I'm hoping you listened to the This American Life episode that I posted last week.
If not, spoilers ahead.
In it, Ira Glass, the podcast host, discusses what it means to be fat. He talks with fat activist, Lindy West. Elna Baker tells her story of actively working to stay thin. Then, he speaks with famous feminist and activist, Roxane Gay. Roxane Gay discusses her struggle with accepting her larger body.
The most striking story to me was Elna's story. She ends the story by admitting that she misses the person she used to be when she was fat. She felt this person was optimistic and good. She believed the world would be good. Elna knows she is not necessarily a better or healthier person at a lower weight. And yet, because she knows that her life has been unjustly easier in a smaller body, she continues to pursue it.
Elna's story breaks your heart.
She highlights her plastic surgery to get rid of the loose skin from her rapid weight loss. After the surgery, one cut ripped open up her leg and she was not mobile enough to stop the bleeding. She mentions at the end that she still takes diet pills that prevent her from sleeping. She notes her new husband wouldn't have noticed her in her old body.
Her story resonates because it's not just some insane thing she's decided to do. She rationalizes everything because she saw the world both ways. She experienced the world as the same person before and the only variable she changed was her weight. It changed the course of her life.
I am struck by this story because I think it puts to words the real reasons why we all want to lose weight.
The stakes are so high because it affects us. It affects our career. It affects our finances. It affects our romantic prospects.
It's why we are willing to sacrifice so much for this goal. We give up money, time, family, friends, or happiness.
We fear being fat because there are REAL consequences for being a different size.
I'm a big fan of Roxane Gay. So, I love Ira Glass for bringing her on to talk about living in a fat body. I loved her honesty in her conversation with Ira Glass. She joked that it's a lot easier for women who are "Lane Bryant fat" to accept their body. Lane Bryant has clothes that go up to a women's size 32.
Roxane Gay admits that she wants to accept her body. She says she tries really hard to accept her body but she can't.
Again, this was striking to me because this woman is brave, amazing, smart and funny. Even with all her accolades, she still struggles with all the bullshit of being a larger woman.
This successful and smart person STRUGGLES.
It's because we don't make clothes or furniture for her size. The world was built for people who are smaller.
I think this is true of the world for other people too. Without the "right" skin color, genitalia, or sexual preference, people STRUGGLE a lot.
STILL, I believe all people have a right to human dignity. I believe we shouldn't have to STRUGGLE just because we were born looking a certain way.
It shouldn't matter if people are smart, healthy, wealthy, ugly, pretty, fat, skinny, short, tall, black, white, gay, straight, or whatever.
It's why I'm passionate about this work. It's FUCKED up that our answer to people who just want to exist in the world is, "Change who you are. Or, at the very least, TRY to change who you are and we will finally accept you."
I'm not okay with that. I don't think it's healthier for people either.
We all deserve love, success, and equal opportunities. We're all human after all.