The Shame is a Sham

(The thoughts & feelings expressed in this post are reflective of my own personal experience and in no way are meant to speak for any and all overweight people.)

I read this great article on Friday. Actually, I read it aloud to Mr. Darcy as he drove us to the symphony.(Where neither of us fell completely asleep. We were just resting our eyes. Sincerely!) You should totally read the entire article but here are some snippets for context:

I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I’ve heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin! I will get the clothes that I want, the job that I want, the love that I want. It will be great! Think how great it will be to buy some pants or whatever at J. Crew. Oh, man. Pants. Instead, my body stays the same.

And this:

My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat forever? What do you do with them then? Do you really want millions of teenage girls to feel like they’re trapped in unsightly lard prisons that are ruining their lives, and on top of that it’s because of their own moral failure, and on top of that they are ruining America with the terribly expensive diabetes that they don’t even have yet? You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

She says this great line: “Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.”

Can I get an AMEN?

I am grateful to Lindy for writing this article because she stands up for me, for herself and for all of us who are struggling to accept our bodies in a society that repeatedly bashes us over the head with “You are not good enough because you are fat” messages. I will probably get some flack for saying this but it feels true to me- fat oppression is the last allowable “ism”. Because all of us fatties made ourselves fat and it’s our fault for being fat and how dare we continue to be fat. And P.S. You are gross to look at.

Eating too many cupcakes is not the root cause of fatness. It goes much, much deeper than that. But we’re too busy shaming overweight people to see it or really do anything about it.

And yes, I said we. Because I’ve totally drank the Kool Aid.

I once read a blog post from some girl that stated that it’s gross to see two fat people dancing. That it was funny to her but not in a ha ha way where we’re all laughing. No. In the way that she is making fun of the fat people. Because how dare they move their fat bodies to music and force other people to see their chub rolling around a dance floor. HOW DARE YOU BE A PERSON, FATTY!

What. The. Fuck? I should have tit-punched that girl. I wish tit punches could be delivered electronically.

That is one small example in a mountain of examples I could give you where I come across messaging that America’s belief system is that fat people are horrible, lazy, disgusting people who should be ashamed. Who should fix themselves. Please, immediately, because fat is not nice to look at. MY EYES!

I have spent a lifetime absorbing messages that have forced me deeper into shame. I was ten when I can remember going on my first diet. I would work out in my room and not eat pancakes and walk around in a shroud of shame and sadness because I believe AT TEN YEARS OLD that I was not a worthwhile person because I was chubby.

I was not born believing this. I was taught this.

And then for the next 27 years I let the shame shape my perspective. I bought into it. I swallowed the messages. I agreed with you (the proverbial you that believes fat people are less than) that I am gross and unworthy. Your plan worked! And yet, wait, uh. . . Why am I still fat? OH RIGHT! BECAUSE SHAME IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS TOOL.

Is being overweight unhealthy? To many degrees, it can be. So is eating a diet full of refined sugar. So is having a smoking habit. So is excessively drinking alcohol or coffee. So can  excessively exercising. We all do fucked up shit to our bodies in some way or another. And we tend to do these things from an emotional place. I know many thin people who eat crappy diets with no nutrients and who never exercise but they are deemed as “okay” because they are thin and thus, they pass.

I am so fucking done with this mentality. I’m done supporting people (myself included!) in the negative dissection of our bodies. The withholding of love until we get to a certain weight. To putting off doing things because The Shame is saying we can’t until we weigh X amount of pounds. I’m sick to death of hearing women tear themselves down about every supposed imperfection. So you have stretch marks. So you have some back fat. So your thighs rub together. So what? Where did you hear the message that you are not good enough, not pretty, if you have a flaw? Go back to that place or that person and say “shut the fuck up”. Because THESE THINGS DO NOT DEFINE YOUR WORTH.

I am telling myself this more than I am telling you this. But I bet you need to hear this too.

This is not an easy thing to do. To face the messaging and not get swept up in the mentality of being less than. But if we just sit by and complain about it but don’t speak out, how in the hell will it ever change? Women didn’t get the right to vote because they discussed it in passing over tea. Segregation didn’t end because some white guy in power was all, “This is wrong”. Gay marriage will one day be legal because people stand up and fight for it.

