Sizeist Microaggressions You Shouldn’t Have to Put Up With

“Microaggression,” according to Wikipedia, is a term was coined by Chester M. Pierce in 1970. Columbia professor Derald Wing Sue, who literally wrote the book on them, defines microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Some examples of racial microaggressions include statements like “But you don’t act like a black person,” or any of these others mentioned in this Buzzfeed list, or this list from American Psychologist, and this Tumblr.

Microaggressions are definitely real things that impact the lives of marginalized people of all categories. Most discussion of microaggressions focus on race, but they play a big role in size politics too. But because size is a dynamic element for most people (i.e. it might change), sizeist microaggressions tend to impact people of all sizes – those who are fat, and those who are afraid that they are fat or afraid of becoming fat. I’m personally getting really damned sick of them.

“You look great! Have you lost weight?” 

“You look so skinny in that picture!”

“God, I am a disgusting pig at this weight.”  “…You weigh less than me….”   “I mean, just because I’m not usually this weight. It’s different.” 

“But you eat healthy. I’m talking about the fat people who eat McDonalds.”

“Wow, you look great! You lost like a million pounds!”

“Just so you know, I used real butter in that recipe.”

“I used to be overweight, but I’m happy with my body now. If I was ever a size 10 again, I’d shoot myself.”

“But I don’t think of you as a fat.”

The important thing to remember is that  these micgroaggressions are committed unintentionally. For many people, these microaggressions come from the practice of fat talk – a self-deprecating way of communicating that people use to try to assuage their guilt over their eating/exercise habits, or demonstrate their social humility. It’s really unfortunate because people who fat talk think they’re only talking about themselves, and therefore only affecting themselves with their statements. They fail to realize that every time they criticize their own body or eating/exercise habits in front of other people, their words have the same impact of a microaggression.

It’s also possible that the person doing it just really has no idea because they just don’t think about weight stuff that often. For example, laughing at a fat joke on a TV show. While sitting right next to a fat person, totally oblivious to the impact of their complicit laughter on their friend next to them.

Microaggressions can result from the environment we live in too, like when clothing brands only carry up to a size 12. They can be actions rather than words, like when someone gives out free t-shirts as prizes, but only in sizes XS-L. They can happen in academia/research, like when you’re reading a book on organizational change theory and all of the examples are compared to weight loss maxims (“Just tell your team to put down the cookie, or better yet, remove all the cookies from the office!” – the cookie here being a metaphor for whatever “bad behavior” you’re trying to change).

Do you have more examples of sizeist microagressions? Have you been committing them unintentionally? And if so, are you willing to make an effort to stop?

10 thoughts on “Sizeist Microaggressions You Shouldn’t Have to Put Up With

  1. Yes, it seems that fat shaming is not only accepted but promoted. That, along with shaming smokers. I think we all need someone to judge in our PC world, and for some reason, these are the primary ones of the day.

  2. I wish I could post a photo of my “How dare you presume I’d rather be thin?” button. I’ve had it for about 35 years, and I don’t think we’ve made much progress on the issue since then. In some quarters weight-loss dieting has gone out of fashion, but “healthy eating” has come in and it’s got a similar subtext: fat shaming and fat phobia. Ragging on fat people is still socially acceptable — it’s for their own good, after all. (Yeah, right.) The fear of becoming fat is rational, IMO. Fat people are insulted, condescended to, and discriminated against. And with all these microaggressions we’re creating the conditions we’re so justifiably scared of.

    My hackles rise whenever I hear talk about “the obesity epidemic.” I think physical activity is great for all who are capable of it, and couch-potatodom isn’t a great place to live, but I strongly suspect that what’s really driving interest in “the obesity epidemic” more aesthetics than health. Fat hatred, in other words. I’m glad you’re blogging about this. Keep it up!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post, every thing you said is so true. I feel like we are (our society too) are all so fixated about the way we look that we don’t even notice little things we say. It is very good that you raise the awearness of this.

  4. I really enjoyed your post. It got me thinking. I see some fat shaming in my circle of friends, most of it unintentionally. Your posting made me aware of it and now I can and will speak up!

  5. Have you seen that thing on you -tube that Nicole Arbour posted. What an unfeeling excuse. When will society realize that one’s size is only one component of a person? My skinny sisters (I have two) are not better people than I am. Everything you said, Leah, is right on target.

  6. Pingback: the HAES® files: There Is No Social Justice without Bodies | Health At Every Size® Blog

  7. Ok, so everyone is going to hate me for this-
    But I have a sister who… has weight problems. I’ve known for a long time that comments on her weight would hurt her so it was an attack (while growing up) I -really- tried to avoid. When I look at others who are overweight I see a problem with our governments intentional food regulation. There are so many addictive properties in the food we’re given as options, farmers are making scraps for cash, and there is a multitude of factors that can cause someone to become overweight. Does that make you less of a person? Absolutely not! It hurts me when I see “Non-fats” don’t understand. These generalizations are a huge part of the miscommunications we have- where you’ve grouped me into a category and spoke on my behalf. I am also white. And I have this urge to start punching people for attacking others appearances cause they’re the black mold in the corner of the room and it spreads quickly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s