Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

This blog has remained pretty inactive recently. Due mainly to my continuing struggles with my health, both physical and mental.

Short update on those: Some appointments in my health system finally opened up to see a PA for medication- they have no psychiatrist currently and therapists, nurses, and PAs have all been closed to seeing new patients. I sneaked by to see my therapist months back only because I had seen her years before and therefore was able to get categorized as a returning patient. But since I hadn’t seen someone about medications, I was still a new patient and therefore unable to see anyone who prescribed meds. They have started opening that up and now have some availability for current psychotherapy patients to be seen for medications.

Anyways, so depression has been bad and just finally getting to where I can try to see if it’s helped with medications.

Meanwhile my physical health has been total crap. I have been dealing with near constant nausea, that my anti-nausea meds aren’t helping with, fatigue, feeling weak, and sleep problems.

So I have spent my night sitting on my couch watching videos on youtube, mostly ted talks and tedx talks, because when I stand I start shaking and often end up throwing up.

So that is what I was doing when youtube recommended I watch this:

Obviously nutrition is an important aspect of health. Yet sitting here too sick to stand and dealing with debilitating depression watching this my question is- so how do we make good nutrition accessible to people dealing with serious illness?

I mean, I want that answer for myself!

Getting carry out food is sometimes the healthiest option I have but it’s expensive. I now am able to get groceries delivered so that is a huge improvement, as I at least can get the food without having to sacrifice all my spoons on the process. Of course actual food that is not ready to eat or microwavable meals still requires all the work of prepping it. I actually tried recently one of those food delivery services that delivers just the items needed fora few recipes. All you have to do is cook!

… yeah, turns out that “just the cooking” is the part that is hardest for me.

Hell, right now I have some melons I got delivered that I was going to cut up and eat… except even just standing and cutting is difficult for me right now.

Instead of telling people to think more about the choices of what goes into their mouths, I think we need to consider more what is restricting those choices? What makes us choose certain types of foods over others?

And when you start talking about food as medicine, then that means thinking about the specific restrictions that chronically ill people, who rely on medications, have.

Telling me right now that food can be a better treatment for my depression than medications isn’t super helpful. I would love to eat more healthy, fresh, home cooked meals! Almost always my reason for not is because of barriers to that, which are primarily related to being chronically ill.

I can renew my medications online, and my pharmacy actually has free delivery. I don’t even have to have the ability to get to the pharmacy. Then, for pills all I have to do is open a bottle and swallow a pill. No preparation, no cooking, no standing, required. My biggest illness barrier to taking it is not throwing it up. And pharmaceutical companies actually have planned ahead for that for some medications, with many being available in non-pill formats. Besides my inhaled meds for asthma, I personally also have dissolving tablets that can be taken sublingually, and suppositories (gross, but sometimes necessary). Other meds sometimes come in injection forms.

So if nutrition is potentially as effective, or more effective, in treating certain illnesses, how do we make it something that  is accessible for all people with those illnesses? So that the illness isn’t a barrier to accessing the treatment of that illness? Doctors get that my anti-nausea meds can’t be in pill form because you can’t make “not throwing up” the requirement for taking a medication meant to stop me from throwing up. Yet that is what we do when we treat food as medicine. Often the thing we say it can treat is the very thing that makes eating well difficult!

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For some reason there is something… or somethings… about me some people just really hate. I mean, I never expect to be everyone’s cup of tea. But honestly I am surprised at times the amount of obsessive hate I get directed at me. Particularly the obsessive part. Like the folks who obviously disagree with me and clearly straight up do not like me, yet still apparently read everything I write here and on other websites- and check all my workouts I post online. I mean, I have a blog specifically identified as being about feminism, I expect the random nasty comments. That some people really get so obsessed though that they don’t just say “haha fattie!!!!” (<- real comments I get often) and move on but keep following all my activities across various websites- that was a bit unexpected.

