The Unsinkable Jenna Brown

ahhh the old “my size is larger than yours” deal
Lately on some blogs and sites I’ve been getting some flack because I am only a size 14. In fact, let me share a response with you dear readers, it was about my introduction post and about self acceptance:
“It is easier to accept oneself as ‘fat’ if one is a size 14 than if one is a size 20 or 26. I would LOVE to be a size 14.”

Now, this response made me feel discounted, trivialized and unwelcome because I am not “fat” enough. So I guess I have run into what other inbetweenie women such as myself have talked about when joining the FA and Intuitive Eating spheres of le’ realm.
There are several things going on here that I want to address and talk about dearest readers.
1. The ol’ “my story is worse than yours so stuff it” argument. This argument can be heard in many self help groups, AA circles and what not where people vie for who has it worst.
2. Your problem is not big enough to warrent my empathy or concern because you have it better than me, aka the “poor little rich girl” syndrome.
3. You dont know how I am feeling, you cant possibly understand how hard it is to accept oneself at my size because you are only a size 14.
Now… I have been anywhere from a size 10 (for about as many minutes) to a size 20. At the age of 12 I was going to Lane Bryant. I can list the fat girls litany here as well as anyone else full of its own heartbreak, denial and self loathing. But the sentence above seeks to create barriers, draw lines in the sand, fails to empathize with the trials and experiences of another and in short speaks to the pain that this person is going through.
The funny thing is at size 20 I was miserable. At size 10 I was miserable. At size 14 I was miserable. I have come to realize that my HAPPINESS WAS CONSTANTLY TIED TO A SIZE THAT WAS LACKING. In fact, my being miserable really had NOTHING to do with my size at all. Once I started through the FA movement to unhinge my self worth, my acceptance, nay my outright love and respect for my body started to grow within me. My goal here is to firmly lock in that constant positive self regard that is unchangeable to the ebbs and flows of my weight. This. Yes THIS is my goal finally realized after years of hatred, denial, you name it.
It is also through this perspective that I must try my hardest to stay in tune with the challenges and life stories of another. If a person who is a size 4 in in pain enough where she is starving her self, or the guy who is a size 52 pant won’t leave the house. Both people are in pain and both are deserving of my empathy, respect as a human being and concern that they are in distress. I dont want to discount ANYONE or push them away by making them feel their experience is irrelevant.
I just don’t want to get into these kinds of ego/control issues with others in group. I want to feel like others will respect my feelings and story in the same way I will for theirs.

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  • annabananapants

    I have to say this is really true. I’ve had a much similar experience being all different sizes and miserable most of the time. Through FA I feel better about myself at a size 22-24 than I did at 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, etc.

    Keep up the good work. Inner peace and self-acceptance are the best feelings in the world.

  • Angrygrayrainbows

    I think the part that goes “I would LOVE to be a size 14″ is very telling. This person seems to be imagining that they would be happier at a smaller size and that they haven’t accepted themselves where they are now.

    I know a lot of fat folks will accept you even if you’re smaller or even if you were a naturally rail thin person. I suspect that the people who cannot accept you in the fatosphere because you are a size 14 haven’t been able to accept themselves yet and therefore resent your smaller size and then give you crap for it. Hopefully in time and with processing their own feelings and wounds they can learn to accept themselves at whatever size they are.

    Some people prefer to use “body acceptance” rather than “fat acceptance” as the banner of the movement, because the point isn’t to exclude thin people or even just thinner fatties.

  • Notblueatall

    This makes me sad and mad. I’m a size 28/30, but treat everyone the same, not based on size. Isn’t the point of FA to accept? Why turn against an ally? I just don’t get that! Please don’t let a bad apple ruin it for you.

  • BStu78

    The comment in question seems less about saying that you don’t belong and more about the individual’s own struggles with acceptance. You need to recognize, though, that they are coming from a very honest place even if their reaction to it is not constructive. As a smaller fat person, you do experience a degree of thin privilege that the commenter does not. As, indeed, the commenter does when compared to a person significantly larger than her. While its wrong to react to that reality with Oppression Olympics, we shouldn’t act like that privilege doesn’t exist and isn’t something larger individuals struggle with. Fat stigmatization impacts people of a large variety of sizes, but conversely thin privilege is also something that impacts people of a large variety of sizes. We should be mindful of that perspective when encountering people who are denied privileges we enjoy. Privilege breeds resentment and I think its fair for those of us who do experience privilege to be mindful of that and especially with thin privilege to understand that the resentment is a product of the system we are fighting and not the individuals who struggle with it. As a white mid-sized fat male, I have a lot of privilege compared to a lot of individuals and I try to be respectful of that when judging reactions to me. Even if I am trying to listen outside of my privileges, they still exist and I have to understand that this will color how others view me, right or wrong.

  • Meerkat47

    I think the problem with the comment is not necessarily speculating that acceptance is easier at a smaller size (I don’t necessarily agree, I think it is probably very different for different people, so some people might find it spot-on and others completely off-target) but speaking in absolute generalizations and telling you about your experience based on her own imagination of what it must be like. (“It is easier [for you/everyone]…” rather than, say, “It would be easier for me…”)

    Jealousy of people who wear smaller sizes is understandable if not inevitable, but it’s not acceptable to take it out on those people when the blame belongs to our body-policing society.

