Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Women Fear Fat

I saw this on Twitter today.

RT @HealthPop: Women fear fat. Men don't. Are you surprised?

I sense the fear. I feel the fear. I see how people look at me, underestimate me, wish to never be me. I'm not blind. I see how terrified people can become in my presence from the fact that I am overweight.

It is a scary thing to be obese. It carries the dichotomous pressure of having your "sins" or weaknesses erred publicly and the fact that you are never really seen by others. You are always the great white elephant in the room. Never mentioned, quickly judged, mostly overlooked.

I know this is sounding like a pathetic song of victimization. Maybe it is. Sometimes, I don't know how to tell the truth without the telling the lies that so often weigh on my mind.

And one of the big lies that permeates American society is that fat people are that way because they are weak, lazy or unintelligent. Because it isn't like they were born with a birth defect or a handicap. They are just fat. And you can always do something about being fat. Like exercise. And eat right. And stop overeating. Fat is your fault.

That kind of lie can really hurt you.

It's always easy to make fun of the fatty. It is always good for a laugh. Men who are fat can turn themselves into the butt of every joke. Women who are fat wish to melt into the scenery. Obesity in America is viewed as no less than a weakness and sometimes even a sin.

You are fat because you just are not good enough. Some days it is hard not to buy into this untruth.

I may sound heretical on this point but I know what it is like to be the subject of prejudice and bigotry. I know what it is like to be a second-class citizen. I know what it is like to be viewed as less than and worse than "the normal people." Fat is not only a weakness it is a lower-class status. You are to take your place in the basement of society and be grateful for the scraps that are thrown you. Because you are fat. And fat is very, very bad.

In some ways, women are right to fear fat. Who would want to be daily reminded that you are not and never will be good enough? Who wants to pretend to ignore the stares, not hear the snickers and preeminently exclude yourself from any activity that would put you in an awkward physical space? Who wants to be reduced to shopping for clothes in the only fat store within a fifty-mile radius? Or wear the same thing over and over and over again simply because the pain of facing yourself in the mirror is worse than the boredom of wearing clothes that you hate? Who want to be told you are "a sweetheart" and have "a pretty face" but are never complemented on how you look? Who wants to feel that no matter what she does that no amount of grooming or preparation will ever move you out of the ugly camp?

Sometimes I want to shout at people who have been thin all their lives: "Do you know what you have? Do you understand what a gift it is? Would you please just appreciate your blessings?" These people will never spend a moment worrying about tipping over a picnic table, being able to fit in a theater seat, or getting in and out of a car gracefully. These people will never understand how much their genetic inheritance plays a role in their good fortune and professional advancements. These people are not accustomed to living in a world where everything is too small and nothing is ever made to fit their size. They will be lauded as heroes and champions because of their genetic capabilities and not their own cultivated abilities. They will not be sneered at, derided or overlooked because they are so undesirable. They will not have to fight intense self-loathing and morbid self-hatred because of their weight. I see their lives as unimaginably blessed.

I may not like it but I understand and believe there is good reason for women to "fear fat."

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