Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Women and Fat-Shaming

While I have had the occasional man yell something at me like “Fat Cow!” or “Fat Bitch!” generally speaking, I get the most static about my weight from other women.

It comes in the form of backhanded compliments like, “I wish I was strong enough to not care what I looked like.” Or questions like “Should you really be eating that?” Or, and this one comes mostly from women my mother’s age or older, “You’d be such a pretty girl if you lost the weight.” And I do sometimes get just outright nasty comments like, “You’re too fat to wear that,” but most of the criticism of my fat body from other women comes in the form of “concern.”

Ah yes, concern… “I don’t really hate fat people, I’m just concerned for your health…” That’s a lovely little conscience salve, isn’t it? It lets you say some truly horrible shit while reassuring yourself that it isn’t that bad, because you CARE. You’re just letting someone you CARE about know that they’re in danger from themselves.

I have news for you, sweetheart. Fat people know they’re fat. Really. Seriously, we do. We aren’t blithely tripping along seeing ourselves as size sixes having a bad day. We know we’re fat. And we’d have to be living in a cave to not be constantly bombarded with the message that “OMG! TEH FAT IS GOING TO KILLZ0RZ US!!!!” So, your salving concern, is just that. It is designed to insulate you from the knowledge that you’re being hateful. So just stop it and be fucking honest with yourself.

And as for “I wish I could be brave enough to not care…” What in the world makes you think I don’t care how I look? Is my hair unwashed and unstyled? are my clothes dirty and ill-fitting? No. No, they aren’t. I dress very well and stylishly, as far as my budget will allow. I wear skirts and tights, my clothing fits and flatters my figure. I keep my hair in an A-line bob. Granted, I don’t wear make up often unless it’s a special occasion, but I don’t need to.

And as for being a pretty girl if I lost the weight, I’m already a beautiful woman WITH the weight. Ask my husband, who, quite frankly, is the only person whose opinion really matters. Ask the guys who hit on me while I’m bartending.

Now, the question is, why do women give other women so much static about their weight?

Again, I have a theory. (Who’s surprised? Hands?)

When women who work hard to conform see women they view as not “trying hard enough,” they resent it. I’ve known women who have spent their entire lives, decades, dieting, denying themselves enough calories to really support good health, and when I say, “You know, I decided that I’m done with the dieting bullshit,” they get really hostile.

And part of me understands why. The fact that I’m not dieting and my husband loves me anyway means I have just discounted their life’s work. They have spent their lives depriving themselves because society told them that they wouldn’t be good enough or deserve love if they didn’t. Women, particularly in American culture, spend so much time, energy and money trying to conform to a beauty standard that is impossible for even the exemplars of it to live up to. The fact that just maybe they could have not spent all that time and energy and still had meaningful lives would make anyone angry.

Really, think about it. How much weight and energy do you, personally waste worrying about this? How many articles of clothing you can’t wear now but will “get into one day” do you own? How many times a month, week, day do you stop yourself from eating something you really want and would enjoy because it’s “bad?”

I have nothing against a life lived in moderation. I have everything against a life lived in deprivation, and so should you. Particularly since more and more studies are demonstrating that fat has more to do with genetics and less to do with diet than common wisdom suggests. If people like, I can link to some articles, but really the easiest way would be for you to go pick up books by Gina Kolata and Paul Campos. They’ve already done all the legwork, and probably summed up it up more coherently than I can.

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23 comments on “Women and Fat-Shaming

  1. kashma
    December 20, 2007

    Interestingly, I see some parallels with anyone who chooses to buck the cultural norms of our American society, be that regarding skin care, living frugally, choosing to live a life centered around service to others, diet (as in being vegetarian or vegan) etc.
    As far as moderation/deprivation go, deprivation is in the eyes of the beholder. If I hear one more time “I just couldn’t live without my latte in the morning” I shall scream. And then I shall do my best to convince this person that they should spend a day outside all day, not even the night, with just what they can manage to get from can returns.

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    • polimicks
      December 20, 2007

      I’m actually talking about people who strive to limit their food intakes to the less than 1,000 calorie diets that some doctors are prescribing for patients.
      I’m essentially talking about making yourself miserable in an attempt to attain the unattainable, for your entire life.

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      • kashma
        December 20, 2007

        I apologize if my comment was off base. Just sparked some thoughts on my end.
        Just FYI, I was directed over here from
        Less than 1000 calories? WTF? From all that I’ve read, that’s just nuts. Just on the physical end of things, that’s astounding to me that doctors would even suggest that, much less the psychological.
        I completely agree that depriving yourself to obtain unattainable goals is just crazy.

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      • polimicks
        December 20, 2007

        It’s ok, I am Sirriamnis. This is where I do my more politically/social rants that I maybe don’t want exploding in my personal journal.
        And yes, I’ve had several friends online and IRL in the last year whose doctors suggested 1000 cal/day plans to them.

