When I shared my thoughts on the Crunk Feminist Collective’s “Dating While Fat and Feminist” post, I didn’t expect the firestorm it caused. I don’t know why… I just didn’t. Talking about the fact that there are people in society who think that way is one of those nasty realities that generally results in crickets from the peanut gallery. For one reason or another, people don’t really like to jump into those kinds of convos, and I understand that.
Weight is a messy topic. It just… is. I write about it the way that I do because when I write, I’m blogging to myself. I don’t “fear” regressing back into my old habits, but writing about these topics helps me reinforce the fact that I not only understand this, but I have a record of my understanding to help me regroup should I need a “refresher.” There’s only been one time that I’ve written a post and regretted it, because I didn’t write it the way I’d want someone to have said it to me.
There’s a weird dichotomy going on, here, though. People often struggle to not say what their “real” thoughts are about overweight people, but the things they actually do say often still lack compassion. It’s not a matter of “babying” someone, but it is a matter of being mindful of their feelings. People generally don’t use compassion or sensitivity when dealing with overweight people – how many of us have stories of being told we’re going to be some variation of “big as a house” for eating something? – because they think that’s going to help compel us to lose weight. That’s not to say that it’d be better to dangle the metaphorical carrot in someone’s face – “Don’t you want to get a man, girl? Lose that weight! Come on! Hup! Two! Three! Four!” – but that is to say that the appropriate conversations aren’t being had.
There are, however, a few things I’d noticed in all of the comments I’ve received on that post thus far:
1) People feel some kinda way about the prejudices they hold against overweight people… and they should. If I see an overweight person in the gym, they could’ve just started their journey today or three months or three years ago. They could’ve lost one pound or one hundred eleven pounds thus far. If I look at you today and see an overweight person, what you look like today says nothing of your ability to “control yourself,” especially if you being 260lbs today means you are happy because you’ve lost 65lbs thus far and intend to keep going.
The number of people in those comments protesting my comment about “not wanting to date a fat person” was bizarre to me, because you could’ve looked at me one day and saw a 230lb brick house who had impeccable control… impeccable control that dropped me down 100lbs from that point. In short, judging my 230lb frame can’t tell you anything about how far along I am on my journey, or whether or not I’m even on a journey. You’d need to – gasp – get to know me to learn otherwise. You should feel some kind of way about the fact that your pre-conceived notions prevent you from that.
And, to make it clear, if you think that means I feel some kind of way about the fact that people judge me, I don’t. People judge me every day. I’m also not hurting for friends.
2) If you’ve been overweight your entire post-adolescent life, you have no idea just how prejudiced people are towards you. You’d never think that your weight being considered so unsightly would change the kind of service you receive at a restaurant, but it does. You’d never think your weight would play a role in how people treat you at the gym, but it can. (You’d never think that’s the reason why you’re encouraged to spend so much time in the cardio section instead of the weights, either, but it’s highly likely that it plays a role.) You’d never think those soft snickers are due to someone having the balls to crack jokes about you within faint earshot but not having balls big enough to say it loud enough to get stomped out for it. There are lots of things that our minds black out, choose to not focus on or simply allow us to ignore because focusing on it would be too painful. It’s the same kind of pain that leads to the desperation people feel in wanting to lose weight so badly that they take the eating disorder route. (Want to know why there are so many stories about the increased prevalence of eating disorders in Black women? Start here.)
3) People like to act like we all haven’t seen at least ONE episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Stop playing.
Aside from the fact that I don’t write about overweight men because I’ve never been one, let’s stop fronting like overweight men aren’t out here winning in the media every single day. Biggie was stealing your girl and offering her cheap juice and scrambled eggs, while your fit ass was turning around to order a bottle of cab at the club. Uncle Phil had a dream house, the ill job (and paycheck) and a beautiful wife with a great figure after having three children.
Homer Simpson got fired, rehired, blew his last money at a dog race and brought home a mutt instead of a paycheck on Christmas, almost cheated on Marge several times, is of questionable intelligence and hygiene… and still has a wife that is decidedly slimmer than the other women in her neighborhood – compare Marge to, say, Mrs. Lovejoy. I’ll wait – who still loves him unconditionally and has a great figure after three children. Should she? Of course. She’s his wife. Find me a TV wife who can say the same about her husband.
