Feminist Video of the Day – the ‘swimsuit’ edition

As women, we are taught to hate our bodies from almost the time we are born. If a baby or young child is a little chubby, people[1] fret that she may grow up to be fat. We police each other’s bodies and being fat is the ultimate body sin. If you are fat, I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to be bullied all the way through school. I know I was. It was relentless. It reached a fevered pitch in about grade 6. We were at a new school and I just didn’t get the kids there. There was a boy who would wait after school to beat me up, just for the sin of being fat. Luckily, I befriended a young mother close to the school who would watch out for me and let me come to her house. I can remember the terror I used to feel as I tried to get out of the school quickly before he realized I was gone. It might not have been as bad as it was if I had not had a mouth on me.

In grade 4, groups of kids would get together with the goal of surrounding me and assaulting me. I could not take the short route home as they would get me in the alley and I did not have the protection the street afforded. I can remember one day when I did not feel well and I thought I would just duck down the alley to go home. They got me. I didn’t tell anyone. I just tried to outsmart them.

When I was 14, I ended up at the Children’s shelter in Calgary.[2] There was a group of girls who hated me because I was fat. One day, the biggest bully of them all got me in the front hall of the school. This time, I chose to fight back. I knocked her flat. I don’t remember what I did as I was in such a rage that I just lost it. None of them ever physically assaulted me again.

It wasn’t just the children that could be cruel. I don’t know how many times I heard: “You have such a pretty face,” or “You could lose some weight if you tried.” I would be have food rationed to me when I lived in care, lest I get even fatter. When I lived at home as a teenager[3], my step-father would weight me every morning and if I had not lost weight, I was beaten before I went to school. They also sent me to the doctor once a week to be weighed. All that taught me was how to forge notes. Even on their starvation diet, I didn’t lose weight.[4] Then, one summer, they hired a woman who took me and me sister on forced marches. This was in addition to weekend and weeklong backpacking trips where we would hike anywhere from 4 to 12 miles per day. I would do that with a 35-pound pack on my back. This is why, to this day, I hate hiking; I hate going for a ‘walk.’

As a society we need to come to a place where it is ok to be in the body you have. For the sake of our women, young and old, we need to feed our bodies healthy food and love ourselves just the way we are. I often wonder what would happen if we stopped dieting and obsessing about our bodies. We would have so much more energy for more productive pursuits, like say, bringing down the patriarchy.[5] This woman is so brave and really has it all figured out. Enjoy.

a-tedtalk-from-a-swimsuit-model-its-one-of-the-bravest-things-ive-ever-seen?c=ufb1

For some reason the video won’t embed unless I get an upgrade?


[1] Usually women.

[2] Long, long story.

[3] I was in and out of care from about 12.

[4] They were convinced I was getting a lot of food somewhere else. While I did eat a friend’s house occasionally, it was not a lot of food.

[5] A woman can dream.

Moving Past Fat Abuse

The question comes up about how to we can recover from the abuse hurled at fat people. I don’t have the answers but I do know some things that have helped me at times. Although I try to stop my mother’s voice in my head, whenever I have a failure or things don’t go as I think they should the messages come back loud and clear. She also knows when I am vulnerable and seems to pick those times to say something cruel.

Before I go on about some things that have helped me, I want to address another issue that I want to address. Many fat abusers seem to think that fat people are stupid or liars. They seem to feel it is ok to give us advice on how to lose weight like we wouldn’t know. I would say that most fat people I know are more knowledgeable about diet and exercise than most other people. Yet whenever the topic comes up, my mother for example, tells me that I need to exercise. Duh. Who doesn’t know that!

The other theme that emerges with fat abusers is they think that fat people lie. All of my life I have said to doctors, parents, anyone who dared say anything to my weight that I do not eat enough to be the size I am. When my mother informed that at age 12 I became a glutton and they had to lock up the chocolate chips, that it was actually my sister who ate the chocolate chips not me. I actually don’t eat much chocolate. She basically told me that she didn’t believe me which really pissed me off.

One thing that have helped me is medical professionals who actually know the score. When I saw the gynecologist who diagnosed me with PCOS he said to me: “I bet you don’t very much?” When he said that to me, it completely validated what I knew to be true. My GP has been great as well. She has never nagged me about my weight or tried to make me lose weight. When I went to her and told her my concerns about my metabolism she totally took it seriously.

Speaking of doctors, most fat people dread going to the doctor. If you are fat, it is automatically assumed that you have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. Every time my doctor orders though tests I get anxious and nervous. Yet every time those tests are done they are all fine.

