Saturday, July 21, 2007

The uneasiness of equality

I have come to realize that the size-acceptance blogs are making people uncomfortable with the idea that some doctors expect fat patients to starve themselves before getting treated for real problems. I get responses that don't seem to have anything to do with what I actually said, but were more reflective of defending a preconceived idea of fat = unhealthy.

One thing I'd like to address is the notion that I hate thin people. I don't. I don't think that they are better than I am, but I also don't think that they are worse. It saddens me to think of people who are not naturally thin putting themselves through the psychological and physical trauma of dieting to become that way. I don't believe that people who are naturally thin, though, should try to change that about themselves. My husband is tall and slender. He's also very good-looking. His thinness and good looks, however, are not why I am in love with him. He's the most beautiful person I know, on the inside. I've been attracted to all types of people--fat, thin, conventionally pretty, conventionally ugly. For whatever reason, I don't tend to pick up on these things as much as I pick up on their personality. Looks just aren't really important to me.

Here's another thing: I acknowledge that it is uncomfortable to be in the position of power or superiority, and have the validity of the trait that grants you that position to be challenged. If you've built upon the privilege that comes with being thin, and someone suggests that it's equally as valid to be fat, you stand to lose the things you've gained from that thinness. If your relationship, for example, is based on the person's attraction to your thin body, then you have much to fear if your significant other gets on the "fat is okay too" bandwagon. Suddenly, you have competition that you had completely disregarded.

Also, if you are a thin person who has built status by treating fat people like they are lesser beings, you're going to have a great deal to answer for when they become recognized as equals. Your status is definitely going to change. It's been terribly comfortable being able to claim that your discrimination is based on "health", but as the evidence builds that body size is not an indicator of health, you're apt to become uncomfortable.

I'm reminded of the infamous scene in Indiana Jones, where the massively muscular guy with swords is looming menacingly, whisking those swords around like a scary eggbeater carnival ride. Poor scrawny Indy looks like he's about to get his butt kicked, because the assumption is that the power lies with the muscle-bound dude with the swords. Of course, we all know that Indy whips out his pistol and evens the score. It almost seems unfair, but, hey, the sword guy could have avoided the situation by not picking on someone who appears to be powerless!

And that's the lesson, I suppose. If the idea that fat is not necessarily unhealthy makes you uncomfortable, examine your reasons for feeling that way. Is it because you've been acting superior to fat people, and you'll have to eat crow if the new information is true? Is it because you fear that a fat person will now be competition for jobs and relationships? The easy solution is to find something other than cutting others down to make yourself feel good. Build relationships based on qualities other than physical beauty. In other words, live in a humanitarian fashion, and you will achieve status and happiness by being known for your kind and loving nature. If you base your self-esteem on whom you hate, on being superior to others, then you're bound to become unhappy sooner or later. Step out of the competition and let go of your prejudices. You'll be happier.


Tari said...

Well said!!!

mumboj said...

I enjoyed this post very much, thoughtful and perceptive also. I can imagine how uncomfortable reading this would be to someone this directly applies to.

"The easy solution is to find something other than cutting others down in order to feel good"

Ouch! That's gonna bite! It's obviously not as easy as it seems, or they are getting a lot more out of it than we or they could ever have imagined.

RioIriri said...

Thank you :)

I guess you could say that I'm tired of pulling punches. I'm through with gently quoting statistics, and it's time to reveal the discrimination for what it is: A way for one group of people to have power over another. I'm not accepting that anymore.

Rachel said...

Very thought-provoking, insightful post. Thin-privilege is much like white-privilege. For the longest time, I didn't understand the frustrations of many black people, because as a white girl from white-bread suburbia, I never experienced it or knew to look for it. I think everyone ought to place themselves in another's shoes from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, even fat people appropriate this sense of "thin-privilege" in that they've internalized fat-hatred to the point where they feel superior to those who are fatter than they. It's a vicious, endless cycle.

Stef said...

Another thing that can make not-fat people uncomfortable is that if fat does not equal unhealthy, not-fat does not equal healthy either.

People are strongly pressured to believe that if they are not-fat, they are healthy and nothing bad will happen to them. And it's a very comforting belief for not-fat people. It's simple and seems to make sense.

Heck, it's probably a comforting belief for some fat people too - "hey, I can resolve all my health problems if only I lose some weight...I have control, even if I 'choose' not to use it."

If a person fears illness, death, and loss of control over their health, and if that person starts to realize that anyone can get sick any time with any sort of disease or injury, no matter what weight they are, that's pretty scary.

This fear can get displaced onto fat people, in a sort of "If you hadn't started being so uppity, I would be able to maintain this comforting lie, and now I have to think about stuff that scares me" way.

Dagny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RioIriri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RioIriri said...

I've decided that bloggers who are too chicken to have a public profile fit into the "anonymous" category, even if they have a blogger account--so negative comments from such users will be regarded as trolling.

