Well, I made my semi-regular trip to the local DVD store to pick up a movie for my class to study. (I create my own lesson materials based on quality movies, using an alternative method of teaching some of the basic literary components. -- It's alternative -- and that's what we do.) While there for the two minutes it took to pay for the movie, I remembered a conversation I had had with the cashier a few months ago. She's quite chatty, and was telling me about her daughter, whom I have never met. She has frequently mentioned, though, that her daughter is quite overweight, said with a mix of pity and disapproval. In this particular conversation, she was able to clarify her description of her daughter, with a comparison: "She's almost as heavy as you."
Her daughter, as well, happens to be, according to her, depressed and hardly able to function in the real world. She seems very burdened at all the work that has gone into taking care of her. It must be hard, and I have always sympathized with her tales of various plights. When she made the comparison, however, it got a bit more personal. Now, she was making a judgement of me, and felt that it was okay to tell me about that judgement. Wow.
What I was thinking about today was, what kind of person does this? Why are some people so weight-conscious, and seemingly weight-prejudiced? While others are not? And how do you tell if you are the subject of weight judgment? How do you know whether or not someone is rude to you just because of your personality, or because of your weight? And does it matter?
Well, I do think that weight prejudice, like other forms of prejudice comes from fear. Perhaps fear of not fitting in, or being beautiful enough. And with that fear, a desire to feel better. How to feel better? Perhaps by putting down someone you perceive as less beautiful, less acceptable.
With some people, I believe there is an actual barrier in their mind when they see a heavier person. They are not capable of seeing them as real people, but instead see all of their preconceived notions of what a fat person is like ... perhaps lazy, perhaps a little dumb, perhaps not with it. Almost certainly a bad eater, almost certainly a non-exerciser? So, regardless of what the fat person actually does, the individual only sees their stereotypes ... Just as they would only see their stereotypes of an Asian, of a African-American, of a Native person. They are not "trying" to be rude, but they are literally, "ignorant."
I confess I used to be a bit fat-prejudiced. I remember seeing fat people, and having certain feelings about them, of disgust, and not really seeing as the same as me. (I was not really heavy as a teenager.) I believe that that what was made it so, so hard when I first gained weight: I had deal with the hatred I felt towards myself for becoming this disgusting. I was in shock that I could actually be in this body. What caused this disgust in me? Looking back, I think maybe it was because I took a lot of stock in my appearance ... and placed a great deal of importance in it. I was also refecting what I felt in society around me.
It has only been lately, as in the last couple of years, that I have changed my attitude a great deal in this area. I am no longer disgusted, usually, by myself, and my now-fat body. In fact, I love my body, in spite of its flaws. I know my husband does, too, which I thought was impossible. It has been my husband's love, in fact, that has been slowly changing my feelings about my body. Love has melted down my self-hatred and replaced it with acceptance. And more people now accept me, too, than used to do so. There are still some, however, that slightly shock me with their judgments. Shock me because I now longer do that ... at least not that often!
So, I am interested in your feedback: have you ever experienced this form of prejudice? Ever given it? What are your thoughts on what causes it? To me, this topic still has a lot of exploration to be done. I certainly do not have all the answers. I am just trying to ask some good questions, and hopefully, start some dialogue. Cheers!
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