I’m used to it every day I stand up for myself and people like me: body positive people are blind. They’re ignoring the health risks. Fat is ugly. Fat can be absolutely controlled. On and on and on. And usually, I’m able to let these things roll off my back, because I know that fat is often influenced strongly by genetics, that you can choose unhealthy foods the majority of the time and be stick-thin, and that you can eat healthily and exercise and be fat. I also know that the “health craze” of exercise and weight loss is ableist towards those that will never be healthy and never be able to do extensive exercise. All the “What’s your excuse?” comments in the world won’t change that for those people.
I support health at every size. I support doing what you personally have to do to feel good in your skin, and in your body. And if that means weight loss, then it means weight loss – in a healthy way that works for you, not by super-restrictive diets and starvation. So, Wil Wheaton, who recently mentioned that he was working on getting healthier and wanted to share that with his fans, has my full support. I totally think it’s great he wants to be healthier. Wil has been someone I’ve admired for a long time – as a supporter of geek culture and a well-known feminist, he’s done a lot for women in the fanspace. He seems cool, and up til now, I’ve checked in on his Twitter and Facebook page to see what he’s up to.
Imagine my shock when I saw this post on his Facebook page today, referring to his healthy project as “Project Fat Piece of Crap Don’t Be One Anymore”. Many people will argue with me about this, and tell me that how people feel about themselves has nothing to do with how they feel about everyone else. But here’s the thing – saying that you, yourself, are a “fat piece of crap” tells people like me that you think fat = piece of crap. And therefore, if you think that, you must think people who are fat are pieces of crap. Whether or not you actually think that isn’t the point – it’s that people will believe that is how you feel. And a friend of mine told me today that she can relate to Wil’s feelings on that matter because she feels that way too. I can understand and empathize with that. But my friend does not have 2.6 million people on Twitter and 166,000 people on Facebook that follow her. My friend is not a well-known celebrity who is known for speaking out for social justice.
My friend, I believe, would also not respond to people’s concerns about her wording with this quote:
“When I talk about how I try to take care of my weight and stuff, people tend to yell at me about things. If you think you may be one of those people, probably skip this and come back later after some more of my dumb Tweets have pushed it down the page.” – Wil Wheaton
Wil, people aren’t angry at you because you want to be healthier. They’re angry because your wording others fatness and fat people. We’re already considered less-than in society. We’re already told that we’re immoral, that anything wrong with us is all our fault, and that we deserve diseases like diabetes and heart problems because of our fatness. We’re told that anyone who looks like us in the media is simply “encouraging obesity” and is wrong. We’re scrutinized, and every bite of food that is put into our mouths is scrutinized. We’re told jeeringly not to try to exercise, that standing up for ourselves means we’re stupid and blind, and some of us have even been told to “eat ourselves to death” or to “kill ourselves”.
I’m not a piece of crap because I’m fat. I’m a person, the way that the women you stand up for in the fanspace and gaming space are people. I’m a person with feelings, who admires your work in feminism and social justice and is really saddened and surprised to see you saying these things and blowing off people’s concerns. In fact, I have reached out to you on Twitter about this, because I really was shocked. Our concerns aren’t about you and your push to be healthier. They’re about the way that you have used your platform to vilify fatness, even if it’s just your own that you are vilifying. My body is vilified and ridiculed daily, in the media and in everyday conversation. “Fat” is already a bad word.
What I want to tell you is that fat people are human. That we’re not crap. That YOU’RE not crap, even if you don’t like the way you look. You’re a person who deserves respect and love, too. And if you are doing things to help yourself feel better in your own body, I support it 100%.
I just don’t support the idea that fat people are “pieces of crap”, even if that’s not what you originally meant. And I’m not yelling, I promise. I’m just trying to make you see it from my side.
If you see this, I wish you luck on your journey to be healthier. I hope you drop the “piece of crap” wording and find better ways to talk about your personal health and weight, because your words affect us all.