But I guess I should have expected, I’m fat, I’m a woman, and I’m queer a dyke, several characteristics that mean a lot of people are very bothered by my mere existence on the internet. I actually try not to venture too far away from certain safe internet spaces usually (my facebook that is limited to those I have friended, and a few forums that restrict membership and are heavily moderated against hateful or harassing comments). Though I’ve branched out recently. Though I still won’t go on reddit. But I have this blog, and another, I use twitter now and then, and I started posting on instagram a lot and even made my account public, and I’m active on this fitness website called fitocracy.

The latter being the primary source of most issues I run into.

None of this should surprise me. I stayed out of #gamergate and mostly out of #shirtgate but I read about both and I know women who actively posted bout them. I know about the rape threats and misogynistic comments that followed those who did. I know about the doxing and many women who had the harassment go beyond the internet resulting in being stalked and threatened IRL. Women who no longer could feel safe in their own homes all for speaking out on the internet against sexism and in support of other women.

Misogyny on the internet isn’t news to me. But I stayed largely uninvolved in both of those precisely because I have limited energy to deal with bullshit. I have more than enough stress in my life already, and I do research that revolves around violence against women- when I want to relax and get away from that, I don’t want to get away from it by reading a bunch of rape threats.

And it shouldn’t surprise me running into so many issues on a fitness based website, it should be no surprise that a number of men who are interested in lifting feel the need to fuel that interest with misogyny and homophobia. Because it’s all about proving one’s masculinity which apparently means tearing down women and gay men.

And even though this is titled “haters gonna hate”, I wish I could sit here and say that it hasn’t changed anything for me and I just ignore it. I do my best to, but sometimes, it doesn’t work. I’ve deleted a number of workouts after just downright mean comments (not advice, just mean for the sake of being mean.)  I’ve started not tracking a lot of workouts online- not for the reasons I hear others use about just not caring about points anymore, or because they track other places instead, no- for me when I choose not to track something online it’s because I just don’t want to deal with comments from folks about how they are laughing at my workout.

I want to connect and talk to folks who have a similar interest and I want to celebrate progress, but I can’t do that without also opening myself up to all number of rude comments there, and here, and probably soon enough other places as well as a small set of people follow me around from site to site.

Part of my inspiration for this is when I see folks say this doesn’t happen, they don’t see it. Well, you wouldn’t if it’s not directed at you. Many of these exchanges have not happened in the open. I’ve deleted them on other sites, on this site comments need to be approved so if I delete it without approving it no one except me knows it happens. And so that’s part of why I’m writing this. To acknowledge that this happens, even though if you looked through comments here or elsewhere you would find no evidence of it.

And a big part of my inspiration in writing this is just how exhausted I am with it. I’m exhausted at having to put my guard up if I venture over to certain sites. I have to prepare for the backlash if I do something as radical as suggest that folks should maybe not use homophobic slurs. And it’s just fucking exhausting and there are so many times I just want to delete all my accounts, block everyone, and hide from the whole world because of this. Usually I get over that. I get some rest, get my strength back up, but the mental armor back on, and venture back out to deal with it all again. But god damn it blogging, tracking workouts online, and wanting to talk to other people about lifting should have to feel like that.

And it’s on a totally different topic but I am somewhat reminded of this article I read recently about Lena Chen’s experience blogging about sex. There are a number of parallels, plus it’s a great piece and worth reading so I’ll take any excuse to link to it.

I was hanging out with a friend once, and we were driving somewhere in my car with my music playing when a song I like started- Emotional Girl by Terri Clark. It’s a song that came out when I was 9 and I’ve been listening to it ever since then. My friend starts telling me how he can’t believe I would like this song. I’m confused, he’s hear enough of my music he should know by now that I like country music. That’s not it. He explains that this song supposedly represents everything I disagree with because I get upset at sexist stereotypes and this song is saying they are true.

