Sunday, 20 April 2008

privilege and ethics

Interesting stuff here, on the subject of privilege, which I have been thinking quite a lot about lately, thanks to various discussions both in the Fatosphere and other places online.

This comment really struck a chord with me:

I am not likely to have to listen to conversations/commercials where people talk about how not to look like me.

People in my office are always going on about their diets, their exercise regimes, how fat they are, how they have to lose some weight, how bad they are because they ate a doughnut, and how they absolutely must not look like me. They don't say "we are doing this to avoid looking like you, because, Jesus!" But yeah. That's what they mean.

Of course, if I pointed this out, they'd say that isn't what they meant at all, and that's the truth too. They don't mean that they don't want to look like ME (although they don't) because they haven't actually figured ME into the conversation at all, even when I'm part of it, or sitting one desk away. It doesn't enter their minds that it might be okay to look like me, that I might not be miserable looking like me, that there's not something horribly wrong with me, but it also isn't a conscious series of thoughts in which they think "I hope I never look like Maddie, pass me a carrot."

But I've long loathed their "OMG admire all the effort I am putting into avoiding looking like you" camaraderie, and I didn't quite understand why. It was partly about my own eating problems, which are myriad, and which are made a hundred times worse by making the kind of effort they're making. But part of it, I finally realise, was that they were saying "you are ugly and I would rather torture myself than look like you".

And they don't realise that, actually, I'd rather torture myself than look like me as well, but, lucky me, I get to do both. I've completely internalised the entire line about the relative values of fatness and thinness, and my self-loathing is generated from there almost entirely.

I am now well-armed with very reasonable arguments about health, and the unhealthiness of diets, and my own mental health, and on that level, I can say, yes, I am okay with being fat.

But if I'm honest, I have to admit that on this basic level - the level of not wanting to look like myself - I am not happy about it at all.

You know that ethics test where they say, hey, if you could get a million dollars for pressing a button which would kill one person in a far off country somewhere whose life you would never encounter, would you do it? And you're supposed to say no, because of the sanctity of human life.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if someone offered me that chance to be permanently perfectly thin.

Of course, no doubt, if I did kill an innocent person just so I could be think, I'd then have the fascinating experience of discovering that it's not really about hating my fat at all, and the feelings could remain long after the body had changed.

Wow, I'm in an impressively bad mood. I'll blame it on the fact that I just had a wonderful holiday, but am now forced to go back to a job I loathe, in the same office as those diet-obsessed people I mentioned above.

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