Persephone Magazine, May 13, 2015
Recently, a hateful, fat-shaming photo surfaced on the internet.
OK, I’m going to have to be more specific.
A picture surfaced that showed a fat woman in the seats at a baseball game, taken from the back and clearly without her consent, with a caption that discussed how much she had eaten during the game, how many calories that was, and how “unhealthy” that made her. I’m not going to embed the appalling photo here and sully this post, but if you really want to be enraged, you can view it on Imgur.
To add insult to injury, a post was then released by “The Anti-Jared” claiming to be that woman, saying that she had lost a bunch of weight already and blah blah blah. But it actually turned out that that post was not written by the woman in the photo, it was written by this pathetic excuse for a blogger anti-Jared putting himself in her shoes.
This woman has been victimized and had her image used without consent not once, but twice now. As far as I know, she has not come forward or said anything, nor does she have any obligation to.
I’m writing this not to put any words in this woman’s mouth — enough others have already tried to do that — but to point out that this could easily have been me.
I’m fat. Not curvy, chubby, plump, fluffy, or corpulent. Fat. If I were at a Cardinals game I would also be squished into the seats — I know this because that’s exactly what happens at Yankee Stadium. The seats are small and rigid and not made for fat butts. When I sit in them I squish uncomfortably, my belly and thighs forced out in different directions. If the human body wasn’t somewhat malleable I wouldn’t get in there at all.
I don’t blame myself, I blame the stadium and those who designed it. I get that they want to put in as many seats as possible to sell, but there should be attention paid to human comfort. Yes, in case there’s any question: fat people count as human.
I catch people staring at me on the regular. Before anyone jumps in and says, “You’re just saying that because you’re self-conscious” or “You don’t know what they’re thinking” — I know I don’t. But I also know how the quantity and quality of stares change based on how fat I am (I have been varying degrees), what I’m doing, and how much I adhere to the arbitrary rules that say I should cover my body. I’ve had people take pictures (you’re never as subtle as you think you are) and make comments to me. If I call out someone’s lousy behavior (don’t ride your bikes on the footpath, people!) the retort is always simply that I’m fat, as if that invalidates anything else about me.
Yes, you’re damn right, I am self-conscious. I don’t blame my fat for that, I blame the ways people respond to fat (mine and others’). I am very much conscious of the fact that people have bigoted notions about my body based on how much adipose tissue it contains and the way I feel and act about that. If I dare to eat, especially something that’s deemed “bad,” stares get worse. If I dare to sit down on the subway and my thighs touch another person, the stares get worse. If I dress in a way that makes me happy instead of wearing only muumuus in a black vertical stripe pattern, the stares get worse. My fat is not the problem. Reactions to it are.
The woman at the baseball game is not the problem. Whatever she was doing or eating is not the problem. The fact that someone felt compelled to take her picture from behind, post it online with the express purpose of mocking it, and ascribe values and judgments to her entirely neutral behaviors is. The fact that someone else put a narrative in her mouth is a problem. Bigots who treat fat people as subhuman are the problem. Fat people are not. We have a right to exist in public, to eat what we want, to be as healthy or unhealthy as we want (or can be), to wear what we choose, and to live our own damn lives without input from anyone unless we ask for it. Our bodies are not an example to be made about some trumped-up issue plaguing the nation. They are our bodies. They are neutral. They deserve dignity and respect.
This post originally appeared on my blog, Reluctantly Adultish.