Thursday, November 17, 2011

Persecution versus Paranoia

I firmly believe in trying to be as tactful and considerate in my dealings with others as I can.  There are times when that tact is at the end of a verbal blunt instrument, as I do not believe that being tactful means not telling the truth, but overall I try to make an effort to put things in as polite a manner as possible.  I believe that manners define civilization, and I don't mean the superficial manners that people use to hide negatives, but real and honest manners.

That said, I understand that there are those out there who do not live by this rule.  Some believe that honesty and bluntness to the point of rudeness are the same thing (a theory that I do not ascribe to), some just open their mouths without stopping to think about what they are saying regardless of how it may make others feel, and yet another group deliberately says things that are hurtful in order to project their own pain and shortcomings onto others so that they can have one small moment of superiority to salve their wounded self-esteem.

I think that it is important to those of us who are trying to change the world's perceptions regarding fat and fat people to be very careful when we are reading / hearing the things being said around us.  It is very easy to read a quote by someone and immediately assign motives to it without those motives being there.  Everyone does that to some extent, I am certainly no saint and have been known to get upset about something only to find, to my embarassment, that I was completely mistaken about what just happened and that I inadvertantly applied my own faults to someone else.

"But Lys, what brought this on?  Because this isn't your usual blog about living as a Fat Superhero!"

I thought that you would never ask!

Recently Miley Cyrus has come under fire on Twitter and other places for "getting fat".  Now remember that Hollywood Fat and Regular People Fat are two different things, but still, the point is that people have been judging her harshly for her body size.  She, being a shy and retiring type like me (Hey! Stop laughing!) shot right back at them by posting a photo of a very emaciated young woman and the words,  “By calling girls like me fat, this is what you’re doing to other people.”

I can't tell you what she was thinking, because I don't happen to know Ms. Cyrus, but if I had to guess, I would think that she was saying that people who bludgeon others about their body shape are people who contribute to the rising number of young people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.  I applaud her for throwing that out there and not giving in to those who feel that just because a person is a celebrity, anyone has the right to tell them that their body shape is wrong.  (My feelings on how people have this odd belief that they OWN celebrities body and soul will have to be discussed another time.)

What dismayed me was the reaction in the Fatosphere.  There were many who took what she said and twisted it in their own minds.  Suddenly, instead of being a young woman telling people that it is no one's business what decisions she makes regarding the care of her body, it became a famous person saying that it's not all right to call slender people fat, but it's quite all right to call fat people fat.  *blink blink*  Um.  Okay.  I'm not really sure how THAT leap of logic happened.  And it really bothered me that I saw this knee-jerk reaction in more than one place.

If we want to change the world, if we want the world to respect us and our viewpoint, then by whatever you believe in (no religious debate here, please!), we HAVE to show that same kind of respect!  We absolutely HAVE to know the difference between Persecution and Paranoia.  When someone comes out with a statement such as the one made by Ms. Cyrus, it is absolutely imperative that we take it at face value rather than ascribing hidden motives to it.  Statements such as hers should be used to bolster our position, because what she said is true when you look at it without assuming anything about her motives.  We should embrace statements such as this, and the people who make them, because the more people who are saying it the better the chance that it will actually become the mindset of the public as a whole.

I believe that one of the worst things that those who support Health at Every Size and equal rights for Fat Superheroes can do is to turn potential allies against us by putting words in their mouths.  We cannot assume persecution where there is not any to be seen.  That is paranoia, and it is unhealthy for us as individuals and as a movement.  Believe me, there is more than enough true persecution out there without us feeling the need to turn benign statements into persecution through our own paranoia.  Really, this can be applied to any sensitive subject.  There is a reason that people get tired of political correctness, and that reason is that some people take it way too far.  I know that common sense has become a very uncommon thing, but that is what needs to be applied.

So whenever you see a statement that seems to carry a double meaning, before you jump to the conclusion that the person it originated with meant it to be insulting, please take a moment and think.  Give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, because what goes around comes around, and if enough people start giving the benefit of the doubt, then the next time you or I finds ourselves in a situation where we might like a little ketchup to help the taste of that foot that's in our mouth maybe someone will give us the benefit of the doubt as well.  It doesn't hurt anyone, and instead it may end up helping us all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Even the surefooted stumble once in a while

I try to be a confident person when it comes to my belief in Health at Every Size.  I have taken a long time to get to this point, and generally I believe that I have built a very solid foundation that I can use to help change the world (even if only a little at a time).  But every day is still a struggle in some ways, a fight against old habits, old thoughts, and the pressure from society in general to fall into line with the generally accepted way of looking at weight.

