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This thing, please do not do it.

Contains: passing mention of disordered behaviors, a great deal about process in dealing with a mental minefield; self-denigrating behavior of third parties; body image, as influenced by the unthinking words of third parties; meta about insults with homophobic and misogynistic examples as well as the body-shaming stuff.


I am trying like all fuckery to get over my cringe-and-depart reaction upon observing "fat" as a neutral description for a human being.

My issues, let me show you them. I am fat. I am not altogether comfortable with my current body. In addition to the usual difficulties of changing all the things, I was exposed in my formative (childhood through adolescent) years to a primary role model in an unhealthy pattern of yo-yo and fad dieting, and proceeded to fuck up my own metabolism with behavior that fits the description of anorexia pretty damn well, though thank fuck I was not able to actually sustain it for more than a year. It is a lovely minefield in my head, and it is a testament to the skill and care of the various people involved in helping me with it over the years that I'm now getting around to poking at *that* portion of it at all. Right now I actually have it pretty well mapped, so I know most of the things that will set me off, and I can generally notice something that is going to set me off before it does so, and take steps to get whatever-it-is out of my sphere of notice. (My toolbox for this included, as recently as 2008, hysterical screaming fits upon not shutting the fuck up when I said I could not discuss this thing.) I'm not even able to approach the topic with the usual array of geeky tools in any degree of safety, because it was not my mother, it was my father, and he brought his full array of geeky tools to the task of yo-yo dieting and shared what he was doing proudly, loudly, and without possibility of escape.

I am slowly, gradually, tentatively, stretching out my web of attention to the fat-positive areas of the blogosphere, at my own pace and with many retreats into the safe areas of the internet where one does not discuss these things. (I did not describe myself, back when DW was enjoying a "please describe yourself for those in your circles who cannot view images" meme. I just couldn't. I may, eventually.)

In certain ways it's easier to deal with people who are deliberately trying to hurt, insult, or offend classes of which you are a part or an ally. It can be a great big warning label: "I think you and yours are subhuman and don't deserve dignified treatment." It's not water off a duck's back, but merely by existing as part of a class that faces this bullshit, one develops a certain level of basic resistance. Sometimes one doesn't notice the constant background noise provided it's from a stranger or an already established enemy. The dudebro with the "no fat chicks" shirt has helpfully labeled himself. Thanks, dudebro, and please continue to stay the fuck out of my space; I suspect I'm not even interested in getting close to yours.

I have learned a great amount about how to go away when people say things that are well-intentioned or neutrally meant. I am learning ways to deal with it that don't involve exploding when friends are trying to be helpful. I am justified in getting cranky when people use things that happen to be in my minefield to be mean to/about others. I am ... actually not dealing so well ... with it when other people talk cruelly about themselves.

The phrase that's been bothering me recently comes with various optional bells and whistles. Here's one possible iteration: "Whip me with a noodle if I don't get up off my fat ass and go scoop up dog poop."

When it's used by a person who I would consider fat, or having a fat ass, it doesn't jerk my brain around as badly. Even if it's not intended as a reclaiming act, I can read the statement as neutral or reclaiming if I really have to. When it's not, I don't get that escape. Even when I know for a fact that the person who is saying this would probably rather die than hurt me, the only means for me to escape being hurt is to remove myself from that space. Usually I have to calculate the level of social ruffle that would be caused by me removing myself, and then the amount of fallout that would occur from that, and whether that would be worse than enduring remaining in the space. (Hasty departure can get parsed as attention-seeking, and that gets judged. Ideally the only people who would notice such a departure would be the person tripping off whatever mine, the people responsible for keeping the space in order, and people who know how to talk to someone who's just won the Instant Bad Day prize. Unfortunately sometimes it becomes an exercise in While We Are Trying Not To Do Something Stupid, Let Us Have A Teachable Moment With Someone Who Really Means Well, Understands That We Are Upset, And Wants To Know Why. It becomes hilariously intersectional when the person has difficulty in picking up social cues and genuinely wants to improve, but needs extensive coaching in that, and oh god, right while I am trying to prevent the sort of meltdown that results in more than *one* bad day is really not the time that I am best equipped to put on my Motherfucking All-Patient Educator Hat.)

I recognize that some people do actually need to motivate themselves drill-sergeant style, by insulting themselves to motivate them to do something. (I have found that this sort of pep talk does not increase my productivity, but some people juggle geese.) I am of the camp that believes that give or take various social factors, the insults a person picks says a lot about the specific sorts of things that they have been programmed to find despicable, and the culture of unacceptable things that they are helping to reinforce. A kid who calls stuff "gay" contributes to the concept that it's not actually okay to be gay, even while "gay" the "my lunch is so gay" weakens the association between "gay" the slur, and "gay" the sexual orientation. The sysadmin in the UK who calls their malfunctioning server a "fucking cunt" is being significantly less personally hostile to any women or owners of vaginas/vulvas than the sysadmin in the US using the same phrasing, because that phrase has come into widespread enough use in the UK to start detaching from its origins and be used thoughtlessly and without attention to the meaning. "Motherfucker!" from me rarely literally invokes an actual instance of someone having sex with their maternal parent. It's profane, habitually invoked, and has a satisfyingly heavy weight of syllables when I shout it when I drop a malfunctioning server on my god-damn-mother-fucking-JESUS TOE FUCK SHITCAKES. (So basically I believe in a two-layered profanity stack: the top layer, which has been leached of deeper meaning, but makes interesting statements about what is a speakable bad thing in the society; then the bottom layer, which is what gets pulled out to get fancy, which is the stuff that's either societally or personally the worst thing ever; it's so bad that it's unspeakable to reference the topic casually, horrible to call someone it without cause, and actually bad to really and truly *be* that. This is why US-socialized guys invoking female genitalia upsets me: I rather like my vagina, but this dude thinks calling me a vagina is the worst words he can pull out. This dude thinks that calling another dude a vagina is the worst he can say. This dude holds vaginas and their owners in deepest contempt. That is problematic. The words he is using are merely a symptom.)

To add to the fun, a person who is using "fat" to seriously shame themselves into not procrastinating, or into overcoming pain, or whatever, is likely at a higher base level of self-loathing than I am. As much as their choice of words in my presence is making me cringe, I do not think I'd want to be inside their head for an instant.

Crossposted. comment count unavailable comments.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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