Monday, September 13, 2010

Concern? Really..this is not it.

After reading some blog comments lately (I KNOW they depleted my sanity points too) I think some folks need some guidelines as to how to effectively express Actual Concern without being jerky about it because apparently people don't know how.

Now I'm referring here to posts by:
Tasha at Bitch.

A post by Monica at Feminste.

This post by Atheling aka wickedday at Feministe.
And this one by Zuzu.

Having read comments on almost all of them, I have seen a lot of people who if it were another issue would not be giving the but HEALTH! DEATH! OHSHITOBESITY! type commentary.

Now as Zuzu and others have pointed out another persons health, their choices about their health and their body is none of your fucking business unless they make it so.

Now that said there seems to be some gap in a lot of feminist thought when it comes to granting fat women the same agency they might give to a woman who wants to do something else with her body.

So being that people seem to have the wrong idea about what is decent behavior and what isn't I thought I'd make a handy little guide.
Firstly, unless you are pointing at everyone eating a cheeseburger, pointing at the fat person with a cheeseburger is not a good indicator that you are concerned about their actual health.

As has been discussed ad nauseum you cannot in fact gauge what someone's health status is by looking at them.

You just can't.

People say but if you're fat than clearly you must have health problems.

Some fat people do some don't. That does not change the fact that if you are singling out the fat person your motives are suspect.

Second thing.

Concern does not mean you get to tell anyone what to do.

That is the impression I got from a lot of the comments. The fact is you cannot tell me or anyone else what to eat. You cannot tell me or anyone else how to use and care for our bodies.

I believe that the crux of the ire I saw in a lot of the comments is this.

I would like for more people to just be honest about it.

If it comes to abolishing desserts as I saw one poster suggest that is just being plain bossy.

That falls under jerky territory.

It is a dick move to decide that you know best for everyone. No one likes that.

No one likes being told, hey you might enjoy bread but you can't have any because I think it would be best for you.

Now, I don't know about you folks but my first reaction to that kind of condescension is to say, oh really, okay fuck you.

Maybe people with this mind set are trying to come from a loving place. If you are trying to come from a loving place think about it this way; if it was your life your body how would you feel about some stranger telling you what's good for you in this manner? If it would upset you, don't fucking say it.

The fact is, most people don't need a baby sitter when it comes to food. Barring debilitating mental illness (oh we'll get to that in a minute), developmental disabilities, food allergies etc most people don't need you to watch what they eat.

It is ultimately a control issue rather than a health issue.

Fat people are presumed to be out of control binge eating machines and thus, other people feel that we must be controlled for our own good.

This is not so true.

If you want to discuss the supposed obesity crisis there are things to remember.

A lot of fat people go on about their lives without the world ending. Some exercise some don't. Some people are fat because they are sedentary, some because they are depressed, some because genetically speaking they have drawn the fat lotto card, some because they have metabolic illnesses, some because they just are.

The reason someone is fat is not important in the grand scheme of health and health care if one is going to be serious about it.

If you're going to be serious about health tone must separate physical size and health. The two are not the same thing.

There is far too much biodiversity in sizes and shapes of human bodies to try and put any single view of health onto them.

There are too many factors that intersect with how healthy one person is that trying to enforce this moralistic view of some penultimate state of health is a.)a losing battle and b.) ineffective.

If you want to be concerned about fat people and our health this is a situation where it would be helpful to shut up and listen.

Don't be against fat people.

Be against an industrial medical complex that allows fat people to be treated badly.

Be against an industrial medical complex where I am more likely to be told if I tell my doctor I am depressed (this comes from experience) that I should just lose twenty pounds.

Had I (thank Gods I didn't) been at a point where my depression became fatal, what then? Clearly the answer for me was not just losing 20 pounds and calling it a day. What I needed and was asking for was medication and I got, well I can write you a prescription for Phen/phen.

I am glad I didn't take that.

Moving along.

Being fat does not equal having a mental illness in and of itself. Fatness is not something you'll find in the DSM I am fairly certain. Thus, comparing fatness to eating disorders as being the same and needing the same 'treatment' from feminists, bloggers etc is just ill conceived.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that often have devastating long lasting physical fall out.

