Sunday, September 25, 2016

“Fat is Contagious”

December 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Obesity

This incredible article, “Fat is Contagious,” was written by Kim Brittingham and originally featured on FreshYarn.com. We are so glad to be able to share it with you here. Kim’s memoir, Read My Hips, will be out in 2010. We can’t wait to read it, and we welcome your comments and insight on her article.

I ride the public buses of New York City nearly every day, to and from work at least. Overall, experience has shown me that most riders prefer to sit rather than stand — that is, unless they have to sit next to a fat person.

I’ve been on buses that filled to an inhumane capacity, with commuters packed in like desperate refugees or sows to the slaughter. Still, the seat beside me remained empty. I once watched a woman tolerate being wedged between a foul-smelling man with roaming hands and a perspiring giant with a hairy armpit an inch from her face, yet she staunchly refused to collapse comfortably into the seat available at my side. To be fair, she might’ve been enjoying the feel-up, but judging by her expression of disgust and the dirty looks she kept shooting at me, I think not. Why wouldn’t she just sit? And what had I done to deserve the evil eye? Had I contaminated an otherwise perfectly good seat by situating my deadly girth beside it?

Some people don’t even bother to be subtle. One woman attempted to sit beside me and made a big show of squirming uncomfortably before crossing the aisle in a noisy huff. She sat beside a sympathetic stranger with shaking head and rolling eyes, to whom she churlishly complained, “Some people got a lot of nerve!”

Hey, listen — I can understand how the seat beside a large person might be viewed as less desirable than one beside a slimmer person, for reasons of bodily comfort. A tiny person might leave the seat-seeker more room to move in their own space. Oftentimes I, too, will choose to stand when I see an open seat between two people that looks like it won’t comfortably accommodate my large body. I simply don’t want to be squashed in the middle. What I don’t understand, however, is when seats are at a premium and very few people will suck it up and sit next to me in a seat on the aisle — that’s right, an aisle seat where there’s no wedged-between factor. Even I find it infinitely more comfortable to sit in an aisle seat beside another large person, with one of my ass-cheeks hanging over the side, than to stand for forty blocks and be jerked clumsily to and fro in high-heeled boots.

When it isn’t adults refusing to sit beside me, it’s their children, children of four and younger already imbued by the media or their parents with the unarticulated but unmistakable code that fat people are bad. Bad, dirty, poor, stupid, sick. I’ve watched, saddened, as children twisted and whined at their nannies’ sides when it was suggested that they take a seat beside me.

Sometimes I actually get to witness the process of this unfortunate indoctrination. An as-yet untainted child approached the empty seat beside me and climbed guileless into it, grinning, all cheeks and Chiclet-teeth. Her mother snatched her away and suggested that she sit over there instead. When the little girl asked, “Why, Mommy?” her mother was dismissive and uneasy. While my hips and ass may be wide, trust me — they’ve never bled so far outward that I couldn’t accommodate the feathery body of a three-year-old at my side.

The way people act, you’d think fat was contagious.

Over time, I couldn’t help wondering what other riders were thinking when they chose not to sit next to me on the bus. At that moment of decision — to sit or not to sit next to the fat girl — are their thoughts crystal clear, like typewriting across their brains? You don’t want to sit next to that fat woman, because a) she might smell like bratwurst, b) her excess sweat will rub off on you and stain your good blouse, or c) it’ll be a lot less comfortable than standing. Or are their thoughts more like a swirling purple vapor of vague collected precepts? Fat…bad…icky…undesirable…avoid…stand.

One afternoon I was inspired to launch an experiment; to engage in an act of performance art, of sorts. I created a fake book cover with my home computer. Some rectangles of color here, a change in font there, a borrowed bar code, some clip art of a cartoon fat woman on a shuddering scale, and voila! I’d churned out a highly convincing non-fiction book jacket. I wrapped it around a newly purchased biography, and after a little tugging and folding and fun with Scotch tape, I held the book out before me. My heart swelled at the sight of it, my cheeks grew warm. My God. It looked so real.

As I ride up, down, and back and forth across Manhattan, I work my way through Fat is Contagious (or rather, whatever cleverly cloaked tome I’m currently reading), one twenty-minute ride at a time. Even when I appear completely engrossed in its pages, I’m aware of the dozens of people who strain their necks doing double, triple, and even quadruple-takes to read and re-read its cover. Wherever my book is in clear public view, someone inevitably notices. Some people appear absolutely stunned, mouths comically agape; still others can’t conceal their absolute horror. Many look just plain dumbfounded, a little goosed perhaps, and undeniably confused. I’m telling you, the looks alone are priceless. Pure entertainment.

