09 February 2015

Fat people should speak for fat people!

Like many of us* who use the internet to say what we think, I get hate mail from time to time. The flavour of it varies – sometimes it's really vitriolic, other times it has this hurt and surprised quality – but the bottom line is always: SHUT UP! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SPEAK!

I found this little comment in my spam folder:
"surely if you want to blog about obesity you should not be fat yourself sorry but it dont make sence"
I usually delete this kind of thing because I think it's stupid. But this one was accompanied by the author's email address, which I Googled. This person is a bit of a troll and I was amused by two of their comments elsewhere: "i agree i am a real asshole and love to piss off people," and "i am a liar i find it helps me get my way and get attenshun". So true!

Anyway, enough about them. I was interested in the gist of what they said, which I think is something like: if you are fat you have no right to talk about it, you are a failed person and can never be considered an expert of your own life, it's nonsensical to think otherwise. The only people who should talk about fat are thin people, preferably anti-obesity professionals of some kind. I might be reading more into this than the commenter offered, but this is where it took me regardless.

I've come across this conviction in lots of places, not just mean commenters. It's a fundament of fatphobia, about reminding you of your place as a fat person and reinforcing the rights and entitlements of the medical industrial complex to your body and your life. It silences and diminishes fat people through fear. I've met many fat people who are waiting for their lives to begin and Fat Studies scholars, like Hannele Harjunen, have written about this process, it's a recognised thing. People are waiting for romantic rescuers, medical miracles, an elusive feeling of self-confidence, whatever, and they'll be waiting forever as far as I can see.

I'm giving the mean commenter special attention here because I disagree with them completely and I want people to know it. As a fat person it is vital that I write about fat and obesity (yeah, they're different) and don't leave this to the others, whoever they may be. Claiming my own life, connecting with others, that's where the power is. It does make sense.

*people who are not entitled and privileged white guys


Sleepydumpling said...

You know who the worst culprits of this are? People who say they want to HELP fat people. I can't tell you the number of "fitness experts" and "health coaches" and the like who bray that they want to "help people with obesity" but refuse to listen to fat people at all.

How many "obesity symposiums" do you see that won't let a fat person in the door, let alone speak? Marilyn Wann organised a protest at such an event a few years ago and when she and other fat people entered the room full of thin folk discussing obesity, they were addressed by a seething woman who told them that they had no right to be there.

It's astonishing to see such disconnect from reality.

ossydave said...

How on earth is anyone going to understand what it's like to be fat if they don't allow fat people to speak. If the LGBT community hadn't started speaking up, w wouldn't be where we are now with equal rights. similar race and women's rights have happened because those who've suffered have spoken up. So yes fat people everyewher nee to find their voice and speak up.