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Fat Etiquette Tips For The Non Fat

Via ona_tangent, Fat Girl Break Down's "Fat Etiquette Tips For The Non Fat" is an interesting list of ways anyone can be an ally to fat people - mostly suggestions for keeping in mind the ways a fat person might find some environments too small/crowded. It's written in a direct, demanding style that I don't tend to use, but otherwise I agree with a lot of what it says.

Fat Girl Break Down also has a LiveJournal at fgbd. Don't click the website link on their userinfo, though; it's been eaten by a porn site.

I find these particularly interesting (emphasis in the original):
When going to a restaurant with a fat person, allow the fat person to choose where you are seated. Consider the fact that your fat pal may not fit into a booth, and may not feel comfortable sitting at a table with their back facing the rest of the restaurant.
(I personally don't mind sitting with my back to the rest of the restaurant. But when sitting at a four-person table against a wall, I like to sit on the outside, not the inside where I might crowd the person next to me or where other people would have to get up to let me out if I need to go to the bathroom.)
Don't make fat jokes around fat people. Don't make fat jokes PERIOD. If someone makes a fat joke around you, tell them they are being immature and stupid.
I personally don't particularly want people to be called immature and stupid; I'd rather they were just educated that fat jokes - the kind that rely on scorn, disgust, humiliation, or othering - are not OK. But I especially appreciate the part about speaking up against fat bigotry in other people. I don't think people are obligated to do this, but I appreciate it because I'm not good at it. Actually, I'll add that I appreciate the most people who speak up against fat bigotry when I am not around. If I'm around I feel like they're pointing at me and saying "Don't do it because can't you see this fat person is here?" I'd rather that such jokes were considered questionable even in entirely non fat company.
Don't say you're fat if you aren't fat. Don't whine to your fat friends about your gut that's barely visible. Don't try to compare being teased for being "too skinny" to the constant degradation and oppression of fatfolk. If you don't read as "fat" to people who see you, don't call yourself "fat." Body dysphoria and actual size are two different things.
I don't personally mind comparisons between the harrassment that fat women receive and the harrassment that non fat women receive (although I prefer it when the comparison isn't made with the goal of saying "I'm more harrassed than you"). But I REALLY like the statement "Body dysphoria and actual size are two different things." I'll just go on the record here as saying that a bunch of times when a thin woman has talked to me about how fat she is, I've wanted to say something like that. I generally haven't because it would be rude, but I've wanted to.

(Note: I don't recall anyone on my flist saying something like this to me, so I'm not indirectly communicating to anyone here. And writing it in your journal isn't the same as saying it to me.)

I don't mean that only people my size "get" to call ourselves fat, but when people who look pretty small to me talk about feeling so fat, I feel like a Nameless Thing ("if they are fat, and my body is so much bigger than theirs, then there is no name for what I am").


While I'm on the subject of etiquette - this is part fat etiquette, because it applies to some other fat people, but mostly Stef etiquette - I appreciate it when people keep in mind that I usually don't comfortably walk fast. I can walk several miles, but it's at a pace that's slower than what seems to be a "normal" pace. When I'm walking with other people, I appreciate it if at least one person walks at my pace rather than everyone's going on ahead and leaving me alone.

I also appreciate it when walking with one person if they match my pace rather than walking a half step ahead of me, which I experience as pressure to walk faster - and then I do, and it's painful.

Note that I almost never ask for these things at the time. Which is a fault in me, but it's not one I am planning to work on changing any time soon.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC)
Some of that article is basic etiquette, and some of it is... I don't know what, but it doesn't sit well. The fattest person should always ride shotgun? There are lots of reasons why someone might not be comfortable sitting in the back seat--great height and disability are two others. Or two fat people might be present. Let's face it--no one really likes being squished and someone is going to be.

I don't particularly care to sit with my back to a room either, and prefer the outside of the booth for the same reason you do.