Please don’t be passive. You have a voice- use it. This is not a problem fat people need to solve. This is a problem we all have to work together on because it’s an attitude shift. If you hold ideas about fat people, where did they come from? Question the fatism.

We can all be radical if we start loving ourselves and our bodies.

They’ve told us it’s impossible. But it’s not.

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41 thoughts on “The Shame is a Sham

  1. I agree totally. And, as someone who has packed on 36 pounds in the last eight months, I’ve come to terms with a lot of things. Namely, I’m still me. I still feel like me. I still like me. And I’m almost to the point where I can’t cross my legs. It’s a really good feeling to not care. A lot of women say “Oh, but you’re pregnant.” But pregnant or no, weight can make our brains hotwire in crazy ways. I have pregnant friends who are DIETING. Insane. The bottom line is: if women spent the same amount of time dwelling on their dreams and ambitions as they do their weight… we’d be living in an entirely different society. Now I’M ranting. :)

  2. Sizz, you are da bomb. :)
    ‘Tis so true that shame is a tool of oppression, whether one is a “small”, “large,” tall, short, whatever. I have felt oppressed by society, my anorexia, the notion that women SHOULD be as small as possible because that is somehow “good” and “desirable.” Fuck that. I should make myself nearly invisible b/c I will finally be GOOD? Hells, no. I’d be dead, not good or desirable. Reading your words makes me want to continue to fight my ED, societal pressures, and media cruelty… We are better than all that shit. YOU are beautiful, Sizz, and keep raising your voice.

  3. I don’t know what else there is to stay after this post. You pretty much laid it out there so eloquently. I get tired of hearing people pass up treats because it will negatively impact their body. Live a little and accept your body as it is. Thanks for such a great inspirational post.

  4. This is great, and thanks for writing it. It doesn’t just apply to people who are over weight, though. It’s everything. Our whole society. I’ve been under weight my entire life and while I’m not over weight now, I still feel the pressure to be SUPER SUPER thin. I’ve struggled with anorexia since before I can remember (5th grade, maybe?) and there is that, when am I going to be good enough for me?! Is that a myth?! Does it happen. And when I read your blog, you give me hope. That I will love myself. Thank you for giving me hope

  5. AMEN. Shame is the tool of oppression on so many fronts. I’ve also many times thought the same thought you had — ‘fat oppression is the last allowable “ism.”’ Unfortunately, I think the only way to change it is for those of us who KNOW it’s wrong to stand up at every instance of such shaming and call it out, call out the person doing the shaming. Shame the shaming. And that’s a really tough way to fix things, but you’re playing a role with posts like this. And everyone of us who read this and say AMEN! need to take this same attitude out into the real world and call out those who engage in fat oppression.

    Also, I think you should read this: The Shame Blaster (That’s a wedding blog, but the post itself is about women and shame and has nothing to do with weddings. Half of the time that blog is more about being an empowered woman than it is weddings, so I bet you’d enjoy reading it, Miss Sizzle.)

  6. You’re right – I did need to hear this. You put into words all of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head since I was in middle school. I’ve always felt the pressure to be “thin and beautiful.” At my thinnest, it still wasn’t good enough. I’m at a healthy weight now, but I still look in the mirror and think most days that I’m still not “there,” wherever there is. So, thank you.

  7. I read Lindy’s article after you tweeted it on Friday (and all the drama to follow). I loved what you wrote here and I feel like I want to emphasize one thing:

    Society will not stop the shaming until WE stop shaming ourselves. End of story. As my mom always told me . . .if you ignore them, they eventually go away. Even if the chatter just goes away in our mind. And honestly, once we stop shaming ourselves, we probably won’t hear all that bullshit.

    Here’s the thing. I’m fat. I know it, people that look at me know it. It’s not a secret. But honestly? I have never felt bad about it. I don’t know why. I have always loved fashion magazines and celebrities and I find it just as hard to find cute clothes as any other fat girl. And since I don’t focus on it, no one in my life focuses on it. I interact with so many people every day and it’s never an issue. If I am not making it an issue, why should they?

    I’m not saying I have it all figured out. I would love to excercise more. Not to lose weight, but because I get winded on stairs! I just have never found a work out I like. When I think about eating better and exercise, it’s because I want to be healthier, not thinner. Sure, it would be easier if I was thinner, but then I would get to fit into designer clothes and I would have to live in a box because I spent my mortgage payment on an outfit.

