Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Need To Stop Reading Advice Columns

Freshman year of college, my best friend and I had a section of closet door space dedicated to the most egregious of advice given by various advice columnists, as well as the most out-there letters - letters that sounded they were discarded soap opera plots, ones where wives ran off with their husbands' mothers, or people turning to witchcraft to stop the abuse they saw in their children's relationships. Overall, I have gained much enjoyment from advice columns, even if I don't think I've ever actually gained any sort of insight from them.

But now, it's time to stop. I probably won't, because like all addictions this one will be tough to kick. The straw is this letter:
Dear Annie: I am writing on behalf of pregnant women everywhere. Yesterday, as I was walking up the stairs at work, a co-worker shouted, "Here comes fattie!"

I am seven months' pregnant, and while I have a sizeable belly, I would not call myself "fat." People have also told me that my doctor must have the wrong due date, and that I'm never going to make it the full nine months.

Annie, my doctor says I am exactly on track. Please tell those well-meaning people that their comments are not appreciated by pregnant women, who are often tired, achy, swollen and full of hormones. Here's my advice: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. — Frustrated in Mississippi

Dear Mississippi: Good advice for all circumstances. Some people see a pregnant woman and their brains fly right out their ears. Congratulations to you.
Okay, how's about a mention that it is never, ever, ever okay for anyone - much less a co-worker - to yell, "Here comes fatty"? Because, just an FYI, it's not. I can understand the letter-writer being upset and having her initial reaction be, "But I'm not fat!" She's not. But here's where the problem comes in; no, this woman is not fat, but pregnant. However, having the "Hey, I'm pregnant, so save your fat-shaming for the actual fat people" be the end reaction there on both parts - pregnant woman and advice columnists - is more than slightly appalling.

Being larger is not an invitation for meanness. Being larger doesn't mean you shouldn't be afforded the opportunity to exist in society without having people comment on your size, your weight, your body shape, your eating habits, etc. But fat-calling happens no matter what activity one engages in, from biking to walking to clothes-shopping to eating, making it the epitome of the no-win situation. What the writers of Annie's Mailbox should have said was, "Get thee to your HR Department!", because yelling "here comes fatty" is unprofessional, inappropriate, insensitive, and should not be permitted in the work place. By not saying that, by not acknowledging that fat-calling is a problem because it is targeting larger people and not in spite of that, what Annie's Mailbox is essentially saying is it isn't right for other people, people who may look heavy by in actuality aren't, to be publicly shamed for their perceived weight.

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