Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fatphobia, Ableism, and the Thin Privilege Voice

Years ago, I posted a video on youtube. I had seen a sign for a child's fat camp (weight loss program) and it pissed me off. I pulled into the next parking lot, walked, and took the sign, throwing it into into my trunk. Once home, I spray painted it to read "Give the gift of no diets", as it was near Christmas time. I literally received thousands of comments (they were moderated and never made it onto the actual video). They ranged anywhere from death and rape threats, to name calling, to vague future health threats, and even accusations of being a terrorist. I'm not kidding- a terrorist. Because, as their logic went, I was engaging in the mass killings of fat children by wanting them to remain fat. Interesting how twisted a fatphobe's logic is considering that fatphobia and stigma kill fat more children than fat ever has.

Still, the number one comments I got were on m breathing- heavy breathing specifically. The trolls took this as proof that I was too fat and needed to exercise and lose weight.

I have a condition, as some of you know already, called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). It means that as my posture changes, from lying to standing, my heart rate increases by at least 30 beats per minute, usually causing tachycardia (a heart rate of over 100). A normal heart rate for a woman my age is 60-100bpm. My standing heart rate is about 20-40 over that just from standing up.  Even mild exercise can make my heart go through the roof. Walking gently and leisurely can raise my HR up to almost 200bpm, which is the same predicted heart rate of a woman my age who is engaging in extreme exercise and is the maximum rate a heart should go. So, for me, walking slowly on even ground, is about the same as running a marathon for someone else. Have you ever seen someone run a marathon and not get winded? Yeah, me neither. (Oh, did I mention that fainting is included for someone with POTS? So pushing myself to exercise as my heart rate pushes 200 is very dangerous).

But that's not the kicker. People were observing that a light stroll shouldn't make a person breath so heavily. They were correct. But, the didn't account for illnesses which cause heavy breathing, especially in bitter cold weather. (For example, I could just as likely have had asthma, a much more common breathing issue than POTS.) I'm not saying any of this to justify myself or be the "good fatty" because fuck that. It's simply a bit of backstory.

Still, after about 4K comments or so, I posted a small comment about this condition. The response? The called bullshit. Suddenly all of those trolls were medical doctors. Comments ranged from trying to explain POTS to me (poorly), as to say it doesn't cause breathing issues, or people flat out saying I was lying about the condition.

This isn't the first time this has happened.

I have a list of medical diagnoses which numbers slightly less than two dozen. Several of which cause weight gain and other symptoms include exercise intolerance, heat intolerance, chronic pain (my joints don't hurt because I'm fat, the hurt because I'm a chronic illness patient), and so much more.

My point is this: when you're fat, people ignore you when you say you're sick. Unless you have a stereotypical "fattie" illness like heart disease or diabetes, then you're truthful, but deserve your illnesses. You're especially lying if you have thyroid disease or any other illnesses that create symptoms they'd  rather mock someone for. When you're fat, you're only allowed to be sick in the was that are deemed fatty acceptable. If you say you don't have those issues then you're lying. If you say you have other "non fat" issues, then you're lying. Fatphobia is inherently ableist (as well as misognistic which I've discussed before). Remember that when fat people die of heart disease, they died of being fat and the had it coming. When thin people die of heart disease it was a fight, a struggle that they lost, a tragedy.

Where does the thin privilege come in? Easy, if a thin person said they had any of the illnesses I have, they'd be believed, listened to, given sympathy, and get treatment and care by medical professionals. The same people accusing me of lying would be signing petitions for POTS research for thin people.

Thin people who consider themselves allies are in the position where the can use their voices to educate fatphobes- because they'll be listened to. Not always, maybe not even most of the time, but more than us fatties could ever hope to be listened to. Here, it gets iffy though. Because thin people should never speak over fat people, and yet their voices hold more power, more sway. Thin allies have to figure out was to speak for us, without speaking over us, and lifting up the voices of fat people in the process. I know, being an ally isn 't easy. But know what's even harder? Being fat. Add being a disabled woman on top of being fat and it's not an easy life. Just look at all of the health issues that chronic stress can cause- from joint pain to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

I know this post is long and you maybe didn't want to hear about my chronic illnesses. You wanted some in-your-face truths about fatphobia and thin privilege and ableism. But the truth is that I'm tired. I'm worn out from being attacked ever day and not being able to defend myself and having no one come to my defense.

You, my thin privileged friends, are lacking in your responsibilities. I want to say that I expect more from you, but I don't. I expect to fight this fight either alone or alongside other fatties. But hey, I wouldn't mind being surprised once in a while either.

Here's my point, one type of bigotry almost never shows up to the party by itself. It brings friends. Fatphobia can often intersect with pretty much any other tpe of oppression. Fatphobia is not a single thing, by itself. This is why I feel weird when someone expresses fatphobic ideas and beliefs. I know that is not the only type of bigotry lurking. And fatphobia affects people on both sides of the political spectrum- so if your oh-so-progressive friend with privilege coming out of his ears decides to say something fatphobic, be assured that they are not the feminist the claim to be, they are not intersectional, as they claim to be, etc. And when they talk about intersectional issues, but don't mention fatphobia- be wary, be suspicious. And hey- call them out. That's your job now, okay?

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