“If Dragon Age took place in America…” or, Why it’s impossible to be comfortable in one’s own body

PAX East is over now, and the dust is starting to settle in my world. It’s been great looking back at all the cosplay pictures I’ve seen around the internet, and saying, “Hey! I saw that guy! Hey! I saw that girl!” and reminiscing about the super amazingly fun time I had. I have a new appreciation for the art of cosplay, and I will definitely be doing it again.

However, as the pictures started coming up, I was able to write my post about the haters who are gonna hate, because I saw some stuff about the ending of Mass Effect 3, or various other games that people took issue with. But, a new crop of “haters” started showing up too.

A picture of JayRain and I popped up on the greywardens.com Facebook page, complete in our costumes. Now, I would be the first to admit it (but JayRain beat me to the punch), I was not the skinniest person in line for the Dragon Age panel. And the first comment on the post called it. “If Dragon Age took place in America…”

Ouch.

Thank you to Grey Wardens for popping up with the rest of that sentence: “…All the characters would have been in Boston that weekend.”

Another person posted in Czech, saying “tyhle holky by měly méně hrát Dragon Age a víc sportovat, sakra víc sportovat …”

Since I don’t speak Czech, I had to look up the translation, because I was genuinely curious as to what they were saying. I was quite sorry I did: “These girls should play less Dragon Age and more sports, more sports hell …”

Now, the English isn’t great because it’s a translation, but the message is pretty clear: I am too overweight to be at PAX East. I should not be cosplaying.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I go to the gym a few times a week. I admit that I’m not as careful as I could be about what I eat, but I am making some improvements. I’m sure that somewhere, people are going to say that I’m being to sensitive, or that I am over analyzing what is happening, and maybe I am, but I don’t think that’s true.

I have lived in my body my entire life. I know it’s capabilities and it’s limits. I also am fully aware of the fact that those capabilities and limits have changed over the years. But it’s also done some pretty awesome stuff – like, carry a baby for a full 9 months and deliver a child (WITHOUT ANY PAIN MEDS OR AN EPIDURAL, THANK YOU!!). Since then, I’ve also had some weird stuff happen. Some of it there is no excuse for – some of it there is. I have a medical condition that makes it extra hard for me to lose weight. Do I enjoy being one of the heaviest people at the gym? Not particularly, but I don’t let that deter me when I do get to go. Two days a week isn’t exactly enough to cause me to have a huge change of body shape, but it makes me feel better. I get more done on those days, and I feel like I have more energy on those days.

Shortly after a friend published a blog along similar lines to this, a mutual friend posted: “Forgive me if I can’t jump on the ‘let’s all be happy about ourselves’ bandwagon, but what exactly are those who love and care about you supposed to do? While I don’t agree with being rude and disrespectful as if it’s supposed to provide some kind of help, being ‘understanding and supportive’ does nothing except enable unhealthy habits and perspectives to continue…”

Do I know this was directly related to her blog post? No. I don’t. I didn’t ask. Quite frankly, I don’t care if it is. I agree with the statement  “…I don’t agree with being rude and disrespectful as if it’s supposed to provide some kind of help…” Because it certainly won’t. But the rest of his statement brings me to my next thought.

Why is being understanding and supportive enabling? As a social worker, that is what I was trained to be in school – understanding and supportive. There is a difference between supporting someone and enabling someone. I’ve seen enabling, both in my personal and in my professional lives. I deal with it on a regular basis. I have to be careful not to do it, both with my clients and with my daughter. You can be understanding without being enabling. You can support someone without enabling. Sometimes, though, it means not saying anything.

Wow, that was an awesome segue. Sometimes I amaze myself.

I had the good fortune to not see a lot of comments that apparently happened on the BioWare blog when posts and pictures from their panel came up after PAX, but from what I’ve heard, they were significantly meaner than the ones I did see. Accusing people of being “fatties.” Saying things like that it’s fine to be a gamer, but maybe they should get a Wii Fit. (Psst! I had one of those – not so much.) When did it become acceptable to be downright mean? People justify it by hiding behind their IP addresses, behind a computer screen. They become bullies, without ever even batting an eye. When did calling people names and making judgments become okay as a regular way of interacting with people?