Except not. I’ve listened to this song a lot. No where in the song does she says “women just more emotional than men!” or “women can’t control their emotions!” She sings about herself being emotional, and the artist happens to be a woman (or “girl” in the lyrics of the song). This led to an argument about whether or not it “proves” a stereotype for an individual to meet it, which he claimed it did- I still find interesting considering how many stereotypes he would be “proving” under that logic.

But I’m reminded of this conversation from time to time because while most people would never say they think a single individual displaying a characteristic means that proves a stereotype of all people like them in some way will have that characteristic, people still are inclined to take such things as evidence that their stereotype is accurate.

And this is one of the problems with stereotypes- making people in certain groups feel like everything they do has to be defined by that stereotype by way of disproving it.

You tell me women are just too emotional compared to men, and now I’m apparently under some obligation to never show emotion to prove your stereotype is wrong and show that I am worthy of being treated equally. And suddenly an entire group of people are not allowed varying personalities and characteristics because if even a few fit the stereotype for the whole group that is taken as proof the stereotype is accurate.

I’m writing about this because in a lot of ways it took some work to say “so what if I fit your stereotype?” For a long time I did feel like I had to behave in certain ways so I wouldn’t be considered a stereotype. But the thing is, the problem with stereotypes is the stereotype, not me being whoever I am.

And who I am sometimes fits certain stereotypes and sometimes it doesn’t. I wrote recently about musing about fitting the stereotype of the man-hating, lesbian feminist in combat boots, and the thing about that stereotype is there was a time when I did feel like I had to counter that stereotype personally and would be afraid of fitting it. Of course I still don’t fit the stereotype perfectly- usually the stereotype also includes “hairy legged” and I do shave. But, that’s kind of how individuals work.

Some stereotypes about women don’t fit me at all, some do. Some stereotypes about lesbians fits me, some don’t. Et cetera. And that’s fine.

There is nothing wrong with being an emotional person, so why should I be bothered if I fit that stereotype? There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian or wearing combat boots, so why be bothered if I fit those stereotypes?

Also fitting one part of a stereotype does not mean all the things people think about that are accurate.  See for example: fat lesbians do not prove the stereotype that lesbians are just gay because we are too fat and ugly to get a man. Being a fat lesbian doesn’t even prove that lesbians are as a group always fat (even if most of us are, your stereotype still sucks because it doesn’t ft all lesbians) and it certainly doesn’t prove all the extrapolation beyond that about the supposed meaning of our bodies and sexuality.

The problem is with people who make and operate under stereotypes about whole groups of people, not me for being who  I am instead of always trying to be the exact opposite of every stereotype that could maybe be applied to me.

So since my last post I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that disability issues play out in fitness. And it keeps bringing to mind the “supercrip” stereotype. This something I’ve been thinking a lot about but struggling to put into words my thoughts. Particularly because those identified as “inspiring” are typically folks with different disabilities than me- typically folks with visible disabilities. All my disabilities are invisible, people look at me and they see a healthy, able-bodied girl. That’s not who I am, but it’s what people assume because I don’t use a wheelchair or a cane or have any other visible identifier of disability. That assumption is frustrating, but that’s a topic for another time, right now I merely am trying to explain that my experiences with disabilities are very different than those who have visible disabilities.

Still, there something that doesn’t often sit right with me about the frequent use of photos and videos of people with visible disabilities engaged in various fitness activities as inspiration. It does bring to mind this quote from the bitch magazine article though:

Supercrip provides a way for non-disabled folks to be “inspired” by persons with disabilities without actually questioning—or making changes to—how persons with disabilities are treated in society.