    So . . .long winded way of saying YES! I agree with you. Let’s stop shaming ourselves first and the rest will follow.

  8. I am happy to read this, especially coming from you. You are such a beautiful and inspiring lady, and I’ve read some posts where you were so down on your body, in the midst of your working out, going to yoga, and I was thinking, no, she needs to let go of that body-hate and realize how awesome she is.

    And yeah, it’s much easier for me to read someone else’s blog and say that than it is for me to say it of myself, but I’m working on it, too.

  9. I love you, you know. This is perfect and exactly right. It is what I always say when anyone says something about not being ok because they need to lose weight. I always say “says who?” I love the people I love because of who they are, not what they are. Maybe I think guys with saggy pants are gross. Should they be ashamed to walk around in public now? No because who am I to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do? People have a right to be themselves and be loved for whoever they are and whatever they look like. I think people forget that differences are what makes the world beautiful.

    You are beautiful, both inside and out.

  10. Fatism, I had no idea that was a word. But I know this mentality is here among us, within us, I’ve drank the kool-aid too.
    What do you propose? What can we do to change this? I think we owe it to ourselves and the future generation of girls and women who will have to deal with the same issues. What can we do on a grander scale? Whatever it is count me in!

  11. Hi Dear:

    I check your blog every day and you have seriously Rocked-It out of the park today Sistah!! I love this. You are amazing. So right on. As I have gotten “older” :) I’ve been putting on the poundage. I’m working on accepting that my figure is more and more the Goddess figure and has nothing to do with the stick figure. I try to see all of us rounded women as personifications of the Goddess. We are FABULOUS.

  12. I am loving all the inspiration I am getting from this movement and your words were equally articulate and beautiful.

    STANDING OVATION.

    It is no doubt work to fight off the shouting voices from our families, society, media etc. but I am really trying to make the mind shift. Positive body talk is so important and I am going to really work my thoughts around not letting myself slip into the self hate body talk that has plagued me for years.

    See you in Zumba soon were I will dance around and love it with all my back fat and pregnant-looking FUPA glory!

  13. I don’t think anyone should ever have to feel ashamed of their weight, ever. People are beautiful because of who they are, and everyone is the most gorgeous person in the world to someone. Hopefully themselves, for starters.

    I’m not sure if this is a popular point of view, but I look at the struggle to have a healthier body as incredibly similar to the struggle to quit drinking, smoking, doing drugs…whatever. I know that I have an addictive personality and that it runs strong in my gene pool. I also know that most people don’t struggle as much as me to eat well in a balanced, cleverly portioned way…or at least that it’s not such an emotional head-fuck. :) So I’m trying to love my body in a way that helps me treat it well, if that makes sense?

  14. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Shame is a Sham « Sizzle Says -- Topsy.com

  15. Girl I swear you should’ve been a politician. And damn do you say some funny stuff when you’re angry (electronic tit punch…I love it).

    I think you are tapping into something really powerful – we all need to stop focusing on our negatives. And other people’s negatives, too. Everyone has wonderful qualities about them. So my teeth are off-center and one ear is like 1/4 inch higher than the other – I have a really quick wit. So it balances out, right? :) Honestly, that is the key to happiness for everyone – look for the good. Acknowledge the good. Praise the good. Shift the world’s focus to the good.

  16. Playing and coaching roller derby has completely changed my perspective on all of this. Example: one of our players messaged all of us with concern, warning us that her very, very heavy friend had decided to try out for the team, but was very worried that we might make fun of her or look down on her somehow.

    Meanwhile, we’re all looking at each other like, Uhmmm, CAN SHE SKATE? Because if so, we’ll be fighting over who gets to play with her!

    She showed up. She skated like a dream; turns out she used to be a figure skater. The rest of us clung to each other in complete euphoria.

    “I hope she sticks with it,” one of the players said reverently, “because she is going to destroy us all.”

    So there you have it. The negative context of fat is certainly not inborn and can even be unlearned.

    And yes, watching big girls work out twelve hours a day and remain big girls has annihilated perceptions about fat that I didn’t know I had. And I think that if we fought to alleviate self-hatred and low self-esteem insead of fatness, some of the unhealthier weight issues would take care of themselves, as they seem to a supportive environment.

