I have a confession to make, and it may leave you slightly disgusted. Read on, if you have the guts. I will be kind of rumbling. It’s about ‘fatties’.
Some background: my sister and I were talking on the phone last week and as usual I asked her about ‘my daughter’ i.e. my niece. After the regular updates, she told me that I seem to have given my niece the idea that fat people are not good-looking. I was a little surprised, even shocked. I actually have no idea when I ever did this. I guess I may have talked about how I don’t want to gain weight in her presence and all, having gained 4-5 kgs (and probably growing-matooke on the regular, but more importantly an increased intake of sausage and milk) since landing here about 2 years ago. Some of the weight gain for good reason. And it’s not like I mind it that much, though I won’t lie and say I would want it to go unchecked. I think some of her ‘learning’ may have come from hearing me and my mum comment about weight, me saying I don’t want to be ‘fat’. To which my mum’s (and sister’s) response is almost always ,”wi mukiigu muno!” (you’re very stupid!). Maybe it even stemmed from some comment I made while watching some sports updates at some point and commented on the sports-reporters size and how it was ‘inappropriate’ for his profession. Like, a sports-reporter should look ‘sporty’, not fat. I don’t know. But am surprised that a 5-year old is able to listen to odd statements and come to a conclusion. And start making comments which would be considered offensive when she sees ‘fat’ people. Fat people, in my opinion, are not even that common in Kenya, our main problem being, well, food security. Except maybe in middle-class urban people who I understand are starting to be affected by ‘lifestyle diseases’.
Recently there was an article on Marie Claire where the writer expressed disgust for ‘fatties’ . The article resulted in an uproar on the internet, with people writing tens of thousands of emails to Marie Claire, some calling for the author's firing. I found this paragraph particularly disturbing: “So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.” I thought it was a little harsh, even misplaced given the fact that I think majority of women in America are large. And that’s self-desribed “...publication that women turn to for information on fashion, style, beauty, women's issues, careers, health...”. Way to inform the women, eh?
The article got me thinking about my own weight biases. While maybe 4-5 years ago I would rarely notice, let alone care that someone was overweight, perhaps due to my rural upbringing, something seems to have happened, and I kinda notice, though I don’t dwell much on it and have never commented on someone’s weight to them or to someone else. I’ve mentioned my own weight gain on twitter, facebook and blogger often. So much so that when Kellie and I met me in September, she said that she was expecting to see a ‘larger person’. I must have been exaggerating. I think any large person or one who has been or is concerned about their own weight would consider it mockery to talk about my weight often, considering that I’m 55kgs, well close to 56 now. So what am I thinking? That I don’t know what it means to struggle with weight I shouldn’t be too judgemental. The term 'Eating Disorders' is something I learned in my Physical Education class in campus, and I must confess I found all the eating disorders ‘funny’ at the time. As in how you refuse to eat? Eat, then puke???. That it’s easy to blame fat people for their weight issues, or even make it sound like there’s a quick fix to weight matters, like diet and exercise. Especialy when I have never tried the former and can’t myself be disciplined enough to practice the latter regularly (remember my skipping rope? It’s been unused for like 2 months, and I haven’t ran/exercised much in as in as long a time). More importantly, that weight is itself a ‘diversity’ matter much like sex/gender/sexual orientation, race, religion tribe, age, name them. And of course, my favourite, marital status. Am learning that you can be as sizist as any other bigot can be tribalist, racist, agist, and in my opinion, maritalist. How, for instance, would you feel if someone said that they find it disgusting to watch people with too much melanin (black people) walk across a room or a street, or do anything at all? Or two a Luhya and a Kamba? Trust me, we would be having a different discussion, possibly with a lawsuit to boot (in America that is!)
Much as I believe that it is within my power to be slimmer if I want to be, I know it’s not the same for many other people. I once had a room-mate who was kind of large, and believe you me, I ate more than she did. She had been above-average size-wise since she was young. I think also that ‘thin’, single, non-parent people should always consider the possibility of having larger kids and think how they would treat them.
What’s your take on this weighty issue? Will you complain next time you are on a 12-hour busride next to someone taking like a third of your space?
I found some fat people out there with blogs that I found interesting. I didn’t even know you could be wrecking mental havoc on someone by regularly talking about your diet. There’s Unapologetically Fat, The Rotund, and Fatties United! Fatties United! tend to bring a bit of humour in their take on fat, like this blog post here. Take a read.
That said, fat people should also be sensitive when talking weight with thin people. It's rude to indicate that someone has an eating disorder simply because they are thin.
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