Some fat people do in fact have eating disorders or show signs of disordered eating. This does not mean that all fat people are therefor mentally ill. Some fat people have mental illnesses that have nothing to do with food. And the inverse is true. Not every thin or really thin person has an eating disorder.

Mental illness is not something you can diagnose on the basis that you think what someone is doing with/to their body is weird. That is not how mental illness works.

Further, I find it appallingly cavalier (and honestly disrespectful) to try and jam fat into the same category as things that have nothing to do with being fat. It is disrespectful to fat people, disrespectful to people who have say whatever mental illness. It's disrespectful period. So don't indulge.

If you want to be concerned don't tell people what is or isn't wrong with their bodies. I see a lot of that and frankly it disgusts me.

It disgusts me that in some of these spaces I could probably say, I went to this clinic and was asked if I had been smoking crack but my White friends who go there have never been asked that.

Most people in these spaces would probably be apalled (yes that has happened to me too) and see that it was a racist thing going on.

Those same people seem to be unable to see when something similar, say me going to the doctor with a raging ear infection and instead of having that looked after, spending a lot of time being lectured about my weight and "lifestyle" which my doctor never bothered to ask about.

I wound up puking on the doctors shoes when my fever spiked and I finally got some antibiotics but it came right back around to my weight which had nothing to do with my issue, was at that point low for me and pretty stable, she did not ask how I was maintaining that weight but pressed me to lose more.

how is that okay?

I want every single one of these people who seem to think that concern means getting to tell fat people what's so easy and if you only tried hard enough etc to stop it.

Stop because I don't believe you.

If you are interested in deciding that the state of my body is indicative of mental illness, of being unable to make what you deem as good choices, as an absolute sign of other illnesses I don't want to hear it.

Many feminists seem to pride themselves on understanding various needs for social justice. Many will clamor and rally to defend so many other things but when it comes to weight and body size, hey guess what you're doing the work of the patriarchy you tend to fight against.

Not listening, dismissal, the condescending I know better than you etc are all parts of the patriarchy that put most feminists I know into an absolute rage and there I watched a lot of feminists indulge in that very same thing.

Yes that is what I saw and felt.

And that is not cool and yet another reason to add to my ever growing list of why I don't identify as a feminist.

So if you want to express concern have some empathy. Don't assume that your not fat life is the same as another person's fat life experience. Don't presume that because you don't have a hard time at the doctor that it's that way for everybody. Don't fall into the habit of trying to parent fat people by telling them what to eat and how to take care of their bodies.

The bottom line is this, like every other thing in the world that you haven't experienced, if you want to learn about that experiences shut the hell up.

Basically don't be a Dick be a Richard.

For more about what I feel is concern trolling and how not to do it read here, for some words about privilege and dealing with your own read here.

And if you're still here my best friend and I have launched a new tumblr together. SnarkandPie Beasty and Cookie snarking Fatshion. I am Beasty she is Cookie.

I have special announcements tomorrow and what will probably wind up being a tirade about the advice of an acquaintance to "just exercise".

Homo Out.


beatfreak said...

I don't even need to read the comments to know the asshattery that is going on. But I do want to share something.

I have been reading Geneen Roth's new book (because I do have issues around food). I've been on a crazy-making food journey for the last few months and I need some sanity. So I also put myself in program. Here's the deal: I now realize that I have been dieting/restricting as a way to atone for my being human; for being not what the great masses deems worthwhile. I am tired of it. I am sick and tired of the lack of peace I feel around food and I'm ready to stop.

I don't need these assholes to do the pile-on. I know I'm fat. I also know that not all fat people compulsively overeat (heck, there are thin people in the groups too.) I liken these folks to the sidewalk Jesus preachers who tell everyone they are going to hell. That shit never works and neither does this concern trolling. I for one am done with these people.

Rachel said...

"Firstly, unless you are pointing at everyone eating a cheeseburger, pointing at the fat person with a cheeseburger is not a good indicator that you are concerned about their actual health."

I couldn't have said it better myself. That's how it ALWAYS is; it's never a freakin concern about health when it comes to our bodies.

FreeFox said...

"sanity points" Don't tell me you play CoC?! o.O

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