Oh, the thin ladies. This has been a point of discussion in a couple places recently, so I decided to throw in my $0.03. Gotta take inflation into account, dontcha know?
When I'm at my most energized, when I'm having a great day, when I'm ready to take the bull by the horns and logic it to death, then I talk about fat acceptance. When I'm feeling tired, and I'm having a crappy day, and I can barely manage to throw a QED at the bull, then I talk about body acceptance. You see, body acceptance is palatable to a lot of people already, at least the beginnings of it. To say, "hey, my body's ok!" is something that we've all heard for a very long time. And, because "fat" isn't in the name, it doesn't force people to think about those other bodies. You know the ones. And even though they're talking to me, a fat woman (~230 lbs, for context), for some reason it's still easy to ignore other fat bodies. Maybe they're just so blown away by my awesome that they think "of course we should accept Shoshie's body. She's just so damn shmexy!" I mean, it's totally possible.
But the same people who smile, nod, and let me ramble about body acceptance, start to get forhead wrinkles if I say the same things, but call it fat acceptance. Because now they've got a headless fatty mind invasion. They're not thinking of me, their good 'ol fat pal who they know takes dance lessons and buys into a farm share and goes on hikes with them. Now they're thinking of Homer Simpson in a muumuu eating donuts. That they have a bit more trouble smiling along with.
But here's the thing. Most fat people AREN'T Homer Simpson in a muumuu. And while we do need overall body acceptance, fat acceptance fills a different need. Average-to-thin sized women complain about not being able to find clothing that fits well. But fat women can't find clothing to even try on. Everyone is being told to trim down here and wear these clothes and your eyelashes are too short why don't you have longer eyelashes! But fat women are told that everything is wrong. You can't even partition your body into acceptable parts and innacceptable parts because the whole thing is wrong. And thin people will never be denied a job or an airplane seat because of their size.
Don't get me wrong, people are harassed for being thin. And it sucks and it's wrong. No one's voice should be marginalized. But the fact is, that for every person telling a thin woman to eat a sandwich, there's a million other sources telling her that she is the ideal. And that it would be the worst thing in the world if that were ever to change. For ever insensitive asshole who jokes about bulimia, there's 10 more who encourage thinness, and not just other insensitive assholes, but parents, doctors, teachers, mentors. They'll mask it by saying it's for health, and they don't want the person to be REALLY thin, just an "ideal weight." However, that so-called ideal weight is just as unatainnable as any picture of a supermodel.
Seriously. Really truely. And to be told your whole life by, not only the popular media, but by doctors and friends and parents and people you really trust that this is the body for you and you have failed by not getting there yet and you will always fail and you are a failure daring to sit there and watch tv or enjoy food even for a moment...
Well, that's just not something that thin people have to deal with very often. If they do, it's called abuse. But it is a very common experience for fat people. And if it doesn't happen, well then it's sometimes called abuse or neglect. That is where the fat experience differs and why we absolutely need a fat acceptance movement, maybe alongside a general body acceptance movement.
So what can you do if you're thin and you want to help fight the good fight?
1. Acknowledge your privelege. Acknowledge that, while things may suck for you on the body positivity front, if you weighed 100 lbs more things would be much, much harder. Don't believe me? How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow weighing that 100 lbs more? How would your life change? Would you feel angry? Would you feel cheated? Would you feel ashamed? What if you had a class reunion next week. Would you go?
2. Speak out against fat hatred. Jokes about fat people aren't funny, just like jokes about Jews, or people of color, or little people, or women, or people with disabilities aren't funny. Call people out on their bullshit. It's sad, but it'll mean more to them if it comes from you than if it comes from a fat person.
3. Be senstive when shopping or discussing clothing with fat friends. Go into plus size stores with them and tell them they look fabulous. Note: only do this if they've told you that they shop in plus size stores. Some people are really sensitive about that. I used to lie about where I got my clothing.
4. Don't make assumptions. About anyone. Don't assume that your fat friends are sedentary or eat unhealthfully. If they do, don't badger them about it. They're probably aware.
5. If a fat friend is complaining that she can't find anything to wear, or she's so fed up about our thin culture, don't get defensive, don't make it about you. Don't try to relate to her by saying that you also have such a hard time finding clothing and you totally don't look like a supermodel either. It's not the same, and you know it. Listen to her. Let her cry on your shoulder or rant or whatever she needs, and then tell her that she's awesome.
These aren't all easy things, but they're important. If you want to be an ally, that's wonderful! But please please PLEASE listen to what people have to say, first and foremost. If you haven't lived in a fat body, then you have a lot to learn about that experience. Please try to do that learning before getting annoyed or defensive. And if you want to talk about how hard it is to be a thin person in America, well, blogger accounts are free.