Once in a while I receive a smile, but I’ll never know which ones are pitying my perceived stupidity, or, like a particularly handsome man peeking over the top of a Wall Street Journal with a knowing twinkle in his eye, seeming to congratulate me on a cleverly-executed hoax.

On two separate occasions, I spied women sitting opposite me jotting down the title and author on the back of a phone bill or a drug store receipt, scrawling hastily between surreptitious glances from beneath an overhang of hair. I wondered: were these women seeking to learn which trendy nutritional supplement would protect them from the perils of infectious fatness? Or were they burning to write a venomous letter to the author, verbose in its feminist ideologies?

One day I overheard a young woman on the bus phoning a friend, making no special effort to keep her voice down.

“Cheryl, it’s me. Listen. I’m on the 79 bus and I’m sitting across from this woman who’s reading a book called, Fat is Contagious, How Sitting Next to a Fat Person Can Make You Fat. No, I’m serious. Yes. I know it’s mind-boggling. Should I ask? O.K., well, can you check Amazon for me?”

One middle-aged man sat beside me, took one good look at the book cover, and literally ran to the back of the bus!

After witnessing a wide variety of entertaining reactions to Fat is Contagious, I finally received one concrete answer to my original question: What are people thinking when they choose not to sit beside me on the bus? I got an answer that was true, uncensored and specific. One woman responded out loud on behalf of everyone who’d ever intentionally avoided, snickered or sneered at a fat person, giving a real voice to so many of those riders still tethered to the handrails in standee silence. And ironically, it all happened before I’d even managed to pull Fat is Contagious from my messenger bag.

I’d just finished a long day of jury duty and all I wanted was to head home and lose myself in a good book. I climbed onto the bus and sank into a seat on the end of a row of three. A statuesque, capable-looking woman with skin like bittersweet chocolate sat on the other end. I was rummaging in the bag on my lap when I heard a belligerent voice spit, “Excuse me!”

I looked up to see another woman glowering down upon me. I’d classify her as “an older woman,” but she had the sort of haggard features that often make you believe a woman to be older than she actually is. She was tiny and slight in an oversized coat that hung heavily from her narrow shoulders. Her skin appeared tough and slightly yellow, and the auburn hair that showed from beneath her woolen cap looked brittle and lusterless. She scowled at me through Coke-bottle glasses. I had no idea what she wanted.

“Yes?” I asked.

She pointed to the middle seat. A fringed triangle of my shawl had fallen into it. I reached down to lift it into my lap and she quickly snapped, “Oh, never mind!” She turned to the woman on the other end of the row and spat, “If some people won’t lose weight, they should have to pay for two seats!”

To this cranky little woman’s dismay, she encountered no support.

“What are you talking about?” the seated woman replied in a melodious Caribbean accent. “There’s plenty of room for you in that chair! And what are you saying, lose the weight? There’s nothing wrong with this lady! She’s just fine the way she is!”

Two plump women sharing a family resemblance and identical ponytail holders sat snugly against one another in seats across the aisle. Their eyebrows shot up beyond their bangs.

“Oh no she di-in’t!” they chorused. “Did that lady just say you need to pay for two seats? Who the hell she think she is?”

The self-righteous little woman (I’ll call her Ms. Hostility), sensing her viewpoint was unwelcome in the back of this particular bus, moved towards the front. Seconds later, it seemed she’d engaged a stranger in conversation about me, or they with her, because I heard Ms. Hostility argue, “Well she should want to lose the weight, for her health!”

Here I thought I’d been minding my own goddamned business. But just like that, my weight had become the sizzling debate-du-jour on the M15 bus from Center Street.

All right then. If the idea behind this woman’s confrontation was that all fat people are hurting themselves with their poor habits, and further, that society should step up and stop this mass self-destruction by any means necessary (including malice masquerading as tough love), then why aren’t more combatant, public transportation-loving women hovering over slender people on the bus and berating them for the cigarettes in their shirt pockets, the martinis on their breath, or the excessive stress lingering on their furrowed brows? Why haven’t these crusading souls made it their business to fight self-destructive habits across the board? Why aren’t bus riders asking other bus riders outright if they have regular check-ups and health screenings, and glaring down their noses at those who answer in the negative? After all, it’s about helping people recognize what’s best for their health — right?

