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Weight Stigma Affects Every Aspect of Life

September 28, 2012

As I was performing my morning ritual to wake up today (namely, read all the posts that have come across my Facebook feed since I went offline last night), I found this:

Turn a plain boot into a sexy furry boot….so perfect for the upcoming winter season! Would love to feel comfortable enough to wear something like this, well, and thin enough ;P Anyways….this is just fur added to a sock! Here’s the tut http://www.outsapop.com/2010/12/bigfoot.html#.UGElYlG_T_c

The tutorial is to what looks like a nice furred-top high-heeled boot. It actually looks easy to make, and if I had ankle high boots like that I’d definitely do that tutorial for a new look.

What got to me, though, was the phrase “and thin enough.” What does how fat or skinny one is have to do with boots? Oh, wait, I forgot. One can’t be “sexy” and be “not skinny.”

Now, I don’t know who wrote that specific status update.  The update is from an art studio that has a few people who work there.  They are all nice people.  But this update shows just how pervasive weight stigma is.

In the news this week, just in time for Weight Stigma Awareness Week, there have been articles on how “Lady Gaga has gained so much weight!” Photos, supposedly of Lady Gaga have come out, showing “huge” thighs as the basis for the tongue wagging. Other photos, untouched originals, have come out showing that, no, her thighs aren’t “huge.” Finally, to answer the charges, Lady Gaga had pictures of herself taken in just bra and panties.

Guess what?  Those pictures that she posted on her site, LittleMonsters.com*, in a thread called Body Revolution, show a “normal sized” body.  NORMAL sized. And yet, Lady Gaga felt that she not only had to answer the lies by posting pictures of herself (half -naked, as the Jezebel headlines proclaim), but also opening up about having bulimia and anorexia.

This is the insidious nature of weight stigma. It makes us question, and have to defend, every little pound we may or may not have. Want to wear that great crafty idea to turn your three-year-old ankle boot into something more trendy? Are you *skinny* enough to do so? Are a performer who’s overcome (and still overcoming, if words she said at the beginning of the year are any indication) bulimia and anorexia?  What do you mean you are upset somebody took an image of you, distorted it, and told lies about your body?

We should be able to just say, “I like that look in shoes, and I’m going to wear it.” Weight should never be an issue. Lady Gaga should be able to keep on putting out songs that people buy by the millions. Weight should never be an issue.

And yet it is.

Earlier in the spring, Conall bought me a 21 speed bicycle for Mother’s Day. A lot has happened during the summer, including record high heat for weeks and how I had smoke inhalation from living near the wildfires in Colorado. Both issues have kept me from riding the bike. Now I’ve recovered, and we don’t have the record high temperatures any more.

And yet, every time I think about riding my bike, all I can think of is the cat calls I’ll get. I think of the times, in the past, when I’ve received abuse for being fat and exercising in public, even when I was just “exercising” because a bike was my only form of transportation.

Weight stigma informs my day-to-day life more than it should. While I don’t care if I’m skinny enough to wear a certain type of boot, I do care if I’m perceived as too fat to go out and ride the bike I was so excited to have.

Like I said, it’s insidious. But the more we talk about weight stigma, and the big and little effects it has on our lives, the more we can break its hold on us as a society.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2012 10:45 am

    Reblogged this on The White Pumpkin Light and commented:
    Stigma infecting our lives, one boot and cat call at a time.

  2. September 28, 2012 10:47 am

    I really do hope you go ride that bike, to hell with ’em! I have suffered through my own stigmas about weight and identity etc.. still am. You bring up good points here that I can relate to. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      September 28, 2012 11:44 am

      Thank you. Like everybody, I have my areas I’m strong in, and areas I’m weak in. Right now, the idea of facing “Idiots in Public” has been more than I’ve been able to deal with.

      But the weather is nice and cool. Erin S. gave me some places to go that are relatively idiot-free. So, now to defeat inertia and get started. 🙂

  3. Erin S. permalink
    September 28, 2012 10:49 am

    Not knowing where in the Springs you’re at Bronwen, but down towards the south end of town, by the Widefield/Security areas there is a tiny little pull off right by where 85/87 and Maxwell streets cross, kind of near where 85/87 crosses over 25?

