Thursday, January 24, 2013

Let's do a thing.

I've seen in various places people both fat and not completely misunderstanding fat bias.

So let's talk about it.

I'm going to use Thin and Fat as our conversation points, understand that as I am talking about these things there is a list of things that this is not:


  • Thin hating.
  • Body Bashing.
  • A personal vendetta of some sort.
  • Jealousy, hateration or whatever.
  • Personal attacks etc.
Now first let's talk about the difference between interpersonal problems and institutional problems.

Someone says to a thin person in passing: Eat a burger.

That is an interpersonal problem. There are not institutional systems in place, to bully and abuse thin people into eating burgers.

Someone saying, eat a burger is bullying and insulting but it is not institutional.

If it were, when you thin person went to the doctor this might happen. As it happens to fat people very often.

Thin Person: Doctor, I have this really bad pain in my (insert area here) I'm pretty worried about it.

Doctor: Eat a burger you'll feel better.

Thin Person: Um I ate a burger yesterday and it still hurts.

Doctor: Maybe if you took some responsibility for yourself and gained some weight you wouldn't be in pain.

Let's say you binge eat ALL THE BURGERS and gained 15 pounds and still feel awful. Go back to the doctor.

Doctor: Good for you, look at those 15 pounds KEEP GOING!

Thin Person: But I have been binge eating and that's not really healthy and I still have that pain-

Doctor: Why don't you have any discipline? Clearly what you're doing is working, keep doing it.

And scene.

Now, that would be part of an institutional system to make you Thin Person eat a burger. That is not someone just being a jerk. 

You dig?

People being jerks to you or shaming you for your body and only on the basis of how your body appears is bullshit, it sucks and people should stop doing that.

That said, interpersonal problems are not the same as Fat Bias.

Now, I bet at least 80% (I'm being conservative here) of fat people have had similar conversations with doctors. I have had them. People I know and love have had them.

That is an institutionalized means of abuse and mistreatment that goes unchecked.

Here is the actual truth.

Fat peoples lives, not their virtual lives or kind of lives our literal lives are often put at risk for no other reason than our fat bodies.

There are so many stories of life threatening misdiagnosis, of people being flat out denied treatment, over or under medicated.

Children being misdiagnosed, people being denied cancer screenings because they are fat, people having their quality of life cut in half or worse because, well if they just weren't fat.

There is frankly literally nothing that has ever been wrong with me personally, that someone hasn't suggested weightloss for. How about a list?


  • Allergies to things like grass, bug bites, flowers and some foods.
  • Migraines.
  • Insomnia.
  • Injuries sustained in falls.
  • Pinched nerves in my neck and back from falls.
  • UTI
  • Yeast infections
  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinus Infection
  • Rash from chemicals I used cleaning
Here's the thing.

Not one of those things including times I've fallen have been okay or better when I've been thinner. When I fell down two flights of stairs when I weighed 110 pounds, I was just as fucked up as when I fell on the street at 190 pounds.

This is institutionalized.

This is not hyperbole (oh, look anti fat people, I honestly with all my heart wish it was hyperbole okay? It would be preferable to the actuality) this is not simple anecdotal data. This is my life, this is the life of many people.

If anti thin bias was in fact institutional, I would in fact be against it. It would not be okay. It would also look like this.

Thin person turns on the tv and in the span of ten minutes sees two commercials and one greedy fuck doctor talking about how their body is the biggest threat to America. There would be adverts everywhere promising that if thin people would just gain those last ten pounds they too could go to Paris or twirl in a meadow or some bullshit.

Anti Thin Body Bias would entail being told that they are morally corrupt people if they don't do anything about it and then say they tried to buy things like exercise equipment and are unable to buy the things that would facilitate them "doing something" about it.

Anti Thin Bias would mean that if health and fitness is morality, they would be hounded or humiliated out of gyms or running outside because they are not to be seen.

