Posts Tagged ‘oppression’

Image of a potato with text saying “I’m offended by this potato”

I am so sick of hearing folks talk about how terrible it is that other people make an effort to be respectful to other people- ie, caring if something they say is offensive. And images like the potato one here being shared around social media as oh so edgy! When did intentionally being an asshole become something to brag about?

This was going to be a facebook post but I feel like this will get too wordy for a facebook status, so blog post it is!

This is actually most recently inspired by conversations I’ve seen around a free pride (alternative to the main pride which many feel is too commercialized) in Glasgow deciding against having any drag performers at the event because some felt it would be offensive to some trans people. They apparently are working on changing this policy btw.

The thing is, looking at discussions about this- I actually saw a lot of really great and thoughtful discussions about this with people talking about the role drag has had in the history of the lgbtq right movement through time, and how it has been important for many cis gay/queer people and trans and genderqueer people in being able to embrace who they are. And some trans folks spoke about why they find drag upsetting, negative experiences with drag performers, and some cis gay/queer folks talked about why they are uncomfortable with drag performances- how many performers draw on misogynistic, classist, and racist caricatures yet it’s given a pass because it’s a performance/comedy/part of queer culture.

And then other folks but in with such insightful commentary as “haha pc police going overboard!”, “the movement to not be offended is imploding on itself!”, “if you are offended by anything ever just never leave your house!” and so on.

The underlying idea behind all that of course is that the thoughtful conversations that I previously mentioned are utterly worthless. Attempting to understand where other people are coming from and find ways to be more respectful to a wide variety of people is stupid. The cool thing apparently is being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole. If you hurt someone unintentionally and they say so, laugh at them for being a human being who has feelings- what a loser!

The thing is, there is not actually any real movement out there to never be offended. What does exist is a lot of people who have decided “hey, let’s try not to be assholes!” Who actually care to listen to what other people have to say and perhaps make changes if what they are doing is upsetting people.

I don’t think “I’m offended” is or should be the end of the discussion. And the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks that. That may be the starting point for a larger discussion that hopefully leads to greater understanding and empathy. It is certainly not the end all, be all it is made out to be by the same people who talk about “social justice warriors” as boogie men. (Because when being an asshole is cool, social justice is bad.)

If someone tells me something is offensive to them and why I like to hope that I would consider the point they are making. I would certainly not keep doing/saying the same thing for the sole purpose of hurting them, because I’m not a sociopath. I recognize that other people are human beings with feelings, and I try to be respectful of that. If I have a reason to say something that I feel is important though, I will say it. Take for example “queer”. A lot of people, especially in my experience older people, in the lgbt community find the term offensive. If I know someone who find it offensive I will not purposefully refer to them as queer to upset them, in fact I will do my best to use their preferred identity to refer to them specifically. I won’t stop using queer in general though, because it’s still the term I feel best fits my identification and I’m not ok with being told how I’m allowed to identified. There is actually nuance to these things. And there is a huge difference between using a term because it has important meaning to you, and using a term just to upset other people or because you can’t be bothered to be considerate of the fact that other people exist and have feelings.

In contrast to my use of the word queer, many years back a friend called me out on my usage of the word “retarded” as a generic negative. And while my immediate reaction was actually rather defensive at the time, over the next few days I considered the point she made and realized she was right, and there was really no good reason for me to keep using that word. It took awhile to get out of the habit of using it, but at the end of the day there was no good reason for me to use that word. Whether I agree with people being upset by it or not isn’t even relevant, they are and it’s a word I have no good reason to need to use, so why not make an effort to be respectful? It’s not that hard.

And yet, for some reason instead of recognizing the nuance and purpose behind these discussion, there is a large portion of people who want very much to reduce this all to “haha, you’re a person who has feelings!” and cries about “pc police”.

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?