Fat Shaming is Real and Harmful

Originally posted 7/21/13 on my former blog

Today something happened to me that rarely does-something on social media triggered memories and made me cry. I had just woke up and opened my Facebook page and there it was a picture of a plus size women in a club with the caption “this bitch killed my vibe”.  It was on a close friend’s page so I posted several comments asking what it was this woman had done that was so offensive that she needed to be publicly shamed on the web. Eventually my friend posted that she had hit on him while he was with his girlfriend (oh the horror). I then asked did he post the pictures of skinny women who hit on him in clubs too. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response. I decided to flip though a few more of his pics and there was a picture of a older chubby woman sitting alone eating at Raising Cane’s (it’s a chicken fingers place) the caption read “this is what I had to see at lunch”. That picture and caption made me angry and it made me cry.

outside the state capitol -FABULOUS
2006 Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant at JSU-GORGEOUS!

I am a plus size woman. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by my size. In fact I wrote a column about this very kind of thing. I just didn’t expect to see it from a close friend. While I am confident in who I am it doesn’t stop the days when people say cruel and nasty things about my weight. The attacks come from strangers, family, friends, co-workers, and health care professionals.

Like the ER doctor who needed to give me a pelvic exam. I was in severe pain and he had already treated me like I was drug seeking because hey I’m young, black and have medicaid. He told me “I think you might be too heavy for that gurney and make it tip. Can you scoot down and see”. When I-naked from the waist down covered in a sheet-did scoot down and it tipped he shouted into the hall “Yeah she’s too big we need the OTHER gurney.” To this day I don’t understand why he couldn’t just get the other one to begin with. Oh wait because I’m fat therefore less than human. I heard him from the hall shortly after the nurse asked “what’s up with room 4” his reply “oh Roberts there’s nothing wrong with her I’m just waiting for her tests so I can send her home.” He had decided when he saw me there was nothing wrong with me. He did however take time to lecture me about my weight.

So I expect maybe people can understand why when I see people fat shame on social media often I recognize myself in those posts. Sometimes I see the people I love.

Mum and I-Dynamic Duo

See I am the child of larger woman. When I talk about fat shaming I don’t only speak from a place of my own pain I speak from a place of watching strangers be unspeakably cruel to my mother for my entire life. Not only was I teased about my mother’s weight but we were constantly stared at in public. There were always comments, gestures and general rudeness. There were the people who thought they meant well “you have such a pretty face it’s a shame you’re so fat“. Then there were the people who were just cruel “who got her pregnant?”. There were the racists “of course she has a black kid who else would want her“. You know because as a white woman she must have been cast off to a lesser black man since she’s fat. There were the people who thought my mom ate my food and that’s why I was thin.  So much so they openly accused her of child neglect. Oh and the people with no boundaries at all who would take things out of her cart at the store and say “you don’t need that”.

None of those people bothered to get to know my mother. They didn’t find out that she was a great person who read to me everyday, took me to the library every week, sewed her own clothes, is a professional level seamstress, that she has a beautiful singing voice or any of the other things that makes her a awesome person. They just saw her size and deemed her unworthy to exist in their space (I am still scratching my head on this concept). She was automatically less than they were in their eyes.

Now I’m a mother of seven children, six of them girls. I cringe every time my daughter who is a size 8 says she is getting “fat”. Every time some one tells one of my girls they are “too big”. When my 10 year old uttered the words “I think I need to go on a diet” it crushed my heart-she is thin and absolutely beautiful. When asked why she said “because dieting is healthy”. Super double facepalm mommy fail on the-healthy eating is healthy-NOT dieting.  I want them to know and understand they are all beautiful active young healthy women. Their bodies are perfect the way they are.

It all takes me back to the first time I drank Slim Fast because I felt I needed to lose weight when I was 7. The first time I counted calories when I was nine. The big one is first time I started not eating and throwing up my food to help control my weight at 12. At 12 I was a figure skater and figure skaters can’t be fat.

4th place in skating competition-age 13

So  I worked really hard at not being fat. I also spent a lot of time hating my body. Worrying that I would get fat like my mom because then I would lose the freedom that comes from not being fat. All that got me was mentally and physically ill. I hide my self hate and my activities. My mother doesn’t even know now I use to purge that’s how secretive I was. That beautiful girl in the above picture felt fat and ugly everyday. I wish I could reach back and tell her that her body was fine. That this is how a society obsessed with fat shaming and thinness makes young women feel.

For my daughters and my son I fight fat shaming. I do it for them because I do not want them to live with the pain of self hate or miss the company of wonderful people due to size bias. Clearly body shaming doesn’t only affect women yet it is harsher on women so for me it’s a huge feminist issue. How am I a free person when I can’t dress how I wish and freely go about my life without being the target of hate and contempt?

My challenge- the challenge for all of us is to ask why we feel the need to judge the appearance of others. What inside of us makes us so contemptuous of other people’s bodies? We need not kid ourselves that it is about fat people’s health because not all fat people are unhealthy. If it were about health people would harass others for a whole host of unhealthy behaviors-for the most part we don’t. Let’s stop acting like it’s about what is morally/socially acceptable as far as fashion. Since if I put two pics up of women in the same revealing outfit one thin-one plus size, the thin one may be slut shamed the plus size one will absolutely be body shamed and slut shamed. The outfit will be deemed absolutely indecent for one not for the amount of flesh showing but the amount of fat flesh showing. Here in lies the problem. Who are any of us to say things like “no one wants to see that”-someone does. Lastly, I am FAT if you have a problem with that YOU deal with it- I’m fine.

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