The Caribbean lady reached over and put a hand on my arm. “Don’t you listen to her,” she said in a hush. “She’s just jealous. She wants to be young and pretty, like you.”

I knew my new friend was right. I wouldn’t have traded bodies with that unhappy little troll for any amount of money — and I wanted so badly to tell her so. I was growing weary of taking yet-another-hit for the fat team in noble silence. I was tired of letting people skate by saying whatever they felt like about my private body any time, anywhere, in front of anyone — all the while, grinding my teeth on overrated grace and eternal forgiveness, replaying in my mind the old Mommyism that I shouldn’t lower myself to her level by being just as nasty. My ire was way up, and for good reason. I wanted to say something acidly clever, just plain mean. No, I’m not Mother-frickin’-Theresa, and here’s what I was thinking: I wanted to tell her she looked like a rat — a sickly, underfed rat crudely ejected from an overcrowded consumption asylum; a 19th-century trash picker just turned out of the workhouse. I wanted to rub it in her face that I was robust and pink and lusty, that I was luscious and plump and smooth as a peach, that I looked like a biblical cherub in the nude, and that she only wished she did. I wanted to tell her she was the last person who ought to comment on the state of a person’s health based on their appearance. I wanted to thrust a chubby finger in her face and force her to listen about fat Jeanette DePatie, marathoner, aerobics instructor, and producer of the fitness video The Fat Chick Works Out. Would Ms. Hostility be able to keep up with Jeanette DePatie’s video? I wished Ms. Hostility could meet obese Kevin Brown who placed 76th out of 173 competitors at the Ironman Triathlon. How well would Ms. Hostility compete beside Kevin Brown? What would she so authoritatively say about the health of Ms. DePatie or Mr. Brown if she saw one of them sitting on the bus?

Ms. Hostility certainly wasn’t the first person in history to suggest that fat people should lose weight for their health. Every physician I’ve ever seen and an uncle with only the best intentions believed the same, and told me so. But why should a complete stranger on a bus be so deeply concerned about my health? It’s as hackneyed an excuse as they come.

I decided against engaging Ms. Hostility in a debate. Part of me would’ve relished a cross-examination of her motives, but I was too tired to excavate, too weary to peel away the health argument and find out what bitter, ignorant, heartbreaking belief really lay beneath. I took the high road, but only by exhausted default.

The rotund sisters unleashed some verbal digs on my behalf. “You’re right, she is jealous,” they piped up. “Just look at her nasty, bony ass.”

With easy confidence, I assured them, “What she says can’t hurt me.”

“You’re beautiful, and they’re beautiful,” the black woman said, gesturing to me and the sisters. “I’m not very skinny myself, but I’m beautiful too.”

We all nodded at one another and smiled. “You look stunning. Tall, healthy.” I told the kind woman. “We’ve all got good, sturdy genes. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

A growing crowd at the front of the bus forced Ms. Hostility back our way again. She hovered directly above me and glared, stubbornly avoiding the empty seat at my side. I decided to resume what I’d been doing when I was so unpleasantly interrupted the first time. I pulled Fat is Contagious out of my bag and with intentional drama, I widened my eyes mockingly and raised the book slowly, spookily in front of my face, floating it over my nose and mouth. Ms. Hostility and my allies all noticed this quiet, curious performance and leaned forward to read the book title. Suddenly, laughter and applause broke out from all sides. The quarrelsome Ms. Hostility made a sour face, turned on her heel, and spurned us for the remainder of the ride.

Ms. Hostility and I got off the bus at Union Square. We started moving in the same direction at the same time. Even with a bulky, heavy shoulder bag to bear, I passed her, walking at my usual clip — a pace that tends to be frustratingly fast for most of my friends, fat and thin alike. I wasn’t trying to outrun her. I didn’t have to. Perhaps her delicate, bird-like physique couldn’t support such a vigorous stride. I went about my business, breathing deeply the air of an unusually perfect day, my legs long, sturdy and sure, my head held high. I looked over my shoulder only once to see if I’d been followed, and I saw Ms. Hostility shuffling towards the doors of Barnes & Noble. Perhaps she was looking to read a copy of Fat is Contagious. For her health.

Comments

52 Responses to ““Fat is Contagious””
  1. beautifuldancer says:

    Beautiful. All I can say is this is just BEAUTIFUL.

