Kitty Fisher

Size-positivity, feminism, self-esteem crises, ginormous tits.

hate speech

Posted by Kitty on July 24, 2008

So I go on about my roller derby league here a lot, and what an empowering sport it is for women of all shapes and sizes. Have I linked, incidentally, to the Campaign for Real Booty? It’s a good ‘un, and I applaud Cindy LopHer for having the bright idea to run with it.

Anyhow. In her intro post, she makes some excellent and true statements about body image and roller derby and all that, so I won’t repeat it all.

But I will share something I’ve noticed. Derogatory words carrying implications of overweightness or gross obesity still do get used. (Normally only under extreme circumstances, to be sure, but it has happened.) But there’s a distinction, and the distinction has nothing to do with actual size. I am curious as to what extent this is true of the population at large, and how much it’s just me and my derby girls, but I suspect it’s rather widespread, given how many other FA bloggers have mentioned this sort of thing.

One of my teammates was angry with another skater, and referred to her as “Shamu”, and made a joke about her eating habits. I was shocked.
“I’m the same size as her,” I said. “Maybe bigger. I’m fat too. I don’t like it when you say things like that about fat people.”
“Honey,” said my offending teammate, “I’m almost that size too. It ain’t her size that makes me call her that, it’s that I don’t like her.”

That, in this friend’s mind, is the difference between being fat and not being fat: whether she likes you or not.

I’ve leaned on her to cut that shit out, and for the most part, we all now stick to simply rolling our eyes about people we don’t like, or explaining the ways in which they’ve proven themselves idiots, instead of insulting their physical characteristics. We are adults, after all. And it’s a lot more constructive to point out that someone’s logic is flawed than to make snide comments about her fashion sense. (Which is just generally true of debates in general, really.)

But to what extent is that true in the world at large? I hear frequently of people saying, “My friends make fun of people my size for being fat but then insist that it doesn’t apply to me. What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Fat” has become such a loaded term, fat and its related descriptives. Fat means bad, and all the mocking names for fat people are reserved only for bad fat people.

It bothers the crap out of me, but I suppose it’s logical, in some twisted way.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that really, it’s not a good idea to do that. It’s kind of like distinguishing between, to pick something inflammatory because I can’t think of anything less objectionable so please don’t flame me (I’m not making a direct comparison here, just a rhetorical one)– say, for example, gay people and faggots. You have a lot of friends who are gay people, and they’re cool and all and you like them, but you hate faggots. The distinction between these people who share a characteristic boils down to the fact that to the ones you like, you don’t mention said characteristic, but to the ones you hate, you use it to apply a hurtful label.
Somehow, I think, your gay friends would not be particularly amused. You could clue them in on the distinction, and if they liked you well enough and understood your sense of humor and all, they might not get angry with you, but they would probably still be uncomfortable on some level.
If you don’t believe me, go back through that paragraph and substitute “black people” and “niggers”. Just try it, I’ll wait.
See what I mean?

It’s not cool.

Because what you’re doing is reinforcing the old belief that that characteristic, whether it’s sexual preference or skin color or body shape, is something that is in itself negative, and implying that you can forgive the ones who are your friends, can overlook that trait, because they themselves are such a positive presence that the negativity is balanced out.
Maybe that’s not what you mean.
But it’s in there.
And to come down to it, that’s a pretty shitty thing to imply.

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