This subject has been on my mind of course because of the recently released “Dear Fat People” video by Nicole Arbour (which I will not link to or promote in any way). I encourage you not to watch it. I can sum it up for you: Fat people are gross. And it’s like, she’s seriously ultra a lot concerned about them. Because they could die. But mostly they’re just guuuuu-roooooossss. So she doesn’t want them to die but if they could just stop existing and disappear, that would be keen.
Now, I could say a lot about her own appearance in this video. She’s thin but she doesn’t look particularly healthy. She looks overly plucked, botoxed and bleached and the schmears of makeup age her badly. But you know what? If that’s the look that gives her enough confidence to face the world each day, I fully support her. If she sat next to me on a plane and her makeup melted off onto my arm, I wouldn’t screech and try to shovel it back onto her face.
Yes, I’m getting a little silly here. Pain is where all the best (and apparently, worst) humor comes from. It isn’t a coincidence that most of our great comedians are deeply wounded people. What I really want to say to Nicole Arbour is “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that whatever has brought you to this point in life has damaged you so deeply that you feel this is an appropriate way to treat other human beings. I’m sorry that you can’t connect with any real emotions and instead cover them with this incredibly shallow, callous veil. Because when you watch yourself in that video, what you see is cutting-edge comedy. What I see? Fear.
It isn’t hard to understand why you’re blindly terrified of becoming fat. Every message, conscious and unconscious, from the moment of birth, blares at women that we must be delicate, our voices must be soft and pleasing lest they carry too far, we must be small lest we take up too much space. Sure, it’s changing. Glacially, slowly. Yet we still live in a society where there is an uproar and debate over producing a doll shaped like a normal woman, instead of one whose back would snap in two under the weight of her own breasts.
I think this is why so many are just enraged by the body-positivity messages we’re starting to see. How dare those fat bitches be happy how they are! How dare they go out and live life at any size! While you’re busy hiding out in the bathroom with your scale, while you categorize foods not by whether you like them but by how many calories they contain. While you let another summer pass with that swimsuit hanging in the closet because you can’t be seen in public. If you’re going to be suffering to (quite literally!) fit in, those hos better be suffering too.
I’ve heard the argument, over and over, that it isn’t about shaming. Everyone is just really concerned about the health of fat people. Hang on while I roll around laughing. And while I try to figure out why being overweight is basically the only bad health habit that people feel compelled to comment on to complete strangers– and in such an obnoxiously negative way. Apparently they mistakenly equate fatness with some sort of mental retardation. “Hey fat person! You probably didn’t notice this but you’re really fat! You could get heart disease and die! My mom was fat but she ate this soup 9 times a week until she stopped being fat! I’m writing the recipe down for you. How is my mom now? Oh well, her liver and kidneys shut down. Probably from the soup. But she looked really skinny in her casket!”
Even among eating disorders, fatness is the only one that people feel they have permission –possibly even a calling from God– to intervene upon. You don’t tell an anorexic person “Ugh, you’re a disgusting pile of bones sticking out everywhere. Don’t sit next to me, your clavicle might poke me in the eye!” Actually, we don’t notice most anorexic people until they’re clearly dying. The message that we send them, though, couldn’t be clearer: Keep up the good work.
But shame is what works! Why else would anyone ever change? Except that it doesn’t. Words leave scars that never heal. I’m going to get personal here for a second. No tiny violins, please. Growing up, my father was a borderline psychopath. He had been horrifically abused as a child, and the cycle continued with him. One of his crazier issues was food. His control was so deep that my already tiny mother once starved herself down to something like 65 pounds and nearly died. We already lived in the kind of poverty that doesn’t involve much food, but as a skinny little girl I was completely convinced I was as big as a house. I was ashamed for anyone to look at me. I did not eat in front of other people for any reason. I was convinced they were disgusted by me, grossed out by this pig shoving more food in her face. And while I’m “better” now, there are parts of me that will never be truly fixed.
I’m not revealing that for sympathy. I’m telling you because almost every woman I know has her own story, her own wounds from being told that her body will simply never be good enough. It doesn’t have to be fat, any perceived flaw will do. The problem arises when some women take those wounds and continue the cycle. Well, I might not be perfect but I’ll never be HER. I’d never let that happen to my body.
Words brand themselves on your soul and you carry them with you far longer than physical wounds. When you shame a fat person or anyone else, you’re maiming them. Saying that “if it makes them lose weight it was worth it” is sick. Say, for instance, you’re addicted to watching porn. Or binge-watching reality tv shows. That stuff will rot your brain and isn’t healthy. So I cut out your eye. And wow, it worked! You stopped watching. You can’t get back your eye, but don’t I deserve a reward for saving you?
It’s interesting the way being thin is currently treated almost as a virtue and fatness as a moral failing. I guess that makes it easier to justify treating others as less than human based on their size? I think that’s why overweight people feel they have to justify their size with a medical condition. It’s more acceptable to the masses. Personally I do not care if you became fat out of illness, if you’re just naturally predisposed to being a bit larger, or if you just really enjoy eating. It’s none of my business and it doesn’t change who you are.
All of these people who are so very concerned about the health of others? I don’t buy it for a second. I believe that about as much as I believe massive amounts of Christians actually care about the sanctity of marriage. I might believe it if half of them weren’t divorced or cheating or if they didn’t mostly treat the Bible as a choose-your-own-adventure story, where they can take the parts they want and leave the rest. No, much like Christians are opposed to gay marriage because the thought of gay sex grosses them out, the fat concern trolls are worried about you because they see fat as icky.
But the chilllll’ren, the chil’ren! Our babies are getting fat and we can’t have them thinking that it’s okay! Hey now, that part I can actually get behind. I have some thoughts for you. Perhaps stop using “devices” as babysitters and rewards. Put away your own devices and go outside and play with your kids. Stop being a helicopter mommy and let them actually go out to play alone. Stop helicopter parenting the children of others, I promise you don’t need to call CPS just because some kids are outside alone. Stop threatening to sue the school every time your kid falls down on the playground and they might actually let recess happen again. Turn gym classes back into something fun instead of the horrors they’ve become, where already athletic kids are praised while the less coordinated ones are ostracized so badly they never want to participate again.
Oh but mostly? Start leading by example. Teach your kids to love themselves and others unconditionally. Teach them that each of us has intrinsic worth and value that can’t be seen from the outside, that can’t be measured in dress sizes and scale numbers. Look inside yourself at the hurtful words, the shame that life has heaped inside of you and say “No. This is where it stops. These things will not be handed down to my daughters and my sons.”