Typically narcissistic blogging.

“Oh, But We Didn’t Mean *You*.”

I spent St. Patrick’s Day at a punk rock show, which is the only legitimate way to spend SPD unless you are working or playing in a punk rock band. And I spent it with one friend who is pretty much family and two people I like very much. But that didn’t stop me from getting truly pissed off and simply walking away when, during the course of conversation, prejudice against fat became A Thing.

But that wasn’t even the entire issue for me. I understand that people have all sorts of stupid anti-fat prejudices and while I don’t necessarily accept it, I pretty much expect it and understand that I am going to have to field it to some extent or another (See: You Look Like You Lost Weight!). Tonight was extra special, though, because when I said, (and I am totally paraphrasing myself), “Wait a second, here, what’s with all the fat hate,” what I got in return was, “We aren’t talking about you, of course. We are talking about the really fat people.”

Yeah. No.

You don’t actually get to decide when your anti-fat prejudice becomes offensive. I don’t care if you are sitting in a room full of skinny people who have never been fat in their lives. You have no idea:

  1. Whether the skinny people around you have always been skinny;
  2. Whether the skinny people around you even see themselves as skinny;
  3. Whether the people around you see themselves as fat, pudgy, overweight, etc.;
  4. Whether the people around you have some body image issue(s) that you may be exacerbating with your weight prejudices; or
  5. Whether the people around you have been told they are fat by family, friends, society, magazines, movies, whatever.

Additionally, you don’t get to choose what level of fat is okay or not okay. First of all, you don’t know whether the really fat people are really fat because they take breaks from eating giant pizza pies by eating chocolate cake or because there are other things going on with their genetics and health. Second of all, why are you even judging people for eating giant pizza pies and following that shit up with chocolate cake? Honestly, fuck you if you do. Pizza and cake are delicious.

Look, skinny people, I am not actually looking to be part of your skinny club. I don’t need or want you to tell me that you think I am okay even though the rest of the fat people in the world are kinda gross to you. That’s right up there with, “You aren’t like all the other Blacks/Jews/queers/Muslims/etc.—you’re cool.” Or the asshole I worked with last year who was confused that there were non-Blacks who were upset at his use of the word “nigger.” Or the woman who came up to my mother when we lived in Savannah, who was so excited that I was light-skinned enough to “pass.”

No. I’m not trying to be like you. I’m trying to be accepted as me. Not-skinny, not-white, not-mainstream me.

I guess the moral of the story is, when somebody calls you out on your prejudice, don’t try to bring them into your circle to make them feel better, somehow. Stop. Collaborate and listen. And look at what you are saying, what you really intend to say, and whether what you have to say is prejudicial or bigoted. Because what you have to say probably does not become less prejudicial or bigoted just because you don’t think your audience is in any way affected by what you are saying.

13 responses

  1. I’d like to be one of those people who thought carefully about every word which comes out of my mouth. I am too petty, right now, to be like that. But it’s an aim…

    March 18, 2012 at 6:36 am

    • Yeah, that helps, but it’s not the only thing that helps. Another thing is to stop, once somebody points out the prejudice/bigotry in what you are saying, and admit it. Not to do what these folks did, and try to validate it by pointing out by it somehow doesn’t affect the person to whom you speak.

      March 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      • You’re right: digging themselves deeper into a very deep hole.

        March 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

  2. mels63galaxie

    oh boy…I am skinny and formerly fat and there is so much I love about what you have said here..carry on! I’ll be over here eating pizza and cake!! :D

    March 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

    • Enjoy the pizza and cake!

      And, thank you. :)

      March 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  3. Sarah

    Oh my. This is a much-needed PSA.

    My very own truly sweet and kind mother (who would basically never ever _try_ to hurt anyone) pulled this exact “oh I wasn’t talking about you” move when I tried to tell her that I really didn’t feel comfortable listening to comments about how appallingly fat person X was, or how inappropriate it was for person Y to be dancing that way/wearing that thing/&c. given how fat Y was, and so on.

