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Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan is running a long thread where his readers write in and yell at fat people. I hope I don’t need to say why this is a bad thing, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s totally not okay to criticize other people’s personal lifestyle choices just because you disagree with them. People who are overweight or otherwise don’t meet our culture’s narrow standard of ‘beauty’ are often maligned or ridiculed by the media, on television, in the movies, and in real life. They’re told to “stop being lazy” and “just exercise” as if jogging will solve all their problems. They’re criticized for their supposed “poor lifestyle choices” while many fat people are actually extremely healthy. ‘Fat shaming,’ or ridiculing someone because they’re overweight, is nothing more than bullying. It’s an attempt to make people feel bad about themselves and their bodies for no good reason.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what Sullivan’s readers are saying:

I’m sorry, but give me a freaking break. Do we need a separate acceptance movement for short people? 

Or people with ugly noses? With bacne? What about an acceptance movement for unintelligent people with lousy personalities?  I mean, why should I have to try and not be a stupid asshole towards people; shouldn’t the onus be on them to accept me for the stupid asshole I am?  After all, it’s not like I can control my stupid genes or asshole-ish upbringing!

[snip]

And I say this as a fat person whose family is full of fat people.  No “thin privilege” here.

Well gee, maybe if people with “ugly noses” or “bacne” were discriminated against by pretty much everyone, they might also want their own acceptance movement. And being an asshole is completely different from being fat: being an asshole actually hurts other people.  Nobody is being fat at you.

Another:

Why am I the only member of my family who is not obese? Because I am the only member of my family who walks 15 miles a week. And runs 20 miles a week. And works out several times a week with weights. And eats carefully.

I do all that and I’m still about 20 pounds overweight.

[snip]

In my case, I have to run like hell to maintain my body weight at simply “overweight”. I have family history of hypertension, obesity, diabetes – you name it. But I don’t have any of those things. Because I work incredibly hard at not having them.

I don’t hate, or discriminate, against people for being overweight. I love my family and I know how hard it is to stay even reasonably trim, because I have to do it. But the fact is, if you don’t want to be fat, and your legs work, you don’t have to be.

Well maybe you don’t have to be, because you have the time and energy required to stay thin-ish. I find it strange that a person who spends several paragraphs talking about how incredibly difficult it is to lose weight concludes by saying that anyone could do it.

People spend millions of dollars every year on diets, gym memberships, and self-help books. There are entire industries devoted to helping people lose weight.  Weight loss is anything but easy. So many people try really hard to lose weight and fail. To say that all it takes to lose weight is a bit of determination and hard work is like saying that you can fly by wishing really hard and flapping your arms.

And another:

To all the fat people out there: Work harder. There are too many people out there who are like what I used to do – donuts for breakfast; pizza buffet for lunch and McDonald’s for dinner. Figure it out. And stop expecting Fat Acceptance. Support? Yes. Encouragement? Yes. Education? Yes.

But never acceptance.

Yes, because fat people are really stupid and have no idea how to live a healthy life. Of course, all they have to do is “work harder,” and they’ll see the pounds magically melt away. They just have to “figure… out” how to lose weight and be a normal person like the rest of us. /sarcasm

You know, the most insulting thing about this is the assumption that there’s something extremely bad about being overweight. Being overweight is somehow a terrible crime, and they must spend all their available time and energy fixing it or else they’re bad people.  Being fat isn’t just an attribute, it’s a liability.

This person expresses the idea perfectly. This person is totally fine with fat people as long as they’re trying to lose weight. But god forbid they’re actually comfortable with their bodies. If they’re not actively trying to change their entire way of life to accommodate people who don’t like their body weight, they’ll never get “acceptance.” Frankly, I find that attitude extremely intolerant.

And, finally, someone who gets it:

I’m rolling my eyes pretty hard at the “suck it up, fat people” direction this thread has gone. Yeah, I’m fat too. About 40 lbs more than I should but 60 lbs less than I weighed two years ago. An uncomfortable balancing point between being pretty proud of myself for the work I’ve done but also beating myself up every day that I don’t have the time or will to push for that last 40 yet. And you know what? I don’t need other people, fat or thin, thinking it’s OK to excoriate me for my failure to achieve this!

The poor: suck it up and get a better job!

Addicts: suck it up and kick the habit!

Blacks: suck it up, the Civil War was 150 years ago!

Gays: suck it up – my fancy book says you are an abomination!

So fucking lazy, this argument….

Life is a struggle for everyone. We are all in a mind-numbingly difficult spiral of self-improvement and defeat. It’s about treating people with dignity. Is having formal recognition of this a step too far? I don’t know. Have I felt harassed and lessened my entire life for being “fat” even when I was in no danger of poor health but was merely “fat” by beauty standard norms? A bit.

[snip]

I wonder if people offended by the concept of a formalized “fat acceptance” movement would otherwise agree with the assertion that all people should be treated with dignity across race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, AND appearance. I certainly don’t want people’s tastes to be policed. I may be less than perfect for my inability to fully “suck it up” but I’m certainly not less a person.

This. So much this.

One last thing. I doubt that many of the people writing these things are even remotely familiar with the fat acceptance movement. I highly doubt any of them have read the ubiquitous responses to their ignorance. In short, most of these people have never given much thought to fat acceptance. And yet, most of them fall pretty hard on the side of not accepting people.

Why is intolerance the default position?

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