I was all geared up to do a Suck It: Marie Claire and Maura Kelly for the execrable piece of trash Ms Kelly wrote and Marie Claire published that, had it been said about any other minority group, would have gotten her fired.
But I’m not.
Because rule one of being a decent human being is not to beat someone when they’re down.
Mostly I feel sorry for her. That is not the writing of a happy camper. If her body issues are so severe and long-lasting that she’s still making physical size into a moral issue to the point where she would be:
“…grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”
That’s just sad. I mean it’s outrageous and embarrassingly immature and ignorant, but mostly it’s just sad.
Think about it: Would you ever want to feel like that? What kind of life is that? How much self-loathing does one person need to have where watching fat people in the act of EXISTING is an offense? I don’t hate her: I pity her.
So Ms Kelly, here are some things you need to hear:
—You are beautiful. You are beautiful at whatever weight you are now and you’d be beautiful 100 pounds from now. You might not feel it if you were fat, but I’m not all sure you feel especially beautiful now. Beauty has breadth, it has depth and the more you look for it, the more you will find. Wouldn’t your life be better if it had more beauty in it? The way to find it isn’t to narrow your definitions.
–If you rely on having a certain socially-accepted body to feel good about yourself, you are fighting a losing battle. It will hurt you. It’s probably hurting you now. It’s a shell game, sweetheart. There will always be someone younger and prettier than you are, with a “better” body. Always. God-willing you’re going to get old, you’re going to get wrinkles, you might even get fat. Gravity will take its toll and someday you and everyone around you will refer to your looks in the past tense. You will be someone who once was pretty. If that’s all you’ve got, I hate to break it to you but not liking to watch fat people will be the least of your worries.
—Since you don’t have fat friends, I’ll give you a pass for not knowing that a lot of stereotypically Great Catches –you know, those David Beckham body doubles with great jobs and healthy emotional boundaries– are into big girls. Not just because “beauty is on the inside” but because they actually physically prefer overblown curves. So those rolls that make you sick are incredibly sexy to a shocking (even for me) percentage of traditionally hot guys. Being fat doesn’t mean you have to settle, it just means you’re fat. I’m a size 20. My gentleman caller is an athlete and fitness model who should be on a Calvin Klein billboard, which a) is bragging b) illustrates my next point:
— The only thing you’ll get with a man who likes your physique to be just so is a guy who will leave you when you don’t look that way anymore. How can you have a successful romantic and sexual relationship if you’re constantly worried that once your package has expired (and it will expire) you’ll get tossed in the trash? I couldn’t handle that sort of insecurity and I don’t exactly suffer from a lack of self-esteem. It’s useless at best and dangerous at worst to assume you have to have a certain body to attract a man with a corresponding one.
—Not all science is good science. You know how the little trope about how women’s brains are smaller than men’s was used for more than a century to support the idea that women are intellectually inferior to men? That’s bad science and it’s dangerous because it perpetuates dangerous biases. You’ll find equally incendiary-to-our-ears biases about other minorities in old textbooks. Blacks are such-and-such, Jews are such-and-such, Gays are such-and-such, all with the same result: it dehumanizes the group and by making them Less Than, thus giving society permission to treat them without basic human decency. There’s a lot of bad science out there that will “support” popular ideas. Don’t swallow them wholesale.
—Fat people can be healthy, check out the Health at Every Size community. Or heck, check out my friend Kerrie and all the women like her who run marathons and triathlons as a big girl. Are you really going to call someone who can run 26 miles unhealthy? Crazy yes, but not unhealthy.
—Don’t kick someone when they’re down.
Listen, Ms Kelly, the reason I’m not laying into you is because I’ve been where you are.
I’ve made an ass out of myself in print before. I said I didn’t want to look like a tranny in a pretty major publication. It was a cheap throwaway joke and because I’m so vocal about my support for GLBT issues –I’ve even driven the big convertible in a pride parade– it didn’t even occur to me that I’d offend anyone.
Wrong. I got hate mail by the bucket.
It took a bizarre personal experience of having my OWN gender questioned –and I’m just this side of Jessica Rabbit on the femininity spectrum so imagine MY surprise– for me to realize how wrong I was. I can’t know what it’s like to be born in the wrong gender. I can’t know the pain of coming out, either as gay or transgendered and having my entire world turn against me –or feel like it– just because I want to live my life honestly, and because I can’t know I have no business talking about it or making high-handed moral declarations about it.
You can’t know what it’s like to live as a fat girl in a world where fat girls are treated as less than fully human. You just can’t. All we can do is empathize and do our best to remember that everyone wants the same thing: to be loved and happy, just as they are.
What you did was dangerous and hurtful.
It was stupid too, but I don’t really care about the stupid part. I do stupid stuff all the time. Generally I’m smart enough not to publish my stupidity, but hey everybody makes mistakes.
You know first hand what it’s like dealing with an eating disorder. Do you have any idea how many of my readers –not to even think about the Fat World in general– are recovering from eating disorders and have gotten fat because their metabolic system has been permanently damaged? Do you have any idea how easy it is to slip back into disordered eating and the psychological shame spiral? I have a feeling you do. I also have a feeling that you know what a trigger is. Your little post was a great big trigger for a lot of people, I guarantee it.
Finally let me make this clear: It truly doesn’t matter to me what you think of the way I look. You don’t hold any power or authority by right of your thinness. My life is great. I’ve got a great job, oodles of fans, love, happiness, flawless tits and a freakin’ Birkin I didn’t have to pay for. I’m doing Just Fine.
What does matter to me is that you learn something.
This ugly situation can be a great jumping-off point for an open and honest exploration of your fairly apparent body issues. With any luck this will lead you to be a little more thoughtful about the reasons behind your body image issues and help you develop a more loving relationship with your own body. Other people don’t need to be bad to make you feel good. Other people don’t need to be ugly for you to be beautiful. It’s not a zero-sum game. Never has been. Your bio says you’re in your 30s and have never been in love. That’s unfortunate too, but not surprising. If you don’t love yourself, regardless of measurements, how are you going to love anybody else? Think about it sweetheart, and try to get better.
Gin and tonics,