Do you ever experience a moment when it seems like someone is on the verge of a truth but they end up just skirting around it? It seems like that happens often around issues of weight. We hear a lot of talk about how horrible life is for fat people and we activists sit there, mentally filling in the blanks; “Yes, life is hard for us because people discriminate against us!” Unfortunately, many people never seem to reach that logical conclusion. Instead, it’s “Doctor’s treat fat patient’s poorly, so you should lose weight.” “Kids bully fat people, so you should lose weight.” “Airlines kick fat people off of flights, so you should lose weight.” And on and on it goes.
Last week I was sitting at the break table at work, flipping through the most recent issue of Mental Floss magazine, and I had one of those “avoiding the truth” moments. The magazine included a feature on how the seven deadly sins may not be so bad for you after all. I mostly skimmed the article, but of course I wanted to see what they had to say about gluttony. Now, I don’t really need a magazine article to give me permission to practice some good old fashioned gluttony. I don’t believe in attaching moral value to food or drink anyway, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that indulging in something you enjoy makes you happy, so just enjoy it already!
Even though I wanted to see what the rag had to say about gluttony, I didn’t get very far, because right at the beginning of the section was a parenthetical that warned against being too gluttonous, because heavier people (their words) tend to get raises and promotions less often. Hmmm. Mental Floss, I feel like you’re missing something.
See, this is true. All of us fat activists know this is true. Apparently the writers of Mental Floss know this is true as well, because they threw it in as a little tidbit in an article about why it’s okay to indulge (but not too much, I guess. Don’t over-indulge that indulgence, folks). The thing is, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to include this fact without bothering to talk about why it’s true.
Being less likely to be hired, promoted, or given a raise is not some odd little side-effect of being fat. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not an unavoidable trait. It’s discrimination. Fat people are discriminated against. We are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises because the people in power see us as lazy, unintelligent, or just ugly. The article in Mental Floss mentioned this fact of discrimination against “heavier people” so casually and quickly that it wasn’t clear whether or not they actually see it as discrimination. Reading that line I felt like saying “….Yes, and?”
The thing is, it’s not our fault. It’s not our fault we are less likely to be given these opportunities in the workplace. It’s not our fault we are discriminated against. To throw this fact out there so casually, and then not explore it, makes it seem like this is just an interesting and unfortunate side affect of being fat. What it really is, is a side affect of living in a society that views fat people as lesser beings. We are headless blobs on the evening news, miserable bed-ridden guests on Dr. Oz, reality show contestants desperate to lose weight in order to “take our lives back.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I just want to be a person.
Yes, fat people are less likely to be given raises or promotions. And that is fucking unacceptable.