As for your comment, that's basic walking etiquette. I'm tall, and I walk more quickly than most people like to. For those who can't keep up--and this included my tall reasonably fit husband--I walk more slowly. If I ever am walking with you, I'm not going to take it amiss if you tell me to slow down. I spent so many years with my feet as sole or only form of transportation that almost everybody walks more slowly than I do. :)
Jun. 26th, 2005 03:38 am (UTC)
Re: Meh.
Good points all.

A side note on the walking etiquette: I used to walk very fast, before my current foot trouble, and walking slowly was something I could do only as long as I was thinking about it. As soon as I started thinking about something else, like the conversation, I would subconsciously start to inch up my pace to my natural speed. I didn't mind being asked to slow down -- I appreciated the reminder. Just a datapoint. Now, of course, I'm often the slowest one in a group. :)
Jun. 26th, 2005 02:53 am (UTC)
Re: Fat Etiquette Tips For The Non Fat
i really want to argue with the "don't say you're fat unless you are" bit, even aside from the "i am more of a victim than you" attitude that seems to me to lurk there -- who's gonna be the arbiter of that? are we gonna have a weigh-in? doesn't it largely depend on one's regular circles as to whether one is viewed as fat by others? just reading the crap i've read over the years about, say, actresses where the label "fat" is applied to women whose gut was indeed barely visible. i am not surprised that a lot of people have bought into the general idea that every wee bit of "extra" weight is "fat", and i am not gonna play this game with them; it goes against my grain to argue with people's self-definition. besides, what is this gonna gain me exactly?
Jun. 26th, 2005 03:31 am (UTC)
Re: Fat Etiquette Tips For The Non Fat
Yes--remember the fuss about Kate Winslet, who was (gasp) a size 8?
Jun. 26th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
walking faster
oh, forgot -- i consider that walking bit basic etiquette no matter whether somebody is fat or not; one might be a slow walker for all sorts of reasons, and i hate hate hate people who rush ahead. makes me feel like i am their dog. if i ever do that with you and don't notice, do tell me!
Jun. 26th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC)
Re: walking faster
(Deleted comment)
Re: walking faster - therealjae - Jun. 26th, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: walking faster - pir_anha - Jun. 27th, 2005 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: walking faster - firecat - Jun. 27th, 2005 07:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: walking faster - epi_lj - Jun. 26th, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: walking faster - pir_anha - Jun. 27th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2005 04:18 am (UTC)
(Before I start, I oughta preface my comment by saying that I am not fat, and was not aware of most of the etiquette guidelines suggested by the author.)

I appreciate that the author was trying to educate people about etiquette towards fat people, and issues that fat people face. However, before I read Stef's commentary on it, I was wondering if some of the article was the author's own personal etiquette. And may not apply to other fat people. (Thanks, Stef for confirming my hunch.)

Some of the suggested etiquette may not apply in all situations. For example, when I am driving several others, the person I often want riding "shotgun" is the person who can navigate. Somebody who can give me directions. And that has nothing to do with body weight.

Another example is when being seated in a restaurant. As a parent of a small child, I need to have a seat near my daughter's high chair or booster-seat. Other than being near my daughter, my other rule is that I don't want my back to foot-traffic. (It's not fun putting a fork into my mouth and then get bumped by somebody walking past me.)

I'm male, but I've got a hunch that the concern about unfat people calling themselves fat is mostly about how mainstream culture treats women. It's much more okay for a man to be a bit pudgy or have a pot-belly than for a woman to even show a little extra gut. Hence, more otherwise normal-weight women complain about being fat than normal-weight men.
Jun. 26th, 2005 04:40 am (UTC)

Restaurants and car journeys are tricky all around I think.

I generally do a quick calculate that includes size (including height), gender (particularly if it's a work situation), kids, various health and disability requirements and then just try and not get in the way myself.

The one thing she mentioned that I had previously missed was bedclothes, I have squirreled that bit of info away for future reference.

