Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wow, this Marie Claire thing...

Ok, so by now you've prolly heard about the Marie Claire thing. If you haven't, I'm sure you can Google "marie claire fatties" and learn more than you ever wanted to know. Other fatosphere bloggers have already posted tons about it, so I won't rehash. But that's the context if you need it for what comes next...

One cool thing that came out of the MC thing is that someone I've never connected with about Fat Acceptance/HAES posted about it on FB, with a link to a blog railing against the MC article. So I commented on the post:
I invite you to blame the horrible author instead of blaming yourself/your body. I am part of the Health at Every Size and Fat Acceptance movements and I would love for all my beautiful friends to love themselves just as they are. ...

If you ever are interested in books or blogs or other resources to learn more about these movements I would love to share them.
She posted back that she thanked me, that she had a long way to go on self-acceptance, and that while she hated what the original article writer had to say, said writer had a right to her opinion.  I replied:
She may be entitled to her opinion, but that doesn't make it ok. Just think if someone had written an article about how disgusting they find it when gay people, or Asian people, or disabled people kiss. We'd be absolutely morally outraged. Why is fat different? (I would argue it shouldn't be!)
And very soon after, I received this letter by FB Message (NOT on the comment string, but to me alone):

I just wanted to comment and didn't want to seem like I was starting a flame war or anything...

I would argue that being fat is different. I do not agree with Ms. Kelly's sentiment at all, please believe this. But I do, as an overweight person, feel that being fat is different from being different ethnically or sexually, I know, cause I'm Hispanic, too. All I need is to be gay and I would hit the social outcast trifecta!

I am not at all saying we actively make this choice (though, arguably, there are those who do). There are a myriad of issues at hand. Things that we, as individuals have to work through. Things we, as individuals, have to take accountability for. Is it easy? Not at all. That's why it's called work when we seek a healthier life style. But, in my opinion, to compare our fat-ness to say, our ethnic-ness is not a just comparison. At the end of the day, I can diet, but cannot change the color of my skin....

Please don't think me insensitive, because I know well the trials of being overweight in an overly skinny centric culture. What Ms. Kelly wrote was simply wrong, and completely unfair. And made worse by her admission of having been anorexic in her apology.

It is horrible and dichotomous, this society we live in....we make each other feel bad for how we look, yet try to convince ourselves it doesn't matter.

I think people in general are beautiful in and of themselves...regardless of what they look like.

I hope this made some sort of sense....

And again, I'm not looking for a fight, just offering perspective...

I hope you are having a great day.

I felt weird about getting this message privately/individually. It was from someone I've seen around, but don't know personally. If he feels strongly about this matter, he should post it in reply to mine so that I could then refute it openly. What's the point of sending just to me, unless he's either a) afraid to look mean/afraid more people will agree with me (gawd, I wish!) or b) ambiguous about his feelings on some level, and subconsciously hoping I'll say something that will allow him to accept his own fatness. Now, my knee-jerk reaction was to say, "yes you're insensitive. And weird and a jerk for sending this privately. Never contact me again." Seriously, I typed that. But then I deleted it, took a deep breath, and after some false starts, sent this:
I don't think you're particularly insensitive, however I do think you are (as most Americans are) uneducated on the failure rate of diets. You have bought into the prevailing misconception that we do, in fact, have control over the size of our bodies. And that biodiversity in body shape and size is "different" than other kinds of diversity. Not too long ago, homosexuality was considered completely controllable and an illness, and prior to that, doctors prescribed skin lighteners to enable African Americans to pass as white. These things were seen at the time as controllable, but more education has shown they are in fact genetic and part of human diversity.

I don't want a fight either but I do invite you to get educated on the Health at Every Size movement and the absolutely abysmal success percentages of each and every supposed "diet" or "lifestyle change" out there. Once we acknowledge that the promise of safe and effective long-term weight loss is a false promise and a myth, it is a much shorter step to accepting the diversity of bodies in human society and ending blame and shame. 
Now, if he writes back with more fat hate, he gets blocked. I don't have enough Sanity Points to deal with that any further. But maybe, just maybe, he'll do some reading.

And that, my friends, is my Activism Deed of the Day. I couldn't stand to stay hidden in the closet of FB Private Message Land. So I am sharing it with you.

