Unpacking the Fat: People Like Me

1. People like me get thrown off flights, especially if they’re too full, and asked to pay double for the privilege of waiting for the next one.

2. People like me can’t shop in most malls. We get strange looks and downright condescension if we go into certain stores.

3. I can’t turn on the TV and expect to see someone like me, in general. If I do, then that person is almost always being portrayed as something broken to be fixed, or otherwise in a negative light.

4. When I see people like me talked about in the news, it’s about how horrible people like me are, and what is the best way to get rid of people like me.

5. If I go to an adoption agency I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

6. If I go to an infertility clinic I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

7. If my child is someone like me (which they have a good chance of being) I will be told I shouldn’t be a parent. My child might even get taken away from me.

8. I can’t open a magazine and expect to see people like me. However I can expect to see ad after ad for products on how to prevent becoming like me, or how to ‘fix’ someone like me.

9. If I ride the subway/bus, I get dirty looks. People don’t think someone like me deserves to sit. If I stand, they tell me that I’m in the way of everyone else.

10. If I take a walk down the street in a populated area I can expect to be told how horrible I am from passing cars, pedestrians, people in shops — anyone I meet. I might even get things thrown at me, like garbage.

11. If I go to the gym I can expect to get talked down to, and treated like the reason I’m there is to ‘fix’ myself from being so broken and horrible.

12. If I drive my car instead of walk it’s taken as proof of why people like me are horrible. If I don’t go to a public gym it’s taken as proof of why people like me are so horrible.

13. There is big money for people who are trying to eliminate  people like me. They especially want to eliminate children who are like me. Most other people, even some people like me, think this is a wonderful thing. They hail an ‘enlightened’ future world that no longer has people like me in it.

14. People like me are blamed for the broken healthcare system.

15. People like me are blamed for global warming.

16. People like me are told that we can’t do certain things, and when we do, we’re told that we’re the exception that proves the rule.

17. I pay three times as much as what other people do for clothes, and it’s often much worse quality, style, fit, and selection. Clothes for people like me are segregated in stores and online, if they are available at all.

18. With some regularity the media debates on morning and news shows if people like me should exist, and how best to get rid of us if not.

19. People like me aren’t in trendy establishments. We are either barred from going, or the place can’t accommodate us, or we get condescended to and pressured to leave as soon as we walk through the door.

20. I can wear the same style and cut of clothing as someone who is not like me, and told that while it is perfectly decent on her, it is indecent on me.

21. People like me are told that we shouldn’t leave the house because of how awful we are, but that we are so awful because we never leave the house.

22. People like me are denied life-saving surgeries and the opportunity to donate organs unless we change.

23. My friends and family think it’s their duty to tell me how horrible I am, and how I should change.

24. People like me are told that we are stupid, lazy, immoral, and broken with regularity. I can expect to hear this several times a day.

25. People like me are never the heroes of books or movies. We are usually cast as the villain.

26. People like me have a harder time getting hired. Employers believe that people like me aren’t good representatives of their company, regardless of our skills, work ethic, experience, or talent. People like me are much less likely to appear in employee circulars and marketing materials. There are even workplace groups and contests where people like me are rewarded for altering themselves, and people who aren’t like me are rewarded for not being like me.

27. People like me are told that we aren’t as intelligent as other people. We are told that it is impossible for us to be economists, health care workers, or honest debaters.

28. People like me are told that we are the worst witnesses to our own experience. We are called liars if we relay experiences that do not hold true to what mainstream culture says about people like me. People who call us liars aren’t just our enemies – they are doctors, nurses, teachers, and our own family.

29. For people like me, social events like family gatherings and class reunions are often battlefields.

30. There is a whole month of the year dedicated to eliminating or preventing people like me. It’s called “Resolution Season” and is widely viewed as a positive and constructive, rather than negative and destructive, phenomenon. During this time of the year it’s nearly impossible to watch television, open a newspaper/magazine, read online media, or walk down a city street without being reminded that people like me are undesirable.

31. Many Western countries have publicly funded campaigns which claim people like me are a problem to be rid of.

32. The very existence of people like me is called one of the top problems of our modern age.

DISCLAIMER: Not complete, nor in any particular order. A list like this is always a work in progress. I might edit to add more later. Feel free to add your own in the comments, and I might add them to the list. Thanks to the authors of the many privilege-unpacking lists I’ve seen in my time.

EDIT (2/9/12): Added #26 – #31. 

23 comments on “Unpacking the Fat: People Like Me

  1. Thank you for this post. There is no excuse for any of the discrimination people like you or people like anyone are being subjected to. This must end now. Weight is mostly genetic, there is no proven way to get larger people smaller, and smaller people are not necessarily healthier. Thanks again.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks, NSS! I agree wholeheartedly on all counts. Fat hate is bad for everyone and is indicative of no kind of sickening populace but a panicked one, with fat people playing the part of folk devil.

  2. I don’t normally like privilege lists, but this one was great! I think it’s because, instead of talking at people who are (allegedly) privileged, it speaks specifically about how you, yourself, and people like you are disadvantaged. That was the original point of privilege checklists and you NAILED it.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks, Joanna! I wasn’t trying to model this on any particular privilege list, but I agree, there are some privilege lists I find needlessly assumptive or condescending. So I didn’t want to assume or compare, I just wanted to talk about me (or people like me).

  3. bigliberty says:

    So I’ve added a few more points – #26 – #31.

    Again, if anyone has anything they want to add, please include them in the comments. I’d be happy to consider them.

