fa adventures in the cubicle forest
The number one oppression, hands-down, that I see in my workplace every day, is fat-hatred.*
I’ve started, just as a way to keep my head from exploding, to document how many times I interact with a woman eating, or discuss something food related with a woman (i.e., “Should we get Nip ‘n Sip for lunch?”) and she does not engage in fat-hatred. So far, I’m 0 for 7. Okay, I had one short interaction sans DEATHFAT but it got canceled out with her coming to me 20 minutes later to confess to me her entire caloric intake that day, while self-loathingly poking herself in the stomach.
Fat-hatred is insidious and all-consuming. It manifests itself in men policing women, women policing women, and women policing themselves. In fact, it’s an awkwardness-producing behavior to not shame yourself in a conversation. The first one is easier for me to take because I can just say “keep your fucking trap shut” or something a bit politer, and be done with it. The second is more complex but offers itself to “it’s none of our fucking business what anyone else does with their body.” But that last one, that last one is hard – how do you respond to women who are proclaiming that they are the largest creature since the blue whale and they’re going to burn for all eternity because they couldn’t say no to that last potato chip?
My tactic to date has been to nod and say something like, “Eating [x] doesn’t make you a bad person,” or “Yep, [x] is really tasty.” I am for neutralizing: continuing the conversation about food, but removing the morality from it. I generally try to avoid using specialized terms, because people tune out when I send words like “morality” and “fat” tumbling from my mouth hole.** My personal issue with this is that fat-shaming has become one of my buttons – y’know, those buttons that when they’re pressed cause one to unleash red-bottle fury on unsuspecting passersby.
My own story is, sadly, not unusual: I was an athletic kid, then I quit sports when I was 11 because puberty hit and I became a fat girl, and fat girls get laughed off the field. Then, for 15 years afterward my reality was dominated by the idea that I was fucking disgusting, horrible and worthless, I dieted (and failed) chronically, subscribed wholeheartedly to the fantasy of being thin, and waited for my life to start in earnest. So talking with women twice my age still hating themselves, still unable to eat without judgment, still making sure everyone around them knows how much they despise their own lack of discipline so they won’t be shamed by others, makes me depressed sad exasperated furious FUCKING BATSHIT.
I think of this post as a baseline for future workplace FA updates, since it’s very immediate and meaningful for me. Maybe I’ll even invent a snazzy title for the series. But, I don’t want it to just be a chronicle of all of the fat-shaming I witness/experience, because a) it’s impossible given the frequency, and b) it doesn’t serve a purpose. My goal is to use these experiences as a learning tool to work on my FA advocacy skillz, and sifting through them after they’ve happened is a great way for me to do that.
Also, hopefully, they’ll be nice to read.
*with racism coming in a close second. Just last week, after inquiring what I was reading [answer], I had a white co-worker tell me that if we didn’t have racism, we wouldn’t have Archie Bunker, and that’s a shame because he was just great.
**Although a few weeks ago I snapped and spat “food is not a moral choice” at a particularly prolific fat shamer whom I’ve seen make fat women in my office very uncomfortable on multiple occasions. Not that effective, but I felt better.