EDIT: His response, received within minutes of my message, after the jump. I will _not_ be responding. I've spent enough spoons on him. On a positive note, I got a chuckle from the amusing image of people "loosing" weight. "I will loose my weight upon the world..." watch out - it's like a tiger "loosed" from the cage!

Fat Hate, of course - part 2

There was so much I was trying to think through in that last post, there are a couple of things more I want to say...

There is another aspect of people/entities I like saying fat-hating comments that depresses me. Beyond the personal impact, the betrayal, the questioning of what that person really thinks of me, our relationship, etc... is the feeling of the whole world feeling this way. The reminder that this thinking IS like air in our culture. It is the expected thing to do, almost a reflex, to conflate fat with unhealth, to believe - to "know" - that fat is caused by overeating and under-exercising and totally within each person's power to change if only he/she would "try" enough, have enough "willpower." It makes me sad that even people who know me and have talked about HAES with me persist in buying in to these accepted precepts of our society.

On another note, and this part was hard for me to articulate so please bear with me (and/or chime in with a comment if you think you get it and can help me form my thoughts, or if you have questions). I'm sure if I mentioned that a given comment hurt me/bothered me, or otherwise called them on it a la "why do you think that's funny/obvious/causal?" they'd say something like:
  • In the category of "But it's funny, don't be so serious"
    • "I didn't mean anything by it" 
    • "Can't you take a joke?"
  • In the category of "You're not like those other fatties"
    • "You're not _that_ fat" - amusing since I'm clearly deathfatz 
    • "I know you aren't [insert  stereotype]! I was talking about other people - because of course, fat is a social construct that means fat but also gluttonous, lazy, poor hygiene, etc.
  • In the category of "The dreaded "health" argument"
    • "What does making fat-hating comments have to do with whether I like you? Of course I like and respect you, but everyone knows fat=death, it's not personal - it's a fact." 
    • "Of course I love you, but you should lose weight for your health." 
In all these cases, I'm cast as the oversensitive one for even bringing it up. Or as the one who needs a "reality check" because - hello! - fat is bad, as everyone knows. Or as the Fat Poz Nazi who always makes a big deal out of everything instead of "taking a joke." Always up there on her soapbox, shoving her weird idea that her being fat is OK down everyone's throats.

I'm finding this part hard to express. Am I making sense?

Fat Hate, of course

I get so annoyed and sad when people make offhand fat-hating comments. It's bad in a different but equally bad - maybe worse - way than when people who are clearly fat-hating spew their filth. In the case of the former (i.e. MeMe Roth, doctors, talking heads), at least I never trusted or liked the person in the first place, don't take it personally, and don't have any desire to have a relationship with that person. I expected nothing more from them.

On the other hand, when a trusted friend or supposed liberal, intelligent source makes a fat-hating remark, it hits me in the solar plexus. It's a sucker punch. I thought this person/entity was safe, that they 'got it,' that in liking and respecting me and/or in being a basically progressive, right-thinking entity, they were on my side. And then - wham!It hurts on two levels. It underlines how acceptable fat hate is - it's so much a part of the culture it's invisible to the otherwise sensitive, educated people who spew it without even thinking.And it makes me feel like this person I thought accepted me doesn't really love me - since they've obviously internalized so much fat hate.

Recent examples:
Person A (status update): something cool
Friend of A (comment): jealous
Person A (comment): It's ok, I still love you like a fat kid loves McDonald's. [emphasis mine]

Radio-- NPR Report on how people who use cash buy less junk food than people who use debit or credit. The theory is that this is another example of how using cash is more painful/concrete than using plastic, so we tend to resist impulse purchases. Interesting, weight-neutral tidbit. Until, of course, the newscaster wraps up with the tagline, "So if you want to lose weight, leave the plastic behind!"

