Fitphobia, and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year
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Far be it from me to criticize people who go on diets or start new exercise regimens to lose weight. Trust me, I get it; we live in an inherently fatphobic society where fat is less of a state of being and more of a moral failure. The worst thing you can be is fat. Hell, I spent almost 30 years trying to NOT be fat (and developed an eating disorder because of it…though that may also be because I have ADHD — the jury is still out). The rhetoric is that fat is the end of humanity, proof positive that we’re failing as a species and inevitably we’ll all end up in a gigantic spacecraft in red onesies while robots force-feed us junk food and the earth deteriorates below us (I didn’t even make this up, it’s the secondary plot of the 2008 Disney-Pixar movie “Wall-E”).
So, color me as not remotely surprised but deeply disappointed when the term “#fitphobic” entered my lexicon (against my will, I might add). Like all terrible things, it came from Twitter (thanks, Jack), specifically a tweet from one woman supposedly directed at another woman. Now, I am not going to get into the origin story because those things are not material to the point I am making here of why I have to now deal with people who think “fitphobia” is a real thing. They do, look:
Here’s the thing, just like the only TRUE “reverse” in this world is “reverse Uno,” there’s no such thing as “fitphobia.” Why? Because fatphobia is not just discomfort or jokes at the expense of avid gym lovers (let the record show, I don’t body shame ANYONE), fatphobia is MUCH more than that. Fatphobia is defined as a “pathological fear of fatness.” It’s a pervasive and acceptable form of discrimination that actually hurts and kills people.
Fatphobia is both an individualized experience as well as a larger systemic issue. Did you know that fat people reported getting paid less than their thin counterparts? The now 20-year “war on obesity” (by ALL accounts an abject failure) has deputized the general population to be openly (and happily) discriminatory, rude, and downright nasty to fat people whose only crime is existing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any “fit people” who can honestly say they share that experience.
There’s also the false equivalence that “fat” ≠ “fit” because I guess fat people don’t go to the gym or enjoy a good workout (which leads to a larger question: what the hell have I been doing every morning at 7AM?). Or can you lot not reconcile the fact that some people are not exercising for weight loss (let’s put a pin in the convo on “joyful movement” because I want to talk about it later)? Of course you can’t because the people who need to hear this message simply hate fat people.
That’s right. You hate fat people. This isn’t about public health or your sudden interest in diabetes. All of this hoopla is because you hate fat people. You hate yourself for ever being fat. You hate your fat mother or father. You hate the idea that one day, YOU might be fat. You know, deep down inside that being “fit” will never have the same negative connotations as being fat.
My hope that people will :
A) understand that fatphobia is a real problem that has material negative and sometimes deadly consequences and;
B) realize that if your response to a singular incident is to rant and rave about ALL fat people for hours on end that yes, we already knew you just hated fat people and this was the opening you were waiting for
Continues to dwindle with each passing year. But rather than allow the loudest, most ignorant voices to stop me from trying to eradicate fatphobia and foster a safe space for people living in fat bodies, I am going to meet you head-on. I am going to call out your ridiculous fallacies and say that NO, fitphobia is not a real thing.