This is sort of a “part 2,” based on a number of replies that I got from yesterday’s blog about “Hate the Fat, Love the Fatty” Stop me if you’ve heard this one – someone is talking about, or doing activism against, the stigmatizing/bullying/shaming/oppression that they are experiencing. For our example today let’s use a random hypothetical example and say they are talking about fat hate. Then someone chimes in to say “If you really liked yourself then other peoples’ opinions wouldn’t matter!”
Maybe this person really means well. Maybe they are trying to shut down a discussion about oppression because it makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they are very specifically trying to derail the discussion because they’re a jerk. Based on who is saying it we may understand their intention or we may not.
But one thing is clear: It’s a nice sentiment to be sure, and in some ways it can be true. But it ignores the pain of someone who we care about engaging in behavior that is stigmatizing, shaming, bullying, and oppressive toward us and it ignores the not uncomplicated process of deciding what to do about that. This can be further complicated if there is a power dynamic involved – like we depend on that person emotionally or financially, they are our boss, they have some authority over us etc..
There’s also the fact that this isn’t just about people being prejudiced against fat people in their heads. It’s about people making those opinions into laws, policies, and culture that stigmatizes, shames, bullies and oppresses fat people. Let’s try to clarify with a quick game of Opinion or Oppression:
I wouldn’t like being fat.
I shame, stigmatize, bully, and harass fat people because I think that’s what’s best for them.
I think being fat is a bad thing.
I wouldn’t want to be married to a fat person.
I want it to be a law that consenting fat adults aren’t allowed to get married because I don’t want to marry a fat person and/or I think that the higher power I believe in doesn’t want fat people to get married.
There’s a difference between opinions and oppression, and self-esteem isn’t enough to fight it all. I love my fat body, and that can insulate me to some extent from other people’s fatphobic opinions, but it’s not enough to insulate me from a world full of weight-based oppression. Having a positive opinion about me and my choices is completely optional. Treating me with basic respect and not trying to limit my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness based on my body size is absolutely mandatory. When people try to oppress us, we have every right to fight back and loving ourselves doesn’t make that option any less valid..
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