    I think you look great. And even if you didn’t look great, that would be okay, too. The world does not fall apart if we do not look great, and looking great is one of the least interesting things we have to offer as human beings. I wish more people got that.

  17. Yes, you can get an AMEN! The “I don’t want to see two fat people dancing” mentality drives me crazy. First and foremost, who said they were dancing for you? Whether it’s the fatism you describe or my local L.A. radio DJs complaining when a non-hot woman dares to cross their field of vision (even if she’s a paramedic who’s here to save their lives), this is a pervasive form of thinking among the privileged–assuming that other people exist only in relation to you and how you feel about them.

  18. This is an amazing post, thank you for writing it. The first time I remember someone making me feel fat was when I was about 13. My best friend and I were at a neighbor’s house visiting. She was a parent who my bff babysat for and became close with. For whatever reason we were talking about the size of clothes and I said I wore a 10. She scoffed at me and happily proclaimed that she was a 7. It may not seem like much, but it made me feel bad to be so “big.” I was a kid, I should be smaller than an adult, right? Why is it ok for an adult woman to say such a thing to a young girl? To anyone? I’ve remembered that moment my entire life and it’s haunted me almost every time I look in the mirror. If I was smaller then, would I be struggling with my weight today?

  19. I love this post! (Prepare for a long comment — guess I’m making up for all those years of lurking.)

    I’ve been overweight most of my life, so Shame and I go way back. Between what I thought, what others thought, or what I thought others thought about me based on my weight, I’ve spent a lot of energy curbing my actions and basically dimming my light in several aspects of my life.

    A couple examples:
    - I’ve always had lots of friends, but struggled to believe I was worthy of being in a relationship. I thought, ‘what truly great guy would be attracted to and want to love “all of this?”‘
    - My body is strong and even though it struggles to get in the groove after periods of inactivity, I know it responds well to exercise — yet I felt self-conscious and bad for making my fit friends slow down to accommodate my getting-back-into-it self on hikes and in classes. These are my friends who love and support me — yet I felt shameful with them. Ugh.

    I don’t know quite what happened, but a year or so ago, I took a look at my life and realized I was 40+, fat and single. Even though I was generally a happy, healthy, successful person, I knew I needed to make some changes in my life, or I ran the risk of finding myself in the same dimmed-down place 10, 20, 30 years down the line.

    I hooked up with a counselor and found that what I most needed was to figure out how to love myself. I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to be Me. I’d heard it before and actually agreed, but never seemed to follow through. I needed to stop worrying about what others might think, or what I thought they might think (that’s a big one!), and just allow myself to do / be whatever felt authentic.

    I was surprised a few months later when friends started asking what I’d been up to. They liked this new, grounded, more fun, at ease Aimee. (More fun? Seriously? Hmm…)

    Soon I went on dates. Some not-so-hot dates, and then one very good date that lead to more good dates, and now a steady, great guy in my life who continues to tell me (and show me!) how much he adores me.

    And mother of all self-expressive exercises, I was just in a burlesque show! I’ve always been intrigued by burlesque and cabaret shows, but never imagined my body being in one. Then a friend announced she was putting together a show and she had a spot for Me. Holy shit — in a good yet scary way. After weeks of rehearsals (for learning the moves, but also grasping the thought of being alluring, sexy and half-dressed on a stage at size 22,) I shimmied and shook my curvy, corseted self in a burlesque show with a couple dozen hot-as-hell women — each of us embracing and celebrating our own personal beauty! The night was such a hit, we have 2 more booked. One of which is in Vegas! And? This time I’ve agreed to conquer another personal fear: I’m going to sing! (Holy shit, take 2!)

    What a change, huh? I can’t say Shame never visits. I am human after all, but now if we meet, it’s brief and a lot less painful. I realize in truly loving myself, 22 might not be my ideal size, but I also recognize that this is a process and I’m moving forward and growing in amazing ways. I like that, and I like Me! Better than that, I LOVE Me, and I can’t wait to see what I open myself up to next!

  20. Thank you for your posts on this topic. I went on my first diet in 6th grade – nothing for breakfast, a hardboiled egg and water for lunch, and my mom made me eat dinner…she was okay though with the egg and water for lunch!! I’ve struggled for years and yet, when I look at myself in high school, I was a size 10! Fat is in the head, and the body just responds to what is going on in my brain.

