Actually, No, It’s Not a Behavior

I’m assuming that most of you who don’t reside under rocks have heard about Jennifer Livingstone and her awesome response to the concern troll who chastised her for being a bad example by being fat at people on their television screens.

In case you have been vacationing in Bedrock and don’t know about it, her response was to go on air and call the bully out for what he is: a bully.

All the wrapping it up in diaphanous garments of concern for little children who might be exposed to the horrific sight of a woman who isn’t thin leading a valuable life and succeeding in a demanding profession can’t hide the ugly message of ‘get off my screen, you’re wilting my manbits.’

Plenty of fabulous bloggers have discussed this episode in some detail. Check out this great entry by Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist. She does a lovely job of breaking down how it’s bullying and why that should be called out.

But one thing in the entire conversation has really struck me: the conflation of body type and behavior.

I’m not just talking about the random assumptions of how people who are fat behave as opposed to how thin people behave. I’m talking about the fact that the original email to Livingstone and quite a few of the ‘but it’s not bullying’ comments on Michelle’s blog all claim that fat is – in and of itself – a behavior.

Here’s a quote from that original email:

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.

I don’t know about all of you, but I did not choose the size of my body, nor is it a habit I maintain.

I have a lot of habits. I make a lot of choices as to my behavior every day. I can choose the behavior of taking walks, eating foods I enjoy, playing The Sims, washing dishes in a timely fashion or leaving them to marinate a while, how much attention to pay to Jake the Cat’s constant need to be cuddled, what books to read, and whether or not to sing along with a song I enjoy.

These are behaviors and habits. Some of them may or may not affect the size of my waistline on at least a temporary basis.

But my waistline is not a behavior any more than my height is a behavior. That can also be altered temporarily if I choose, should I take up the behavior of wearing heels, but it is not in and of itself a behavior.

My eyesight is not a behavior, though some of my habits can affect it on a temporary or a permanent basis, such as if I spend many hours on the computer. Still, my eyesight is not a behavior.

My hair is not a behavior, though my behavior can affect it dramatically. I can choose how often to wash it, what products to use on it, how to style it, whether or not to change its color with dye… but all of that does not change the fact that my hair is not a behavior.

My height, my weight, my eyesight, my hair, and dozens of other things are simply physical characteristics and nobody who does not know me can hazard a useful guess at how the are the way they are. Any of dozens of behaviors or choices may or may not affect them.

My waistline may or may not be affected by the choices I make in regards to food and exercise… but I know people who try out every diet known to man and beast without their weight changing one iota in either direction. I’ve heard the story of many a person with an eating disorder diagnosed as EDNOS (eating disorder, not otherwise specified) who had every single symptom of anorexia nervosa except the weight loss.

There are those who struggle with clinical depression and find taking anti-depressants helps a lot. But you know what? Many of those drugs have the side effect of weight gain. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s probably better to take the drugs, gain the weight, and be able to function than to be thinner and trying to cope with suicidal ideation.

Genetics play a huge and uncontrollable part in body size. I’ve got five generations of family photos on my wall that illustrate the inherent unlikelihood of my being thin.

I am fat.

It’s. Not. A. Behavior.

But you know what is a behavior?

That’s right, making the choice to treat people as less than worthy of existence because of a physical characteristic.

I didn’t choose my height, my weight, my eye color, or my skin tone any more than you did. But every single day I can make the choice to treat others with dignity and respect.

And that really is a behavior.

 

11 Responses to “Actually, No, It’s Not a Behavior”

  1. Patricia October 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Well said!

    In fact, VERY well said!

  2. Angela Meadows October 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    What Patricia said!

  3. Patsy Nevins October 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Amen. Very well said. It makes as much sense as saying someone chooses to be tall, or someone chooses to be black, etc. I wish more of the world would wake up & smell the coffee & realize that fat is not a choice, nor is it necessarily ‘dangerous’ to health & can in fact often be protective of health. However, as long as a lot of people are raking in billions of dollars every year selling the images of ‘fat, lazy, gluttonous slob’, ‘fat kills’, & making up non-existent words & conditions such as ‘diabesity’, for Maude’s sake, most of the world will continue to believe that we are lazy, unhealthy, unproductive compulsive eaters who are digging our (early) graves with our forks. I am sure I am far from the only one who remembers Michael Fumento & his “You never see any fat people over 50″, which piece of intelligence I passed on to several fat people in their 70′s & 80′s of my acquaintance & also of my blood. I myself am 63, the fattest I have ever been, still very much alive, & still functioning quite well, thank you. I have made the ‘choice’ to feel comfortable with & at home in my body & enjoy my life as I am & being fat is not keeping me from doing that. If you choose to see me as irresponsible & self-destructive, that is YOUR issue, not mine.

  4. Kerry October 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    I love this post. Such a simple and eloquent explanation that surely those who fat hate have got to begin to get the distinction and difference between weight and health!!!

  5. Mary Ellen Petti aka Gemdiva October 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    BRAVO!!!

  6. Heather T. October 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Like my dad always says…”you can get rid of fat, but you can’t get rid of ugly”. I bet this person is REALLY UGLY!

  7. Thea October 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    I only wish somebody would blast this guy’s name, phone, email and home address all over the internet so he could see what it feels like to get the fuzzy end of the lollypop.

  8. STARGAZYRR October 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Good Morning America did an interview with him shortly after the story broke. He is back-pedaling like mad.

    His name and work info (he’s a personal injury lawyer):

    Kenneth W. Krause
    2120 Mississippi St
    La Crosse, WI 54601- 5013

    There are several Facebook pages that have popped up, either demonizing him or supporting him. His personal page seems to have vanished.

  9. Liz October 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    I really love your comment about height, because as a shortie, I know that pain of fact well. That’s not something you can really argue about- “hey, you should have done [insert idea] so you’d be tall today!” Well done. And what a horrible man. By the way, the person above about ugly- I always say the same thing to people who are thin but nasty about my size: “I may be fat, but you’re stupid. Through stupid means I could try to be thin, but either way you’ll always be stupid no matter what.” You can’t really diet stupid.

  10. Lisa from SoCal October 13, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    “You’re wilting my manbits.”

    Very funny, very well argued.

  11. Thea October 15, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    @STARGAZYRR Thanks! Good to know that great minds got there faster than I could have. I hope his apologies eventually go beyond offering to ‘help Jennifer lose weight’ and ‘sorry if she was offended by my comments’ – which is NOT an apology.

    Also see that in addition to being butt ugly, he’s a personal injury attorney – look for his face on a bus bench near you! (if you live in LaCrosse Wis)