I was sitting in the Otolaryngologist’s office, when he asked “So, do you exercise?”. It was a strange question, but I realized he was asking because of my appearance. You see, I’m fat. I am 5’4”, and weight 180 lbs. The reason why it was so surprising coming from him was because I’d delivered every test result he’d asked for (cholesterol, blood pressure, and every blood analysis possible) and the results had come out just fine; everything except for some weird strep that seemed to be having a party on my tonsils.
I mentioned to him that I was not actually getting much done in terms of exercising, and he immediately put me on a diet. No processed anything, only fish and chicken, fruit and vegetables (only steamed if they were to be cooked), along with a set of recommendations- because even though my cholesterol levels and blood work were fine, I had to be careful to prevent any future disease. I left his office a little disconcerted, and uncomfortable- because I realized that he definitely wasn’t attributing my current problem to my weight…but I should loose some, just in case.
The argument can be made that fat people are more prone to certain types of sickness but the way we currently measure whether a person is obese is significantly flawed. Not only that, but there are multiple factors that go into a disease aside from weight that greatly influence someone’s health such as genetics, economic status, current residence, etc.
Body positivism and feminism share many goals in common- for the purpose of this entry though, I’m going to focus on the Fat Positive/Fat Activist aspect of the Body Positivist movement, because even though thin people can and do suffer uncomfortable and rude incidents, they do not actually suffer discrimination because of their body size.
Simply stated, fat activism focuses on acceptance and equality amongst folks who are fat. Studies have found that fat people earn less, and fat women earn considerably less than their standard weight companions. Not only is that but amongst women CEOs fat is almost unacceptable (while it is much more easily forgiven of their male counterparts) . Fat women pay more for clothing, and are more likely to be shamed publicly for eating, grocery shopping or other activities like flying or riding amusement park rides. Fat women are also fetishized and harassed because of their weight.
In Mormondom we also have the additional pressure of the good old Word of Wisdom. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it quoted in a fat shaming light, which if you do, please stop. The Word of Wisdom exists to help us be healthy- not skinny. Some people are never going to be thin. Some people may even go to spinning classes 5 times a week, and eat in a healthy manner and still be fat. And it’s okay.
Being fat is not bad. Being skinny is not bad. Judging a person and making assumptions because of their body is. Just like gendered assumptions are wrong (Women are more nurturing! Men are dogs who can’t control themselves!) so are size assumptions. A person’s health is sometimes visible, but more often than not there are issues that are not noticeable until mentioned.
Fat phobia and fat shaming for women is also heavily influenced and affected by the sexist standards currently in place. While it is somewhat easier for a fat man to find clothing in his size and even stores that cater especially to him (“Big & Tall” anyone?) there are no such stores for women. Additionally, women are shamed into thin-ness by a beauty standard set to please men- you must be a certain waist size, a certain weight, and look a certain way to be considered attractive, or you will be bullied and objectified.
This feeds into the patriarchal idea that a woman’s purpose is to be desirable to all men which is often by the thinsplanning explanations on how a fat person is an actual health risk (again, those magical Doctors that appear out of nowhere!), and comments like “You have such a pretty face!” and “You’ll be more attractive if you lose some weight”.
Now, you might be asking yourself- are you a part of the problem? Possibly. If in doubt, ask yourself this: Would you be phrasing the comment the same way if you were speaking to a thin person? Would you be comfortable preaching to a smoker you just met the dangers of nicotine? Would you police somebody’s sleep schedule?
Just some food for thought.