Saturday, February 20, 2010

outrage and action

in describing myself, i fit into several groups that people might call "discriminated against."

i'm poor.
i have a mental illness (but the days that i let it have me are getting fewer and farther between).
i'm a woman.
(I had thought of a few more, but darned if I can remember them now).
finally, i'm fat.

there's a lot of stigma associated with three out of four of these (thank*fully, there isn't so much social stigma associated with being a woman anymore, although there is still discrimination). and lately, i'm choosing to focus on my fat and accepting myself right now as i am (doing so and potentially changing myself are not mutually exclusive). and as i do so, i'm getting mad.

film director kevin smith (clerks, mallrats, chasing amy, dogma, jersey girl, jay and silent bob strike back, clerks ii, copout) was recently asked to deboard a southwest airlines flight because of his size. i was aware that southwest had a policy that said that if a passenger needed a seat belt extender or the arm rests wouldn't come down, that the passenger would need to pay for two seats. but to allow him to be seated and then come and ask him to leave the plane is degrading. i have not flown southwest since they announced that they would be strictly enforcing this policy back in 2002 due to fear of being forced to pay for another seat when i showed up at the airport. (and i'm sure that they'd force a person to pay for a last-minute fare too.)

for some reason, i felt really outraged about this kevin smith story. it was like the last straw for me. i know that for most people, myself included, that my weight is something that is within my control. however, it didn't come on overnight, and it's not going to come off overnight. in the meantime, i'd like to be treated as a person, please. as the kevin smith story broke, on the different news sites where i read the story, some of the comments were absolutely hate*full. nobody deserves to be spoken to or about that way. they could pretty be much summed up as, "quit whining, suck it up and lose weight, fatty."

the thing is, although the physical causes of weight gain, too much calorie intake and not enough calories burned, are within our control, there are often underlying emotional and mental issues that can be crippling for overweight people. the media bombards us with messages that thinness is sooooooooooo much better than fatness. fat=worthless. fat=lazy. it's socially acceptable to say all kinds of hateful things about fat people and have it be funny. the western world HATES fat people. so it's no wonder that fat people hate themselves, then turn to food for comfort, then get fatter, then hate themselves worse and perpetuate a cycle. it takes a long time and a lot of therapy to break that cycle. those issues of self-esteem and food addiction need to be treated before an overweight or obese person can start taking off the weight. i can feel a thin person inside of me trying to get out. i starve myself. i overexercise to the point where i'm in pain for days. i drink so much water sometimes that i spend half my day in the bathroom. i deny myself the foods i love. and then i binge. and then i think, "why bother exercising?" and i switch from water to coke. and i gain weight.

it is horrifically embarrassing to...
have to tell your friend that you can't ride with them because you can't buckle your seat belt in their car.
wait in line for an amusement park ride only to find out that the safety restraints won't fit you.
try on clothes in a store where even the biggest sizes won't fit (thank god for you, lane bryant, fashion bug, and avenue, for your extended sizes! and thank god for online shopping!)
get so sweaty getting dressed after your shower that you might as well not even have bothered taking a shower in the first place.
chafe in places i'd rather not talk about, and so badly i can barely walk. and to have your partner blowdry those places after you take a shower so they don't chafe.
have to walk out of a free movie at a movie theater because i couldn't fit into the theater seats
ask a flight attendant for a seat belt extender.

not to mention that it's inconvenient to...
not be able to keep up with my friends when i walk.
not be able to take the stairs because it hurts my knees so bad.
not be able to stand up for more than about five minutes because my back hurts so bad.
not have enough energy to complete a task because i'm dragging around about two hundred pounds more than everyone else i know.

i know i'm fat. i don't need to be reminded by either well-meaning or just plain mean people of my size. and i'm sick of being the butt of jokes, even though i would participate in them and laugh at them to try to fit in. i don't need to be kept out of the running for a job. if i get a brain tumor, i deserve to be able to have an mri. i deserve not to have doctors give up on me because of my obesity. lose 30 pounds is not the cure for everything.

so from now on, you can consider me a fat activist for fat acceptance. maybe someday i'll be a thin activist for fat acceptance. but for now...

i'm joining the national association for the advancement of fat acceptance. i want to go to their conference in san francisco in august.

want to support me? don't make fat jokes.
don't admonish overweight people around you to lose weight.
if you end up next to an overweight or obese person on a bus, plane, or train, treat them kindly. they're aware that they're taking up some of your space, and they probably feel very badly about it.
support the activities of the national association for the advancement of fat acceptance, and the council on size and weight discrimination.
don't assume that an overweight person can't do what you need them to do. treat them like a regular person and ask for what you need. if they can't do it, they'll let you know.

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