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Lonie McMichael: Internalization

Today, I am going to discuss bell hooks’ idea of internalization in terms of fat. When a culture has ideas of inferior and superior, those that are perceived as inferior often hate that aspect of themselves which is seen as inferior; they become self-hating. So, in the dominant American culture (the location of my research) fat individuals have a tendency to hate their fat – not really a big surprise.

My research revealed that the message that fat is not ok comes to the individual from many different locations: friends, family, the media, the medical community and the stranger on the street. After having the message that fat is bad inundate them from all sides, it is not surprising that fat individuals turn the message that “fat is bad” into the message “I am bad” and, in turn, hate themselves.

When the fat individual chooses to deny the belief in their inferiority and see themselves as worthy, it can be a hard fight. hooks says that the oppressed individual must first resist the “oppressor within,” the belief in their own inferiority. The idea, hooks says, is “to reclaim and recover ourselves.” The oppressed can do this by changing the way they think, talk and act about the quality which makes them oppressed. So, fat individuals can recover from fat hatred by changing how they talk about fat – we see evidence of this all over Fat Acceptance and the Fatosphere.

In my research, I saw the struggle to be ok with the fat self over and over again. Many individuals experienced this struggle as an arduous journey that included bouts of anger, grief and the cognitive dissonance of wanting to be smaller but knowing dieting won’t work. I also observed that many were succeeding in the struggle. Some of the solutions to internalized fat hatred included: being part of a fat positive community such as the Fatosphere, seeing positive fat body images such as those on Fatshionista, and treating the body and self with care.

Internalization is very powerful, and the fight to overcome it can be challenging. However, as I will show later, the rewards for doing so can be quite wonderful.

Background:
• Post 1: Lonie McMichael: Intro & hook's ideology of domination
• BFB introduction and dissertation abstract.

Some "Debate" | Revised membership text

lilacsigil January 19th, 2011 | Link | must first resist the

must first resist the “oppressor within,” the belief in their own inferiority.

For me, this worked the other way around - my "oppressor within" oppressing me was the last thing to go, and hasn't entirely gone yet. It was much, much easier to stop my "oppressor within" oppressing others first. I had to let go of my constant and defensive judgements about other people's bodies, lives and choices before I could treat myself with the same respect and kindness.

loniemc January 22nd, 2011 | Link | lilacsigil, hooks talks like

lilacsigil, hooks talks like it is a continuous process, but I don't think so. I think it works differently for different people. And, I found that there is an upward spiral of sorts: fights internal which helps fight external which helps fight internal etc. I think you can start with either side, but one reinforces the other continuously. Make sense?

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
January 22nd, 2011 | Link | I think you're right about

I think you're right about the cycles, but long-term self hatred (especially at young ages, which is why the stigmatization of fat children bothers me so much) becomes part of people's personalities and can be very difficult to root out completely. Also, I think that the internal struggle goes on as long as the external one does, because it's always necessary to fight the influence of society - the way you're treated in real life and the way you see (or don't see) people like you depicted in the media - on your self esteem. You never become completely immune to outside influences.

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