Sunday, March 08, 2015

Ha Ha Hatred

Elderly man, looking angry pointing a finger, caption says: "Back in my day wheelchairs were for disabled people, not fat people.

Because one isn't enough, I'll give you another one. I had lots of choice.

Elderly woman, looking annoyed, wearing a read scarf around her head, caption reads: Back in my day wheelchairs were for disabled people, not fat ones

I'm not sure why I was sent this picture of the elderly man and the caption about weight and wheelchairs, I know that the person thought it really funny, the note that came with it suggested I might find it funny too. I don't. I wondered, at the time, if there were more to the message than a simple, 'ha ha isn't this funny?'

I know that most people associate my disability and my use of a wheelchair with my weight. It's astonishing how many people develop medical insight into the lives of others and how desperate they are to share that insight. I always correct them, my weight isn't the reason I use a wheelchair, I have been heavy all my life and I've walked all my life, that is up until the catastrophic illness that resulted in my wheelchair use.

I have to admit something here. Deep down inside me I really care that people know that I have a disability and that has resulted in the use of the wheelchair. I really care that they understand that this isn't a weight issue.



And now, I'm not sure why. I think that I may have, in deep recesses of my psyche, a bit of prejudice against being fat myself or others being fat. I have lived all my life at the blunt end of people's harsh value judgements about me, their assumption that my weight gives them permission to hurt me. I know all that. Maybe I've internalized some of it. I've striven all my life to rid myself of prejudices and biases against other people. I don't see how they serve any purpose but to close off my world, to shush other and different voices, to remove a band of colour from the rainbow. I don't want them.

Wheelchairs are made for people who need them.

Can we agree on this simple statement.

Why someone needs one is no one's business. Wheelchairs make movement possible for those who's movements have been restricted.

I've taken the time to check and the comments that accompany the two images above are horrible, disgusting and violent. The Internet allows a place for people to air their prejudices and get applause in return. There were very, very, few people who said anything in opposition to those who think that all fat people are lazy, unemployed, benefit scrounging, losers. This should be no surprise. As I write this there is a British journalist and television personality who is attacking Kelly Clarkson about her weight. She said, in defense of herself: "I feel it's my responsibility to point out to chubsters that they need to get up off their ass, stop costing me money as a taxpayer, and get out there and run a little bit more." Even more concerning is the fact that she considers hurting others as acceptable: "It doesn't hurt me if I hurt someone's feelings." I think she will find, in the future that it does. This is the kind of person who would fall about laughing and rush to click 'like' on either of the pictures above.
Because the message isn't about wheelchairs is it

It's about hate.

Pure and simple.


Some, like me, carry around extra weight. And maybe that's part of the reason that I don't want or need to carry around the weight of prejudice and hatred. Of anyone.

Even me.


CapriUni said...

Dave -- just this last Friday, I found this academic paper online, about how humor is used by the dominant culture to socially police marginalized people. I found it empowering, because it affirmed that my hurt reaction is not just me, and it gave me a way to name it when I see it, so that it's easier to fight:

Joke's on You: An Examination of Humor as a cultural Divider/Queer Uniter
(unfortunately, it's in PDF format, and I don't know how to convert it to something readable by screen-readers. I hope someone reading this does know).

Jeannette said...

Dave, if you were sent those pictures by a friend, maybe the friend thought that the captions were so blatantly stupid that you would find them funny. (Maybe. On the other hand, duh...)

It has been my observation lately that human beings seem to need somebody -- a group -- to mock. I don't like this observation, but it's what I've come to believe. I've read that some places -- the Ferguson, Kansas police department, for one -- are rife with racist jokes. Among my friends, I have NEVER heard a racist joke, but rednecks seem to be a perfectly acceptable target.(And with a friend from eastern Canada, that mockable group includes not just rednecks, but Newfies.) Or people with different political or religious leanings. I have finally resorted to asking, "Would you have told that joke if the subject had been a black person?"
This seems to be part of our group mentality as human beings, and I have no idea how to change it, beyond one conversation at a time.
Thank you for letting me rant.

liz said...


Andrea S. said...

If you wish, I will be interested in your opinion of this story: It starts out as a sad and angry story of fat shaming and bullying, but ends with people banding together to show one man that he is accepted (there are links to follow to learn more):

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, we told "Polack" jokes. I've learned better. Unfortunately, fat people are still fair game for hatred.

I'm fat person who uses a wheelchair because of arthritis that started when i was normal weight. Even doctors assume the arthritis because of my weight, not the other way around.


Colleen said...

I'm at a loss to understand why people think it is okay to judge others regarding their health. It is no one's freaking business why anyone uses a wheel chair or any assistive device.

I also think that it is a particularly obnoxious form of self-righteousness for someone to comment on another's health status. After I had a minor stroke some people felt free to comment on it being a "wake up call" or that it was a result of my lifestyle. There is a really big part of me that wants to defend myself against these judgements but the better part of me absolutely refuses to. Who the heck do they think they are???

Kristine said...

People seem VERY comfortable sharing their fat-phobia with me. Any time a larger person in a wheelchair goes by, it seems like someone has to say something to me, as if my wheelchair use were more legitimate than theirs. I hate it. Sometimes weight leads to wheelchair; sometimes wheelchair leads to weight; and sometimes they're totally unrelated. In any case, who cares? I'm sure that stranger on the street is living their life the best they can, same as the rest of us. I'm glad they have a mobility device that lets them get out and about. End of story.

Responding to Jeanette's comment... I learned a new strategy recently for responding to those kind of jokes, which I'm eager to try out next time it comes up... Basically, the idea is to play dumb. "I'm sorry, I don't get the joke. Can you explain it to me?" The person has to articulate the prejudice that makes their joke, and I like to think most people wouldn't be comfortable with that...

Moose said...

I'm so sick of people telling me that I'm not really disabled, I'm just fat. That if I just lost weight I'd magically be able to walk again.

I'm doubly tired of doctors telling me this. Every doctor who has told me this has done so by simply looking at me, without an examination or knowledge of my medical history.

Worse, the reason I'm disabled is because of medical weight bias - a doctor ignored my symptoms because of her own biased beliefs and it ended with a two+ week hospital stay and unrepairable damage, which all could have been prevented if things were treated the months earlier.

I'm so tired of the "fat people on scooters" stereotype. I'm tired of the "fat people are simply lazy" nonsense. And I'm tired of people having defend themselves for the way they are, no matter how that is.

With people who think it's fine to mock fat people because they "ate their way to being gross," it's not the fat people with a problem. It's so easy to be judgemental of someone else. Are they so perfect?

John 8:7 He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Moose. It is bad enough being judged by peers, society in general, but when the medical folks put all you woes in the "fat basket" it is so frustrating. I'm not an idiot, my weight may make things harder, but it is a symptom not a cause.

CapriUni said...

Just this morning, I remembered a comeback kids in my elementary school used (early 1970s), when someone put them at the hurtful end of a joke:

"Ha. Ha. That is so funny, I forgot to laugh."

If grownups are going to act so immaturely, then maybe this childish retort will be something they understand.

Anonymous said...

I simply adore you.....