I put out a "call for
stories" to people in the online fat-acceptance news
groups. I asked them to share with readers
fat-bashing incidents they’ve experienced and to tell how they
responded. Read and learn from their stories. I always do!
Readers... We are going to continue
to print clever comebacks to rude remarks in upcomming issues of
Please e-mail us with your
fat-bashing stories. Tell us what happened, how you
felt, what you did or said, and what you would do differently
next time. Share your stories, we all learn from one
the first night of our large-women-only water exercise class, more than
thirty women showed up at the local YWCA, a number unheard of for one of
its regular classes. Most of the women were supersize or at the
high end of midsize.
The only fly in the ointment was that
our instructor had no earthly idea how to adapt water exercise for fat
people. She went way too fast and didn’t seem to notice that it took
us longer to move our limbs through the water than it did her
"average-size" classes. She also made no attempt to take into
consideration the heavier weight and potential strain on joints. We
reveled in the feel of the water after—for many of us—a lifetime of
avoiding swimming pools, but we weren’t given the chance to just float
around and feel our bodies. The instructor was bound and determined to
help us shape up. I was very disappointed and when I heard the
disgruntled comments of people who couldn’t keep up with the exercise
pace or whose knees were hurting, I was afraid the class wouldn’t make
it. Fewer and fewer people showed up each succeeding week.
We were down to about fifteen one
night, when the instructor kept harping on holding in our tummies while
we aerobicized ourselves. She kept going on about it until, finally, one
woman snapped, "Why is it necessary to hold in our stomachs?"
The young and clueless instructor
said, with a totally straight face, "So your tummies won’t pooch
Stunned silence greeted the comment.
We all stood perfectly still for several seconds. Finally, from the back
of the pool came the voice of a woman who had never spoken up before.
"Have you looked at us?" she asked.
At that, we all looked at one another,
and the class erupted into gales of belly laughter that only a room full
of supersize women could have shared. Soon we were literally rolling in
the water, bobbing up and down like corks, laughing uncontrollably.
come to adopt the following, said in a nice, loud voice:
"Well, yes, I am fat and you are not. However, I have a kind and
gentle heart, and treat all people with respect, which I see you do
Most of the time, the moron who made
the negative comment doesn’t get it, but those who overhear it all
snicker and say "Right on," which is my intent. Then the moron
has to ask someone to explain what just happened. It really makes my
afternoon, I was out and about with my good friend. Neither of us had
much spending money, but we were out for fun, driving around in my old
As I stopped at a red light, we heard
some shouting and yelling from the sidewalk. I turned and my face froze
as I began to hear what this woman was saying to me. She went on and on
about my size and my ability to drive a car. She mentioned various parts
of my body and how huge everything was. She said I should not be allowed
on the streets. Out of her mouth, faster and faster, fat was
attached to every filthy word. The light lasted forever. Her male
companion joined in the barrage of fat hate. Finally, the light changed.
My friend was furious and wanted to
shout back at them. I pretended it didn’t matter, for my friend.
"Don’t sink to that level," I told her. "It happens all
But this incident was with me all that
day, and I woke up the next morning with it. Being fat since birth, I am
no stranger to fat bashing, but some incidents stay with you longer and
are harder to forget.
I will never see those people again. I
give them to the Higher Power to deal with. But did I do the right
thing? Should I have screamed back? Would that have prevented this lump
stuck in my throat? Or the tears? Could I have said anything that would
have prevented another verbal assault on another fat person? I don’t
know. This one hurt, a lot.
Another beautiful day in San
Francisco, I was driving my son and his friend to the park in my
convertible. As I drove up the street, construction workers began
jeering and pointing. At the park, a woman yelled loudly from her car,
first, "Oh, my God," and then, "Slimfast, Slimfast, Jenny
Craig, Jenny Craig." On the way home, a lady and a man and child on
bikes yelled, "There’s that big fat lady in the car." I
stopped to ask the construction workers a question about parking on the
street. They were rendered nearly speechless. What would you do? Yell
back? Not drive in public with the car top down? I don’t want to take
—Nancy Bazis Christie
San Francisco, CA
You know, it is very upsetting.
However, in fact, if people who are like that don’t yell at you about
your weight, they’ll find something else to yell at you about. When I
was thin, it was "Hey, nice tits." Or "Nice ass." Or
"Wanna fuck?" You can’t win. I think a dignified silence, or
the haughty "Excuse me?" is appropriate.
Whether you stayed home, kept the top
down, lost weight, whatever, rude people like these will always be rude.
Don’t let them run your life.
