“It’s just a couple of comments, don’t worry about it!”
“You care too much, we all have haters!”
“It gets better, be the bigger person.”
“Don’t worry! What goes around comes around!”
No. It doesn’t always come around. And it hasn’t gotten better. It’s only gotten worse. Because now as adults we’ve figured out how to wield the most hateful and strategically wounding comments we can when we want to hurt someone. Bullying is not something that you just get over. Bullying baits internalized hatred that eats you alive. Bullying pushes you to the darkest corner of loneliness where the light of love from your family and friends is dimmed. Bullying drives your insecurity to new heights of paranoia. Bullying kills. Bullying is not something that you just get over. Bullying is not solved by focusing on the victim ignoring it. Bullying is an acceptable form of sadistic power that society institutionalizes as a rite of passage. Bullying gets attention in hindsight but only if someone gets hurt.
We’re tricked into believing that everyone’s status and identity in society is on equal level so it’s seemingly a fair fight between those born with oppressive power and those who live dis-empowered institutionally. And in my case, people don’t understand that this is not the first time I’ve been severely bullied because of my size, race, and weight. This is one out of thousands of incidents where people have found ways to specifically target me for my fatness. Yes, thousands. Because it starts to add up when you’ve been fat since 3rd grade. It starts to add up in cuts when you self-harm. It starts to add up in bad thoughts and bad head space when you’ve previously considered suicide. To the people who dehumanize other people for that temporary laugh, it’s just a penny. But the people who are on the receiving end of that dehumanization have a piggy bank full of pennies, full of shame. And eventually, you’re rich in self-hate, self-doubt, and sadness.
I’ve been verbally harassed my entire life. If it’s not someone yelling “fat ass” from a car window as they drive by, it’s someone pointing and laughing at me in public spaces. I’ve had adults approach me to discuss my weight as if a.) my body is any of their business, b.) my health is any of their business, and c.) I asked for their unwarranted opinion. I’ve had people compliment parts of my being strategically in order to avoid ever giving me an all-encompassing flattering remark that might include my fatness.
I’ve had my privacy constantly invaded without an afterthought. A girl who wanted to record a fat person dancing so badly followed and harassed me around a club. I’ve caught people taking pictures of me while I’m eating. I caught a woman taking a picture of my ass because my dress was accidentally hiked up. She thought it was more important to document a fat person experiencing a commonality for most people who wear skirts and dresses than to tell me that my dress was hiked up so I could fix it.
I’ve been physically assaulted and spit on for being fat. More often than not, men have justified hurting or punishing me for speaking up or being vocal about my opinion because I’m fat. The invalidation of my gender as a fat woman in addition to the invalidation of my femininity and womanhood as a black woman leads to the justification of my dehumanization in society. I’m often seen as aggressive and hostile because of the negative stereotyping surrounding fat people and black women, and that allows people to find justification in bullying me and in the idea that I’m perpetually the aggressor and never a victim.
I was raped when I was 18 by a man who subsequently told me that I should feel grateful that anyone would want to touch me. “You should feel so lucky, you fat bitch,” he said. I never told anyone because why would anyone believe that a girl like me could be assaulted? When I finally decided to open up to someone about it, their first response was, “You’re pretty big though, why didn’t you overpower him?” Because, apparently, being fat means that you have the physical strength to overpower everyone. Because, apparently, being fat also means that your reaction to sexual assault and rape is to immediately fight and be fully mentally present during your assault. Because as a fat black woman, I should’ve been capable to escape that situation because it’s “in my nature” to fight, to use my weight as a means of strength, and to dominate my rapist.
These experiences have shaped who I am today. The persecution I’ve suffered for just existing as a fat black woman has taught me to never stop looking over my shoulder. The oppressive institutionalized premise that I’m not worthy of beauty, autonomy, choice in how I sexualize my body, or the right to EXIST has taught me nothing but internalized hatred for myself. I’ve been treated so horribly and it hurts, even after the scar tissue has made me tougher. I cry alone in my room more often than anyone would ever know, because I’m too afraid no one will take my pain seriously… because people truly believe that hating fat people is normal. So when I have a peer at my university take a picture of me to post on the internet because my body is so disgusting and hilarious to look at, I’m not okay. When I find out that there is an entire 350+ comment thread on a Facebook Group page discussing how disgusting my body is, how “whoreish” my outfit is, and how my weight is something to laugh at and publicly discuss, I’m not okay. Even when you’re at the point of truly accepting and loving yourself, it is so easy for assholes to make you question your existence and self-love in a matter of seconds.
I work really hard at being a confident fat black girl in a world that has made me feel so uncomfortable that I’ve tried killing myself twice. I struggle with waking up in the morning and putting on a smile. I cringe at the thought of hearing roars of laughter because I automatically think they’re about me. I make sure to stay strong for my little sister, my friends, and the people who find inspiration in the work I do in my community. But people don’t know how hard that is when society is constantly telling me to hate myself. People don’t know how hard it is when society has codified my body, my skin, my sexuality, and my gender as less than worthy. It’s that much harder to be strong. It’s that much harder to exist.