There's a story getting a lot of buzz about an older woman who was taunted by some kids while she was the acting monitor of their school bus. A video of the incident was posted on YouTube and got a lot of attention. A guy opened a site to raise funds to send her on vacation and has raised a wonderful amount of money. You can read about it and see the video.
Here's the thing. This is fat hatred.
On the one hand bad behavior is bad behavior and there's no need to talk about the specific quality of the expression of that behavior. On the other hand, if they had been talking about her being Gay, or Jewish, or a specific race the distinction would be called out. I didn't listen to the entire ten minutes and I have read that they talk about more than just her weight but in the time I watched they are focused on talking about her being fat. And I would like someone to talk about that. I would like someone to talk about how fat people are the target of hatred.
It's a worry because she's getting a lot of support right now and I believe that if the fat thing were called out there would be lots of talk about how fat people bring hate on themselves and should all lose weight. I would not want to see her be re-injured by a prolonged public discussion of her weight. She's been through enough. I like that it seems she's about to get a bunch of money and may be able to enjoy retirement. I like that people are outraged on her behalf. I don't want her to become the icon for my cause.
However. She already is.
Everything that is said to her has been said to me in public. On public transportation. Shouted from cars. Said within ear shot. I know I'm not the only fat person with this experience. If you want to see what fat hate looks like watch the video. If you care about me imagine me in that seat. Depending on my mood I can sometimes shut people up with a look. But not always. When you're in public and you're being attacked and no one is speaking up you feel fear. You lose power.
This kind of fat hate isn't anomalous. It isn't even rare.
Most of the comments are directed toward the kids and some of them are plenty hateful. Apparently the kids and their families have been threatened. That's how we do things. We meet hate with more hate. Where did they learn it?
From time to time I watch a few minutes of Mike and Molly to see if it's gotten any better. It hasn't. The fat jokes aren't that different from what these kids say to this woman. And many of them come out of the mouths of the fat actors. Hating yourself for being fat is just normal, you see.
Every news agency reporting this story with shock and dismay has used images of headless fat people to make a point about health. It's easier to hate when you don't have to look someone in the face. Right now fat people are being blamed for the destruction of the planet. Apparently we place too high a demand on food production. The article I linked mentions the Bloomberg restrictions on big gulp sodas and quotes a woman saying that if she eats a hamburger and french fries she's going to be dehydrated and needs that big gulp. It's a ridiculous statement. Then it says her size was not identified. Further in the article it says something about people of all sizes and food choices. So the head line is about the obese, the idea is supported by a statement from a woman who might not be fat, then suddenly we're talking about fast food. It's exactly this kind of smudging of lines that makes me worry about calling out the fat hate in this situation.
But I want it called out. I want the connection made. I want people to make the point about card board food and big gulp sodas without the pictures of headless fat people. I want people to get that when you conflate a body type with illness you make a target.
I am so frustrated.