I think this hits the nail on the head for what makes me uncomfortable. For all the times I’ve seen photos or videos of people with disabilities lifting/running/swimming/doing yoga/et cetera with commentary on how inspiring it is, I’ve never seen those posts include commentary on the experiences of people with disabilities in the fitness world. Especially given barriers to access, stereotypes, and discrimination that people with visible disabilities often face. There are many who would assume those with visible disabilities are not capable of engaging in these activities, and so I doubt that these individuals have never run into problems with gyms of people, possibly even staff, assuming they shouldn’t be there or using certain equipment. Given the issues of accessibility people with certain disabilities (especially those who use wheelchairs) face all the time, it would be odd to me if gyms and fitness related events where the one area where this is never a problem. But this is never the discussion. Rather, it’s people without disabilities sharing images/videos of people with disabilities, for the purpose of inspiring other people without disabilities. It treats people with disabilities as people who exist solely to make people without disabilities feel good.

And it also veers often into assuming that all disabilities are the same or can be hierarchically ranked. I mention in my most recent post on spoons, the experiences of a particular disability is different for different people, and can even be different for the same person at different points in times. As well, as I’ve discussed before, different disabilities are different. It’s not always a matter of better or worse, just different. I don’t have the same experiences as a person who uses a wheelchair, and they do not have the experiences as I do. The experiences are simply different.

I’m seeing these terms, “Skinny Shaming” / “Thin Shaming” and “Fit Shaming” more and more online and honestly, I don’t get it.

What is wrong with the term “body shaming”? Why specify “skinny”, “thin” or “fit”? (that last one not being a body type though) That probably sounds a little hypocritical of me because I don’t have the same issue with “fat shaming”. But of course part of what bugs me about the “skinny shaming” et al is that they seem to be specifically used by many as a means of demonstrating that these things happen just as much, or more, to thin women as to fat women.

The thing is body shaming does happen to women of all sizes! And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone claim otherwise. And this relates to a long standing issue I’ve had with certain folks who try to claim that fat oppression is just an extension of sexism and not it’s own thing, and reduce it to body shaming. Because it’s not. Fat oppression is not just body shaming. Body shaming, and fat shaming, is an extension of that, but not all of it.

I’m also not bothered by fat shaming being called that and not just body shaming because, at least as I conceptualized the term, fat shaming is not just about the way an individual has their body attacked and mocked but also the way fat bodies are typically not represented or represented as disgusting or as jokes, within popular media. It has to do with the way fat bodies are presented as indicators of ill healtah, disease, laziness, and gluttony. How a fat body can in our society serve as a stand in for all those things. It has to do with the fear mongering around fat bodies that seek on a large scale level to shame people for being fat. And it connects with all other areas of fatphobia and fat oppression.

None of this means that body shaming is ok or doesn’t hurt at any body size. Of course it does. Body shaming of any body is wrong, it’s painful, and since we are typically talking women here- it is sexist too. It’s sexism that tells women our bodies are never good enough. It’s sexism that the body ideals we are fed are literally impossible for any woman to achieve (even the women in them do not look like that thanks to photoshopping). It’s sexism that we are taught the best way to cut a woman down is to attack her appearance or attractiveness. It’s sexism that  tells women our bodies are never good enough. It’s sexism that says we must always be attractive to men, and it’s sexism that we are taught that a woman’s worth is defined by men finding her attractive. It’s sexism that men think it matters whether or not they would want to fuck any particular woman (see comments on any photo of a woman on the internet with men commenting whether or not they would want to fuck her as if that is some great compliment or great insult, as if anyone actually gives a damn). It’s sexism that women tear each other down and feel they need to make other women feel unattractive in order to make themselves feel better.

It’s sexism, it’s vicious, it’s a problem, and all women face it.

And it is different than fat oppression. Fat oppression is having only thin bodies represented positively in popular media. Fat oppression is having thin bodies presented as healthy and as the default. Fat oppression is having fat bodies portrayed as indicators of ill health, disease, laziness and gluttony. Fat oppression is fat people receiving poorer quality healthcare because of this. Fat shaming can be having someone on the internet make negative comments about your fat body, and sure enough that happens all the time, but it’s also having your doctor treat you more poorly because you are fat. It’s being shamed by your doctor for daring to come in when you are fat, it’s being told not to come back until you lose weight, and it literally kills. Fat oppression is being discriminated against in employment. And while fat shaming can be negative comments online, it’s also negative comments from an employer, it’s being told that your weight is an indication of laziness and/or doesn’t represent a company well. It’s these things, and so many more things, that are targeted at fat people as a group because they are fat. That is fat oppression, that is fat shaming, which is not the sexist body shaming that all women experience. And inersectionality means that most aspects of fat oppression effect women far more than men, but they are not exclusive to women.

