There is a lot of fat fear floating around in the world right now. A LOT. That fear generates bullying, prejudice, policing, and judgment from sources both expected and unexpected, and it is a fear that is both socially sanctioned and systemically encouraged. Since I don’t believe that weight is the sole factor in determining health, and since I believe that the health of others is none of my business, I write and speak out frequently about the issues surrounding fat fear and hatred.
It was recently brought to my attention that I don’t spend much time examining the other side of the coin. Fat girls get teased, told they need to go on diets, inundated with hurtful comments about their shape and size. Skinny girls also get teased, told they’ve got eating disorders, inundated with hurtful comments about their shape and size. The world loves to criticize big bodies, and the eagerness to do so seems to be very much on the rise. But the world can be pretty keen to wag fingers at little bodies, too. Think about how many “she needs a sandwich” comments you’ve heard in the past few weeks. Contemplate how dismissive the “real women have curves” rhetoric could feel to someone who lacks those curves. Consider how quickly people jump to judgment upon seeing a prominent collarbone or set of slender arms. Women who are naturally thin can become targets for brutal body snarking, as The Waves described in her guest post on what it’s like to be a model. And while certain thin bodies receive social privileges, there is often an undercurrent of anger and judgment even as those privileges are doled out.
Since attacks of this sort are felt differently by each individual target, discussions of who’s got it worse aren’t especially helpful. Especially since body policing reaches well beyond matters of size and shape. If you’re butch, if you’re tattooed or pierced, if you’re trans, if you’re old, if you use a wheelchair, if you wear short skirts, if you’re muscular, if you’re absolutely anything besides a carbon copy of Jennifer Aniston, you may become a target for commentary, unsolicited advice, and criticism. Actually, even if you ARE a carbon copy of Jennifer Aniston, you’re likely to get some snipes. Body, figure, grooming, and style policing have somehow become unfortunate universals for women.
And I keep searching for ways to change the conversation, change minds, change thought patterns. I keep struggling to transform judgment into gentle and open curiosity. It is the things that make us different that make us amazing, and that can be experienced with care and love instead of fear and loathing. I want people to assume less and accept more, to realize that another human being’s exterior is just one small piece of that human being’s unique puzzle. We jump to judgment so quickly and feel so righteous in our censure. But what do we know about the people we see? So very, very little.
Image courtesy hypertwig.