Near the end of her excellent book, Taking Up Space, Pattie Thomas has a wonderful long rant about being fat. In all of our desire to embrace body acceptance and to fight the good fight against bias, sometimes I think the legitimate anger and pain gets lost in the shuffle. She concludes the rant with this:
A fat woman happy with her body is a dangerous thing in the current culture. I know that writing this book will most likely bring me more grief. Being satisfied with a fat body flies in the face of several powerful interests that benefit from the belief that fat is bad. I am in the awkward position of hoping that this book is read by a lot of people and wishing that I won’t have to deal with any more negative consequences of being fat and smart in this society. There is a part of me that would just love to go live in Alaska or the Yukon with my husband and a bunch of dogs and sheep and stay as far away from people and North American culture as I can. I have to admit that I may yet do that if the dominant paradigm about my body doesn’t change soon. It is tiresome to live with the stress of this stigma. I often need to escape in some way to keep up my strength and perseverance. But escaping is difficult in a world in which we are constantly bombarded with messages about fatness, dieting and bodies.
Thomas, Pattie; Wilkerson, Carl (2012-01-06). Taking Up Space (Kindle Locations 4972-4980). Pearlsong Press. Kindle Edition.
It is tiresome to live with fat stigma. I get weary at the thought of going this fall to a new doctor and once again having to defend my right not to diet, not to be weighed, my right to be treated as a person.
I met Saturday with my new writing group. The other two women in it are younger than I am and most decidedly not fat. I had shared the introduction to my own work in progress in which I write about my experience of being fat -- you can read some of it here. One of them looked at me and asked me if I didn't think that all women experience what I wrote about. Yes, I said to her, we all wrestle with the problems of constant being evaluated based on our appearance, but being fat is an order of magnitude more difficult, is to be subjected to another huge layer of stigma and disapproval.
I came home and read Pattie's rant again and felt better -- because she knows what it is like, because I wasn't as alone. And isn't that one of the big problems we face in trying to make things change? We tend to deal with fat and our feelings in isolation from each other. Yes, we can forge connections online. But how many of us have one or more friends we can sit down with and talk about all of this with? Where are our consciousness raising groups?