Hate the surgery, love the patient

October 26, 2007 at 2:55 pm 3 comments

Apparently there’s some drama in the Fat Acceptance community right now. I hate to go all name-drop-y about it because really, there are people involved whose blogs I never commented on, for all that I read them, and so I feel weird about linking to them and using their names as if I know them, or more to the point, as if they know me.

For a fair synopsis, though, you can go here and read Fashionable Nerd at Photophobic’s post about it. In fact, even if you aren’t interested in the synopsis, go read the post, because it’s kind of important for what I’m about to discuss.

No really, go on, I’ll wait. 🙂

This bit right here:

Because, you see, supporting the PERSON has absolutely shit to do with supporting the PROCEDURE. Apparently, this is a distinction that has been missed–or not adequately shown.

That really made me perk up my ears. It carried a certain echo for me, of the whole, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” thing, that often gets talked about by people who say their religion tells them to condemn homosexuality. I agree with some of the arguments that people have against using the gay rights movement as directly analogous to the fat acceptance movement – at the very least, it is incomplete. However, in this case I think it’s valid.

Too often, the folks who claim to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” are in no way loving toward the people they call “sinners.” Sadly, there are people out there who use that phrase as an excuse to, in fact, hate homosexuals and treat them in cruel and appalling ways.

That doesn’t make the phrase invalid, though, as I see it. It means it has been co-opted by people who don’t care and/or understand its true meaning, but it doesn’t negate the phrase.

The world, despite our fervent wishes, is a complicated and confusing place sometimes. Often the decisions we need to make are not easy. Often there is no clear “right” or “wrong” answer, and we’re left to muddle along, figuring it out as best we can. Sometimes we all wind up making decisions we don’t like. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have sufficient knowledge and don’t even know what questions to ask. Sometimes it’s because we lack the resources to actually choose what we believe is the best choice. And sometimes it’s because we have reached a point where we are so beleaguered, so demoralized, so desperate that we will take whatever choices are offered to us, even if we know as we are making those choices that we may well come to regret them later.

It’s a sad truth, but that’s life sometimes. It’s part of being a grown-up, of being responsible for ourselves and the people who depend upon us. Sometimes we just have to accept that we do not live in an ideal world.

Heidi, in particular, does not live in an ideal world. Of all the people who I wish did live in an ideal world, she is high on my list. Do I think surgery will provide a lasting solution for her? Sadly, I do not. In my completely uneducated, utterly removed from the situation opinion, I believe she has both medical and psychological concerns which need to be addressed, or in time she will wind up right back where she was up until a few days ago.

I wish her a speedy recovery, and I wish her all possible success in her life post-surgery, but I don’t believe that surgery will fix everything for her.

However, this does not prevent me from realizing that in all likelihood, surgery was the best of all the options being offered to her. Doctors can be just as petty and spiteful as anyone else, and if this surgery is what Heidi had to do so that her doctors will at last pay her some real goddamn attention and figure out what’s really going on with her, then I cannot in any real conscience condemn her for that.

This schism over the decision Heidi and other fat people have felt compelled to make reminds me of a series of debates/discussions which occurred on various feminist blogs… maybe a year or more ago? I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly when.

The thrust of them, though, was this: some people felt that women who wore makeup and high heels and otherwise dressed in patriarchy-approved ways could not also be considered feminists; others (correctly, to my mind) recognized that while it’s unlikely women would choose to wear makeup and high heels without patriarchy’s influence, until such time as our culture abandons patriarchy for good, sometimes we all must make small concessions in order to survive.

Does lipstick and a pair of stilettos negate a woman’s work with NARAL and her local rape-crisis center? Absolutely not. Does wearing a skirt on a cold day erase a woman’s volunteer work at the women’s shelter, or her letters to her local representatives, or even her donations to NOW? Absolutely not.

As Sandy Szwarc discussed this very day, we who are fat, especially we who are fat women, live in a culture which does not value us. Which, in fact, is sometimes (oftentimes, it seems) openly hostile toward us, and seeks to do us harm.

The choices we make, in such a situation, are choices made under duress. These are the choices we make when the choices available to us are limited to a) bad, b) bad, c) really bad, and d) worse.

It’s easy sometimes, to play the Monday Morning Quarterback and tell people all about how their decisions were wrong. But we’re all living under siege in this fat-hating culture, and friendly fire isn’t going to do anyone a lick of good.

Do I hate WLS? Yeah, I do. I think it’s dreadful and, in my more dramatic moments, I’m inclined to declare it a culturally approved mandate of extinction upon fat people. However, my hatred of WLS does not prevent me from caring about those who, given a short list of crummy options, choose to have WLS.

I may be pretty new to the fat acceptance movement, and I may be younger than a lot of the people who worked so hard for many years to even get the movement where it is today. But I’m plenty mature enough to separate how I feel about a procedure, and the institutions which perpetuate that procedure’s use, and how I feel about a 28-year-old woman whose quality of life I can scarcely imagine.

Would that others could do the same.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. fashionablenerd  |  October 26, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    “But we’re all living under siege in this fat-hating culture, and friendly fire isn’t going to do anyone a lick of good.”

    If nobody gets anything else from this kerfluffle today, I’m hoping that’s it. Amen, and Amen again.

  • 2. Thorn  |  October 26, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for visiting, FN. And yeah – that would be a nice one to be able to stencil on everyone’s T-shirts, y’know? 🙂

  • 3. Krista  |  October 26, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Great post, Thorn. Glad to have you add to the incredibly articulate discussion around this issue. I agree with FN about the quote…


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