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      • sirriamnis
        December 20, 2007

        My maternal grandmother has spent the last 30 years or more of her life (30 is all I can remember) on Weight Watchers. She carefully weighed and measured every morsel of food she ate. She had a special glass for her beverages, so she would know exactly how many ounces of skim milk or orange juice she was drinking.
        This is not healthy… Quite frankly, if she weren’t a woman, or if she were applying this much obsessive-compulsive behavior to any other factor of her life, people would suggest she get therapy to get over it. But because it’s food and she’s female, instead people congratulate her on her self-control.
        It’s a fucked up world we live in.

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      • bittermonkey
        December 21, 2007

        I was directed over here by you and I totally agree. So the fuck what if I’ll never be a size 8 or 10 again? I eat what I want and I’m happy not to measure everything I eat. I’ve tried weight watchers and was fucking miserable on it after two weeks of adding up points. FTS! My blood pressure is great and blood sugar is fine and I have a husband who loves me, not to mention I’ve been hit on by THIN men.
        I say eat what you want and STAY HAPPY!

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      • annetangent
        November 11, 2008

        I know this is months late but I figured you might be interested. They did some study and found overweight women were having more sex than average-sized women. I told my mom (who’s a doctor) and she said, to paraphrase, “I’m not surprised, so many really thin women come in and say they have no energy, they’re not interested, it hurts, it’s not important. Why work so hard to be sexy when you don’t care about having it?”

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  2. sarmonster
    December 20, 2007

    Despite what these women look like, anyone on me about my weight thinks they’re fat, too. Unless my size is personally inconveniencing them(we’re stuck on an airplane together), I take it as a message to themselves. If someone has the juevos to say something like that to me, they’re probably miserable, anyway(How can you be fat and still like yourself? I don’t *hates self more*).
    My Mom is the worst offender: “You look like a pillsbury dough boy.”
    Love you too, bitch. She’s big, and she HATES it. She hates every recent picture of herself, she stares wistfully at clothes meant for teenage toothpicks, meanwhile family functions are based around meals.
    It’s taking quite a bit of effort to get her over to my side of the fence. Excersize(difficult, I know), feel healthy, do what you want to do, eat what you feel like eating, be happy with who you are and no one will notice or care that you’re not Kate Fucking Moss, those extra pounds keep me from getting hypothermia, thank you very much.
    She goes back to snarky gossipville and a week’s training goes out the door. *sigh*.
    The matriarchy in my family has big feet, we’re built like oxen, and are likely to live well into out 90s if we’re not too reckless. This is what some women actually look like, deal or go back to California.

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  3. benevolentia
    December 20, 2007

    I’ve never really understood why women (often complete strangers)can be so mean to each other, especially about weight and appearances. If someone is going to think such ugly and catty things it’s bad enough. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have ugly and catty thoughts sometimes. I do, but they aren’t centered around weight and I try to keep them to myself. But the fact that people choose to voice their ugly and catty thoughts, often just to make you feel bad, yes most of the time they do know they’re doing it, just boggles my mind.
    It’s bad enough when a family member bitches at you saying something like “you better be careful you’re getting fat like your sister” when you start gaining weight. But when someone who doesn’t even know you goes out of their way to say something intended to make you feel bad about your weight, that’s some seriously fucked up shit.
    I really hate how insecure women (including myself) can get regarding their appearances and it always made me a little uncomfortable when I realized how often some women compare themselves with each other. I’d agree that people can feel frustrated if they have been depriving themselves to achieve something that you can get without deprivation. But not all the catty bitchy people deprive themselves and I think it does just come down to personal insecurity and the need to make someone else feel bad in order so they can feel better about themselves. Sometimes though I think some people are just crappy and do it because they think they can get away with it.

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  4. cochese
    December 20, 2007

    My wife is curvy, and I love her for it.
    I’m fat, and I hate myself for it. No amount of assurance from my wife that she finds me sexy makes me feel better about it. It’s been about a decade since anyone has actually given me shit about my weight or given me the “concerned” speach, though that may be due more to my gender than humanity. (Though one of the kids I GM for did repeat a smug joke her mom made about the average size of gamers.) But you’re right: fat people know. I rarely forget.

    Like

    • polimicks
      December 20, 2007

      Oh sweetie… I adore you.
      I can’t think of a day, even when I was working out obsessively and had gotten down to a size ten (and I mean obsessively, 2-3 hours a day 4-6 days a week) I was constantly worrying about how fat I was. Now, when I see pictures of me then, I want to smack myself silly. I looked fucking amazing, but I couldn’t get out of double digits, so I was a cow.
      Societal programming sucks.