If you're going to leave snippy little comments and run, then they're going to be deleted.

If you hate fat acceptance so much, then why are you here? Go read some "Starving yourself is awesome" blogs instead.

And, if that's not your real name, then I think I understand why you think you're superior because you're thin; I've found haughtiness to be a typical trait of Ayn Rand fanatics.

If it IS your real name, then the probability that you're my husband's ex-girlfriend is really creeping me out. Sorry, chickie, you might be skinny, but I got the babe.

annaham said...

Excellent post! I'm adding your blog to my links list, if that's okay. (I have fibro too, and I've read some of your other posts--you are very thoughtful!)

Dagny said...

Yes Dagny is my real first name. I wrote my Masters thesis on gender roles in Rand's work. I do not have a public Blogger profile because I don't like the way it messes up my template.

I happened upon a link to your blog and was curious so I checked it out. I was interested in a response to my question. I'd say you've overreacted a bit but I don't remember how I worded it.

I have been on both sides of this issue having had gastric bypass two years ago. I continue to struggle with and process how things are different for me now and it's much too complex to get into in this small space.

I will provide a link to my Blog. I have always welcomed comments that challenged what I wrote but recently had to change my comment permissions because of excessive and juvenile harassment from someone I know. I hope to return my blog to regular commenting in time. An email address is provided on my blog.

RioIriri said...

Your response did not have a question, just a declaration that fat acceptance does not "make sense" and that fat is always unhealthy.

In other words, the same tired things that the fatosphere bloggers get in trolling comments on a daily basis from people who refuse to look at the entries that we point out as answers, like this one:
Just because your experience is different does not mean that ours is exactly the same. You might have been unhealthy, but there are plenty of us fat girls who are healthy. What health problems I DO have are not fat-related, and they would not disappear if I dieted myself thin--especially considering they existed BEFORE I GOT FAT.

If you feel you're getting a harsh response, it's because it's getting tiresome to repeat this over and over. Check out the Kate Harding entry.

Finally, if you have questions, you should use question marks. There were none in your original comment, so I took the comment as a bullying declaration like so many others that size positive bloggers receive.

Dagny said...

Been trying to remember what I posted here and I think I asked if this "threat" theory made you more comfortable. I'm wondering if you are overestimating this potential threat in your effort to make sense of a bias that is completely irrational to you.

We all know that to solve a problem, the cause must be identified and I don't think fat bias is based in normal-sized people being "threatened" by fat people.

I've been 340lbs and I think it hurts more to believe that people could have been simply disgusted by me than to think they believed I'd be "competition" if I were judged by my character and abilities instead of by my appearance.

I have posted some thoughts on this in my own blog which is aimed at people who've had WLS.

Feel free to rag on my use of punctuation if you like but that's my two cents. Good luck in your job search.

RioIriri said...

If someone was "disgusted" by you, then they're the asshole. I'm sorry that they hurt you--it wasn't fair.

I'm sure that people are "disgusted" by gays, but it doesn't justify discrimination and hatred.

Maybe you didn't feel comfortable in your own skin at that size? I don't know, because I am significantly smaller than 340 lbs. But, at my current size, there is no reason for a doctor to blame my fat cells for unrelated issues.

There's also no reason for an employer to assume that I am not capable of easily getting into and out of airplanes and rental cars--an actual reason given to me by someone who was absolutely desperate to hire me until he met me in person and saw that I was fat.

Never mind that I've flown quite a bit with zero issues (I do not spill into the seat next to me, for example, and can be quite comfortable with both armrests down--but when flying with my spouse, we put the one between us up and cuddle the whole way!). I have made mad dashes across airports plenty of times to make connecting flights in the nick of time.

I haven't met a car yet that is too small for me; I do have trouble with them being too large. I am a short creature, so I have to push the seat pretty far forward to reach the pedals. I drive quite a bit due to living in a metropolitan area where everything seems to be twenty minutes from everything else (it's a standard joke around here).

In other words, my fat does not prevent me from doing the things that I need to do. The only size limitation I DO have is being short, which I make up for with monkey-like climbing ability and superb balance on ladders.

What I really can't do is stand in one place for hours, lift heavy objects repeatedly (I can do them once in a while, but not over and over), or work eight to twelve hours with no breaks at all. These limitations are not unique or even rare, however, and many of the jobs for which I am qualified do not require them.

In addition, I have a resume jam-packed with experience, education, and skills in my field. I am very good at what I do.

And yet, when an interviewer calls me back to BEG me to come in for an interview after I've turned him down twice, and he flat-out tells me that I'm too fat for the job, you'll have to excuse me if I'm just a wee bit angry.

You'll also have to excuse me if I wonder whether the fat-haters would find themselves in a panic over their own status when they are encouraged to treat us as equals, instead of their current derision being spurred on by every media outlet in articles that accuse us of being CONTAGIOUSLY FAT.

Melanie said...

Very clear-sighted post. Thanks!