On Speaking Up

I really have trouble speaking my mind, especially around people who I know will disagree with my opinions or think less of me for them. In working with my awesome nutritionist, I realized that I tend to deflect or shy away from conversations about fat or politics, or anything else where I know I have an “out-there” opinion.

Problem is, everywhere I go, I have an “out-there” opinion. I’m a liberal in a conservative county, a fat acceptance advocate in a dieting world, and a feminist Christian.*

Part of my reluctance comes from bad experiences with people proselytizing. For their religion, their diet, their politics, it doesn’t much matter which, it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So, I’m looking for the balance. Not hiding my light under a bushel, but not shining it in people’s eyes either.

So, I’m taking baby steps. I linked my blog to my twitter account (my twitter no longer has my real name, but I certainly have twitter friends who know me in real life–I’d like to keep a little separation between my “personal” online life and my “professional” one.)

I e-mailed my church explaining why the comment from last week’s service was so problematic.

I e-mailed the commissioners of the next county over about their proposed breed-specific regulations, and I’ll be attending the meeting where it’s discussed. Maybe some time I’ll write a post about what breed-specific laws have in common with fat hate. There are similar over-generalizations and disregard for experience (and often scientific studies) in both, and a similar focus on quick fixes.

*How much of an issue that last is depends enormously on the denomination, of course. At the church I grew up in, *huge* issue. At an interfaith church whose main pastor is a Southern Baptist, it tends to be an issue some of the time. At Quaker meetings, much less so.


Reasons Aren’t Excuses

A trolly comment that crops up pretty much any time the difficulty of losing weight, or impediments to eating healthy, or fat acceptance as a whole is discussed–“But you’re just making excuses!” To which my most coherent response is usually “Thbbbbbbbbbbbbpt!” (that is, a big old raspberry)

Sure, I could explain and give evidence and cite studies and provide counter-examples, but they’re never going to be good enough. If someone is sincerely curious about my individual situation and how I ended up the weight I am without stuffing my face with donuts at every conceivable opportunity, maybe I’ll share. But not only are trolls not worth my–or anybody’s–time, I think trying to explain is conceding and doing ourselves a disservice.

To me, an “excuse” is an explanation for not doing something you’re obligated and expected to do. The note from home explaining that you were too busy puking your guts out to come to school, that’s an excuse. Because you’re supposed to show up.

I don’t need an excuse for not dieting. I looked at my available options and made the decision, as a grown-up, that dieting was a bad choice for me.

I don’t need an excuse if I don’t exercise on a given day, or if I eat a cookie, because I’m not obligated to meet someone else’s unreasonable standard. I’m not even obligated to defend my view of the standard as unreasonable.

I don’t have excuses for being fat, I just am. The days I exercise, I don’t need an excuse for not running instead of walking, or not going three miles instead of one, or not getting up to a higher speed on the bike. The days I decide I don’t feel like it, I also don’t need an excuse. As the person who lives in my body, I’m the one who gets to decide how to meet its needs.

Every day, people make decisions. They weigh the pros and cons and they do what works for them at the time. Other people are entitled to their opinions on those decisions, but they’re not entitled to expect anyone to actually *care* about those opinions. You’re entitled to your opinion; I’m entitled to ignore it. Just as you’re entitled to ignore my opinion about your life and your decisions.

When you try to defend your life and your choices, you’re ceding the other person authority that they don’t really have. You’re implicitly saying that they do get to tell you what to do. There might be times when explaining your reasons is useful, but I think it’s important not to let jerks and fat-haters set the tone by trying to prove that our reasons and choices are valid when we’re accused us of “making excuses.” The answer to that accusation is, “I don’t answer to you.” It should probably be phrased more politely than that to family members and friends than to random buttheads who troll FA blogs, but the point is the same: This is my life, not yours, and I have to choose how to live it.

Gender and God

So, I went to church this morning, for the start of a sermon series called “The Secret of the Sexes.” I winced a little when I saw that, because I was expecting it to be filled with sexist tropes. Basically, I figured I’d try to keep an open mind, but I expected to do a lot of eye-rolling.

While there were some things that were problematic, overall I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot of emphasis on equality between men and women and on the women who played a major role in the Bible.

One thing I thought was really cool was that the pastor pointed out that the common perception of the Garden of Eden story is that it’s just Eve and the snake at the tree, with Adam absent, but that’s not what the text says. (Gen 3:6 NIV When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.)

That little bitty phrase changes everything. I liked the pastor’s description of Adam as maybe being chicken, letting Eve try the fruit first, so he could make sure nothing bad happened to her before he tried it. It definitely fits with the weaselly buck-passing “the woman you gave me gave it to me.”

I also appreciated the mention that God made male and female both in his image. The standard fundamentalist line seems to be that *men* are made in God’s image, and women are second-tier, less than, and the source of everything bad. A big emphasis in the sermon was that everyone deserves respect as someone made in God’s image, and that ragging on the other sex is dissing someone who was made in the image of God.

The things I didn’t like were the emphasis on differences between men and women, with the implication that those differences are universal or inherent. A huge focus was that “understanding the differences between the sexes” is the key to pretty much all relationships, but I think that misses the mark a little. I think trying to understand “men” or “women” is impossible and you just end up with overgeneralizations and assumptions. I think the real key to relationships is understanding individual people *as individuals.*

The sermon did touch on that a little, actually. The verse (which I now can’t find) about different parts making up the body of Christ but all working together, and each part doing what it’s supposed to do. The pastor related that to each person being uniquely made and every individual being who and what they’re supposed to be.

As much as I like that, the generalizations about gender differences really run counter to that emphasis on people being made uniquely as they’re supposed to be. Even with a little throw-away comment about generalizations not applying to every individual, the more you emphasize those generalizations, the easier it is to marginalize people who don’t fit them, or to shove people into boxes.

One comment I really found problematic was a bit about women getting upset with men “for being men,” with the example of his wife saying “why are you always touching me?” and him responding with “maybe if you stopped being so hot.”

So so very much to cringe at in that. For starters, the trope that men are horny and women aren’t severely irritates me and is just not true. Secondly, touching someone in ways or at times that they’re not comfortable about isn’t just “a guy being a guy”–it’s disrespectful and rude in a particularly sexist way.

Overall, there was more good than bad. For me, the “Amen” to “WTF” ratio was pretty high. I’m going to miss next week because I’m off to see Wicked in DC, but fortunately for me, the sermons are downloadable. Yay for technology.