Thursday, October 06, 2011
I'm sure every one's seen this photo making it's way around Facebook, along with a story about being a mermaid versus a whale. My older sister shared it today, as did something like 180,000 other people. The woman in the picture is a French model by the name of Tara Lynn. I love this photo...not just because she's gorgeous, but also because she's fearless. She isn't asking you to be okay with her body. This is not a woman who is asking for your acceptance. She doesn't even look it's crossed her mind that she somehow needs your acceptance.
I am, and, except for a brief period in my late teens, always have been, overweight, fat...whatever you want to call it. I'm also pale white, and freckled, with big, frizzy hair. I cannot say that loving who I saw in the mirror came easily for me. Don't get me wrong. I definitely had my days when I knew I looked good, but there has always been a little asterisk by that "I look good" feeling. It's always been, "I look good, but..." As in, I look good, but I could lose some weight. I look good, but I wish my hair was straight. I look good, if only it weren't for those damn freckles.
I spent my teenage years hiding my body inside of large baggy clothes. I didn't start wearing tank tops until I was in my 20s because I didn't want people to see that my shoulders were freckled. I look back at the pictures of myself then, and I think, why did hide myself? Even now, in my mid 30s, I wish I could look the way I did back then...and I hated how I looked back then.
Being a "woman of size" (blech, what an ugly term that is) I've had more than my fair share of ugly comments about my body. And though I try at this point in my life to not internalize what other people think about me, it isn't easy. Hell, even when the comment isn't about me, I get upset when someone is disparaged because of their weight. For instance, I'm a fanatic liberal who can't even begin to comprehend ever casting my vote for a conservative, but the last few weeks, as speculation about New Jersey governor Chris Christie's potential for a run at the presidency was hotly debated, I steamed at the sheer number of articles and opinion pieces that said he was simply too fat to be president. Too fat to be president? How is that even possible? I mean, I know there's an age limit, but I'm damn sure there isn't a weight limit. And in this country, with all the issues that are weighing us down (pardon the pun), how the fuck can we even justify asking questions about a man's weight? I won't elect him because he's a conservative douche bag, but these idiots talking about his weight minimize the real issues and just keep stuffing the same bullshit down the throats of fat people everywhere.
Basically, in our society, it's okay to hate someone because they're fat. And the hatred is rampant. I can honestly say that I feel more disenfranchised because I'm fat than I do because I'm bisexual, and straddling that fence is no picnic, let me tell you. I don't understand why there is so much hatred. I hear the health card, and I get it. Yep, there are lots of health conditions that are related to being overweight. But, if it was genuine concern for health, there wouldn't be such venomous hatred being spewed every where you look. Something about fat people sets others on edge for a reason I have yet to comprehend.
On the flip side, you have fat girls who call all thin women sticks, and toothpicks and other uncomplimentary terms. As though those are the only two views...either you can despise the fatties, or you can despise the skinnies. As a fat girl, I know that feeling when you look at a thin woman, the epitome of what our society deems to be beautiful, and you hate her because you can't look like her. I've said mean things about skinny girls, demeaned them as though that makes my fatness somehow more acceptable. Take the term "real woman" as an example. How many fat girls have you heard say something like, why don't we see images of "real women" in the magazines and on our televisions screens. As though somehow being a size 4 makes a woman less real than one who is a size 18.
I've wondered, whilst reading or listening to particularly venomous hatred of us fatties what causes it. I mean, when a bunch of fat girls are talking about skinny women and calling them "skeletons" and saying they need to eat a sandwich, we know that deep down, those girls hate the skinny girl because she has what they do not, which is the ideal body type...basically, the want to be her, and since they cannot, better to heap abuse upon her in order to make themselves feel better about who they are. I often wonder if the fat hatred comes from that same place...not because these people want to be fat, but because somewhere inside themselves they don't like who they are, so it's far easier to take that anger and disgust and throw it on me, the fat girl in the next booth at a restaurant eating the exact same meal you're eating. After all, I'm fat, and you are smaller than I am, so that makes you a better person.
I wish I could simply tell myself to ignore the fat hatred, or rather I wish I could make myself actually ignore the fat hatred. I've tried...believe me, I've tried. For awhile I was doing the HNT pictures and that did help with my self confidence a bit, and reminded me that simply being fat wasn't enough of a reason to hate myself, that being fat doesn't make me less human, less deserving of love and acceptance.
My sincere hope, and I feel it isn't too far fetched of an ideal, is that the discourse on appearance, fat or thin, will someday become less volatile, and less filled with hatred. Our bodies, whether they are thin or fat, simply don't deserve the level of vitriol we spew at them. And it says something about us as a culture that even the way we discuss something like weight is so polarizing. Tolerance, a term that has been so overused and misused that it almost has no meaning anymore, doesn't exist in our society. Freedom is the rallying cry for so many, but what it's come to mean is freedom only for those who look and think like me.