Jun. 26th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC)
Just a comment:

I'm a weird pear shape. I carry my weight around my middle - belly, hips/thighs/butt. Below my thighs, my legs are "normal". My arms are slender. When I'm wearing certain clothes, I don't really look overweight, but in certain parts of my body, I AM. ::shrug::
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think most people don't understand it, not having experienced it.
(no subject) - red_frog - Jun. 26th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 26th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - red_frog - Jun. 26th, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 26th, 2005 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
fat == humiliating - pir_anha - Jun. 28th, 2005 07:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: fat == humiliating - firecat - Jun. 29th, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
Body dysphoria and actual size are two different things.

Very true - but then as pleonastic says, it's hard to argue with how people view themselves... But I too get irritated when people get into the whine competition about "oh, look, I've gained at least fifty grams this weekend, I'm SOO fat!".

But there's another thing that's been getting to me when reading your posts. What irks me isn't "anything non-emaciated is fat", it's "fat equals ugly". Because it doesn't. The whine competition seems to me as begging for reassurance, wanting to be told that you're not uglyl. (Or, of course, it's used to put down any woman who's less thin than the speaker...)

I wish we could get rid of the whole beauty having an inverse relationship to bodyweight thing. They're not related at all. IMAO, olf course.
Jun. 26th, 2005 05:08 pm (UTC)
This is the first time anyone's told me that my posts in general come across as "whining" about "fat equals ugly." Could you give me examples? I'm curious.
(no subject) - jennyaxe - Jun. 27th, 2005 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 27th, 2005 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 27th, 2005 08:05 am (UTC)
I didn't read the article as bossy in the same way other commenters did, but I can see how it could come across that way.

(Preaching to the choir, I suspect) It's legitimate to feel anger when you're part of a group that's systematically misunderstood and mistreated, but expressing that anger toward people one wants to be allies is problematic.
Jun. 26th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC)
On walking, I often walk in front of people or walk faster than other people without noticing. I do try to slow down when I can. However, one thing that a lot of people aren't aware of is that while for some people, as you say, walking faster is painful, for a lot of people walking slower is painful. I don't mean "psychologically uncomfortable" -- I mean that strolling or walking slowly instead of walking at their natural state causes physical pain for them. So when some people walk fast it may not necessarily be them being inconsiderate of your pain so much as them trying to avoid their own pain.
Jun. 26th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
Can you explain this some more? How does it cause physical pain?
(no subject) - epi_lj - Jun. 27th, 2005 12:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 27th, 2005 08:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 27th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC)
One small grumble: the article points out that "smooshing fatties in the backseat with a slew of other people is not going to be comfortable for anyone." Later it says not to pressure a fat person to take shotgun if they don't want it. Should the slew of other people whose comfort is also at stake not get a vote as to whom they're smooshed into the backseat with?

I'm also somewhat distressed by "body dysphoria and actual size are two different things." I live in a culture where, as someone pointed out above, fatness is attributed to size-8 actresses. As a size 12, I do meet that definition of fatness, so a self-image in accordance with that *is* a matter of actual size--and it's not necessarily body dysphoria; it may simply be "I'm fat and I'm fine with that." I much prefer your point, that if being fat means the same thing as being not-skinny, there's no available label for the state of being significantly fatter than not-skinny. That's been more or less the reason that I've stopped applying "fat" to myself--not that I previously wasn't basing the assessment on my actual size, but that it seems useful to favor narrower definitions of the term than those which include said size.

Those issues notwithstanding, I think it's a useful article. Thanks!
Jun. 27th, 2005 08:31 am (UTC)
The article really doesn't consider the needs or wants of anyone but a fat person.

I personally think it's legitimate to write an article about "here's how a fat person would like to be treated" rather than an article about "here's how to negotiate the logistics of a car ride considering the needs of a fat person and also a bunch of other competing needs."

But maybe some kind of disclaimer about how other people have needs too would have helped the article come across better.

I agree with your body dysphoria comment.
(no subject) - leback - Jun. 27th, 2005 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )

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