When was the last time you rolled your eyes or recoiled in disgust at a fat person? Or used a term like “fluffy”, “cuddly”, or “big but beautiful” to describe someone close to you who just isn’t quite thin enough? Congratulations, you are being an active participant of the last societally acceptable discrimination: fat shaming. Most people don’t believe this is a problem. Not only is it just wrong, but it has tangible effects on its victims. Fat people can have eating disorders, can die from over exercise and starvation, can commit suicide due to excessive body negativity, and have a whole host of problems we normally attribute to the thin people. Today we’ll explore these problems, their causes, and what we can do.
Obesity is linked to many different forms of societal oppression that are relevant to the era. Often times, these oppressions can intersect. For instance, being poor and being fat often go hand in hand. Organic foods, even “healthy” produce can often be very expensive to feed a household. It’s a lot easier for most families to buy the cheaper, not-so-healthy foods, just to make sure their families are fed. Reading this study opened my eyes to the gender oppressions that go along with being fat. To summarize, the study found that among overweight females and males, females have a harder time finding sexual partners, despite the contrary to popular belief. Really? The female body is so sexualized in our society that as long as it is thin and attractive, everyone wants it. However, take a step outside the societal beauty norm, and you’re lucky that anyone wants to sleep with you. This is an issue that I have dealt with myself. When I was younger, I had crushes on just about everyone I was friends with. However, I was often rejected because of my size, something that has transferred over to my attitudes with relationships today.
This doesn’t always just apply to sexuality. Often, people who are fat have a hard time moving up in the workplace too because of their size. It’s often said that they “don’t dress well enough.” The issues surrounding this are manifold. Often, they can’t dress well enough because, well, nice clothes can be expensive, especially when you’re big. There tends to be a correlation between being fat and being poor, because let’s face it, it costs less for a McDonald’s value menu than it does to eat organic produce and lean cut meats. There’s also the common concern that health insurance costs more for overweight people. Even though it’s been found that “people who are “overweight” (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9) live longer, on average, than those at a normal weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9),” it doesn’t matter. Regardless of weight, we need to treat people as equals. It doesn’t matter that someone can “choose their weight,” even though that’s not entirely true. I can choose my clothing, religion, hair color, and makeup style, and I still deserve respect.
So what can you do about these problems? For one, have some common courtesy and respect. Don’t act disgusted at fat people. Don’t call your kids undesirable because they’re fat. And don’t act like being fat is the worst possible outcome in the world. We can all also stand to benefit from questioning both our own thought processes about fat people and other’s thoughts and comments. Asking why someone feels or thinks a certain way can open up doors to conversations about societal norms, and help alleviate some of the oppression. And lastly, re-evaluate the way you act around fat people. Don’t treat them more delicately or not talk about food. Don’t prod them into making healthy choices. At the end of the day, it’s their body, and we all need to respect each other’s choices in that arena.
I guess the main issue with fat politics is the same as that with gender, race, and religious politics: we are all human, we share the human experience, and we deserve respect. Anything less than that is nothing short of disgusting.
Angela is a 17 year old genderqueer high school student from Arizona. Through learning about feminism, Angela has been able to cultivate healthy relationships and became a feminist through research on their school’s debate team. Angela is now greatly immersed in the world of sex-positive feminism, and strives to be a resource for others when it comes to issues involving feminism, sex, or body image. Read more of Angela’s posts here.