Fat is not a four letter word.
When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.
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One of the hardest relationship struggles is when our partners, the people we choose to be our lifelong companions, do not see eye-to-eye on an issue which we hold close to our hearts. What’s worse is when that issue is, on a fundamental level, tied directly to our self esteem. Body positivity and fat acceptance are both shield and spear used to protect us from derision while simultaneously asserting our rights as individuals to live our lives how we choose. What happens when our lovers break our spears, sunder our shields? With our armor gone, can we still be the vanguard?
Barbed words and open wounds:
My husband is not supportive of the fat acceptance/body positive movement. We love each other dearly and are very devoted to one another, and have a great sex life; we both think the other is hot and desire each other. We have similar life goals and have a lot of fun together. We are both larger individuals though I am morbidly obese and he is overweight. He hates his own body and has an extreme problem with his body image. When we argue, though, and especially when issues about fatness come up – for us, it’s around meals and whether or not to have kids – we fight about fatness. Specifically, when my husband gets very angry and past the point of his ability to control his mouth attached to his emotions, he says very hurtful, awful things about fatness. Specifically, mine – that he’s ashamed to be seen in public with me, that I should feel ashamed in public, I obviously eat too much and unhealthily because if I did I’d be thin, etc. Generally hateful and incorrect assumptions.
These things always hurt my feelings and I get understandably angry about them. I also realize that he says these things when he’s feeling badly about himself – and when he feels emotionally attacked, either from himself or by me over a completely different topic, he lashes out. And as painful/angering as it is, it’s not enough that I want to throw away my marriage and the majority of our relationship that is good.
The eye of the beholder:
I’ve had some problems talking to my boyfriend about fat representation in art. I follow a wonderful blog called Keep Ursula Fat on tumblr and their aim is to point out fat erasure in the Disney fandom with their most popular fat villain. Despite being a villain, Ursula is a fantastic fat character, who is sexy and confident and is happy with her body. Too many fanartists out there are depicting her as thinner than she actually is, and as an Ursula cosplayer, lifelong Little Mermaid fan and fat woman, I love this blog and join in on discussion from time to time.
A recent post that I put on my main blog (I have a side blog for most of my political opinions, which is also something I do to maintain my IRL relationships) was seen by my boyfriend and he figured that the Keep Ursula Fat blog was overreacting to one image, which depicted Ursula as a smaller fat instead of the fabulous size she is. According to the media’s standards, this Ursula was a little chubby, but part of her fatness had still been erased. It’s dumb to have to argue with him that, yes she was still chubby, but no that blogger was not overreacting. For the most part, we see eye to eye on socio-political issues, but the world of art is where we both have stronger feelings.
The exception to the rule:
My husband knows that I work out 5-9 hours a week and he knows that I eat the same amount as he does. He stays “normal” weight and I stay “morbidly obese”. When people say fat-phobic things to me, his response is, “but most people your size don’t take care of themselves the way you do” or “they are just trying to be helpful because most obese people aren’t healthy like you are”. It doesn’t matter. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Whether they overeat or not, whether they work out or not, NOBODY deserves that.
I consider myself lucky that I am married to a wonderful ally, someone who supports my work in BA/FA and fully understands the concepts of privilege, discrimination, and human rights. However, even when we argue about something petty, something unrelated to activism, it cuts. It wounds. It shakes up my worldview and causes me to question my own beliefs.
Remember, readers: equal rights, equal representation, anti-discrimination, self-love, these things are not beliefs. They are truths. You can always pick up another spear. Need a shield? Take mine. I have plenty. Family, friends, lovers, their opinions matter. But when their beliefs hurt? Take shelter in your community. We’ll protect you while you heal up, until you’re ready to reenter the fray.