Sunday, 5 September 2010


It's funny how even when I agree with a post and appear to be in agreement with the writer that I still end up somehow being put in my place, usually by being spoken to as if I'm an archetype of some other opinion the writer disagrees with.

It's also odd the way that many people including fat people seem to be convinced that any alienation across weight lines-for want of a better term-must be caused by a fat acceptance consciousness.

IOW, it doesn't occur to them that the alienation was there all along and our refusing to continue self loathing has exposed what was underneath. Think about it. It's as if because we've stopped peddling and started taking care of ourselves, we can carry the can, apart from being shocking.

We cannot.

Here's the sentiment that set me off;
..that cries of “eat a sandwich!” are any less painful or more acceptable than “put down that donut!”,

This kind of inapt comparison must stop.

I have good reason to say that and tried to explain a bit in my response. If you don't want to make a competition of it refrain from making these comparisons in the first place (why is it even necessary to couch it in those terms?) and dismissing genuine explanation. It's taken a hell of a lot for me to get to the psychological position to be able to even notice it, let alone try and make a case for it.

What made me consider "just stop eating" was the continued power it had to upset me and other fat people in general. In the past, when I still believed fatness was me doing something wrong, I assumed I should feel bad because I'd been called out on my badness. Then after seeing the light, I assumed "just stop eating" would lose it's power over me.

It's when it didn't, no matter how much progress I felt I'd made in other areas that I had cause for a deeper re-think, I wanted to be freed from it's power over me, instinct tells me it's part of the recovery process.

When I say, "eat" is not as painful as saying "stop eating" I too am not claiming the former doesn't hurt, but it cannot hurt as much unless there is something else going on. That's why the latter tends to hurt more, it is not only about looks or policing bodies, that's the surface which ignores a subtext that is harder to deal with.

Unless you've reached a stage with an eating disorder, such as anorexia where the overwhelming desire of those who love you for you to get better all comes to hinge at one excruciatingly unbearable point of "just eat". Repeatedly. And your 'failures' to do, just that are seared into your consciousness and the whole of your nervous system. You cannot be hurting that way because someone's said "eat".

It's unsurprising that you have to have had the worst kind of eating disorder in order to have a similar triggering effect. It plays up the way being fat is treated as an eating disorder, the cure of which is said eating disorder. Calorie restriction, less and more is a bitch for all who have to put up with it.

"Stop eating" is about deliberately and consciously invoking all that and the ripples of pain caused by lack of resolution that your mind keeps re-visiting often numerous times a day over the years formative and otherwise. Keeping it raw and brand new not matter how long, reminding you-as if you could ever forget that you are in the thrall of a lie and the truth will not set you free. It is a deliberate attack on the psychology of a fat person. To keep us in a state where we cannot begin to defend ourselves adequately or at all.

If you want some proof check out, objectively the quality and style of the 'arguments' used against us, the ad hominems, the empty calls to authority, they are so uniformly poor that the reliance on our being in a permanent state of heightened and acute discomfort has become a bedrock of it's ascendancy.

The taunter knows that the lie has more social momentum than the truth of fat people's subjective experience or even objectively observable reality, that is the real taunt, it actually doesn't have anything to do with food, it's a powerplay of the when you see someone down, kick them sort.

It should not be assumed that because thinner people's capacity to define their own subjectivity is more legitimized, in general, that they can use that to impose definitions or limitations on those who's personal sense of legitimacy has been unjustly breached. If people want to know how much we are still willing to assume the big sister/brother type role, they need to understand that it is possible to live and learn.

Been there done that, paid/paying the price.

If we are not prepared to have the respect that our experiences deserve then we should not complain when they are obscured from view and we are ridden roughshod over by those with an over developed sense of entitlement. We've kept quiet too often in the past and now it's time to give people a chance to hear our views, whether they like it or not.

I am not in competition with thinner women and I wish those taking this line would realise that. That some choose not to is not something that will not go away if we go along with these kinds of request to fit into the seat assigned, rather than to have the seat fit us, to try and keep the peace and avoid further reckonings.

Let's face it, the compromise of our sense of legitimacy may have benefited those not so impinged upon who now fear they will in turn be replaced by us. I don't feel aggrieved about any benefits accrued, however the general theme of slim(mer) people's collusion in fat phobia, is too big to be swept under the carpet and will have to be faced, at some point.

For their own benefit as much as anyone else's. If you allow your body and yourself to represent the stated ideal, then you allow yourself to be sold out somewhat to the status quo as others begin to see your body as a jabbing finger critiquing their own. Your body becomes more of an enforcer than it is a reflection of you, and I'm sure slim women could tell me a few things about the gap that leaves.

Somewhere along the line, slim women will have to rescue their bodies from this kind of objectification of their bodies, certainly that's part of puncturing this use of 'real women' and thin shaming nonsense. Hopefully before it builds up to much of a head of steam. It's disappointing that the only muted remedy for this seems to be about chastising fat women about the existence of slim pain, whether it's being denied or not, rather than the taking back of slim bodies from being caught in divide and conquer stratagems.

I cannot blame anyone for going along, we've all colluded, but now is an opportunity to wake each other up, let's not blow it for the scant 'reward' of who's pain is marginalizing whose.