So to talk about fat shaming is to put that shaming within the context of fat oppression- within the larger social context. The same cannot be said for “skinny shaming”, “thin shaming”, or “fit shaming”. There is no larger social context of thin people being discriminated against in healthcare, employment, and other aspects of life because they are thin. The larger social context to those acts is sexism and body shaming, so just call it body shaming.

Body shaming is wrong, it’s harmful, it’s in no way ok or excusable. So why do folks feel the need to use a different word?

I really need to stop reading things some people say. I read a discussion online about weight discrimination in employment, and the usual comments about how weight discrimination in employment is justified came up.

So for purposes of this posts let’s go ahead and assume you can tell from looking at someone exactly what they eat and how much they workout (which isn’t true).

So the argument some people have made is that they would rather hire someone who looks “fit” than someone who is fat because you can tell that a “fit” person is organized (because they are organized enough to get to the gym and keep their nutrition in check), they are dedicated (because they are dedicated to working out and eating well), they will always be on time (because… I really don’t know?), are more social, so they will get along with people at the office (because… again I don’t see the connection)et cetera.

But what bugs me about this is the idea that dedication (organized, timely, whatever) can only mean one thing- dedication to your appearance.

Really? Because unless your job is built around working out or physical appearance, what does that dedication mean?

Even if we assume that a fat person by virtue of being fat cannot be dedicated and organized in regards to working out and what they eat, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dedicated to anything- like idk, maybe their job!

I mean, let’s assume all of these assumptions are true- by that logic employers should discriminate against people who look fit. After all, that much dedication to never missing a workout and always making them means they will probably be less willing to come in early and stay late (encroaching on gym time), work extra hours, work from home (too busy at the gym instead), and since they spend so much time at the gym they probably don’t have as much experience socializing outside a gym environment. Unlike that fat job candidate who is obviously willing to put other things, like their work, over working on how their body looks, and is probably a lot better at socializing over food at office parties and events.

Obviously those arguments are bullshit, but they are logically consistent with the assumptions being made about people based on appearance.

Dedication comes in many forms. I’ve mentioned before the issue of priorities. Not everyone’s priorities are the same. And that’s ok. According to the logic of this person if I take time away from work, research, and/or writing to work out that shows dedication. Well it shows dedication to my workout. It doesn’t show dedication to my work or research though. But if I skip a workout (which frankly, I often do) because I prioritize that time on getting work, research, and writing done, according to this person I’m not showing dedication to my career, because the only dedication that matters is dedication to working out and maintaining low body fat.

Though I’m a bit backward in organization, I’ve had several people comment that my home gym is the most organized part of my house. Meanwhile my home office is covered in boxes. Organized in one area does not always translate into organization in all areas.

Frankly, I think employers should consider me skipping workouts to work on things that will advance my career a good quality rather than prioritizing a dedication to maintaining low body fat, which has nothing to do with my career, at the expense of other things.

There are only so many hours in a day. All people cannot do all things. it would be great if i could fit in everything I need to all the time without having to sacrifice somewhere, but that’s not possible. So sometimes that means workouts get skipped because I have other things on my plate that take priority. That is not a lack of dedication or organization, it’s just a matter of prioritization.

So I just came across this article titled: Weight Discrimination Is Surprisingly Rare, Study Finds. My typical reaction to news articles about studies though is “is that really what the study found?” because news articles are terrible at reporting such things.

In this case, going based solely on the information provided in this article- no, that really isn’t what the study found.

The biggest problem is that this study was based on self reports of discrimination.

