“The ability to keep bodily matters private is a privilege some of us will never have. Just ask a poor person on welfare, a fat person, a visibly disabled person, a pregnant [person]. Ask a person of color whose ethnic heritage isn’t seemingly apparent. Just ask a seriously ill person, a gender ambiguous person, a non-passing transman or trans woman. All these people experience public scrutiny, in one way or another, of their bodies.
In this culture bodily difference attracts public attention. Privacy is not an option. Certainly as a disabled person, I never get a choice about privacy. Sometimes I can choose how to deal with gawking, how to correct the stereotypes and lies, how to live with my particular bodily history. But I don’t get to choose privacy, much less medical privacy. The first thing people want to know is what’s wrong with me. Sometimes they ask carefully about my disability, other times demand loudly about my defect. But either way they’re asking for a medical diagnosis. And if I choose not to tell, they’ll just pick one for me anyway and in the picking probably make a heap of offensive assumptions. The lack of privacy faced by poor people, fat people, disabled people, people of color, and visibly queer and gender variant people has many consequences connected to a variety of systems of oppression…
And so when I hear the argument that being trans is a private matter, I want to ask: do you know that bodily privacy is a privilege regulated by systems of power and control? And if you have that privilege, how are you using it, even when it’s laced with ambivalence and stress?”
Clare, Eli. “Body Shame, Body Pride: Lessons from the Disability Rights Movement.”
We tell people they are “strong” when we are uncomfortable with their pain and would prefer that they shut up and not bother us with it. To say “but you are strong” is telling someone “I don’t think you should feel that way,” and it’s not a compliment. I don’t think that strength means being invulnerable, or pretending that you are. The belief that silence and stoicism are inherently good qualities is how you end up dressed up like a bat punching criminals in an alley – it’s not a good road to emotional health.
Be sad. Be angry. Let your heart break – in the diner, on someone’s futon, in the park, on the way to the zoo, at brunch, over drinks, in the therapist’s office, on the bus – Wherever it breaks, let it break all the way open, let it run out and down and spread out in a soggy puddle at your feet. Say, “I’m sorry, I can’t listen to you today, my heart is broken. Will you sit with me a while and I’ll tell you about it?“
Say, “I can’t take care of you today, but you can take care of me, and maybe tomorrow I will take care of you, and we can trade off like that for a while, okay?”
Say, “I love you, and I love that you think I’m strong, but I don’t feel like being strong today. I feel like being angry and crazy and sad. Can we go to the movies or just sit here quietly or take a walk or talk about it or not talk about it?“
Your friends may get scared when you do this. If you, the “strong” one can break, what does that say about them? That’s why they push back at you and try to remind you of your strength, when what you need is for them to stand by you in your pain and weakness. They don’t have to solve that pain, they just have to bear witness to it. Maybe they don’t know how – a lot of people don’t know what to do in the face of other people’s pain. They want to fix everything, and if they can’t fix it they feel inadequate. As the “strong” one you can help them out with this by saying “You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to do anything. Just be with me, and listen, and love me, and I’ll love you back. That’s all I need – to know that you love me, even when I’m sad and scared and don’t know what to do next.”
i hate how people just expect that you’re going to finish school and get an office job and meet someone and settle down and have children and a dog and drive a mazda because i dont want any of those things especially a mazda
But then, the truth was never really the point. Thin women don’t tell their fat friends ‘You’re not fat’ because they’re confused about the dictionary definition of the word, or their eyes are broken, or they were raised on planets where size 24 is the average for women. They don’t say it because it’s the truth. They say it because fat does not mean just fat in this culture. It can also mean any or all of the following:
Just plain icky
So when they say ‘You’re not fat,’ what they really mean is ‘You’re not a dozen nasty things I associate with the word fat.’ The size of your body is not what’s in question; a tape measure or a mirror could solve that dispute. What’s in question is your goodness, your lovability, your intelligence, your kindness, your attractiveness. And your friends, not surprisingly, are inclined to believe you get high marks in all those categories. Ergo, you couldn’t possibly be fat.