Posted by Pattie on 1/28/2005 05:12:00 AM

A Great Syllabus for Learning About Fat

I got fan mail yesterday. Doesn't happen often, but sure feels good when it does.

So, I visited my fan's blog and found a kindred spirit.

I especially like It's Not the Fat, It's the Stupidity.

Amy outlines a course that anyone should take before discussing the evils of obesity with her. I think this might be my new requirement as well.

What I especially like is that not only does she suggest the reasonable course of action of someone actually learning about a subject before they address it, but she also hits upon a recurring theme in my life, that familiarity with actual fat people might be in order:

Requirement #2. You must have known and loved an actual fat person. Because contrary to what the writers of these kinds of letters seem to believe, fat people are ACTUAL PEOPLE; we do exist, and we do have ordinary lives, jobs, feelings and relationships. We are not all gasping our last on our deathbeds; we are not some statistical abstraction existing only in medical textbooks, and we do not spend all our time going from doctor's office to doctor's office seeking solace for our myriad ailments. In fact, if these fat-hating letter writers pulled their heads out of their asses or tore their gazes away from Dr. Phil and looked around, they would see TONS of fat people walking around everywhere every day. Hmmm, the waitress at the diner, on her feet all day for less than minimum wage, is fat! The bank teller is fat! That guy, loading that truck, and that one there, processing your mortgage application--fat! And surprise surprise, a lot of these fat people are black and brown. In rural areas, most everybody you meet is some degree of fat. Who knew?

One of the reasons that after several years of trying to figure out what kind of fat activism I wanted to pursue, I decided that I would concentrate my efforts on questions of travel was that I believe that fat people (like most oppressed people) are invisible and cloistered. If people are to believe that someone is less than human (and that is the belief stigma entails at its heart), then they must keep the stigmatized person flat and lifeless. Get to know a vital, happy fat person and it will ruin your anti-fat beliefs in a heartbeat.

Fat people who travel, fat people who are out and around town, being seen, having fun, enjoying life are subversives. We are supposed to be in our homes, afraid to leave or dress up or enjoy ourselves. We are supposed to lose weight and become "acceptable" before we go out. When we are out, we are supposed to be invisible. We are seen, but not heard. We are not seen.

I have been in fifteen states and three countries in the past year. Along the road I have talked about "The Ample Traveler" with many strangers. The truth is that people who are willing to talk to me when I am in public places are willing to listen for the most part. But there are many people who won't talk with me. They advert their eyes when I walk into a public place. They tell me that "no one" has ever complained about the furniture before as if I am a freak for asking for a comfortable place to sit after paying for whatever product they are selling. They "yes, ma'am" me and then proceed to change nothing. They are able to do this because they do not take the time or make the effort to see me.

The past year has left me with both hope and despair.

Thanks, Amy's Brain, for the heads up on your wonderful blog and for your great writing about fat acceptance.

BTW, check out some other writings from Amy's Brain about fat as well:

Praise Jesus for Houston

Stop the slicing and dicing