A funny thing happened on the way to the fat hate forums, but it helps illustrate a serious issue. I got an e-mail letting me know that there was a discussion about my headphones on an internet forum dedicated to hating me No, seriously. Apparently someone took the time to post this:
Each Selfie Sunday (or Monday, or Tuesday…whichever day actually posts), there is one thing that raises my eyebrow more than anything. Ragen’s headphones (among many other things about her) strike me as extremely non-athletic. Has anyone else noticed this? I could not imagine wearing that style of cheapie, over-the-ear-, hard plastic with foam covering headphones while biking or especially running. I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears. I find it really strange that someone supposedly so into exercise and exercise gear could wear headphones that look like they’re from 15 years ago.
A little background – I have a blog specifically to talk about my IRONMAN triathlon journey (since plenty of the readers here don’t care about that and I don’t blame them!) On Sundays and sometimes Monday or Tuesday or basically wheneverthefuck I feel like it because it’s my blog, I post selfies from each workout for the week. I find that it helps motivate me to take the selfie at the end, and I like have a little keepsake from each workout. For reference, here is a picture of me in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad headphones.
For now we’re going to set aside the whackadoo nature of this situation – that someone has so much free time in their life that they not only spend time each week looking at the workout selfies of a blogger they don’t like (and I’ll admit I’m a little jealous – I don’t always have the time to keep up with bloggers whose work I do like! And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the traffic.) but they actually took to the internet to criticize the headphones I wear. In detail.
This is the kind of ridiculousness I deal with everyday, and in this case it’s obviously both funny and pathetic. But what I want to focus on for this blog post is the fact that, ostensibly, this person literally can’t grasp that there are people who like different headphones than they do – they are so perplexed by this that they had to take the internet to get some help working it out (which, if they had asked me, I would have been happy to give.)
I think of this as the “it’s not you, it’s me mistake.” This inability to understand that different people make different choices – and that’s ok – is at the root of a lot of shame, stigma, oppression, and marginalization (both accidentally because people don’t realize that they are making the mistake, and sometimes very much on purpose.) I saw this illustrated on Facebook in a conversation that was shared by my friend Nikki, posted here with her permission:
Here’s what really bugs me. I am 5’10 and a size 14. I used to be heavier. To this day, I NEVER wear shorts, sleeveless or short-sleeve shirts, short tops that don’t cover the tops of my legs…I always wear cardigans if I wear a tank top, long skirts, etc…and I’m not that big. I am always seeing women wearing stuff that it SO unflattering…Then complain abt what others say…Well what did you think they would say? I don’t wannwa see my own flabby arms…I sure don’t wanna look at someone else’s!! And if I do see that, I myself will most likely think well damn, that looks bad. I won’t sneer or stare, but.
To be clear, J is allowed to feel any way about her body, and she is allowed to dress however she wants for whatever reason she wants. She’s allowed to think whatever she wants about what other people wear. She does not have to share my view about the concept of flattering. And on some level she seems to understand that it’s inappropriate to sneer or stare at someone who wears clothes that she wouldn’t choose to wear. All good there.
Where she goes wrong – and makes the same mistake as Captain Headphones above – is when she forgets that her way may be right for her, but that doesn’t make it the right way for everyone. She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that women who make different clothing choices deserve to be treated unkindly – and should not only expect people to treat them poorly, but blame themselves when it happens. She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that her choice is right, and other people’s choices are wrong. She goes wrong when she suggests that what she wants to look at should have any bearing on how other people choose to dress.
Nikki’s response puts it more succinctly:
I’ll be sure to keep my fat arms in a goddamn cardigan in the sweltering heat this year just because you feel insecure about your own body.
The fact that there are fat people who hate their bodies and/or feel that their bodies should be covered because they are fat, is often used as an argument against those of us who don’t feel that way. As in – “See, even other fat people agree that fat bodies should be covered.” And that’s crap.
In a world that constantly tells fat people to hate and hide our bodies, it’s not even mildly surprising that there are fat people who hate and hide their bodies. And they are allowed to do that, for whatever reason. But nobody is required to hate or hide their body because that body is fat, or because it doesn’t meet the stereotype of beauty in any way. My work isn’t about telling people how they have to relate to or dress their bodies, it’s about making sure that people know that not hating and hiding their bodies is an option (by whatever definitions they are using for those things, taking into account their preferences, religion, culture, values etc.)
So the next time someone tries to suggest that you have to hate your fat body because they hate theirs, you can remind them – it’s not you, it’s me.
EDIT: Shout out to all the trolls (over one hundred now!) who me let me know in comments, e-mails, facebook messages, and on twitter that I accidentally left a sentence out of my transcription- specifically, “I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears.” (My favorite so far: “Why didn’t you post the entire comment about your headphones? What are you trying to hide?” The SCANDAL! Because obviously this is the sentence that makes posting about my headphones online so completely reasonable…) Regardless, I absolutely made a mistake and it’s been corrected with my deep apologies to the original poster, and my deep thanks for all the traffic to the my blog. And don’t worry y’all, this definitely doesn’t make you look more obsessed and absurd than you already did.
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Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com