Why Won’t Those Pesky Fat Activists Shut Up And Let Me Enjoy My Exciting and Fun Weight Loss Hero Story In Peace?
I was fat. I had weight loss surgery. And then… I was still fat. I am fat. People generally don’t like it when you call yourself a fat black bitch, which is why I love to do it.
For those of you who follow me on twitter or listen to Bad Fat Broads, the information presented above isn’t new to you. For those of you that don’t do either of those things, yes — I had Lap Band surgery done in the year of our Rihanna, 2007. It worked (somewhat) for a (very) short period of time. I’m not going to go into the graphic details of how the (now defective) Lap Band has complicated my life and my already tumultuous relationship with food, as that’s not really what this is about. But if you’re curious, yes, I am pretty solidly against what can be a very dangerous category of surgery (bariatric) — not against a person’s choice to do it, but against it’s existence and presentation in media. I acknowledge my relative privilege as someone who is generally neither the darkest black person in a room or the fattest person on the size chart, because these things are important.
I mention this to say, “I get it.” Shit is hard. And because above all else, I believe in bodily autonomy, I would never ask a person to not do something to appease me, especially when I’ve already done it myself. And existing as a fat black woman in society can sometimes feel like living in a special circle of hell. And obviously, health and self-care (whatever either of those things mean to you, the individual) is paramount. So please believe that I understand why someone could arrive at this choice. I will never ever fault someone for doing what they feel like they need to do to survive. My concerns here, the same concerns I always have, are about the larger context choices are made and lived in. I also have concerns about the way we talk about and outright celebrate weight loss.
In the last few days, I’ve seen some truly astonishing intellectual gymnastics to avoid negatively discussing the coverage of Gabourey Sidibe’s choice to have weight loss surgery and more importantly, the subsequent reveal. I’ve seen people & media outlets (who never address fat activists otherwise) accuse fat activists of being unreasonable and expecting strangers to make choices for them (wildly inaccurate). I will agree with the requests I’ve seen made of fat white women/femmes/people that are read as women to talk a little less about this, but I don’t discount that input entirely. I’ve seen people suggest that any critique of diet culture or unchallenged narratives about weight loss surgery is trying to silence black women (?). I saw someone ask why we didn’t do the same thing to Mama June (tip: this one isn’t racism, it’s because no one gives a shit). I’ve seen people suggest that there is no loss or lack of meaningful representation for fat people in America (girl, what?). I’ve seen people run with the idea that weight loss surgery can cure diabetes (…ok). I’ve seen weight loss surgery compared to abortions and gender reassignment surgery (don’t do this). I’ve seen a lot. And most of it seems to not leave a lot of space for individuals feeling less than great about what underlying messages are being communicated here.
I understand and respect that people can choose not to represent anyone but themselves, so I’m wanting to shift the conversation off of one individual and more to the bigger picture.
I’m tired of seeing every public figure who isn’t thin eventually lose weight (this part is disappointing, but none of my business) and then go on a press tour that involves usually some sentiments of “I wasn’t really living before”/”I was miserable”/”I wasn’t taking care of myself before”/”If you don’t support me through my weight loss, you’re just as bad as the fat shamers”/and so on (here is where my real beef lies). This tedious “less fat/ex-fat” tour is then usually followed by an uptick in the amount of visibility, coverage, better clothing and better styling or more plus size fashion opportunities. What kind of message does that send? What does it say that those who are willing/able to play that role, even unintentionally, get to reap material benefits for doing so? Why aren’t we allowed to point this out?
I’m disheartened by the number of people I see sharing those gorgeous photos from Nylon and People without any consideration of the larger context. Was she not worthy of a (better) magazine cover or better styling before the weight drop? Time and time again we receive the message that if you’re willing to concede (EVEN IF IT IS A FREE WILL “CHOICE”) to what society and media says you should be doing with your fat body, you will be rewarded. Why are those of us who are feeling a little inadequate as a result of seeing this pattern time and time again discouraged from talking about it? Why does taking care of yourself have to involve discussions that actively contribute to attitudes that harm others?
Everything is political. When we talk about bodies in culture, it’s never in a vacuum. We’re not at that place. We never may be. I’m sorry that some of you resent the fact that you’ve been drafted into a war that you didn’t sign up for, simply by virtue of existing in your body. I really don’t understand other fat people attempting to police this conversation — you do know that sidling up to oppression and parroting its rhetoric won’t save you, right? But here we are.
My belief in bodily autonomy suggests that yes, you can do whatever you want with your body. My belief in fat acceptance suggests that I want the playing field to be level for all bodies to be treated equally regardless of what choice they make.
I don’t have a proper ending for this. I suppose that works. As long as people keep talking about their transformations and journeys for press and profit, I guess I’ll have something to say.
TL;DR VERSION: I AM TIRED OF WEIGHT LOSS BEING A THING TO CELEBRATE. SOMEONE JUST STAY FAT, MAYBE GET FATTER AND BE AWESOME. LET ME HAVE SOMEONE THAT LOOKS LIKE ME BE CELEBRATED JUST AS THEY ARE. I DON’T NEED AN UPDATED IMAGE REVEAL. JUST DROP YOUR POUNDS AND SHHHHHH.
P.S. Picture a video game called No More Fat Heroes where you battle your way to the top of the list by pushing other people aside.
ETA: I find it really weird that most of the people on team “don’t make me your role model/my body isn’t political” are all too happy to cash in on this type of talk about their bodies.