A reader alerted me to an article (trigger warning- for diet and weight loss talk) about New Jersey governor and Presidential hopeful Chris Christie that includes the phrase “Obscured by the ambition, loose-cannon personality and, frankly, the girth, is the fact that he is an exceptionally gifted and nuanced politician.”
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment, this idea that his body size “hides” his abilities is deeply problematic and speaks to the nature of fat prejudice in this country. Whether he is a great or a terrible politician, his size does not obscure that. (Not to mention that Christie did what his bullies wanted, got lap band surgery and, at least for now, has lost quite a bit of weight – and he is still being subjected to these cheap shots.)
Fat people’s talents are not obscured by our fat bodies, they are obscured by people’s prejudices, stereotypes, and preconceived notions about our bodies.
This is part of a larger issue of blaming fat bodies instead of blaming the shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression that fat people have to deal with. This is what happens when people suggest that fat people who don’t enjoy being shamed, stigmatized, bullied and oppressed try to become thin to “solve the problem”. As if the problem is that fat people exist, and not that people treat us poorly because of their own prejudices about how we look (and anyone foolish enough to make a “but they cost me tax dollars!” argument can head over to this post.)
This even gets medicalized when healthcare professionals suggest weight loss as a treatment for fat people who have depression or anxiety related to the poor treatment they receive from society, or in any way suggest that fat people should solve social stigma through weight loss.
We can see examples of this almost every day and for me it’s really important to notice when this is happening and put the problem where it belongs, which is on the poor treatment that I receive, and not on my body. So when you hear or see something that suggests that fat people’s bodies are the problem, you can substitute a phrase like “because of prejudice.”
So, for example: “Obscured by the ambition, loose-cannon personality and, frankly, people’s prejudice about his size, is the fact that he is an exceptionally gifted and nuanced politician.”
Here are a few more:
Wrong: Her size caused issues in their relationship.
Corrected: Her friend’s prejudice about her size caused issues in their relationship.
Wrong: One of the problems caused by obesity is bullying.
Corrected: One of the problems caused by weight-based stigma is bullying.
Wrong: She didn’t get the job because of her weight.
Corrected: She didn’t get the job because of the weight bigotry of the hiring committee.
If you have some of your own feel free to leave them in the comments. Either way, putting the problem where it belongs can be a powerful way to fight size-based bigotry, stigma, bullying and oppression.
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12 thoughts on “Fat People’s Not So Hidden Talents”
This statement – Fat people’s talents are not obscured by our fat bodies, they are obscured by people’s prejudices, stereotypes, and preconceived notions about our bodies. – is just exactly what I needed to read today. Hell, this whole column was exactly what I needed to read today.
That’s awesome, thank you!
Excellent point, Ragen, and so clearly explained!!!
I just wanted to drop by and say hello, but please be advised there are some trigger warnings with health and legal issues in this post.
I am done with my inpatient stay due to my anxiety (at the nut-hut as my LOVING father so affectionately called it). I am in the process of moving out of my apartment and into a long term group care facility. The diabetic ulcers on my have gotten pretty bad and I am basically unable to care for myself in terms of mental health. I think it will be good for me because I had become pretty isolated in my new apartment in Chula Vista (much less mobility device friendly than where i was living in downtown San Diego). My parents have volunteered to pay for this which makes me so freaking happy I can hardly stand it. My stupid father had to miss his precious ski vacation to Lake Tahoe with my brother and sister which also really makes me happy in what is probably a petty way but after how horrible he has treated me, I don’t care at all.
I have contacted several lawyers about suing a multitude of doctors and hospitals after my feet developed the ulcers. I feel I have a very strong case because I did everything possible I did to take care of myself. It was their fat shaming and dismissive attitudes that led to my poor state of health. You think fat stigma is bad in the medical field. Try being fat and say the words “medical malpractice” most lawyers would not return my calls, I talked with a few on the phone and they were unwilling to take my case even with upfront payment. I was able to meet with one lawyer in person but he said strait up that according to California law, obesity is a leading cause of health problems and my case would never make it in court. I asked him about possibly suing knowing that malpractice insurance would just settle out of court and he said that because (paraphrasing) “California and its courts recognize the extreme dangers of obesity no insurance company would ever settle knowing that it would be dismissed outright as soon as it came to trial…then they would come after you for all legal costs, and they would win.”
For those of you who didn’t catch that…the STATE OF CALIFORNIA HATES ME BECAUSE I’M FAT. The STATE OF CALIFORNIA has decided to ignore all legitimate medical research of people like Linda Bacon and Ragen Chastain and say THAT MY HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE BECAUSE I’M FAT. Let that sink in for a second. I am such a second class citizen in this state that I have NO LEGAL RESOURCE when it comes to being mistreated by doctors. The STATE OF CALIFORNIA has chosen to ignore all research regarding genetics as the cause of obesity and simply say “no, sorry lazy fatso, you got yourself in this position, get yourself out.” I am disgusted beyond belief and feel like I have no place in this world that HATES ME. We can talk about other civil rights issue and intersectionality but there is no other group of people that (at least IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA) has zero legal resource in the courts.
Underpants rule of course but if you had plans to come to california I would immediately cancel as a piece of activism. The comparison to Germany gets thrown around a lot but if the shoe fits…you know.
And the next time some idiot talks about their tax dollars being wasted on fat people, remind them that in THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA fat people can be productive and pay taxes their entire lives but they have essentially zero rights. Can I have my tax dollars back please?
If it’s any consolation, I love you. (Not in a creepy-stalker way, of course… just the gentle, non-invasive love of a stranger who thinks you’re amazing.)
What Jenna said. I’m so sorry you are being forced to suffer for rank bigotry.
All best wishes to you, Simon. I hope you will find your group care facility supportive and helpful (I think you will). I’m so sorry about the bigotry you’re facing from lawyers and the State.
Well if they docs had done their job then you wouldn’t need to sue.
I feel so sorry for you.
I don’t like Christie because of his politics. I couldn’t care less about his weight. And even though I don’t like him, I’m kind of sad to hear he gave in to the bullies. I hope it doesn’t have negative effects on his health.
Me too, I thought he had stood up to them.
I can’t stand Christi’s politics, and it drives me crazy when I have to defend him, which I always do when people start going on about his weight. There are many and varied reasons to dislike Chris Christie. His weight is not one of them.
Here’s what has been confusing me lately too…. Does anyone else find it odd that Chris Christie is pretty much continually criticized for his weight but for some odd reason nobody ever says anything about Mike Huckabee’s. They are both politicians on the right. And seem to be awfully close to the same size. I’ve been puzzling about this for months. Why is Huckabee’s size off limits but Christie’s somehow says something about his competence?
I honestly believe it is at least partly because Christie carries more fat in his face than Huckabee does. I’ve seen this kind of attitude before.