When I read through all of the #thingsfatpeoplearetold tweets for my recap, I was really struck by just how many different people were speaking up. I started the hashtag for essentially snarky purposes, ironicly expressing fat stigmatization. It was quickly adopted by the always awesome Aussie fat activists, starting with @mymilkspilt, in part to express their outrage over an offensive joke made by an Australian celebrity. Fat Heffalump has more on that angle here.
As people kept sharing their experiences, it quickly became apparent what a universal experience #thingsfatpeoplearetold represented. The posts were really heartbreaking, but also utterly cathartic. People weren't just unburdening themselves of this abuse, but recognizing what a shared experience this is and that they are not alone in having been mistreated, nor in finding the strength to resist the mistreatment.
Some very distinct themes also emerged. I almost wrote my last post in catagories because familiar messages came up again and again in slightly different expressions. "Such a pretty face" might seem like a cliché, but false complements designed to emphasize our failings is a common experience for fat people. Sadly, this is considered the nice way of expressing that sentiment and its darker variations also show up repeatedly. "No one will love you", "No one will want to have sex with you", etc. are all too familiar. The line of logic just keeps going and even when fat people do find love and/or sex it is still denied. "There must be something wrong with anyone who likes you" get mirrored by "you should be lucky to get the attention" or "we can have sex, but I'll keep you a secret".
Beauty and love is just one thread, though. We also see themes of fat people being denied access to jobs, housing, medical procedures, clothing. Each one expressed from multiple people in new variations. Fat people are being things thin people take for granted. Even health. We see multiple people who were denied their good health from medical professionals who refused to believe it. We see people denied help when they are in poor health because fat is the only thing that will be covered. These experiences are not exclusive to the so-called death fats, either. A very wide spectrum of people found the same thing. If their health was good, this was denied. If the had health needs, they were denied. There is a universality here. The experience can be challenging to read, but also inspiring because they remind us of what fat people are capable of enduring. Fat people are strong. Fat people can find love and health and happiness. These are things WE tell fat people. The things we tell ourselves. The things we tell each other.
I hope people keep sharing. I'm thinking of soliciting longer form "Things Fat People are Told" essays to post here and if you have something you'd like to share outside of 140 characters, please email me at email@example.com. My continued gratitude to everyone who has shared their stories. This is very powerful.