Gabourey Sidibe’s Internet Doctors

Haters Walk on WaterGabourey Sidibe recently gave a beautiful speech on confidence:

“I hate that [being asked about the source of her confidence] I always wonder if that’s the first thing they ask Rihanna when they meet her. ‘RiRi! How are you so confident?’ Nope. No. No. But me? They ask me with that same incredulous disbelief every single time. ‘You seem so confident! How is that?'”

“Gabourey, how are you so confident?” It’s not easy. It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight. There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that picture of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” Twitter will blow up with nasty comments about how the recent earthquake was caused by me running to a hot dog cart or something. And “Diet or Die?” [She gives the finger to that] This is what I deal with every time I put on a dress. This is what I deal with every time someone takes a picture of me. Sometimes when I’m being interviewed by a fashion reporter, I can see it in her eyes, “How is she getting away with this? Why is she so confident? How does she deal with that body? Oh my God, I’m going to catch fat!”

How are you so confident?” “I’m an asshole!” Okay? It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time. And my mother and my father love me. They wanted the best life for me, and they didn’t know how to verbalize it. And I get it. I really do. They were better parents to me than they had themselves. I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. [Dabs tears] If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable. [Dabs tears] So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: how could someone like me be confident? Go ask Rihanna, asshole!

In addition to desperately wanting a “Go ask Rihanna, asshole” t-shirt, I cried and cheered when I read the speech.  I’m also struck at how much this shouldn’t have happened.  She shouldn’t have had to learn skills as a response to stigma, bullying and oppression.  I’m happy that she made the best of a bad situation but let’s make sure that we call bullshit on anyone who is suggesting that the confident, talented, fat woman ends justify the bullying means.

Discussions about how difficult it must be to live in a fat body are often really about talking about how difficult it is to live in a world where you are subjected to tons of stigma, bullying and oppression because you live in a fat body.  I’ve certainly suffered because I’m obese, but not because of my obesity.

Then I made the greatest of all internet mistakes – I read the comments (feel free to skip the indented parts to save your rage points)

She doesn’t have to lose a truckload. I just want her to take care of herself physically as well as she does emotionally. ~Shannon N

Gabby I can admire you for having the ability to have self-confidence about who you are but from someone who has had a weight problem please try to get some of that weight off. ~Adrienne

At such a young age age, this girls life expectancy I threatened by high bloodpressure,stroke,diabetes,and heart disease. She needs help. ~Scot Solomon

This is textbook concern trolling. The idea that a fat person needs medical advice from random strangers no matter how non sequitur a discussion of our health might be, or how unqualified the commenter is to give such advice. It doesn’t matter what the fat person is talking about, or what they’ve accomplished to get in the news, random people will feel the need to dole out health judgment and advice in the comments.  I don’t know how I’ve not become desensitized, but I’m still shocked at the over-exaggerated sense of self-importance that could lead to someone typing these things.  Or the unmitigated prejudice that allows people to believe that they they can look at somebody’s body size and know how much they “take care of themselves.”   I think that these people are running on prejudice over facts but even if they were right, Gabourey Sidibe is in the news for giving an amazing speech, why does that make strangers think that they should chime in about her health?

It seems that fat people aren’t allowed to succeed at anything, except weight loss, without being concern trolled about our health.  Sadly we can’t stop the bullshit fairy from posting in every comment section, but we can see this for what it is – Pure unadulterated bullshit.  I don’t think for a minute that this is about our health – I think it’s about people wanting to feel powerful and using fat people to do that.  To paraphrase Marilyn Wann, the only thing you can tell from someone’s body size is what size they are and what preconceived notions, stereotypes and prejudice you have about people that size.  Similarly, the only thing that you can tell from a concern trolling comment, is that the commenter is a concern troll.

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25 thoughts on “Gabourey Sidibe’s Internet Doctors

  1. Sign me up for one of those “Go ask Rihanna, asshole” shirts! I so need one.

    As for the concern trolls, I raise my middle fingers daintily on high and invite them all to take a good long twirl.

