Monday, August 25, 2008

A conundrum

This summer I've been reading blogs by people who, like me, have issues with food. Too little of it, too much of it, and some who are just damn tired of being told what their bodies "should" be. It's interesting as hell from an anthropology standpoint, but on a personal level the FA/Size Acceptance/Health At Every Size blogosphere (aka the Fatosphere) has been incredibly helpful. Writers offer a critical perspective on media, health communication, and social pressures to adhere to an arbitrary ideal. They focus on what their bodies do, not how they appear. It's refreshing.

When I was at my thinnest, I realized that once your body is a few ticks to either side of the bell curve, it becomes public property. I got stares, frowns, rude questions, comments. But my life was peaches compared to what people at the other end have to face. Read this post and comments at Shapely Prose if you don't believe me.

Sometimes a FA/SA/HAES writer will describe a situation with which I can identify. For example, one writer posted about the blood-pressure cuff not fitting during a recent ER trip. Once my own BP was so low that the nurse thought I was septic - until she realized the cuff was too big and retrieved the children's cuff. I felt REAL cool, lemme tell you.

My cuff didn't "fly off" as did the other blogger's, which is way more difficult to deal with. I was going to comment about the indignity that sometimes accompanies one-size-fits-all medical equipment - but I didn't. I was afraid the writer would be insulted. How could I, skinny in a society that worships thin, possibly understand how she felt? From a social standpoint, our experiences were different.

So here's my question - is the Size Acceptance community going to accept me? People make comments about my body; they assume I'm a "skinny bitch." Am I just fooling myself that a recovering anorexic could ever empathize with a fat person?


shoesonwrong said...

I think that yes, you will meet with resistance from some in the size acceptance community -- especially those who are deeply insecure and use the size acceptance movement to feel like they finally fit in somewhere.

However, I also think that the majority of the people in the size acceptance community will accept you because once you become comfortable with your own body, or at least do your best to always accept it, you stop caring what size other people are.

Emily said...

You'll meet resistance from the size acceptance community. But I think, in time, that they will accept you.

Ai Lu said...

Wow, so many issues that have been going through my head and questions that I also want answered!

I also think that the FA community has a lot to say to people recovering from eating disorders on the other end of the spectrum (or maybe I should say that they have a lot to say that I want to hear!). We have more in common than first meets the eye. But yes, you do bring up the valuable point that you are thin in a society that worships thinness -- so some parts of your experience are going to be very different from that of someone who is fat. I'm also searching for a way to get closer to that "other side" because I think it's a way to bring my own feelings about weight and body around to a place of greater acceptance.
~Ai Lu

Anonymous said...

I love skinny people, my husband among them :)

The social experience isn't quite the same, as the stigma isn't the same as being fat, but people who are thinner than the norm face difficulties too.

I'm actually friends with people of all body types -- very thin people who've struggled with eating disorders, very fat people, and even a body-builder. I really don't give a rip what people look like -- I care what they think and how they act. But then, I've been involved in fat acceptance for eight years, which, in the blogging community, is a semi-long time (not as long as many NAAFA members, but still.) The impressions you might get from some of the newer fat acceptance advocates who blog is somewhat skewed -- I really think most people who are really comfortable in fat acceptance are truly accepting of people of all sizes. Because they don't attach value anymore to someone's being thin or fat -- which you would have to do to express jealousy over someone being a "skinny bitch." I love skinny bitchez, provided they love me back!

The only prerequisite for my acceptance of other people is that they accept me, and that they don't accept appearance-based discrimination. Seriously.

And, you are cordially invited to comment on my blog all you like -- I actually thought the blood-pressure cuff flying off my arm was pretty funny, since I had a good idea that's what would happen. I even warned the nurse ahead of time. The look on her face was priceless.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for double-commenting, but my coffee hasn't quite hit the nerve centres yet this morning.

Your story about having to use the child's BP cuff is analogous to a fat person using the larger one. Your point about the shame involved in being identified as "different" in the "one-size-fits-all" medical paradigm is spot-on.

I originally became interested in fat acceptance through my interest in eating disorders. I volunteered at an eating disorder centre, and I'm studying nutrition in the hopes that I might someday be able to help people with eating disorders. So I honestly don't want you thinking that anyone would reject you due to that issue -- anyone who does is an asshole, plain and simple, whether they profess fat acceptance or not. Like I said before -- the experiences and stigmas may not be identical, but I believe fat people and those who suffer from eating disorders share many of the same cultural body pressures.

When I volunteered at the eating disorders centre, though I was often the only fat person there, it was the first place outside my home where I'd ever felt really comfortable in my skin. Because I knew people *got* it -- that the pursuit of thinness and a "perfect" body can make your life a living hell. I really felt accepted, and so I always came away with a positive impression of people who are recovering from eating disorders. I just feel like we've all been in the same war together, or something. A sisterhood of sorts, or like allies.

You're entirely right when you say, "once your body is a few ticks to either side of the bell curve, it becomes public property." In fact, I love that quote, and I'm glad I found your blog.