Because, 'of course' we fatties are McDonald's-gorging, junk-food-addicted, lazy slobs who would be thin like everyone else if we'd just comply. And of course if that turns out to be false, if we're good little fatties and we try and try but still can't lose weight... they'll be happy to cut out some internal organs to help us conform. But that's another post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keep your assumptions off my body

So over the past 24 hours, I've had a catastrophically yucky initial meeting with my (potential, violently rejected) new primary care physician, followed by (admittedly mild, but I'm sensitive to this sort of thing) Facebook drama. I posted on Facebook shortly after I left the office, because I was upset and distressed by the horrific 5 minutes I'd spent with the doctor. Unfortunately, in addition to several supportive comments, one friend (whose partner is a WLS "success story") posted a finger-wagging comment basically scolding me for overreacting, saying that it was probably appropriate for the doc to act as she did. Then, some other rad fatties and allies posted vehemently anti-WLS comments. Which felt good to read, but they in turn prompted the pro-WLS friend to spring to the defense of WLS. All of this in comments that started to feel like a flame war on my FB. It was to the point by this morning where each FB notification was making me feel sick, because I dreaded what it was going to be...

Finally, I decided to respond. But I'd been doing so much thinking that it became far more blog-length than comment-length. So I'm posting it here instead. I'm sure some rad fatties and anti-WLS people will think my position is not strong enough. While on the other hand, my friends and acquaintances who have positive ideas about WLS will probably feel I'm being unreasonable in my resistance. I can't please you all. I can only try to think this through and navigate it the best I can. I am torn, caught in the middle between the hordes and masses of society who think my body is an abomination, a disease to be "cured" by any means necessary, and by the small, quiet voices of fat acceptance and HAES and the tentative reaching instincts of my own body and soul, which tell me that fat is part of my biology and my identity and it's the world that needs to change, to stop treating me badly and seeing me as a problem and an intrusion.

There's so much to respond to in what everyone said on my FB. I agree with the strong negative feelings that many of you have about these surgeries. On the other hand, I understand where my friend who said the distressing stuff was coming from (even though the way he said it really hurt!). I know several "success stories" for whom the surgery was really wonderful and they are feeling great / much improved / it was all worth it / etc. Which only serves to confuse me because I feel even more pressure to accept the pressure of medical professionals. However, I simply must stick to my own gut feeling/intuition/confidence that this is NOT the right path for me - at least right now. I won't say never, cause who knows?

What truly pisses me off about this doc is that, as I said in my initial FB status post, she had met me LITERALLY 5 minutes before stating that bariatric surgery was really my only option. She had not had me fill out any new patient paperwork. It's almost certain that had not reviewed my medical record extensively, if at all, given how overworked clinicians are these days and the fact that I had not scheduled a full physical, just a 15 minute appt. When she walked in, she asked, "What can I do for you today?" I stated that I am looking for a new primary care physician, and she repeated, "But what do you want today," or something. She didn't ask me any questions or move to initiate the getting-to-know-you conversation I was hoping for. So I said that I am looking for a team captain, that I see a variety of specialists for different concerns, including a naturopath, chiropractor, psychologist, occasionally podiatrist. I went on to express that I was seeing her because I am looking for a new primary care doc who will NOT insist on constantly recommending HMR (my medical group's in-house version of Weight Watchers) or bariatric surgery, as those recommendations aggravate my eating disorder and depression. I explained that I believe in focusing on changing behaviors, not focusing on weight (working my way into explaining HAES). But before I could elaborate, she said that that was just it, we can't change behaviors, and that for someone in my "category" the only viable option is bariatric surgery.

Really? You don't want to hear more about the eating disorder I just mentioned? But of course fat women don't have eating disorders, do they? If you have an eating disorder, it makes you skinny. After all, the same thing we diagnose as an eating disorder if you're below a certain weight (severely limiting calories, obsessively planning meals and reading nutrition labels, working out to excess, etc.), we prescribe to fat people, don't we! You don't want to know if I exercise or not, or what I eat, before making such a sweeping statement? But of course not; you know exactly how I eat (poorly) and whether I exercise (obviously not even a little) from looking at me, right? It may be - it probably is true - that I will never eat or exercise "perfectly."  But you don't even ask the questions??? It was blatantly clear that this woman thought she knew everything relevant about me just by looking me up and down. And so I told her, "ok, well that's what I needed to know. We're done here." She protested, "But don't you want a flu shot or a whooping cough booster?" "No, I don't want anything from you." Not exactly the ringing, persuasive speech I might craft if I were a character in my own movie... but I didn't cry. I didn't give her that. At least, not til I got to my car.

