Whenever someone launches into some diatribe about how terrible it is that there are all these fat people in the world, eventually, when called on it, he or she answers, “but being fat is unhealthy.” As if it’s a walk in the mental health park to hear people go on about how terrible you are and frame it as if it’s for your own good that they should say such shitty things to you.
But it’s almost always something else, hidden in the concern about health.
According to some liberals, being fat is immoral, right up there with racism, porn, teen pregnancy, and divorce. And, not only is it evidence of my immorality, it’s a sign of my hypocrisy. I think this is a version of slut-shaming, actually, since my actual morality (or lack-there-of) doesn’t matter and my actual state of hypocrisy doesn’t matter, but what matters is that I appear to be an immoral hypocrite due to the body I have, just like I’m open to any charges of being a “slut” regardless of my actual state of sexual activity or prowess due to my body. In both cases, this body marks me as having appetites that are out of control, and, of course, it is always someone’s job–church, state, assholes–to try to bring me back into right behavior (never mind the underlying assumption that “fat” and “lives in a red state” and “is your ally” are apparently mutually exclusive in this set-up). And, you know, any time you complain about that assumption–that it’s anybody’s business to try to force someone else to not be fat–you get the “but it’s not healthy.” Like I said, as if it’s really healthy to be shamed about your immorality and used as an example of all that’s wrong with your region.
And I can’t help but feel like this discussion about how to attract more techies to our area also butts right up against how my body is a marker of what’s wrong with our region. One of my favorite things about Nashville is how easy it is to be outside. I love our bike lanes and how being at the park often feels like a community event. The weather makes this a wonderful place to garden. The online community makes it easy to arrange pick-up ball games or runs or what-have-you. And I am all for making it even easier to be active around town.
I’m still going to be fat. So, you know, there’s not a techie who’s going to look at me and ever say “there’s a fit and healthy person.” I don’t believe this should be a problem. After all, this techie is not my doctor and not me. His opinions on my body, only informed by his aesthetic judgment of me, are tough shit for him. If he’s got the thing he needs in town to take care of himself how he’d like, then whether I have “properly” availed myself of those things is not his business.
And I’ve known Rex a long time and find him a genuinely thoughtful and caring person. And still he says,
But, to get back to my point, we are moving into an era where being healthy and fit as individuals and as a community and region is not a “nice to be;” they are “have to be.”
And there are certain eating and lifestyle patterns in our region that make it an even greater challenge that require us to place a very high emphasis on making it easy to get outside and walk, bike and play.
Apparently, it’s not just good for our personal health, it’s good for business, also.
So, if I fail to be “fit” I’m now fucking it up for the business community? It’s now my fault if the right kind of people, the people we really want and need in Tennessee catch a glimpse of me and decide that I’m too ugly for them to want to live here? I’m ruining the whole fucking state now?
This idea that some people’s aesthetic preferences for other people’s bodies should be catered to in order to woo those people here is alarming to me. Why would we want to encourage people who think that their aesthetic preferences are so important that other people should change how they look to please them to move here? If we knew techies had a hankering for big titted blondes, would we be saying that everyone in Nashville had to get a boob-job and a wig?
Or would we be saying that their personal aesthetic preferences don’t get to run the world? I’ve been following a lot of the ongoing talk about gender in the tech community, and as difficult and painful as it is, it seems to me that the idea that the whims and preferences of some that are alienating to others don’t go unchallenged is passing.
I would encourage the tech community, then, to take those lessons about how to treat women and to apply them more broadly to the notion that, while you can craft a landscape that meets your desires, you cannot insist on it being peopled only with those who meet the aesthetic standards you hold for yourself.
At some point, this isn’t about attracting the “right” kind of people to Nashville. It’s about treating all people, regardless of what we look like, as belonging here and not as problems that have to be solved.