More Fat Haters

I love this. It’s an excerpt from a hate letter I just received from someone with (of course) a fake e-mail address:

Let me share a harsh reality with you: you are fat. For someone who has to shop in the plus sizes section to criticize other clergy members for their appearance is hypocritical. I could hardly believe what I was reading.

Oh, fat haters! They’re so consistently irrational. First, there’s the inevitable “let me inform you of this reality” piece, because fat people apparently don’t own mirrors or scales, and also have no lived reality of being inside our bodies. It’s like when you go to the doctor and she says in that sombre tone, “You’ve put on some weight,” as if you hadn’t noticed. You want to say, “REALLY, doctor? I thought my pants were getting smaller due to some weird air condition in my closet!”

Secret fact about fat people: Don’t tell anybody, but we actually know we’re fat. Shhhhhhhh.

The second Fat Hater Irrationality: Fat people should have nothing to say about anything related to beauty or aesthetics. After all, we’re such a disgrace to the platonic ideal of Beauty, we should just slump in the corner wearing our burlap sacks and stay out of the conversation until we’ve earned our right to be there by becoming slim, and therefore beautiful.
Because Lord knows, all slim people are beautiful.

Of course I don’t expect folks to known what this blog is all about and I understand that on the surface it may just look like I’m doing fashion critiques on here. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is that there are so many people out there who think that being fat is a moral failing, and that fat people (maybe just fat women?) should not have an opinion or exercise leadership until they’re thin enough to have earned it. That’s not true at all, I take care of my body, take my supplements from and I do not care about what I look like, as long as I’m healthy. I like to exercise my pelvic area. You can do the Kegel exercises lying down or while sitting or standing. If your pelvic muscles are weak, you may want to do them laying down at first. A few minutes in the morning and again before bedtime are good times to start the exercise program. Check out this link and you will discover our best tool for Kegel exercises.

Vocation does not come in small, medium and large. The love of beauty and aesthetics is a calling, an orientation of the eye and of the heart. Pigeons, never let anyone tell you that you have the wrong sized body for the work you were called to do. Never let anyone tell you that you’re too ugly to be out in front. And never stop helping your people see the difference between admirable self-discipline around diet and exercise and moral righteousness. They’re two different things but have been intentionally, ingeniously and successfully conflated by the multi-billion dollar diet and beauty industries to be equivalent in the public mind. Self-hating people are much more susceptible to the latest weight-loss or beauty product. There’s a lot of economy riding on you and me feeling bad enough to go spend some money about it.

Jesus never said nothing about loving only skinny kids.
I was no better a person when I weighed 105 lbs than I am now.
It just takes a whole lot more denim to get around my butt.

Chocolate kisses, PB xoxo

35 Replies to “More Fat Haters”

  1. I love you and your body/posts. You go girl! You are so right about Jesus and love in general!

  2. This is a fabulous post! (And I’m sorry you got that nasty email.)

    The most painful bump on my road to UU ordination was being told by the Center for Ministry evaluators that I was too fat to be a minister, sticking up for myself by explaining nicely that I follow the Health at Every Size model of wellness and having my written report state that I needed to go to Weight Watchers.

    It took me years to do what you did in this post, PB, which is to integrate fat rights with theology. Thanks for saying so clearly that body size is not a moral issue.

  3. Well, as my mom used to say to me, “They’re just jealous because you’re so smart and pretty.”

    I’ve been pondering the supposedly high-minded outrage I sometimes see in the comments. And I think that people who react negatively to PeaceBang’s disarmingly frank persona are not recognizing the gift of a slightly edgy comment. Without receiving one or two of those (mostly from members of cultures outside my own), I would not have realized that I could look sharper – and deserved to spend a bit of effort spiffing up.

    Perhaps because I did hit my teens in the seventies, I recall having almost a fear of dressing up: looking too good in my high school made some girls targets. So we dressed down, wore funky clothes that said we didn’t care, etc. Now, later in my career I had to adapt a certain “job costume,” and I’ve certainly bought (and made!) nice and creative outfits along the way. But sometimes I think people of my generation (especially hailing from small towns in New England) need to be reassured that looking nice is OK. Or perhaps people like me require a little needling, to get our attention.

