Thin people erroneously believe they have greater authority to speak about our bodies than we do.

It’s a characteristic I noticed first in white people’s defensiveness over what counts as racism — the “that’s not racism” and “I am not a racist” disclaimers put out by white people who’ve been called out for racist statements.

White people deny people of color the authority to speak about their experiences with racism AS racism. Without saying so directly, they essentially imply that white people have the greater authority to decide what racism is and how one should feel about it.

I see a structural similarity here: only thin people get to decide what’s inappropriate and hurtful in their talk about/to fat people. When a fat person expresses their discomfort [as in the scenes above] with certain talk, they supposedly aren’t seeing reality. Thin people, in contrast, see that the talk is intended to help, not hurt. Therefore fat people shouldn’t be hurt by it. That pain is caused by misinterpretation.

It’s structurally similar to telling a black person that if they’d just temper their language and be “more polite” around white people, white people would like them better. As if black people cause the racism white people express.

At 5'5" and 225 lbs, I am definitely fat. Fortunately my doc is a “big woman” [both in height and girth — as well as heart] and she NEVER lectures me about it. She knows I’ve already heard it all & saying it again won’t help me one iota.

I have to admit I’m a bit judgy in THOUGHT toward a fatter friend of mine who ended up nearly dying in the midst of a quadruple bypass. I see her doing very little to help herself — not just having healthier habits, but regarding her entire life. I know it’s depression. I also deal w/depression. I know food is one of the few pleasures I have in my life & of course in hers also.

But I have never said a word about her weight or her eating habits, just as she’s never said a word about mine. We know such talk is NEVER helpful. Our issues with food aren’t about calories in/calories out, but rather about the symbolic meanings of food, our feelings associated with food and its consumption, and traumatic pasts where we intentionally got fat to make ourselves unattractive to men, specifically dads. [When I was 11 I didn’t bathe for a whole month hoping that would deter my abuser!]

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Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.