Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bony Bitch

I had some Big Work Thing today (yes, today, as in Saturday, damnit), at which I met a couple of people whom I normally only hear over the phone in conference calls and whom I was eager to impress in person (for selfish, career-advancing reasons). At one point, one of these people said something that didn't register with me at the time, but irked me later. Basically, we were talking about safety issues relevant to my job, which involves visiting strangers in their homes for extended periods of time. To make her point about this particular safety issue (being left alone in the home with strangers if our partner were to leave), she used me as an example. Specifically, she used my size as an example:

"We don't want a situation where someone small, like Phoebe, is alone like that."

First of all, yes, I am skinny. Puny, if you will. And by "small," she surely was not referencing my height, because I am 5'7". And yeah, it's not like I dead-lift or anything. But is it really fair to assume anything about my strength, based on how you perceive my weight? Furthermore, is it fair to assume that my weight (or lack thereof) is "fair game" for an example because I'm not fat? I don't think it is. For all she knows, I could either be a fucking power-lifting champ in my spare time, or morbidly anorexic. Maybe I don't want her using me as an example, based solely on my appearance, in front of 15 co-workers. She doesn't know me.

What this really boils down to for me is a double-standard in appearance-sensitivity. Something that I've noticed throughout my life is that people are unabashedly candid when discussing a skinny person's weight, but would absolutely never be so bold as to have the same discussion or make the same comments with an overweight person (or even an average-sized person). I can recall several girls in high school who would tell me that I was so skinny I "made them sick," and frequently put me down for my weight...But I was supposed to take these comments as compliments! Can you imagine saying such things to an overweight person? Everyone would think you were a goddamn monster. But in my case, people seem to expect me to welcome these commentaries.

I know what you're thinking: boo-fucking-hoo, Phoebe. Life is so hard when your body fulfills arbitrary cultural standards for beauty. Way to play the poor-little-rich girl. Well you know what? Someone's weight shouldn't ever be fair-game for a public discussion IN FRONT OF THAT PERSON. Weight is a sensitive issue, period. Whether you are talking to Jabba-the-Hutt or Twiggy, it's not okay to single someone out based on their weight. And it's ESPECIALLY not okay to turn that person's weight into a stereotype (assumptions of strength included). Remember that Wal-Mart worker who got trampled by the Black Friday crowd? They put him in front of that crowd because he was big, and supposedly, strong. The assumption that his weight should have been enough to control a mob of crazed Wal-Mart shoppers got that guy killed.

That's an extreme example. But even in my case, assumptions that my weight determines my strength has caused a lot of people to underestimate my physical skill. I'm actually quite good at lifting heavy shit. And I find it demeaning when someone jumps to help me because they assume that I can't carry/lift something. I wanted your help, I would ask for it.

That post was all over the place. I promise more coherency in the next.

1 comment:

thelady said...

I've experienced the same thing, it is perfectly fine to saw I have boney elbows or make fun of my naturally small appetite but they'd never make those type of comments about an overweight person.

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