Yeah, you can Compare Them (A Thought)

27 Oct

Over and over again I read people saying (mainly to white fat folks) “Wait, a minute! Wait a minute! You can’t compare being fat to being Black or queer! That’s absurd! And insulting to Blacks and queers!”

Yes you can, dear. And no it’s not, homie.

First, when one makes a statement like that you get a major F in intersectionality 101 my dahlings. By creating these rigid categories of identity -one fails to see that many folks  are located across these identities. In other words-they are fat, black and queer. Oh my word.

Inadvertently, you are denying their existence by creating normative constuctions of what black is (slender, heterosexual, male) or what queer is (slender, white).

Secondly, you are barring fat folk from engaging with already existing discourses of critique. See, when you take seriously fatphobia and fat based discrimination and you see the way that these things intersect with racialized thinking (for instance the thought that whiteness defines what it is to be human or civilized), you can start to make amazing connections. Lesley over at Fatshionista does this when she talks about the queering affect of fatness.

Another example would be the way in which black fatness leads to certain types of policing within the black community. This policing is of course tied to the impact of white supremacy on black life; it also is a means to narrow who can be included in blackness proper –a class determined idea of black citizenry.   

You didn’t think the media made such a big deal about Michelle Obama’s arms for nothing, right?

But alas we stumble upon a caveat. If you (as a fat acceptance activist/scholar) are going to engage with this type of comparative  body politics, you have to take it seriously. You can’t just throw these comparisons around to promote the idea that fat people have it worse than black folks. When you do that you also fail intersectionality 101. Remember those fat folks of color???

You need to be aware of your positionality. For instance, you can think about how your whiteness affords you privilege but how your fatness can undermine or complicate this privilege.

It’s tough work. I’m still over here trying to find articulations that make sense of my fat,black, hijabi, Muslimness.

Keep on Living

1 Oct

By now most people are familiar with the incident involving a gay Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate and an accomplice videotaped him having sex.

There have been numerous incidences of cyber bullying. Some have involved gay bashing; others involved shaming young girls into believing they are sluts or ugly.  All of these incidences aim to degrade and dehumanize, to leave another human being with no space to breath. Too many of these instances have ended with young people taking their own lives, the despair being too much.

As a woman in her 30s I have never experienced internet bullying. I can only imagine that it magnifies the harassment, creating a weight that seems unbearable. Growing up I experienced the face to face bullying. I know what it feels like. I know the stain it leaves.   

 I do not know what it’s like to be ridiculed for being queer or gay bashed. What I do know about is alienation, teasing and taunting. But I do know what it is like to be a fat kid and fat teen. I know what it’s like for people to express disgust at your presence. I know what it is like for people to think you shouldn’t exist. I know what it’s like to have people create entire agendas that focus on getting rid of you.

I know what it is like to have boys threaten you with physical violence and sometimes act on this violence. I had a basketball thrown at my face in high school gym class. Walking to a college class I  had a group of teenage boys throw an object and hit me in the back of the head. On that occassion I walked back to my apartment, cried for a bit and then managed to pull myself together. I must admit to this day I (sometimes) still fear being singled out in a crowd.

Growing up I had to fight boys all the time.  Some of them were even related to me. I think my fatness made it okay to punch a girl.

I know what it’s like for people to feel disgust at the idea of you having sex.

I know pain that makes you want to escape.

But I also know the incredible courage it takes to decide to stay. I never imagined when I was younger that I could find a space to just breath. Despite all of the ugliness and hate, there will be beauty.

There will be kindness. There will be love that heals-