Counselling has been quite effective in helping me to overcome some of the damage. One thing that was very helpful was recognizing the tapes and trying to stop them from playing in my head. I have also tried to look at things rationally. Clearly my mother was wrong. I am not a failure.

Probably the best thing for me has been Deb. Deb loves me unconditionally. She is very good at giving me lots of positive feedback. She makes me question the things my mother says and the reactions those things cause in me. Her love over the past almost 13 years has made a huge difference in my self-esteem. It is sad though that however many times she tells me I am beautiful, I cannot reconcile it with what I see in the mirror. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I had not had her love.

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm  Comments (2)  
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#thingsfatpeoplearetold[1]

Fat people are told many things. In fact, a lot of people seem to think that it is open season to say whatever they want to fat people, no matter how insensitive or cruel. I used to think I could do anything in spite of my weight however, recent events have shown me that it does not matter how well I do a job and the skills I bring, I can still be discriminated against because of my weight.

My childhood, as an overweight child, was hell. I was teased at school. It didn’t help that the beginning of my former last name rhymed with ‘piggy.’ I might have been able to cope ok with the school bullying if I had support at home. Not only did I not have support, I was punished for my weight. At age 8, my mother put me on Weight Watchers. I gained weight. I was accused of cheating on the diet but I didn’t. This kind of thing would become a pattern in my life.

As soon as I hit puberty, I began to gain weight. It didn’t seem to matter what hell my parents put me though. They made me backpack for weeks at a time and cut back the amount of food they would let me have. When I was 13 years old my step-father weighed me every morning and if I had not lost weight, I would be beaten before I went to school.

I think what was worse though was the things my mother would say to me:

  • By the time you are 22 you will be married to a man who beats you and you will have 2 snotty-nosed children.
  • Or she would tell me that no one would ever marry me.
  • You are only a lesbian because you are fat.
  • When you hit puberty, you became a glutton and we had to lock up the chocolate chips.
  • You were a really cute kid until you hit about 12.
  • When I applied for a job and came very close to getting it but didn’t she asked if I would have contact with the public and implied that I did not get the job for that reason.

I could go on but I think you get the idea. She would say all of these things in spite of the fact that she was also overweight. I remember one day when she made me take off all my clothes and stand in front of a mirror for an hour and look at how disgusting I looked. She instilled a real hatred of my body.

I have fought my entire life to not be what my mother says I am. I even went so far as to have my stomach stapled. I really thought this would be the magic cure. However, it didn’t work. I could never understand how I could eat so little and not lose weight.

Around 2000 I was having problems with my periods. Well, problems would be an understatement. I had been bleeding for over 90 days when I finally went to the doctor. After a case of phlebitis and a D & C, I was diagnosed with PCOS.[2] The underlying cause of PCOS is insulin resistance. I was put on medication to help my body use insulin better. Initially, I lost some weight over the course of a year or so. After that, it was back to my regular pattern of gaining weight for no apparent reason.

Fast-forward to 2005 when I developed ulcerative colitis. Part of the problem with diagnosis was the fact that I was obese. You don’t see many fat people walking around with ulcerative colitis. So now I was in a position of having a disease where absorption of food and nutrients is a problem.

Finally, in frustration, I went to my doctor and asked that she try to figure out what is wrong. She did a whole bunch of tests. What we found was that my cholesterol and lipids were great. Clearly, she told me, was that I ate healthily. What was completely out of whack was my fasting insulin rate. The normal level is about 60 and mine was 116.  My fasting insulin level was the amount ill that high in spite of the medication I have been on for 10 years. A high insulin rate causes the body to turn sugar into fat.

Thankfully she started me on a new drug that is supposed to reduce the amount of insulin in my body. On Victoza I have lost 17 pounds in a month. My only hope is that it continues. Usually what happens with my body is something will work for a while and then it stops.

To say that I am angry and bitter is an understatement. I basically am the size I am due to nothing I could control. I have listened to all this crap and put through hell for a lot of my life because my body’s cells are not sensitive to insulin. Plus the more weight you gain, the worse the problem becomes.

Here is the problem in society. People think that if you are fat you are somehow at fault. They think that it is totally acceptable to pass judgment on you and what you eat. No one ever stops to think that it could be a medical issue. The abuse that has been hurled at me by my family and others in a recent situation has really dragged me down lately. When I saw the #thingsfatpeoplearetold on twitter I could immediately relate to the pain people were expressing.


[1] This twitter hashtag started by the author of Red No. 3.

Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm  Comments (1)  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘get your food issues off of me’ edition

  • I read an amazing blog entry by Margaret Cho. She completely summed up many of the feelings I have been having lately. When people feel they have a right to make an assumption about you and then pass it, it is so very hurtful. It is not something that you can shake off and, in fact, may scar someone for life. This was her reaction after her friend’s mother said Margaret had an eating disorder:

“I felt sick immediately, the fat in the food coagulating in my blood and stopping it. It felt like a heart attack, or a tranquilizer dart right in the chest, felling me in my tracks. Like when you take your battery out of your phone – just blank screen. Blank. Mother and daughter were full on fighting now but I had checked out and gone somewhere else. We were all still sitting there but I don’t really know what happened after that. Perhaps we went to my friend’s room and drowned out her neurotic mother’s musings with Duran Duran, but whatever happened I know that I was permanently changed. I had been marked with a big scarlet letter “E” on my chest for “eating disorder.” That was when I was tagged in the wild and categorized forever, and even though I was put back into the general population, I carry the mark to this day.”

  • Why do people buy bottled water? I had a conversation with a woman the other day about bringing in our reusable bags. I had remembered because Safeway had a reminder on the door. Anyway, she was going on about remembering her bags and she had a case of bottled water in her cart. Talk about a disconnect! Today I was at Save-on and I saw a line up for people to fill their big water bottles. Now, where do they think the water comes from? Do they think Save-on has some big tank of bottled water somewhere in the store? No, I am sure it is tap water that may be run through the industrial equivalent of a Britta filter. Not only do they have to bring these huge bottles to the store then they get to fill them, drive them home and get them into the house. Instead they could just turn on the tap. No bottles involved.
  • It might be too soon to speak but it looks like the drainage has solved the problems with the septic system. Moving the water out seems to have fixed the problem with water filling the tank when it rains heavily. We have not had it pumped since the end of September. Since we moved in we have had to pump it out in either December or January and sometimes both.

I am angry, so very, very angry

I am about to rant. If you object to calling it like it is or profanity then stop reading now. You have been warned.

I need to talk about fat oppression. Yes, you read it correctly, fat oppression. Let’s define fat oppression:

From Dictionary.com, here is the definition of fat: having too much flabby tissue; corpulent; obese: a fatperson.

From Dictionary.com, here is the and the definition of oppression:
1.
the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel,or unjust manner.

Putting it together? Fat oppression is cruel and unjust treatment of people who have too much flabby tissue. Like racism, there is generally a flavor of power being present in the oppression but it is not always necessary. It can be used to discredit people in positions of power when others are trying to undermine them. Wow! What a thing to judge someone on! This can work in many ways. But I digress.

This society thinks it is perfectly OK to systematically denigrate, discriminate and decimate fat people. We are the butt of jokes. If people can’t find a way to tear us down and we are fat then they use that. We get accused of all sorts of things, usually based on assumptions (incorrect at that). Some even have the nerve to diagnose people.

I have had huge issues with my weight and being fat my entire life. What the oppressors don’t know is that I have a metabolic disorder. Yes, there is a medical reason I am fat. I don’t even lose any significant weight when I am deathly ill with colitis. Yet they feel they can use this because this is all they have. So, I am here to tell you the following:

  • Fat people are not stupid.
  • Fat people are not dirty.
  • Fat people do not lack self-control. Point in fact I quit smoking cold turkey 20 years ago.
  • Fat people are not weak; nor are we here to be the butt of your jokes.

I am fucking sick of it. I usually have this shit under control. I am a highly intelligent, well-educated fat woman and I scare the shit out of some people. I scare the shit out of people who see how smart, funny, competent and kind I am.

I am so fucking angry that some people are trying to oppress me simply because I am fat. How fucking stupid can they be? What the hell gives them the right to think that just because they are of a smaller size they are superior? If you think the fat person in front of you is weak, think again. If you think weight is a simple matter of calories in and calories out you are wrong. Let’s judge people on real things – their accomplishments, their ethics, and their values as human beings. Weight, like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation has nothing to do with who we are as people.

If we are not fat ourselves (and half of us are), we definitely know someone who has struggled with weight issues. Maybe it is a friend or a family member. Maybe you are nice and kind to their face but mock them to others because you can. After all, fat discrimination along with sexual orientation and gender non-conformity, are about the only areas of oppression that are still sanctioned in our society. If you don’t believe me, listen to the jokes the oppressors tell sometime.

To the haters and the oppressors out there – I am on to you. So stay the fuck out of my way. I am sick and tired of being denigrated by you because I am fat and a lesbian. I have figured you all out now and I am angry, very, very angry.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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