  2. Mish says:

    I feel you on this. Having been 100lbs heavier than I am now…I remember being very overweight and being the unmentionable girl in high school. I remember being flat out refused to attend a dance with a guy that I asked and also when I asked a guy to dance (different one) I was told no. That stuff followed me throughout my adulthood and it still affects me at times.

    What is interesting, and I am sure there are studies on this, is that women from non-western/white cultures tend to have a more outwardly acceptance of their bodies at more shapely sizes. Perhaps there’s something to gain from this.

  3. Candice says:

    I rode the train into NYC for years and I know what you describe of well, although I never had to deal with my own Ms. Hostility (thank goodness). Good for you for literally taking this issue to the streets and standing up for yourself/the rest of us. I can’t wait to read your book. 🙂

  4. Joy Manning says:

    What a great story and post! I am so looking forward to your memoir! Bravo! And thank you!

  5. Nell says:

    Aww, why did I never ride the bus to uni? Why did I always have to walk? I would’ve so much loved to meet Kim, stare mouth agape at her book and pester her with questions about the writing style, where she got it and whether it’s still in print. I can’t resist a great-titled book!

    Plus, I would’ve loved to spread some anti-hostility propaganda 😉

    I can’t wait for the book now- what a great excerpt and what an exceptional read!

  6. Gina says:

    @ Kim Brittingham – You describe the woman who was hostile towards you as having skin that “appeared tough and slightly yellow”, hair that was “brittle and lusterless”, and having “Coke-bottle glasses”.

    And as if that wasn’t enough, you go on to describe her as looking “like a rat — a sickly, underfed rat crudely ejected from an overcrowded consumption asylum; a 19th-century trash picker just turned out of the workhouse”.

    And you want other people to show you respect?

    I thought Fat Acceptance was about accepting all people, fat, skinny, or in-between. Or does that high-minded principle only apply to people who kiss your “cherubic” ass?

    • Lisa says:

      This is true of FA as a general movement. However, in a specific instance where somebody is openly and personally criticizing another on just their appearance… I can’t say I can blame the person who lashes out with, “Who are YOU to look down your nose at me? You have PLENTY of your own physical flaws.” And anyway, even those who align themselves with FA don’t have to (can’t?) promote a perfect fat acceptance image 24/7. It’s just not possible.

      • Gina says:

        …even those who align themselves with FA don’t have to (can’t?) promote a perfect fat acceptance image 24/7. It’s just not possible.

        Well, in that case, I guess it’s OK for the non-fat to make insulting and demeaning remarks about another person’s fatness?

        • Gina says:

          … as long as they don’t insult the fat 24/7, that is.

        • Lisa says:

          No. Especially if the fat person has done nothing but sit on the bus.

          If a fat person started in publicly insulting a thin person’s appearance for no reason, I’d say it’s understandable (not necessarily ok) that the thin person would want to lash out at her attacker in kind.

          • Gina says:

            Well, that kind of behaviour won’t win too many converts over to the fat side.

            And maybe it’s just me, but I think the whole fake Fat is Contagious book thing is incredibly hostile and sophomoric. Not to mention totally unfunny.

          • Lisa says:

            While I’ll agree that criticizing thin people for being thin goes against the grain of fat acceptance ideals, well, people are people. If I were in Kim’s position, having to deal with someone behaving so hurtfully on the spot, I’d have probably been a lot more rude — just saying whatever I thought would make that woman shut up.

            I understand why you’re saying that things like that won’t win anybody over, but people who feel they are entitled to be openly hostile to a person because of their appearance, regardless of whatever health issues they feel are related, are probably not anyone who will be won over by the person they’re harassing on the bus. So then, why should anyone being attacked for her very existence have to be nice to her attacker? When Kim says:

            “I was growing weary of taking yet-another-hit for the fat team in noble silence. I was tired of letting people skate by saying whatever they felt like about my private body any time, anywhere, in front of anyone — all the while, grinding my teeth on overrated grace and eternal forgiveness, replaying in my mind the old Mommyism that I shouldn’t lower myself to her level by being just as nasty. My ire was way up, and for good reason. I wanted to say something acidly clever, just plain mean.”

            It resonated with me — the feeling I get when I feel attacked and I just want to take the jerk down a notch or three by any means necessary. I think it’s a pretty understandable human reaction. I also think it’s worth noting that, from what I can tell from reading this story, Kim DIDN’T say any of it. So kudos for her restraint.

          • Gina says:

            Yes, I agree that retaliation is an understandable human reaction, but I was speaking more broadly about the FA movement. If you want to be an ambassador for the movement, putting those comments in writing won’t help.

