Saturday, July 10, 2010

"OMG, Fat People" and Other Inane Comments

I wish I could say I was shocked by the elitism, arrogance, ignorance and prejudice I hear out of the mouths of the college educated, especially those who claim to be all about "peace, love, and social justice." However, hypocrisy is common in many areas, including this one. Recently, at my job, I was part of a conversation where two coworkers started bashing on people's body types. The conversation was originally about clothes, but then a girl mentioned a lady she saw in short shorts and how that lady was "not the smallest." The conversation spiraled downward and I ended up changing the subject, because I got uncomfortable. Still, I was amazed at the comments.

"So I had to sit next to two fat people on an airplane. How gross!"

"Well, that wasn't OK that she wore it!"

Et cetera. Et cetera.

I found it appalling for a few reasons.

First of all, it's amazing how we can judge a person for their body type, all the stereotypes and such we come up with without having lived that experience. The girls in question have society's mandated body type: small bones, slender waists, noticeable breasts, and a slight curve for their hips. They've probably never had to deal with weight issues, they've never given birth to children, they have no idea what it's like to not have that body. While people like to think they're acting out of concern for the person's health, that really isn't true at all. I know because I'll tell people that I work out and try to eat healthy and they always respond with, "But you don't need to! You're so skinny! You have such a cute figure!" I cannot begin to tell you how many of my friends are on crash diets or talking about how they need to fit a dress. To them, it's not about health as much as they don't like the way they look after finals week. The whole prejudice against those who break the body mold have nothing to do with health but more to do with our idea of physical beauty, our idea of what bodies, especially women's bodies, should look like.

Second, if we truly are concerned about health, why don't our politics and culture reflect that? For example, why are we still subsidizing corn products and dairy products, when we could be subsidizing organic vegetables for the health of our nation? Why don't poorer neighborhoods have grocery stores and farmer's markets (the latter being very affordable) instead of families having to rely on convenience stores and the high caloric/low nutrition content of the food options there? Why do our work weeks allow us little time to exercise, to cook our own meals instead of relying on processed quick ones, to really strengthen our bodies? And why don't our beauty standards reflect those of healthy people (regardless of body type) rather than an airbrushed ideal who barely exists?

Third, ladies, you won't stay Skinny Minnies forever. Pregnancy and breastfeeding change your body forever (not in a bad way, necessarily, just different). Age slows your metabolism. Maybe you'll end up with medical conditions that cause you to gain weight or medicine that includes weight gain as a side effect. Your life may become so busy at times that going to the gym is out of the question. You may not be able to afford or want plastic surgery. You may end up as one of those people you like to make fun of. And no one will have mercy on you, either.

So, dear fellow college students, grow up and educate yourselves. The world is better off without your "benevolent, concerned" condescension. And seriously? You can survive an airplane ride. Besides, long plane rides aren't supposed to be the epitome of fun anyway. Get over it.

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