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Elephants In the Room

January 31, 2012

Big Fat Blog has posted on their site two YouTube videos called “Shit You Say to Fat People” (part 1 can be found here). It’s a lighthearted and humorous take on all the stupid comments others make about our bodies.  But for many of us, the bulk of those comments have been downright hurtful and hateful, as displayed on the Twitter hashtag created by Brian at Red No. 3.You’ve got a police officer asking a victim of sexual assault why would anyone want to rape her. You’ve got medical professionals denying life-saving procedures because they don’t want to operate on fat patients. You’ve got doctors telling mothers-to-be they’re too fat to have children and, if it were up to them, they would terminate the pregnancy. You’ve got so-called friends and loved ones expressing disgust about big bodies. The list goes on and on and on.

Public fat hatred and shame has never been so prevalent as in the last few months. From the ill-advised Strong4Life campaign to monitoring kids’ eating and physical activity in schools to deciding that Paula Deen having diabetes and eating a hamburger is major news and she should be treated like a pariah to a so-called journalist reducing herself to the mindset of a five year-old when seeing fat people kissing and hugging on TV, it seems that everyone from all walks of life can’t stop talking at and about fat people. The problem is, they don’t want to talk directly to us. They are perfectly willing to treat us like the literal elephants in the room so they can feel better about themselves.

They don’t want to hear us talk about our experiences. It’s interesting that on so many of these symposiums about obesity, fat people are not invited to share their insight. We are discounted, ignored, and treated like idiots who don’t know anything. Fat professional allies like Linda Bacon are rebutted by medical experts who consistently play rounds of Fat Hate Bingo while trying to refute what she has to say and treat her research as if it was an urban legend or a mythical creature that doesn’t exist.

It can be extremely frustrating and mentally taxing to speak up, but having your opinions constantly drowned out by the thin-obsessed majority. That’s why the Fatosphere exists: to provide a voice to us elephants in the room.

So when Jennifer Hudson suggests you can’t be great unless you’re thin, when someone comments on the contents of your shopping cart, when a relative tries to push a new fad diet on you, when a doctor tells you the only prescription for a sore throat is weight loss, when someone tells you to avoid certain types of clothing — speak up and speak out. The more we do, the more society will realize that us elephants in the room are ready for a stampede to stomp out fat shaming and fat stigma. We’re already seeing results. We have a long way to go, but it’s not an unattainable goal. It can be done.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 7:23 pm

    The sexual assault scenario is particularly disturbing. Any police officer who does not know that sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power, deserves to be fired immediately. People of both sexes, of all races, ages, and sizes, get sexually assaulted every day. As a survivor of sexual assault, I know how damaging it is to one’s life. For a year after the assault I had panic attacks every day, one right after the other, for approximately 5 hours at a time. I could barely function. No-one would listen to me. They tried to shut me up by giving me drugs like Xanax, which only made me suicidal after they made me sleep for several hours. To this day I still prefer sleeping on the couch to sleeping in a bed because subconsciously I feel that there is less space for an attacker to do his thing. I dislike sex and am incapable of having a romantic relationship. This is not entirely due to the sexual assault, it is also because of problems with borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, which cause me to become too possessive and paranoid in a relationship where a high level of trust is necessary, such as a romantic relationship. But it didn’t help.
    Also, I don’t know how these damn medical professionals think they are doing good by shaming fat people. It only makes us too ashamed to seek necessary medical care.
    I am a nurse and I would never shame a patient based on their size or other aspects of their physical appearance.

  2. February 8, 2012 7:28 pm

    Also, I don’t get that song that Jennifer Hudson sings in her Weight Watchers commercial–the one that goes “I am you, and you are me.” So Jennifer is a 300 pound 47 year old white woman who can’t sing to save her life and meanwhile I am a young black woman with a great singing voice who unfortunately seems to think that being thin is more important than my incredible talent and otherwise likeable personality? Who knew?

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