I read this terrifying article yesterday after some one linked to it on Twitter (via LinkedIn–I don’t follow this person on Twitter, and if LinkedIn weren’t more about professional connections than people-I-like-or-find-interesting, I wouldn’t be linked to him there either anymore). The article is called “Tell Loved Ones They Are Overweight This Christmas”. The title pretty much sums up the article, which takes the tone of “it’s a hard but loving thing to do–yay for you if you tell people they’re fat! you’ll be the hero who saves a life!”. One of the most chilling sentences for me was this one:
“But with families and friends getting together up and down the country over the festive period, the experts believe there is an opportunity that should not be missed.”
Ah!! Yikes!!! I can’t even really analyze that because it’s just so scary to me. This is exactly the sort of thing that I live in fear of, that I unconsciously make up comebacks for, that I have to overcome when I decide to visit with family, and that essentially keeps me from being close to my family. And yet it’s apparently the type of attitude that an acquaintance of mine supported enough to link to. By definition, I don’t know this acquaintance that well, but I do know that he is a thin man, and I also know that he is not a villain, and that’s just what makes this so scary; he’s just an average guy who apparently thinks it would be loving, supportive, and informative to tell people they are too fat. The article smacks of thin privilege to me. The only way it could have been written is that every single person involved has never actually been fat or never actually lost a ton of weight. Either that or there are fat or previously-fat people involved who are deluding themselves to fit in with the thin privilege. I’ve been there, to some extent–I know that when you’re thin, it’s only cool if it was the easiest thing in the world.
I know it’s been said before (but apparently not enough!), but FAT PEOPLE KNOW THEY’RE FAT. That’s not even my biggest problem with the article, but it’s the problem that most obviously gives away the fact that the writer and “experts” don’t really know their subject matter. My biggest problems with the article are that:
1. it is NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS if a person is fat (even if this were driving up health costs overall, which it isn’t, but even if it WERE), and
2. breaching their autonomy is a potential relationship-killer, not to mention oppressive and a potential trigger for eating disorders, amongst other things.
And if that’s not enough of a reason to let your poor loved ones be, telling them they’re fat won’t make them figure out how to get thin, even if they wanted to. Since anyone who would follow this advice obviously knows nothing about being fat or getting thin, it’s not like they would be any help. So basically, no one stands to gain by this interaction, and there’s a lot of potential for harm.
Pretty much my entire childhood and early teenagerhood was one big “You’re overweight!”, which is fucking insane since I wasn’t even a fat kid. And let me tell you, I have either difficult or distant relationships with all the people involved, mostly distant. Also, I’m fat. I know it, and it’s no one else’s business. Which is what they will get told if they bring it up. They also might get evicted from my life.
Now I feel like this post was just kind of rant-y and haphazard and didn’t do a good job of breaking down why that article was so terrible, but I guess that’s ok, because the point is that this topic can be extremely emotional and nuanced, and the article just floated around, cheery-as-can-be, instructing people to (potentially) inflict harm on an already much-harmed group of people, but framing it as ‘doing good’. Normally I feel better about getting my feelings out, but this one just struck a chord, and I can’t release it.