Currently I am reading “Shrill”, a book by Lindy West. It is not for the easily offended reader. She is a comedian and is very funny. But she is also FAT. Lindy is a true Fat activist and writes for about the struggles she has. She deals with hate every day. But she wants to change the world and I think she has many valid points. She says, “Being fat is like walking around with a sandwich board that says, “HERE’S WHERE TO HURT ME!” That’s why reclaiming fatness— living visibly, declaring, “I’m fat and I am not ashamed”— is a social tool so revolutionary, so liberating, it saves lives.”
When I was growing up, bullying existed but it was not exonerated. Bullies were known. They were outcasts and shunned, unless you were one. As a child, you learned to fight back or suffer. Parents did not fight your fight for you. You could rat out a bully if you dared and they would be “in trouble,” which meant something in those days.
Today’s culture is very different. I blame the media who created movies like “Mean Girls.” Then we have TV shows like the “Biggest Loser” where they abused Fat people for entertainment. There was nothing real or entertaining about that show. There is one out there now called “My 600 Pound Life” about very large people who are suffering and struggling to just survive. There is nothing entertaining about witnessing suffering. But it creates absolution for the hatred of people of size and fosters bigotry.
Lindy talks about flying and the stigma attached to Fat people when they board an airplane. I have sat in seats that do not fit me. It is humiliating at best as well as painful. And my butt is not as big as a Kardashian. I love Lindy’s retort: “We don’t insist on a solution because it’s still culturally acceptable to be cruel to fat people. When even pointing out the problem— saying, “my body does not fit in these seats that I pay for”— returns nothing but abuse and scorn, how can we ever expect that problem to be addressed? The real issue here isn’t money, it’s bigotry. We don’t care about fat people because it is okay not to care about them, and we don’t take care of them because we think they don’t deserve care…..We don’t insist on a solution because it’s still culturally acceptable to be cruel to fat people.
We are not born hating people different from us. Babies do not see Fat people as a threat. They learn that from their parents. My parents hated Fat people and had no issues making hurtful comments my whole life. Their mothers hated Fat people too and passed that down. They had no reason to hate fat people. They also hated people of different religions and especially hated people of color. They had no tolerance for anyone different from them, actually. They were upper class snobs full of themselves. My siblings to some degree reflect the same thinking. I never did learn the behavior and was an outcast in my own family sphere. But I held true to my principals.
We live in a country where hatred, bigotry, misogynic behaviors are being tolerated and actually glorified by some. But we are starting to have people who are standing up and saying no more. We have to do this. The energy of hatred is toxic. We have to change what we teach our children. I am aghast at the comments I hear from young people that are vile and filled with prejudice of things and people they have no direct experience with. How is that possible? Because hatred is a learned behavior and we have to stop teaching and accepting it.
West, Lindy. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (p. 148). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.