No, Not “Grossly Fat”

It always leaves me a bit… well I’ll settle for “bemused” when people who consider themselves fully cognizant of civil rights struggles, who are only happy if political correctness exudes from their every discussion; think nothing of throwing phrases such as “No, this guy wasn’t like GROSSLY fat or anything” into a conversation without any pause to consider how that might sound coming out of their supposedly enlightened mouths.

Perhaps little moments like this are what get people up on that oppression Olympics high-horse so that they spout off a frustrated little sigh of “Fat is the last acceptable prejudice”.  You can be surrounded by people “in-the-know” who don’t follow the main-line flow of thought on anything; who are some of the quickest around to point out when something seen or said is misogynist and/or racist or homophobic; yet who can just turn right around and declare “Boy, if that woman would just get off her ass and stop stuffing donuts down her gullet maybe she’d lose a few, eh?”  Even if the phrases are not quite as blunt and follow more of a “polite social construct” (such as “joking” reminders that pastry goods go straight to your hips, or bemoaning that taking a day to lounge around will need to be compensated for with a good day of running to “counteract” the bad you’ve just been).  It just doesn’t fail to boggle my mind that the words appear without thought from the lips of otherwise very thoughtful people who usually make a conscious effort to speak AGAINST the usual main-line drivel.

That is what is rambling through my mind today as I review some of the mostly fun conversations I had this past weekend in which the title phrase from this post was heard. I’ve been spending so long blogging about this FA topic (and granted I’ve not even been at it that long!) it seems par for the course that trying to delineate some spectrum of “Okay” or “Acceptable” levels of fat against “Those Others” (who are, you know, ruining the world with their evil levels of consumption) is NOT (and should not be) a normal part of an otherwise social-issues-aware discussion.

If you consider yourself so aware of political/social/cultural issues from the “non-mainline” point of view, and find yourself eager to fluff up in self-importance and point out to others how their actions or statements are somehow “-ist” in some manner; why is it therefore so difficult to percolate for a moment upon how similar actions or statements against particular sizes (the Grossly Fat or the Sickly/Stickly Thin) might also be just as “ist”?  Put aside for a moment whether or not if you feel that people CAN or CANNOT (or even should or should not) change the size of their bodies (you should certainly know in which camp I tend to find myself there on that argument) and think about whether or not it is ANY of anyone else’s business if bodies DO or DO NOT fit the current accepted social definition of Normal (Acceptable) Human. This is what you do for any other “-ism”; why not for Fat-ism?  (Or Size-ism if you’re still squiggly about that “F-word”).

Just my own little plug for a bit of thought before speaking is what I guess this little introspective writing was aiming at.


7 thoughts on “No, Not “Grossly Fat”

  1. I have this problem at church sometimes. I go to an extremely liberal UU church, that makes every effort to be inclusive and welcoming to all genders, sexualities, races, ages, classes, etc., but I do notice the negative body talk from people who otherwise ought to know better. I mean, we do believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and that covers the whole not being an asshole to fat people, but at the same time I see a lot of judgment (often disguised as pity) towards fatties as well. And judgment that is often self-directed as well.

  2. I, too, became so frustrated by otherwise liberal progressives who would never presume to make a racist or homophobic slur, but think nothing of making fat jokes. Here’s my rant on the subject. There’s still this abiding belief that one somehow “chooses” fatness so therefore it’s open game. By that token, religious discrimination should also be tolerated since we all choose our religious beliefs or lack thereof.

  3. Amen. And very well written, April. And most of these ‘liberal, well-enlightened, socially-aware’ people are at some pains to point out that they are talking about fat as they are because it is a “serious cultural issues”, there is an ‘epidemic of obesity’ around us, especially among ‘the poor children’, & that they are concerned about your/the children/the other ‘grossly obese’ adults’ health & well-being &, besides, ‘obesity’ is something ‘one brings on oneself’, so all you need to do is make a point of eating less, having more salads, fresh fruit instead of the Twinkies that ‘everyone knows’ all fat people eat all day, whole grains instead of the white bread we MUST ALL consume, cut out or cut down on the beers, get off your ass & move once in awhile, take the video games & the computer away from the kids & make them go outside & don’t allow them to EVER eat candy or drink soda, & almost everyone (well, except maybe those few ‘poor souls’ with ‘glandular problems’) would be trim, acceptable-looking, &, oh, of course, ‘healthier’, since constant starvation & compulsive exercise are so healthful, despite all the countless studies which show that dieting damages health, & the well-known consequences of people pushing themselves at exercise in order to keep age or ‘the old spare tire’ at bay. It never amazes me to see & hear how those who can be so bright, so current, so educated, so forward-thinking, can also be so ignorant, bigoted, & unwilling to open their minds & learn better.

