Monday, 12 June 2017

Stereotypes, Sizeism, and Ableism

LiesAs my regular readers know, I have another blog dedicated to my journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon. Today I got a comment (that I did not approve, for reasons that will become obvious) that said “None of this is true, nobody who weighs as much as you can walk around the block let alone complete the training you are claiming to complete.”

This kind of comment is really tricky to deal with because it invokes a tangled mess of intersectional oppression, stereotypes, and weight loss myths.

On one hand, it’s not ok for people to attempt to replace the lived experiences of fat people with their stereotypes, or to erase the existence of fat athletes, or to call us liars based on the fact that we don’t fit their stereotypes. On the other, if we’re not careful challenging stereotypes such as this can end up adding to the oppression of fat people who are dealing with disability/mobility challenges etc. by engaging in the completely bullshit Good Fatty/Bad Fatty dichotomy.

The truth is that fat people and our mobility/athleticism have nothing to do with this – fat people have different levels of mobility and athleticism, just like thin people do. The problem here is the stereotyping of fat people, the constant suggestion that we should blame everything on our fat, and the oppressional intersections of sizeism and ableism.

The oppression that lies at the intersection of sizeism and ableism is absolutely staggering and it leads to horrific treatment of disabled fat people/fat people with disabilities. And, in a way that is similar to how those who have (however temporarily) manipulated their bodies to be smaller are used to shame fat people, often fat athletes are used (by the same fatphobes who bully and harass us in other forums) as a way to further the oppression of fat people who aren’t athletes. The goal being to pit fat people against each other, convincing some to throw others under the bus in an attempt to get a modicum of respect from people whose opinions we shouldn’t care about at all.

Then there is the suggestion that we should blame our body size for literally anything and everything that we aren’t happy with in our lives. This includes everything from the assumption that any mobility limitation is because of we are fat (ignoring the fact that thin people can have the same limitations) as well as the tendency to give weight loss the credit for gains in mobility or athleticism such that if a fat person starts a fitness regimen that sees them gain strength, stamina and/or flexibility, as well as (at least in the short term) weight loss, our fatphobic society encourages us to  credit the weight loss and not the fitness routine for any gains in fitness.

This also leads to discrepancies in healthcare, when thin people with mobility limitations that can be rehabbed (of course, not all can, and those that can are under no obligation to do so) are given tons of options for building strength, stamina, flexibility, and mobility, while fat people in the same situation are typically just given diets whose most common outcome is weight regain.

So to review:

  • Stereotypes are bullshit. Sizeism is bullshit. Ableism is bullshit.
  • Participating in movement/fitness/exercise is not an obligation or barometer of worthiness and fat people who participate are not better than, nor should they be “held up as examples” to (or against), fat people who don’t participate.
  • There should be no shame or blame when it comes to disabilities or mobility limitations ever.  The discussion should revolve around increasing accessibility and eliminating oppression.
  • Stereotypes are bullshit. Sizeism is bullshit. Ableism is bullshit.

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