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everything is wrong with fat shaming

Recently I read Lesley Kinzel’s article over at XoJane magazine – What’s wrong with fat shaming. I related to most of the points and instances she brought up, but one in particular stood out to me.

4. I am out dancing at a club with friends. I notice a small group of guys at the bar staring at us and laughing. Eventually one of them comes over and starts trying to dance behind me, rubbing against my ass, while his friends laugh uproariously. When I turn around and tell him to back off, he laughs in my face and says, “Nah, girl, I’d totally fuck you if I thought I could find your pussy in all that blubber!”

These dudes have collaborated to make me feel shamed and unwelcome, and to remind me that it is not OK for fat chicks to dance in a club, because dancing’s only conceivable point is to attract men, and obviously the idea that a fatty like me might attract a man is positively laughable.

I remember a school dance back in grade eight or nine. I had bought a new outfit. It was a navy blue button up shirt and a red pencil skirt with slits up the sides (it was the late 90s, okay). I was self-conscious of my tummy bulge in the skirt, so I wore what my mum calls “step-ins” and what I call “pull-in undies”. Shapewear.

I was feeling confident and as sexy as a thirteen year old can feel. I danced with my friends, I drank soft drink, and I fixed up my lip gloss in front of the bathroom mirrors. I was feeling good. Until a moment when I danced with a girl and felt the presence of someone behind me. Her boyfriend was dancing up on me, rubbing himself up against me. Instead of telling him to back off, I turned around and looked at him and he laughed. I slunk away, incredibly embarrassed. I felt shame. Because, of course he couldn’t be attracted to me, girlfriend or no girlfriend. He was only making fun of me, by not only invading my personal space and thinking he was entitled to it, but by honestly thinking that I should be happy with any attention I got, because where else was I going to get it from? He thought he was performing an act of charity.

I carried that feeling of shame with me for so long. I stopped dancing at school dances pretty much entirely after that moment.

The article discusses the use of shame tactics to encourage very young “obese” people to lose weight. I’ve previously stated that I don’t believe shaming ever works and I especially believe it doesn’t work in the instance of this campaign.

For me, the shame of being treated like an object of ridicule only made me feel worse about myself, which meant I wasn’t inclined to take care of myself and my body. It meant I confined myself to my room and barely left it, except to go to school because I had to, but afterwards, I went straight back home. I became furtive and isolated. How does that help anyone? How does ridicule help anyone? Every time I thought I would feel more confident in myself, I remembered the school disco incident.

Every time a fat person decides they want to go for a walk because the day is nice and some fuckwit yells out some obscenity out of a car window. Every time a fat person wants to go to the gym because they want to try lifting weights and people whisper or condescendingly say “Good for you!”. Every time a fat woman wants to get down and dance to her favourite song with her friends and a man approaches her.

Shaming. It doesn’t work. It will never work. Making people feel bad about themselves will always be detrimental. I will always remember that incident and while I’ve come to terms with it and myself, it still sits in the back of my mind from time to time and I still feel a flash of shame. Even though I know it says more about him than me. Even though I feel great about myself now. Do we really want young children to carry that sort of shit with them for the rest of their lives?

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