    It rears its head in all relationships, & in all kinds of people who are otherwise lovely, caring, loving, warm, decent people. The person whom I love most in the world (himself a naturally lean, athletic man from a family of thin to average-weight people) used to think, if I sounded out of breath when I answered the phone, perhaps because I was working out when he called or had just come in & was rushing to answer it, or whatever, that I must be on the verge of a heart attack. (I have never had a hint of heart trouble, nor have any of the women in my family, most of them fat, ever had heart disease.) I am a very highly-strung, emotional, intense person & I also have allergies, so sometimes I might breathe a bit more heavily if allergies are acting up or I may even occasionally hyperventilate a bit when I am upset, which I suppose happens to many people. I have educated him a lot over the years & also called him on his displays of unthinking ignorance, such as one time when I teased that I would have to hurt him if he didn’t behave & he replied that the only way I could hurt him would be if I sat on him (btw, we weigh within 10-15 pounds of each other & have since we met), but he has at least been willing to learn & see the error of his ways & make amends. But, yes, most people in our culture DO believe that it is okay to criticize, ridicule, & insult fat people, that we could all be thin if we chose to be & bring it on ourselves, & that we ought to be good sports & ‘able to take a joke” & laugh at ourselves, since everyone knows fat people are inherently funny & that we are all jolly & easy-going.

  4. Oh, & I am also richly blessed with those who, when I present them with scientific evidence that fat is genetic, that is not necessary bad for one’s health, that in fact many fat people are healthier than many thin people & fat can have protective qualities, that dieting is unhealthy, especially for those of us who are older, promptly assure me that I am, in effect, in denial or delusional, that “you believe this stuff because you want to believe it, because you are too lazy to do anything about yourself.” Some of the ones in my own life are not particularly bright, so arguing with them is like banging my head against a stone wall, as they will never see the truth.

  5. I get too upset or disappointed or frustrated when I try to explain the login and science behind the HAES point of view. I feel a little sense of hopelessness when I hear a fat joke from an entertainer that I otherwise admire. I am disheartened when I find a BBW/BHM social group that is a place where people accept themselves and do fun happy things together and the leadership decided to sponsor a “walk to eliminate obesity (a/k/a support the stomach amputation industry). I want to, but I don’t speak up when someone makes a fat joke or hateful comment. It is just not worth the fight. I admire a Maryln Wann that goes on CNN and challenges fat hate in a dignified way. As I get a better command on the science, the studies, the politics, and the psychology of Fat Acceptance and HAES, I will speak up. I will stand my ground. I see myself trying to reach the young ones with these positive health messages (teaching, writing, mentoring, opening a FAT camp for ids that is all about self empowerment and esteem building and has 24 hour buffets available to let them get a feel for intuitive eating. I have “win the mega millions fantasies of starting a clothing company that serves all fatties. But I agree that people do not see how hateful they are and it adds to how uneducated they are when they are also the ones that call themselves socially aware and believe in justice.

    I also want to spend my time socially and professionally with folks who understand me and understand nuanced points of our experience such as the one illustrated in this blog post.



  6. Brilliant post! I have nothing to add.

    Except MAN YOUR SKIN IS AMAZING. I hadn’t noticed that picture of you up top has changed, and I just glanced at it and thought you were just wearing a skintight shirt, but that is your skin! It’s so smooth and such a nice colour.

    I just realised that’s kind a weird thing to compliment. Hope I haven’t creeped you out.

  7. “Grossly,” when used correctly, means “approximately” or “inexactly.” It’s not supposed to mean, “Ewwww, GROSS!” But when I was younger I said “grossly obese” because everybody did. I was afraid of weighing about what I do right now. Little did I know it wouldn’t ruin my life.

    What I always say is, there’s no such thing as someone who loves every kind of person in the world and hates only fatties, because fat means something to the hater. It’s typically a mask for class snobbery and ablism and WASP chauvinism and misogyny, all those things “progressives” (fauxgressives, really) think they don’t experience.

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