Just the other day, a young woman I
work with was upset because she’d been called "skinny" by
some passerby. She’s Vietnamese and one of those very tiny, thin
people. It seems no matter what we look like, we’re supposed to look
aunt was a fat activist way back when! One day at the grocery store as
she was getting out of her car, a woman made a big deal out of trying to
get the guy she was with to look at my aunt. My aunt went over to their car,
thumped on the hood, and said, "Here I am. Get a good look
now." She turned all around a time or two, and said, "I
wouldn’t want you to miss anything." Then she went on into the
store to do her shopping.
The guy was mortified and chastised
the woman. We all took great satisfaction from that family story. I’ve
been prone to such tactics myself for as long as I can remember!
—Khyla L. Willoughby
friends and I went to a restaurant one evening for dinner. As I walked
toward our table, I noticed a mother, father, grandparents, and two
children sitting together. The mother looked up at me, gasped, and then
immediately started nudging and tapping everyone at the table to get
their attention. One by one, they each looked at me and either snickered
or whispered something.
I walked up to the table. I leaned
over toward the mother, and in a loud voice I said, "Shame on you!
You’re teaching your children to be as rude as you are!" As soon
as I said "Shame on you," the children immediately lowered
their eyes and the mother’s and grandmother’s mouths dropped open.
Then I stood up straight, turned, and walked into the other room with a
smile of victory on my face.
* * *
my private swim class, I was sitting in the hot therapy pool,
half-dozing and dreaming. At first, I was only partially aware of the
whispering and laughing to my left. Eventually, I peeked my eyes open
and saw two young men in their twenties sitting on a bench about twelve
feet from me. I switched places in the pool so I was facing them and
could keep one eye on them! Just as I suspected, they were watching and
commenting on the few women who were still in the pool. At that point, I
knew I had to say something to these intruders on our private swim time.
I said in a loud voice, "Excuse
me. This is our time in the pool, and we don’t need little boys
laughing at us." They got all defensive and said with a shrug,
"We’re not saying anything." And with that I yelled,
"Bullshit! I’m fat, not deaf!" The lifeguard saw this happen
and kicked them out.
I have a lot of fun with most of my
confrontations. Mostly I just wave at people in restaurants or to
passersby when I notice them staring or whispering, just to let them
know that I see what they’re doing. This alone usually embarrasses
tell you about one of my first fat-bashing confrontations, years ago. I
was walking the dog in my neighborhood when two teenage boys walked
toward me and made some rude comment about my weight. I looked at them
and smiled a knowing smile and said, "You don’t know who I am, do
you?" They looked at each other and sneered, "No!?"
I said back, "I’m..." and
then paused and smiled again. "No, I think I’ll wait until you
realize who I am and then watch how embarrassed you are!" I said,
and I left them standing there looking frightened.
To this day, I chuckle to myself,
because I don’t know who these boys were, and they probably still
wonder who I am!
slender, good-looking husband and I stopped at an unfamiliar bar one
afternoon, just to have a Coke. A man about thirty years old was sitting
just a few stools down from us. He started making rude, insulting
remarks about fat women. I sat up very straight and lifted my chin as
though I were balancing a book on my head! I slowly looked straight at
him and kept looking at him. I also quietly continued talking with my
husband. I wasn’t staring or giving this rude person dirty looks. I
liked staying calm and dignified while being in his face. He seemed to
get a bit uncomfortable even though he kept up the remarks. Very
noticeably, none of the other men present chimed in. We did not stay
long. When we left, I was feeling a little bit tense and a very little
bit hurt, but I was also very proud of myself for not letting that man
take away my feelings of self-worth.
I do not object to assertive
comebacks. I would like to be more verbal with people who are mean and
insulting, but I fear losing my temper and my dignity by saying too
much. I applaud those who can tell people off. Hearing their stories
makes me feel good.
was walking home from work one day and this older man on a park bench
made a nasty comment about me. Something like, "Are you fat
enough?" I stopped, looked at him, and replied, "No, I think I
could use a few more pounds on my tits. What do you think?" And I
flashed him. I thought the poor man was gonna die.
Another time, I was walking along and
another older man sitting on a bench made a negative remark. I stopped
dead in my tracks, turned, and gave him my look of death. "Excuse
me?" I said. I guess I scared him, because he practically tried to
crawl under the bench. All he could say was, "Uh, I said, nice day,
isn’t it?" To which I said, "Yeah, that’s what I thought
you said," and walked away. The look-that-could-kill is a valuable
day, my aunt and I were at my grandmother’s, and my grandmother said I
ought to lose weight because I have such a pretty face. My aunt and I
looked at each other. We both made comments to the effect that she may
have meant it as a compliment (which she did), but it was really no
compliment. I asked her what she would have said if I were a
"normal" weight and butt ugly. Would she tell me I had such a
beautiful body that I should have cosmetic surgery? She stopped for a
minute and thought and then she said, "No, I’ve never thought
about it that way before." We told her it was okay and started
laughing because of the look on her face. She never did it again.
