Many times I've heard fat cisgendered women, mainly fat white cisgendered women, suggest that fatphobia is the "last acceptable form of bigotry." For women without multiple oppressions, I suppose that statement could be correct. But for those who are living at the intersections of many marginalized identities, nothing could be further from the truth. I would point those who feel that fatphobia is the last acceptable form of prejudice to the nearest trans woman and suggest they have a chat about their lived experiences. Perhaps a conversation with a disabled woman? And with the current racial climate, any woman of color could help them understand why this myth is harmful. I understand why this idea is appealing to white cis women just coming in to the fat acceptance movement and realizing that fat people are oppressed in this society and it's good to fight that. It puts you at the center of everything, which is of course what nonfat white cis women have done with feminism in the past and sometimes in the present. Yes, fat jokes are rampant and you see little if any positive representations of fat people in the media. But the same can be said for trans people, or black people. Fat people also generally don't need to worry about being beaten or killed for being fat. Humiliated and shamed, yes. Pulled behind a truck or murdered due to "fat panic," not so much. We need to be careful when we compare oppressions. Because many times, they are not comparable. Now, I don't want to get into the "oppression olympics" as so many people call it, but honestly, we are all on different levels in the kyriarchy. Some people are going to get it worse than others, that's just how it goes. So if you're coming into your own, fighting fat oppression and becoming more politically aware, it behooves you to learn about other people's struggles as well—and avoid co-opting them. It doesn't mean you suffer any less because you recognize that hey, this disabled fat woman occupies a lower rung in the kyriarchy than I do, maybe I should learn about how she lives. It just means that you're recognizing the way oppressions interact in our society, which is a really good thing. We recognize the ignorance in a white person crying "reverse racism" and claiming that our President hates "white culture." So too should we recognize the ignorance in claiming that fat is the last acceptable form of bigotry. It's true, society sucks when it comes to dealing with size issues and fatphobia. The constant talk of the "obesity epidemic" and fat shaming and blaming fat people for all our health care costs is ignorant and misinformed. We can say all that and still know that if being fat and a cisgendered female is all you have to deal with, well, you can afford to let those further down in the kyriarchy have a chance to improve their lot instead of standing on their backs by using their oppression as a narrative to explain your own.
Size Matters: Bigotry's Last Stand?
Published on August 18, 2010 at 12:17pm