Just Say No…And Yes

DefendKeeping fat people feeling terrible about ourselves is big business.  The diet industry makes well over 60 Billion dollars a year selling a product that doesn’t work.  But we aren’t just oppressed for profit. We’re also often oppressed for other people’s self-esteem, or for their sport.

It sucks but there are sad people who base their self-esteem on being better than someone, and in current society fat people are easy targets for this.  There are also seriously messed up people who think it’s fun to be hurtful jackasses for sport.  These are the people who jump on the chance to say something terrible about a fat person any time we become visible for any reason.

So fat people stay out of the public eye.  Not because we want to necessarily, but because we don’t want to be publicly humiliated (which is a completely legitimate fear.)  So we don’t run for city council, take that class, go to the gym, go for our Ph.D to become a professor, we turn down that opportunity to speak at a local organization.  Again, not because we don’t want to do these things (which is a completely legitimate choice), but because we fear the junior high school teasing that we know all too well can come along with it.

This is one of the many negative outcomes of a society where we use body size as a proxy for health, and where we think it’s ok to judge people for their health.  Taken separately both of those are horrible ideas but together they create a toxic society where fat and the fear of being fat chip away at self-esteem, happiness, dreams, and eventually for some, physical and mental health.  This is not fat people’s fault, but it can quickly become our problem.  We do have options for activism around this. It may mean discomfort, it may mean sacrifice. The thing about social change is that to create it a lot of people have to be a little brave and make a few sacrifices, some people have to be brave and make a lot of sacrifices, and a few people have to be incredibly brave and risk everything.  To be clear, none of these people have to be you – nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind ever and choosing to opt out of being treated horribly by jerks is a completely valid life choice.  There are lots of options for activism and one of them is in the power of choosing when to say no and when to say yes:

No, I will not allow my life choices to be limited by your ridiculous juvenile bad behavior.

No, I do not care what you think of me.

No, I am not interested in losing weight.  No, I’m not interested in your thoughts about that.

No, you will not succeed at bullying me into quitting [insert activity here.]

No, you cannot live in my head rent free.  Hell, you can’t live in my head even if you paid rent.

No, I will not give you the power to hurt me or limit me in any way.

No, you cannot have my lunch money any more.

Yes, I love to dance so I’ll see you in class on Saturday.

Yes, I’d love to talk about how I xeriscaped my lawn at the homeowners association meeting.

Yes, I love myself and my body and it’s awesome.

Yes, I am running for Congress, vote for me!

There is power in yes and no and the ways we choose to use them.  (Feel free to put your yes and no statements in the comments!)

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13 thoughts on “Just Say No…And Yes

  1. Yes, I will eat a tray full of food and enjoy every bite.
    Yes, I will dress for comfort and not to meet your ideal of style for me.
    Yes, I will teach children how to love and care for their bodies, in spite of your opinion that I am not a good roll model.

  2. Yes, I will stand up for someone who is being weight bullied.

    Yes, I will eat precisely what I am in the mood to eat, whether it’s a small side salad or an entire pie.

    Yes, I will take long walks with my head held high and a cheery greeting on my lips for passers-by.

    Yes, I will buy cookbooks when other people are looking.

    Yes, I will get up and sing full throttle.

    No, I will not be drawn into diet talk.

    No, I will not engage in body hate talk.

    No, I will not shut up about cooking for fear of being the fatty who is All About Food.

    No, I will not let that ‘joke’ pass when it promotes body hate or fat fear.

    1. I’ll sing full throttle with you, in spite of the man at my church who *always* turns a disapproving eye and shakes his head – literally. I’d like to shake his head, too – while I’m holding it aloft by his hair (what’s left of it).

      1. Is he disapproving of your singing, or the fact that you are singing joyfully despite what he considers to be the things wrong with you?

        I have encountered those that think being fat is a sin, because anyone who is fat must be guilty of gluttony or of not taking care of their body. Funny. In all the times I have read through the Biblical Law, I have never once seen anything saying, “Thou shalt not be fat.” I have seen condemnation in the Bible of the pointing finger, the wagging tongue, etc.

        1. In this particular case, he just thinks I sing too loud and has outright told me that I should not sing so loudly in church. To him, I say FEH. But he’s a very judgmental individual in my personal experience, so I would not doubt that he is also judging my appearance.

  3. No, I will not visit your favorite web page that regularly holds people up for derision based on how they look or how they dress.

    1. Bravo, and I add: No, after being targeted for violence multiple times because of my weight, having a family history of weight-based medical misdiagnosis and malpractice, and knowing I am far from the only fat person to suffer these things, I will not “lighten up,” “get over,” or “have a sense of humor” about the systematic dehumanization, devaluing, and demonization of fat people that lead to them.

      1. Yeah, people always seem to think others need to have a sense of humor or to lighten up, except when it’s their own shortcomings being held up for derision.

  4. No, I won’t stay silent when someone is teased about their weight.
    No, I don’t diet nor do I need to diet.

  5. Another great one Ragen! I definitely feel the need to thank you from time to time at the tremendous amount of work you put in for us on a daily basis. Today is one of those days.