    My husband and I have had very good luck biking along the river on the path you can access from that pull off. If you head upstream (towards the springs proper) it’s more shaded and there are rabbits and squirrels all over through there, and if you head downstream it’s more open with less wildlife. The upstream part is used more so you’ll run across joggers and dog walkers more often, while the downstream part is less used except for where it passes behind a mobile home park right as you start out.

    Even then though, neither of them are very close to roads and it’s been my experience that when the cowardly sh*ts that like to yell and throw garbage are not in their cars, they become very quiet. Either that or THEY are too lazy to walk. Regardless, I’ve never been harassed on that trail, although how much of that is having my husband with me I don’t know.

    Also there are some bike trails in Garden of the Gods — but we’ve never used them so I’m not sure if they’re just bike trails or actual *mountain bike* trails with all the steep hills and dips and stuff. I have been harassed while hiking in there, but only on the paved section near the most popular formations.

    Cheyenne Mountain State Park has some trails suitable for relaxing bike rides (they’re not full of huge hills/dips, not washed out last time I was there, are relatively well maintained etc) if you’re willing to pay for a day or year pass. And since jerks are generally as lazy as they accuse us of being, I’ve never run into any except right around the visitors center and closer camp grounds.

    If you have a car and can transport your bikes without too much trouble, those are my three favorite spots for either bike riding or easy couple/few hours hikes, where I’ve found I’m not likely to come across people much less be harassed by them.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      September 28, 2012 11:34 am

      Thanks for the places I can go to ride! Conall and I are going to be moving soon, and the Widefield/Security area is one we are looking at. 🙂

      I do know about the Garden of the Gods paths. Except for the main road and the walking paths in the Kissing Camels/Church Spires area (which are flat and paved), the paths are really made for horses. Not paved, great for mountain bikes. I’ve walked a lot of those paths and been left alone while doing so.

      I do have transportation, both a mini van and an old Bronco II, so I can easily take my bike to any of those places. Thank you so much for all the ideas!

      • Erin S. permalink
        September 29, 2012 3:22 am

        Yeah like I said, I’ve only hiked Garden of the Gods and I’m one of those people that has a three second memory span… I know I had no troubles going over it on foot, but I was more interested in looking at the scenery and trying to spot wildlife (and pink up other hikers trash, grr!) to really remember what the path itself was like lol!

        I try to avoid paved roads in general when biking, unless my husband is with me and even when he is sometimes. Skinny people on bikes get harassed by a vocal minority who just hate the idea of sharing the roads with bikes PERIOD, so I suspect that a FAT person on a bike would just attract that much more attention.

        I thought of another place too – the Willow Springs Ponds have graded but unpaved paths around them, and aside from a couple of soft/deep spots and IIRC one steepish hill that can be easily avoided, it was a pleasant enough place. Didn’t seem terribly crowded the afternoons we headed over there and we weren’t hassled. Although they are fishing ponds, and people being how they are (aka, inconsiderate jackasses sometimes) you might want to carry a penknife or nail clippers in case someone drops some fishing line in the path and you don’t see it before it gets all up in your gears.

  4. September 28, 2012 11:21 am

    Bronwyn, I call those incidents drive by shoutings. I know it’s not “P.C.” to reference another person’s blog in someone else’s blog but I feel compelled to share the link to the piece I wrote about my walks in Oakland and the big fat booty calls I fend off. In the end (no pun intended) it comes down to having the right to exist without judgement. The rudeness and insensitivity makes me NUTS! And the best revenge is to continue living our lives with our joy porous deflector shields up and letting in as much of the joy that we can. http://www.drdeah.com/helloakland/

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      September 28, 2012 11:42 am

      I like the t-shirt idea: Occupy my Big Fat… 🙂

  5. Mari permalink
    September 28, 2012 1:41 pm

    I totally agree with the point you’re making. The main reason why I’ve never joined a gym is that I’ve always felt too fat to be seen working out in a gym. But I just recently started walking for an hour everyday at a nearby park and it may not be much but I certainly do feel a whole better just being outdoors every evening! There are fit people out there passing me up while they jog but there are also others who look like me doing the same thing that I am so I don’t feel singled out. I actually look forward to being out there every day! I say go ride your bike, enjoy the weather and forget what other people say because what other people say or think about us is none of our business! How we feel and think about ourselves is what really matters!

    Have a wonderful evening! ((:

    • September 29, 2012 12:45 am

      I was harassed walking around my own neighborhood by someone, so I started going to a nearby park and the vibe there is completely different. I’ve never been hassled and the joggers who blow me give me a wave and good morning, it’s like we all have a silent agreement that we’re there to enjoy the outdoors and nice paths in peace. I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the awesomeness of parks.

