Check Your Sizeism

We’re cool but you have homework.

It’s summer and people are emerging from their pandemic hiding spaces into the social world. We had all disappeared so people didn’t notice that I had disappeared – even if I told them.

“Yeah I am also feeling isolated and frustrated I can’t go out” they would tell me. Or they would say, “everyone feels that way.”

“No. Mine is different. I can’t go out – even if I wanted to – even if there was no pandemic.”

My physical body had been disappearing too. I largely stopped eating. I have always been fattish-to-fat and now I’m skinny.

In June 2021, as we begin to emerge, I am a bit more stable and I can go out with the help of my partner. But, I am afflicted by debilitating anxiety about the social interactions that I know are coming: the complements on my body that are rooted in sizeism and fatphobia. So, I made this bookmark:

I know you meant well but intention and impact are different.
You said one or both of these to me:

“You look so healthy”
This confuses weight and health. It isn’t true. I was healthier When I was fat.

  1. “You look great.”
  2. This reinforces a sizeist beauty standard – when that’s based on a white, nondisabled, upper-/middle-class norm.

I’ve lost lots of weight because I’ve been sick. I’ve neither been “healthy” nor “great.

I anticipated this interaction. It happened when I had cancer too. I anticipated it to such a frequency this time that I made bookmarks.
It is a bookmark because I’m giving you homework.

I don’t want you to get in touch and apologize. You said an ignorant thing – let’s move on.

I do want you to learn about fat politics.

Here are a couple places to start: (also a book)
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings
Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong by Hobbs and MacKay in Huffpost

This bookmark makes going out possible for me. I don’t go to places I think I will see people I haven’t seen in a while without it. I know lots of folks have learned the lesson “don’t comment on other people’s bodies” over the pandemic – but lots haven’t. And, some people have said to me “you have lost a lot of weight, are you doing OK” – that’s a very different kind of comment and, depending who it is, can be totally appropriate. The trick is knowing that it is appropriate for you to be one of those people – what if you are wrong?

Lots of folks have gained weight and are subject to sizeist remarks and jokes about it. That’s gross. It hurts people.

Feel free to use this bookmark, share it, adapt it to suit your situation. Here is the link to the printable PDF.

PS: don’t read anything into not getting the bookmark from me. It just means I didn’t give you the bookmark – not that you don’t need to reflect on your comments/are absolved. If you think we had a conversation that this applies to you about; if you think you have had a conversation that this applies to anyone about; or, if you think you have done the inverse (commented on someone getting fat, said they look bad, asked them if they have been sick because of it, etc.), embrace the bookmark.