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Incredible Edible Hate —

August 28, 2013

ExerciseDickweed

Trigger warning: This post is about the violent lengths to which some haters go.

About 20 years ago, when I was a kid, my mom went for one of her regular runs through our neighborhood when a car full of teenagers screamed “DYKE!” as they passed. I remember her agonizing over the experience, wondering if it was her haircut that triggered the response or maybe her shoes. My mom, a stereotypical Catholic  matriarch, was riddled with self-doubt over what was essentially a random verbal assault by a bunch of assholes.

And yet, she kept running. and has never had a similar experience since then. But at the time, the experience deeply affected her.

Mean Egg

Rage Egg is not long for this world.

Last Friday, Ragen wrote about her marathon training and how some random grown men in a car screamed “HEY FAT BITCH!” and threw two eggs and a carton at her, missing completely. Later, during that same run, another car yelled, “YO FAT BITCH!” and she quipped “Do you have any eggs?” which threw her harassers off their game.

I’m laughing about this and making jokes, and I’m allowed to do that because it happened to me, but let’s be clear that assault isn’t actually hilarious.  The purpose of fat bashing is to intimidate, to terrorize; to make fat people afraid – afraid to chase our dreams, afraid to leave our houses, afraid that every stranger will be a fat basher, afraid of our bodies, hating ourselves.

People immediately began casting doubts on her story. First, Ragen documented how people from a fitness forum called her a liar. Then today, she responded to the other dismissals, particularly the ones calling into question that the attacks were motivated by her weight.

Yesterday, I felt compelled to post this comment on the Body Acceptance subreddit about how I don’t see much difference between egg chuckers and the fat-hating internet trolls. The former group has simply taken action on the views held by the latter group:

Assholes who throw eggs at fatties are more-likely-than-not among the ranks of redditors who comment on Fat People Stories and Fitness Circle Jerk and Fat Logic. Not all concern trolls engage in this kind of harassment, but all concern trolls who spend time online insulting and degrading fat people are enabling an atmosphere where egg chucking is this hilarious thing to do.

The response I got basically what Ragen responded to today. Almost every comment from fat haters was about how all runners get shit thrown at them and that these were just random assholes looking to target anyone with eggs. Given that they had a carton and seemed to throw their last two eggs at Ragen, it’s not unreasonable to assume they were searching for anyone to pelt. And yeah, maybe along they way they screamed “HEY FAGGOT!” at a guy with long hair or “HEY N****R!” at a Black runner. Hell, maybe they even saw a thin, traditionally-attractive woman training for her marathon and screamed all the ways they would prove their flaccid manhood. Maybe they were just picking random pedestrians as targets for their impotent rage  But as Ragen said in her post, none of this negates the fat hatred she experienced.

The fact that assholes can embrace racism, sexism, homophobia, random chaos AND fat hatred does not change a damned thing about the underlying problem, which is that anyone designated as inferior or weak becomes a target. Assholes aren’t born in a vacuum. No child is born a racist or a sexist or even a fat hater. It’s something they learn from family, friends, and the media. Likewise, the circumstances that motivate a person to go from grumbling grouse to active assault is not typically the result of individual inspiration. Gays or Blacks or women or fatties may be hated, but it’s the sense of community that motivates people to “do something” about the “problem” that their peers have confirmed. While some online assholes may not take their rage beyond the firewall, there’s no doubt in my mind that those who do are still benefiting from the camaraderie of mutual contempt.

As a result, the reaction to Ragen’s story by fat haters who may not be physically chucking eggs is a self-protective denial. Like racists who try to counter that white people are the real oppressed minority or male rights activists who claim that men are the real oppressed gender, the fat haters try to dismiss Ragen’s story as something that all runners deal with and so she’s just incorrectly labeling this a weight-based attack. I shared this example with Ragen in her comments:

Regardless of body type or skin color, hecklers have targeted runners – whether solitary or in groups – since at least when Forrest Gump was released in 1994. Ragen uses heckling as evidence as “fat oppression” when really it is “running oppression” – hecklers see a person running and hurl insults at them as they drive by. Ragen’s narcissism and obsession with fat oppression doesn’t allow her to realize this; it is a well known and well-documented occurrence in the running community.

I have no doubt that runners have experienced harassment or assault, but I guaran-fucking-tee that fatties experience public acts of humiliation and aggression more than thin people. I’m sure there are assholes who randomly target runners, but more often than not there’s some set of criteria they use to determine who “deserves” their drive-by justice. Each assholes is unique, but if there’s one thing we know in this society it’s that fatties are universally hated, while thin people are generally ignored.

Yes, thin women are told to eat a cheeseburger, but as Lindy West says, we’ve got their backs on that front. Fat Acceptance is not Thin Rejection. Any fat people who are hostile toward thin people are 100%, Grade-A Certified assholes. But thin people are not vilified in our culture the same way fat people are. There isn’t a government-sanctioned War on Waifs. There aren’t TV shows that promised to help underweight people achieve a “health weight” through physical and verbal abuse. There aren’t a million different iterations of “No Thin Chicks” that remind thin women that they’re undesirable and unlovable. The abuse thin women experience is random douchebaggery attached to the victim’s most obvious trait, but the experience is a statistical outlier compared to the typical privileged experience of thin women in a culture than values thinness as healthy and attractive. While thin people may be collateral damage in a random act of aggression, fat people are explicit targets.

