Body Shaming and how I finally reached my breaking point

Back in October, I wrote a post about the stigma associated with being fat and my mission to try caring less about what other people think and more about what *I* think (link to that post here).  I’ve come a long way in that department, although some days are still more successful than others.  Over the last couple of weeks this topic has pushed its way back to the front of the line and it all started with a fat shaming post on Facebook.

One of my Facebook acquaintances posted the following status:

People of Walmart

If you can’t see the picture, she said that her retinas had been burned by something she saw at WalMart and later revealed that this “something” was “a VERY large 40-ish woman in daisy dukes and spaghetti strap tank, leaning over the jewelry counter.  It was just all out there for the world to see and it was scary.  I truly feel for people that suffer from obesity but they do not do themselves any favors by dressing like a teenager.”

This kind of thinking is obviously SUUUUPER problematic.  Does this woman at the jewelry counter owe it to society to only wear things that are deemed appropriate by anyone who might see her?  Is she obligated to hide herself from the world, so people like this acquaintance can shop at WalMart without having their aesthetics challenged?  What exactly was so “scary”?  Who in the SAM FUCK does she think she is to assume that this woman “suffers from obesity”?!?  And if she does suffer, did it ever occur to miss dressed-better-than-you that it might be because people like her are SO RUDE and actually believe only “good” (read: skinny) bodies are entitled to wear whatever the eff they want?  Has she maybe considered that this WalMart customer WAS doing herself a favor dressing like that, because it was HOT, or because she LIKED IT, or because she is comfortable with her body?  Maybe she was doing herself a favor by not giving a flying rats ass about what other people think she should be wearing and just putting on whatever made her the most comfortable!

What if we substitute fat for something else?  How about those people who stretch their ears with gauges?  It’s not something I would personally do and frankly it makes me cringe a little (doesn’t that hurt?), but that sure as shit does not give me the right to expect them not to wear those things in their ears in public.  And where do physical characteristics you can’t control fall in this requirement to not offend the people around you?  (I’m digging deep here guys, because I’d rather see people for what makes them beautiful, but I’m trying to make a point) So what about someone with vitiligo (the skin condition Michael Jackson is said to have had) or alopecia (makes you lose all your hair) or psoriasis (red scabby patches), or veterans who were disfigured at war, or that woman who’s face was destroyed by her friend’s monkey?  Are they allowed to go out in public, if you find their conditions hard to look at?

A few days later, I read this article (link here) about food-shaming in the form of street harassment.  It really struck a chord with me.  Why should *I* feel ashamed, because *YOU* don’t have your priorities in order?  Who died and made you king of my body?  But the bottom line is that as much as I try, I DO still feel like it’s ME.  Consequently, I end up giving my body less nourishment than I need to be able to focus for a 12 hour meeting.  Or I skip meals, because I don’t want to eat in front of others, who may or may not be eating, too.  After all, my skinny counterparts seem to be able to get through the day without a snack, or several; I should be able to dip into my fat reserves for the energy I need, right?

One of my favorite lines from the food-shaming story is: “Women need to eat. They do important jobs, they make useful things, they have interesting things to say, they have people relying on them and they cannot cope with all that on an empty stomach.”  I try to remind myself that what I eat is none of their business and what they think is none of mine.

I also try to remember what Geneen Roth said in the article: […] when someone comments on something you’re eating [or wearing], it’s not about you,” Roth said in an interview. “It’s about them and their craziness and their judgments — and usually [how they feel about] themselves.  If a woman feels that she has a right to eat what she wants to eat, that she’s really fine in herself, that it’s nobody else’s business what she looks like and eats — which it isn’t — then how that woman would react is to not have a reaction,” Roth said. “Or [she would] say ‘Oh, poor guy. There’s something wrong with you.'”

SO… I have adopted a new ABSOLUTELY NO TOLERANCE POLICY.  Henceforth, whenever I hear/see it, I’m going to call out body shaming and food shaming and hypocrisy and rudeness and entitlement and bias and all the mean things people say under the guise of concern.  It might not make me popular, but I’m pretty sure it’s the right thing to do.  I already had my first opportunity, when my very dear friend, who is loving and kind and sweet and generous and so well intentioned, tried to make a point by telling me that some woman was wearing something she shouldn’t have been (she had stunning features, but ruined everything with a revealing outfit), I challenged why she felt more qualified to decide what this woman should wear and why she thought her opinion should matter to this stranger who was clearly comfortable enough in her skin to wear whatever she wanted to wear (if you are reading this, thank you for giving me that opportunity.  You know I adore you and I appreciate that you are open to my perspective, whether you agree with it or not).

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