Recently my friend Lindsay poignantly articulated on Facebook her experiences on the receiving end of vicious fat-shaming. Lindsay is smart and hilarious and makes beautiful costumes for the Canadian stage. She is a talented and unique and inspiring person. It makes me angry that what follows is a reality, and one that governs Lindsay’s engagement with the world no less. You probably know and love at least one person who can relate to this, and we all need to demand better of our fellow humans when we see it.
I realized something awful today. I am now afraid to walk down the street without headphones in. Why? Because at any moment, someone might yell something incredibly horrible at me, in regards to the way I look. A car slowed down by me this morning with their window open and I held my breath, my muscles clenched. Luckily, this person was only asking directions. Unfortunately for me, up to four or more times a month, it is nothing so innocuous. On a regular basis “FATTY!” or “Jenny Craig!” or “WHALE!” might be yelled at me as a cowardly car speeds past. It’s rarely very creative. This past summer a group of club-bound girls in a taxi decided to tell my boyfriend he could do better than “Princess Fiona the Ogre” as we stood waiting for a streetcar on the way to a party, me in my new green top that had previously made me feel great, but has not been worn since. These episodes leave me feeling all kinds of hurt, angry, embarrassed… not to mention ashamed.
There are many facets to me as a person and in regards to my appearance. However, I understand that much like a quick look at someone who is 6’5″ reads as “Tall”, a quick glance at me reads as “Fat”. If anyone who is naturally slim to average doesn’t know any better, let me tell you right now: every person who falls into the category of overweight/obese KNOWS this about themselves, maybe thinks about it more than anything else in their life. How could they not? It’s in our public perception from a very young age that anything other than slim is bad. Let me get this straight – I agree that too much excess fatty tissue is very unhealthy, as is an unbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However every person is different, and just like every person who ever did life-ruining drugs has a story, so do those with addictions to food. Don’t forget people with different problems: those on certain medications or who’ve been injured or have no access to good quality food.
The thing is, I don’t need to explain myself or the reasons for who I am to a stranger walking or driving past me. No one deserves to have derogatory things yelled at them at ANY time. We teach children not to bully, but I see bullying from adults of all ages all the time. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were verbally attacked, not once, but repeatedly as you went about living your daily life? I don’t get it – would anyone expect that to motivate someone to change? Most of all, is it any of their business what I look like, what I do, or who I am with? I think the most laughable thing about it is that I am *walking* when this happens. You know, a form of exercise?
Obesity might be an epidemic, but so is bullying. Maybe there would be less people self-medicating with food if there were less awful people attacking their self esteem. I know I am not the only one experiencing this. I have held off on talking about this because it is embarrassing and because I do feel ashamed for being too heavy. Thank-you for reading this, and if you could, please SHARE.
4 thoughts on “Street harassment and fat-shaming”
I’ve been fighting with my weight for years, although thankfully I’ve rarely been above a UK size 14 (a US size 12 I think), but I do get exactly what you’re talking about. a) what the heck is your life to do with anyone else? b) who made them effing God to pass comment? and c) yeah peeing on your self esteem is really going to make it easier for you to get to the weight you want. Guys like this have such low self esteem themselves that the only way they can boost it is by attacking someone else. How sad for them and I just wish their vocal losership didn’t affect people like you or me.
I agree. I suffer from an eating disorder and have done for the past 10 years, since I was 12. It used to be life endangering anorexia, but these days it’s binge eating. I have had all sorts of things said to me about my weight by strangers over the years. Why do people feel they have the right to comment on somebody’s body? It’s mine, I own my body and only I can criticise it.
One of the most enraging incidents was when I was walking along at night, minding my own business. Two guys passed, one of which said “hey there sexy”. I ignored him- I was a single girl walking through the city centre in the middle of the night, and I did the most sensible thing which was not to engage with strange men. When he realised I was ignoring him, he turned ugly, and said “f*cking fat cow”. My body is not my own any more, it belongs to men like that, it seems.
This has happened to me twice in the last two days, and has happened in the past too.I think the whole body shaming thing is to make womens bodies possessions of patriarchal society. While we’re paranoid about our bodies (too fat, too thin, too pretty, too unattractive etc) we’re not doing much else are we? The amount of mental and emotional energy the whole body shaming thing takes up is immense, and often before we even walk out the door. And that’s without the physical side (which outfit, makeup, perfume, shoes etc). Compare how long it takes most men to take a shower, and how often they body shame each other in this way.
I’m a large lady – 5ft 4, and a UK size 22/24. I haven’t always been big – in my teens I was a size 12-14 and looked like a glamour model, frankly. That’s the thing I find so amusing about me. You see, I’m ‘conventionally pretty’ in the face, and I dress smartly/nicely, but my body is socially unacceptable at the moment. And you know what – it really confuses people, especially the men, I tell you! The words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ tend to be found adjacent and in the same sentence. So it totally throws them when they see fat women who dress and look nice because they’re trying to figure out why they’re feeling so attracted to us if we’re big horrible fatties who are supposed to look like frumps, haha. You can almost hear the cogs turning…!
On Monday night I was coming home from work. I walked past a group of men in the dark, and as I passed I heard one say ‘Oh no, maybe not – she’s a fatty’ and then start laughing. As if they had checked me out, and then decided that I was fat so was a ‘no no’ . As I stood waiting for a cab I glared at them, ready to tell them that I wouldn’t as much as look twice at any of them anyway, if they said anything directly to me. A few minutes later one of them shouted across to me ‘Hello’ which I ignored. Then he said it again. Ignored of course. When my cab pulled up I had to walk past them, and one of them wolf whistled as I passed….so which is it? Too fat? Or wolf whistled? Seems their minds were so narrow and confused, they couldn’t decide…
Earlier today I was in one of my favourite cafeterias eating lunch. I like to get my moneys worth in there though and pile my plate high with salad. (Yes it was even salad too…) There were two women around my age (30-something) sitting at the next table, slim, not especially glamourous/made up – looked like science academics. Nothing wrong with that – its great to have women in science and its liberating to not be ‘made up’ at all hours. But when I showed up at my table with my lunch, they made eyes at each other and one of them whispered to the other ‘it’s uncomfortable isn’t it’ ‘Yes’ said the other, ‘kind of a fat girl’ They whispered/hissed but I caught the words and the gist. The whole time I was eating my lunch I felt I was being watched, like ‘she’s really going to eat ALL of that?!’ You could have cut the atmosphere with my dining knife. every now and then they’d sneak glances at me and make the snidey eyes again, and giggle. You know the way women do that to each other right? It was horrible, it really was. The worst of it was, the cafe do a fabulous cake that I love, and I don’t go there very often as it can be kinda pricey. So I was treating myself. I actually found myself feeling so intimidated by them that I decided not to bother with cake afterwards…. WTH??!!! I’m normally pretty defiant about my body!
Like you said Alice, it seems that fat or thin, our bodies our not our own. We are there to be objectified, assessed, tick boxed, gazed at. Even better is when we target each other, compare each other, attack each othe because then we are kept under control, and like crabs in a bucket, none of us will ever reach the outside.
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