Stef (firecat) wrote,

Fat, But Not Like Me

The fat-acceptance mailing lists have been discussing this TV special called "Fat Like Me" where a "popular" and thin high school girl puts on a fat suit that makes her look like she weighs 200 pounds. She goes to a new high school and records her experiences.

The show's message is that being a fat child is a social nightmare and therefore families should do everything they can to make their children thin. (Never mind changing society's attitudes toward fat, of course.)

One post mentioned that the girl experienced a loss of self-esteem even though she wasn't "really" fat, and went on to mention a similar phenomenon among people who take on the role of a homeless person (e.g., journalists or police who go undercover).

My post :

When I try something new, my esteem usually suffers temporarily. It usually gets over it.

A person who decides to play at being fat (or homeless, or whatever) is fundamentally different from someone for whom being fat is a daily fact of life. A person who has a real trait or circumstance that causes them to be perceived as outside mainstream society needs to develop ways of dealing with it. It takes a long time to develop some of these approaches. And some of them make the person better and stronger. (I certainly rather like my personality, and it's fundamentally tied up in my having been perceived as fat for most of my life and dealing with the consequences thereof.)

Why are these stories always about normal people struggling with the first day of a sudden change in how the world perceives them? Why don't they ask actual fat people what it's like to be fat all the time, or
actual homeless people what it's like to be homeless tomorrow as well as tonight?

The reason is that people want a nice fairy tale ending to the story - "and she took her fat suit off and became thin but wiser" or "and the reporter went home to his nice warm bed but wiser." People don't want to think about cost of what it might take to change a person's circumstances - especially if they themselves might have to bear those costs, by changing their attitudes toward fat people, or by giving up some money so that more services can be provided to homeless people.

Another thing I wonder: how does the knowledge that one can take off the fat suit, or go home to a warm bed any time if one *really* wanted to, change how a person approaches a situation?

When I read about how miserable Gwynyth Paltrow was walking into a hotel lobby in her fat suit that she wore for the movie Shallow Hal ("no one looked at me! no one should have to experience that horrible fate!"), I rolled my eyes - "if you think that it's a fundamental human right to be noticed and worshiped by strangers, you have a pretty skewed view of the world."

And if I were able to play at looking like Gwynyth Paltrow for a day, I think I'd be just as kerfluffled by the way I was treated as she was in the reverse situation. The notion of having people fussing over me and looking at me wherever I go and worshiping me gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. (I do like a little worship by worthwhile people, though. ;-)
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