I’m writing this in response to a heartbreaking post on RandomQuorum. I was just going to leave a comment, but really, this hits too close to home for me to be able to leave a comment of any kind of reasonable length.
As background, the author of the post is going through a tough time in her marriage. She married long before her discovery of FA and body positivity, when she was still in dieting-mode, at war with her body. Naturally, negative comments from her husband about her weight were, before FA, likely met with agreement and an extra tablespoon of self-loathing and dieting incentive. Now, after FA, she realizes them for what they really are: the words of a troll.
Yesterday she made the first post on the subject of this particular tough spot in her marriage, to which she had several replies, including a real live troll.
I did manage to catch a troll though! And it’s lucky I didn’t find their comment until this morning, because today I find it kind of amusing/ironic, but yesterday it probably would have made me homicidal.
My dear troll Vicky said: [insert inane troll platitudes here]
After which she and her husband sat down and had a talk about what was concerning her (good for you, by the way — it’s best to air your concerns as they come up, or else they would just fester and make you feel worse). In the description of her conversation, she many times compares her husband’s words to the words of the Vicky-troll. I’m not sure if she was intentionally showing how similar they were, but after reading the post I came away with one very clear impression: her husband is The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom.
Us bloggers know how annoying trolls can be. It’s annoying enough when they junk up your spam box, or even ecstatically get a bit of hate through your filters. Sometimes the words of trolls can rankle for a long time after they’re said, in an almost irrationally important way — like the first “Moo!” from a schoolyard bully, or that time mom clucked when you were weighed at the doctor’s. Now imagine the fat-hate troll — the one who really doesn’t care about you as a healthy person and instead wants you to change your body for their shallow, visual/sexual benefit — in your livingroom. Permanently. There, with you always, to waggle their fingers at your — gasp, SECOND Hershey kiss of the day, and it’s only 7pm??! — and then scurry off to post vitriol on My Fatt Spouse (intentionally mispelled. No search candy for you!).
All I have to say is that the author of the post linked above is some kind of brave I never was, when I had to deal with The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom. When my eff-wad ex said I needed to “lose 50 pounds” if he was going to marry me? — I curled up and cried on my side of the bed, then started starving myself (what else could I do to lose weight? I had already dieted myself down to well below my setpoint). When my self-loathing dad’s “Christmas present” one year was to, on Christmas morning, explain to my brother and I how drinking enough water will make us skinny and promptly stuck us on diets (he was starving himself at the time) — I internalized it, realizing what he wanted more than a talented, sweet, generous, loving daughter, was a skinny one. A few years later I got the praise from him that I wanted, when starvation caused my spine to rise out of my flesh, like a mountain range (and not when I had won third place in the debate competition, that is).
The most dangerous fat-hate troll is The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom. There, he can live where all trolls want to be — inside your head, pushing your buttons, getting you to do what they want you to do, all the time. What kind of love would have you abuse your body? If it’s ignorance which drives his call for you to diet, I ask: has he not watched you diet umpteen times before, and fail? Has he not seen what it has done to your mental and physical health? And, if he’s not really concerned with health but instead with looks, isn’t that fact something that should greatly concern you?
Saying that the world treats fatter people more harshly is a coward’s argument (and is what my dad used, when he would flog himself yet again with some new diet). The world ain’t gentle, and it ain’t fair. But cowering in the corner won’t make the world treat you any better, it will just attract the bullies who feed off cowering conformists. Maybe what’s bothering your husband is that you are no longer cowering in the corner, and he feels like he doesn’t have as much control over you as he used to. Back when you were preoccupied with being thinner, he didn’t have to care so much about your character, individuality, and thinking of you as an attractive woman outside the media-condoned box (which can take some real bravery on the part of many men and women alike). All he had to do was crack that whip — unleash a fat-negative comment — and you were back where he wanted you to be, and he didn’t have to do anything at all.
When it comes down to it, I’m so sorry to say, his arguments are completely self-centered. He’s not even pretending to be concerned about your health. And that is something that might be the real flaw, not his fat-hating attitude. He’s asking you to abuse your body so that he can find you more sexually interesting, and can cart you around like a trophy in public (or, at least, not have to feel “ashamed” of you). This is a real problem.This is not something that can be fixed by convincing him fat isn’t bad, or that you can’t be thin. I’m not sure any of that really matters to him. He’s not treating you like you’re his wife — he’s treating you like you’re his favorite shirt. Can’t let it get too faded or misshapen or wrinkled, what will people think?
The idea that he’s already foisting upon you the necessity of losing post-baby weight kills me, and really drives home his objectification of you.
I’m sorry to say, but the author’s husband and Vicky-troll and two sides of the same coin. And yes, marriage is not something you just discard. Not without a fight. And you are fighting, and really trying to make it work. But is he honestly doing the same for you? Is he even trying to understand where you’re coming from? Or is he so afraid that he’s going to lose whatever control he has over you (which is symbolized by his irrational fear that you’re just going to “keep getting fatter” and Eat the World and so forth), that he, like my eff-wad ex or my dad, will do anything to put you back in that place where your self-abuse can stroke their egos, can exonerate them from ever really thinking or caring about you, and can justify their own deep-rooted bigotry?
Not all husbands need to be indoctrinated in FA not to fat-hate. My husband grew up in the same fat-hating culture as everyone else, and his sexual preference is generally not women as fat as I am (and wasn’t before he met me). We found out that’s just because of what he had been exposed to, and in fact he was attracted to me and loved me for who I was, fat or thin. When it comes down to it, this isn’t really about fat. This is about control and objectification. And his desire to control you, and his objectification and de-humanization of you won’t necessarily be changed by him accepting your fat (though for that same reason I doubt, quite honestly, that he ever would accept your fat).