            And see my comment below about the fake book thing – that is just so juvenile and hostile. Again, not a good image for the FA movement.

          • kimbritt says:

            Well Gina, since I don’t consider myself (or wish to be considered) the official head of Thee FA Movement, I’m not too worried about what my actions do “for” it. Besides, “it” is not the only game in town where body image and self-esteem issues are concerned. People are individuals. Some of us do fine to think for ourselves without identifying ourselves by any established movement.

            However, what my sophomoric, unfunny stunt and accompanying essay did for ME (the only “movement” of which I AM the official head) was get me a book deal, after getting me on NPR, The Today Show, etc. And since I’ve been dreaming of being a published author since I was, oh, ten years old, I think that’s not too shabby for an unfunny couple of weeks spent with a fake book cover, on a bus route I would’ve had to ride every day anyway.

            But what’s most gratifying about my juvenile trickery and reporting of the same is that it’s motivated many, many women to feel much more empowered when they’re out in the general public; women who, perhaps unlike you and me, don’t feel completely at ease in their bodies. I know because they’ve written to me to tell me so, and I’ve cherished their every word. What I had to say made them feel BETTER about themselves. I put something out into the world that created a positive experience for other human beings. And yes, I even made some people laugh.

            Am I going to get hung up on my less-than-charitable but authentic, human reaction to the unhealthy-looking woman who attacked me on the bus? No. Unlike you, I focused more on the positive messages in the essay — which is what I find most readers do, too. But it would have been a dishonest, incomplete story not to reveal what I was really thinking in the moment. I won’t sully the integrity of my work by attempting to lie and pretend I’m some kind of superhuman saint. We’ll never further our understanding of ourselves, or each other, that way.

          • Gina says:

            How is gaining “self-esteem” by deliberately provoking, upsetting, then laughing at other people in any way a “positive message”?

            I’m sorry, but I don’t find much “integrity” in your pranks – oops, I mean “work”.

          • Gina, I’m genuinely sorry you’re so unhappy.

          • Emily S. says:

            It’s awesome that Gina, a stated opponent of Fat Acceptance, likes to come around and tell FA folks how they SHOULD be presenting themselves.

            We get it, you don’t buy it – that’s fine, but don’t try to disguise your negative reaction in constructive feedback.

          • Gina says:

            @ Emily – I’m not trying to disguise my negative reaction as anything, thank you.

  7. Janice says:

    This story was so funny. I love the book cover idea. I cannot imagine the reactions. Thank you for sharing and I look forwad to the memoir.

  8. Gina says:

    And maybe it’s just me, but I think the whole fake Fat is Contagious book thing is incredibly hostile and sophomoric. Not to mention totally unfunny.

    Fixed.

    • Sarah Hannah says:

      Really? You don’t find it funny that a grown man actually ran to the back of the bus after reading that cover? Also, how is it hostile? I would just say it’s kind of silly (but I like silly things).

    • vitty10 says:

      If anything it’s the rude people on the bus that are hostile.

    • Emily S. says:

      How in the world is holding a book while you sit on the bus hostile?

      • Gina says:

        How in the world is holding a book while you sit on the bus hostile?

        Oh, come on – if you saw a man on the bus holding a book with a fake cover that read, for example, A How-to Guide for Rapists while “with intentional drama, widening his eyes mockingly and raising the book slowly, spookily in front of his face, floating it over his nose and mouth” you wouldn’t find that the least bit hostile?

        • mamaV says:

          Hi Gina: Isn’t comparing rape and obesity a stretch? C’mon.

          Kim had guts to do what she did, can’t you see that? Would you do it?

          mV

          • Gina says:

            Mama V – No frankly, I wouldn’t carry a fake book with a fake cover deliberately designed to upset people, then laugh at their reactions.

            Because I consider that kind of behaviour to be puerile, hostile and deeply unfunny.

            And I was in no way comparing rape with obesity. I was merely giving an example of a similar scenario to illustrate why I find Kim’s actions hostile.

          • Meems says:

            Actually, your example does make it sound as though you’re comparing obesity and rape. A man raping a woman is a violent action against her. A woman being fat really has nothing to do with anyone else around her.

            I really don’t see how Kim’s actions are hostile. The cover isn’t intended to upset people; it’s intended to provoke them and make them think. It’s an exaggerated representation of how people really do act around fat people.

