Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Fat-Shaming Halloween #bodyimage #bullying

Where, oh where, do children learn to be bullies?

Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you've probably seen this letter, faxed by someone named "Cheryl" to a radio talk show, who announced she would be giving this form to a select group of children tomorrow.

There has been a wave of furious commenting on this letter. Most of the comments condemn the writer; a few applaud her "honesty" and "stepping forward to say something." Others have focused on the likelihood that what "Cheryl" is going to be dressed as, this Halloween, is a woman who likes to clean eggs and TP off her house.

But one of the best and most moving comments I read moved me so much I wanted to share it here - and am doing so, with the writer, TL Hamrick's, permission.

<Rant on>

Whether this is a contrived stunt or not (I am seeing some chatter it may be on some discussion threads)... Sadly, there are mean spirited people everywhere that have no problem shaming a child, or ANYONE that has a weight higher than they personally find acceptable.

It is disgusting. If this caller exists, she is a bully. Seriously... if you are that concerned about health, give out healthy treats, or better yet, turn your light off and keep your miserable self in your home.

Weight is merely a measure. It does not indicate worth. When folks 'fat shame' and hide behind 'health concerns' they are making a couple of ignorant assumptions about the person they are 'shaming'. They are assuming:

1- That the person does not realize, every second, of every day, that their body falls outside what our media, our advertising, our clothing, makeup, and sporting industries tells us is 'the standard'. They are unable to notice in the mirror that they are overweight. Obviously they have never attempted to maneuver through/sit in an amusement ride, an airplane seat, a movie theater seat, a booth at a restaurant, a chair in a waiting room with arms. They do not realize from their peers, attempting to date, going to the doctor, and fat shame random asshats like this that they are heavy. THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS! Or is it Captain Ahole?

2-That they are inherently ________. Fill in the blank. Lazy. Undisciplined. Gluttonous. Selfish. Many will make statements to the order of:
"Just eat less and move more... it is not hard."
"He/she is more likely to have [insert health condition or conditions HERE]..." and they will either offer pithy statements of concern, or outright disgust that 'they' should not have to 'pay' higher insurance rates, etc."
"Just try to [insert obvious strategy here, that if I Google right now I can find 120 strategies that differ or conflict- and I guarantee that many folks who struggle with their weight have tried them ALL].
Or my personal favorite that I hear quite often...
"I used to be heavy... and I did [insert the strategy used that worked in your case]."

Each person's journey in this life is not the same. Even family members who live in the same house. Each person's relationship with their body is not the same. Reputable studies show that shaming and similar tactics are NOT successful long-term, and often result in additional challenges. The two assumptions above trumpet two basic arrogant errors. One is the person is oblivious despite being bombarded every second of every day from every direction with messages of what is 'socially acceptable.' The second is the person is too lazy, unmotivated, stupid... to do anything about it.

Losing weight, if that is the person's choice, is not an easy, linear journey. Many folks struggle with the side effect of medications (antidepressants, steroids, etc.) that make weight loss so difficult. Or health problems that are real, and are not excuses. PCOS, Lupus, Renal failure, Organ Transplant, Fibro, MS... I could go on for days. To look at the person, they look 'fine'. Again, check your assumptions!

I love the young woman who writes the 'Adulting' blog. She quoted a friend that stated "If you cannot touch it, you should not comment on it." This friend was referencing body shaming and objectification.

As a person who was painfully thin until my early twenties, and struggled (and still struggle) with weight, especially at about age 30, when my PCOS went into full swing. I spent a good part of my 30's overweight or obese, lost weight, kept it off for about 2 years, received a treatment/implant that caused my diet/exercise to fail and gained it all back, plus... and lost it again. Now I am on the too skinny side due to a serious health issue that I am recovering from, and will I ever be morbidly obese again?

I hope not. But... if I am, I will continue my striving for health at any weight, and the body comments? Do. Not. Want.

These are my feelings as a 44 year old woman who is pretty damn self confident. I cannot imagine being under the age of whatever age children and teens are when they trick or treat, and having an adult pull a cruel, asinine trick like that. A cruel act that would ruin not only that night, but possibly trick or treat forever.

And to those that read the last paragraph and thought, "Good!"

Your lack of compassion, and your self-righteous self-deigning as the food police makes you at your core, an ugly human being.

<Rant off>

Thanks, TL, for a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and passionate response to all that fat-shaming ugliness. I encourage everyone to go check out her blog, here.

Some people don't like Halloween, for whatever reasons. Don't want to deal with it? Fine, turn off your damn porchlight and go do whatever.

But please, whatever you decide to do, think before fat-shaming, especially before fat-shaming children. Nobody can ever know the full story of anybody's life just by looking at them.

Your thoughts?