  4. seventhbard says:

    People like us are also told we are undesirable sexually, are asexual beings with whom the idea of sex is too disgusting to contemplate. Finding people like us attractive is considered a deviant fetish. However, when we are raped or sexually abused, it is either disbelieved or dismissed as unimportant because we must have “wanted the attention” or otherwise brought on the abuse because of how “easy” and “slutty” people like us are. Either we’re asexual or we’re hypersexual, stupid society, PICK ONE, IT CAN’T BE BOTH AT ONCE.

    Brilliant list!

    • bigliberty says:

      Seventhbard, you are rocking my world! I will add your fantastic point (or it might turn into a couple of complementary points) soon. I think it also ties into the ‘indecency’ of our flesh. It boggles me that if fat people are considered so sexually undesirable, why is “fat whore” such a popular epithet?

  5. How about these?

    “People like me are used as an excuse to turn the government into everyone’s nanny. This means that neither I nor anyone else can eat the foods we want or that are best for our needs.”

    “People like me are told we cannot have eating disorders other than binge eating. If we do, we are told it is good for us.”

    “People like me are not allowed to enjoy the same things that everyone else enjoys, like television, sweets, or anything that can be blamed for my fatness.”

    “People like me are hated by both ends of the political spectrum and used to promote every social agenda out there.”

  6. And these one:

    “There are college degree programs devoted to fighting the existence of people like me.”

    People like me are used as symbols for every human vice. If we are rich, we symbolize greed and selfishness. If we are poor, we symbolize sloth and helplessness. In both cases, we symbolize stupidity.

    Sorry, but I’m having fun with these.

  7. delilahdesanges says:

    People like me are never viewed as sexual beings except in the context of a joke; it is assumed no one could be attracted to us, and when someone displays an attraction to us they are labelled “sick” or “fetishists”, or treated as heroic for “putting up with us”.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks, Stacy!

      I’m going to do a follow-up with some more of the great points brought up in the comments…just have been flat out with work and writerly activities. Cheers.

  8. If we are in such an obesity epidemic, I wonder why everyone everywhere is thinner than I am, and I seem to take up the most space. Why all of my friends wear jeans in the single digits while I do not. I don’t look obese, but depending on whether or not I have had something to drink yet today, the scale may say that I am. I run marathons. I work with a dietitian to maintain my recovery from anorexia and bulimia and eat well-balanced and unprocessed foods. I am in better shape than most of the skinny people that I know. I avoid going to the doctor’s office because I get shamed for my weight every time. Even if I’ve lost weight. Even when I went in injured from the NYC marathon. Even when I’m in better shape than they are.

    I’m on the border between “obese” and “normal,” and it seems like the “normal” people can’t understand what I go through on a regular basis, and the “obese” people think that I can’t possibly go through the same discrimination as they do because I am relatively small (short, lots of muscle weight, don’t wear plus size clothing) and yes I am lucky that the discrimination only seems to come out in the doctor’s office (or from myself when I am not feeling so great) but this borderline is a lonely place to be.

    I’m healthy, and I’m learning to love my body, and I just DARE the “anti-obesity” people to try to get in the way of that. This is my HEALTHY weight.

    This was a completely unrelated rant inspired by your blog. Thanks for writing. I was always torn about my feelings towards “fat activists” and I really like that you call yourself a “size activist” instead. It made me interested enough to want to read 🙂

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jessica. It takes a lot of courage to say what you just said, to break away from the scale and the other measurements and know “this is healthy for me.”

      My personal activism combines this notion — knowing what’s best for oneself as an informed adult — with the notion that there is no obligation to be considered ‘healthy’ to be a full-fledged member of society, respected and treated humanely.

      As for the difference between size activism and fat activism, I call myself a size activist but I have called myself a fat activist interchangeably. That’s really because I am fat, just as I’m tall, have a good singing voice, and can’t dance to save my life. It’s a trait I don’t feel like I have to defend, but since Western culture abhors me for it I do have to defend it. So to take back what some people would call “the worst thing you can call a woman” I do use the word fat, and proudly.

      However, we all have different ways of approaching body activism. To me it’s about acknowledging that we’re in a moral panic where fat people (meaning anyone not-thin or acceptably ‘normal’) are the folk devil. As listed above, we’re blamed for everything from ruining the next generation of kids to ruining the planet. If that’s not being labeled a folk devil, I don’t know what is.

  9. People like me can’t eat in public. If I’m eating the same things as people not like me, I’m being irresponsible and wilfully self destructive. If I’m eating something traditionally recognized as “healthy”, I’m being delusional and sure to follow it up with something else high calorie or otherwise “unhealthy”. Whatever I do in public is everyone else’s business and entertainment.

  10. Petra Lange says:

    Well..if this all is true for you, then change your inner attitude, which is much harder than to blame the outside world. You could easily exchange fat by underweighted, by old, by handicapped, by dwarflike in every sentence. Its not the outside world, its your thoughts, your subconscious thinking. Change it, dont even think abt your shape, your looks and ENJOY life, get out of this beliefsystem that having fun has to do with your looks. ( and yes , I know, that ppl can be the way you describe it). Share your time wiht ppl who do like you, anyway you look.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks for the comment. But describing reality isn’t blaming the world for anything. Bigotry is real. It’s not all in our heads (or in the heads of disabled people, or little people, or very thin people, or elderly people). Attitude–how one handles bigotry–is an entirely different matter and has nothing to do with this post.

      • The Real Cie says:

        One can only put on the rose-colored glasses for so long. There is also a need to wake up to reality and fight the bigotry.

  11. Bronwen says:

    An addition to Lisa’s “can’t eat in public places”:

    And if it’s not thought that I’m being delusional, I’m told “it’s too late to start eating healthy now!” or “you’re just lying to everybody, we know by looking at you how much and what you normally eat!”

  12. […] People Like Me, a very depressing list of unfair treatment you can expect to receive if you’re viewed as being “unacceptably” fat. […]

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