On reddit there are three large groups dedicated to mocking fat people: Fat People Hate (1,000 members), Fat People Stories (3,500 members), Fat Logic (3,500 members) and Fat People Stories (49,000 members). There are smaller satirical groups like Fat Privilege and Swole Acceptance, as well. When I’ve criticized these groups, I inevitably get some earnest defender who tells me that they aren’t really about hating fat people. They’re just mocking those fatties who are delusional or who make excuses or are in some way not “accepting responsibility” for being fat. Of course, the fatty being mocked is a strawfatty, propped up by some anonymous asshole who wants to convince the peanut gallery that fatty deserves mockery. But let’s face it, they don’t take much convincing. In the end, the “deserving” defense is the equivalent of racists who say that they only target the “bad” Blacks or sexists who only mock “shrill” women; it’s a superficial attempt to legitimize what is, and will always be, an overarching contempt for one particular group based solely on physical appearance; it’s the asshole’s attempt to say “Hey, I’m not an asshole because I’m just targeting those who deserve it.”

But here’s the interesting part: try to find a subreddit dedicated to mocking thin people. Hell, find a subreddit that targets just the “bad” thin people who are pro-anorexia. Try to find a subreddit that mocks “thin logic,” let alone a thin-bashing group that has nearly 50,000 members. One troll tried to point to a group called Skinny People Stories, but missed the obvious satirical nature and the fat hatred it actually promotes. I won’t hold my breath while you’re searching because they don’t exist.

Why not? Because thin people aren’t explicit targets. Thin women may receive occasional body-shaming flack from some assholes, but the assholes in the world don’t typically see a bullseye painted on thin backs. Nobody gets in their car with a carton full of eggs and says, “Let’s fuck up some skinny bastards!” It does not happen.

So when people try to neutralize Ragen’s story by saying “Drive-by assaults happen to every runner,” what they’re really saying is “Ragen is being oversensitive for thinking her weight made her a target.” Bullshit. Just as Black runners may be called racial epithets or female runners may be called sexist epithets, the underlying motivation for targeting Ragen still matters. And these groups that specialize in painting targets on “deserving” fatties are condoning this behavior, even if they are not engaging in it themselves. By spending day after day insulting and debasing and degrading fat people, they are reinforcing the idea that fatties “deserve” to be humiliated, “deserve” to be mocked, “deserve” to be outcasts. They are participating in a culture of animosity and contempt and intimidation, and they normalize and destigmatize the idea that fat people should be put in their place. Perhaps the benign troll defines “put in your place” as simply mocking the ridiculous shit some other random troll claims is gospel truth. But that benign troll is still giving safe harbor to the violent aggressor who defines “put in your place” as physically harming fat people.

This is true of every kind of violent hatred out there — the kind that goes far beyond throwing eggs. People who make rape jokes are communing with actual rapists. People who make black jokes are communing with violent racists. Simply saying “I would never do that” isn’t enough. If you think it’s wrong for a person to physically attack another simply because of the way they look, then it is equally wrong to participate in a group that fosters the kind of environment that turns benign contempt into violent action.

My mom was not the victim of random hatred; she was the target of a homophobic asshole. And Ragen was not the victim of some random egg chucker; she was the target of a grown men who thought she deserved to be put in her place. And I, for one, am proud that Ragen will not let the bullseye on her back give haters the satisfaction of her defeat.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    August 28, 2013 1:28 pm

    Excellent post!!!!!

  2. August 28, 2013 1:46 pm

    Thanks Atchka! I really appreciate the support 🙂

    ~Ragen

  3. Nof permalink
    August 28, 2013 1:51 pm

    So many money quotes I can’t pick just one. Excellent posts.

  4. Duckie permalink
    August 28, 2013 1:55 pm

    Here! Here!

  5. August 28, 2013 2:20 pm

    A-fucking-men!!!

  6. August 28, 2013 5:35 pm

    Wow. Nicely done. Excellent points!

  7. August 28, 2013 6:16 pm

    this is a *great* post!!

  8. vesta44 permalink
    August 28, 2013 10:19 pm

    Excellent post!

  9. August 29, 2013 6:40 am

    Superb

  10. LittleBigGirl permalink
    August 30, 2013 12:53 am

    *All* runners get harassed?

    Okay. Do those non-fat runners who get harassed while running also get harassed while walking, sitting, swimming, dancing, eating, riding public transportation, taking care of their children, flying on an airplane, working, working out, and WTF BASICALLY ANY OTHER PUBLIC ACTIVITY YOU CAN THINK OF?? Because fat people do. The asshole with the eggs didn’t yell “Hey *running* bitch” did he? Ragen actually wrote a completely separate blog post not too long ago about totally different stranger who gave her crap just as she was walking down the street. Walking. Down the street. Like everyone fucking does. We aren’t even allowed to do that.

    Don’t tell me it’s about fucking running you derailing assholes.

    Awesome blog Shannon.

    • August 31, 2013 10:12 am

      You. I like you.

      • LittleBigGirl permalink
        September 1, 2013 1:29 pm

        😀 Thank you, I think you are pretty awesome yourself. I am actually writing about my thoughts on this incident (I might submit it to Shannon), but right now it is about 50% swear words – I will have to go back and put more logical intelligent debate stuff like this in. ;-p

  11. August 30, 2013 2:33 pm

    What those who constantly doubt the experiences of fat people fail to realize is that when Ragen got harassed not once but TWICE, each harasser started out with screaming “fat bitch!” I seriously doubt thinner runners or thinner people minding their business in public are not being called fat bitch or whale or elephant or any other term they use to call attention to our size. Sure, not only fat people get bullied, but it seems it’s more fat people who are questioned or accused of lying when it happens or told to lighten up.

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  1. Intersectionality and Haters | reeneejune

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