Saturday, 11 September 2010

To Arwyn

Arwyn and I have been writing at cross purposes with each other, here’s my response which I hope will at least explain what I’m getting at, whether we agree or not.

Ok, I think I might have worked it out the mainstay of our mutual misunderstanding, the crux stems from you speaking in general terms, reflecting your post overall. And I on a specific one which stuck out to me, not the overall sentiment of your post on which I broadly agreed. I believe I’m speaking more from more of an FA interpretation, which is for me understanding the fat experience on its own terms, whether it overlaps with feminism etc., or not.

“That cries of “eat a sandwich!” are any less painful or more acceptable than “put down that donut!”
My response is to these two things being put together, suggesting that they are equivalent, or the same thing is going on. It's one thing to say, something hurts too and another to say it hurts the same.

It’s a bit like those people who say that starving a child and being judged to have overfed it are the same, anyone whose read about the former will instantly wish to correct that. To say they are not the same is not a dismissal of one, it's about different meanings.

To 'stop eating' is to stop life, to fight one’s instinct to live. To 'eat' is to live and to respect life, how can being given these opposite messages feel the same when they do not represent the same impulse?

When we are told not to eat it is a reminder of our position, of where we stand. It is being pointed out that this is not fair or rational and the speaker knows it.

It’s reminding you that truth doesn't matter, power does and the power says eating is your problem so the speaker has been given licence to be the ‘peer pressure’ for you to aim to effectively try to compromise your own life. They are reminding us; they have the whip hand in this and are mocking us for being in this position, out of relief (that they are not) as much as anything. We go along with it, we believed what we were told, not because it's right. It's hard to fight because it doesn't occur and when it begins to, we are often too disempowered by shame and our own sense of conscience- believing that we are at fault, we are outgunned, inside and out.

Part of the pretence is that we can choose to exit this purdah, but only by doing what we have been accused of, having no respect for our lives. Fat people are told, you volunteered for the battle, go and 'win' it. Ha, ha.

That you are in this trap is being flung at your face as hard as possible, to describe this as ‘body policing' is to devalue this experience. It’s a lesson in power relations, they don't give a damn about your body, it's purely an identifier a trigger to attack. That’s one of the reasons people like to hate fat people so much, we represent them or how they may feel in life. If they can hate us, they can separate from that feeling, they can take a rest. Taking part in the manipulation of us, they can convince themselves they are not us. They can feel powerful by identifying with the powerful, by acting out on us, what they feel is acted out on themselves.

Many repeated attempts to fight your will to live and 'stop eating', tends to leave you raw mentally and physically, not least because it was supposed to be your route to escape. This tends to puts you mentally in a defensive mode, just looking for some way of shielding yourself from total exposure and attack. This is what they are reminding you of in order to keep you there so they can mess with you more easily and do more damage the product of which will justify what they are doing. That's how you were all along. And so on so circular. Does anyone really think we've got into this position because of 'sensitivity' about teasing of our body type?

Without being kept in this kind of state-that can become incompatible with rational thought-things would not have gotten this bad. The key to perpetuating this kind of rough treatment is puncturing defences, hence it tends to start in childhood, before one's defences are formed. That's why child obesity is a big thing, start 'em young. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well the village is razing you.

I suppose that’s one reason why so many fat people identify with the typical view of fatness themselves. They see it as the best way to empower themselves; identify with the power.

I appreciate that if someone has been made to feel bad about being thin links can be made between that and eating-especially if they believe in calorie theory too. Slim people though are usually in a far better position to reject this kind of teasing. It’s not backed up by so many obvious and powerful interests. They are not constantly hearing how people want to gain weight, how they are by no means underweight, how proud they are that they gained two pounds, "urgh my body is so thin and disgusting" whilst someone pokes at their fat thighs, "I'm having a (bad) thin day" etc., etc.,

There is not a whole branch of science dealing with the deadly slimness and how virtually every known disease is linked to it, endless health warnings and links to various life threatening conditions. Constant browbeating, in this form, from all sides often adults letting children have it with both barrels.

Few thin people, unless they have eating disorders are in a position where they’ve believed their health and even their very lives depended on doing something that goes against the continuation of that very life. Only when eating is seen as a threat-usually in the extreme of a disorder-can there be a more valid comparison and even then, it’s that aspect of everything depending on doing the impossible.

I do not limit consideration to favour fat people as is being assumed. In the past, I've said on blogs that a thin person can be worse off when fearing (the social costs) of fatness than a person who is actually fat. I noticed this myself as a child when I realised that my existence as a fat person, disproved that fatness was a fate worse than death. I recognised I had a self limiting reality that slim children-girls who feared their lives would be destroyed by becoming fat didn’t necessarily have.

I’ve also never been a fan of the ‘thin privilege’ concept, even though I recognise the privileging of thinness counts for something in comparatively speaking.

It can lead to complacency in differing ways. It can allow thin people to see fat shaming as nothing to do with them, unless a fat person is or appears to be saying something directly against thin people, as people think I am. And for fat people to envy their position as if ‘equality’ with this position is the whole of the answer; distracting from the way that one position facilitates the other.

The answer is for all to recover our birth right of intrinsic self esteem fused with our very selves, not on abstractions such as body weight etc., we need each other in this endeavour.

As you can see, something like weight-whatever it is- puts distance between our innate self respect and ourselves, they start off being indivisible.

My feeling is that we are all born with a self esteem as part of us, it doesn’t occur to us that we should hate ourselves. Take a look at your darling son, does he punish himself, or doubt whether you should feed him? Or does he cry for food when he is hungry without a thought of whether he ‘deserves’ it or not?

To turn self esteem from being fused with yourself to requiring some abstraction, such as slimness; is a loss. Comparing this directly (only) with the denial of fat people’s experiences hides that that loss and can seduce fat and thin in different ways. It can give the unwary thin person a big incentive to get involved in fat hating. You can tell this in the knee jerk rationalizing to try and maintain fat hate, from all directions.

The seductive power of comparing thinness to that assigned a lowlier status (fatness) was why I was reluctant to describe the privileging of thinness as some monolithic privilege-supposed to be undeserved or unwarranted advantage. How can less than we all deserve, than we all need be described as undeserved? And the whole thing is unwarranted. This seems to play into a divide and conquer schema, behaving as if thinness in this framework is the acme of what anyone can achieve, a way of sewing envy in fat people. As this all requires the hating of a group to make it work, if fat people are going to aim for this, who are we going to hate to make that work?

I sense this is one of the fears a lot of slimmer people have about FA. They fear reversal of this with them on the other side, participation on one side teaches you how to be on the other. There is no point in trying to reassure them with false comparisons if we are waving a ‘thin privilege’ mentality about in the background as if that means a whole lot without our own comparative degradation.

Without that, thin privilege is just someone’s self respect being tied to something they cannot guarantee will be maintained. If this insecurity gains a momentum of its own set off by fearful anticipation of loss, you’ve got a whole lot of disorder as some slimmer people have found out. They are right to make that point, but none of us are going to get anywhere by trying to silence genuine difference to spare guilty feelings.

We all need to recognise and keep our eyes on the greater prize, what a lot of us need to re-gain; a whole and uncompromised self esteem.

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