She said WHAT?!
I really struggled with how to share this story with all of you. I knew that I would share this story, but how to write it has escaped me. I tried writing while I was still angry, but I think that narrative is best left in the recycle bin on my computer screen. I tried to make peace with it. But that just made me angry again. Maybe I’d better back up and give you a little background.
About a week and a half ago, I went to the grocery store before going to work. I was working an evening shift, so this was late morning. I had noticed a very irritating customer harassing the cashier (whose line had gone from 2 people to 8 people in less than 30 seconds… it happens). The cashier caught my eye and directed me to another register since I was the next person in line that hadn’t unloaded their basket yet. I got to the new register and sure enough, annoying customer (and by the way, she hadn’t been in line at all, just jumped ahead of about 6 other people who were waiting politely) gets in line behind me and tries to start up a conversation with me bashing the cashier. Of course, she’s barking up the wrong tree with me… so I tell her firmly that she’s just being a jerk. This was apparently license for this woman to verbally assault me for the next 3-5 minutes while we wait for the new cashier to arrive and ring up my purchase. I’ve gotten pretty good at tuning these sorts of people out, and at one point I was actually chuckling that this person was still going on and on about how I have no right to even speak to her. And since attacking my actions was getting her nowhere, she decided to go bigger.
She called me a fat pig, to my face, in front of the cashier and at least 4 other customers.
And continued insulting my size and appearance as I walked out the door. At the door, I turned back, smiled, gave my best graceful parade wave, and said “You have a good day ma’am, and you just keep letting those prejudices show!”
As a society, we accept and protect diversity on so many levels. The color of your skin, your mental and physical abilities, your sexual preferences, your religion… had someone insulted you publicly based on any of these traits, there would have been an immediate outcry. The person making those comments would have been asked to leave the store. An apology would have been issued, either by the person making the comments or by a representative of the store. But the size of my body is fair game for nasty, hateful comments from a random stranger.
I know there are some that would argue that weight is a controllable trait and that because my weight is “my fault” that somehow it’s ok, or at least less bad, that someone has publicly humiliated me about it. But think about that for a moment. If someone was confined to a wheelchair because they made a choice to participate in a risky stunt, does that make it ok for anyone to insult or harass that person? Or to come at it from another direction, if I were in the midst of a weight loss program, would it be less acceptable for someone to insult me? And if that’s the case, then what about the many, many people out there who have medical conditions that cause weight gain, or have to take medications that cause weight gain? Should they have to chose between their health and a life full of public bullying?
I think that bullying is the key here. When someone is a bully, they don’t stop to ask a person’s circumstances before they begin insulting and intimidating them. No one deserves to be bullied, whether they can change themselves or not.
P.S. I’m not going to address the debate regarding whether long term weight loss is possible. I think we can, and should, be able to have a dialogue about weight discrimination without discussing weight loss. Because for the foreseeable future, there are going to be fat people in our society, a lot of them, and I don’t see that changing. I also don’t believe that the solution to weight discrimination is weight loss. Because if all the fat people lost weight and got into the “normal” range, it would just narrow the range of weight… I still believe that there would be discrimination against people who were at the higher end of the range (I’m fully aware that underweight people experience stigma and discrimination as well, and I think we all benefit from ending discrimination and bullying based on size).
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