Stereotypes, Sizeism, and Ableism

LiesAs my regular readers know, I have another blog dedicated to my journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon. Today I got a comment (that I did not approve, for reasons that will become obvious) that said “None of this is true, nobody who weighs as much as you can walk around the block let alone complete the training you are claiming to complete.”

This kind of comment is really tricky to deal with because it invokes a tangled mess of intersectional oppression, stereotypes, and weight loss myths.

On one hand, it’s not ok for people to attempt to replace the lived experiences of fat people with their stereotypes, or to erase the existence of fat athletes, or to call us liars based on the fact that we don’t fit their stereotypes. On the other, if we’re not careful challenging stereotypes such as this can end up adding to the oppression of fat people who are dealing with disability/mobility challenges etc. by engaging in the completely bullshit Good Fatty/Bad Fatty dichotomy.

The truth is that fat people and our mobility/athleticism have nothing to do with this – fat people have different levels of mobility and athleticism, just like thin people do. The problem here is the stereotyping of fat people, the constant suggestion that we should blame everything on our fat, and the oppressional intersections of sizeism and ableism.

The oppression that lies at the intersection of sizeism and ableism is absolutely staggering and it leads to horrific treatment of disabled fat people/fat people with disabilities. And, in a way that is similar to how those who have (however temporarily) manipulated their bodies to be smaller are used to shame fat people, often fat athletes are used (by the same fatphobes who bully and harass us in other forums) as a way to further the oppression of fat people who aren’t athletes. The goal being to pit fat people against each other, convincing some to throw others under the bus in an attempt to get a modicum of respect from people whose opinions we shouldn’t care about at all.

Then there is the suggestion that we should blame our body size for literally anything and everything that we aren’t happy with in our lives. This includes everything from the assumption that any mobility limitation is because of we are fat (ignoring the fact that thin people can have the same limitations) as well as the tendency to give weight loss the credit for gains in mobility or athleticism such that if a fat person starts a fitness regimen that sees them gain strength, stamina and/or flexibility, as well as (at least in the short term) weight loss, our fatphobic society encourages us to  credit the weight loss and not the fitness routine for any gains in fitness.

This also leads to discrepancies in healthcare, when thin people with mobility limitations that can be rehabbed (of course, not all can, and those that can are under no obligation to do so) are given tons of options for building strength, stamina, flexibility, and mobility, while fat people in the same situation are typically just given diets whose most common outcome is weight regain.

So to review:

  • Stereotypes are bullshit. Sizeism is bullshit. Ableism is bullshit.
  • Participating in movement/fitness/exercise is not an obligation or barometer of worthiness and fat people who participate are not better than, nor should they be “held up as examples” to (or against), fat people who don’t participate.
  • There should be no shame or blame when it comes to disabilities or mobility limitations ever.  The discussion should revolve around increasing accessibility and eliminating oppression.
  • Stereotypes are bullshit. Sizeism is bullshit. Ableism is bullshit.

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6 thoughts on “Stereotypes, Sizeism, and Ableism

  1. It was almost a given. Even if the average fit bit nik allows fat people to be human, he/she is usually quite reticent to allow that a fat person may actually be physically fit, let alone compete in athletic events at any size they deem “too big”. It is the old show me argument, only the kicker is, even if you do show them you become “the exception to the rule” and they stick with their biased and unwelcoming opinion.

    Here’s one I almost saw coming. Had yard sale, almost killed me. Guy came over to chat while his wife was picking out gift bags at ten cents a piece. He literally opened with “I used to weigh such and what, I just had weight loss surgery and lost over 100+ and what pounds.

    My mom and I weigh over 350 so we are way fat by any ones standards. I just played it friendly: “any complications, oh cool…” I mean I couldn’t careless. But there is nothing quite as strident, confident, assured as an After…Wife took about 20 gift bags.
    Thank You.

  2. I walk with a cane, have an “ataxic” walk (i.e., I sort of wobble and meander–the cane helps me keep a straight line), and I have a lot of foot and leg pain so I walk slowly. I also walk 10,000 steps a day. I do that because 1) I like taking walks; 2) my mobility is important to me and I want to preserve it as long as I can; 3) I have dilated cardiomyopathy and my cardiologist advised me that walking is one of the best things I can do as a therapy; and 4) it helps a great deal with keeping my blood glucose levels in the normal range.

    On good days, when I’m on vacation and can walk pretty much full-time, I do much more than 10,000 steps (which is about 4 miles for my stride). My best day so far was 17,000.

    But from the looks I get when I mention this, it’s pretty clear that people either think I’m lying or are completely flummoxed. They think, “HOW can YOU walk that much? You use a cane!”, and they think, “But if you walk that much, why are you ‘still’ fat???”

    I get SO TIRED of those reactions.

    1. See, my first thought was, “I wonder how long it takes.” I did not for a second think you were lying, or were “confused” and “mistaken” about your ability to walk 10,000 steps in a day. I just figured it would take you longer than the average.

      But then again, I’ve had stereotypes thrown at me, and been disbelieved, and called a liar and “confused” and “mistaken,” and outright stupid, too. Because I am fat, and I used to walk all over the place! Uphill! Both ways! In the snow!

      OK, I was living in the Rocky Mountains, at the time, so the only hyperbole was the “both ways,” but the rest was true, and people could SEE me doing it, and still tell me I couldn’t do it. While bragging about how their own ancestors walked across the plains. BTW, so did mine. Now I’m walking across the mountains.

      Well, not NOW. Now I don’t walk much, at all, but in my youth, at only about 20 pounds less than now, I walked around the mountains, and MAINTAINED my weight. I didn’t lose it, nor did I gain lots of muscle mass, despite all the exercise. I just went about my business and lived my life, and in the process, increased my stamina and strength in my legs and core.

      People who are determined to think a certain way, because it makes them feel better about themselves (because they feel better than other people), are afraid to face any facts that will make them change the way they think, because then they will have to face the fact that they are NOT better than the other people they were judging before, and then how will they feel better about themselves?

      Self-esteem – it helps everybody. Building your own self-esteem makes the world a brighter place for everyone who has to deal with you. I wish more people would understand that.

      Also, canes are awesome, if you get one that is right for you. Not only are they good for support and balance, but can be fashion statements, as well. And if they are solid, you can use them for self-defense, too. Been there, done that, so glad I had that cane! So, anyone who is going to walk as much as you should probably use a cane, for the awesomeness factor, regardless of their own actual mobility. I like the carved wooden canes, with plain tops, myself. Hook-tops bother me.

      1. I have been looking into buying a cane for about 3 yrs now, just to aid in balance. When my dad was in hospital, he got 1 to take home, as there is some sanitation issue about reusing canes in hospitals (but not walkers, even though the handles were the same, go figure). I had to use it for a couple days in Dec. as I had neglected to wear my compression stockings for a few days, and was taking public transit, so I needed the extra aid to walk properly. I think I should get my own, as his has these rubber icky handles, and I prefer wood.

  3. My takeaway from this is:
    a) You have no idea what another person is actually like, unless they tell you or you see it, so don’t make shit up.
    b) Mind your own business about other people you don’t know.
    c) If you do know them, you REALLY need to not make shit up.

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