      • Mari permalink
        September 29, 2012 8:51 am

        I couldn’t have said it better! Yes! Parks are awesome and it does feel exactly like an unspoken agreement to live and let live. I even had an instance where I made it to the park a bit later than usual and it was beginning to get dark and people started leaving so I was getting a bit spooked being out there alone with just one jogger who kept passing me up until she seemed to be done and wentover to her car and I thought she was leaving. Not wanting to be the only one there I hurried through my last lap and as I went to get in my car the jogger was still stretching by hers. When I approached her she said “I’m so gald you are leaving too. I was worried about leaving knowing you would be left alone here so I did a bit more stretching than usual to wait on you.” I thanked her for her consideration and just about started crying as I got in my car. How awesome is it that there are still people like that out there?

  6. Mulberry permalink
    September 28, 2012 4:06 pm

    To me, that comment on the furry boot is just all wrong. The way I’d think of it is, if you can’t find a nice furry boot off the rack (like maybe ’cause your feet are so wide, no one bothers to design you any), then here’s a cool way to have that pair of furry boots you always wanted. If your feet and legs are standard size, why bother?
    As for Lady Gaga, as we all know, image matters a great deal in the entertainment industry. I’m sure the competition is ferocious and one needs to stand out in some way to get to the top. If she weren’t thin to begin with, would she be where she is?

  7. The Real Cie permalink
    September 28, 2012 10:00 pm

    Not one single day, and I mean not one single FUCKING day goes by where I don’t think about my weight at least once and have to fight off the negative thoughts that I’m a “lazy, fat, disgusting pig.” I hate it! At least these days I win some of the fights.
    People who drive by and harass others are lowlifes, and I hope they find a cliff to drive off. I’ve always hated these kinds of asshats.

    • September 29, 2012 12:48 am

      I’m commenting all over this page today, so I apologize for that. Cie, I do the same thing every single g-d day. I keep thinking that eventually I’ll have a day where I don’t think about my weight, but I’m not sure that day will ever come.

      • The Real Cie permalink
        October 7, 2012 5:47 am

        Aw, don’t apologize for commenting! I go on sprees myself. 🙂
        I sometimes wonder (I can be such a morbid sucker, which is intensified by the fact that I work in the medical field) if I end up with some horrific disease like cancer that strips the weight off me the way it did to my great-grandmother, if my thoughts on my deathbed will be “well, I’m finally a socially acceptable size.” Gods, I hope not! That would be adding insult to injury.

  8. September 29, 2012 12:47 am

    When I was younger and rode all the time, some teenage boys driving by me opened the passenger door and knocked me into a ravine, since then I’ve been terrified to ride on the street and we don’t have very good paths were I live, but I still think about getting a bike.

  9. Marilyn permalink
    September 29, 2012 8:19 am

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’ve been victim of the drive by shoutings. I never had anyone throw things at me or open their door to injury me. I agree with The Real Cie that these people are lowlifes. I thought that myself one of the last time it happened.
    I’m middle aged. I thought if the teen yelling insults knew I was old enough to be his mother.

    Lately, when I’m walking and I hear a shout from a car, I can’t make it out. I don’t know if their insults or cheers. Either way, I don’t want to be cheered for walking instead of driving a car. I can’t afford a car. I walk or take the bus when available because I have to. Why would anyone applaud me for not driving? If they are an eco-nut, they should not drive themselves?

  10. The Real Cie permalink
    October 7, 2012 5:52 am

    I’ve got kind of a funny idiot shouting story that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. My son and I were putting purchases in the car at the Wal Mart when these young men drove by in a pickup. The one in the passenger’s side leaned out and yelled “I love Katy Perry! I wanna get my hands on those big ole titties of hers!”
    I said “well, good for you, Dude.”
    As they drove off, my son said “well, that was completely non-sequitor.”
    I said “I’m pretty sure Katy Perry would not be the least bit interested in that fellow.”
    I was very proud at that moment to have the son that I have (pharmacy technician and pre-med student) as opposed to the asshat in the truck.

  11. October 9, 2012 11:11 am

    Wear what you want to wear and forget the haters. Restricting your wardrobe out of fear is a form of oppression. Just do it!

    Peace,
    Shannon

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