(Trigger Warning: Fat-shaming and dehumanization)
Originally published on Fat Heffalump and cross-posted here with their permission.
I had planned to write some more about #notyourgoodfatty tonight, but I had something happen to me on Saturday night that has really been bothering me, and I want to talk about it and why it happens — not to mention the feeling it leaves with the people it happens to.
I’d had a lovely day on Saturday. I had a delicious brunch with one of my best buds and her adorable doggy, and then we went for a paddle down on the waterfront near my home. The water had been so lovely, warm, and relaxing — like a bath.
We had a little chill time by the bay, and then we went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in Gold Class, which is always an indulgent experience, cosied up in those comfy recliners in a sparsely populated cinema.
My friend dropped me home ,and I decided to nip up to the local Chinese restaurant to get myself a stir fry for dinner, since I had been out all day and was a wee bit sun burnt.
So there I was, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, minding my own business while I was waiting for my dinner.
I was reading Instagram and Twitter on my phone when this kid of about 16 or 17 rolls up to the doors of the restaurant on his bike, and it seems like he’s talking on his phone, but he walks right into the restaurant, holds his phone up to my face, and takes a picture of me.
He even left the sound and flash on so I knew exactly what he did and knew his headphones weren’t plugged in. Without any attempt to hide what he is doing or any embarrassment on his part.
As he does that, the girl on the counter asks him what he would like to order, and he says, “Oh… I dunno. Hang on a minute.” Then he just walks out, gets on his bike, and rides away.
Now, I am not easily shocked by people being shitty to me in public, but this one just had me absolutely stunned.
It was like I couldn’t register what he had done. I’m used to people sneaking photos of me (I now photograph them back and post them to my Tumblr), and I don’t doubt there are all sorts of shitty posts out there with my photo and people being douchebags about my body and my appearance.
But to have someone just blatantly walk up to me, frame me up right in front of me and take my photo, and then walk away without batting an eyelid just gobsmacked me.
It honestly wasn’t until a couple of hours later that it sank in what he had done, and I can tell you, I felt so violated. It hit me like a wall, this feeling of being violated, assaulted.
I think I had to get past the initial shock for it to register just how it made me feel. Usually when people try to take photos of me, they try to sneak it thinking I won’t know (I usually do) and at least have the humanity to look embarrassed when they are busted.
Some of them even get pissed that I take their photo back. But this kid had no shame at all, spared no thought for whether or not I knew what he was doing, or how I might feel about being photographed by some complete stranger.
My shocked response clearly meant nothing — and who knows where the hell that photo will turn up online?
The thing is, this is what happens when society demonizes fat people so much that we are considered sub-human.
People like this kid don’t see me as a person because they’re bombarded with the message day in and day out that fat people are diseased, defective, less-than.
So our feelings (and our rights) matter nothing to them. Every time they see a headless fatty in the media, it gives them a message that we’re nothing more than a pile of fat.
Every time they hear that fatness is a disease, it removes our personhood from their minds. So they have absolutely no qualms in behaving in such an invasive, abusive way toward us.
This isn’t the only thing that happens to us because of the dehumanization of fat people in the media, but is simply one prime example.
Every time we are subjected to abuse and harassment, every time we have someone yell at us from a passing car, every time someone tuts or scowls at us for taking up space on public transport or in other public places, every time someone passes comment on what we eat or do with our bodies, right down to every time someone targets us online for abuse (on our blogs and other social media spaces), these are not because we are fat and somehow cause this abuse ourselves.
It is because the constant message from marketing and media tells people that we are sub-human, and then people who are broken and bigoted enough to believe that propaganda act on it.
But it’s not “normal” to spend your life harassing or bullying or abusing people. If these bigots want to talk about what is healthy, they need to look in the mirror first.
It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to dehumanize other people. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to be abusive or bullying.
It is an unevolved, narrow mind that feels they have the right to police other people’s lives and bodies.
Only those who are not comfortable and happy in who they are themselves are going to spend their lives looking for opportunities to harass and belittle others.
People who are emotionally and intellectually healthy are far too busy focusing on their own lives, and those of the people they love, to spend time harassing and bullying others.
The problem does not lie with us.
We are not the ones who are damaged here. It is not our fault that we are abused by those who are so messed up that they genuinely believe that it’s a worthwhile pastime to abuse, harass, and bully people.
We are not the ones who are broken in this equation.
It is not our fault.
It is not your fault.
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- Fatphobia: 5 Facts and a Guide for the Disbeliever
- 5 Reasons Not to Bring Up ‘Health Concerns’ in Fat Acceptance Discussions
- Large Bodies Don’t Need Metaphors to Be Beautiful
- 6 Must-Read Expert Perspectives That Destroy the War on Obesity
- 5 Reasons Why We Need to Stop Thinking of Skinny-Shaming as ‘Reverse Discrimination’
- How to Support People’s Health Issues Without Fat-Shaming
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.