Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Face of the Fat Girls

I posted something very personal about myself a few days ago. I have mixed feelings about it. I almost didn't post it at all, because I am, by nature, a private and introverted person. My stomach turned over when I clicked "Publish." I feel a little sick thinking about it now. Then, this weekend, I read a post on the New York Times' Motherlode blog about a Swedish hate group attacking the author of Rage Against the Minivan, a blog I've read off and on in the last few years (and a blog name I've envied). The author and her husband have two biological daughters who are white and two adopted sons who are black. She writes often about her mixed-race family, her Christian faith, parenting, and other personal topics.

I started thinking about why she chose to make her private life so public, why I chose to publish something so personal, why anyone does these things. There was a part of the Times story that really struck me:

"With the [personal] stories [bloggers tell], we’re talking about people. Without them, it’s all abstract. To have a real conversation about race, we need some people willing to stand up and take a bigger risk. To support that conversation, the rest of us need to stand with them."

I finally got the courage to write about my body image problem because I realized that I had spent my whole life suffering in silence, and this had only made things worse for me. I never wanted to identify as fat. I rarely talked to people about how I felt about my body, because the only thing worse than being fat was to draw attention to it. I quietly avoided swimming parties and learned how to take a bra off without removing my shirt so I could survive sleepovers. I strategically planned what and how much I would eat in front of certain people, making sure to "under-eat" in public because I feared what I knew everyone would think if I ate a healthy portion of anything: "Well, that's why she's fat. She eats like a pig."

Our torture of overweight, or even slightly unskinny, girls persists because no one wants to talk about being fat. No one wants to be the "face of the fat girls." But if we all suffer in silence, the next generation suffers too. When I realized I would soon be responsible for shaping a little girl's body image in a world that will do everything it can to make her feel inadequate, I knew I couldn't keep pretending my problem didn't exist. I had to face it, or I would just pass it on to her.

There are certain people who have a real disdain for the personal. Talking about private things--such as being fat--publicly just shouldn't be done. But when has my weight or my body ever been private? It's something everyone could talk about except me. But not anymore.

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