Friday, March 25, 2011

Some thoughts on fat identity

I've been mostly reading the intarwebs brouhaha over the girl who's a size 6 and had her pic posted on Fuck Yeah Chubby Girls. Personally, I don't think she's chubby, fat, or anything in-between. I think she's a thin to average-sized young girl with just a bit of belly pooch. I think it's awesome that she's learned to love herself/her body in spite of the messages our society sends girls/women about how they should look/dress/act/etc. But I can totally understand where she's coming from.
Now, before y'all start flaming me - understand where I'm coming from as a DEATHFATZ woman who, when I look back at pictures of me as a kid/teenager, wasn't really fat back then but sure as hell thought I was because that's all I heard. Sure, I never wore single digit sizes in my life (well, maybe as a baby and a toddler), and I don't remember ever wearing a size that wasn't classified as "Chubby" in girls' sizes or ever getting to wear any of the clothes like my peers wore when I was teen (I had to shop in the womens' sections of the stores to find anything over size 14/16 to fit me). But I wasn't fat like I'm fat now. If I had tried to join FA back in the 70s, at my then size of 14/16, I'd probably have been laughed right out the door. I didn't have trouble finding clothes to fit, I didn't have to worry about fitting in seats, I didn't have to worry about being mooed at or having things thrown at me for riding my bike in public or roller skating or anything else I did. Thin privilege - I had it and didn't know it because I had been told all my life that I was fat because I didn't wear single-digit sizes and wasn't petite (hard to be petite when you're 5' 9" at 15 years old).
Then life happened and things happened and diets/diet drugs/WLS happened, and I got fat, fatter, fattest. I learned to deal with it, developed a fuck-you attitude in spite of the hurt I felt at the judgmental behavior of asshats/douchecanoes who called me names, didn't want to hire me, didn't want to date me, didn't want to be my friend, didn't want to (insert whatever activity) simply because I was fat. I decided that if people were going to judge me on looks alone, then I didn't need them in my life and they could eat shit and bark at the moon (to steal a phrase from my husband).
Then I found FA and what an eye-opener that was. But ya know what? There were some people in FA that thought I didn't belong in FA at all because I had had WLS years before I even fucking knew what FA was. Even though that WLS failed and I ended up fatter than I was before the surgery, even though I'm adamantly against WLS. They still thought I didn't belong. Guess what? I'm a bitch and I don't get run out of places I want to be all that easily. There were also some people who were very supportive, and I just figured, "Ya know what, fuck the ones who think I don't belong. They don't know me yet, they may not like me once they get to know me, and that's okay. They can do their thing, I'll do my thing, and we'll ignore each other. If they don't ignore me, then I'll tell them to fuck off, no skin off my nose if it pisses them off." I started my own blog, did my own little thing, commented here and there, and life went on. I've made a place for myself in FA, in spite of the ones who thought I didn't belong, and life went on.
The other thing I was thinking about on this topic was how my now ex-daughter-in-law always used to say she was fat. Now, when I first met Tina, she was not fat by any means (not at 5' 11" and 135 lbs). And I told her so, forcefully, many times. She used to really piss me off when she would piss and moan about how fat she was and how she needed to lose 10 or 20 lbs (her nickname among my son's friends was Stick Stickley). What I didn't know at the time was that she had been called fat as a kid by her parents, sisters, and brothers. Now, I haven't seen pictures of her when she was a kid/teenager, so I don't know if she was actually fat or not, but I know what it's like to be called fat when you aren't really fat, but are just taller/bigger than other kids your age. The funny thing is, she could benefit from FA because she's actually fat now - she has MS and lupus and one of the side effects of her drug regimen is weight gain. She's really upset about it, and has been talking about getting a lapband so she can lose weight. I don't know how many times I've told her that when weight gain is a side effect of the drugs you're taking, no diet or WLS is going to make you lose weight and keep it off forever (not that diets and WLS work for permanent weight loss anyway, but still....). I told her that if she gets a lapband, what she's going to lose isn't fat, but will be muscle mass, and with MS that's not a loss she can afford. I've preached FA, lived FA, even my husband has told her that she shouldn't care what other people think, that her opinion of herself is the only one that matters, but she's still fixated on what everyone else thinks of her. Which is understandable when you stop to think about how girls/women are bombarded on a daily basis with the demand that they be perfect in every way - and just when a few women look like they might actually have a chance at attaining that "perfection", the goalposts are moved. When the images we are given to live up to are airbrushed and photo-shopped to a fare-thee-well, is it any wonder that women have a hard time loving themselves/their bodies? When everything is sold to us in order to "help" us attain that "perfection" - from clothing to make-up to soap to diets to exercise. Personally, I've never been much into perfection - it's too much work. I'm satisfied with working toward things that make me happy, and striving for perfection isn't it. My house doesn't have to be spotless, but it does have to be clean. My clothes don't have to be the most fashionable, but they do have to fit and be colors/styles I like. I don't have to be athletic, but I do want to be as healthy as I can be - so I eat as well as I can afford within my gastrointestinal limitations and I do what exercise I can with my mobility issues. I don't do any of this to satisfy anyone but myself. I don't have to live up to anyone's expectations but my own.
Remember the movie, Looker, starring Susan Dey? How they were looking for perfect women, doing computer images of them, and then using those computer images to make television commercials? Are the airbrushed/photo-shopped pictures in magazines that much different? I'm really surprised that, with the level of technology we have today, that Looker hasn't come to pass and real, actual women haven't been done away with entirely.
As for that teenager that submitted her picture/comment to FYCG, the censure doesn't belong to her, it belongs to the moderator who allowed it to be posted. If it wasn't appropriate for the site, then the moderator should have told the teenager so and steered her to other sites that would have been more "appropriate". But to be nasty to a teenager who has finally learned to love her body in spite of society's messages to the contrary, no matter what her size, well, I'm sorry, but that's not very nice, and certainly not very admirable. She wasn't being malicious, she wasn't trying to rub her thin privilege in our faces - hell, I'm betting she didn't even know what thin privilege is (well, she probably knows now, she's probably gotten an education out of all of this, and not in a good way, sorry to say). It's one thing to flame trolls and to tell them off and boot them from FA spaces, but she wasn't trolling. She was celebrating learning to love her body, and that's something we should all be celebrating, no matter what size we are.


