In the reading “Love Your Fat Self” by Courtney E. Martin, the author writes about her friend Gareth’s experiences being fat, as well as her own research about obesity and the “psychological pain of fatness”. She makes the point that sizeism—discrimination against people based on their weight—is similar to racism in that it consists not just of blatant acts like a man calling Gareth fat on the subway, but in thought processes about people that aren’t expressed aloud. The author considers her own thought processes about Gareth to illustrate this. She wonders if she notices anger more quickly in Gareth than in her thinner friends, if she considers her not just beautiful but “beautiful despite being fat”, if she patronizes her by complimenting her on parts of her body like her eyes because that implies the rest of her body doesn’t exist.
I think examining one’s thought processes is a very good first step to eliminating sizeism and sizeist beliefs in one’s own life, but just examining it may not be enough to solve the problem completely. I am not sure what the author advocates as a next step, but there must be one. Simply realizing that you tend not to date fat people isn’t enough to change your belief that fat people are unattractive and not date-able. Yet dating a fat person simply because they are fat doesn’t seem to help either. Obviously the goal here would be to judge people simply on the content of their character, to borrow from a famous speech on equality, but I am not quite sure how one would achieve that completely.
Paying attention to our thought processes is a good start—maybe we should stop policing each other on what we eat (She should have a cheeseburger—she’s so skinny! She should have a salad—she’s so fat!), wondering what size others are, feeling superior to others because we happen to be smaller, and many, many other thoughts that become harmful when they merge into a larger, sizeist belief system. Perhaps when we move past these thoughts we will no longer be concerned about whether or not someone is overweight. Still, the author says that completely ignoring the person’s fat body isn’t very accommodating either! I am not sure how to reconcile this. Surely telling someone that they have a nice shape, or stomach, or legs, or whatever would seem insulting to someone who is self-conscious about being fat, and a little creepy no matter what size they are (I for one don’t comment on my friend’s bodies no matter what their weight). If we cannot ignore the person’s fat body and we cannot comment on it either, what is someone trying to end their own sizeism to do? I treat fat people like I treat anyone else, not mentioning their weight, but is that patronizing as well somehow? It’s a dilemma for which I can’t see a clear answer.