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I identify as “long and lean,” which means I enjoy advantages others do not. Unlike many possessing a greater body size, I have zero problems finding stores that sell a wide variety of clothes I can fit. I never worry about sharing space with others – on buses, planes, trains, automobiles, in theaters or classrooms. I also never wonder whether the person staring is judging me for my size.
I wasn’t regularly teased about my weight, as a kid or adult. I can always watch TV, movies, surf the Internet and magazines and regularly see images of people my size who are depicted in a positive light. Folks close to my body type in media are never discussed in negative ways. In fact it’s rarely commented on at all.
There’s more. If I haven’t eaten all day (or even if I have), I can order a “super-sized” meal and nobody will judge me or think much more than, “Boy, is he hungry.” That is, if they even notice my meal portions. In movies or on TV, my size is rarely, if ever, the butt of some joke. And if it is, there are a thousand other examples out there in which my size is considered favorable.
Contrast that with a person who is large. Either through no fault of their own (i.e., genetics, lack of access to good food or quality health care, illness, medication, etc.) or if they do voluntarily consume a lot of calories. All that stuff mentioned above is the opposite for them.
I’m told by many who consider themselves overweight that not a day goes by when they're not reminded they're “fat,” “different,” “less than,” “unworthy.” That something is “wrong” with them. Every day, 24/7, 365 days a year. It can be a hurtful, stifling, unjust existence. Oppressive. And the messages are everywhere.
I can't imagine what it feels like to be, or considered to be, overweight. What I do know is that our Culture of Slim as a standard is horrendous. It's also hypocritical. At the same time we're promoting slim-is-in, we're aggressively selling, serving and consuming high calorie food products. These foods are high in sugar, fat and salt – ingredients our nation has learned to covet. Check that: they are all ingredients that are scientifically proven to be addictive, physically and emotionally.
The insidious thing about this is not just that it's occurring on a systematic level, though that in and of itself is morally criminal. The really low down and dirty part of it all is that most folks don't even realize this heinous form of oppression is happening. Instead most wrongly believe, “It’s the individual person’s problem; society isn’t to blame for what folks eat.”
And by society, I don’t just mean you and me and our complicity regarding hurtful fat jokes. I’m talking food corporations, their advertising, marketing and PR muscle. I’m also casting my stink eye at our fashion industry. They project unrealistic images about what body sizes and types are beautiful (and which are not) via runway shows and media propaganda. It’s all centered on garments worn by models that only a small minority of people look like. Reality check: few women these days wear size zero, or are a 41-long with a 33” waist, if you're a man.
Time to interrupt business as usual when it comes to fat phobia. One-size-fits-all just doesn’t work when it comes to human beings, no matter what media tells you. Or what you try to tell yourself.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.