It dawned on me today, as someone went out of their way to make sure I got into the elevator before the doors closed (I’m telling you, this guy nearly wrestled with the door) that people treat me differently now post-op than they did pre-op. Now, it could be argued that this may be a misunderstanding on my part, based on how my self-image and self-esteem has changed; but I don’t really think so. Based on my personal experience; I believe that most people treat obese people differently than they would a smaller/thinner person. It isn’t something totally obvious, people didn’t go out of their way to be mean to me in the past, but I was definitely treated differently in subtle ways; snide looks at the food I was eating at a restaurant (or the food I was buying at a supermarket), trying to hide a scoff if I ordered a diet soda; and basically automatically dismissing me because of my looks. Sizeism is something I’ve written about in the past, when I was exploring the Fat Acceptance Movement and also I’ve alluded to my past experiences with it; but it’s something that just keeps coming up. Things like what happened at the elevator today; how male co-workers started being a lot nicer to me and going out of their way to do favors for me once the pounds started melting off; or how even members of my own family seem more interested in what I have to say now than before.
Could it be that this is all in my head? That people are only reacting to my new confident attitude and therefore treat me better than before? Possibly, but things like Tyra Banks’ “Fat Suit Experiment” make me think that maybe, not so much.
In 2005, former model Tyra Banks donned a fat suit that made her look like she was 350 lbs to see if people would treat her differently. She went shopping, rode a bus and went on three blind dates wearing the fat suit and said she was “appalled” and “hurt” at how people treated her. They laughed in her face and snickered behind her back, one of her blind dates told her that if he’d brought her home to his parents’ house they would have asked him “What’s wrong with you?” Now, when the whole Tyra-Fatsuit thing first came out, I felt offended when I saw her crying during her talk show because she “understood what (fat people) went through everyday” because how could she understand what it was like just by wearing a fat suit for a couple of hours? I still think that her proclamations of “understanding” are ridiculous, but her little experiment does show how people are quick to ostracize larger people. It seems like this form of discrimination just keeps getting worse and worse. There was the Marie Claire article, where the “reporter” expressed her disgust at seeing 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.”But of course, it was okay for her to say that because she had “plump” friends. That’s just as bad as saying something racist about black people but saying it’s ok because you have a black friend. Ridiculous. And it isn’t just that silly magazine; not a day goes by that I don’t see something in the news about the scary “Obesity Epidemic” and how our health care costs keep going up because of it. Now, they’re even fat-shaming our kids! Georgia has these billboards now featuring pictures of chubby kids with captions like “Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.” Really? Like we don’t have enough bullying going around now you’re shaming these poor kids in billboards?! I’m all for parents encouraging their kids to eat healthy food, but I really don’t see how these billboards (or the commercials that go with it) help do anything but make a kid who may already feel bad about themselves just feel worse; or make a child that’s considered “normal” sized make even more fun of an overweight kid. And what about the poor kids in the ads themselves? How did the parents agree to this? This is just as bad as the anti-abortion billboards in NYC that featured the little African American girl.
So, this whole Sizeism thing is what’s on my mind today, and honestly, it makes me sad and more than a little pissed off. I wish things could change but that won’t happen until we all make an effort not to judge anyone based on appearance and/or calling out someone who does it in front of you.
How about you? Has anyone treated you differently because of the way you look? Do you think you’re quick to judge others based on what they look like?