Originally published on Fat Heffalump and cross-posted here with permission.
So yeah, I dyed my hair turquoise on the weekend. Check it out:
I’m really happy with it, it’s bold and colourful and fun. But I didn’t expect the reaction I would get from Joe and Jane Public. Holy crap!
I did expect it to draw some attention, of course I did, why else would I dye it such a bold colour? I like being different, I like standing out, and I like being unapologetic for who I am. But I had no idea that it would attract the sheer hostility that it has done in the past 48 hours, peaking this afternoon at some random guy yelling “What the fuck?! Why would you want to draw attention to that fucking head??!” as I walked to the train station after work.
But it has been happening in a myriad of ways over the past two days. Three times yesterday I caught people photographing me without my consent, and two of them showed the people with them the photos and laughed. People have cast disgusted, even hostile looks at me, have stared, have laughed, have nudged each other and pointed, have made negative comments about my appearance and generally just made it apparent that I should not have turquoise hair.
It’s exhausting. I feel like I have to be on guard to protect myself all the time, because when I let my guard down, like I did walking home tonight, that’s when I get slammed with something like the attack above.
Yet if I looked like this, I’d be told my turquoise hair is beautiful.
See, I think it boils down to this. Fat women are not supposed to make themselves visible. We’re supposed to be ashamed of who we are, we’re supposed to hide ourselves away and make sure nobody can see us. Why? Because the media and marketing, the government and even medical practitioners tell the world that fat should be prevented, cured, eradicated.
Fat should not exist, and if it does, the bearer of that fat should be deeply ashamed of themselves. They should not draw attention to themselves, they should not walk with their shoulders back and their head held high, they should not be confident. They should be apologetic for their existence.
This is what happens when a culture believes fat = bad. This is what happens when it is culturally acceptable for fat people to be vilified publicly by the media, marketing, the government and the medical field. This is what happens when a world stops treating fat people as humans and treats them as a disease.
“Obesity” is no longer a descriptive word for human fatness, all humanity is stripped from it, and fatness is seen as a disease, a thing that must be eradicated. Our personhood matters nothing when our bodies are fat.
The general public get this message hundreds of times per day, that fat must be eradicated, that fat is a scourge on society, and that fat is less than human. Daily there are so many messages blasted at everyone, on television, in newspapers and magazines, in journal articles, in books, in advertising, in movies, from comedians and writers. Over and over that message is repeated – fat is less than human.
So is it any wonder, that when a woman like me, very fat and very visible comes along in Joe/Jane Public’s world, walking down the street, minding my own business on my way home from work, that some of them think it’s perfectly acceptable to pour hatred on me.
But I will not carry that hate. I will not hate myself because society says that my body makes me less than human. I will not hate myself because you are taught to hate me. I will not hate myself because you hate yourself. I will not feel ashamed of my body because you deem it shameful.
I will continue to dress and adorn MY body in a way that pleases ME, because it belongs to ME. The eyes I look into in the mirror are mine, not yours. The life I am living is mine, not yours.
Keep your hate to yourself. It is your burden to carry, not mine.
Kath Read is an IT librarian by day, and a rad fatty feminist by night. Though she is finding that her sparkle cape and glitter tights creeping into her daily wardrobe more and more often! She writes at Fat Heffalump on the topics of fat, feminism, food and fabulous fatshion. Follow her on Facebook.