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Emily Anson: I’m Still Angry (But I’m Getting There)

Posted on Jul 2, 2008 in Features, Overcoming Discrimination, Uncategorized | 8 comments


Emily Anson - The Fat Experience ProjectI’m still angry. My anger, while not integral to my new identity as a promoter of size acceptance, helps to drive me. I have to admit it. I’m pissed off.

It’s been a journey for me to get here, and a non-linear one at that. When I was a young fat teenager, desperately trying to escape my own self-hatred, I stumbled upon the Fat!So? online zine. I gazed in awe at pictures of fat bodies, and read treatises on the virtues of self-acceptance. In those days of high school peer-group torture and suggestions of diets from well-meaning parents, this girl was not yet ready to really believe those things she read, covertly as if they had been taboo erotica, late at night when she knew nobody would disturb her.

Fast-forward to university, a place I had hoped would be a haven from the pain and stupidity of high school. When I arrived at university, I was at first dismayed; the same tired old cliques seemed still to be in operation. The girls on my floor in residence were fickle, catty and cruel. The university’s general attitude towards fat was the typical prejudiced B.S. that I’d been internalizing and turning into self-loathing for pretty much my whole life. One residence even had posters up in women’s bathroom stalls advising the girls not to drink too much liquor, since it contained extra calories. Seriously.

It was different in the classroom. In second semester I took my first women’s studies class, and something began to take root in my consciousness. I heard for the first time that “fat is a feminist issue”, and took it to heart. I began to realize how unfair it was that society at large upheld one (unrealistic and often artificially-maintained) image of acceptable womanhood. I also began to see how this related to patriarchy, and the systems which function in a patriarchal society to keep women at odds with each other, passive and weakened by fear and self-loathing. I realized that I had been programmed to believe in standards of beauty that were fraudulent, non-inclusive and at odds with the true range on human vibrancy and physical variation, and that as a result I had damaged myself through self-hatred and poor treatment of my body.

Later in my degree I began to read feminist blogs, and from there discovered size acceptance blogs. I read about the hype surrounding the ‘obesity crisis’, the long-standing truth of the dominance of genetics over personal habits that the media seems to ignore, and discovered the golden beacon of hope that is Health at Every Size. I framed a picture of the fat and fabulous Beth Ditto in a gold frame and hung it in my living room. I stood up to my parents about my size and my personal health.

In the midst of all these monumental changes in the way that I saw myself, I realized that a great anger had been building in me. I can trace that anger back to that girl, 12 years old, a chubby child who did not understand why clothing at ‘normal’ stores didn’t fit her. Who couldn’t talk about her body image issues except in moments of the deepest despair. Who threw on baggy boy’s clothes not because they suited her or made her feel confident, but because she was desperately trying to hide her fat body. Who was shocked when her first three boyfriends found her attractive, and felt betrayed when they told her she was beautiful. All that anger found an outlet in size acceptance, once I realized why I was angry.

I am angry for every fat person who has limited their lives because they believed they were out of a range of physical acceptability. I am angry for every fat person who has stayed in a damaging relationship because they believed that they deserved no better. I am angry for every fat person who is afraid to dance or go on a bike ride or do yoga for fear of ridicule and exclusion. I am angry for every fat person who looks in the mirror and internalizes a bit more self-hatred every day. I am just so damn angry.

I know one day I will have to face my anger, because rage can only take one so far before it either burns out or morphs into something sinister. I know that a more productive exercise would be transforming my anger into compassion for people who face similar difficulties as me, and speaking eloquently and persuasively about the importance of HAES and self-love. I’ve been doing better with these things, though I know I still have a ways to go.

I’m still angry, yes. But I’m getting there.

Emily can be contacted here.

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  1. That was wonderful, Emily. Towards the end I began to tear up. As someone who has frequently hid himself away from actually living out of self disgust and fear of ridicule, just because I’m fat (always have been, always will be), I really appreciate this.

  2. Wow!

    Great post.

    I hope you don’t mind but I included a link to your website and suggested this particular post on my new blog.

    Great Stuff, keep it coming.