When my knees and ankles hurt, when I find myself getting tired, I have to really work not to fall back into the old ways of thinking.  I'm still working on that part of things, you see.  I KNOW with my head that it isn't my weight that is the problem, it is my health, and that they are two different things.  I KNOW with my head that I need to find some way of moving in order to strengthen the muscles and framework that holds them.  If I end up losing weight because of that movement, well, then I will love the version of me that exists in that moment as much as I love the version of me that exists right now.

But in the back of my head, that insidious little whisper still hides in its dark corner, coming out at irregular intervals.  It mutters to me that I hurt because I'm fat, not because my joints are weak and arthritis is slowly eating away at my system.  It tries to brush aside the knowledge that I likely would have arthritis even if I were in the ideal portion of the BMI range, and scoffs quietly, stating that the reason I hurt is that I'm fat and lazy and have no will power.

I fight that dark little whisper more often than I should have to, more often than ANYONE should have to fight.  When I think of it, I think of the scene in "The Ten Commandments" when the Angel of Death is coming to take the eldest child of every house except for the ones with the marks on the doors.  That fog, twisting and squirming its way through the city, looking alive and sinister as it moves, and the sense of dread that accompanies it.  That is what the dark little whisper in my mind is like.  It slips through the tiniest crack, oozes over the crannies of my mind, finding weaknesses and using them to gain entry into my thoughts. 

I know that this blog generally focuses on the positive.  I like to urge others to join myself and those fighting to get our voices heard against the overwhelming static being sent out by The Weight Loss Industry and their paid researchers.  So right now, today's entry may seem like a black spot of negativity in the midst of the bright positivity that I try to normally promote, but isn't.

EVERYONE who is fighting the battle of learning to love their bodies goes through this.  EVERYONE.  It may take different forms, you may find yourself saying things differently than I do, or you may picture your dark little voice differently, but I can tell you that the voice is there for everyone.  I hope that it can be vanquished forever, and that spot of darkness can be banished by the light eventually, but I will be honest and tell you that I think it will remain there for my whole life, no matter how hidden it remains. 

It is my hope to be part of a change, a change that means future generations of people grow up without ever hearing a dark whisper like mine.  I write these blog entries and speak up about H@ES and the mindset that goes with it so that children have a chance to live their lives without ever fighting the battle against their own head, so that they don't have to struggle for over forty years just to learn to love themselves.  No one should hate themselves for that long, and the companies who encourage that self-hatred just so that they can make a profit should be ashamed of themselves.

So yes, my children, I have my weak moments.  I have times when I wonder what life would have been like if I had been slender instead of fat.  I cry now and then, because for every two steps that we take forward in learning to appreciate people for themselves, fully and completely, rather than trying to change them to fit some kind of mythical ideal, we take one step backwards by allowing The Weight Loss Industry to dictate our political policies, our health system, and our minds.  I live with the dichotomy of learning to love myself while remembering how much I have hated myself.  I live with the hope that I will see the first generation to grow up without that self-hatred, and I live with the fear that it will never happen in my lifetime.

Even the surefooted stumble once in a while, and this is how I stumble.  All that I can do when I take that fall, though, is to get back up and brush myself off then keep moving forward.  It would be easier to just stay there, to give up and give in, to just say, "You're right.  I'm fat because I'm weak-willed and worthless.  Do with me as you will.  Starve me, shame me, browbeat me.  I give up." but I can't.  I just can't.  I am NOT weak-willed, I am NOT worthless.  I will climb to my feet, rise onto my aching, arthritic legs and take the next step forward.  I do it for myself, because I'm worth it, and I do it for those to come, because they are worth it too. 

Even if you stumble, get up again.  Continue to fight against anyone or anything who tries to tell you that you aren't worth it.  Even if that person is yourself.  You are worth it.  We are all worth it.