Monday, February 27, 2012

In Defense of the So-Called "Skinny Bitches"


 "...and too pretty is also not good. Everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest [or skinniest] girl in the room." -adapted from Ani DiFranco


It goes without saying that our culture has serious “issues” when it comes to weight. We are bombarded with mixed messages, we are told that it is or isn’t our fault that we are over- or under-weight. Sadly, at this point it’s virtually impossible to address the topic without setting off fireworks.


Well, maybe this will set off fireworks, although I sincerely hope not. Lupus, along with many other chronic illnesses, can have profound effects on patients' weight in ways that we cannot control. Some drugs make us gain up to hundreds of pounds. Some drugs make us lose any amount of weight. The disease itself can cause involuntary weight loss or gain. But the point is: it is not something over which we have much (if any) control, and it is not something about which others have any right to judge us.

If you go to any Lupus support group, forum, etc. you will come across the most horrifying stories of people being publicly and cruelly mocked for being overweight. People who are doing everything they can to prevent the dreaded “prednisone weight gain” are screamed at by total strangers for not doing enough. There is nothing I can say that expresses my shock, anger, and sadness at the lack of basic humanity such actions imply.

But it goes the other way, too. Some of us lose weight. I am not going to pretend that, from a purely cultural point of view, but we are not the relatively (key word: relatively) lucky ones. Not from a health point of view, but from a societal expectation point of view, it’s better to lose than to gain weight. I’m not going to go in to how screwed up that is; that’s a rant for another day. But what is truly horrible is the discrimination faced by those with serious medical related weight loss.

 In general, commenting on someone’s being overweight is considered rude. But not–so–subtly jealous comments about, and I quote, “that skinny bitch*,” are both common and not seen as all that inappropriate. Because being underweight has somehow become our collective cultural goal (at least for females), it’s okay to tell an unusually thin woman to, “Go eat a hamburger.” This kind of comment is just as hurtful as an equivalent comment would be if made to someone who is obese. “Go eat a hamburger?” Well, if, for example, you’ve just taken your weekly dose of poison, that hamburger isn’t going to stay down. And if, like so many patients, you happen to have celiac disease on top of lupus, a hamburger bun will literally destroy your intestines and cause internal bleeding. “Go eat a hamburger?” I don’t think so.

I am one of the relatively lucky ones. I have lost enough weight that people who haven’t seen me for a while often don’t recognize me, but I do not stand out as extremely thin. But others do. Patients who have been in the hospital, fighting for their lives. Patients struggling with drugs that are so toxic that the only justification for their use is the severity of the disease(s) they treat. The last thing such people need are snide comments about needing to eat more hamburgers, or jealous and catty references to “that skinny bitch.” So in defense of those fighting battles about which you have no idea, I beg you to treat even skinny women with the basic human dignity and respect that every human being deserves.




It is not necessary to make a lupus patient's life harder through personal insults. Really.


*I do not generally use such language in this blog, but that's the phrase that gets hurled at us. It's common, insulting, and apparently ok, since everyone secretly wants to be called it?


Image credits:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-SGLfZSKktKA/Tj4rvsEUqSI/AAAAAAAAByA/LAGBk3zFlAI/s1600/Scale_ClipArt.jpg
http://iveronicawalsh.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/dreamstime_85004.jpg

6 comments:

  1. Your weight would be my business HOW???? I was painfully thin as a child and teen, and somehow, it was never considered stylish while I was it. Then I somehow went directly to matronly without really stopping in the middle. This is my fault. (Well, having the kids was part of it.) But I know that being really thin is not attractive, nor is it comfortable. (No padding, no insulation.) But it is so WEIRD just to look at the ads GOOGLE has placed in the sidebar because of your title. (Two on treatments for eating disorders, one for an online fashion school. ARGGHHH! Your point has been proven.) So I extend my sympathy. I withhold my judgement. But I am glad to see you've got enough energy to rant a little.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I saw the same ads and went “seriously?!?” But as you say, it does kind of prove my point. I'm sorry to have added any advertisements to my blog, but I could use all the extra cash I can get. Living the graduate student dream and all that...

      I remember in high school, walking through the girls' locker room and seeing a poster about eating disorder awareness and another poster about obesity. I just remember shaking my head, and thinking “something here is very, very wrong.”

      I have been lucky; although I really have lost a lot of weight (and I was not overweight to begin with), I have not experienced nasty snide comments... at least to my face. Coworkers, churchgoers, and friends will occasionally comment about it, but it's done in a way that shows their concern, rather than any malice. And that, of course, doesn't bother me. It may be that I'm just not “skinny enough” to provoke the really nasty comments. Or maybe, I am just luckier in that I'm around nicer people than other lupus patients are. But in the end, as you say, what business is it of anyone except the individual and his or her physicians what he or she weighs? I think this is one of the issues about which our society is most, well, really screwed up!

      Delete
    2. I have now theoretically blocked weight-related ads from this blog. If you see any more, please let me know.

      Delete
  2. After a very serious accident in which her 21 year old son was killed, the family kept a close eye on my sister-in-law. Nearly a year later, several of her siblings were commenting on how much weight she had lost. They were afraid she was not eating, still mourning, etc. (I will add that her husband is an MD.) Finally one of them dared to comment out loud that she had lost quite a bit of weight, to which she commented cheerfully "weight watchers." It was related to the accident in that her spinal injuries hurt less if she was carrying less weight, but it was still her choice.

    At least they were her siblings, which gives them some excuse for asking the question. Doctors and spouses also have the right to make comments. (Although a wise spouse limits comments on your figure to 'you look hot.') But random people--I don't think so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind friendly comments, or even concerned comments. It's the spiteful, I'm-jealous-because-you're-thin-and-I'm-not vitriol I've seen spewed at people that really upsets me. Come on, people, the woman's been in the hospital for most of the past couple of months! Do you really think she needs any more abuse?

      I guess the real problem is that our society thinks that looking like you're terminally ill is something to be desired.

      Delete