Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Precious: Fat Shame in it's Prime

Fat politics have kinda become my thing recently. As a bad that just so happens to be fat, it has been interesting to think about the ways in which weight and body image intersect with other social issues and the experiences of discrimination/oppression that results.

And then, as if reading my mind, here comes Precious. For those of you who may have recently fallen under a rock (as I sometimes do. I haven't checked the YBF in a while) and don't know, Precious is a newly released movie based on the AWESOME novel Push by Sapphire. Precious, the main character of the story, is a 16 year old black girl dealing with motherhood, incest (her 2 children, one with Down syndrome, are by her father), illiteracy, and a physically and emotionally abusive mother. And as if all of this is not enough, she's fat. Although I haven't seen the movie yet (my school is in the stick so it's theatres weren't one of those selected to play the feature), I haven't been spared from attitudes about Precious, the person.

Instead of hearing about the plight and/or celebration of black girls or their struggles/resiliency, themes central to the story, I've heard only about how fat (and let's not forget ugly because of her dark skin) Precious is. She has become the representation of all things unattractive and unworthy. I've been subjected to every fat joke in the book at some point in my life, but the emergence of Precious made me realize that it was time to address the underlying meaning of fat hate rhetoric.

From what I've heard thus far Precious, and therefore myself by extension, is not worthy of companionship, love, a spot on the big screen, the right to call herself a bad bitch, or happiness. When people say things like "What's fucked up is that somebody out there is going to try to hit that now" or "Did they have to make her look like that?" it becomes very clear that the way we think about body image has become more than personal preference and self esteem. It has become a way to shame, devalue, dehumanize, and demonize people. It is very disturbing to insinuate that someone doesn't deserve to connect with another person, or that the person willing to establish that connection is wrong. It's just cruel. And in typical capitalist, I mean American procedure, we have created a multi billion dollar industry by shaming an entire group of people. The weight loss industry is the only one that surpasses porn. Think about this, Americans would rather support fat hate than sex! It's quite disgusting.

In an attempt to address this very serious issue, I posted this note to my facebook page and would like to share it with all you Bad Bitches and supporters, too. Enjoy.

Sesali Tackles Myths About Big Girls

Myth #1- I am always hungry/eating.
Quite simply put, this is NOT the case. I have an appetite that isn't any larger or smaller than any other person. In fact, sometimes I LOSE my appetite, like all other normal people. (SHOCKING right? lol) In fact I would like to acknowledge my sister on this point. She in fact IS always hungry, and weighs about 130 lbs soaking wet. (And I think I just gave her some extra booty with that statement). So when people make comments like, "It seems like you don't miss too many meals" or "You don't need any {insert food of choice}" not only is it ignorant and rude to make statements like that, it really is just a low blow rooted in stereotype and ignorance because that's rarely the case.

Myth #2- I have low self esteem.
While some big girls may have low self esteem (and for very good reasons considering we live in a society that tells them on a daily basis that they aint shit) there are some that don't (I know, SHOCKING). I have even met people that have taken it a step further to not only assume this but to imply that big girls that DON'T have low self esteem SHOULD. For example, all the people that tell me I have no right to think I'm a bad bitch. (Which I am lol)

Myth #3- I have uber high self esteem.
I have hang ups about my body and myself like every other person does. EVEN BEYONCE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD and we ALL know she PERFECT LOL!!! I think this assumption also makes people think that fat jokes that aren't directed towards me are therefore not offensive. They are, because essentially I understand that I am a part of that group. Which leads me to my next myth.

Myth #4- It's ok to call me "Big Ses" or anything else with BIG in front of it
FIRST AND FOREMOST you shouldn't call people anything other than their name or what they were introduced as without their permission. Also, I don't go around calling people "Lame Larry" or "Dirty Darius" (well except for my friend Darius but only because he calls me Smelly Sesali LOL) but you catch my drift. Just don't do it. Because it offends me, and NOT because I have low self esteem!( See Myth #2)

Myth #5-" You pretty for a big girl" is a compliment...
It's not. Nor is pretty for a dark skinned girl, etc. If I'm pretty just tell me that. No need for disclaimers. And that statement implies that big aren't usually pretty/attractive which, if I must say so myself, is once again NOT THE CASE. And statements like that are actually more offensive than complimentary or anything else.

Myth #6- No one is attracted to me
In DC this summer this guy (who was EXTRA wack and pesty and disrespectful) tried to talk to one of my friends, when she refused and we laughed he got embarrassed and singled me out for a verbal attack saying that I had no right to laugh because I "couldn't get a man if i wanted to". Well, I can get a man (and a woman), I've had several. In fact, unlike many of my skinny friends, I've never even been technically cheated on, and until last year was in an 8 year relationship, not many people can say they've done that. Especially when the divorce rate is 50% in our country.

Myth #7- Being attracted to me is doing me a favor.
A perfect example is men who feel that they have to announce at every opportunity how much just LOVE big girls as if they are doing some type of charity work that not many other people are willing to do. I hate to get all Beyonce-ish but "YOU GOT ME TWISTED. You must not know bout me"... you know the rest. Enough said. If you need more clarification see Myth #6. Or in another more disrespectful example, I was reading an article in an anthology about sexual assault and one "fat" blogger described her experiences. One comment she received said "You should feel lucky that someone found you fuckable"...

Myth #8- I am loud and aggressive. (thanks Aris lol)
Well actually I AM loud and aggressive lmao. BUT not because I'm big, I'm loud because my hearing isn't the best and I grew up around other black girls and women who expressed themselves... well, loudly lol. And not ALL big girls are loud and aggressive. My other sister is probably one of the most reserved and quiet people you will ever meet and we wear the same size.

Myth #9-I am invincible.
Not too long ago, I was sexually assaulted. Of course the person that did it denied it and began discussing my "lie" with other people. His friends supported him with the argument that he could not have possibly done anything to me against my will because "look how big she is"...
Well I get afraid and vulnerable like everyone else (as I was that night) and I am not immune to random and/or premeditated acts of violence/disrespect, like EVERY OTHER PERSON.

Myth #10- Losing weight is/should be my only priority in life.
Can't count how many times I've been told to "go on a diet" or workout from both friends and foes. And honestly, I have to ask. Has anyone ever thought that maybe I was genuinely satisfied with the way I looked and didn't want to change?? I am an advocate for health and well being, but then, who has seen a copy of my medical records?? Well let me tell you a little secret, I AM HEALTHY. (I know, SHOCKED again) In fact healthier than most, naturally as I age weight will have a different affect on my body and my health can subsequently decline or improve, but as it stands today I'm healthy. But even if I wasn't the decision to alter my body is ultimately mine and mine only and when I ask for outside opinions is when they are welcome!

I said all of this to say that I am a HUMAN BEING like everyone else. I look for love (sometimes in the wrong places lol) and happiness, I am not perfect but I am not so flawed that I do not deserve those things. I like to be treated with respect and just want to live comfortably like everyone else.

If you want to continue this convo feel free to comment and if you are interested in more info about "fat" politics you should check out shapelyprose.com

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