10 April 2015

an open letter to the people who write open letters to fat girls

I get it. I do. You think you're being super encouraging with your "Open letter to the Fat Girl at the gym" and your "Open letter to the Fat Girl at the race" and your "Open letter to the Fat Girl at spin class." After all, we're fat girls doing a thing or being at a place you never would have expected a fat girl to be able to do or be seen.

On the surface it really does sound great and I acknowledge that you probably write these Open Letters with the best of intentions. That being said, as a fat girl, I have a request:

Please stop writing them. 



Here's the thing: Those letters of yours? They aren't really about us. They are about you. They are a way for you to let everyone else in the whole wide world know just how awesome and accepting and encouraging you are to the poor fat girl at your gym or in your spin class. I mean, if you sincerely wanted to let "the fat girl" know your thoughts, why wouldn't you, I don't know, go talk to her? Introduce yourself after class. Say hello. Learn her hobbies and interests. Get to know her as a person. Have a shared conversation about your mutual love for spinning or yoga or running or whatever.

But you don't do that. You write open letters and put them on social media in the hopes they'll be shared and liked. Readers will spread your word and congratulate you on being so benevolent and magnanimous. If you actually went and talked to the Fat Girl the only people who would know about it are you and her and then where would you be? It's not like you can RT a private conversation.

Plus, you can't really sincerely go into this actually thinking and believing I'm going to see that letter, right? Of all the social media sites in all the world....I mean, c'mon. So, really, the only person who truly benefits from said letter is, well, you.

I get it. You're a cheerleader. You want me to know to be proud of myself and excited for these positive changes I'm making and blah blah blah blah blah.

But, seriously. What makes you think I need to be told to be proud of myself? What makes you think I'm not already proud of myself? You look at me and all you see is 235 pounds. You don't see the 75 I've lost and have kept off for nearly a year. You see me slowly making my way to the finish line and all you see is my pace. You don't see the many many races I've already completed, including two half-marathons.

Why do you assume that just because we fat people are, y'know, fat, that means that we've a) never done this activity before and/or b) won't continue doing it? When you started running or spinning or practicing yoga or whatever it is that we're doing when you spotted me from afar, did you need the encouragement of some random stranger on the internet writing an open letter? No? Then why do you think we do? What makes us so different other than our individual relative relationships with gravity?

Let me ask you an honest question: why do you feel the need to write these open letters to fat girls and not thin girls? Why does the fat girl in your spinning class deserve your encouragement more than the thin girl? Hell, why does the fat girl in your yoga class deserve your support more than the fat guy? Is it possible you don't talk to the anonymous Fat Girl in person because you know it's, I dunno, a little weird? Like, you're recognizing us for doing something that millions of thin girls do on a daily basis but you take no notice of that because the thin girls don't challenge your socially ingrained ideals of athleticism. More to the point, we're doing something that millions of other fat girls do on a daily basis. Really, this isn't some crazy novelty here. Fat girls practice yoga. Fat girls run. Fat girls spin. Fat girls do CrossFit. Fat girls do the same things that you do and -- spoiler alert -- sometimes we even do them better than you.

Seriously. This isn't a big fucking deal so stop making it one.

I understand you don't mean it to, but these open letters often come across as less supportive and more patronizing. Less accepting and more self-congratulatory. A chance for you to give yourself a pat on the back for being so super open-minded. So next time you are considering writing such a letter on your blog or on FB or wherever, take a step back and consider your motives. Ask yourself why you feel it necessary to put this out there in such a big way rather than just walk up to the Fat Girl and say hi. Then, next time you see her, actually walk up to her and say hi.

At the very least, learn her fucking name so you can stop referring to her as "the fat girl."

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

11 comments:

  1. Omg. All of this. What I also hate is the cheerleader that feels the need to cheer for only the fat girl with things like, "you can do it!" Bitch! I know I can! I've been training...just like you!!!! If they cheered for everyone else out there it'd be one thing, but ffs, stop singling us out. Ugh. I've written many a post on the "cheerleader" as well.

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  2. This is the best thing I've read in a very long time. Thank you!!!

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  3. Preach! This has always irked me.

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  4. Love all about this! Amen and thank you! xxx

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  5. Yes yes yes. We all know what assumptions do...

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  6. THANK YOU, Sister!!!! On behalf of all of us who are our here rockin' it in all our health and fitness endeavors including running with those police escorts! ;)

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  7. Maybe it's a thing of the past now, or something that you personally haven't experienced, but i have definitely heard a lot of people express anxiety about even going to the gym because they don't look athletic and fear that they'll be judged for that. So maybe these letters are meant to address that fear and send a message of "hey, we're not judging you, and in fact we support you." (Not that i've ever published or even read one, i'm just making an educated guess.) I can understand how even saying "we" and "you" in that way forces a kind of dichotomy on people based on appearance, though, so it does make sense that that could be offensive. I find it kind of sad that encouragement can be seen as patronizing, though. I'm certainly—guilty?—of encouraging my friends who are trying to get down to a healthier, more comfortable weight. I know they've been working on it for years, which is why i try to keep cheering for them when it seems like everyone else has left the stands. I'll have to reconsider that approach.

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    1. When it's your friend or family and someone you actually KNOW that's okay. You're being a supportive friend.

      But when you don't know the person at all and just see them across the room at a fitness class or gym, it's completely different. You don't know that person, you don't know their story or what brought them in and these letters always make a lot of assumptions about that person's activity level and health. That's when they become patronizing.

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  8. I love this post! I used to be pretty naive about this stuff. I saw a friend who had apparently been told by her doctor to lose a bunch of weight start exercising and everyone was all cheerleader-y, like "so good for you! Way to get yourself healthy!" and I'm thinking "oh, how nice people are!" In my neighborhood there are tons of runners, including the running group from The Running Spot that trains people for 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 and full marathons, etc. I always try to yell something supportive or give a wave if I see someone struggling to finish their training for the day while I'm out on a run. (You now have me somewhat paranoid about that, though I've yelled supportive stuff to pregnant people, older people, young kids who you can tell are doing their first race, etc.) But then I had a very thin friend who never exercised at all try to take up running because of post-partum depression and wanting endorphins, discipline, time for herself away from the baby, etc.And I thought "oh, yes, people will be so supportive of her!" And then THEY WERE NOT! People were all "Why are you running? You're so thin already! Did you know it's bad for your knees? Why don't you take some time and focus on the baby? You have so much on your plate already. Why are you adding this? DO YOU THINK YOU'RE FAT? YOU'RE NOT! You don't need the exercise! And you can probably eat whatever you want!" It's an interesting double-standard. Make people feel good about their choices if you think they need to make those choices. Anyhow, that went way off topic. Point is, rock on, lady. You are right to call out those comments for what they are-- patronizing nonsense that are all about making the writer look good. I hate open letters as a rule, so I enjoyed seeing you turn that one on its ugly head.

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