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Is “fat-ism” the last acceptable form of discrimination?

Approached by a customer in my place of work, my very slight team-leader “M” and I are stood together. This man comes up to us and as you would expect;
Him: “Can I get some help here?”
M: “Of course. I’m not serving but my colleague here can help you”.
Him: “Oh, no. I want you, you’re slimmer.”

After a thorough dressing down from M and my manager, without even a hint of an apology says;

“Oh, it was just a joke.”
Thank-you sir. That is exactly what the kids at school used to say too.

Being the butt of jokes gets old; and seeing my “friends” occasionally share them too is a saddening experience.

I was bullied from the age of nine for being an early developer. I was in an underwired bra already, and I had curves and a little bit of extra but I was not by any means big; many of the boys that teased were actually larger. It is often assumed that we are tougher, but more often it is a construct we create to counteract bullying. This is what happened to me.

We are taught from a very young age by the media that a woman’s worth is measured by her attractiveness to men. It is a fact that universally attractive women are often treated better in the work place and in general day to day life so it can only be assumed that if we are less attractive, we are supposedly lesser beings.
Attraction is also subjective to fashion. My body is straight out of the fifties but it’s simply not fashionable in the twenty-tens. What is fashionable now for a woman is to be slim – quite slim – almost elfin in nature. This is what the designers cater for. Have you ever noticed the plus-size section in your favourite chain store? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t because it’s the small section of the shop relegated to plus-size “fashion” that is designed to be about as flattering as a bin bag and much more expensive. To buy clothes off the high street the more-than-average of us are forced into shopping only in our specific sections because we don’t belong with the rest of the store. Segregation of a demographic reserved only for the 1920s split of races? Think again, 2014!
We are told to “dress for the body we have, not the body we want” meaning it is unacceptable for us to show too much flesh. Not to wear bikinis, or too short a skirt. We are told we are more attractive covered up. We are soon verbally slapped into place if we overstep a line. Recently, a plus-size lady on Instagram posted a picture of her rounded bottom covered with her underpants. Her photo was removed and branded as obscene while elsewhere on the site you can see slimmer ladies wearing thongs and skimpy clothing go unreprimanded.

And what about food choices? One day at university, I was getting close to a deadline and going through a stressful time so I didn’t eat all day. When I had a chance to eat I wandered into town and picked up a sandwich, then found a bench to sit on. While I was busy feeding, I happened to catch the eye of a female looking directly at me with disgust; looking at my food and looking me up and down as if to ask “do you really need that”. I haven’t eaten since last night; yes, I need food to live and this would not be an issue if I were smaller.
And there are those that cast judgment on your grocery shopping; you know …
“… you could swap to skimmed milk”
“Cake, eh?”
“I wouldn’t buy that”

Things like this have happened to some poor ladies. This has never happened to me but considering how much I loathe supermarket shopping anyway if it did this person would likely wish momentarily they had never been born … but my rabid supermarket rants are for another article and another day.

Then there are the ones who suddenly become YOUR personal GP.

“I used to be a doctor [sic: struck off!] and you need to lose weight” was one other comment I had at work from a man sporting the belly of a pregnant lady.

There are many people who will look a plus-size woman up and down and cite; diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart attacks, bone damage. Simply looking at someone is not indicative of someone’s health. I have been far larger than I am now and healthy, and I have also been half that size and very unhealthy. If you feel like making a comment on someone – no matter if it’s this or telling a skinny person to eat a hamburger – DON’T. Don’t ever make comments like that, full stop.
I eat less than my slimmer pretty model friend by far – after a 2 hr walk, my friend Sky and I recently walked into Burger King (I am not seen dead in there usually) and she ordered 2 burgers and fries to go while I confused the staff by ordering a fruit smoothie on its own. I am also partially a bulk of strong muscly legs that run down the female side of the genes; which I have put to good use in karate where I practice twice a week. I am generally in great health but I guess we two metabolise differently. Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same eh?

I am lucky enough in terms of our cruel society to be on the smaller side of the spectrum but not free at all of fat prejudice and discrimination. We wouldn’t bully someone of a different race or sexuality, or disability or opinion so why does this still happen?

I realise that this happens to the very naturally thin end, too, but being too slim will ALWAYS be more acceptable than being too big, and it needs to stop. As I have said once before, I will say again. All women, all shapes and sizes; you are ALL beautiful. The only thing that should be deemed ugly is the media campaign for “beauty” which is just another way to influence how women should think in order to please a common market.

It is time for change.


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