Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Back in the ring

I don't think anyone reads blog posts anymore, which may well be for the best. But the words needed out of my head, so here they are.

I've stepped back a bit from the body positivity/fat activism fight over the last few years. There are a few reasons, I suspect. Fatigue, imposter syndrome from being a smaller fat, and getting myself involved in a community that has barely started down the body diversity path. I've been trying to ignore the body shame, trying to pretend I'm not affected by this stuff, possibly trying to pass as a thin person (self delusion FTW!). But a few things over recent months have reminded me that I am indeed seen as fat (duh!), and that fat is always seen as less than.

Fat shaming is endemic in the burner community. It's a community well endowed with conventionally beautiful people, and a strong culture of self expression through clothing, which largely reinforces conventional beauty standards. It's not a nasty community though, so most of the fat shaming is framed as self deprecation. That doesn't help. Standing next to me in your size 8 dress telling me how awful it is that your belly got ever so slightly bigger over Christmas is much more of an attack on me than it is on you. If you're disgusted by that little bump, imagine how you'd feel being me? And I am a smallfat right now, so imagine how you feel about bigger bodies? The proportion of fat folks amongst burners is significantly lower than the general population, which is no surprise given how intensely becoming a part of this community has triggered a lot of my body image issues. You've got to be pretty bullet proof to withstand both the explicit and implicit body shame, and I am not that well armoured, despite my best efforts.

The close cousin of body shame, body pity, also deserves a shout out. In a lot of ways, I am judged a "Good Fat" - I exercise regularly and eat pretty well and have generally been blessed with good health (dicky ticker aside). Therefore I get a bit of sympathy for being stuck with this inferior body. I manage to (sometimes) avoid being blamed for my body, but it certainly isn't celebrated. If the world was fair, clearly I would have a body that conformed to society's ideal. What my body can do, how well it works, how effective its immune system is - none of that means a thing, because it's all packaged in the wrong shape. That adipose tissue around my middle and at the top of my thighs renders everything else about my body irrelevant.

And that "Good Fat" thing? It's utter bullshit. I exercise because I've done the cost benefit analysis, and what I get out of it is worth what I put into it (despite it failing to make me sufficiently palatable to the conventional gaze), not because of some moral fortitude. Those whose calculations come out otherwise are not morally inferior. My (mostly) good health is (mostly) good luck. Consistent exercise has improved my immune system, but there's a fair whack of good luck in that too. Health is not a moral issue.

I've been giving in to the shame and pity for a while now, but the anger is returning. I've always said that I'm too lazy to carry on being angry for very long, and that's probably part of why I stopped for a while. I don't know how long I'll be able to sustain this round of it. But right now, the world can go fuck itself with its narrow, boring beauty standards. I've watched them hurting people I love for long enough, and one of those people is me.

There's a bunch of my identities that society disparages to a greater or lesser degree - female, queer, poly, kinky - but fat is the one that's hardest to have pride in. Where's my fatty rainbow flag? Where's my banner to fight under? 'Cos I'm ready to start fighting again.