Fatty, fat, fat, fatty!

I was pointed to a post over at marginal notations, privilege – redux, where cheshire discusses the dynamics of privilege. As always, the post is worth reading, but I wanted to bring one question over to here since it gave me an avenue in which to voice something I’ve been struggling with all my life.

cheshire asked:

Can you think of the instances where we actively play a part in this game (I know I do) and are simultaneously victims of it?

When I saw this question, the first thing that popped into my mind is my (and my family, and society’s) obsession with weight.

First things first: I have thin privilege.

More than this, though, I’ve grown up in a family (immediate and extended) that is obsessed with weight. I’ve been taught by my family, by the media, and by society that “overweight” people (ie. people who aren’t paper thin like me) are sad, pathetic, unhealthy, undesirable, and disgusting. I’ve fought against this idea since I can remember but I still sometimes find myself judging people with extra weight. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been discussing something with my friends, whether it be weight, fashion, health or something like that, and I hear myself say something disparaging about overweight or obese people. And those are the times that I notice myself doing that, what about all the times that I don’t?

But I’m not free from it myself. It’s easy for me to advocate for society to adopt a broader image of beauty (and of health) because I’m thin. It’s easy to feel good about my body because I fit into what’s seen as the “correct” weight. But, as much as I try not to, I do think about my weight. I dress it up in pretty words like “healthy” and “toned” but part of it will always be about my body shape. It doesn’t help that every time I see certain members of my family I get comments about my weight. Snarling at, cursing at, and otherwise being angry with them has helped to keep the comments at a minimum, but I haven’t been able to get them to stop completely no matter what I do.

I’ve seen family members struggle with it, too – not just my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, but also my father, my uncles, and my cousins. I’ve sat by and watched my aunt tear into my cousin about being “fat” because he had a little belly. Sometimes she and my uncle would play it off as health concerns, which given his lifestyle of junk food I can agree with, but in the end it would come down to words like “fat” or “overweight” and the terminology associated with that. My other cousin who is a fairly active person, and who used to ride so she had some pretty impressive muscles, got similar comments from my aunt and uncle mostly because she has a broad frame. My mother hates having pictures taken of her, in large part, because she thinks she looks fat. My dad is always on one kind of diet or, more aptly, right about to start/resume one because his previous attempts failed. I was visiting my sister a few days ago, she currently works at Bally’s as a personal trainer, and one of the other trainers came over and told her that a new client asked specifically for her. Cool, right? Well, I thought so until he related that the client gave the reason as something like, “I want her because I have a weight problem and she’s the only one who can understand my weight problem because she overcame her weight problem.” Whatever the actual conversation, she had impressed upon the other trainer that my sister had (like her) had a weight problem that she overcame, thus making her more qualified to train this woman. I’m sorry, but my sister never had a weight problem except in the way she felt about herself.

But, that’s just the problem isn’t it? A lot of the problems that “overweight” (and even some “obese”) people have is not necessarily their weight, but how they feel about themselves. Having even 1% body fat in a world that says fat is evil and disgusting doesn’t make people feel good about themselves now, does it? Honestly, from where I’m sitting (which, again, is from the privileged position of being thin), it’s not fat that’s the biggest problem here, but how we treat people who we see as fat. Hell, even how we treat people who aren’t “fat” by any stretch of the word but aren’t personal-trainer- or eating-disorder-thin either. Am I the only one who think it’s a tad bit fucked up that it’s more acceptable in society to be too thin than have 2% more than the “healthy” percentage of body fat?

Maybe I’m just pissing in the wind here. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want one day, just one fucking day, when I can wake up and go through an entire 24 hours without think about weight at all. Hell, I’d settle for 12 if that’s all I could get.

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4 thoughts on “Fatty, fat, fat, fatty!

