Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I like big women, but" Syndrome

We get fat hate from everywhere and pretty much constantly. When someone admits to being attracted to larger bodies you expect that attraction and resulting relationship to come with respect and love and be free from stigma and, yes, fat hate. But that's not always the case. In r/bodyacceptance on reddit as well as in my day to day, I've run into a few people with "I like big women, but" syndrome. It's a serious medical condition and symptoms include confusion, cognitive dissonance, bodily convulsions that result in foot-in-mouth disorder, and often the inability to function properly in romantic interpersonal relationships. The patient presents with classic signs of showing attraction to larger bodies, but also classic symptoms of fatphobia and sizism. The cure? Take some HAES and call me in the morning when you're stopped being a raging asshole.

On r/bodyacceptance this syndrome was difficult to deal with and it resulted in comment and post removals, issuing warnings and, finally, banning the individuals from the group. I recently encountered this issue (for the second time) in my personal life (and no, it wasn't a romantic interest directed at me, but rather one of my friends, but it was still personal- more on that in a bit). If you haven't seen it (and you've saved up your mental health points) you may want to take a look at Tim Minchin's "Fat Children" song which includes such lovely lyrics as "Do not feed doughnuts to your obese children" and such ableist gems as "So you're telling me that your family Has a history of obesity You got the polycystic ovaries Your mum had childhood diabetes But and in your  case There's a fucking big butt Do you think it's an appropriate treat The all-you-can-eat at Pizza Hut". Let's not forget such contradictory lyrics as "Tell them they have to jog Until their jogging shorts fit 'em If they hesitate, ask firmly If they still resist, hit 'em" (emphasis mine) and "It's [being fat] tantamount to child abuse" (can you spot which statement is actual child abuse?). So you can see why someone whom I considered a friend posting this would be quite upsetting. Especially a friend who was dating another friend who happened to be fat. 

I was horrified and couldn't imagine that he'd post this on purpose. Maybe.. maybe he was posting it to show how disgusting it was! Yeah.. yeah that's it... oh but no. Upon inquiring I was simply told that a fat child is the result of bad parenting and that, yes, fat children should be taken away from their homes. I know I know. You've probably seen this particular treasure discussed in the fatosphere quite a lot, especially after the JAMA article about the same thing, although at least they were advocating only "worst case scenarios" and "last resorts" where as this friend of mine, we'll call him Vader (because I'm a geek and I want to, that's why), believes that even 20lbs "overweight" is grounds for an investigation by our already overworked and over burdened social services department. 

I don't have to tell you that taking a child out of an otherwise loving home, away from the only people they know and care for, and sticking them in the foster system where they will likely be bounced around from home to home, and very possibly will never find a home before they're kicked out on their 18th birthdays is far more abusive than any exercise in "over feeding". We have problems with rampant child abuse, children being beaten or called worthless. We have kids that grow up with strung out parents. Kids who are terrified of going home. Kids who are sexually abused. But fat kids should be the priority here? I don't think so. 

Don't worry, I comprised a logical, calm, well thought out reply with references to studies that show that weight is mostly genetic with other contributing factor with lifestyle being on the lowest rung of the ladder. I even threw in some personal anguish about what would have happened to me if someone had deemed my mother abusive just because I was fat along with asking him to explain why I was fat while my brother and sister remained slim on exactly the same diet and amount of active play. The response? Oh... oh my. It didn't even make me angry at first.. I just sat there, mouth gaping, thinking, "wait.. what?". Prepare yourselves. The response was that "yes, I know it's largely genetic.." (good so far..?) "but only for adults". BAM! Can you comprehend that either? I didn't think so. Vader's justification? Kids have faster metabolisms than adults and therefore they can't be larger based on genetics. According to him, there is no such thing as a naturally fat child, it's 100% lifestyle. Yes folks, "obesity" is genetic, but only once you turn 18. Not that I could get him to explain thin  people who ate junk food and watched TV all day. Maybe they don't exist in his world (or just cue the cognitive dissonance part of the disease. It's not about lifestyle if you're thin, only if you're fat; that good 'ole double standard).  

Of course, poor Vader must have just been deeply confused after saying that (for adults) it was genetic but there was "no such thing as a fat person who eats healthfully and exercises". Does he realize that all of this fat hate he's spewing is directed at his girlfriend too? Does she? I see far too many fat men and women who internalize all of the fat hate and they think "yes, I'm sexy and I deserve love, but I still need to lose weight". If you "like big women, but" then how do you justify wanting your partner to be healthy but finding them attractive at a weight that you deem unhealthy? (I say "you deem" because we all know that weight isn't a measure of health, rather someone projecting their own biases, prejudices, and misinformation onto others). 

Folks, this is when my ability to stay calm and civil broke down. Because Vader was my friend I wanted to talk through this, get him to see just how hateful and awful he was being and try to nudge him into accepting that the reasons for body types are varied and complex and that, you know, maybe you actually can't hate someone for their own good. But I have to tell you, as much as I know people like this need education, sometimes I have to just look out for my own emotional and psychological well being. So after I typed another long, thoughtful, reply with net more references to more studies, I stopped, deleted the entire thing, and replaced it with, "You know what? Fuck you." and removed him as a friend. The best solution for someone who's simply ignorant and probably hasn't ever even been presented with an alternative argument? Absolutely not. But I have to deal with this stuff every single day in other areas of my life and I don't think it's too much to ask to be safe from my own friends. So viola, no more fat hating friends. Of course it's not quite that simple since we still run into each other occasionally, but I'm planning on politely treating him like an acquaintance. And Vader's girlfriend, my friend? I hope she took his fat hate as personally and as insultingly as it was. Self deprecating fatties aren't rare by any means, but it does break my heart every single time. 


  1. Probably not the politic thing you've ever said, but in the end why argue with bone-headed morons?

    Yes... I probably would've had a similar reaction. :)

  2. yeah i had a similar thing happen to me, I posted something a while back on my facebook profile, i dont really remember what it was but it was when i first started on my body acceptance and plus size fashion blog and one of my friends commented this "okay, aren't you over doing it a little?" as in aren't i being too positive about fat people...yeah i had a similar reaction except a little more swearing was involved :D i deleted and blocked him aswell, dont need ignorant people in your was a good decision. great post btw


  3. Thick Threads- take heart in the fact that *every* civil rights activist has been told the same thing. I can't even count the times that I've had to speak out against something sexist, for instance, and been told that I was "being too sensitive" and "finding something that wasn't there". Are we being overly sensitive? Not at all- they're just not being sensitive enough! :)

  4. Oh Tim Minchin, one of the earth's great douchebags, yet loved by so many "progressives". Australia's own Ricky Gervais. 'Nuff said about that arsehole.

    I used to have something similar happen to me quite regularly on Facebook and other social networking sites. I tried to engage with those kinds of people, I tried to educate them, but over and over again they resisted because "it's not healthy" which is 100% code for "I think it's ugly!"

    There came a point where I realised I just don't want those people in my life. They are not worthy of my time and attention, and there are plenty of people who are. So now I have a very strict rule of the people in my life MUST respect ALL human beings and butt out of other people's bodies/health or they are not welcome in my life.

  5. I'd be worried about his girlfriend. I'm thinking he might just have her as his girlfriend, so he can abuse her.