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Back to School

It's almost time for the fat kids to go back to school and face the bullies - if they aren't already dealing with them in the neighborhood or at summer camp.

Oh, god! Those summer camp bullies. I remember it being like freakin' Lord of the Flies at summer camp; no real adult supervision and a social structure that would make monkeys look civilized. I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but when I got bullied one year at camp (luckily most years, I was part of a clique and that protected me), the people running the place treated me as if it was my fault. I was mooed and oinked at, my only pair of shoes were filled with rotten milk, my stuff was stolen, and I would have gotten beaten up if I hadn't had the ability to be a bit scary. I was the one called in for 'counseling' (i.e. told that I was oversensitive). I was the one whose parents were contacted. And the ringleader of the group doing it was a horrible little hypocrite who was always trying to prove how "good" she was. In front of adults. When she and her friends were alone with other kids, they were a nightmare.

ANYWAY, so, back to school. Back to being called fat and ugly in three or four different languages, back to more moos and oinks, back to being followed and harassed, back to teachers with low expectations, and sometimes back to physical violence.

Yet many anti-bullying policies exclude fat kids.

Time to put on ill fitting, uncool clothes and jump back into the ring, my young friends!
(although perhaps at least the clothing selection has improved since my time, there being an "epidemic of childhood obesity" and all).

Dr. Deah has some things to say on back-to-school and bullying in a couple of recent blog posts: Bully for You and on back to school clothes shopping, Cruel Days, Cruel Days.

And, I'll end with this very satisfying video:

(But as you might expect, things may be a little more complicated than they appear at first. The fat kid, Casey Heynes, tells his story here, but it turns out that the bully also has his problems although I'm not all that inclined to trust what he says.)

To anyone who's dealing with this kind of thing now: School doesn't last forever, and it tends to get better as you get older. Ages 10-13 are usually the worst. When you're an adult, you get to choose who you want to associate with, and if someone hits you? You call the cops and report an assault. Oh, and if you do well in school and work hard, you'll eventually have the satisfaction of being more successful in life than the bullies. It's even better than a bodyslam.

Smack-a-fattie Friday at the BBC | Southwest Airlines: at it again

Viola's picture
August 29th, 2011 | Link | I was thinking about this a

I was thinking about this a lot yesterday as my kids started school this morning. My daughter says that bullying just isn't the problem in her school that it was in mine, but she's starting middle school today. I'm hoping it's OK for her still. I was thinking about how awful some kids were to me in private, but they had good reputations with the adults because they were good, conscientious students. And it felt very much like no one could be trusted, not other children, not adults, because they clearly didn't see these jerks for what they are.

So now I try to look at the big picture and see them as children and understand that they may have been going through a lot of problems themselves. But oddly enough, I have a hard time doing that. I don't think of my childhood peers as children, if I see them as adults now, I wonder how they could possibly be a decent person now when they were such awful people as children.

DeeLeigh's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | I don't think of my

I don't think of my childhood peers as children, if I see them as adults now, I wonder how they could possibly be a decent person now when they were such awful people as children.

I've wondered about that too. I did some things as I kid that I regret now (not bullying - other stuff) and I guess I can cut them a little slack because of that. Kids can be idiots, and it doesn't always mean that they'll be bad people as adults. But I think that because of the bullying that I dealt with as a kid, I have kind of a dim view of human nature and more of a negative outlook than I'd like. I think that, subconsciously, it may even be one reason why I've never been gung-ho about the possibility of having children.

TigerHawk310 August 29th, 2011 | Link | You know, this was my

You know, this was my problem with the whole "It Gets Better" campaign Dan Savage was running to help out bullied gay kids a while back. First, it was entirely focused on gay kids, despite fat kids not only being bullied very frequently, but often being bullied with more adult encouragement for the bullies. No one seems to care about fat kids, though, except to make them go on diets and publish their BMIs.

And second, it doesn't really get better if you're fat. Diet-talk will get worse, not better. It will be legal to openly discriminate against you in employment, and movies will treat it as a laughing matter (see the trailer for Horrible Bosses). Everyone in politics will constantly talk about how fat people are destroying the country by racking up health care costs, and now your doctors won't just tell you to lose weight, they'll look at you with disgust and refuse to diagnose your actual malady. In high school, being brilliant might let you overcome being fat, but in the real world, you can watch Jennifer Hudson, Chris Christie, and Rex Ryan achieve near the pinnacle of their professions and still be dismissed because they're fat (and if like Ryan, you have a harmless fetish that you enjoy with your wife, that'll be blasted on the front of newspapers with extra hate because the media hate thinking of fat people as doing anything sexual).