Family Guy. Another bumbling idiot who still manages to have a “gorgeous” wife with a great figure after three children.
According To Jim. The George Lopez Show. King of Queens. C’mon, man.
Are women out here being society’s definition of unattractive and still “winning” like this?
So, no, fat men don’t need to be discussed here. The media has y’all covered.
4) People genuinely underestimate the meaning of the phrase “lifestyle change.” That means, yes, who you date will be affected by and changed by your efforts to make fitness a part of your life forever. Are you going to bust your ass to lose 50lbs, only to date and marry a man who whines about how much time you spend working out? Or are you going to accept that you need to include “likes to work out” or “enjoys being active and adventurous” on your list of priorities? Here’s a secret: most people don’t have a problem with being more active especially if it means these are your dates. Most people have simply never committed to being more active on a regular basis and would welcome and meet the challenge of keeping up with a more active partner. My fiancé isn’t The Rock, but he doesn’t bristle at the thought of packing up the dogs and the jogging stroller and setting out for a few miles on his day off, and our idea of a “date night” is… the gym. This brings me to my next point…
5) People genuinely get a kick out of oversimplifying weight and weight loss. If you put weight on, it’s because you’re a slacker/a lazy bum/an emotional wreck. There are well over 1,000 posts on this blog. They’re certainly not all about “eat less; move more.” Weight, our bodies, our minds, our lives… they’re far more complex than a four-word edict that is touted as the end all be all to our body woes.
6) People lie to critique other people’s reasons for doing things… myself included. I had to think long and hard about Crunk’s post because, to be honest, I was taken aback by it. Of all the reasons to want to lose weight, why that one? But the reality is, we’re all compelled to lose weight for any number of reasons, and no one is in anyone else’s shoes 24 hours of the day, 7 days of the week. I remember all those nights I wound up wasted at the club because I spent the night hugging the bar instead of being asked to dance. It’s a big part of the reason I eventually just stopped going to the club – my ego as well as both my wallet and my liver were taking a beating.
Maybe that’s the thing that brings you to your “come to fitness” moment. Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t be the kind of couture-touting diva that you fantasize about unless you get down to a good size 8. Maybe you hate that you can’t walk down – not up, down – a few stairs without feeling winded.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that judging what brings people to their “come to fitness moment” isn’t fruitful. All you can hope for is that they do what they’re doing in a way that promotes both mental and physical health, hope it brings them happiness and hope that they experience success from their efforts.
Lastly. And this is, quite possibly, the most frustrating of them all.
7) People like to sweep under the rug the fact that these generalizations exist about overweight people… while still benefiting from the fact that they exist.
I find that mad disingenuous. I didn’t attack the reality that people have preferences. I attacked the fact that society has prejudices and they influence what we find attractive, desirable and acceptable. Taken from a comment I left on the post:
What if I brought up the salary gap in white collar companies between the thin and the not-thin? What if Crunk was saying that she believed her income was being adversely affected by her weight, so she was going to lose? We’d all be like “Hey, do what you’ve got to do to get that money, but damn if it doesn’t suck that this is the reason why you have to do it.” THEN, this blog post would be all about the things you learn about how people’s perceptions of the overweight affect the salary they offer them, or whether or not they’re offered a salary at all…and if you DO lose weight and find out just how much money you were missing out on, you might be so crushed that you decide to work someplace else, instead. This isn’t a man-hating diatribe. This is “Hey girl, hey…this is how it is and you might not’ve known that before, but understand that your weight may matter far more to others than it does for you… and, even if you DO change it, it might not yield the desired results.”
My weight today tells you just as little about my ability to control myself (you don’t know whether my weight is coming up or down) as it does about my ability to do my white collar job. Appearances matter…and they apparently matter less for the men than they do the women. That’s why this is a feminist issue.
And, on that note, I have a date with my yoga mat.