  2. I would *so* buy one of those “Go ask Rihanna, asshole” t-shirts!

    I loved Gabourey’s speech, and join her in raising a grand middle finger to the concern trolls, or to anyone else who thinks they have some kind of right to comment upon her, your, my, or anyone else’s body!

  3. We just need a shirt that has Gabby’s beautiful face on it. Put the speech on the back and let the folks read away.

    I sense a money-maker for someone with more get up and go than me! But, I’ll buy a his and hers in 3XL.

  4. I think we should do something on Zazzle for this. But I do worry about potentially disrespecting Rhianna for no reason. Rhianna hasn’t done anything except exist as well (and overcome an abusive relationship).

    I love how your first point is exactly what I was thinking when I read the article: why should she have to say any of this in the first place? It’s hard enough being a female, navigating all the potholes and name-calling, on your way to success. But having to defend your body? WTF?

    In my first year of teaching (I taught 7th grade English, and for all of you sucking air through your teeth and going “Ewwwsh…never me!” let me tell you, I would do it again in heartbeat…12 yos are amazing people), we had a talk about this kind of thing. What I eventually told them was this:

    “Lookit…if you’re fat, they’ll tell you to lose weight. If you’re skinny, they’ll tell you to gain some. If you’re ‘just right’, they’ll warn you that you might GET FAT, so watch out. If you’re short, they’ll call you shrimp…tall, and they’ll call you Stretch. If you’re poor, they’ll make fun…rich, they’ll call you snob. Smart, and you’re a nerd…slow, and you’re stupid. Folks, it’s a game you cannot win, so here’s my suggestion: STOP PLAYING. The result is that you feel less than yourself in some way, and truly…you don’t need that. STOP PLAYING.”

  5. Similarly, the only thing that you can tell from a concern trolling comment, is that the commenter is a concern troll.

    Emphasis on the troll part. A troll is a troll is a troll. Concern trolling or hateful trolling, it doesn’t matter because both are trolls, and trolls suck!

  6. I’m glad someone else is calling that “concern” the bullshit that it is. They are self-centered sociopaths who are acquiring ego points about how superior they are. I’m 69 years old, I’ve been insulted and vilified since I was 3 years old. That, the amphetamines (legal) I took from 15-26, and all the horrible diets (since age 5) are what have harmed me the most. I have diabetes II, hypertension, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. All genetic, and slim relatives have those ailments too. Siress Yorkie, your advice to those kids was right on the money.

  7. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    This! This is the answer to “why are you so angry?” I’m not anywhere near as cool as Gabby. I never got to live my dream of being an actress, and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have survived because I would have killed myself trying to be thin using some extreme method. However, over the years, I have very definitely learned to be an asshole. It’s a defense mechanism.
    I am one angry asshole right now. A fat woman is never allowed to just have a good time. She isn’t harming anyone, but people who have never learned common decency see fit to try and make her feel bad about herself.
    So…when they ask us fat bitches why we’re angry?
    She said it right here.
    This is why.
    She put into words what I’ve been trying to say to everyone who’s ever asked me with big wide eyes as if they wonder if I’m going to come at them with a meat cleaver “why are you so angry?”
    Most of the time, I hear my mother’s voice with those words.

  8. “It seems that fat people aren’t allowed to succeed at anything, except weight loss, without being concern trolled about our health. ”

    And of course, if you are famous and successful at losing weight, then you might lose TOO MUCH weight and then the concern trolling about eating disorders begins.

  9. This story made me think of my dear (late) friend Amy. She had a red suit that she absolutely loved. She weighed I think almost 350 at the time. She loved that red suit, and when she wore it she absolutely glowed. There was joy in her face, and she smiled and she laughed. And then, she went ‘home’ to visit her parents and she left right from work. She wore the red suit. Now, Amy was a disappointment to her mother – never to her dad. She’d been a beautiful child who had been very good at ballet, but as she got older she started to gain weight. I think her mother never got over it. She told Amy that she should never wear that red suit, that it made her look like a city taxi with all the doors and windows open. Amy never did wear that suit again. She died about two years later – from a pulmonary embolism. She lost a GREAT deal of weight and was taking birth control pills to regulate her periods. I am positive that they ’caused’ what happened to her. But anyway, a lot of the joy went out of Amy’s life because of her mother’s remark. You reminded me of her, today…she’d want an ‘asshole’ T shirt, if only just to horrify her southern belle mama. Who, of course, hurt her ‘for her own good’.