I have done a lot of thinking on this in the last 24 hours and I've come to believe that my feelings on WLS and abortion are somewhat parallel. In both cases, I believe that everyone has the right to choose to go through that procedure, but it is emotionally complex and has long-lasting physical and emotional consequences and should not be taken up lightly. In both cases I would not personally choose that procedure but respect others' right to make their own personal decisions about what is best for their bodies and their lives. And just as I would be offended by a doctor who recommended abortion just because I was visibly pregnant and single, I am offended by a doc who recommends bariatric surgery just because I'm fat.

Pro-choice folks have the slogan, "Keep your laws off my body." While there is no law that one must have bariatric surgery (though it's getting scarier and scarier in terms of de facto weight loss requirements embedded in ability/non ability to access health care in this country), there is a TON of pressure out there, especially for folks like me who are in the very far right (not politics, math - on a graph, bigger numbers are to the right!) portion of the weight bell curve. So it may not be as catchy, but I say it with gusto:

KEEP YOUR ASSUMPTIONS OFF MY BODY. Yes, I mean you, Dr. And you, well-meaning friend. My body is mine. In this day when fatness increasingly IS a choice (if you believe bariatric surgery is a viable option, which so many seem to), it becomes increasingly difficult to stand up and say, "I am fat. I don't believe thinness is a choice for me. So I am going to live in this fat body" without getting some pretty forceful push-back.

Ok, now I have all sorts of interesting thoughts percolating about how just when we thought people might accept that diets don't work, and therefore fatness really is biological and not a "choice"... in walks bariatric surgery, and in just a few short years goes from experimental to frighteningly mainstream. Coincidence?

But that's a subject for another day... This post is already exceedingly long. Kudos and thanks, if you're reading this. You've made it to the END OF THE POST. Leave me a (positive, no meanies allowed!) comment and you get a gold star. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fat Heroines & NaNoWriMo

I am working towards committing to do NaNoWriMo this year - my first time. (Don't know NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. You challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not GOOD words, necessarily - no room for the inner censor, here. Just writing, because "someday" will never come. You have to write today. See for details.)

I was feeling frozen in terms of not having an idea yet. Then I started thinking about a fat heroine. I tend towards writing YA fantasy fiction, so this would be a fat adolescent girl in a Medieval/Renaissance type fantasy world. I still struggle with imagining what a fat heroine would look like. After all, she's not going to be the same as a thin heroine, like all the role models in the genre. I started to think about not just what would she be good at, but what would she be BETTER at because she's fat?

Here's my list so far:
  • Strength - we fatties are stronger than people think, because we are working with resistance from the moment we jump out of bed.
  • Swimming - natural buoyancy, anyone?
  • Compassion for the underdog - I really feel my 'outcast' status as a fatty and the torment and abuse I've taken because of it has made me more compassionate to all different types of diversity and inclusion and things that cause people to get treated poorly (from culture and ethnicity to less-discussed ones like fatness itself, height, disability, etc.). My heroine is likely the same way. Maybe she finds her friends in unlikely places because she can see through the thing they get rejected for and see the whole person.
  • Horseback riding - not necessarily good at this specifically because she's fat, but what if because she's fat she fell in love with horseback riding, because the horse was the great equalizer? On a horse, she could run as fast, jump as high as all her friends and siblings, and not feel athletically at a disadvantage. And so she spent tons of time on her horse and grew to really love it.
  • Surviving in the cold / surviving in harsh winters, lack of food, etc. - let's face it, she has more insulation and more stores of energy if there's a famine.
There have got to be more. Let's think creatively. In what ways is being fat potentially an ADVANTAGE to a fantasy heroine? (Or more generally in life...?)

NAAFA Newsletter

I just submitted my first article for the NAAFA newsletter. Unless the editor hates it or something, it'll be published this month!

UPDATE: The editor loves it (yay!) but feels it would be a better fit for November's newsletter... so it will be a bit longer 'til it's published.

It's silly how excited I am to have a piece of my writing published - even though it's unpaid and only in an email newsletter. Still, a LOT of people will be getting/reading it, and that's very cool!