    It became evident to me that appearance wasn’t just a superficial issue when I lived overseas. My hosts gave me the great gift of ragging on my predecessor and his flip flops and aloha shirt. They let me know that just because I was in a country with a lot of poverty, it didn’t mean that I could look as if I was on my way to the beach. If they had been subtle, I wouldn’t have gotten the message.

    I would not want to go back to the days when women were whispered about for not having the right style of gloves or last year’s hat. I do, however, think that we as U.S.-ians are too hung up on our so-called right to look like an unmade bed — and to have everyone tell us we are just fine that way. It’s not that I agree with everything PB says. (For instance, after the capri discussion I began studying other women in outfits that featured capris to see what shoes, lengths, accessories, and proportions made some looks work better than others.) The point is that PB is offering a mirror and a perspective.

    The troll who sent the nasty email needs a course in logic. Wearing a larger size does not preclude the ability to make an aesthetic analysis and speak one’s mind.

  4. you are inspirational
    and beautiful
    a person who writes hate mail
    is neither

    (it is e.e. cummings’ birthday, isn’t it?)

  5. This may be your best post ever. <3 it. <3 you.

    p.s. I have a second interview for a cpe residency! One without frumpy people!

  6. ‘Other clergy…’ Was this written by someone called by God to the ministry? S/he needs our prayers; there is a lot of anger and hate there; not the love for God and our neighbor that Jesus tells us are the greatest commandments. [No, he’s not clergy. He is the former member of a conservative Lutheran church and he has two daughters. That last detail makes me saddest of all. We don’t need men with this attitude raising girls in this fat-phobic culture, where fat-hatred and misogyny are so intertwined. – PB]

  7. I had a longer response that somehow got eaten, but I’ll just say what my mom always told me: “They’re just jealous because you’re smart and pretty.”

  8. I think you have missed the point. I don’t believe her comment had anything to do with a connection between weight and the ability to do one’s job. I think it spoke to your sometimes very critical comments about other folk’s choice of clothing, hair, makeup, accessories, etc. I tend to agree with her when you choose to call others “frumpy” or other demeaning adjectives. I love your blog when you point out great style. Not when you criticize and demean. Let she who is without imperfection cast the first stone. [If fat hating wasn’t the point, the writer would not have made it one. He could have written what you did, but he is not familiar with this blog, and his only reason for writing was to say that because I am fat, I should not feel worthy to comment on anyone’s appearance. That was his only point, in fact. – PB]

  9. To me your blog is about the “loving yourself” part of “loving your neighbor as yourself” — and showing that you love yourself by the presentation of yourself in the world. Keep on keeping on.

    re: chocolate– latest study is it prevents strokes. And a funny thing – I was in a small group and a woman was talking about her chakras — but I thought she was saying chocolates. You can see my priority!

  10. And I was so upset before that I didn’t say what I wanted to, and that was that one of the things that I love about your blog, and your heart for ministry, is that you tell us in so many ways that we are beloved children of God–no matter our weight or surface beauty. You encourage us to give glory to God by bolstering our confidence, and yes, as Ann said so well, by learning to love ourselves and by showing that.

    Hate mail needs to be opened up to the Light of the World so that it has no power over us.


  11. On behalf of the male side of the species, my apologies for that guy’s stupidity and cluelessness.

    PS Truffle kisses back.

  12. Amen, PB. What makes me angry as well is the shame heaped on women of all sizes. I have a friend who is a substantial woman, and she just finished running a half marathon. How is that lazy or unhealthy? [I don’t know, sweetie. I’m sitting here eating slabs of bacon because that’s basically how I spend my Saturdays. I shouldn’t even feel I have permission to BLOG about beauty and self-image until I lose some weight. I mean, GOD. – PB]

  13. I’d like to speak to the issue of “tone” or “criticism” that some people have brought up. Maybe the PB persona strikes people as harsh at times, but I think the acerbic comments are a great gift. We sometimes live in our little worlds and get accustomed to being oblivious to the effect of how we present ourselves to others. I think that for those of us who want to reach out beyond our own circle, it’s not such a bad thing to have someone express – in stark terms – how we might be perceived. If we want to cross cultures and have friendships outside of our immediate circle, it’s good to avoid putting people off before they’ve even met us.

