For much of my life there has always been a major thread that I have felt links the way we feel about difference. We always want to understand it, to know why it exists but also to place it in a box that we can put it as far away from ourselves as possible. When we come across someone that is different from ourselves we have this irrational need to put labels on it. Often times this leads people into a pretty harmful discussion where we don’t accept that difference but we rationalize it away as the cause of something else, even when that isn’t the case.
I don’t talk about my sexuality often on this blog, over the past 6 years I have written about my virginity and what it means to me as well as a post about being socially acceptable. What I haven’t written about is why my sexuality is the way it is. This is something I have been thinking about in different a context this past week because of some discussions that hit a little too close to home in a class I am taking. The discussion itself centered on a certain form of sexuality and developed into a discussion about the reasons why people identify that way. What came out of it was language that has been used against me in my own life.
The last date I went on ended when the guy I was out with was told about my lack of intimate partners. His response is one that I have gotten often when people are told, “But you’re so normal.” Later via text he told me that I am ‘hyper-functional’ which were probably the harshest comments that I have ever received. Over the years people have told me how sorry they are, have tried to find a root cause for why I’m ‘damaged,’ etc. Most of the comments have centered on the idea that I should be pitied, I am mentally ill or the trauma in my past has caused it. At no point has there ever been a rational thought that maybe it just happened. That it isn’t the cause of some strange sad horrible thing but that it just is.
Some of the most harmful discussions we can have about people who are different from us are ones where we try to pathologize or imply mental illness as the root cause. We place our own beliefs and judgments on those that are different than us because they have a different set of standards for how they live their lives. We imply that they are somehow defective, unhappy or not functional without taking the time to understand that they are people.
Some simple ground rules, don’t tell me you are sorry, don’t assume I am missing out on life, don’t act like my sexuality doesn’t exist, don’t reinforce normative standards of sexuality, and don’t assume that I have something wrong with me or that there is a cause for my sexuality. Above all else, don’t try to cure me or tell me why you think I am the way I am.
On Tuesday Michelle Obama is going to appear on the Biggest Loser as part of her Let’s Move! campaign. This comes after she has spent the last 2 years as the First Lady of the United States continuing to add to the ever growing amount of fat stigma in our society. Bringing up the problematic portions of her campaign normally ends with most people saying that she still has good intentions. Most people, even when they are causing harm, have good intentions but acknowledging the portions of the campaign that cause more harm then good is not ignoring the positive aspects. The problem with the Let’s Move! campaign has far more do with the way that it is framed and the reality of where it came from.
The announcement of the Let’s Move! campaign coincided with a report from retired military leaders titled “Too Fat to Fight,” which called on schools to remove junk food from their cafeterias because once children were becoming old enough to enlist in the military 40% of them did not fit into the BMI standard set by the military. FLOTUS’s relationship with the military has been extensive during her time with the campaign. She has spoken about how fat bodies are a national security risk continuing the link between body size and lower acceptance into the military. This has continued to happen without even acknowledging that the very BMI standards that the military uses increases the risk of service members of having or developing eating disorders Some say they are three times as likely as the general population to develop an eating disorder. She has also visited Fort Jackson military base in South Carolina to promote the campaign.
While her campaign continues to work towards creating access to fresh foods and getting children moving in their bodies, she is also speaking out nationally about how she plans to stop childhood ‘obesity’ in a generation, that fat people are more likely to be bad employees or need extra sick time, and has continued this with her support of the program the Biggest Loser. The reality is that this isn’t a show that is trying to make people healthy; their primary goal is to make people thin by using some prettyhorrifictactics.
She might have good intentions in creating a better society to live in but in reality her efforts will always fall short if she continues to frame it around the idea that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy while also not acknowledging that we don’t know how to make people lose weight long term. Looking past all of these issues by believing that her intentions are good doesn’t mean that the harm she causes is invalid or that they don’t matter. Harm is still harm it still changes lives.
Further Reading (Aside from all of the links above),
As of January 2012 this blog has been renamed from Communications of a Fat Waitress to Fat Body Politics for a few reasons. The simplest is that I am no longer a waitress, and the larger picture is that this blog is more about the politics of living in a fat body or being a fat person that it has ever been about myself. I want to expand past my own experience.
Very soon Love Your Body Detroit will be found at loveyourbodydetroit.com, until then catch up with us at our facebook (Linked above). I will also be blogging via tumblr at FatBodyPolitics.tumblr.com.
Over the past few days Marilyn Wann has been creating posters of different fat activists to respond to Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign. They are amazing and everyone photographed has chosen their own tagline to go with each poster.
Here’s my response to the fat-hating ads in Georgia. Please reblog! I want the world to know that I stand up to weight bullies!
If you want to Stand4Kids too, send me your photo and we’ll create an ad about what you STAND for, so you can tell the world. ALSO:
Made by Ragen Chastain from Dance with Fat (More info about the video at the link). A response to the Australian Biggest Loser ad campaign. To view the original video click here, but should come with a trigger warning. Happy I was able to be involved with this video.