier being “thin” because then what kind of boring blog would you be able to have in comparison to this?? Yeah.
Life might also become easier if one won the lottery.
Would my life be easier if I weren’t bombarded daily with messages about how people who don’t look like me believe I should shapeshift into them or die? Yes.
So stop bombarding me with those messages.
^Stop bombarding me with those messages, SOCIETY, that should read.
Today’s blog entry, as well as your comment, reminds me of the heartache suffered by a friend who came out to her mother. Her mother made my friend’s life a living hell. The explanation? She did not want to “support” her daughter by “encouraging” her to CHOOSE a life that would be so very difficult “because people can be very hurtful and her life would be very hard”. The irony seemed to escape her.
Yes, if fat people would stop being fat, disabled people would stop being disabled, black people stop being black, LGBT people stop being LGBT etc etc I’m sure we would all be much happier.
Because acceptance is just SO impossible.
But, but… they tell me I’m disabled *because* I’m fat! If I would just stop being fat it would fix everything 🙂
And maybe my life would be easier if I wasn’t trans and queer. Good grief. You really hit it with, “[T]he cure for social stigma is NOT for the stigmatized group to change (or attempt to change) in order to gain acceptance.”
Life would be easier if we were simply allowed to live without stigma!
Ragen, this is ONE, among many, of your ‘best ever’ blogs! It really resonated with me and I especially love the poster you included with Mahatma Gandhi! AWESOME, as is the ‘cookie fortune’ you included. You view of ‘happy’ is so simple, so true and so easy . . . it will never become accepted . . . because what would all those who believe they CAN and SHOULD be in charge of another person’s life choices do? Thank you for your consistency and willingness to be at ‘the head of the parade’!!!
“because what would all those who believe they CAN and SHOULD be in charge of another person’s life choices do?”
Added to my collection of quotes!
This has always enraged me about interfering parents. First, they believe they have the right to live their own lives AND the lives of their children . In addition, such parents are willing to insist that their children make wrong choices for which only the children will pay the price.
One of my favorite podcasters said it best: Changing from one person with one set of problems, into another person with a different set of problems isn’t the answer. This was said in the context of efforts to change sexual orientation, and I think this applies to efforts to change body size as well.
I have often said, sure being thin would make my life easier in some ways. But “easier” doesn’t necessarily equal “happier” or “better,” and that is what I think most people fail to realize.
Beyond that, as you so eloquently stated, it’s pretty much pointless to obsess over this since there’s no way to make me thin. I’ve dieted the fuck out of dieting and never had any long term success. In fact, all I got for my years of dieting was an eating disorder and fatter.
So would my life be easier if I were thin(ner)? Maybe. But that’s not going to happen… so I made the choice to stop buying into the “you should aim to be thin” notion, and worked with an eating disorder therapist to treat the illness I earned for all my hard work dieting.
And since then? Well… my life is FAR easier because I’ve stopped trying to force my body to be what it won’t be. Since thin(ner) isn’t possible for me, being not among that tiny 5% minority, I’ll take this version of easier, which I also happen to know DOES equal happier, instead.
My problem with this is my health problems have nothing to do with being thin, so even at a lower weight (since my bones won’t let me be that “thin” either) I still would not have a better time or it. A lower weight isn’t going to fix my allergies or undo the curve in my spine. I am all too aware of the fact that weight loss is not a magic cure all so I will not harm myself in the pursuit of it no matter what the doctors want.
If I were thin, my knees would still ache every waking second, because Osgood-Schlatters has nothing to do with fat.
If I were thin, my left ankle would still swell every day, because soft-tissue damage as a result of referred stress of sciatica of pregnancy (because apparently only getting it on one side is worse than bilaterally?!) has nothing to do with fat.
If I were thin, I would still have bad skin. I don’t have bad skin because I eat fatty fat fatty fat fat bad foods. I have bad skin because even doctor-prescribed hypoallergenic cleansers make me break out.
If I were thin, I would still be in my forties.
But it would be nice to buy off the rack without having to hunt for anything, to buy from the catalog without having to cross my fingers, to dread only the pain in my knees from being jammed into coach rather than in my knees and in my hyper-compressed butt and hips.
Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
Would my life be easier if I were thin? Absolutely. Then I would become invisible. Of course life would be easier if only everyone looked just like Number 12: a dainty, pretty, eternally young white girl.
The most important point made in this post is that giving in to the bullies in order to get them to stop bullying is not the answer.