Posted by Pattie on 11/25/2002 06:11:00 PM

It's been a week since I wrote anything. How did that happen? I swear time is flying and I am not having fun.

Actually I had a little bit of fun last week. It was Carl's birthday on Thursday and I celebrated by doing a radio show about him and by buying him the most self-serving gift I've ever bought someone else.

The dilemma described by Kell in the comments is indicative of the problem with all activism. If you are "anti-" anything, you are stuck with the discourse game created by the oppressor. Luce Irigary writes about the dilemma of sexism when she laments that women cannot be discussed without raising their opposition to men. She calls for an examination of women without men (something impossible to do in western culture), suggesting that rather than looking for the "other of a man" (that is, a woman) that we should be looking for "the other of the other of a man." The "anti" position becomes part of the problem. To speak out against sexism leaves one vulnerable to either attack or to obscurity. To not speak out, leaves something very hurtful unchallenged. It is all too real a double-bind.

I have to admit, however, that I run out of gas when I talk about sexism. I've been trying to figure out why it doesn't make me madder. Then last night it occurred to me. I think it is because in my life I've had more grief from women. It isn't that there aren't some phenomenal women in my life. There are plenty of wonderful women. But when I am treated poorly because I am fat it almost always is from a woman. Women call me names. Women make rude comments to me. Women are well-meaning about my health as they tear me to shreds. Women go on and on about their diet and exercise regimens and how much weight they've lost as if I were not in the room or as if they wanted to inspire me to be just like them in a fit of passive-aggressive fervour. It has been women, not men, who have bullied me. I grew up a tomboy, playing like a boy and fighting like a boy. Maybe that's why I handle boys better than girls.

Fat-hatred is a way for women to be divided and conquered. Fat-hatred is a self-hatred that turns into devisive measurement. Roddick's article about her experience in a fat suit for a documentary (blogged over at Big Fat Blog) is a perfect example of a woman who hates herself and wants to use fat women as a way to feel better about herself:

On the one hand, she tries to be sympathetic: "It was a constant catalogue of embarrassment. People walked past me and muttered: 'Fat cow' in that cowardly, timid way bullies have. Not saying it to your face, but waiting until they were almost past. Young girls were the worst. There is a terrible competitiveness about women that often goes unsaid. I encountered a great deal of hostility but also curiosity. People stared, trying to work me out, how my body worked. It seemed as if they were repelled and attracted at the same time - as if I were some sort of freak or curiosity." In the next breath, she puts fat women and old women in their place: "I wasn't at all bothered about looking conventionally unattractive - at my age I'm past caring. But the reaction made me uncomfortable all the same." Later in the article she does the flip-flop again: "I discovered that obese women certainly don't need thin women's pity. You don't need to be thin to be attractive and sexy and vibrant. I was glad to say goodbye to the suit. If I had the choice whether to be my normal weight or 20 stone, nothing in the world would make me carry around that amount of weight." (emphasis mine)

This is her great conclusion after meeting "vibrant" and "sexy" women who are comfortable in their own bodies. The thought never occurs to this chick that fat women don't wear their fat. Fat is a part of their body. But this chick is so caught up in the experience of the fat suit that she can't see how the attitudes of others, the one-size-fits-all mentality of public spaces and the hatred she obviously feels towards fat might contribute to some of the experiences she was having. To her fat is something that is worn. To her fat is bad, ugly, unhealthy. She talks about obesity with the same lack of examination that the diet and fitness industry and medical establishment have come to talk about obesity. A few days wrapped up like a baby in a snow suit and she believes she understands it all. Did the thought ever occur to Discovery UK that maybe it would be more interesting and more realistic to have a fat woman share her experiences?

Tish mentioned John Howard Griffen's classic book, Black Like Me. Griffen took a special medical treatment that changed his body -- he didn't put on blackface and he couldn't just take off his blackness when it became too much for him. Roddick writes: "DURING the filming I could only wear the suit for a few hours a day because I found it so frustrating and physically grueling." This tells me that she wasn't interested in the fat experience at all. She was interested in finding out how people would react to the fat suit so she could make herself look sympathetic while she confirmed all her worst fears and prejudices about what it means to be fat. And she has the added bonus of rewarding herself with being skinny whenever she wants. It is not surprising then that she gained no sympathy whatsoever to the experience of being fat.

So that brings me back to Irigary and the other of the other of a woman. In the prologue for Fatty Pattie's I write about a radical appeciation for the beauty of a fat woman. I wrote this originally in a paper in which I asserted that fat women are politically charged because we are indeed the other of the other of a woman. We do not fit the profile of what a woman is supposed to be in a sexist society. Those of us who practice fat acceptance and do not apologize for our size are especially radical in our otherness because we have the audacity to not aspire to an idealized body. Of course, Roddick should know this. But then, I've come to expect feminists and lefties to abandon fat people. We don't fit the expectation from their point-of-view either.

No wonder I often feel like a bastard child.