          • Gina says:

            Meems – I’m quite well aware of the definition of rape, thank you. I picked rape as an example because, like obesity, it is a divisive and controversial subject.

            If Kim’s fake cover wasn’t designed to upset people, why does she react gleefully to their reactions, repeatedly using expressions like, “I’m telling you, the looks alone are priceless. Pure entertainment” and “a wide variety of entertaining reactions”?

          • Meems says:

            I never said you didn’t know the definition of rape, but it is a false analogy, and I can’t imagine any person appreciates having their body size effectively compared to a violent and traumatic attack on another human being.

            Kim doesn’t control the responses she gets with the fake book cover. If people are ignorant enough to be threatened by it, that’s on them. It doesn’t mean she can’t find those reactions entertaining.

  9. mutlu says:

    Amazing post! Thank you.

  10. McLauren84 says:

    This was amazing!

    “Or are their thoughts more like a swirling purple vapor of vague collected precepts? Fat…bad…icky…undesirable…avoid…stand.”

    You are truly a gifted writer. Thanks so much for your eloquent insight!

  11. CL says:

    I am not afraid to sit next to fat people, and since I’m conscious of these issues, I sometimes go out of my way to smile when someone is considering sitting next to me so they know that I don’t mind moving my stuff and/or that I don’t mind being a bit squished together (if the person is fat).

    But, often I will remain standing while there are empty seats. For me the reason is that I’m very reluctant to inconvenience or impose on anyone who might not want a seatmate. When people have their stuff on the other seat, I hate asking them to move it. And, when a fat person is taking up part of the other seat, I wonder if would be rude to sit there because if I sit down, our thighs will be squished together… and maybe this person doesn’t want to touch me. Or maybe he or she will get irritated that I tried to sit there even though there isn’t quite enough room for me. For some reason I have internalized that it’s rude to touch strangers, so even when I sit next to a thin person, I tend to lean slightly into the aisle so that I’m not actually touching them.

    I’ve never consciously thought through all of this before now… and in addition to realizing that I’m neurotic and silly about this (who cares if I inconvenience a stranger?) — after reading your post, I wonder if sometimes when I stay standing, people are thinking “She doesn’t want to sit next to me because I’m (whatever).”

    I don’t doubt that some people won’t sit next to you because they are being judgmental and prejudiced… so I’m not doubting your experience at all… but some of those people who stay standing might be overly cautious people like me who are thinking “I don’t want to annoy her.”

    • Meems says:

      CL, I take public transportation regularly, and while I’d prefer not to have someone (regardless of size) sit directly next to me if there are other seats available, it’s public transportation, and I’ll sit next to someone if it means getting a seat. I don’t think you need to be so worried about inconveniencing others at your own expense. If someone is really that concerned about potentially touching another person, public transportation is not their best option.

      • CL says:

        You are right, of course — and I do sit next to strangers regularly. But this little nagging anxiety of annoying other people keeps me standing sometimes, especially if nobody looks inviting (belongings on the empty seat, etc) or there isn’t quite enough space on the other seat. I know it’s silly. I’m the one who’s nuts… I’m just wondering if others are also nuts in the same way. 🙂

  12. mamaV says:

    I just read through the dialogue from Gina to Kim above in which Gina is criticizing Kim for ripping on the looks of the woman calling her fat. Kim responded with;

    “it would have been a dishonest, incomplete story not to reveal what I was really thinking in the moment. I won’t sully the integrity of my work by attempting to lie and pretend I’m some kind of superhuman saint.”

    This statement is key. Kim is being real here. She said what many of us think….so why do we pretend not to?

    You must stand up for yourself in this world. I believe that if you have positive self esteem, and someone is treating you like crap, you tell them to go pound sand. LOUD. And if that includes saying comments about THEIR looks so be it. Its reality.

    In regards to Gina’s main point, which is to tell Kim what she should and shouldn’t be thinking — I find this attitude to be a common vein with the FA Movement, always telling others what they are supposed to think, say and feel. Just zip it with this crap already. To hell with political correctness.

    We are all our own individuals. We all find our way to get through the day, stay positive, and believe in ourselves. This means that no one should have to sit there and take this type of treatment.

    So those of you who are obese and are treated like a second rate citizen, I hope you read this story and take away from it the positive, which is to have the guts to be you. Don’t allow people to walk all over you, and be proud of who you are.

    Hopefully the next time you are criticized a thin individual will stand up for you, I know I would and I have.