    1. halfmoon_mollie, thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry about your friend; her story nearly made me cry. But the part about her mother hurting her “for her own good” could have been me talking about my mother, who admitted trying to “shame me” into losing weight. Like your friend’s dad, my dad never did that either, only my mother. I can still remember her screaming at me as I was reading a book (my other great refuge from bullies): “All you ever do is eat and sit and FAT! Eat and sit and FAT!!!” until my dad made her stop.

      I never, ever felt like I was good enough, no matter how smart or talented or accomplished I was – because I was not thin. Everything was about me being thin, and I never really succeeded at being thin. It seemed like for her, having a stupid, ignorant or mean daughter would be preferable to having a fat daughter – anything but that!

      Then I turned 50 and stopped associating with people who wanted to hurt me “for my own good”. My mom had passed away by then, but I’m still not sure the damage she caused will ever heal.

      I love what Gabourey said. I wish there had been a Gabourey around when I was young, and I hope other young women don’t have to endure what Amy and so many other beautiful women endure!

  10. I want to cry after reading “And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.” I want to feel unbreakable, but I have definitely put too much off because of my weight. At least I survived my childhood!

  11. I loved Gabourey Sidibe in American Horror Story… Also she is beautiful and a great ambassador for those who want to be strong and proud of who they are, despite not being what society thinks is perfect. .or good enough. The concern trolls need to hold up a mirror to themselves and keep it there!

  12. *sighs tiredly* I’ll admit that I’ve backed away from blogging and other efforts to continue pushing change forward. I’m tired. The concern trolls and the other kinds of trolls have worn me down. I feel like I’m letting my Fellow Fatties down by backing off for a while. I wish that I could be as amazing as awesome and strong as Gabourey. Right now, though, all I am is tired. I’m tired of having people try to force me into justifying my own existence.

    Keep up the good work, Gabourey. Keep up the good work, Ragen. Everyone else who continues on, keep it up. I hope to be back in there someday. Right now, though, I”m just feeling so very worn out. 😦

    1. Like the thing with the oxygen masks. You have to put on your own mask before you can put on anyone else’s. You take care of you, and when you’re ready, you can get out there again. You think Gabourey Sidebe doesn’t take breaks? Of course she does. And you can, too.

      Take care, Lys! And then, take baby steps. Walk before you run. And now and then, after you’ve run for a while, take it down to a walk again.

  13. **smfh** @ them calling her a “girl”. The fact that she’s a 30 year old grown woman and people think she’s so young means that body that she’s in has been functioning beautifully. That means for 30 whole years she’s been on this Earth without any issues, living in her amazing body. Proof you can’t determine someone health or anything to be honest, just by looking at them. But no matter what she does in her personal life, she still deserves respect and the right to exist without feeling oppressed.

    Concern trolls are basically bigots using health to mask the fact that they just don’t like looking at fat people. These are normally people who don’t even follow the fake concern they try offer themselves about health. I know this for a fact because I can be on a forum and someone makes a post about Gabourey or any plus size celebrity and the thread be met with healthism and anti-fat gibberish, but a few rows down I can see the same people talking about their favorite fast food chain, candy bars and snacks.

    It reminds me of when Taco Bell was trending on Twitter and the main tweets were from thin people, but only fat people are fat because we sit around eating junk food and fast food right? I mean I don’t care about what people consume, but I hate concern trolls masking their fat hatred with healthism talk, knowing good and god darn well they don’t care.

  14. Thanks Ragen, And Gabourey. And Marilyn. Reminding me not to get sucked in to the shitacular that was this week. You girls are fierce and amazing and I am grateful.

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