Anti Thin Body Bias would mean that every magazine they see in the store tells them that they should hide their body, that "fashionable" excludes them, that well you know those tiny clothes are just so unsightly stores don't want their not thin customers to be exposed to them so you can only buy them online. Oh wait you want a size 0, not only is it going to be hard to find it's going to be given some cutesy name and you'll be charged double for your pleasure and have a hard time returning or exchanging it because you can't take it back to a physical store.

Anti Thin Body Bias would mean that people on say tumblr when you post a picture of yourself looking thin and happy and playing with your dog, or hugging your partner, or showing off your new hair cut would in the open decide to tell you that they hate you and they hope your dog and your mom dies or that you are the ugliest thing ever, and believe that they are perfectly right because well you're thin and you deserve it. And people would be okay with that.

Anti Thin Body Bias would mean that entire forums would come to your blog when you're talking about exercise you like solely to take your words out of context, steal your picture and make fun of it.

And all those things would happen under the guise of it being okay because if you just bully and shame a thin person enough, they will change.

So no, Thin Folks I love many of you but I need for you to take it down a notch when comparing interpersonal problems to institutional ones.

There are parallels in our struggles for bodily autonomy, self esteem and feeling good in our bodies. But, when we get to the specifics of fat life and institutional stamped and approved by society anti fat bias, it is time to be quiet and listen.

This is why it is important to understand why fat people are not standing up and cheering for Thin White Women as the face of any body acceptance ever.

This is why it is important to stop taking things so personally and understand that while yes, yes these things impact you, they are not about you personally.

This is why it is important for fat folks to police ourselves in terms of not getting on the thin shaming train even when it's tempting.

This is why Fat Acceptance is really fucking hard.

It's hard because even after saying all this, I know there are going to be Thin people with hurt feelings. That is frankly just too bad. If it is indeed beyond you to utilize those critical thinking skills I know you have and understand these differences that are sometimes subtle and sometimes not so much, I am not the droids you were looking for.

That's all for right now.

Homo Out.

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11 comments:

Veronica said...

I feel like you've just put words to thoughts and feelings that have been swimming around in my head but that I haven't been able to name. Just an excellent piece!

Cyndi said...

One more to add to your list of doctor anti-fat crap. Many years ago, went to student health to say my gut was messed up, nothing but diarrhea for ages. So bad that, even without changing my diet, I lost 10 pounds in a month (both weights were within my so-called ideal range) and I was scared.

Total blank look. "I don't understand what the problem is. You look great. You're not too thin."

Turned out to be an allergy to dairy.

In other words, institutional anti-fat bias is so pervasive that it affects people who aren't fat too. But, yes, it was all even worse when I was in fact fat.

Anonymous said...

Super excellent point - very well explained. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Sizism is all about controlling our bodies, our presentation to the world. You would have to perfectly match society's expectations and you'd probably STILL be blamed. Sizism is most definitely intersectional. The ways in which it affects people is varied and this should be respected.

Doctors
My disability has been blamed on my thinness by doctors. People (including medical staff) have told me I'm anorexic and threatened to institutionalize me. I've been hounded by doctors to "exercise and eat right." When doctors messed up an operation and almost killed me, they blamed my pain afterwards on lack of exercise and refused to treat me for a week, during which I almost died. I had to receive emergency surgery, which I only got because a different doctor was on call in the ER that night.

Parents
In addition to doing some of the things above, they refused to take me to the hospital on a regular basis because the results of my disability were caused by "laziness."

School
It is unknown if this was just ableism or not, but every school I've ever been to has refused to allow me days off or to skip PE even with a doctor's note.

Pro-Fat Movements
"REAL women have curves." Implying that skinny ones aren't real women.
"Nothing feels as good as skinny tastes." A reverse of a popular quote (replace feels and tastes). The image was of a fat person EATING a skinny one.

Please, stop invalidating very real problems. Let's discuss how sizism affects both sides, and how it's intersectional and again, you could be perfect and still get blamed. Otherwise, we're playing right into the kyriarchy's hands.

