Friday, January 10, 2014

"Reverse Discrimination"

Oh yeah, you know how some women don't trust men because we live in a patriarchal society that ensures subtle and overt violence against women from emotional/mental to physical to sexual and how that's totally reverse discrimination? Just like when a person of color doesn't really like white people because they've been systematically oppressed and discriminated against their entire lives while white people live a life of white privilege often intersecting with other privileges as well and how that's completely reverse racism? Yeah no, I didn't think so either. I'm not going to rehash these topics too much because there are other, more competent and eloquent social justice bloggers who have done it for me, but I do want to talk specifically about weight and "reverse discrimination" Specifically thin shaming.

You know what thin shaming is, right? "Real women have curves" "Only dogs want bones" "Go eat a fucking sandwich you anorexic". It's a shitty thing to do to anyone. It's horrible that people who are trying to accept their own bodies would lash out at another group, usually a group of women who are specifically targeted by the media to try to make them feel like shit about themselves.  It's fucking unacceptable and it needs to stop.

But I'll tell you one thing it isn't. The same thing as fat shaming.

Just like reverse racism doesn't exist, just like reverse sexism doesn't exist, or reverse homophobia,  reverse fatphobia doesn't exist. Why? Because bigotry, discrimination, and oppression are part of a systematic tool used to keep an entire class of people under privileged while a ruling privileged group reaps the benefits whether they want to or not. I'm white and cis. I reap the benefits of being those two things in a culture that values whiteness and being cis whether I'm personally against that privilege or not. In the same fashion, a thin person reaps benefits from thin privilege whether they're a fat acceptance ally or not.

"But how is being called bulimic when you're not a benefit?" Well, duh, it's not. No one said that shitty things don't happen to thin people. They absolutely do. But most of those things are rooted in fatphobia. For instance, the assumption that only super thin people having eating disorders when being fat actually puts you at a greater risk for eating disorders. Hell, even thinking you're fat puts you at a greater risk for eating disorders. There's a clear link between fatphobia and eating disorders, period. And even when someone says something like "real women have curves" they're not talking about people like me who are deathfatz, they're talking about hourglass shaped women who are still damn close to the social ideal.

So there's one blogger, Red No. 3, that I absolutely love. Why? Because he talks about being a fat man but he talks about it in context of relative privilege. A Spectrum of Privilege is a post that everyone simply must read. As a man he has greater privilege than a woman for example. And this is how we have to talk about thin shaming- in context. Skinny people don't live in a vacuum or a bubble. Their experiences have context and that context happens within thin privilege.

For example, on /r/bodyacceptance today someone told me the story of how she was constantly mistaken for someone who had an eating disorder and, as a result, complete strangers would, for example, report her to school officials in an attempt to help her. That's pretty fucking shitty. No one should just assume someone has an eating disorder because they're thin. But, she phrased this story in a defensive way to defend an article about thin shaming that failed to mention thin privilege even once. So, to frame her story in the context of thin privilege, her peers (wrongly and horribly) thought she had an eating disorder and reached out to try to get her help. In a fat person's world we can be hospitalized or even die before an eating disorder is detected simply because extreme weight loss or ED behaviors are seen as good fatty behaviors. Does this make her experience less hurtful? NO. Does this make her body issues less valid? NO. But when a lot of thin people imply that thin shaming is just as bad as fat shaming they're showing a basic ignorance of the lived experiences of fat people who face systematic discrimination and oppression. This includes friends, family members, peers, and even the goddamned government!

I'll give you another example. Someone, again in r/bodyacceptance on reddit, pointed out that every once in a while a thin shaming comment graces the comments section of an article and that's proof that thin shaming is equal to fat shaming. Well, It's true, on the article I mentioned above, I did have to remove a thin shaming comment. And eleven fat shaming comments. So far. And this was on a post that didn't even have anything to do with fat people. Can you imagine how many comments us mods have to remove on a post that's actually fat related?  We have entire comment brigades invade our subreddit just to insult fat people including rape and death threats. Just today someone compared being fat to self harm (ie, cutting, burning, etc). It's not uncommon for fat to be seen as a mental illness while fat people with actual mental illness are ignored and mocked and called liars.

Let me say again that thin shaming is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG. No one should try to build themselves up on the backs of someone else. But I'm tired of people, thin and fat alike including some fat activists, claiming that the fat oppression and skinny shaming are in the same arena while the same people are likely to balk at someone saying "well white people have it just as hard as POC"  or "straight people have it just as hard as lgbt people" or, of course, and all feminists are familiar with this, "what about the menz?!" So while we should continuously try to fight thin shaming (and men bashing, and whatever else), let's not pretend that a highly privileged group faces the same battles, risks, or experiences as an oppressed group and certainly not in the same way.

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