  3. I hope that you are able to see that your journey is what makes you a strong beautiful woman. You have never once given up on yourself. You are carrying your experiences with grace and dignity. The Beautiful Women Project defines beauty as the sum of a woman’s life exeriences. You are brave and bold enough to share yours with the world. I encourage you to take your rage and anger and put it to good use – turn it outward into compassion for yourself and all of the other people you feel have been scorned, ridiculed, or limited. I have a very strong feeling that you have the commitment and focus to turn this anger into a fire that will burn for a long time.

  4. I am soooo with you. Totally, massively. :-)

    I don’t know why it’s possible to absolutely NOT believe that we should limit our lives as fat women — restrict what we’re allowed to do/say/wear/feel/think/experience — and yet put the limits on anyway. But that dichotomy is where I exist — I HATE how much I don’t do because I feel “my body isn’t allowed to do those things”, and yet I keep myself boxed into restrictions even as I hate them. I want to change this. I’m working on it very, very slowly. There are as many setbacks as there are moments of progress. Sigh.

    Bravo to you.

  5. A powerful post, Emily. It perfectly echoes my experience growing up and my ongoing journey towards acceptance of my body. I’ve always had a hard time reconciling my own hatred for my body with various boyfriends’ and lovers’ unrelenting (for lack of a better word) desire to touch me all the time. I often can’t stop myself from thinking: “how does he like me? I’m gross!” – an internalized hatred that I’m working very hard to overcome.
    As has been said, we often prevent ourselves from living because we are afraid to risk being humiliated, ridiculed or generally perceived negatively by others. The fact that it happens (quite regularly) is what makes me angry. I was petrified to ride a bike for fear some passenger in a car would yell “fat whore!” out the window. In two years, it hasn’t happened. In fact, I’ve been hit on by men several times while on my bike.
    I am 24, and haven’t worn a pair of shorts since I was 10 because they ride up on me and that’s embarrassing. I don’t go to the beach because I couldn’t possibly wear a swimsuit. I tried on a pair of shorts today for the first time in 14 years. I didn’t buy them because I “don’t have the legs”. Baby steps. My hatred of my body is shaped by the “fraudulent, non-inclusive” standards of beauty (a very articulate way of putting it) and these blogs are also helping me work towards acceptance (of my fat and the fat of others) as well.

  6. Emily,

    I am angry too. As a fat person that was once thin person who has experienced life both ways I know first hand what its like to be treated differently based ONLY on body size.

    I am glad I found this blog. I am working on accepting myself but still don’t believe anyone else ever will.

  7. Now I know I am not the only one who is angry about the way people of size get treated. I am 41 years old. I have never been able to fit into the “fraudulent, non-inlcusive standard of beauty” – even when I was 20 and wore a size 8/10. Back then, that wasn’t considered “fat”, but today it is. I now wear a size 14 at 5′ 6′. But even if I had my 21 year old body back, I’d be unacceptable by today’s standards which say that a size 10 is overweight/plus sized! A reflection of that attitude was given in one of the ansers in WikiAnswers under “Why Men Do Not Like Big Girls” and here it is in quotes:

    “People who take care of themself want to know they are going to be with someone else who feels the same way. Maybe they like the fact that their woman takes pride in herself and has a sense of who she is. Men who are normal find this even more sexy and a turn on. Overweight women, more than a size 10, are often suffering from mental illness or they are lazy with no personal pride. The lady on a man’s arm is a sign of his own self esteem. If she is fat or is obviously older than he is, then the guy has problems. Sorry to sound like a pig ladies but this is the truth. Any man or woman who is not sloppy or a mess mentally wants a person to be with that is like them and men like a nice looking woman on their arm. We are visual creatures.”

    I am not fat becuase of being lazy, stuffing my face, or having a mental problem. And I resent being inundated with this crap. A disabling car accident left me with a spinal chord injury and two smashed knees when I was 24. I went from earning a good paycheck to being poor because of the physical disability. Even a college degree earned at age 34 did not improve my chances for good jobs, not only due to the gap in my work history from the accident and years of physical therapy, not only because of the poverty and bad credit that accompanies being disabled without any income, but also because I was no longer “eye candy”. I wasn’t a super thin 21 year old – I was a slightly overweight middle-aged woman, which our society treats as third class citizens because that is deemed “too fat”, “a mental mess”, “unworthy”, and “undeserving” by our society.

