Thursday, April 16, 2015

Confessions of a Reformed Body Shamer



I was a major body shamer. It is with great shame that I tell you this.

My primary victim was always me. My body. It has been endlessly harangued by my cruel inner critic. I have spent hours of misery picking it apart and bemoaning my fat, my shape, my skin, my eyes, my hair. Pretty much everything and anything at one point or another.

Looking back it is clear to me that this illness was never purely connected to the physical though because no matter how much weight I lost, what clothes I wore, how well my wild hair behaved, I always found a new flaw or a new level to aspire to - a new unhappiness.

There was no pleasing this bitch critic. I was always going to be ugly and by default unworthy of good things.

I of course would have the odd moment of feeling attractive, desirable, beautiful even. But as the rosy glow of that moment of self love faded the voice would be back telling me just how foolish that was. Shaming me by repeating my positive thoughts back to me with a sneer.

I wish I could say I was my only victim. That I alone bore the brunt of this callous side. But no. I judged others harshly too. And I never stood up for those who needed it, even when I knew better myself. I would laugh along with others at poor unfortunate fatties just attempting to go about their day. Aware of the total and utter hypocrisy of it and yet fearful that if I didn't share the joke I would look like a fattie that was no fun. A humourless fattie. Or for some reason be even closer to the object of derision. I never sent nasty comments, and I don't think I ever said any either but I laughed along with others. And I was judging in my head. And praying other people weren't seeing me with the same judgement and lack of compassion and empathy. 

I am getting better. I am kinder to me and everyone else. I know that all bodies are good bodies. That you can't tell anything about a person by looking at their shape or guessing their weight. That we're all worth respect. That we're all people ffs. And I've started to wonder why I didn't always think like this? Why was I so disconnected from my body? Why did I not see the disconnect between my lived experience and what we're taught to believe about fat people?

Endlessly gross out movies portrayed people who looked a lot like me as stupid, ugly, unclean, and just about the least desirable thing on the planet. Good old fat best friends who are lucky if a socially retarded asshole  looks at them by the end of the movie, portly boys in desperate puppy love with female leads. All shown to either be desperately dieting and failing, or giving into their dirty, immoral urges (please note heavy sarcasm) and eating.

Sometimes I think the reason I often laughed along with these portrayals was because deep down society had managed to convince me they were pretty much the only identity of an overweight person. They were only stereotypes because they were true. I BELIEVED this. With all the evidence that it was bullshit living in my very own life. It's not surprising that those who don't have a lived experience of being fat cackle away if even I (a fat person who is none of those stereotypes) can be swayed.

Look, I have an horrendous sense of humour. I laugh at all the worst stuff. If it's inappropriate there is a good chance I'm giggling. So, I'm not saying let's censor comedy. I like that it pushes boundaries. I like that it often says what everyone is thinking. Or exposes things that no one wants to think about.

But some comedic tropes are just so effing lazy! What I am saying is let's move past these narrow representations of fatness. Can we challenge ourselves as a society, as artists and creators, to see fat people in a myriad of ways rather than as something pitiful or the (big fat) butt of a joke? I think we can. Because fat people have stories - they can be heroes and have strengths and loves and lives. I think (hold on to your hats here ladies and gents) that fat WOMEN could be at the centre of a narrative. And not just because they are fat. But because they have stories and experiences (both related to and completely divorced from their weight) that are worthy of being told.

I went to see Caitlyn Moran speak a few weeks ago. I love her a lot. Like more than you really should love someone you don't know. I love her tales and the fact that they that are in her own voice. She was talking about speaking with your own voice. Realising that what you write doesn't have to be about someone else's experience. Some accessible tale we've heard a million times before.  The stories that need to be told are the ones we haven't heard before. Ones that diversify the cultural space. Those are the stories of women, of ethnic minorities, of fat people, of people with disabilities, of people with mental health struggles.  The stories about those who don't fit the aesthetics or the models of power we've become accustomed to.

So today I am urging you (and myself) to write your story. Write about your experience. Talk about your experience. Find people who will listen. Share. The harder it is to say or admit, probably the more valuable it is. But you never know who you might enlighten. Whose mind you might change. Or how good it will feel just to get it out there. To be honest. To change the conversation.
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