I found this comic today on Paul Szep’s Twitter feed which was linked through another website. When I saw it I knew it was time to put on my big girl panties and write about something deeply personal. My weight.
I want to start off with a few disclaimers. I think humor is a perfectly acceptable way of pointing out issues within a society and I don’t think cartoons like this should be banned, limited or even boycotted. I also am not going to talk about fat people being the “last acceptable” targets of discrimination in America. I can marry whoever I want so, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t have it so bad. All that being said, this cartoon still bothers me. Not simply because these things hurt my feelings, it also bothers me because I think that it perpetuates a largely inaccurate stereotype.
There is the perception that being a lazy slob whose diet consists of large quantities of junk-food is the only way people get fat. And conversely that anyone who is thin is not lazy or eating junk, or at least not to the same degree. Sorry to burst your bubble but this simply isn’t true. Now, I’m not going to pretend that being overweight or thin is simply the luck of the draw or that my weight is something that just happened to me through no fault of my own. But I am here to tell you that I eat better than most people I know and I get up and exercise on a regular basis. Furthermore, I know people who are far thinner than me who can not say the same.
I freely admit that even though I do eat right and exercise I’ve also (obviously) made mistakes when it comes to food, namely using it as a coping mechanism during my struggle with depression. But I ask all of you; what are your coping mechanisms and how would you feel if you had to wear around the evidence of this poor choice every day? Do you drink when you’ve had a bad day? Shop? Zone out if front of the TV? Indulging in these things doesn’t make you a bad person or someone who deserves ridicule and disdain; neither does overeating. The thing is that if you drink, shop or watch mindless TV then the next day you might feel hungover, guilty or lethargic but other than that the incident is pretty much over. But if you overeat then the weight you gain is going to stick around much longer. This lasting evidence is the only thing that makes me different from anyone who’s ever used a less than healthy coping mechanism.
I’m sure there are some of you who are reading who still want to judge me and I guess I’ll have to be okay with that (I’m really not but hey, fake it till you make it.) But the next time you meet someone for the first time who looks like me try to reserve judgement, don’t make them prove their worth before taking their ideas seriously. And when you turn on the TV and see shows like The Biggest Loser shaming and ridiculing people for the crime of being overweight ask yourself; is this really “uplifting” and “inspirational”? Or is it just furthering a stereotype that fat people, more-so than others, must be saved from themselves through verbal abuse and dangerous extremism?
Again, I’m not saying that being overweight means I face the worst types of discrimination or even that it isn’t my own responsibility. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting when I see cartoons and other media images like the one above.