Weight Stigma – Nope, Not Pregnant but Thanks for Thinking I Have Sex
Let me make this into a quick teachable moment – if you think you can, should, have the right to or can get away with commenting on a person’s body without being directly asked to do so: you can’t, you shouldn’t, you don’t and don’t try. JUST STOP! NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THEIR BODY UNLESS THEY ASK YOU. PERIOD. And I say this with all honesty and compassion – it is even less acceptable to comment on a person’s body than it is to judge their income, religion or their heritage because our bodies are our deepest and most personal part of our being. (Ok, CliffsNotes are over, you have to read the post to learn much more…)
I wanted to start out by stating that it’s mind boggling to think people will still approach a woman and comment on their assumption that she’s pregnant but then I typed it and thought, “Um, no it isn’t. It’s what your work is about – people feel free to comment on women’s bodies ALL THE TIME.” I guess the added part of ‘possible pregnancy’ is what threw it out of context for me for a minute, but I’m back on track.
Anyway, it’s got me thinking about the various assumptions made about women, their form and what those forms mean to different people. Of course, the overriding bit of curiosity to me is always WHY DOES ANYONE THINK THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO COMMENT ON ANOTHER PERSONS BODY? So, let’s go over a few things quickly; maybe the newly worded, same old insights will hit farther home today.
You, Fat Person, are broken and I won’t condone that!
In today’s American culture there is the pervasive, erroneous belief that unless a person’s body mirrors the shapes we’ve been lead to believe we should all endeavor to look like, there is a problem with the individual usually having to do with self-worth or discipline.
The unfortunate reality being, a good number of people in our culture have been mislead to think that shape is a direct indicator of health and that’s simply not the truth. It is a conflation promoted and maintained by companies who sell diet programs and drugs who stand to lose $65 Billion a year if the public learns otherwise and lets up on the pressure to become this unrealistic (for 95% of dieters) ideal. This intentional confusion is also supported by the likes of gurus and charlatans “giving hope” who stand to gain influence by promising a desperate group a people that there is a miracle to make their life better because, let’s face it, being judged for being fat is commonplace and an accepted social injustice.
Some people convey their judgement in the form of unsolicited concern, which we call “health trolling” – “I just hope that you’ll take that extra weight off. You’ll feel so much better about yourself.” – and others are more direct and actively shame people ‘for their own good’ – “Dear Obese PhD Applicants: if you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation.” Either way, these helpful folks are commenting on a person’s body to supposedly “support them” in the pursuit of a shape that was defined as ideal by an industry without regard for genetics, resources, ability/disability, familial culture or even the person’s consent. Some people, like me, choose not to chase the ideal as they, like me, would feel crappy in every possible way having done so.
She’s SO Fat, Nobody Would F*(% HER!
You know, good luck trying to find a piece of art from the classical or romantic period that depicts a fat woman NOT having fun and getting the attention of ALL the hot guys. I’m serious. It occurred to me the other day when I was walking around the National Gallery of Art that, “Huh. Look at that. Those nudes look an awful lot like the one I see every day.” After some more conscious thought on the subject I realized, those women were all having a ROLLICKING good time. They weren’t the women in the shadows, neglected and overlooked – they were the center of the piece, with light on their flesh and men kissing their arms – even the angels seemed to be holding a regular mosh-pit in the Ruben pieces.
And lest you think this is a one artist or time period phenomena, it’s not. Women of every size, throughout history, have been celebrated for being healthy and alive and inviting. Until body sculpting and dieting became an industry, the main concern with body shape and size was health – were our bodies properly nourished to perform the functions needed of them? Yes? Good. Let’s harvest.
So, if you find yourself commenting on a person’s size and relating it to their sexuality – don’t, you’re going to sound jealous.
OMG! You Must Be Pregnant!
Apparently if you aren’t chasing a form that doesn’t come naturally to you, the acceptable excuse is that you’re coming down with a case of children. Well, thanks for thinking well enough of me in your active judgement that you think I’m a human being fit to be responsible for the care, education, protection, direction and all around maintenance of another human being – that’s a lot more credit than the previous two options got – but no, I’ve chosen not to have children, I’m just shaped this way. **Now watch the persons head explode trying to figure out which of your choices is worse for the cosmic universe – being disinterested in chasing the ideal shape or not having kids. 3… 2…. 1…
If you don’t want to feel the soul crushing disappointment of becoming UN-excited about a NON-pregnancy that’s none of your business, just be excited to see a person. Any person. Sort of like a good dog.
If I Can Do It, You Can Do It!
The others who seem to be the most vocal about countering the scientific findings and evolving basis of fact surrounding why diets are truly harmful and that “body crafting/body sculpting” are at best temporary changes (and at worst the first step in body dysmorphia or eating disorders) are those who have invested mightily (literally, financially, body, mind and soul) in the behavioral cycle of dieting. They are those who “have done it”, usually within the last 3 years and who will unfortunately do it again because statistically speaking, they will return to a body shape or size that doesn’t look like the ideal. They will commence the process of self loathing until they meet that “standard” as many times as it takes. Whether it’s a healthy size or shape for their body is not usually part of the equation because they believe the dogma (pervasive and powerful – this message is ubiquitous) that thin is equal to healthy, fixed and superior.
If you personally think it’s the American way to “pull your fat ass up by your boot straps” until you fall in-line with what “Big Diet” tells you is correct, that hateful, hurtful message needs to end with you. My hope is that you will learn more about body acceptance, Health at Every Size and size diversity and treat you body with proper nourishment, rest and enjoyable movement.
Ok, so, I hope that this is a reminder that commenting on other people’s bodies, whether out of concern, excitement, or comparison is not good for anyone. It’s not appropriate, it’s certainly not informed and nobody likes it.
Think of it this way, it’s none of your business. Period.