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.

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