    Sigh.

    March 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    • Well, you know I adore your mother, so I won’t judge her too harshly, but yeah: if you don’t think it’s too pointed or harsh, feel free to send this post along to her. Or maybe just some body/fat positive web sites so she can get some new perspective on the issue.

      I’m sorry. That’s no fun.

      March 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  4. Speaking about weight just tends to be a risky subject unless you know a person very, very well. As a skinny person who has never tipped the scales except when pregnant with twins, I find it very annoying when people comment on my weight like it’s somehow their right to do this. Or to be very dismissive to any weight concerns I might have, like being borderline underweight at times. Why can’t we all just live in a happy place anyway? I think it’s unreasonable to trash someone for their weight – you have no idea what medical issues that they are struggling with either. Oh and thanks for mentioning us skinny people may not realize we are skinny because of what we are told by others like mean, mean family – been in that boat for far too many years when I was young. Great post!

    March 18, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    • Yeah, I know a lot of skinny people who are simply skinny people. The problem is that fat people have been increasingly at the mercy of skinny people since the 60s, and the tyranny of fashion and Hollywood has managed to make ALL skinny people The Enemy, which is really unfortunate.

      I know lots of skinny/thin/average people who have no idea they aren’t “fat.” Body dysmorphia is pretty damn common, and while it isn’t just about weight, I see it in relation to weight an awful lot.

      March 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

  5. Ok, so I realize I am very unfashionably late to this party, but I am a girl with an opinion so being late never stopped me from speaking up. I totally love this post. I will say that as a former big girl myself, the joy of weight prejudice does not end when you get thin. The battle of being thin (unless you are super lucky) doesn’t end with getting thin. The crap that goes along with weight is a lifetime battle – unless you are one of the chosen few. When I lost weight I got “are you sick?” I mean are you kidding me? I am HEALTHY! Being thin isn’t right. Being big isn’t right. (Note that I don’t use the F word – because I feel like it is worse than the other F word!) In the end, small minds come in all shaped bodies. You just gotta be ok with yourself – big or little bodied.

    November 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    • Late, but still awesome! Thanks so much, and your perspective is very welcome.

      November 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm

  6. Susie R.

    I’m new here, so forgive me if you’ve done this already and I just haven’t found it, but you mention “passing” and you’ve written some excellent stuff about privilege and I’d love to hear what you have to say on the combination of the two. See, I’m bi-racial. I look like my white mother to the point that if you don’t know my maiden name, you’d never guess I’m Mexican. This has presented some pretty eye-opening experiences with people who think they’re in a white “safe-zone” and offer up opinions they’d never have shared if they’d been better informed about my background. I guess I could write a post myself, but I’m interested in the experience I haven’t had and other viewpoints. What’s the privilege factor of being able to pass?

    February 5, 2013 at 8:46 am

    • Being able to pass is a funky, funky thing, especially with regard to privilege. My skin was always on the dark side, even as a kid. However, when we lived in Savannah, people would come up to my mom and tell her that if I just stayed out of the sun, I could totally pass for white (she’s white, my father is black).

      I think the privilege factor of being able to pass depends heavily on perspective. If you pass for white, then people will treat you as if you are white, which leads to privilege. It’s the same privilege white(r) people are not necessarily asking for but receive by default. And since you can’t walk around with a sign that says, “I’m brown too!”, that’s something you simply have to be aware of–like all privilege.

      I actually manage to pass for most races. Black people think I’m black. Mexicans think I am Mexican. And so on. Which leads to an entirely different kind of privilege on a smaller scale. I get treated well by people who would regard people outside of their community with a bit more suspicion. It also sometimes backfires, when I am a source of great disappointment to people who think I can’t speak Spanish because I am out of touch with my mother tongue.

      February 5, 2013 at 8:55 am

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