  • Jenna

    Your comments are spot on about privilage and resentments and being mindful of the society that challenges us in different ways. This of course is not limited to fat people, the world itself is based on a lack vs. have paradigm, poverty, race, age, gender, size is so many ways we are constantly colliding and enfolding self vs others on these scales. While I understand where her behavior comes from it does not preclude the fact that it is hostile in nature and it doesn’t mean that I have to excuse it. At the end of the day we are all adults and all we have is how we treat one another. I can think of countless times in my travels where I was treated with a graciousness and affection from others so much more less privilaged than I… and it always blew me away and reminded me to be as gracious in dealing with humans regardless of their station in life. At the end of the day though I do take issue with someone flinging their baggage onto me as any sane person would. Just because I may be smaller due to a genetic makeup that I was born with does not mean that I should take any emotional baggage carried by another. In the same way people who have more than me, thinner than I, more privilaged deserve my respect and cura personalis as well.

  • Jenna

    well said!

  • Jenna

    Not at all! :) I understand her pain and last night I was talking about it with BF and her reaction to me made me think about the ways in which I have been unfair to others due to some baggage I am carrying and it was good to reflect on how to treat people better. I feel like united we stand, divided we fall. I am all for thin people who support and understand FA and BA, look at Linda Bacon for instance! At the end of the day I just wish this woman wasn’t in so much pain and I wish her the best but until then… I wont be a rug either :)

  • Katrina

    I completely agree that perhaps ‘fat acceptance’ should be phrased as ‘body acceptance’, because nobody really has the right to label others as fat, being fat is something people should self-identify as and is therefore inherently subjective.

    I would like to see more acceptance in general in this world. Acceptance of different races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and disabilities. As a law student who firmly believes in human rights and the right of everyone to live their lives with dignity and freedom from unlawful persecution and discrimination, I hope that one day I’ll see the fat acceptance movement become as part of the mainstream psyche as gender equality, the right of homosexual couples to marry, and the equality of races. All these movements have some way to go before they achieve complete awareness and reform, but I think that sadly the fat acceptance movement lags behind.

    I completely understand how this response hurt and offended you because it does the same for me too. People with these attitudes remind me of feminists who intentionally degrade and insult men in an attempt to achieve equality of the sexes – pure hypocrisy. I understand that the fat acceptance movement stirs up many mixed and extreme emotions in people, but so did the movement to abolish slavery, so did the movement to get women the vote.

    I identify as a fat person and a fat acceptance activist even though I wear an Aus size 10 and have never bought anything from a plus size clothing shop. I believe in Health at Every Size and also Fatness at Every Size, because one’s clothing size is not the sole determinant in whether they are fat or not. Clothing sizes are more the product of bone structure than anything, I think, and because of my small, typically Asian bone structure, I somehow manage to be fat while still wearing a size 10.

    You don’t have to identify as a woman to believe in gender equality. You don’t have to be homosexual to believe in the right of homosexual couples to marry. You don’t have to be a racial minority to believe in racial equality. Therefore, you don’t have to wear a certain size of clothing in order to believe in the fat acceptance movement.

    “I dont want to discount ANYONE or push them away by making them feel their experience is irrelevant.” That, I think, sums up human compassion and empathy perfectly.

  • anewbie

    Jenna – I’ve been thinking about posting a comment since I read this but have lacked the nerve. I’m so new to this body acceptance thing and I still struggle. A lot. But I’m trying. And being a size 14/16 my self (also having been a size 10 for about 6 months while my husband was in Korea for that whole time and I worked out everyday and never ate normal food) I just want to say I am glad there is YOU!!! I am totally inspired by lots of people in the movement regardless of their current size. But finding you was especially helpful to me. So preach on, girlfriend!!

  • Jenna

    funny! I lost a significant amount of weight whilst in korea, too but of course it came back on it always does… I liken my thin times as “in remission” cause I know my body is going to go back to where it Thanks for the compliment… I was just steaming about another comment I receieved which was so totally hostile that it makes me wonder if I should be blogging at all. Your feedback quelled the storm and keeps me (and all of us) carrying on :)

  • kate

    congratulations! you are amazing! i am possibly a little in-betweenish…but i suffer…bottom line is we all need respect for our feelings : )

  • Ellie Harris

    Thats crazy! How could someone miss your point so completely?
     The ENTIRE point of accepting yourself is not to do it compared with someone else!
    Its NOT a competition to be heavier or lighter than someone else.

    Personally I am a New Zealand size 16 in top and about 20 in the trunk.
    Im also HOT & BEAUTIFUL! I know this because I feel it (and also because all those who love me tell me so!).

  • Marywe

    Hi girl.  I have to say I completely agree.  I’m currently at a size 18.  Used to be a 20 as of 6 months ago, and in the FA world, I still received comments from other women about the “smallness” of my size.  In fact, at events, I still get stared at. 

    I’m glad I found this blog.  I’ve been doing searched for BBW blogs and never found anything like this.

  • amieekid

    This was so beautifully written. As a healthy size 12, with a very petite bone structure, I can definitely recognise that fat doesn’t always mean size 20. I’ve been told that I’m getting fat by my own family, and I have been referred to plus sized modelling agency by a scout. Such comments can make a person of any size feel fat and uncomfortable with themselves. If I didn’t love my body and already have acceptance of my cute little love handles and squidgy rolls, these comments probably wuld have been really damaging. Any person who cannot accept their weight as beautiful and healthy also has a struggle with weight. Thank you forsuch a beautiful post.

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