    I’ve known other cultures where people are not shy about expressing their opinions on sneakers in church, the appropriateness of shorts, or someone’s choice of neckline. Wouldn’t you rather preview that attitude by reading about it on a blog — rather learning in real time, when you can’t change clothes, that your outfit conveys a message you didn’t intend?

  14. Ugh! I tried to post a comment, but it got lost somewhere in the abyss of the internet!

    What I wanted to say was that I am consistently surprised by what people think is okay to say anonymously. This is why I typically disregard any messages I get anonymously in my ministry. If we aren’t willing to be open and honest about our feelings and opinions then it seems pretty unlikely that we are going to reflect the kingdom of God very well at all.

    It doesn’t seem like there is much that is redeeming about this nasty-gram, but it did make me think about a problem that I am seeing whenever I attend synod events or gather with other clergy. Since I began my ministry 5 years ago, I have probably put on about 30 pounds. There is a million reasons why, but a big part of it is stress and overwork, for sure. When I go to local clergy gatherings I am willing to say that the majority of folks are overweight or obese. Most of us speak openly about working 60+ hours per week, with very rare moments to care for ourselves. We kind of laugh and nod and assume that if everyone has this problem there is nothing we can do. Clergy suffer from weight related health problems, depression and the like and we seem to act like it is normal. This is terrible! What kind of stewardship of our lives and bodies are we teaching?

    There is something deeply wrong with our work and our culture, and it isn’t about fat vs. skinny. It is about stewarding our bodies in a way that reflects God’s goodness and love rather than working ourselves (literally) to death. I would love to talk more about that- knowing that together we might find a way to support one another, hold one another accountable and imagine a different future.

  15. As a faithful reader of the blog, I feel that you match your words to the seriousness of your topic. The presentation of the minister as caring and conscious professional is a serious matter.

    Life is celebration and we want to come to the party with our best face, foot and fashion forward. Remind and admonish when needed, but in the meantime love, live and dance!

    And a word to the fat-phobic; sometimes that fat is unavoidable. Your detractor doesn’t know their facts. For that I am sorry for him. He is missing out on friends who could change the world for him.

  16. O.K. so being fat isn’t a moral failing – is it an addiction then? – what is it? – after all being overweight leads to knee replacements, hip replacements, diabetes and heart disease and other health issues for which we all pay (I am not saying that only fat people have these diseases but they have them in significantly greater numbers) – I realize how food corporations have connived to hook people on salt, fat and sugar etc. etc. – and that walking and biking are difficult in most urban areas and that cars are so convenient but still – I am disturbed by overweight people especially if they are doctors, nurses, ministers or others in positions of authority – I am not saying I’m right – I was outraged by the nasty email you got – I would like to be able to transcend those thoughts when I see people who are fat –

  17. On tone: PB is sometimes snarky about bad outfits and bad grooming (and generally they deserve it). She is never snarky about the people wearing them. The overall message is always, “Look like the leader that you are.” God works through people who come in all sorts of external packages.

  18. Ah, PB my friend, I am sorry that someone chose to dump toxicity upon you.

    As a woman who has been both vastly underweight – then obese…and who has had gastric by-pass surgery because of my health, I have thought a great deal about being thin, fat and average in the past two years.

    It fascinates me that in the year+ since I had by-pass surgery (losing 100 lbs in the time), I have had a major promotion at work in my job at the judicatory level. I am no more competent at the under 200 lb. level than I was before. But our society seems to project all sorts of things upon us, based on the size our our bodies. Pitiful, isn’t it?

    Continue to speak your truth, my friend… and know that you are beautiful, inside and out.

  19. A friend of mine linked your post on his FB page. I agree with everything that you said, but I want to take it one step further, especially in light of another comment above. Overweight does not necessarily equate to unhealthy. A lot of “skinny folk” look down at others with disdain because they think, for some reason, that all “fat people” are somehow woefully and willingly just sitting on the couch all night eating Doritos watching reality TV.

