Fat Shaming is Fat Shaming… No matter who the target is.
I guess I have to start this way. I shouldn’t have to. But I will.
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I do not support Donald Trump. My opinion is not a defense of Donald Trump.
The night Donald Trump was elected, I stayed up until 3 a.m. I had been carrying a sinking feeling for weeks about the outcome. I saw “my party” displaying cocky, insulting and elitist behavior. I’m no political expert, but I know a fair amount about people. I know how they react to being demeaned and devalued. I tried to overlook all that, and I held on to hope of a victory for “us.”
For a New Yorker, I can be strangely naïve at times. I joke that I identify too well with the flawed hero of one of my favorite movies, because, “I’ve always had a weakness for lost causes, once they’re really lost.”
I eventually crawled into bed next to my husband and cried. I mumbled something about how I never should’ve expected a win.
As someone who has devoted their career to advocacy and support of marginalized populations, Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric make me ill. I am also painfully aware of his habit of being verbally abusive and outrageously offensive, particularly towards women. I know damn well that if Donald Trump and I were to meet, he’d trash everything about me, from my body to my career. That’s a very sad belief for an average person to accept about the President of the United States.
Despite all of this, I believe that Nancy Pelosi’s words about Trump’s weight were wrong. There are more cerebral terms for her behavior, but I’m going with “wrong.”
I’m against fatshaming in all settings. I hear people rationalize body attacks on Trump by saying, “Well, he does it. Why can’t we?” Well, perhaps because you nullify your whole argument when you engage in the same behavior you condemn? Or maybe because it’s healthy to learn how to experience/observe horrific behavior without mimicking it and then rebranding it as heroism?
Many of my colleagues in fat advocacy often ask this question of those who support fatshaming Trump: “Do you truly believe that Donald Trump cares what people think of his body?” I understand their point, but I somewhat dissent. I think he does care. I think he cares a lot. This man cares goes to disturbing lengths to appear unbothered by everything, but he’s unconvincing.
And yet, I don’t feel sympathy for him. I didn’t write this piece because I’m worried about Donald Trump’s feelings. I wrote it because of my own feelings. This is for me. And for the approximately 40% of Americans in this country that Nancy Pelosi sneeringly mocked through her tone, judgment and use of a phrase that someone in her position should know is very close to becoming obsolete.
Let’s call this what it is. Nancy Pelosi didn’t “throw epic shade.” Nor did she “just say the truth.” She participated in fatshaming and used a term that is considered offensive by so many advocates and allies that adjustments are being made by responsible medical providers (and most tolerant individuals) to avoid using it in medical settings and respectful conversation.
Now, for those STILL shouting that “morbidly obese” isn’t fatshaming because it’s a medical term!” Consider this. There are a lot of other derogatory phrases that were, at one point, acceptable “medical terms” and which, as a result of improved education and progress, aren’t used in medical settings anymore-and certainly not in appropriate, mature discourse. I’m not going to write them all out. You know what they are. You’ve heard them, and you probably don’t use them.
You may not know why the phrase “morbidly obese” is so offensive. That’s okay. It would be worthwhile to research the topic. Much of it has to do with word origins and the horrible history of the term, but there are also problematic aspects of the language as it relates to BMI, which has been challenged vehemently and proven to have many flaws. Additionally, it is a phrase that holds so much shame and judgment that just hearing it in a medical setting often shuts down the possibility of a trusting relationship with one’s provider, causing inadequate communication and even avoidance of treatment. People die because of words.
I’ve been insulted by doctors and nurses when seeking basic treatment for a fingernail infection or a flu shot. I’ve been mocked by a therapist for gaining weight due to eating disorder recovery. I’ve overheard a group of physician assistants making fun of my body after a chest x-ray. I’ve been discriminated against while seeking jobs. I’ve been verbally harassed on the street. I’ve been shoved so hard that I was injured on the subway while fatphobic epithets were screamed at me. I’ve been denied service at hair salons. I’ve been violently threatened online. I’ve even lost a few friends (not very good ones) because of my fat advocacy efforts. Yet, I maintain my resilience by relying on my immediate network of family/friend support, as well as my fat colleagues, and you, the Bold community.
And I used to think that I could count on pretty much anyone who was liberal, tolerant, or an advocate to have my back. Equality and respect extends to me and my body, too, right? “Fat Politics IS Politics!” Right? Hello? Not so much, apparently.
Nancy Pelosi’s words and behavior were disgusting and they epitomize hypocrisy. Where are my allies? Where are my friends who were so proud of their pink hats as they promised to take care of their sisters? This is not a time for Pelosi accolades. It’s not a time for “Yasssss, girl!” or “I Stan Her!” She didn’t “kick ass.” She didn’t “give it right back to him.” She didn’t “fight the bully” and she sure as hell didn’t act like the leader of a movement or a party that prides itself on ensuring basic rights and dignity.
And I see nothing to celebrate about that.