Monday, July 18, 2016
Skinny people, I see you: Taking up space where you shouldn't and what to do about it
stomach in a one piece bathing suit because you're too afraid of a bikini. I know that self loathing body issues are not exempt for you. I know that fatphobia affects you.
Now let's talk about what else I see and don't see. I don't see you sticking up for me, the fattie. I see you occupying space in fat acceptance instead of raising up the voices of fat people and allowing us the space you occupy. I don't see you trying to change fat oppression. I do see you trying to change "skinny shaming" though. I see you equating "skinny shaming" and fat oppression as if hurt feelings are the same thing as dead children. I see you screaming for yourself, but not for me. I don't see you in my social media posts where I have to defend myself against fatphobes with no allies to help me. I see you subtly contributing to fatphobia and then crying "but I'm an ally!" when called out on it. I see you asking me to educate you on my oppression, but I don't see you trying to educate yourself. I see you, right now, about to type "not all skinny people!" to defend yourself instead of reaching out to your fellow skinnies and helping end my oppression.
Here's the thing, asking you to help end my oppression does not discount your experiences or suffering at the hands of fatphobia and the patriarchy. All it says is that, in this particular instance, fat people are suffering more than skinny people when it comes to fatphobia. In the same way, the patriarchy informs toxic masculinity which affects men negatively, but it's going to, by definition, affect women and femme presenting people more.
Regardless of how fatphobia bleeds over onto you, remember that it's targeted at me. You still hold power over fat people and have privilege in a world that favors you over us. I know it's not a power you asked for. It may not even be a power you want, and I get that. I have privileges too. Hell, I even have relative thin privilege compared to people who are fatter than I am. Being a size 22/3x, I can buy a lot of clothes that just don't exist in a 4x or larger. I can fit some places that people larger than me can't (like airplane seats and certain chairs, and even medical equipment), I can, mostly, be left alone in public depending on where I am, and I see people, however rarely, who represent me. These are all things that give me some privilege because privilege exists on a sliding scale. Thin people, have all these and more, including important ones that can mean life or death (such as having a doctor take your illnesses seriously).
Basically, it doesn't matter how badly you feel about your body, you're still the oppressor. I'm still the oppressed. I have the right to be angry at you, regardless of your personal issues, I have the right to express that anger, I have the right to have access to fat only spaces and to insist that you don't get to be a part of it.
Mostly though, your job as an ally is to always be learning, always doing better, and always taking pressure off of my shoulders. Your job is to educate other thin people (people with internalized fatphobia you don't need to deal with because you can't police how someone deals with oppression- even if those ways are shitty and oppresses other fat people). So next time your facebook friend posts a fatphobic meme or comment, try educating them, posing links to information and posts from fat people. When a fat person speaks, don't be so quick to jump in with your experiences- try just supporting your fat friend and quietly being there for them. Don't ask us to educate you, but rather, when you don't understand something, or have questions, ask a group dedicated to intersectionality and education or google articles or posts by fat people. Remember too that you can take all of the rules of allyship in an intersectional setting and apply it to fat acceptance and fat liberation.
Ally is not an identity, it's not a title that you get once and you're done. It's an ongoing, organic, thing that takes emotional labor and mental effort on your part. The emotional labor and mental effort that I put in is on a daily, hourly, and even minute by minute basis. Please take some of that from me. I see you, and want you to know that I see you (all day, every day, whether I want to or not), so please.. see me as well. Because my suffering is made invisible, but you can do something about that.