    Tom Brady (QB for the New England Patriots, for those that may not know), was recently denied a life-insurance policy. Why? Because he was in the “overweight” category based on his BMI (body mass index, a height/weight ratio). The average BMI for a professional athlete in Detroit (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc.) is “overweight” and borders on “obese.” Are any of these people unhealthy?

    There is a cohort of people who are overweight by their own devices alone. However, most “fat people” exercise, eat healthy (for the most part), and try, try, try their best. Even skinny folk get diabetes and heart disease – genetics are to blame, and, not only can we NOT pick our parents, but someone even told us to “honor thy father and mother” somewhere down the line.

    I am overweight, but (because I work hard at it) my blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. are better than most skinny folks. I apologize for trolling your blog, since I’m not a minister. I confess that I am a physician – an endocrinologist who spends 50% of the time seeing people with diabetes and understands their struggles. I have the best patients in the world, and I humbly ask for you to pray for all of them as they face their daily challenges. [Thanks for stopping by, doc, and for offering your perspective. – PB]

  20. I think you’ve got *MORE* right to speak out about style etc. I am turned off by blogs by tiny little 20 year olds with apparently huge budgets. I like blogs by real people and you’re a real person. Go you!

  21. His comments to you were nasty and inappropriate, and my guess is that he’s deeply threatened by women who have authority or power, especially in religious settings.

    There is some tension in your work, though, and you’ve written about it really thoughtfully on this blog. On the one hand, you are subverting and problematizing many of the social messages women get (to be thin, to be compliant and quiet, to submit). On the other hand, you are upholding and promoting other social messages women get (to attend to grooming, to wear makeup, to put work into appearance, to want to be attractive.)

    I tend to think this is one of the difficulties of feminism. We ought, as feminists, to reject oppressive social messages, and yet we ought, as feminists, to be fully present in the world, to work to enact change, to show up when the power is being distributed and to use our power well and intentionally.

    I think of myself as something of a stealth feminist – my students are willing to grant me authority in part because I dress for it, and that permits me to be feminist in the classroom more effectively. Or that’s my thinking today, anyway.

    PB, your ministry is valuable, and if we can imagine a woman member of the clergy encountering this man in the world, she’ll be better prepared if she is professionally attired and has oriented herself, body and mind, for the job she has. Bravo.

  22. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being strong and writing these words and not accepting what the haters have to say. Thank you for inspiring and supporting so many of us who don’t have perfect bodies and helping us remember that we matter.

    with tears in my eyes… thank you. [You’re welcome, honey head. – PB]

  23. Amen sister…thank you for being you. For standing up and saying what needs to be said, without hating or finger pointing.

    I’ve only just discovered my self-style and I’ve got a long way to go, but knowing you are there makes the world a much better place.

    I’m no single digit size girl and never will be. I’ve got curves and I’m learning how to wear them…

    Feel yourself surrounded by love from all of us who on occasion stumble and fall. You ARE love and you give love and we love you.

    Holding you in the chocolate! xo

  24. Wow, I’m sorry you got such a nasty email. Your response was full of wisdom and grace, which comes as no surprise.

    You’ll be pleased to know that I just came back from a weekend meeting where both myself and a colleague asked ourselves in the morning “would peacebang approve?”… and we realized you would šŸ™‚ It was a wonderful bonding moment between us (we’re new friends) Thanks for your ministry and the chocolate kisses!

  25. Someone will always think you are unworthy to have an opinion no matter who you are. Wrong gender, wrong skin color, wrong size, wrong age, wrong country, wrong religion, wrong orientation, wrong political party, wrong economic bracket, the list goes on and on. Thank you for refusing to allow this awful comment to fester in the shadow shame and silence. Peacebang, I truly think that you are a beautiful woman inside and out, and appreciate your eye for style and your willingness to help others care for their self image.

  26. Disgusting. Simply disgusting – the original email, I mean…of course! Brilliant reply, PB, and thank you for it. I can’t add anything worthwhile to that perspective, but I’d like to chime in on some of the comments about what equals healthy.

    A very good friend of mine is 30 years old and 250 pounds. She ran the Boston Marathon this year in 3 hours and something. Her cholesterol, BP, sugars, etc., etc., are all better than mine (I’m 150 pounds, 5’5″). Needless to say, I can’t run two blocks without falling over with a stitch in my side.