  1. Well put, Vesta! I remember being size 16 in high school and all of my friends were thinner. There were just a few of us 16ers and yes, we thought of ourselves as fat! I dieted then to try to get down a size because you're right - stylish junior clothes stopped at 12 or 14. I'd wager many in FA have the same story, that is why it's astounding the uproar over "invasion of space." Thanks for sharing.

  2. Totally agree! Someone at any size that can learn to love their body should be celebrated because that too can help the movement grow bigger. I seriously hope that girl is ok wherever she is, the comments I saw on there were heart breaking.

  3. Thank you for being a voice of reason, wth what this all about?

    I may have misread, but I got "I've poked that stomach for 13 years". I wrote a post questioning our unthinking obssession with flattening tummies as if it is a moral good.

    I didn't notice her saying she was chubby or fat. Although yeah, it is FYCC, but to me chubby doesn't necessarily mean fat and there is a far greater scale of weight among fatz than there is amongst almost everyone else put together.

    Point is, fat and belly hating has become conflated in the overspill of fat hating. That level of energy cannot be contained solely in fat people especially when others fear fatness. Everyone needs to get over fat phobia and hating.

    You put your finger on it when talking about WLS, you've got to try and know what your about and recognise that some others won't get that and try and stand your ground. I don't even mean confrontation, as you said, you can keep out of people's way.

    I've tried to explain to that thinner women have to recognise that their enjoyment of the 'privileging of thin' has come at a price and that is their bodies as a depersonalised symbol to beat up fatter bodies, so their mere appearance is triggering to others, especially when they're guard is down on the 'sphere.

    They need to meet that challenge and reclaim their bodies, as fatz are doing. At the same time, those reading thin bodies this way also have to get over their own body shame because if they can to a certain extent, these bodies will not be seen as degrading their own.

  4. wriggles - Yes, what I'm trying to get through to people is that I'm not responsible for how anyone views my body, you're not responsible for how anyone views your body, nor is any other person responsible for how their body is viewed by any other person. Any opinion of one's body is just that, an opinion, and should have no validity with the person in that body. None of us were put on this earth strictly to be eye candy for everyone else, and those who think otherwise need some serious attitude readjustment.
    This valuing one body type/size over another needs to stop. There are reasons for a wide diversity of body types/sizes and eliminating all but a few select body types/sizes is a brick in the road to the extinction of humankind. I don't want it to be said of me that I helped build that road.