    Just recently I took my daughter to the Miley Cyrus concert. The mom behind me was very obese and really had a hard time getting seated. She had to be just miserable in her seat. As soon as the show started, these other moms in front of her stood up. The obese mom and her child could see nothing. I could see the obese mom was not going to put herself in a position to be criticized, so I tapped them on the shoulder and asked them politely to sit down so we could all see. They glared at the obese woman seated in her chair, as if she was at fault, and stayed standing! I went right back to them and said again “Sit down please, you are being really rude.” They both looked at me like I was nuts, but they sat down and stayed there.

    I know the obese mom appreciated it. And my daughter “got it” too. Although no words were spoken about the mom’s weight, my daughter understood the discrimination she just witnessed, and I could see the compassion in her eyes. Now THAT is why I do what I do.

    mV

  13. Gina says:

    In regards to Gina’s main point, which is to tell Kim what she should and shouldn’t be thinking — I find this attitude to be a common vein with the FA Movement, always telling others what they are supposed to think, say and feel. Just zip it with this crap already. To hell with political correctness.

    Mama V, I wasn’t telling Kim what “she should and shouldn’t be thinking”. I was saying that I find her particular brand of “humor”, in which she creates a fake situation, complete with a fake book cover, then laughs at people’s reactions, to be particularly juvenile and unfunny.

    And if she really had “positive self esteem”, Kim wouldn’t need to play practical jokes on unsuspecting members of the public. Who is the real butt of the joke here — the people who react in horror at the thought of “catching” fat, or the woman who knows that her appearance evokes feelings of “disgust”?

    • CL says:

      Gina, I can see your point. The book is hostile because it’s an indictment of everyone who chose not to sit down next to her. If there are people standing around, and an empty seat next to Kim, the book confronts those people with her opinion of them — that they don’t want to sit next to her for absurd, prejudiced reasons.

      So for people who get that it’s a statement, it’s a confrontational one even though it’s just a book cover. For people who don’t get that it’s a statement, she describes them as shocked, confused, horrified — but I don’t really see the point of this. Is the book teaching them a lesson? Is it funny? It feels like she is confronting and confusing strangers for her own amusement, as retribution for fat prejudice she has experienced from others in the past.

      So yeah, Gina, I sort of agree with you.

    • Regina T says:

      @Gina……Thank you for playing the “Im gonna put that fatty in her place” role with your first comment. (“And you want other people to show you respect?”) I viewed that as yet another person (probably not fat) trying to step in and be the “mature” one by pointing out how incredibly awful it was for the person who was the actual recipient of an actual verbal attack, based solely on appearance…to have NEGATIVE THOUGHTS about the person spewing their garbage her way! Thank you for putting that fatty in her place with your comment because she has no right to defend herself cuz she’s a fatty….right? If you read the post correctly, you see that Kim did not actually SPEAK those words to her attacker…..SHE THOUGHT THEM and then blogged about them later.

      Your comment smacks of holier-than-thou-ness directed at Kim and fatties in general…including the entire FA movement. You seem to be looking for ANY reason to invalidate the whole Fat Acceptance movement by pointing out the negative THOUGHTS (NOT actions) of someone who was berated by another just BECAUSE SHE WAS FAT.

      …And….if you read the post correctly, you see that she didn’t even pull out the faux book cover until AFTER this woman unjustly shot off her mouth. So again…without Kim uttering a single word, she was able to convey a well deserved F-you at the person. Can’t you see the pristine justice in that? As far as that book cover being hostile……it isn’t. There have been recent news reports about fat being contagious all over the media, including the internet. Here’s just one link from the NY Times:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/25/health/25cnd-fat.html

      The short and sweet of my interpretation of your response is that Kim had every right AS A HUMAN BEING UNJUSTLY ATTACKED to gauge her aggressor’s verbal vomit with the same measuring stick used to berate her. The fact that she didn’t fling it right back at her in the same manner shows restraint beyond what most others would have done.

    • mamaV says:

      Hi Gina: I see your point as well. Bottomline — you just don’t find this to be funny whatsoever — and I get that, totally.

      To me, I just thought this “stunt” was gutsy, and I like that. It’s like giving someone the opportunity to show they have power over the discrimination situation they find themselves in…. you can wallow in it, take it and be angry, or find a creative way like this to deal — does that make sense?

      And THANKS for expressing your viewpoint so strongly here — that I also love!!

      mV

  14. sIM'One says:

    do you have a blog?