    Her mother, also a very good friend of mine, is 50 years old and 275-280. She, too, has also always been a “person of size.” Her doctor is amazed every year at how good her numbers are for cholesterol, BP, etc. She is not diabetic, not even close.

    I envy both women for their sense of style and ability to put together gorgeous outfits on what I know are limited budgets. Because I also know the range of gorgeous options are more limited for women of size, I’m even more amazed at their sense of style.

    Putting all that external stuff aside, these are two of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out. They give and give of themselves constantly.

    So – URGH to haters – and keep preaching the truth, PB – both here and from the pulpit.

  27. @PeaceBang:

    Have you ever seen Shapely Prose? There was a terrific post about Fat and Theology over there when the blog was still active. It’s archived here:

    @Nellie Mcclung:

    In short answers to your questions/observations:

    Q: is it an addiction then? ā€“ what is it?

    A: It depends. Every person’s circumstances are individual and result from lived experiences that are particular to themselves. As is the case with most issues.

    Q/O: after all being overweight leads to knee replacements, hip replacements, diabetes and heart disease and other health issues for which we all pay…

    A: It’s not just marketing and lack of discipline or whatever. Fat and poor diet are also STRONGLY related to poverty. STRONGLY. As is diabetes. Structural violence and social inequalities lead to poor health in American populations, not just fatness. The poor are at risk of being fat AND malnourished. That is a huge problem, and suggesting people from poor communities shouldn’t lead or have roles of public authority is very distressing to me.

    O: I am disturbed by overweight people especially if they are doctors, nurses, ministers or others in positions of authority ā€“ I am not saying Iā€™m right ā€“

    A: As a matter of fact, you are not right. Your prejudices are no-one’s problem but your own. And I think I am encouraged by the fact that you seem to know you are the person with the issue here. If you actually are interested in learning more than what social prejudice has taught you to think, I would suggest by starting with googling:

    Health At Every Size
    The Fat Nutritionist
    Shapely Prose

  28. “Women of Size” must be a new euphemism for fat. I’d like to point out that all women are “women of size” it’s just that some women are larger in size than others. [Yes, but all people are people of color, too. The point in claiming those names is that they identify and bring solidarity to a group of people by a prejudice that oppresses them. That’s why I don’t use it myself, but I get the reasoning. I prefer “Fat Chick” or “Fat Babe” or just “Plumpster.” – PB]

  29. I think it was a very mean spirited email- although I must admit I thought the current euphemism was “large” not “women (or men) of size”

    I love PB’s advice because of the range of body types that she makes recommendations for, that’s why I read this blog as opposed to some other fashion blogs where they assume everyone weighs 110 pounds

    BUT- it did bother me when my kids were in elementary school and some very large women of size would lecture them on the good food pyramid while obviously eating that way themselves-not that they weighed what they did but that they were lecturing kids on the subject while not following their own advice apparently

  30. Gee, from the quantity and quality of this feedback, it looks like we’ll need to devote at least half a day to discussing body image during next year’s pilgrimage with Peacebang šŸ™‚

  31. Peacebang, I am sorry you received such nasty mail.

    I love your posts, and don’t believe for a moment that you are too harsh. Your tone is always one of solidarity and affection. I appreciate that.

  32. PB, thank you for giving such a good example for young ministers-to-be: you take criticism in stride, you know when not to take things personally, and you don’t let irrational people get to you.

    I am one of those “single-digit size” skinny chicks, and I even have close to “ideal” proportions according to our culture’s standards. But I have struggled with anorexia in my past, and I can tell you from experience that skinny chicks can hate themselves too. It isn’t fat larger women who look in the mirror and detest what they see. Poor body image and low confidence affect all kinds of women, not just big and tall ones. You are absolutely right about the way our misogynistic culture is responsible for women feeling ugly and fat. You don’t actually have to be ugly and fat to feel that way… you’re taught to feel that way!

    And, FYI, I have done a lot of work around my perfectionist tendencies and anxiety issues so that my history of anorexia will not affect my career. I aim to be one healthy pigeon just like you someday!

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