  1. I think your tiny belly is cute. 😀

    I think I’m doing all right about the whole weight brainwashing thing; I’m so tired by the end of my day — not enough sleep, work, gym, study — that I just don’t have the energy to obsess about my weight when I finally have a moment to myself. I think it’s also because…well, quite frankly, I was a big fatass about five years ago and I’m a 40-pound-lighter, much-slimmer fatass now, so I’m thinking, “Yeah, I still have a way to go, but damn me if I don’t look pretty good as it is.” I like the fact that I can go out, have a bigass bown of ramen and a double scoop of gelato, and not obsess about whether I can afford it in terms of weight gain, as I used to before I actually got off my behind and started exercising regularly. Which reminds me, I really should take up hapkido or tai chi again…

    I have noticed a pattern of formerly big/fat/chunky/whatever women I know becoming far more vocally proud of their bodies than women of the same size who have always been that size are — that is, the ones who didn’t go from obese to underweight and anorexic, but rather who lost weight and now appear to have a healthy self-image. I don’t know if it’s because the formerly tubby women have a feeling of control over their selves or what; I know that I feel confident because I can do things physically now that I never thought I ever could five years ago, and that’s a sense of accomplishment that bled over into other aspects of my life as well. Tangible progress made the difference for me. I mean, jeez, I have cheekbones now! It’s kind of scary at certain angles; I look kind of evil if the shadows are right.

    I don’t think this confidence, personally, is because I feel good because I am conforming to social standards of attractiveness, but rather because I feel good about being physically competent, graceful and fit. Whenever I’d get “You lost weight! Wow!” from relatives, doctors and friends (mostly relatives and doctors; the friends are usually better about that sort of thing), I was at a loss at whether I should be flattered or annoyed — flattered because my efforts were visible, but annoyed because this body is just a shell, and I’ve accomplished so much within the body that I thought it outshined anything the shell had accomplished, and nobody could see that. Also, it made me wonder why comments about one’s physical appearance generally are seen as inappropriate and rude except when noting one’s weight loss, as if one should be so happy to have outside acknowledgement of this “progress” that one should ignore basic standards of polite discourse.

    I still have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with my body, but I think that has to do more with how I feel as a personality rather than how I feel as a physical object. When I feel knowledgeable, wise, charismatic and competent, I feel as if who I really am extends far beyond the confines of my body, and I feel as if it is too small to contain me. When I feel weak, tired, stale and generally grey, I feel like who I am is so tiny that this body is just taking up extra space, and I feel bloated and as if I am taking up more space than I ought to in the world. But either way, when I look at how I feel, I am happy that I feel no shame in being who I am. If I compare myself with incomparable others, I may feel different, but comparing myself won’t change the fact that at any given point, I am the best person that I can be.

  2. There’s a wealth of issues surrounding being thin, mainly to do with media, health, self image and psychology, most of which you are probably aware of having written this blurb. As a male, I would be classified as thin as well, which carries it’s own debatable advantage (muscle beach buff vs. emo rail). I always thought that the inherent laziness in men would trump the growing media influenced fashion and accessorization. Though as has always been the case, the only thing bigger than most men’s reluctance to change is our desperation for the opposite sex, producing a more androgynous, insecure (though possibly more sensitive) male for this bold new century. In service of that same promise of attraction, being thin is more rarely criticizied in women than being slightly overweight, except by those envious and resentful. Physically, thin is considered by men as an ideal attribute in women, along with the ‘fragile blond with pale, virginal-white skin’ that needs to be protected and/or possessed. Induced or otherwise, this polarized desire in men translates into an acceptance in mainstream women’s media, that being too thin is far more valued than being any overweight.

  3. Darth Sidhe said: I think your tiny belly is cute.

    Thanks! I rather like it, too. When I poke it, it jiggles. What could be better than that?

    Also, it made me wonder why comments about one’s physical appearance generally are seen as inappropriate and rude except when noting one’s weight loss, as if one should be so happy to have outside acknowledgement of this “progress” that one should ignore basic standards of polite discourse.

    I’ve never really thought of that. Negative comments about weight certainly aren’t taboo in my family, but neither is (loudly) telling sexual/fart/other-inappropriate-for-polite-company jokes at a restaurant or other public place.

    I, myself, have done my best to get away from the discourse because it makes me uncomfortable when turned on me. It’s to the point where one of my acquaintances came over for my birthday and, only after he had left, did I turn to my friend and ask her if he had been working out. She said yeah and that I should have told him because he would have liked the compliment. It just didn’t occur to me that saying something like that would have been appropriate for me to say to him, even if it was flattering, ya know?

    clay said: Physically, thin is considered by men as an ideal attribute in women, along with the ‘fragile blond with pale, virginal-white skin’ that needs to be protected and/or possessed.

    And people wonder why I think chivalry needs to die a swift, but complete, death.

    Great points, both of you. Thanks so much for your comments!

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