-sT

Shannon Barber said...

Okay Anon.

Did you miss where I said body shaming is bad?

Probably.

Where precisely am I invalidating anything I will need a quote.

You have entirely missed the point and the actual content of what I've said here.

Also I am not talking about individual problems really thin people have, in case you missed that as well.

The topic is, a clarification about the differences between interpersonal body shaming and institutional body shaming.

I'm not talking about ableism in this post.

I am not talking about your parents personally.

Those are interpersonal and part of your experience which yes happened, but is not what I am talking about here.

This bit at the end is probably a part you should have paid attention to:

"So no, Thin Folks I love many of you but I need for you to take it down a notch when comparing interpersonal problems to institutional ones."

I did not have your experiences so I am not talking about them. If you want a platform to talk about the sizeism faced by very thin people there are many many places to do that. For free even. This blog is not one of them. I have not had that experience so it is not where I am coming from.

As I say very often, to lots of people just like you person, I may not be the droids you're looking for.

Actually with all that said, I will do a follow up entry to explain further why what you're doing here is derailment and taking things that are not personal to you, very personally.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, how is doctors refusing me treatment not institutional? How is the constant hate that flows from so called "body-positive" movements interpersonal?

This is why I never try to talk to people like you. You don't care how many people stand up and say, "Here's how I was discriminated against." You just care that you're the ~super special oppressed ones~ and everyone else's problems are individual, unconnected incidents, trufax!

Goodday,
sT

Shannon Barber said...

Again you missed the point entirely and you're being incredibly disrespectful in my space.

Again where did I invalidate your treatment personally? Where did I ever say that nothing bad ever happens to thin people?

Where did I say that sT has never had any institutional problems regarding their body ever?

Where?

In my explanation of the differences between things on a micro personal (as in your personal life) level, where did I do any of these things?

I don't know if you're trolling or as I mentioned in this entry taking this example/explanation personally but you are really not understanding what I am doing here.

I actually do care which is why I made the effort to break down some differences in the personal and the political. If you can't understand that, as I said in my previous comment, I am not the droids you are looking for. If my level of intersectionality and my use of both the personal and political is beyond you, bye.

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

After having the dose on my thyroid medication raised and starting to work out again for the first time in quite a while, I lost about 25 pounds. I attribute this more to the thyroid medicine change than the exercise, because I've exercised before and not lost an ounce. The doctor was thrilled with my weight loss. He then said "do it again."
Which just goes to show what I already know. No matter how many times they say that "even a little weight loss will make a positive change in your health, blah blah," you can never do it enough.
So, fuck it. I exercise because I like it, not because I think it will lead to weight loss.
As a Fellow Fat Person, I truly know where you're coming from with this.

K(Banterings of a Basketcase) said...

I noticed a commercial this morning that made me think of your post. Lady gets on a plane and her seat is next to a fat guy who is a bit messy. The stewardess tells her that she can sit next to John Stamos instead. Why did the first guy have to be fat? Advertisements are another fat biased institution. Thin people are not portrayed the same.

Anonymous said...

In commercials thin people are often potrayed as snobby, elitist, and cold. I saw a commercial this afternoon where a woman had an interaction with a rude woman, and that rude woman was thin. That is ALWAYS the case.

Look, there is just as much, if not more, institutional bias against thin woman than there is against "normal" sized women.

silentbeep said...

"Look, there is just as much, if not more, institutional bias against thin woman than there is against "normal" sized women."

Any formally thin, or even formally fat person will tell you this is simply not true. Talk to one who is willing to be honest, truthful, and really listen because they will tell you, without a doubt, they the treatment they received as a thin person was different, than the treatment they received as a fat person It never fails. You are either being willfully obtuse, or you are a troll. Either way, you don't like this blog so I just you go somewhere else and read something that conforms with your worldview because you obviously don't want to listen.

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