    It is not only the men who treat fat girls like crap by either totally ignoring us or making rude, thoughtless and abusive remarks which undermine our self esteem (as women of any size), it is also the routine discrimination we face getting good jobs (and then condemned and put down for not being economically successful). If overweight women and girls are a “mental mess” it’s because of the job discrimination, plus all the emotional and verbal abuse we get daily across the board because we’re not able to be thin and “perfect.”

    I’ll never forget the VP of American Express Financial who was chomping at the bit to hire me when I told him I already had all the licenses and credentials plus the university degree in mathematics, only to have him treat me like crap when he saw me in person at the face to face interview – he wrote “DO NOT HIRE – TOO FAT” on the top of my resume. Although that was not the only job I got denied for no reason other than my body size, it was the one where the interviewer was actually blatant enough to write that where I could see it in plain sight.

    Of course, there is never any sympathy for us from the thin, beautiful “perfect” people for their mistreatment of us. We’re somehow always expected to just suck it up and take it. They say, “Do something about it. Join a fitness club. You can do something about your figure, etc” without realizing that when you’re unemployed and poor, you have no money to afford to join a fitness club…let alone afford a house in the suburbs with a pool in order for an overweight person with a spinal chord injury to be able to swim and thus get the only exercize they can.

    When thin people say they resent the anger and attitudes from overweight people for accusing them of starving themselves and being rude to them, have they ever thought about how they treat overweight people? They don’t stop and think how we’re sick of hearing that the reason we’re fat is because we’re lazy, can’t put the fork down, etc. I eat less than 1,000 calories a day and NONE of it is junk food! I can’t afford to eat expensive organic stuff, so I have to make do the best I can – and that means being stuck with the meats and veggies that is infused with growth hormones because Monsanto knows better than Mother Nature. And you cannot tell me that growth hormones in foods has no bearing on alot of people’s weight problems! Yet, it’s the fat person that gets shit on, not “Big Ag” giants like Monsanto.

    I have suffered from unwarranted abuse that all overweight people get when we try to “do something” about our weight – like being run out of the fitness club by those with the attitude of “how dare you bring your fat body into the gym where I have to LOOK at you!” My accident left me unable to bicycle and walk any distance. I cannot stand for any length of time. The only exercise I can physically do is swim. But when you’re financially limited, you can’t afford your own pool (or a fitness club membership). So just how am I supposed to be able to “do something about my figure” since I am not one of those who is lucky enough to be naturally skinny as a rail if, I as a fat girl, am made blatantly unwelcome at the local fitness club? Even before my accident 17 years ago, I was never skinny. So what am I now that I am no longer the young 21 year old who could fit into a size 10? The WikiAnswer above which mirrors men’s and society’s judgment of me says exactly what I am – and it doesn’t matter that they’re the ones who are f’d up in the head. Majority rules.

    I’ll never forget the abuse I got at the local YMWCA that I belonged to briefly by the athletic gym jerk type of people who rudely complained to my face in front of my husband. They said that they couldn’t swim in the pool and get their laps in because his fat wife would make splashes too big while swimming. I was teaching my husband how to swim and we were sharing one lane in the lap pool and none of the other lanes were occupied at the time. I am supposed to take this kind of crap and then be told how considerate I should be of not hurting skinny people’s feelings? What about MY feelings for once?

    I have already accepted the fact that I’m not desirable or attractive to 90% of the male population out there and therefore can’t take my pick when I’m a “non-person” who is ignored or reviled by men and therefore stand very little chance of ever “getting lucky”. But dammit I AM just as deserving of a job to support myself and the ability to participate in society as all the thin beautiful people out there, including being able to swim at the local fitness club and I am tired of being denied fair treatment, consideration and respect as if I was less than human.

  8. Hey Jacqueline,

    I just saw your post which makes me so sad. The VP from American Express should have a lawsuit on his hands. But I did want to tell you that there are tons of guys who like fat chicks. Seriously. I get hit on all the time and I’m much bigger than you. A lot of guys tell me that they think the majority of men like fat women but are afraid to be open about it. I think the cultural baggage around women’s sizes affects men too, and when you have a guy like that one on the Wiki answers (moron) there’s a bit of that internalized fatphobia he’s espousing that makes me think, Hmm, wonder what “fat” secrets are his closet? It’s a bit like the research studies that show that people who are hte most homophobic are often the most easily aroused by homosexuality; perhaps that guy doth protest too much.

    Be sexy, be fat, I promise there are plenty of men (and women) who want to date you.



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