What if we all went on strike?

I have this tight knot of thoughts that I keep trying to unravel that have to do with size, weight, bias, discrimination, hatred, suffering and more.

But one thought seems to be slightly more lose in that knot, and it is this one:

What if all of the fat people went on strike for a day? Or on “holiday” all at the same time? What if we all were absent from our many responsibilities, jobs, roles all at the same time?

What schools would be absent their most excellent teachers? What hospitals would be missing their most wise and compassionate staff? Who would take care of children, be they our own children, our grandchildren, foster children or other people’s children? What would it be like to walk through offices and try to get something done? Who would pick up the extra bus routes? Who would see clients who needed assistance? Who would make tough decisions, expend resources? Who would sing? Who would operate the camera on the set? Who would prepare food, stock it on the shelves of the stores, assist people in purchasing most anything? Who would run the charitable campaigns? Who would put a band-aid on a skinned knee? Manage our computer networks? Farm our food? There are a million other things that fat people do, but some really essential things that we do are to care for our families, friends, communities, schools, hospitals, elders and youth.

If two-thirds of our society in the U.S. is made up of people who have a BMI of 25 or higher, or even if we were to limit this to a strike of people who were more “visibly fat” — realistically, many of our daily functions would grind to a halt. A fat person on a hospital gurney is seen as a drain on society — a fat person in scrubs saving a life isn’t. Fatness is seen by many as something that can and must be altered, and staying fat is seen as a choice. The concept that everyone can and should be thin is one embraced by many. And those clinging to that idea are resistant to losing the privilege they have acquired by being in the minority of those who do not see themselves as fat, and are not seen by others as fat. Whether they have gained this privilege by hard work or by a spin of the genetic roulette, they feel they deserve to be thought of as “better than.”*

I’m not advocating for this idea, but it is an interesting thought experiment.

I have been reading a bit about Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Winner who recently died of cancer. Looking at photos of her, she is a beautiful woman who was larger than average. Her life was filled with amazing accomplishments that challenged expectations and truly changed the world. She was immensely brave, and like many brave and bold women, had her critics and enemies. And she died at the untimely age of 71. Currently, the average life expectancy for a woman in Kenya is 60 years.

To people who think that fat people are worth less than thin people, I would encourage them to read about Wangari Maathai, and compare their lives to hers, in terms of impact, accomplishments, overall. They can put “remained thin” in their accomplishments column if they wish to. And then come talk with me about the comparison.**

* I don’t put all not-fat people in one big group — I’m referring to those people, fat or not, who think that thin people are superior to fat people, merely because of fatness (or a lack thereof).

** Okay, so, I don’t generally think it’s a good idea for anyone to compare themselves to anyone else. We all have differences in our lives course, our circumstances, our abilities and just what gets thrown at us. But, humility isn’t a horrible thing to have. I try to practice it anytime I notice thinking I’m “better than” anyone else. Which is usually only when someone tries to make me feel “less than,” anyhow.


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