Friday, October 18, 2013

The Oppression Olympics

Being fat in modern America is hard, there's no doubt about it.  Complete strangers take it on themselves to judge, to give unasked for advice, and to even do things like throw things out of their car windows at you and shout insults when you are out taking a walk.  There are people who try to raise their voices and spread the message that this behaviour is wrong, and who try to make the point that no one has the right to judge someone else based on appearance.  Sometimes, however, these people who are trying to make the world better get so caught up in their own fight, that they forget about the many other fights that are happening at the same time.  They even forget that it cuts both ways, and if you say that someone shouldn't judge you for being fat, you shouldn't judge them for being thin.

They forget and say something thoughtless ("Eat a sammich!" immediately comes to mind).  The thin person, and others like them, then get (rightfully) angry over being judged, and they launch a counterattack.

The next thing you know, we've gotten all of the other groups involved.  Women and men arguing over sexism from both sides, LGBT's and straights shouting about the definition of love, people of varying skin tones and ethnic backgrounds each trying to one-up the next on the horrible things done to their people over the eons of recorded history, and so on.  This doesn't even scratch the surface of all of the groups out there who feel that they have an axe to grind.  It doesn't make a judgment on whether they are right or wrong.  What it DOES do, however, is become The Oppression Olympics.

It is so easy to believe that our own causes are the most important ones in the world, because to us they ARE the most important causes.  But it is imperative that we do not forget that other causes are equally as important to other people, and the fact that we are fighting for our cause does NOT diminish other causes or their validity.  My desire for the world to stop assuming that people who look like I do are something that should be eliminated and made war on does not negate the desire of a person who is recovering from anorexia to not have people tell her to "put some meat on your bones".  It does not negate the fact that a black man wearing a hoodie can't walk in certain neighborhoods without the police being called.  It does not negate the right of a female cosplayer to feel safe at a convention.  It does not negate the right of my friend, Matthew, to marry the man he loves.

None of the causes eclipses the other.  Acknowledging them does not mean that I have to renounce my own cause.

I firmly believe that one of the greatest problems keeping the wonderful diversity of humanity from coming to full fruition of its potential is because so much time and energy is spent by the representatives of all these causes in fighting one another rather than putting that energy to good use and working together to spread the simple message that we ALL have the potential for greatness, whether we are fat, skinny, black, white, red, yellow, or purple with pink spots.  We ALL have the potential to achieve humanity's peak together, whether we are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, geeks, jocks, nerds, male, female, hermaphroditic, or asexual.

I have my own causes.  They are things that I believe are worth fighting for, and that I spend time and effort on because they are important to me.  They are probably different from your causes, though some may overlap.  I do my causes no good when I dismiss or try to one-up other causes, saying things like, "Yes, well that is bad, but it is WORSE for fat people because...".  No, it isn't worse.  It is different.  It isn't worse to have someone remove something from a fat person's grocery cart while telling them that they don't need it than it is to have someone walk up to a thin person with a loaded plate and tell them to eat the whole thing because they're too skinny.  Neither of those is worse.  Neither of those should be tolerated.

We aren't in The Oppression Olympics.  It is not our place to prove to other people who are fighting their own battles why OUR battle is more important.  What we need to be doing is banding together, sharing strategies, and supporting one another in our fights.  Because while I am just plain unable to devote equal amounts of time and effort to every cause out there, I CAN fight my own fights and offer encouragement to others who are fighting their own fights.  I can pass along opportunities for them to take advantage of, and information they may not have seen.  I can work to form support networks and alliances with other activists, because while our individual focus is independent of one another, our power when our voices are joined is immeasureable.

In order for us to achieve that power, though, we have to STOP fighting one another. We all have to stop trying to compete in The Oppression Olympics and start cheerleading one another.

After all, if we don't understand what it is like, then who will?

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