    I too wish that people would realize the unspoken and unacknowledged prejudice towards overweight people. I think it comes back to not only loving ourselves, but expressing love to others in our communities. When we stop judging each other, then, maybe change can happen.

  21. I read that article a few days ago…and I have been having arguments with others, in my head, about it since. I do good for a while but then the shame comes sneaking back in.

  22. thank you! fact of my life is: i used to be a healthy (!) big(er than your standard whateverthatis) 20 something year old girl. fitter than most of my skinny friends, i had fun, i went to the gym 1-2x a week, i rode my bike almost everywhere… problem: i never knew i was absolutely perfect the way i was. so i tried to lose weight. like, all the time. now i’m 34, obese with hurting knees and high blood pressure and taking anti-depressants. it is THAT MUCH harder to accept and love (!) your body when everyone everywhere tells you it’s not. i can’t be because you’re overweight. man, this makes me mad and sad at the same time. thank you for writing this and pointing out the article. i’ll go over there to read the whole thing right now! xoxo

  23. This might sound weird, but whatever – you can electronically tit punch me if that’s the case ;) NOTE TO SELF: start using the words tit-punch more frequently.

    ANYHOW.

    You know how sometimes you don’t understand why you wind up somewhere doing something for a long time and then one day it clicks and you think YESSSSSSS! That’s how I felt this morning. Sizzle, I’ve been reading your blog (and the odd time commenting, but given that we don’t “know” each other I always find it odd to comment) for the last 4 1/2 years and over those years I have often found myself nodding in agreement (like with this post!) to much of what you write yet still wondering all the while, why it is that I am so interested in a virtual stranger’s life.

    Fast forward to 2 weeks ago when I stumbled across another blog and found a gal whose philosophy on fat and nutrition spoke to me deeply (and she’s one of my fellow Canadians which I love!)

    Fast forward again to today when reading your blog realizing that I think you two could be heart sisters. Not even kidding. I think you will totally embrace her beliefs (gosh, I hope I’m not wrong!) and she looks just as sassy and sweet as you – I think it might be the bangs ;)

    So here she is http://www.fatnutritionist.com/ I hope I’m not wrong about the connection, but something about it just feels organic and kind of complete – like the answer as to WHY I ever first stumbled upon you has been revealed.

    I will continue to read your writing with anticipation as it never leaves me without something to think about and I love that about my visits to sizzle says.

  24. You are so right, and if nothing else we owe it to the next generations of women to not allow their minds and lives to be so controlled by this fictional, impossible idea of beauty and appearance.

  25. “We can all be radical if we start loving ourselves and our bodies.

    They’ve told us it’s impossible. But it’s not.”

    HECK YES.

    Size doesn’t determine a person’s worth any more than a pretty face does, only in our society sometimes that’s exactly what we value most. I’ve been guilty of it myself, when the fact is: Our physical appearance–the faces and bodies and genetics we were born with–are all things that really have nothing to do with us. We didn’t earn them, and they aren’t who we are. I have the eyes I have, the chin and nose and thighs I have because my parents fell in love. I’m working hard to get my body back to the size it wants to be, yes, but I will never be a size 2, or a 4, or even a 6. And you know what? That’s more than OK with me. Because I’m happy, and healthy, and strong. And we can all be happy and healthy and strong at a variety of different sizes and should be, amen.

  26. Amen! really when we accept ourselves, we are able to change if we choose to. I agree, a lot of people shame others into staying that way.

    great post!

  27. Awesome post.

    I also think, beyond the shaming and the blaming (WHICH IS HUGE AND IMPORTANT) that it is causing people to not only miss the emotional picture of weight struggles but the very real, very political, very concerning state of affairs concerning our food. Not just if we stress-eat or drink too much diet Coke. I’m talking about the very real problem of various fillers and synthetics that somehow pass for “food.” And even our body care products that are filled with chemicals and synthetics–of which we have no idea what the long-term effects will be.
    And you’re right–there are plenty of “fatskinnies” out there who take terrible care of themselves (I used to be one of them) but pass for attractive because they wear less than a size 8. It’s all of our issues–and you know what? Some of us are always going to be curvier than others. And that’s a good thing.

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