few years ago on Halloween, I was
standing in line waiting to go to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. I was
dressed as a rabbit, and one of the men in line made a loud comment
about "That bunny needs weight loss." Later, I thought of the
ideal comeback: "Look, honey, somebody’s come as an
have a comeback that works really well for me. When provoked, I look
right at the person and say loudly, but not confrontationally,
"Excuse me, are you talking to me (about me)?" If they
continue, with something like, "Yeah, I was," then I say,
"May I ask you a question then?" Usually there is dead
silence. Then I say, "I’m curious, did your mother raise all of
her children to be bigots, or did she single you out?" I say this
loud enough so that other people hear it. It has never failed to
was in a yogurt store one day when a woman who had children with her
started in about me. People my size are terribly unhealthy and unhappy,
and we get this big by eating too many treats like ice cream and cake,
and that is why her kids could only eat desserts on rare occasions, so
that they wouldn’t grow up to be like me. I suppose everyone has the
right to indoctrinate their children any way they see fit, but this lady
was loud and only about four feet from me. I made eye contact with her,
and she grimaced. I thought it was over, but she continued on and on
(and louder and louder) about how being fat is caused by laziness and
gluttony and that God was very unhappy with me.
This lady really pushed a lot of my
buttons in a very short time. I didn’t want to make a scene; I was
overwhelmed. I wanted to respond, but I think I just stood there with my
mouth hanging open.
I got my cane and left, walking the
long way around. This was years ago and I have replayed the incident in
my mind many ways. I am disappointed that in no way did I educate her
kids. She was wrong to have no consideration for other people and their
feelings. I still don’t know what I "should" have done,
except that I should have done something.
You did what you were capable of doing
at that moment, when faced with such a ghastly insult. It is a great
idea, though, to try to learn from these experiences, to be able to cope
if it happens again.
The most important thing is to feel
prepared. If you find a couple of comebacks you like, rehearse them
mentally until you feel you can deliver them on "autopilot."
Then try to relive the moment of distress, complete with all the
emotions, and imagine delivering your retort and exiting with style and
grace rather than with shame. (If you don’t rehearse with the
emotions, you might feel too overwhelmed to pull it off later, so that
part is really important.) Playing an incident out in your mind might
also help you bring it to closure.
I think I would have walked over to
that family and said, "Can’t you see how you’re embarrassing
these children with your rude behavior?" The strength of that
response is that you immediately assert control and imply that it is not
you who is the source of embarrassment and discomfort, but her. Further,
you make the point that you have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to
apologize for. You have stated the truth.
Now, if the children were really
young, and I were feeling very mischievous, I might walk over to the
table and introduce myself as "Mrs. Santa Claus." I’d tell
them that Santa doesn’t like it when people say bad things about fat
people. That would give the children a positive fat role model they are
familiar with and leave the mother with something really tough to sort
out with her young offspring. Even if she is able to dismiss the idea
that I’m Mrs. Claus, the idea that Santa Claus doesn’t like hateful
things to be said about fat people is going to stick.
I would never, ever let these people
put me on the defensive. I would never, ever assume that I had anything
to apologize for because I was a fat woman. I have the right to be who I
am. The most likely thing I would do is laugh at how outrageously the
woman was behaving. That’s right. I’d laugh. Loudly. Wholeheartedly.
I’d think to myself, What a sad life this woman must have that my
simply walking into the same store should send her into such publicly
rude and out-of-control behavior.
I might stop by the family’s table
on the way out and say, "You’re sooo right. Being able to control
what you put in your mouth is important. But far more important is being
able to control what comes out of your mouth."
Well, enough. Be happy. Be strong.
up, I was only about five to ten pounds heavier than my classmates, just
enough to get teased now and then. My mother was very heavy, and I
watched her go on one diet after another. Nothing she tried ever
resulted in weight loss. And she never pushed her dieting on my brother
and me. In fact, we were fed well. It was our father who was most
concerned, especially after my mother died at age thirty-six.
My father frequently commented on my
weight, telling me I had to lose weight, or telling me I was too bulky
or needed to tone up. My weight was a topic of discussion even as the
years went on and I moved away. On the phone my father would still ask,
"How is your diet doing?" Or "Have you lost any
weight?" He would constantly tell me I was going to have problems
later in life if I didn’t do something while I was young.
The turnaround came shortly after I
discovered this fat-acceptance news group (online) last week. I called
my father and the subject of my weight came up, as usual. I told him how
depressed I had been for so long and how I didn’t want my weight to be
an issue anymore. I told him I needed to learn to accept, and, yes, even
be happy with, myself as I am now. Surprisingly, he said, "You’re
I honestly believe my father has meant
well. I’m still not sure what is healthy and what is not, but I do
know that I am unhappy and have been for a long time. Through this
fat-acceptance news group I have come to a way of thinking I never
thought was possible.