Fat talk: Have you considered that what you say about your body could hurt others – Health

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It’s not often that a trending story about a fat person doesn’t leave me feeling worse about the state of the world.

So you can imagine my surprise when earlier in the year, there was a public outcry in defence of fat people.

It came after Mamamia boss Mia Freedman revealed private requests made on behalf of author Roxane Gay, who was in Australia to promote Hunger, a book about Gay’s life and identity as a fat woman.

It wasn’t just that Freedman disclosed these requests, but that she did so in a tone-deaf and fatphobic manner.

Her treatment of Gay was atrocious, and the outcry against Freedman was widespread and swift.

As a fat woman in Australia, I was genuinely surprised that so many people came out in defence of a fat person, because in my experience that simply never happens.

I was also astonished that so many people were taken aback at Gay’s treatment, seemingly unaware that fat people face this kind of dehumanising and awful behaviour every single day.

Taking up space

For the crime of simply existing in my body, going about my day, moving through the world, and taking up space, I encounter revulsion, discrimination, hatred, and abuse.

But at some point, I realised it doesn’t matter how conscientious I am or how much effort I put in, people will dismiss me, judge me, and hate me anyway.

There is no way I can act that will appease the people on the internet who wish death upon fat people, or the man who flicked a cigarette at me and called me a “fat bitch” as I simply walked down a Sydney street.

These people are not alone in the hatred for all things fat; they are simply more overt.

What is your experience with fat talk? We’re keen to continue the conversation. Email us at ladies@abc.net.au

A moral failing

We’re all taught that fat is wrong, a moral failing. Women especially are taught that being fat is the worst thing you can be in life.

These lessons, they start when we’re young. They happen everywhere and can involve anyone.

If you’re not sure what I mean, let me share with you some scenes from my life.

I recently discussed these with Yumi Stynes and Ally Garrett in the ABC podcast Ladies, We Need To Talk.

‘I think you’ve had enough of those; you don’t want to grow up and be fat like your aunty!’

My aunt said this to me when I was seven. I wasn’t fat yet. We were at family Christmas lunch.

My brother had just grabbed a handful of jelly snakes from the bowl, and I was choosing my favourites.

Her comments made me feel like I had done something wrong, but I couldn’t quite understand what it was.

Maybe she was trying to warn me, or even save me, but all she did was help set me up to feel bad about food, and wrong in my body.

That’s the through line with this sort of thing, whether it’s about yourself or someone else — it’s not going to make someone stay thin, or get thin.

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