So this post has popped up a few times on my feed: https://www.indy100.com/article/i-am-the-woman-in-this-picture-and-this-is-what-it-was-like-7444991
And I feel really ambivalent about it. I mean, obviously she gets to be the authority on her own experience, and I’m in no way trying to usurp that or diminish her voice. That said…..
The reason I am sharing this is because people think it is funny to laugh at people with disabilities. You can not see my disabilities but they are there and they are REAL. So next time you see photos making fun of people just remember you know nothing about these people or the struggles they face everyday. It is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone.
In a later addendum, she gives more detail about the spine disease, her mental illnesses, and her obesity, concluding with:
I did not choose to be photographed at a low point in my life. The fact that people assume I am fat because I am lazy is false. Or they assume I am fat because I want to be on disability. Obese people are treated as less than human and as something to ridicule. I just want people to be aware that fat people are people too.
I have tons of sympathy and empathy for this situation. I *felt* it when she said she hadn’t paid any attention to the flash and the giggles because she was used to people laughing – I get that. Been there and didn't buy the t-shirt because it didn't come in my size. And her desire to pre-empt the criticisms she knows (we all know) are coming is also all too familiar – she names her obesity, she links it to mental illness, she distinguishes it from her spinal disease, and she assures the reader that she is fighting her body. It's understandable self-protection, ...but….while I *understand* that mechanism, I feel as though it also dilutes this post.
Here’s the thing – bullying is wrong. Laughing at fat people is bullying. Mocking persons with disabilities (visible or not) is bullying. Ridiculing the mentally ill is bullying.
We KNOW it’s wrong. We shouldn’t (and don’t) have to justify ourselves. Not being bullied – the right not to be bullied – isn’t something we “earn”, it’s something we have.
You don’t have to be a good fatty – “I fight my weight daily and I have recently joined a gym” – in order to deserve to be treated like a human being.
You don’t have to be a good crazy –ongoing therapy and trying to get better – in order to deserve to be treated like a human being.
You don’t have to be a good cripple – being a trooper in the face of adversity, doing your best to be “normal”, – in order to deserve to be treated like a human being.
You don’t have to be trying to “mitigate” what is “wrong” with you to justify not being bullied.
Nothing is wrong with you. Something is wrong with the bullies. And something is wrong with the social narrative that still requires us to justify our entitlement to being accorded basic dignity and respect.