  15. sIM'One says:

    I think what you did is wonderful and inspirational. i live in new york as well, and i also so performance art. Let’s have tea!
    s

  16. Gina says:

    Regina – if I had been on that bus and witnessed Kim’s childish charade, I would have cringed with embarrassment for her. Remember, she didn’t react spontaneously – she had the book ready in her bag, waiting for an opportunity to get it out, just like a fat person who wants to be the first to make a “fat joke” against themselves.

    That’s not funny – it’s just cringe-worthy.

    And while the title of the fake book was clever because it mimicked real-life news reports, the cartoon on the back kind of gave the game away, don’t you think?

    • Meems says:

      Maybe you would have cringed with embarrassment for Kim, but would you have cringed with embarrassment at the (frankly far worse) behavior of the other woman? You seem awfully quick to judge Kim when it was the other woman who felt the need to vocally protest the very fact that Kim was seated on a bus and was taking up slightly more room than the woman might have preferred. I find it ridiculous that you’re so focused on Kim’s supposedly bad behavior without even a peep at the fact that this other woman was, let’s be honest here, a complete bitch in her interaction.

      • Gina says:

        @ Meems – No, I would have reacted with horror (not embarrassment) at the behavior of the other woman. I mentioned that in my first response to Regina which got swallowed up in cyberspace, and I forgot to mention it the second time around.

    • Regina T says:

      Gina-You would have “cringed with embarrassment for her”??? Why not defend her? Why not ACT to confront the prejudicial and just plain rude treatment of her by this “person”? Allowing this kind of behavior to be let through without a word in her defense is simply perpetuating the discrimination. There were others who spoke up for her on that bus….why not you? Remaining silent keeps this kind of monstrous behavior going. If every person on that bus had told this rude woman she was out of line, then maybe that woman would have re-thought her misguided belief system. That’s the power of societal pressure. Why not use that power to actually do good instead of doing harm? We all know the harm society’s pressure can cause in regards to a myriad of issues men and women face….why not harness that power to break those confines?

      Your comment about “a fat person who wants to be the first to make a “fat joke” against themselves” rings very true for many fat people. It’s called self-depracating behavior and it’s performed for a variety of reasons……to break the ice/tension/hangups people have when they see a fat person enter a room. It’s also done under the premise of “if you can’t beat em, join em” and serves as a shield to protect the person from hearing a joke about their appearance uttered by another person in the room….causing humiliation and hurt feelings. It may be “cringe-worthy” for you to witness, but it is a commonly used survival tool that many fat people use to allow themselves the ability to get through life. Additionally, making a joke about one’s fatness is not anything that hasn’t already been done to them, so that fat person has learned that’s what is merited in social settings…a learned behavior.

      As far as the “cartoon” being hostile, I’m confused. What is hostile about a fat woman on a scale? Is that such an offensive thing for you to view in public that it creates a hostile environment? It isn’t for me, a fat woman, because IT’S JUST A SCALE. It seems like you are just looking for something negative to focus your own issues onto.

      • Gina says:

        Regina – boy, did you misinterpret my comments!

        As I explained quite clearly (I thought) above, I would have cringed with embarrassment for Kim because of the childishness of her prank.

        I would have cringed for her just as I would cringe for any fat person making a preemptive fat joke. But Kim’s behavior is more extreme (and hence more cringe-worthy) because she went to all the trouble of creating a fake book, and made such a performance of her joke.

        Kim wrote: “I pulled Fat is Contagious out of my bag and with intentional drama, I widened my eyes mockingly and raised the book slowly, spookily in front of my face, floating it over my nose and mouth.” You don’t find that childish?

        And where did I say the cartoon was hostile? I said it “gave the game away”. In other words, had Fat is Contagious been a real, serious book (not a spoof book) it would have been unlikely to have featured a cartoon on the cover.

        Just as you think I am “just looking for something negative to focus my own issues onto”, I think you are deliberately misinterpreting and twisting my comments.

  17. wriggles says:

    I have to congratulate Kim on an excellent and well excuted jolly jape.

    I think the real ‘hostility’ is in the contempt the public is shown by smeckperts manipulating them to this level of gullibility to advance their own agendas.

    That is the bubble that Kim burst, I think she’s doing them a favour frankly.

    However, I do have to agree with Gina on one point though, the abusing of that thin woman’s body is to me, unacceptable.

    What you have to remember is you’re insulting anyone who has a body like hers, which is hardly inclusively body positive.

  18. Kelly says:

    You, my friend, are a genius!

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