Living Our Fat Lives of Active Isolation

This isn’t going to be the most coherent post. I’m angry, sad, and exhausted. I’m tired of being marginalized, and see no end in sight. I’m afraid of the opportunities that will be denied to me; I’m afraid of both hyper-visibility and invisibility — all due to the number on the scale.

My day job is in a corporate environment. Every year I help run a big event. Lots of photos are taken during the event — sometimes we hire photographers, sometimes students/staff take photos. We use the photos on our website and for promotional purposes afterwards. Since I help run the event, I’m there during all these ‘happening’ moments when most people are taking photographs. I tend to get into the photographs.

And those photographs I’m in? — get relegated to the dustbin, year after year. That is, there are no photos of me — though I’ve been helping to run the event for four years now — on the website, except in my profile in two shots of more than twenty people standing in a group.

Why, you ask? Well, because I’m both very tall (which isn’t any image-related crime in itself) and I’m very fat (bingo!) so in photos I often look like I’m from some planet of giants while everyone else are happy citizens of Normalville.

It’s pretty obvious. I see it. Still, I’ve got body dysmorphia from a near-lifetime of self-hate related to my body size, which I’m still working to get over (and might never get over), so I understand how I can see everyone else as normal and myself as the daughter of the Jolly Green Giant’s fat cousin.

But who the hell gave other people the right to just cut me out, like I don’t exist, like I don’t deserve to be there? Like my interest, my friendliness with the participants, my intelligence, my talent, my hard work — like those are traits of some invisible ghost and not a real, breathing, live, actual human who exists and takes up space?

I get it. Big fat people like me are a ‘blight’ on photographs, right? We’re ‘disproportionate,’ we stand out like ‘sore thumbs’ amidst the petite women and tall men (who are allowed to be a bit chunky, but not more than a bit). We ‘throw off the balance’ of the photo.

Except that that’s nonsense. How in the hell does a human throw off the balance of any group of humans? Do we not deserve to take up whatever space we’re programmed to take up? Says who? Are we any less human because we’re the size of two (or three) small ones? Is a ‘good’ picture one that lacks as much diversity of the human form as possible? Why? Why am I the ‘blight,’ the ‘disproportionate one’ — or is it that photographers just lack the skill to shoot fat people and thin people together?

And how does this effect the photographs we see of real people doing real things (not advertisements, that is)? As a fat person I often feel like I never see other fat people (especially fat women not in service roles) in photographs of conferences, schools, and professional events. It sends the message that fat people do not attend conferences, schools, or professional events. Could it be, rather, that fat people are being cut out of the photographs, or not photographed at all, because they’re an ‘unattractive blight,’ ‘throw a picture off balance,’ etc?

We attend conferences, schools, and professional events. We exist. Why are we being rubbed out? What is so goddamned offensive about our existence that we get treated the same as the accidental picture you didn’t mean to take of your blurry thumb, in the discard pile without a second thought?

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Must-read: MadameThursday’s “Body policing…”

Everyone who’s ever even just brushed against fat acceptance needs to read this post:

MadameThursday: “Body policing and fat hate are related, but they are not the same

My favorite bit (though it’s hard to choose):

When you go to apply to a job, the decks will be stacked against you. You will get laughed at sometimes if you go to apply for a server at a restaurant where the owner obviously wants to hire only skinny, blonde teenagers and college students to serve wings to his clientele. You will have an HR manager or an interviewer raise an eyebrow and ask you what you’re doing there. You will walk into an office full of people who look at you and wonder where you came from because you can’t possibly there to work with them in that smart, high pressure environment. You’re too fat to keep up with them. You will have your very ability to do a job put into question at first sight just because of your size. You will have your work ethic put into doubt. You will have your intelligence and morality put into question. You will have someone calculating the costs of giving you employer-provided health insurance if they hire you as part of consideration as to whether to hire you – and the thin applicants won’t.