    Yes, I demand we finally have an “overweight” (i.e. normal) president in my lifetime. Its been long enough (as an aside, I think we already have someone who is popular enough, smart enough and with enough energy to take on the job…hi Ragen!)

    Yes, I demand that medical schools establish a quota system that a certain percentage of incoming students are “overweight” (i.e. normal) so that I have doctors who understand my needs, and don’t blindly accept some thin-normed standard of medical thinking.

    Yes, I demand that fat-bullying be called what it is; a hate crime and people who engage in said hate crimes are punished.

    Yes, I demand that the ADA be modified immediately so that overweight (i.e. normal) people can be comfortable everywhere, from private homes to businesses to airlines (oh you know, were PEOPLE go). I demand that those people, businesses and establishments who don’t immediately comply be declared unfit for human habitation and have their business licensees revoked until such time as they make themselves accessible to ALL people.

    Yes, I demand that there be an immediate moratorium on all products specifically designed for weight loss until such time as weight loss is shown to be effective, safe and necessary. Oh yeah…can’t do that…buh-bye diet industry.

  6. I’m confused about the xeriscaped lawn. Am I just being slow today?

    My Yeses and Noes:

    Yes, I will demand chairs that fit me from any establishment or company that wants my business. Hell, I will demand it, even if they don’t want my business. (So proud of myself for writing a letter to Delta about their WAY too small airline seats.)

    No, I will no longer be afraid to engage in conversation with my thin, foodie husband when he talks about food in public – no longer will I be afraid that people are thinking “yep, just another food obsessed fatty” when they hear me talking about what we’ll have for dinner or a new restaurant we are thinking of trying.

    No, I won’t care anymore when strangers feel the need to examine the contents of my shopping cart …every single time we go to the grocery store. Every week, several people always scrutinize my cart after looking me up and down – and I will no longer let THEIR issues bother me.

    No, I will not be bothered by your looks of disgust when you see me in public.

    No, I will no longer care what people think when they see me swimming in capri pants and a t-shirt and I will no longer let fear of what think hold me back from swimming and enjoying myself.

    No, I will no longer keep quiet when I hear my thin husband say something unintentionally problematic.

    Yes, I will do my best to teach him why certain things are inappropriate or inaccurate (it’s hard for ANYONE to escape the negative and harmful views that our media and society teaches people about fat people. Harder still when the person is thin and doesn’t have personal have knowledge of how inaccurate and harmful those stereotypes and views are).

    No, I will no longer settle for second best or setting for ONLY that which our society says I’m “worthy” of. I will not put my dreams on hold or put them away simply because “fatties” aren’t “suppose” to have or do certain things in life.

    Yes, I will demand the same level of happiness and fulfillment that everyone, not just thin people, have a right to pursue and achieve.

  7. May I add, as someone who loves & collects t-shirts, no, I will NOT buy a shirt from your new company when among your first offerings you feature one with a lean, muscular topless man & a fat man captioned, “Chip & whales.” I expect that you will receive some orders from people who think that shirt is wildly funny, but you will never get a penny of my money, even if you make other shirts I like.

    No, I will not apologize for being disabled, nor will I allow you to conflate fat & disability & assure me very ‘wisely’ that my cerebral palsy must be caused by my weight.

    Yes, I will eat whatever I want, as much as I want, whenever & wherever I want, with no apology or explanations. It is no one else’s business why I am eating, or if I last ate two hours ago or two days ago.

    No, I will not continue my lifelong pattern of exercising compulsively in order to be ‘good enough’, or change the way I dress, or spend my limited funds on expensive skin care creams in order to be more attractive to the ‘male gaze’ or even, as I have been known to do, to try to look ‘good enough’ so that some attractive famous person whom I will never meet MIGHT find me attractive.

    No, I will not apologize for not dyeing my hair, wearing makeup, or trying in any way to be glamorous.

    No, I will not feel shame for being a geek, a nerd, a child at heart, for loving animated programming & fantasy books, or otherwise not behaving in what someone judges to be an ‘appropriate’ manner for a 65-year-old woman.

    Yes, I will own & love & celebrate the body I have, learn to forgive it for not being stronger, & work to be more patient & nurturing & take better care of myself.

    Yes, I will speak up about social injustice & fight for rights, respect, access, & opportunities for fat people, disabled people, LGBT people, etc.

  8. Amen on not apologizing for being disabled.

    No, I will not believe the bullshit that fat equals diabetes.

    No, I will not shame fat people who have type 2 diabetes.

    No, I won’t wear “slimming” or “controlling” garments. As a clothes-trophobic, I need to be able to fit a small dictionary between myself and my clothing or else feel constricted.

    Yes, I will continue to teach English overseas even though I am fatter and older than the “ideal” Native English Teacher.

    Yes, I will speak up when yet another person uses size as a proxy for health.

    Yes, I will eat and wear a swimsuit in public.

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