Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lighten Up, It's Just a Joke

A great article called, Lighten Up by The Real Katie, has been going around. It's a feminist post about sexism in the programming world. Not just the obvious sexism but the little things that add up to it sucking to be a woman in, well, really any geek circle. As I read it I couldn't help but think about how it also applies to fat people or any oppressed group really. But since this is a fat acceptance blog, we'll talk about it in that context.

People have this misconception that making something into a joke gives it a free pass. People who feel that you can make a joke out of anything and no one has the right to be offended because, hey, lighten up, it's just a joke! Unfortunately for people who are systematically subjugated with routine discrimination, stigma, threats, and even violence, a joke is a little more than just a joke.

So yeah, I'm also tired of being told to "lighten up". Or that I'm being overly sensitive or too PC. When you make a fat joke, you're not talking to the air, you're talking about me and you're spreading stereotypes through humor. Ragen at Dances With Fat calculated that we receive about 386,170 negative messages about our bodies each year. And it's the big things as well as the little things. That's over a thousand negative messages about our bodies every day. How long could you go without getting pissed?  A dozen comments? A hundred? Those negative messages are putting fat people or even people afraid of being fat at a higher risk for eating disorders and even suicide. Since eating disorders are more common in children than diabetes, I think it's time to take a serious look at why telling us to just "lighten up" is such bullshit.

In fact, telling people to lighten up has been used against oppressed groups for a really long time. What? You're angry because people constantly mentally and physically attack you for your body size? Oh lighten up. You're mad because you've been denied health care even with no pre existing conditions? Geeze, lighten up. You're mad because your kid just killed himself due to weight bullying? Why are you being such a hard ass? Lighten up. Really, at what point do you stop lightening up and start getting angry? At what point is it justified to these people? It's not. Not ever. These people wouldn't care if they started marching fat people up to a slaughterhouse, at any hint of anger they'd be told to lighten up.

Well hell no. I'm not going to lighten up. Not about women's rights, not about LGBT rights, not about fat rights (and each group faces it's own unique set of issues- I'm not trying to say they're all exactly the same). I believe strongly in all of these things and just because it kills your buzz at a party doesn't mean I'm going to stop. That I'm going to let that fat joke slide or that comment about how fat people shouldn't be allowed health care, or that the depression is their own fault. I'm going to get mad and I'm not going to apologize for it nor should I. Stand up, get mad, and get something done. It helps to not just start screaming at random people who say something stupid, but don't be bullied into backing down from an honest to goodness issue that needs to be addressed. If someone tells you to lighten up then you tell them if everyone did so when told then there'd be a hell of a lot of people without rights.

From The Real Katie's "Lighten Up"
How long would you put up with it? Do you love anything that much? If your spouse subtly treated you like crap every day, how long would your marriage last? If you saw a friend being treated this way by their boss, wouldn't you tell them to quit? 
Or would you tell them to lighten up?
You, person who told me to lighten up, saw one little thing. It didn't seem like a big deal, did it? One little line! One joke! One comment! But it's not just one thing to me: it's one of thousands that I've had to endure since I was old enough to be told that 'X is for boys!' It's probably not even the first thing I've had to deal with that day, unless you've gotten to me pretty early. 
That's the main problem with subtle discrimination. It leaves those that it affects the most powerless against it, quietly discouraging them. If they speak up, they're treated to eye rolls at the least, and at the worst, are called oppressors themselves. We're accused of not wanting equal rights, but of wanting tyranny. 
I would just like the million little barbs to stop, and I would like to not be told to 'lighten up'.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, yes. "Humour" can definitely be used as a weapon by bullies. I am amazed there are still people who cannot see that, but, as you point out, there are.

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