As many of you are aware, I’ve taken issue with an inflammatory blog posted on Marie Claire’s website regarding the public opinion of obese people depicted on television.
There were two basic camps who responded to the brouhaha.
One was offended by such a hateful theme, and that the fat bias demonstrated by the author’s comments said more of her insecurities and skewed body image. That she had already admitted a battle with anorexia sealed her fate with this crowd.
(Which, by the way, if the editor who handed her this story knew this then they’re a special kind of sadist. It makes one wonder if the whole thing was done purposely to get a ton of attention – which they certainly did.)
The other camp took the blogger’s side and said that fat was unhealthy or disgusting and shifted all the blame of this purposeful and discriminatory blog onto the objects of their mutual scorn.
Since bigotry is bigotry is bigotry, I made the claim that there’s no difference between fat bias than there is between racism, sexism, homophobia and the like. Sure we can “change” the thing that makes the “easy joke”, but why should we do anything simply for that reason alone?
Is it too much to expect grownups to act, y’know, grownup? Why do we have to devolve into a high school locker room just because we don’t like the way a complete stranger looks OR lives if it really has nothing to do with us?
The argument that a bias against something a person can change is somehow okay is flawed on two levels. One, it suggests that we ourselves don’t get to establish our own value and we’re only as worthy as other people say we are. Just because you don’t like the way I look doesn’t mean I deserve to be treated like a second-class citizen. Two, even if a black person who faces prejudice COULD change the way that they look to avoid bigotry, what makes you think they would? Isn’t that a form of racism itself to suggest as much, that there is something so inherently bad about being black that any black person would gladly trade over their race and their culture just so ignorant people won’t judge them?
Shouldn’t we be proud of who we are, no matter what other people think about it? I mean, isn’t that what we teach our children?
My question is where does it end?
Say I lost all my weight to make myself fit in and be an average weight, would that be enough? Or would I still not be as good as a man, or as pretty or valuable as a younger woman?
Which bias will I be expected to conform to next? At which point would I be allowed to decide my own value… and why the hell am I giving that power over to anyone else in the first place?
My husband is so awesome in that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what people think about him. I have envied that almost since the day we met. He is unabashedly himself and to hell if someone else doesn’t like it. Like he always tells me, “It’s not like you’re going to see these yahoos again anyway. Just be yourself.”
Thanks to his influence my kids have that same attitude when it comes to those who ridicule them, for which I am so thankful.
Trying to please everyone means we please no one, especially ourselves. If we give our self esteem to every stranger who has something negative to say, we’ll never feel good about ourselves. I know. I’ve been going at it from this angle since I was eleven years old and my self esteem is shit. As much as I’d like to blame everyone else for that, it’s my own fault for giving my power away.
The only person whose opinion matters is the one staring back at us from the mirror. They’re the ones that we live with from the time we’re born to the day we die. That person deserves a final say in who we are, not a bunch of strangers whose lives go on with or without us just fine.
I bet most of us who are heavy can remember most of the insults that have been hurled our way over our lives. On the other side of that I bet most of the people who hurled those insults don’t even remember who we are or what they said.
That’s the benefit of being a bully. You can inflict damage and then go on your merry way, completely ambivalent to the havoc you’ve wreaked. You can spew hateful words and then plead ignorant or worse – plead non-accountability. You get the right to say what you’re going to say… it’s someone *else’s* fault if they can’t take the joke.
And you know what? There’s something to that. People are going to say what they’re going to say. It’s *always* our choice whether or not to accept those insults as truth. Hal Sparks answered it thusly:
The average American woman is not in any capacity beautiful by Hollywoods unrealistic standards. As a gentleman and a lover of the female form, give us (the average american woman) a pep talk. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are beautiful even if
Here’s the only Pep talk I can give anyone about these kinds of things.
No one can make you feel bad without your permission. You set the standards for yourself. If you feel “less than” because of someone else’s standards it is because you agree with them. If you seek daily to live an extraordinary life then these absurd limited notions of beauty will cease to bother you. The choice of how to feel is always ours.
A good many of the women I have found extraordinarily beautiful in my life have been derided as outside that norm. Even fans have attacked some of my ex-girlfriends for their looks. It wasn’t Hollywood that told me my girlfriend wasn’t beautiful… it was other women.. on the internet. “Hollywood” gave Lady Gaga a career and it’s the snark brigade that calls her a man and says her nose is too big.
I have no patience for the fashion industry setting an anemic, sickly standard for women’s bodies that apparently attempts to make them look as much like boys as possible…. but I also am constantly disgusted by the ragging that women give each other about features that are natural while refusing to set healthful standards for their own lives.
Here’s the rules:
* You can’t make fun of anyone for anything they can’t change naturally.
* And you can’t complain about anyone who sets a higher standard than you being perceived as better than you.
* If your self-esteem is diminished by the actions or perceptions of others then that is internal work that You are responsible for.
* We are being systematically taught to argue for our own weakness by gauging our worth on the standards of others and giving up when we can’t meet them.
As much as I love Hal I don’t agree we get permission to make fun of someone because of something like weight, even if it is something that a person can change. Just like the emotional issues that cause anorexia and bullemia, being excessively heavy indicates that the person is facing some emotional distress that manifests itself in extra weight. Weight is often a coping mechanism for emotional trauma, and for those who are excessively overweight the argument could be made the more substantial the core issue.
You don’t kick someone when they’re down. That’s just not fair, and it’s not funny. It’s like a alcoholic on a bender, it’s really rather sad.
The other part of that is there are people who cannot control what they weigh for health reasons. Either way it’s nothing you can know when you see them walking down the street. Making fun of them, or any insta-judgments, is ignorant and unfairly biased.
The rest of it, however, he’s spot on. He’s one of the healthiest people I know and is very physically fit, but he’s never EVER treated me like I was less-than for being fat. He’s never made fun of me and he respects me for who I am as a person. The very first time I met him he hugged me – twice – which showed me that he wasn’t like all the other men who thought me worthless (or invisible) because of the weight.
He understands that the issue of fat is far deeper than just what you see. He very, VERY rarely makes any disparaging comments about people on the basis of weight, at least in my presence. Which is one of the many reasons I love him so much.
He gets that we only have to answer to ourselves.
He gets that if we chase after the approval of others we’re never fully empowered ourselves.
So where does it end?
Where we say it does.