Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Simply naming it.
As a fat person, the number one most common insult I've gotten isn't any reference to pigs, or to how I eat too many cheeseburgers, or how sexually unattractive I am. The most common insult is "fat." There's no implicit "you're fat, and therefore something"--just letting me know, in case I forgot or something. Fat is supposed to be bad in itself.
This is why I'm glad my boyfriend calls me fat. Don't get me wrong--he also calls me cute, smart, wonderful, adorable, sexy--but if my body shape comes up, he has no qualms in calling me fat. Affectionately. And I'm glad he does, because I think he's coming from the same place as me on this: euphemizing it would legitimize the insult. If he called me "curvy" or "solid" or "a bit larger" or simply dodged the issue altogether, the implicit message would be "but you're not fat, because fat is terrible."
This is the same reason that I hate to respond to "dyke" with "I'm not gay!" Even though I'm not--the correct answer is "so what if I am?" "Slut"--so what if I am? "Whore"--so what if I were? "Cocksucker"--yep, did that Saturday night!
So many insults in our culture consist of simply naming a thing, a morally neutral human quality, and every time you fight back by denying it, you play into the idea that the thing they described is bad. I don't think the insults can lose all their power through simple acknowledgement--sometimes the tone of voice and threatening delivery are enough to intimidate you even if all they said was "YOU ARE A MAMMAL AND YOU BREATHE AIR!" But it helps to keep the perspective--how much can someone hurt me by simply telling me what I am? I already know that. And how much can someone hurt me by telling me that I have a neutral quality that I don't happen to have? That's incorrect, but it shouldn't even hurt. I'm not yet emotionally armored to the point where the only effective insult is "YOU CAUSE SUBSTANTIVE HARM TO OTHERS!", but I hope to get there some day.
So why is the post image a sad pig? Because pigs are adorable creatures that are quite intelligent and tidy. But someone just called it a "pig" and now it feels bad, even though it knows how incredibly stupid that is.