14 July 2015

The Disabled Overweight (And Why We’re Not Unicorns)

Today on the blog I have the lovely Hazel guest posting for me from Frocktopus.  Hazel is talking today about size shaming and the disabled overweight.  This is a fantastic read and I am so pleased that she agreed to post for me.



As much as I don’t want to believe it, unicorns don’t exist. The nine year old inside me is crying just typing that. I on the other hand do exist, and as much as we all like to feel a little like we’re special snowflakes, there are literally millions of people just like me on this planet - I’m overweight and I’m disabled.

I’m writing about these things for the ever fabulous curved opinion today because this blog is all about body positivity and Vicky has written some amazing posts about the plus sized movement, which sadly goes hand in hand with talking about size shaming.

Often I’m essentially excused from size shaming, not because I’m of average BMI (on my scale of awesome fictional characters from Flat Stanley to Jabba the Hutt I happily sit just shy of Vicar of Dibley) but because I’m disabled. A fact people seem to forget when vilifying under/overweight people.

“That’s me!” I shout.

“Not you, you’re exempt” they blush. “Besides I don’t think of you as fat”
some of the nicer friends say.

“Do one” I say, hitting the Facebook block button, passive aggressive as ever.

These are people that would, quite rightly, be in uproar if someone said “But you can’t help being black” or “But I don’t think of you as a woman.” These are not valid excuses people, if you’re going to make sweeping statements and presumptions about a subset or society, it’s a good idea to stop, look left and right then think, can these people be expected to live up to my ideals, and should they be expected to?

Shaming people on the basis that 'people can do stuff but they won’t' is presuming you know someone's situation better than they themselves (something I regularly try to check with my ‘Am I being a dick?' filter.) Not everyone is able to cook healthy food, eat healthy food and exercise regularly enough to be an ideal weight. 

If you’re thinking a group of people aren’t doing something they should, it’s probably a good idea to take into account the subsets of that group that sometimes cannot physically do those things, be it by poverty, carpophobia or disability.

Another often touted belief is 'It’s wrong to have an unhealthy role model'. This is not only saying large swathes of disabled people can’t have a role model, it’s saying large swathes of disabled people can’t BE a role model, which is discrimination by omission (a law/rule/belief that isn’t specifically aimed at a subset of people but accidentally persecutes them more than average, for example losing job security for taking long periods of time off work discriminates parents by omission.) 

It’s important for all people to have someone that can make them feel like they aren’t a freak and that they can accomplish something great, whether that’s being an Olympian or getting out of your PJs by noon (FYI I am in my PJs at 11am writing this, I bet Tess Holiday’s in a fucking power suit by this time of day). 

This attitude towards over/underweight disabled people is not only pretty discriminatory but I do not believe it’s about health. Size shaming often masquerades as concern for health but it’s only a small portion of apparent health people can see on the surface.

Whilst I’ve been told probably over a hundred times in my life that I’m overweight, I have never once had someone in the street yell "Oi, Your blood sugar is low”. There are many ways people can be healthy and unhealthy (for example I’m teetotal) but there is an inordinate emphasis on extremes of weight due to societies revulsion.

Phobia and revulsion are very closely linked psychologically, that’s why when you have blood taken you’re sometimes asked to lay down on a table, because if you’re scared you don't faint, if you do it’s due to revulsion, even though the mind computes them both as the same thing. and what is concern? Come on, you know where I’m going with this, fear for another person. 

So body shamers,  we know you care, it’s just we don’t need your compassion/revulsion. What we need is for you to stop and think “Is this discrimination by omission?" "Am I presuming people I know someone's situation more than they do?" Am I being a dick

2 comments:

  1. I hope that I'm not being a dick in saying this, but: if you're fat Hazel, then I need to go and crawl into a (very, very, very, large) hole, and cry - probably whilst inhaling a family-pack of crisps.
    You may be (according to the doctor's oh-so-very helpful criteria) overweight, but surely there is more to our lives than the point at which we tip the scales? I'm sure you think so, and I try to think so too.
    *hugs* to you, you special unicorn

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  2. Hi Lyn, not a dick at all sweetpea and lovely to hear from you. I wrote this post about the reactions I've had to my weight fluctuations since being disabled (12-16 1/2 stone) and from what I've seen flung at a lot of other wonderful people. I know a lot of awesome people bigger, beautifuller (now a legit word) and often healthier than me that get a lot more hassle so I hope I'm not insulting anyone by writing about this, a lot of the size shaming I get is specifically because I'm physically disabled, like if only I was a bit thinner I wouldn't have seizures or memory loss, plus some people act like they own a share in my health as they pay for the disability benefits I'm trying to get, what a pile of bunkum eh? I don't tend to dwell on my weight, I love my body (well, not the malfunctioning bits a the moment but I'm down with how I look) but I do I dwell on how people treat each other. Hugs and cake xxx

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