The participants — nearly 3,000 men and women 50 and older — were asked how often they encounter five discriminatory situations: “In your day-to-day life, how often have any of the following things happened to you: (1) you are treated with less respect or courtesy; (2) you receive poorer service than other people in restaurants and stores; (3) people act as if they think you are not clever; (4) you are threatened or harassed; and (5) you receive poorer service or treatment than other people from doctors or hospitals. Responses ranged from ‘never’ to ‘almost every day’.”

But there are a lot of problems with this. How do you know if you are being treated more poorly than other people?  Sometimes you might know because a person treats you obviously rudely and you can see that they treat others differently.

But what if you can’t see how they treat others? If a doctor treats you rudely, are you going to assume you’re being treated more rudely than other patients or assume the doctor is just generally rude? Anecdotally, it’s my experience people are more likely to just assume the doctor is generally rude.

And that assumes behavior that is clearly rude and can be easily identified as such.

Look at studies of attitudes and behaviors of physicians and you can see that many do report bias against fat patients and treat them differently. “More than 50% of physicians viewed obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant.” Along with having more negative views of overweight and obese patients, doctors have also been shown to have less emotional rapport with overweight and obese patients. When medical students were asked to provide recommendations for virtual patients, identical except for weight/BMI, “[s]tudents revealed more negative stereotyping, less anticipated patient adherence, worse perceived health, more responsibility attributed for potentially weight-related presenting complaints and less visual contact directed toward the obese version of a virtual patient than the non-obese version of the patient.” Weight has also shown to relate to what activities doctors spend time during visits on, with doctors spending less time educating obese patients about their health. And this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of research showing weight bias among health care providers.

But if you are a patient how will you know if your doctor is spending less time educating you on your health condition than their thin patients? How do you know your doctor has more emotional rapport with thin patients? If your doctor never explicitly states anything negative about you or your weight but in subtle ways treats you differently due to negative bias how would you know you are being treated that way because of weight? In fact- often they don’t even realize they are treating patients different or even that they posses these biases. We all typically have biases we are not consciously aware of, yet they still impact our actions.

So expecting to capture this all in self-reports is misleading.

If you go by self-report we would miss a lot of discrimination, not jut of weight, but lots of issues.

It reminds me of something that happened in high school that I will never forget. Me and a few friends were heading out to hang out in Canada, and crossing the border. After we got through the checkpoint area I commented on it being so ridiculous the way the officers at the border acted suspicious of us and our relationship to each other (friends). I’m white, one of my friends is Indian and another is black and Puerto Rican. They told me I was crazy, that’s just standard “dong their job” for people who work at the border. And it dawned on me the difference in our perception- it was ridiculous to me because I knew from experience that if I was in a car with only other white people, they would not have acted that way. My friends had never been with an all white group crossing the border, because their presence would have automatically made the group no longer all white. If the only experience we have is with our own identify present, we can’t always know how our identity influences it. That’s why studies that actually document the differences are helpful.

Look at any area of discrimination and you will find that. We don’t always know it’s happening or why it is. If I get passed over for a job I have no idea if it’s because there was someone more qualified than me, or I’m being discriminated against due to my gender, or I’m being discriminated against due to my sexual orientation (which an employer can learn from googling me, or can assume by seeing that I’ve work with lgbtq organizations on my resume), or I’m being discriminated against because of my weight, or any other reason actually! I just know I never got called back for the job.

You cannot expect to capture the true frequency of discrimination based on self-reports.

Even the study’s authors offer another potential issue with the self-report data:

Jackson added that “research suggests that many overweight people don’t perceive themselves to be overweight, perhaps due to normalization of carrying excess weight. If people do not perceive themselves to be overweight one might expect them to be less likely to attribute experiences of discrimination to their weight.”

As well, they did not only study overweight and obese patients so the results are also including individuals who are “normal weight”.

I also see no indication that they analyzed the data by gender, which is significant since women are more likely to experience discrimination due to weight than men.