  5. Your "Fuck you!" attitude makes you a role model, Vesta.:)

    Anyway, it's not exactly uncommon for someone who doesn't toe the party line to get accused of being a troll, personally attacked, to have assumptions made about her, and all that jazz. I get rather sock of it meself. We don't need that in FA, and I don't engage in it.

    Patty Thomas said it, as did Big Liberty: The only people that win the Oppression Olympics are the haters.

  6. joannadw - That's the thing with "Oppression Olympics", no one who's oppressed wins by trying to compete, because almost everyone has more than one area of oppression with which to contend. Intersectionality should be drawing us together, not driving us apart by making us compete against each other.
    And my "Fuck you!" attitude took a while to become a part of me and be what I really felt. But the older I get, the less I give a shit what other people think. I just don't have the time or patience to deal with people who are so set in their bigotry that they're willing to miss out on friendships with great people just because those people are fat, willing to not hire people who would be fantastic employees just because those people are fat, and think it's perfectly fine to be the body police for the world. Sorry, they need to get their own house in order before they start looking at other peoples' houses.

  7. I remember being a size 12-13 around age 12, and I was very tall, and still being told I was "fat". Of course PCOS would bring out a 100lb weight gain where Id stay for the next 12 years before the massive weight gain. But wow. I look back and see pictures of a very good looking barely plump girl, and think why was I put down night and day? And what happened?

  8. I too dieted and weight loss surgeried myself to deathfatz size despite being almost chubby all my teen years. People called me fat. I believed them. I absorbed the guilt and shame.

    If I had learned to love my size 10 self at age 12 or my size 14 self at age 14 or my size 16 self at age 16....I'd have been doing something different with my life right now.

    Yes, a healthy body image should be available to people of all sizes. Even those we consider to be thin privileged.

  9. In your blog you said "I learned to deal with it, developed a fuck-you attitude in spite of the hurt I felt at the judgmental behavior of asshats/douchecanoes who called me names, didn't want to hire me, didn't want to date me, didn't want to be my friend, didn't want to (insert whatever activity) simply because I was fat."

    "didn't want to hire me" - okay, I'm with you there, unless your fitness level somehow directly bears on your ability to do the job (eg. police officer), your size should not affect your employment opportunities.

    "didn't want to be my friend" - yup, that makes sense, I choose my friends based on their personality, not appearance, race, or anything else that is irrelevant to a platonic relationship.

    "didn't want to date me" - sorry, but now we have a problem. A romantic relationship is based on multiple elements of compatibility, and for the majority of people, one of those elements is physical attraction. This does not make a person "shallow" or "fat hating" or anything else negative. If someone dates ONLY on the basis of physical attraction, I would say that they are shallow, but not if they consider it an essential element among other important characteristics. Further, for the majority of men, obesity is considered unattractive. We can argue all day about why that is, blame the media, blame genetics, etc but that's another discussion. For you to call someone an "asshat/douchecanoe" and deserving of your "fuck-you" attitude, if they are willing to be your friend, but not date you due to your size, says far more about your shortcomings than it does theirs.

  10. bf0d835a-c78d-11e0-9391-000f20980440 - When I called men douchecanoes/asshats because they didn't want to date me because I was fat, I meant the men who considered me good enough to fuck, but not good enough to be seen in public with. They wanted a relationship with me, would spend time with me, talk with me, watch movies with me at my house, have dinner with me at my house, wanted to fuck me, but no way did they want to be seen in public with me. If that's not an asshat/douchecanoe, I don't know what is. I met a lot of men like that, and it didn't take me long to figure out what they really wanted, and it wasn't me, it was just a piece of ass. I learned quickly that if a man didn't want to meet me in a public place and be seen with me in public, then I didn't have time for him in my life. My "fuck you" attitude came in when it came to men who said they wanted a relationship, but then didn't want to be seen with me. They said they liked larger women but I learned they liked larger women only for the sex they thought they could get easily, and the women they really wanted to be seen with weren't the larger women they were fucking.
    I had plenty of men that were friends and sex wasn't involved. They didn't mind being seen with me in public, we were friends, we didn't date, we got together for coffee, we talked about cars, hunting, farming, building things, our kids, families, etc. Those men weren't asshats or douchecanoes, they were good friends who I appreciated knowing.


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