I’m really lucky that I’ve never had much of a problem with how I look. I don’t really understand why I haven’t, but I suspect it’s because my Mum didn’t really say anything about appearrance. Don’t get me wrong, she was judgemental, but it didn’t usually focus on what I looked like – I’ve said before I could wear pretty much whatever I wanted to, from a very young age, was allowed to dye my hair from the age of 12, and even when I looked stupid (as witnessed by photographs) Mum never stopped me.
I’m also incredibly lucky that I’ve never been bullied for my appearrance. I’ve been bullied for being weird, old (two years older) and once, incredibly, for being more intelligent than someone thought I was from the way I acted. None of this has ever bothered me: I relished being weird, I can’t help how old I am, and I’ve never pretended I’m not intelligent, I just act the goat. For a fat, weird kid who dressed like a freak, I’m amazed to this day I was never bullied – maybe I was and just didn’t notice.
My mum used to tell me not to sit in the open window of my bedroom because, ‘you’ll break your neck’. It was such a massive threat as a child, like breaking your neck was the worst thing you could ever do, that it stopped me doing anything (and gave me a fear of heights). About 12 years after that, I met Ian, who’d broken his neck, and I was amazed that he was still alive, but also so normal, not bitter at all.
If you’ve met Ian, you’ll know what I mean. He doesn’t complain about anything. Even when he’s ill for completely inexplicable reasons, although he’s pissed off, it’s more curiosity as to why he’s in pain than bitterness. My mum admitted that she’d been worried about me marrying Ian, but after she met him she always said that ‘once you meet him you forget about his wheelchair’.
Once you spend your life with someone whose body is broken, you start to realise how unimportant the appearrance of your body is, and it becomes more about whether or not that body does what it’s supposed to. What is your body actually for? It allows you to think, and interract, and experience things.
I get really upset when I hear successful, intelligent women say they wouldn’t dream of ‘inflicting’ their stomach on the world without shapewear because it’s ‘disgusting’, or women who’ve given birth to two beautiful children saying they look awful because they have grey roots. It’s so unimportant, it doesn’t even register on my radar. You have an amazing brain, and an amazing body that’s given you children.
I’m going to Plus North this weekend, and I’m excited for it – all the fat women I know have truly embraced their bodies not being disgusting, and unfortunately come across body fascism because of it every day. Lisa regularly posts photos of herself in crop tops, and gets told she is ‘disgusting’ and asked ‘do you really think that’s flattering?’ – the rallying cry for Rad Fats* is ‘FUCK FLATTERING’, but it should be for every woman.
As I say, I’m lucky I’ve never been bullied for being fat – but it shouldn’t be that this is luck, or surprising. No one should be bullied by anyone for their body, and most importantly you should never bully yourself.
* Rad Fats – radical fat – the way I explain it is that it’s like feminism but for being fat. it’s inclusive, it’s not just about fat cis women, it encompasses men, trans, queer – as long as you’re fat