      Like

      • cochese
        December 20, 2007

        I have that reaction to pictures of me in high school, when I weighed 165. I don’t have that reaction to pictures of me from when I weighed 320+.
        In addition to all the usual sorts of inconveniences I have because of my weight (not fitting into standardized seating, having trouble fitting into clothes) I have the looming spectre of diabetes over my head. Both my father and grandfather were diagnosed with it late in life. My grandfather was insulin dependant. I don’t know about my father, since I don’t talk to him.
        Then there are all the other health challenges: Trouble walking up stairs, bad knees that are only worse with extra weight, decreased testosterone due to high weight levels… The list goes on.

        Like

      • cochese
        December 20, 2007

        It occured to me on the way in: I don’t get the helpful “You really should lose weight.” (Well, outside of my doctor.) Or even the insults about my weight.
        But I do get high praise for losing the weight.

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      • darrius26
        December 20, 2007

        the weight thing
        Tell me about it, I hate this kind of discussion
        Me: I graduated college
        Other people: That’s nice
        Me: I got into law school
        OP: That’s cool
        Me: I am the MVE at work
        OP: Good job
        Me: I saved someones life today
        OP: Keep up the good work
        Me: I lost ten pounds
        OP: OH MY GAWD THAT IS SO COOL! THAT IS THE BEST THING EVER! I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU! YOU MUST BE SO HAPPY!
        WTF! So my life is defined by how much weight I have lost? yah is highly irritating

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      • lizmosphere
        December 20, 2007

        Re: the weight thing
        Ugh! I dread those conversations. The worst is “I’m so proud of you.” Which, of course, begs the questions, were you ashamed of me before? Part of the reason I am still fat is that I dread the congratulations I’d get if I lost weight. I think it might be OK if I quit my job, went into hiding, lost weight, and then moved to another town. Then I’d just be a normal person, not a “you should have seen her before.”

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      • polimicks
        December 20, 2007

        Re: the weight thing
        Federal Former Fat Person Protection Agency?
        Like when I was dealing with the MIL after I lost all that weight this summer because of four months of laxative use.
        Gah.

        Like

  5. mustangracer
    December 20, 2007

    I’ve been heavy all of my life. I have a large frame with big boobs and broad shoulders. The smallest I’ve been since Jr. High school was 130 (size 7, 36DD) and that was because I did meth and hadn’t eaten in a week.
    I still thought I was fat. When I look back and see those pictures, I can’t believe that I was that thin.
    I have gained quite a bit of weight since then, bouncing from 12-18 over the last 10 years. I’m ok with my body and eat pretty healthy but I feel the pressure of dieting all around me.
    My mom is currently on the south beach diet kick and it’s killing me. I can’t have a conversation with her without hearing a lecture on how sugar is evil and how I need to watch my carbs. Drives me insane.

    Like

  6. euterpe35
    December 20, 2007

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement:
    “When women who work hard to conform see women they view as not “trying hard enough,” they resent it. I’ve known women who have spent their entire lives, decades, dieting, denying themselves enough calories to really support good health, and when I say, “You know, I decided that I’m done with the dieting bullshit,” they get really hostile.”
    Also the “concern for health” thing. argh!! Yes, I am not dumb. I do know there are *certain* things that would be improved by my losing weight. In my case, I know for a fact that my knees would hurt less when going up stairs.
    But dammit my heart is healthy and people would KILL for my low cholesterol levels, consistently low-normal blood pressure, overall resistance to colds and flu, beautiful skin and hair, etc.
    I’ll probably live at *least* as long as most thin people. Just like my “obese” 97 year old great-gramma.
    and WTF!! Unless you are my child or my life partner, my health is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS oops caps.
    anyway, yeah, females are bitches about other females. It’s one of the reasons why that although I’m a feminist, I’m far from a female supremacist.

    Like

  7. lizmosphere
    December 20, 2007

    When I read this I was thinking, “my goodness, some of Sirramnis’s friends sure do sound like her.” Then I read the comments.. Duh.
    Anyway, I think you are very right about the life’s work thing. Recently one of my (our) co workers died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. In the days after, I endured so many comments about how thin she was and how, therefore, it was surprising that she died. It was almost like they were looking at me and sauying “it should have been you.” But really, I think they were saying, “my 26 waist can’t save me.”

    Like

    • polimicks
      December 20, 2007

      Yeah. It’s like being thin is some talisman against “bad things” ™, and when they find out it isn’t, their worlds crumble.

      Like

  8. sheyeblaze
    December 20, 2007

    Did you post this to fatshionista? If not, I’d be more than happy to do so.

    Like

  9. antipodes
    December 21, 2007

    You rule. I’m so proud to be one of your friends, I could just burst.

    Like

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2007 by in Uncategorized.

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