Friday, May 7, 2010

Fat and disability: what few of you want to hear

I have a new post up at Global Comment

The personal narrative is something I have avoided, because the naked honesty also leaves one extremely vulnerable to attack. Living in a marginalized body is difficult enough without showing one’s war wounds, but when it becomes clear that hiding is only enabling the complete erasure of people who look and function like me, then it is time to speak out. You see, I am fat, Black, female and differently abled.

I can never completely be at home with any one of the labels that best describe me. In the media, I can see Black women, or even fat black women, but fat and differently abled are definitely categories that are understood to be mutually exclusive. A body like mine contradicts the mainstream social discourse.

Fat activist groups like NAAFA (The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) have worked hard to promote HAES (Health at any size). NAAFA’s goal is to build “a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life”. Considering the amount of hatred that fat men and women face in every avenue of life, this is most certainly a laudable goal. The problem is that the HAES model often excludes disabled folks, because our bodies are seen as broken.

How can you claim health at any size when people who are fat and disabled exist in direct contradiction to the message? My fat is a direct reflection of the two chronic illnesses that have plagued my life for the last three years.

I am fat because I have been on prednisone (a steroid) for years. I am fat because the smallest amount of exertion causes extreme pain. There is nothing healthy about this fat.

There is nothing to experience pride in, because fat for me represents all of the ways in which disability has robbed me of the life that I once had. There is no room for this story in a fat activist platform, because it reminds people that yes, fat can indeed be a form of illness — and that is the antithesis of what fat activists are aiming for.

Finish reading here