The only thing that gets better is that at least you're not imprisoned by the bullies--you just have to live like a hermit to ignore them.

DeeLeigh's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | I agree that a lot of adults

I agree that a lot of adults seem to think it's okay for fat kids to get bullied. Also, the bullying does not entirely disappear when we grow up; true. Death threats from doctors and media stories that blame us for the fall of western civilization are essentially bullying.

I don't think that gay people are safe as adults, either, nor are any of the other groups that get bullied in school. However, as adults, we're better equipped to fight the bullies, and there's strength in numbers. We can come together and support each other. We can control what we expose ourselves to. And we can call out the forms of bullying that are acceptable in the adult world for what they are.

worrier August 29th, 2011 | Link | "(i.e. told that I was

"(i.e. told that I was oversensitive)."

People must say all the same things when fat kids complain about being bullied. That was one of my mother's ones when she was trying to get me to shut up. "You're just too sensitive".

vesta44's picture
August 29th, 2011 | Link | Another favorite is "Ignore

Another favorite is "Ignore them and they'll eventually leave you alone. All they want is a reaction. If you don't give them one, they'll go look for someone else who will." Yeah right, that never worked for me. I ignored them, I walked away from them, and they still bullied me. What stopped them was beating the shit out of the head bully. Once I beat her up, the rest of them were afraid of me and left me alone. Not the way I wanted to handle the situation, but I wasn't left any choice. That was when I started developing my "fuck you" attitude and went around with a pissed-off look on my face all the time. It kept the bullies from bothering me the rest of my time through school, but it sure as hell didn't stop the bullying at jobs from superiors. So, no, it doesn't always get better, no matter how smart you are or how well you do your job - if you're fat, there's always going to be someone, somewhere who's going to bully you and who has more power than you do. Thank Maude I don't have to work anymore and I can tell the rest of the world to eat shit and bark at the moon if they don't like looking at my fat ass and there isn't much they can do to stop me anymore (and thank Maude I have a husband who backs me up in that).

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

DeeLeigh's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | "Ignore them and they'll

"Ignore them and they'll eventually leave you alone. All they want is a reaction. If you don't give them one, they'll go look for someone else who will."

Wow. It's amazing. They were using the exact same words with me, some years later and in a different state. To this day, friends wave and say hi to me on the street and I don't notice because as a kid, I learned to block all the people around me out of my perception in an effort to ignore the bullies.

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | My problem with Dan Savage

My problem with Dan Savage is that he not only considers certain types of bullying acceptable but actively participates in them using a media platform to which no teen bully has access. My wife eventually started turning off his 'It Gets Better' ads for Google Chrome for the sake of both our sanity (don't be evil? Don't make me laugh, oh and don't think I'll be using your browser either). For me his ongoing attempts to justify fatphobia in society, even when articulately challenged by activists, completely and utterly undermines anything he may ever have done to make life better for gay people, because believe it or not some gay people are also fat, and some fat people are gay - it's called intersectionality, idiot. Given the numerous parallels between the two movements (being gay was also previously considered a 'choice', immoral, a threat to social norms etc; justification of prejudice with junk science, increasing criminalisation of fat and all the rest) his position is ideologically indefensible and thoroughly hypocritical.

Back on topic, I consider myself lucky to have grown up a skinny kid and dodged that particular set of jibes (the fat-related stuff followed later, in the workplace) but can attest that there were plenty of others to take their place, very few of them taken seriously by teachers or for that matter family. Nerdy, introverted, bookish and socially awkward, any instances of coming close to being 'accepted' were interspersed with much longer periods of (at best) exclusion and more often being actively targeted as a means for the schoolyard VIPs to further boost their egos and social standing. I too was advised to 'ignore them and they'll find another target', accused of exaggerating the issue or advised to become more personable and outgoing (inevitably, all failed).

As someone on the Fatosphere recently said (I forget who, and I can't search for the post right now as the feed isn't work-safe) until we develop the will to take a much longer and deeper look at our cruel, 'point and laugh', heavily stratified society than those in power presently desire, the bullying of those considered 'other' will endure in all its myriad forms. That said, if I had just one piece of advice for my fourteen year-old self it wouldn't be to wear sunscreen but to find a way to take pride in my difference and reach out to other marginalised souls like myself instead of constantly trying to 'fit in' with the cool kids in the futile hope of an easier life. Unfortunately that's a wisdom which only comes with age.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

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