Gaslighting Fat People

I was explaining to a friend and coworker how I experience fatphobia. I can tell when people have cast me aside because of my weight, I said. I can tell when people have judged me immediately based on my fatness.

You don’t know that, she said. I get judged too, she said.

I had to take a deep breath. I’m used to many people disagreeing with my politics, especially surrounding fat body politics, but it still gets frustrating sometimes, especially when the topic is so personal.

Let me start with the obligatory disclaimer meant to include thin people in this discussion. Of course everyone, fat or thin, gets judged based on their appearance. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about that disdain that fat people learn to spot quickly. I’m talking about that sense of superiority a lot of thin people have when they are interacting with a fat person. It’s that feeling we get when we can hear the disgust between each word they speak to us. It’s microaggression, and fat people learn to spot it as a mechanism to survive our daily lives.

But are you sure it isn’t just in your head? Those comments from well meaning thin friends, family and acquaintances are met with dead stares and an reflexive sigh.

I used to think it was all in my head. I used to think I was just so sensitive and anxious that I was projecting my insecurities onto those I interacted with every day. And I was confused when there were some people that I didn’t feel that way around. Why was I projecting that fear onto some people and not others? I thought it all had to do with my own social anxieties.

Then I realized that this line of reasoning was all bullshit.

There’s a specific type of person that is most likely to engage in fatphobic microaggressions. They are the twenty-something, cisgender, middle class, white person. The women refer to themselves as fit — not thin (there’s apparently a huge difference). The men are preoccupied with lifting weights and eating enough protein. They judge fat people instantly.

They have taken on fitness and “health” as a part of their identity so when they see a fat person, they are conditioned to believe that this person just isn’t trying hard enough to change their body. The fat person in front of them becomes an affront to their deeply held worldviews. The fat person is offensive to them. And as much as they try to hide it — and some are better than others at hiding it — the offense seeps into that interaction and it is, at the very least, uncomfortable. At the very worst, unsafe.

These microaggressions are real. Microaggressions and unpleasant interactions are part of life; there’s no doubt about it. What fat people don’t need is to be told that they aren’t experiencing them. We’re painfully aware how the world see us.