People who are very aware of their weight are already ashamed of who they are. Society doesn’t need to help, we’re all stocked up here. I’m actually not cheerleading for overweight and obese people to feel happy and eat marshmallows and poop rainbows. Because odds are, if you’re overweight, you’re going to feel pretty lousy for eating the marshmallows in the first place. I’m also not concerned with whether or not people can change their bodies, because if most are like me, they’ve tried that too. My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat forever? What do you do with them then? Do you really want millions of teenage girls to feel like they’re trapped in their body, and on top of that it’s because of their own moral failure? You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

And if people try to claim that they’re trying to motivating obese people to do something about it, then stop. You are not concerned about our health, because if you were, you’d also care about our mental health. You’d understand that you are doing more harm than good by making statements like “If Dragon Age took place in America…”

You need to stop bullying and let people live their lives. Understand that shaming the already shamed population isn’t going to work. It’s degrading, and it’s stupid, because it just makes you look ignorant, and how do you fight with someone who is ignorant? You can’t. You can educate, but trying to educate people like this is telling an overweight person to exercise more. Allow people to move forward in their lives, rather than holding them back by reminding them of the one thing that probably is holding them back the most.

You know what usually happens to the overweight people who learn to reject the shame and the negativity brought down on them by people that only look to feel better about themselves?

They get healthy.

EDIT:

Later on, after this comment on Facebook, I had a conversation with that person bout the difference between sympathy and enabling. In my explanation:

Enabling = “Here, want an ice cream sundae?”
Supportive = “Hey, I’m really proud of you for having a smaller dish of ice cream than usual.”

Enabling = “No, don’t go to the gym today, stay home instead and I’m going out.”
Supportive = “If you want to get in a trip to the gym today, you should go before I have to leave at 3.”

And so on and so forth. “Oh, you’re sad? Here’s some cake.” THAT’S enabling. (Not to mention, it’s a great example that I stole from a friend.)

So, what to do about this. How about we all just learn how to not be jerks? I feel like yelling, “Can’t we all just get along?” Why do we feel the need to constantly judge? What is it that makes us feel that we can judge others? We all hate to be judged, though many will say they are not bothered by it when it happens to them. There is a reason why we are all taught that if we can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I’d like to think that people will lead by example. All I can do is try to be a better person and hope people follow suit.

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2 thoughts on ““If Dragon Age took place in America…” or, Why it’s impossible to be comfortable in one’s own body

  1. My feeling is that it’s about perception, intent, and finally action. The people who love and support me will make comments because they care about me. The random strangers who comment about the ‘fatties’ aren’t worth my time because I know I have the real friends and family who accept me as I am. And it’s not about saying, “it’s okay you’re overweight, here have a cookie to feel better.” That’s what’s enabling; it’s about saying, “I understand you struggle and if you need help or support for that I’m here.” It’s about not judging, and realizing I’m trying, even if it’s not to the standards of Person X or Society Magazine Y.

    One of the funniest, since-deleted exchanges on the BioWare pics was when someone said “Look at the fat people lining up.” Another guy said, “Yeah, I’m the fat one two people back from the table in gray sneakers.” Yet another person said, “Hey, you’re not fat,” to which he replied, “Person X thinks I am and that’s all that matters.” It was self-deprecating yet humorous, and made the point that these shamers think their opinions are all that matter.

    I’m not saying accept me and let me let myself go. I picked up the Lean Cuisines at the store the other day instead of the Hungry Man XXLs, after all. But accept that I make efforts when and where I can. Meet me where I’m at and help me along the journey, rather than waiting a few miles off and pointing and laughing at me. I know it CAN be done, but I’m at a point where doing it has just burned me out. Accepting that’s where I’m at doesn’t enable me to be unhealthy, it just makes it that much easier for me because I know when I’m ready to barrel forth again someone will be there for me to reach down and help me up. That’s being understanding and supportive, and it doesn’t enable anything other than my knowledge that you’re there to care for me.

    • “Accepting that’s where I’m at doesn’t enable me to be unhealthy, it just makes it that much easier for me because I know when I’m ready to barrel forth again someone will be there for me to reach down and help me up. That’s being understanding and supportive, and it doesn’t enable anything other than my knowledge that you’re there to care for me.”

      I think that completely hits the nail on the head. And like I said, when people accept where they are at, they’re going to be healthier. They’re not stressed – lower blood pressure. When they stop worrying about what people thing – better mental health. And it goes on.

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