Living in a fatphobic society means that liberating ourselves isn’t a one-time deal. We have to keep fighting back against the negative messages that we receive, and we have to dig deep to find the things that we’ve been sold by diet culture that we are still hanging on to, and then we have to work to let them go.
Complimenting Weight Loss
If we compliment people on their weight loss we do a couple things to support diet culture:
- We confirm the mistaken and harmful belief that a thin(ner) body is better than a fat(ter)
- We set up someone for a bigger fall. When (as almost everyone does) they gain their weight back, they’ll have the memory of all the people (including us) who told them that they looked better thinner, which is likely to set them up for more weight cycling.
It can be rough when someone who is still fully entrenched in diet culture is looking at us expectantly for our congrats. There are weight-neutral ways to respond to weight loss, I blogged about some options here.
We can become conditioned to the idea that fat people shouldn’t expect the same things/experiences/treatment that thin people get. Whether that means supporting the idea that fat people should pay twice as much for the same plane trip, or more for clothing, or spa services, or healthcare, or that we shouldn’t expect seats or rides to accommodate us etc.
You’ll see this sometimes in discussions when someone says “I’m fat and I think that I should have to pay for two seats on the plane.” Assuming that they aren’t a troll pretending to be a fat person and are, in fact fat, I’m willing to protect that person’s option to pay twice as much – and I’m sure that the airline will accept their extra money – but I won’t support their desire to contribute to the oppression of fat people. Internalized fatphobia sucks and my goal is to help people get out from under it, but if they are weaponizing their internalized fatphobia than my focus has to be on their victims first.
Our Size But No Bigger
Sometimes we can become ok with the size we are, but still hold onto stereotypes and bigotry about those bigger than us. Often this becomes sheer hypocrisy – like if we believe that we should have access to, say, a blood pressure cuff that actually fits us, but we don’t think it’s “reasonable” for someone however-many-pounds heavier than us to have access to the same thing. Or if we are still promoting weightloss (including and especially dangerous drugs and surgeries) for people who are larger than us. This, again, amounts to weaponizing our internalized fatphobia. If we’re not here for the fattest and most marginalized bodies, then we’re not here at all, and we have personal work to do.
Blaming Fat Bodies
Fat people are told that being fat is to blame for…well…basically everything in our lives. Whether we’re unhappily single, struggling to make it in the job we love, or have a severed limb, we are told to blame our fat. In fact, the problem was fatphobia all along. And fatphobia is not our fault, even if it becomes our problem. (Sometimes we can have let go of this for ourselves, but still be holding onto it for bodies larger than ours.) Fat bodies are never, ever, ever the problem – the problem is a world that doesn’t accept, affirm, and accomodate bodies of all sizes. We can get better at this by practicing putting the problem where it belongs.
Hanging Onto Healthism/Ableism
Even as we leave our own fatphobia behind, we can still hold onto healthism. This can sound like “It’s ok to be fat as long as… you’re healthy/meet some idea of able-bodiedness etc. or it can sound like “I’m fat but not, like unhealthily fat…” etc. Anytime we suggest that health is an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or a requirement to be allowed to exist without shame/stigma/bullying/oppression, we are making a mistake.
We live in a society that is full of fatphobia, built on a scaffolding of weight stigma so if we are dealing with some, or all, of these issues that’s not exactly a galloping shock. The idea here isn’t to become stuck in guilt, it’s to recognize the issues so that we can fix them for the good of us, and everyone else.
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