I’m Not Being Unkind, But…

Concerned puppy is very concernedToday I read a ridiculous concern trolling article written about Stacy Bias’s super fabulous Rad Fatty Merit Badges. The article title appears on Facebook as “Badges Rewarding Fat People Make Me Retch” and is a testament to concern trolling, condescension, stereotyping, fat shaming, and healthism. The author actually trots out the tired old tropes of “normalizing obesity” and its boa-wearing extra fabulous cousin “glorifying obesity,” and then says “I’m not being unkind.”  Ok, let me just stop you there Chloe.

First of all, whether or not Chloe is being unkind is not her call to make. While I can see that it’s convenient to make up both sides of the conversation that’s not actually how it works. To borrow from the brilliant Deb Burgard it’s rather like stepping on someone’s foot in an elevator and then, when they point it out, refusing to move your foot and insisting that you are not stepping on them.  Those of us who Chloe is concern trolling, stereotyping, and condescending to get to decide if she is being unkind. At best she could go with “I’m not trying to be unkind” in which case she missed not only the bullseye but the target and the giant hay bale on which it hangs.

I’m not as worried that the author is unkind as I am that she’s just ignorant – making assumptions about everything from behavior, to wardrobe, to thought processes based on body size, confusing body size with behavior, comparing living in a fat body to blowing cigarette smoke at someone. People are allowed to be ignorant, it’s just unfortunate when they prove it so publicly.

She also advises people “the next time you see a bigger person in the gym or trying to exercise make sure you find a way to encourage them.”  Noooooo. No No No No.  World of no.  Galaxy of no. Universe of no.  No.  Do not annoy fat people who are working out because you want to get your “Save the Fatties” merit badge.  Do not be that guy.

This is one of the most frustrating things to me as a fat person -that we are constantly told that we are not the best witnesses to our experience and that thin people, who are all experts on weight and better than us by virtue of their thinness, should be allowed to speak for us – telling us who we are, how we think, how we should feel, and how we should look.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that every thin person does this on purpose in the way that the author of this ridiculous article did. My point is that our fat-prejudiced society elevates the voices of thin people and devalues the voices of fat people, whether we want it to or not, including caring what thin people think about things that fat people do to deal with the oppression we experience.  Fat person created fat merit badges, news outlet publishes random thin person’s rant about it.  Who cares? This isn’t about her.

I think that it is vital to the fat rights movement that we stand up to people try to substitute their idea of what it’s like to be us for our actual experience, and insist that we be seen as the best witnesses to our experience  – and to our reactions to fatshaming – and have our voices heard.

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21 thoughts on “I’m Not Being Unkind, But…

  1. I would like to retch on Chloe’s head, but at 5’1″, regrettably, I am probably too short. Most unfortunate.

  2. “Trying to exercise.”


    Hey, stupid, if I’m on the bike, in the pool, or walking on the trail, I AM EXERCISING. Now shut up and go away.

      1. Said the short, fat Jedi Master, who could move spaceships with his mind, but still could not magically become one of the 5%, and turn himself into an “acceptable” body type.

        I guess he “did not.” Wise choice. GO YODA!

        Yeah, that “trying” thing just really got my goat, too.

  3. Thinking about ‘normalizing obesity’ as a bad thing ticks me off. As long as there has been food security, there have been fat people, as long as the genetic makeup existed for someone to hold onto fat. It’s societies that don’t have regular access to food that have nothing but thin people. I prefer we not live that way.

    Really, if it is so hard for fat people to become thin and stay that way, that must make it a fact of life, and thus as normal as variations in our other outward appearances.

    1. Yes! And if you take a look at the life expectancies of such societies, they are way, way below those of societies whose members do, for the most part, have regular access to food. And..and..oh, guess what. When societies without regular access to food gain regular access, people -wait for it- get heavier. Oh, the shock! And their life expectancies go…up!

      “Normalizing obesity,” then, is simply normalizing intake of actual food, and the variations in human genetics and builds that result.

      Chloe can go ride her not-very-concealed hatred of fat people out on the horse on which she and it came..

  4. I had a conversation with a girl at the gym today. I know she was trying to be nice and telling her she was actually being very condescending seemed mean so when she told me I was so inspiring after my 45 minute boxing lesson I told her she hit pretty hard for a scrawny little thing. Not sure it hit home and I’m not at the gym to inspire people.§§

  5. I think what bothers me most about these screeds is how they all think they are being so clever and original (and worse, funny), when they do it.

    It’s been done to death, people! Clever and original means coming up with NEW stuff. And shock-comedy is only funny if it’s new, and therefore, unexpected. “Dear Fat People” videos are old-hat and boring as can be. “I’m only telling you how much I hate you for your own good, so that you’ll change to be like me, aren’t I great?” screeds are even older, even more common, and even more boring.

    Please, people, get some new material!

    We haven’t read any flat-earth screeds in a long while. If you’re going to recycle old arguments, why not go for that one. It will at least have the novelty of being unexpected and uncommon in this time and culture, and we can get a bit of interest from that.

    1. Actually, it IS possible to have an actually funny, “Dear Fat People” thing, but it has to punch up, not down.

      For example:

      Dear Fat People,

      Where do you do your grocery shopping? One of my friends says that my other friend, who is chubby, loves to sit around eating baby-flavored doughnuts all day. Since her birthday is coming up soon, I decided that a batch of doughnuts would be a good present.

      When I went to the grocery store and asked for baby-flavoring, the store clerk didn’t have a clue what I wanted. She kept showing me baby formula. Finally, I had to tell her that I needed it to make baby-doughnuts, and she just screamed and ran away. Shortly after that, the manager kicked me out, and now I’m not allowed to shop at Winn-Dixie ever again.

      Do fat people have a secret grocery store, or something? Or where do you get the ingredients for the baby-flavored doughnuts Sally says you eat all the time? I can’t ask my fat friend, because that will spoil the surprise, and Sally either doesn’t know or won’t tell me.

      Please reply quickly, as my friend’s birthday is right around the corner.

      Your friend,
      Skinny Minnie.

      There are LOTS of things people can write about fat people that are genuinely funny and/or interesting. Sadly, I have never seen a thin person write such a thing. It’s always the same tired old stuff, and I’m rather sick of it.

    2. *tinfoil hat* I think fat jokes (most bigotry-based “jokes,” in fact) tend to be so half-assed and worn because their purpose isn’t to be clever, insightful, or even just a shallow fart-gag sort of funny. Those “jokes” exist to reinforce their premise, and the audience is expected to laugh as a show of agreement, not because anything witty was said. Which frequently means nothing witty IS said. You end up with the downright surreal experience of an audience bursting into non-sequiter hysterics after an alleged comedian walks onstage and says, “Hey, did you hear the one about the fat guy who ate a lot and was bad at sports? He couldn’t get a date!”

      “We haven’t read any flat-earth screeds in a long while. If you’re going to recycle old arguments, why not go for that one.”

      Personally, I want to hear someone argue that creating homunculii life out of hollowed-out vegetables is totally possible. In fact, I’m just waiting for the right alchemist to hatch a fully-trained martial artist from an onion and declare himself Parapararacelsius, or Parapa for short.

      (Also beware of building feghoots on obscure and/or dated puns.)

  6. Perhaps Chloe is not being “unkind.” Chloe is, however, being a grade-a concern trolling a-hole, and she makes me want to yak. A good dose of STFU and MYOB is what Chloe needs.

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