Whilst I can understand the desire by some fat activists to yield to this kind of pressure, it's an old familiar technique, giving in to others perceived or actual needs and the reading they insist on giving things, regardless of whether that is true or not. I'm too aware of how that has been part of us making a rod for our own backs and I'm not willing to go along with it then wring my hands saying "why oh why fat phobia! Why the lack of respect?".

......because these protestations aren’t coming out of nowhere.

I'm not in competition with thin women, personally they don't have anything I want that doesn't come out of having a greater level of self esteem, full stop. I don't want the spotlight, that is still so irredeemably fused with hostile scrutiny that it doesn't enthuse me at all.

I'm not interested in gaining sympathy as such, professional or lay, when I tell people to get off my foot, I'm not asking for sympathy I'm asking you to re-position yourself in reflection of your more enlightened state.

I've never been one for believing that if I have white coat sympathy, I have the earth and all that's in it. I know this is a popular assumption amongst many, in FA terms, it sometimes comes out with the unfortunate pointless envying of anorexics or drug addicts as in "If I was anorexic I'd get help" or "If I was a drug addict people would sympathize".

That is a sentiment I consider myself deeply blessed to have no truck with. I look at what has any sympathy, perceived or otherwise done for said grouping? Anorexia has not lessened, nor has drug addiction. The suffering is still there, so in general I had the insight to conclude long ago that knowledge of what to do, is preferable any day, over mere sympathy.

So honestly, I don't conceptualize thin people in ways that make me covet abstract associations with thinness. I'm a human being in my own right and my aims which are to be found in my humanity are the equal of anyone's. I don't need that template to be written by weight. I don't want pre-eminence, I want the space to do what I need to do. I hope we can all share, if fear and mistrust can be overcome.

But not on dishonest terms. If we are not prepared to learn from our mistakes of endlessly trying to satisfy the needs of others before our own, regardless of the cost to ourselves. Becoming distanced and disassociated from our own feelings and experiences, then we are likely to be heading to the same as we've had, and I'm sure many of us would rather face unpleasant truths than succumb as before.

I say this out of respect for myself and other fat people who've been through the mill in ways that are still being erased inside and out. Don't try to tangle up anxieties about 'spotlight reduction' in something that is of a greater priority right now. Not out of disrespect for slimmer women or difficulties and challenges they may be more likely to face.

It's important to take account of the numerous slimmer women who get it, and know that the more enlightened of us are not out to erase their experiences, rather than make a priority of trying to placate those who do not. They are similar to those fat people who claim to believe that thin people suffer naught.

The sense that we are taking your shine should be dealt with by that understanding, not by emotional blackmail. And those fat people who are getting a little overzealous in their desire to 'prove' something that is not always being asked for; need to cool their heels a tad.

Remember that fat acceptance is about making space for fat people's self respect something that has been squeezed out, so it may not be possible to make that super comfortable for everyone, no matter how much we would like that. That pose itself is suspect, if we have such fatty superpowers why didn't we use them to save us all this trouble?

It may seem an unimpeachable sentiment to rush to reassure, but it must be balanced with thinking about what the possible ramifications of this might be. And if that can undermine what you are setting out to achieve.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really trying to understand why we are disagreeing on this. Here is my reading of what you are saying, in the comments on my post and here (phrased from my point of view, because otherwise it's too complicated):

    The statement (mine), that we shouldn't try to compete for which sort of food-policing statement is more painful is coming across to you as a statement that there's no difference between levels of pain inflicted from those statements. And so you are trying to say we shouldn't compare the individual pain [which, side note, is frustrating me, because I don't think I am]. And further, you are saying, that the sort of statement I have made is overly-placating to slim people/women, at the cost of creating space for fat people to speak our truths and have our own pain and experience acknowledged and centered for once.

    Am at at all correct in that reading?

    Assuming I am (and please correct me if I am not), here's why I have been disagreeing with you: First, I do not think that I said what you think I said. I did not say that all cases of food-policing hurt equally, nor that they function the same to cause the same level of societal marginalization. Second, I don't think that the space for fat women to tell our stories needs to come at the cost of thin women to tell theirs -- yes, fat voices are marginalized while thin voices are privileged, but misogyny and body-policing happen to then women, too. We don't need to center their voices (and I don't think I was in this post, although I can see an argument that I was), but we don't have to dismiss them, either.

    I consider it similar to the "men are so dumb they suck at housework hyuck hyuck" "jokes" -- yeah, they're about/against men (who have privilege), but they FUNCTION to keep women in the domestic sphere. They are a part of sexism and how it operates in society. So when I protest those "jokes", it isn't about protecting poor widdle men's feelings, it's about opposing ALL forms of misogyny.

    When thin women are told to "eat a sandwich", because they're "too thin", I protest in part because the pain of these women is real (just as real as any fat woman's pain, forget comparing "amounts"), and in part because it is part-and-parcel of fatphobia, and perpetuates the idea that there IS an "ideal body", that we all have an obligation to achieve it, and that weight is dictated exclusively (or, y'know, at all) by food consumption -- which are all ideas that hurt fat people.

    Thank you for continuing this conversation with me.