Friday, October 3, 2014

Fat Shaming: It's All the Rage

A rescue colleague posted a tale about how her husband's obese co-worker, a recently-diagnosed diabetic, injected his insulin into "his big belly" at a business dinner one night. I don't take issue so much with people being grossed out, but in my librarianly way, I followed it down the rabbit hole by asking a series of questions and offering that he might have had a medical emergency. As someone who is the sibling of a brittle diabetic and who has serious food allergies herself, I was curious to know if it was just an aversion to the injection or the fat body. I lost my temper pretty quickly, so shame on me for that, but it's not something about which I can be particularly objective.

People who aren't overweight or obese feel that it's their right, nay, their obligation, to remind those of us who are that we're unpleasant for them to behold and that in all sorts of ways, we take up more than our 'fair share' of space and oxygen. Also, it's their purview to remind us that we aren't supposed to eat what they deem inappropriate for us, such as sweets, alcohol, carbohydrates...well, pretty much damn well anything that's not a green, leafy vegetable or a lean broiled chicken or fish, because if we didn't eat like hogs on a rampage, we wouldn't be fat, right? 'Put down the fork and push away from the table' is how that logic goes.

We've been having this almost violent exchange on one of my library social network groups about racism, privilege, and bias, and what I want to say is, "Live a day in my world; there's privilege to not being fat, too." A colleague who is teaching a dual-credit course at an area high school just brought up that she is being cat-called over her weight as she walks to and from the class each morning. It's giving her flashbacks to the unhappiest moments of her own time in high school. This is a college professor and she's being fat-shamed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. General wisdom would tell us, "She's the adult, she should be thicker-skinned! It's just kids being kids!" Maybe, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt like a motherf*****.

Until you've had people crane their necks to examine what's in your grocery cart and visibly disapprove (by sighing, rolling their eyes, tsk-tsking, or similar) of its contents, you've not really lived. It's also great to be stared at as if you're a zoo exhibit when you're dining in public, although, here in the South, most people have enough couth not to comment in your earshot. Shopping for general items can also be fun; I once had the experience of overhearing a father coaching his young son on how to most effectively insult someone like me (they were near me, and I was definitely Dad's target of choice). I spun around and snapped, "I'm fat, not deaf. Perhaps you could concentrate on teaching your child some manners, rather than teaching him to act like a cretin." He turned white as a sheet- apparently it's only fun if you don't get called out.

It's often said that fat-shaming is the last safe prejudice. That's why so many of us are willing to risk our lives and mutilate our digestive tracts to leave this physical state of being behind- because we live in hell every moment of every day.

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