Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No, Miss Hopkins, You Haven't Proved Anything.

While I was going about my business today (that business being wasting time on Facebook), I came across an article on Mic about Kate Hopkins, a British celebrity who apparently decided that she would prove that it's not possible to be fat and happy by gaining fifty pounds and being unhappy.

No, seriously.

Hopkins, who's tweeted such memorable phrases as "Fat shaming isn't a thing. There is just being fat - and someone letting you know.", apparently decided to try this "experiment" after being called out on her behavior during an appearance on the Late Late Show.  She gained (and is now working on losing) 50 pounds, decided she didn't like being fat, and declared the case closed.

I almost don't know where to begin.

First off, she hasn't been a fat person.  She's been a thin person who put on some weight to prove a point. To understand what life is like as a fat person, and to actually come to terms with her body, she would need to live in that skin for a hell of a lot longer.  Further, she'd need to live in a body whose metabolism was fighting losing weight every step of the way.  Being fat and happy isn't a cop-out, it's an epiphany; a realization that you don't have to wait to be thin before you can live your life in a joyous, meaningful fashion.  It takes most of us years to get there.  Her claiming it's impossible after she's briefly been "fat" (by which I mean moderately heavier than she initially was) is like a francophobe visiting Paris for a week and then claiming that no one could possibly be happy living there.

It's also obvious to anyone who's opened a basic science text that an experiment based on the subjective experience of someone who started out with a bias is about as likely to produce valid results as my cat is to start singing Thriller.  Hopkins went into this little "experiment" convinced that it was impossible to be fat and happy.  Of course her experience matched her expectation.  To quote my teenage self, duh.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, her experiment misses the point.  Yes, in a lot of ways being fat is a miserable experience.  Most of that misery, however, is not a direct result of your body being bigger; rather it's a result of the discrimination and prejudice you face on a day to day basis.

I don't get to gain some weight to prove a point and then lose it again, regaining my considerable thin privilege as I go.  I have to live here.  I have to live with people looking at me like I'm disgusting, treating me like I'm stupid, assuming I'm lazy and worthless.  When you live with that on a day to day basis, not for a few days, but for all of your life, finding the courage to love your body, to be happy, is a revolutionary act.  It's an act of revolt that more and more fat women are embracing.  Being happy in my skin, happy in my life, is one of the hardest things I do every day.  I don't always succeed.  Sometimes the voices all around me telling me how worthless and hideous and useless I am win.  On the days that they don't, I am fat and I am happy, and that is the bravest thing I ever am.    

Kate Hopkins gained some weight.  She may have, for a few days, experienced some fraction of the prejudice that is my day to day life.  Instead of letting it teach her about what it's like to struggle with prejudice, she willfully chose to believe that her own bigotry was justified.  Of course she didn't experience the radical self-love it takes to be fat and happy; she can't even manage basic empathy.