Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Stick & Stones: The Impact Of Living In A Fatphobic Society

"Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones But Names Will Never Hurt Me"

I remember, so clearly, standing in the playground at school...shouting those words aloud in response to the latest taunt from my classmates.

I don't remember what it was that that age it was usually something about my goofy damaged teeth, or my pale skin and the dark shadows around my eyes, or ...funnily skinny frame. I was always tall for my age and I used to be on the receiving end of names like "Skinny Melinx" and "Boney-o" quite often back then. Which I hated.

My mum had taught me this old adage about sticks and stones when I'd told her about being teased...I tried to mean the words when I said them but I knew they weren't true...the words people threw at me DID hurt me. Very much.

 I've dealt with people's belief that they have the god given right to loudly voice their opinions of me and my "flaws" throughout my life, ever since really.

Maybe I have one of those faces that lets people know they'll get away with it...maybe it's obvious that I'm a bit of a shrinking violet in many ways and not very likely to retaliate...whatever the reason, it hasn't been pleasant.

The nature of the taunts and insults changed over the years of course, and in adulthood - after being diagnosed with a metabolic auto-immune disease in 1999 - I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time, and from there on the insults became largely about me being overweight.

They came from all manner of people over the years.

Groups of drunk men standing outside pubs who shouted abusive comments over to me while I sat waiting for a bus, minding my own business.

Strangers in nightclubs who approached me on the dancefloor to pass comment about my size in relation to my dancing ability ("You're not a bad dancer for a fat bird!")

My ex boyfriends mother who loved nothing more than to pass comments on my weight in the most public and embarrassing situations she could.

My ex boyfriend himself who liked to bring it up often, usually punctuating his words with his fists.

No matter what, it seemed that someone always had a comment to make in relation to my size.

I thought twice when I took the photos for this post about actually writing out all of these names I've been called over the years and physically sticking them on to my body.

I wondered if it would make me seem like too much of a victim, or if it might make people feel uncomfortable to see someone wearing such words.

But the fact is...this is the truth of living in a fatphobic, fat shaming society.

These words, insults and comments are directed at fat people every single day as they go about their business.

And while you can't always see them...I can promise you that they are being carried around with those people every single day.

They may not wear the words on their skin, but they wear them in their hearts and in their minds. They hear them again when they see themselves in the mirror, or in photographs. The memories of people's cruel and hateful remarks and assumptions are difficult, if not impossible, for most people to shake off.

So if it makes you feel uncomfortable to see it...just take a moment and imagine how uncomfortable it must feel to live it.

It's all too easy in the fatphobic society we live in to pass judgement on people living in fat bodies - to see them as disgusting, unattractive, the butt of all jokes,  unwilling to conform to society's beauty ideals and to hate them for it - to feel repulsed, to feel scared, to feel triggered, to feel offended.

Most people tell themselves that their feelings come from a place of concern - "But what about the obesity epidemic?" "What about the strain on the NHS?" "Don't you know you'll die younger?"

But no matter what reason you give to excuse yourself for your fatphobia and your is never, ever your place to judge someone on their body and certainly not to pass comment on it.

To use the "Health" excuse is to admit that you feel that only healthy bodies are deserving of love and respect. Health is simply not something that is achievable for all people, and all bodies deserve to be respected and treated with dignity regardless of their level of health.

It also completely disregards the huge importance of mental health and the role that plays. By judging and abusing me based on my size, you are damaging my already fragile mental health - and with death by suicide on the rise, that is a dangerous game to play. So to do this with the reasoning of "concern for my health" is the worst kind of irony.

So please, in the future - think twice before you see fit to pass judgement or comment on someone's body for any reason...and then think again. And again. Until you come to the only correct conclusion which is that it's NEVER OK.

And if you're out there living your life in a fat body too...I hope you find a way to peel those layers of nastiness off you. And slowly replace them with kindness from within.

You deserve to be treated with love and respect, and the very best person for that to come from is not from outside's from you.

You don't need validation from anybody else, as long as you're able to see your own beauty and all of the amazing things about yourself...and truly, truly allow yourself to believe in them.

Easier said than done, I know.

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