No one is asking you to ‘apologize for your metabolism’
Yesterday one of my friends on Tumblr posted a link to a Kickstarter campaign that was so ridiculous, I had no choice but to start laughing when I opened it up. But as I read through the, er, creatively-written content on the campaign page, my amusement turned to befuddlement, and then anger. See, the owner of the campaign feels a war has been declared against fit, thin women, and that we live in a society that is pressuring people to become fat. Her plan is to publish a book that will feature “a collection of images of women standing up against a society that protects fat culture while bastardizing thin and athletic women.” Yes, the woman actually believes that this is the society in which we all live.
Now, I’m not going to link to the actual Kickstarter campaign for two reasons. First, because she’s evidently getting a lot of nasty mail which she is taking as validation of her somewhat incoherent position, and second, because, well, because I’m kind of embarrassed for her, as she clearly does not have a single friend who is familiar enough with the English language to explain to her the proper use of commas and spacing. You can find it pretty easily if you want, though.
So as another thin, fit, athletic woman, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to say that I think the Kickstarter campaign is, quite frankly, full of shit. I have been thin my entire life, and I have never once been asked to “apologize for my metabolism.” I have had people tease me about being skinny and flat-chested, and since I took up running in earnest, I’ve had a couple of comments about how I probably shouldn’t lose any more weight. The comments are annoying, yes, and I’d rather not hear them, just as I know women who are naturally thin would rather not hear people speculate about whether they have eating disorders. Comments like that can be very hurtful, there’s no doubt about it.
But a few comments here and there is not exactly like living in a “fat culture that bastardiz[es] thin and athletic women.” Not even close. Take a look at television, at magazines, at movies, at pretty much every aspect of pop culture. All you see are thin and athletic women! Not only are thin and athletic women held up as the standard by which all other women are measured, but we are also considered more virtuous in our culture, as our bodies are seen as signifiers of things like “work ethic” and “discipline.”
Clearly this is not the case for fat women. As Lindy West wrote on Jezebel the other day, in her post about being a fat woman in the gym, “It’s entering a building where you know that every person inside is working toward the singular goal of not becoming you.” Bajillion dollar industries exist with the explicit promise that they will either keep their consumers from becoming fat, or they will make their fat consumers not-fat. Fat bodies are either seen as instant comedy (no punchline required) or a public-health scourge to be eradicated lest they destroy apple pie and moms and everything else that is great about America.
I mean, we aren’t exactly talking string theory here. This shit is out there and it is blatant and it should be obvious to anyone who has a halfway functional brain.
This whole conversation calls to mind white people who hear about affirmative action and start freaking out about “reverse racism” or men who scream “MISANDRY!” in response to Ladies Night at the local brewpub. So many people with privilege seem to expect to be at the top of the ladder, and when someone who they think should be happy on the rungs below speaks up and demands respect for themselves as a human being, they take it as a personal affront. Like, how dare someone who is fat ask that you not treat them like a disgusting monster! The audacity of such a request! Clearly by treating a fat person as a human being with inherent worth that is not derived from the numbers on the scale, we are telling all the thin people of the world to suck it.
Respect is not a zero-sum game, y’all. Recognizing the humanity of one group of people and treating them with respect and dignity does not suddenly mean we have to treat another group of people like shit. There’s plenty of respect and dignity to go around.
And it’s not like there isn’t a battle to be fought. After all, we do live in a world where women’s bodies – of all shapes and sizes, not just fat ones or thin ones – are considered public property, available to be commented on and groped and ogled and legislated. I’m not interested in fighting against mythical “fat culture” any more than I am interested in fighting against fat women. I’d rather we all teamed up to fight against the misogynist culture that tells every single one of us that we aren’t good enough. Can we do that instead, please?