Let’s talk about what it means to know someone. When you look at someone in the grocery store, across a room, online, do you think that you know them?
Let me give you an example. I’m on all the dating apps. I have face pictures and body pictures. I have a nice little description of who I am and what I’m looking for. I get a fair number of matches. But after the matches, something interesting happens: about 90% of the men unmatch me, either before I’ve had a chance to send a message, or right after I do. What’s going on here? My theory is that they swipe right after looking at my first picture (a head shot), and then, after we match, they actually take the time to look at my entire profile, including all of my full-body shots. Boom! Unmatch.
Maybe these guys read my profile and saw something there that made them not want to get to know me. Maybe my first message was the worst. Fair enough. But I have this sneaking suspicion that that they finally looked at my full-body shots and went NOPE. That’s totally their prerogative, of course. They’re allowed to see my body and not want anything to do with it, or me. But what if they are unmatching me because they think that, by seeing me, they know me?
Consider this, too: In real life, when when some men get to know me, they seem shocked to discover that I am (in their most frequent choice of words), “awesome.” Well, yeah, I am! I think these men are surprised because media, society, and the multi-billion-dollar diet industry have taught them that a fat woman cannot be smart, funny, interesting, charming… not to mention awesome.
We are taught that fat bodies—and, by extension, fat people—are bad. Fat people are ugly, lazy, gluttonous, stupid, unhealthy, a drain on society, and so on. If you hear these messages over and over, why wouldn’t you believe them? We make snap judgments about people based on what they look like, because we’ve been taught to. Have you ever looked in someone’s grocery cart and assumed you know what they eat every day? Have you ever seen a fat person at the gym and thought how great it is that they are finally doing something to help their body? Have you seen a thin person and guessed that they were in great health?
The truth is, you don’t know what a fat person eats every day, just like you don’t know if a thin person lives on fast food and soda pop. You don’t know if a fat person has a display of race medals hanging up at home, just like you don’t know if a thin person lays on the couch all night binge-watching Stranger Things. In my experience, I’ve found that most people are a mashup off all these things. And I can never know anything for sure just by looking at their bodies.
I have no clue how to get men to put aside what they have been taught and conditioned to believe and get to know me, especially in this day and age when we make snap decisions based on a single picture or two. But I do know that, right now, we can all start doing the work of dismantling what the diet industry wants us to believe about fat people.
It’s easy: meet fat people. Talk to them. Treat them well. Make no assumptions. Get to know them as people, not bodies. When you feel judgment rising in your mind, crush it. You never know how awesome someone might be.