In the past couple of days I’ve seen the following responses from fat people to fat shaming behavior that they experienced:
“I mean it’s true I’m a big lady, but being big shouldn’t be a reason to treat me like crap.”
“Yes, I had a second piece of pie, but nobody asked him to be my food police.”
“Sure, they weren’t the most fashionable workout clothes but I was focused on my workout, I didn’t ask her to comment on my outfit.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these, and people get to to deal with inappropriate behavior that is directed at them anyway that they want. This is not a criticism, just another option, which is that we don’t apologize for ourselves when the problem is actually someone else’s behavior.
Fat people are constantly told that we are wrong just for existing in fat bodies, it’s not a surprise if we start to internalize that. I think that an incredibly powerful form of fat activism is to not apologize in any way for being fat, for doing things that are considered “bad” because we are fat (like eating, existing outside our homes in non-approved non-slimming clothing, exercising without the blinds closed in our own homes etc.). When people behave inappropriately toward us, we have the option to point out their bad behavior with no apology for our existence in a fat body.
We may not yet be able to convince everyone that shaming, bullying, stigmatizing and oppressing fat people is wrong, but we can be sure of it ourselves and we can vocalize that with authority. When someone says something inappropriate, we can respond with certainty and resist, with conviction, the urge to apologize in any way. There are some options below, you can use these to end conversations or to start them. As always it’s entirely up to you:
“Wow are you out of line.”
“I can’t imagine what would make you think that was an appropriate thing to say.”
“Nobody asked you to be my food police”
“What I eat is absolutely none of your business.”
“If you’re going to treat me that way, then we simply can’t be friends.”
“What I’m wearing is not your concern.”
“Honestly, I’m kind of shocked you would think that was ok to say.”
“[Your behavior] is completely inappropriate.”
Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments. In the meantime try it, and you too may experience the joy of not apologizing.
EDIT: One reader asked how to respond when people say that our body size/health/behavior is their business because it costs them tax dollars. My thoughts on that can be found right here!
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19 thoughts on “The Joy of Not Apologizing”
Love this! The work you do is influential and so needed. I attended your conference and learned so much. Thank you for all you do.
I’ve always favored the Miss Manners approach of drawing oneself up to ones full height, fixing an icy stare at the culprit, and saying: I beg your pardon? in the frostiest tone one can muster.
Even if the Terribly Rude Person doesn’t pick up on your subtle signals, plenty of people around him or her will.
It’s not an apology for existing, it’s not a whine for a pass; it’s a demand for an apology.
And every once in a very blue moon, you actually can get one.
Excellent! Yes, indeed… if you can make someone feel obliged to repeat their crass comment, it usually is the quickest and best way to make them stop and think that maybe that wasn’t such a clever thing to say.
I think I got this from Captain Awkward: “Wow, that was so rude. You must be very embarrassed.”
I’ve seen people recommend that as a response to people asking why they don’t have children. “I can’t believe you thought it was ok to ask that. You must be so embarrassed. Never mind, we’ll forget about it.”
I. LOVE. THIS. Like, LOVE.
The Southern “I can’t believe you just said that!” also works well.
A simple “So I am (alternatively eating, fat, not too well dressed, ugly). And?” (like “What is your point?”) would do the trick, too. Or “Who made it your concern?”
Love the Captain Awkward response.
It’s not appropriate for all situations, but honestly, sometimes there’s nothing quite like simply telling someone to fuck off.
I believe this is often more appropriate than we give it credit for!
Thank you for this post! I have been a bit down these days. Not apologising for being who I am is a lonely state to be in, not to mention frustrating.
Also, standing up for myself knowing the way society treats us (and many other people who don’t fit the mould) takes so much energy. I consider this blog my battery charger 🙂 so thank you so much!
How does one respond when someone says “well it’s my business when obesity is costing 1.9 billion a year in health costs?”
That’s a great question, thanks for asking. I actually blogged about that exact thing here: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/fat-people-and-tax-dollars/
For any of these, I’m fond of, “If you really cared about X, you’d be talking about X, not my appearance.”
If you really cared about the distribution of your taxes, you’d be talking about tax reform, not my appearance.
If you really cared about fitness, you’d be talking about fitness, not my appearance.
If you really cared about health, you’d be talking about health, not my appearance.
If you really cared about food quality, you’d be talking about food quality, not my appearance.
If you really cared about hunger, you’d be talking about hunger, not my appearance.
Because I believe that. If they really cared about any of those problems, they would be talking about *solving those problems,* not scraping to draw meandering lines from those problems to a random group of people they don’t like to justify and excuse their dislike.
I’ve never understood that comment. I pay my own insurance premiums and my own copays and my other medical bills, which frankly, are pretty low because I rarely have any health problems, and I’ve yet to have a health problem that has anything to do with being obese. I don’t get it. Whenever I hear that, I just stare blankly.
Ragen, where to start? I’d like your advice, please.
I am a 26-year-old female, if it matters.
I got told today that I’m a “ticking time bomb” by Mom after I re-affirmed that, yes, I weigh 285 pounds.
I know she loves me unconditionally, but am, at the very least, annoyed with the nagging about my size by both her AND my step-dad. The nagging doesn’t happen too often but often enough to motivate me to post here.
“Wouldn’t you be happier if you were thin?” was another doozy I got the other day.
I said, “Yes, I would — if being skinny would cure my depression, social anxiety, et cetera.”
I type in this category because I refuse to apologize for being fat — or am slowly learning not to, at least!
I will readily admit that I don’t exercise and have a love of junk food. I also live at home, and am unemployed, so, since they (mom and step-dad) buy the food, they feel they have the right to tell me what to eat, and how much.
Today I was bribed with an apartment that would be payed for on time for a few months if I lost 35 pounds. I can’t even…
Don’t get me wrong — I have a stellar mother who has always been there for me and continues to allow me to live at home whilst I look for work.
I’m just so annoyed that I finally decided to comment here after lurking for a bit.
My step-dad said that she’s “terrified” that she’ll “bury you before she passes” or something similar. I’m also a “bad example” for my younger minor siblings.
He also asked, “Who’s gonna pay your medical expenses when you get sick?” I was “informed” that my body has to work harder, that my lungs and heart must work harder because of my size and the pressure it puts on said body.
I talked about a thin and fat person both having the same sedentary, junk food-consuming lifestyles, or how a fat one would be healthier if they had a balanced diet and exercised — I can’t remember which — and the rebuttal is that the heavier person is simply at a more increased risk of diseases and such. Perhaps this IS true — I don’t know for sure.
I think all of this comes from a good place, yet it’s so…misguided, to say the least.
I clearly stated earlier that it’s my body, so it’s my business, and was then given the whole argument about who buys the food.
I get the whole “our house, our rules” bit but they sure aren’t inspiring me to get movin’ with their actions. Le sigh…
Anyway, thanks for letting me vent.
That is all kinds of abuse from your parents.
I am 32 and weigh more than that. I don’t know what it is in pounds because Wii Fit Plus does kg. My parents also harped on me for over a decade, which made me depressed and suicidal. Since eating more and thinking about what I want to do, my outlook has improved, along with my health.
I too live at home with them still, but I work p/t (only 8 hrs/wk). I too am looking for work, but it’s tough.
One of my favorite responses is generally “wow, are you always such an asshole or only on Thursdays?” (or insert correct day).
Thankyou so much for providing examples of what to say- it helps me come up with my own…. I always struggle with how to say something so this was amazing for me to read 🙂