Monday, November 23, 2009


Observed over the past 3 days (names changed to protect privacy)...

1. A woman is introduced to another women at a social function- neither had previously met. "Hi, I'm Michelle. Nice to meet you." "Ah, Michelle, I'm Liz. I see you're expecting. When?" Michelle is not pregnant and has actually lost over 20 kgs recently.

2. A new employee(Andrew) pats another man's (David's) tummy and says "I see the gym's not working." David has actually lost 30 kgs over the previous few years way before Andrew ever joined his workplace. David works hard at the gym 4 to 5 times a week to keep that 30kgs off.

3. A woman(who is gorgeous and actually does part time work as a plus-size model) told by her boss that it was "important for the company that we pay attention to image and a healthy work/lifebalance and maybe you should talk to Jo (another colleague) about the gym she goes to". Jo is a natural size 8 who eats chippies and chocolate bars for lunch every day.

These are all true stories.

What I want to know is:

a) do these people know how rude they are?
b) are they just ignorant?
c) do they ever empathise with others?
d) do they just open their mouths before they think?
e) having made a hurtful comment why could not one of them realise it and apologise?
f) the first 2 scenarios were made in the company of several other people - why did no one step in and pull up the person who was out of line?
g) am I just over sensitive?

I'd also love to know what Michelle should have said in response to the suggestion she was pregnant?


Shani Kowalczyk said...

Hi Mel. Shani here. I still read blogs. Love reading yours still :-) I hope you are all well. Shock re the facebook thing, and your right there must be a better way than cutting you off. Shows they dont have any other way to manage the prob yet sadly. Have a lovely week :o)

mimbles said...

Oh wow. So much to unpack in all that.

If Michelle could carry it off, answering with "I'm not pregnant, I'm fat" would be guaranteed to send the other person into a flurry of mortification. But that only works if you don't have a problem with using fat as a self-descriptive word. (I've done this to someone once - resulted in some beautiful squirming on their part.)

I find it interesting that you mention that the first two people had lost weight recently, those comments would be just as problematic irrespective of recent weight loss or otherwise.

I don't think people do know how offensive they're being when they engage in fat-hatred and unrestrained commenting on other people's bodies like this. The media and popular "entertainment" do it all the time, it's perfectly normal and reasonable don't you know? And besides, they're just trying to help *eyeroll*

As for why they don't realise after the fact/apologise/get called out by other people, well, indeed. I think it's because it's seen as a much worse social faux pas to tell someone they've upset another person than to comment on someone's body. I mean, telling someone they said something mean or stupid might upset them mightn't it? And then there'd be all that awkwardness about having embarrassed them...and how fucked up is that?

(Not sure if that made any sense - was interrupted by kids and phone calls several times mid-comment.)

mimbles said...

There's a message for you in my latest post :-)

scrapgeek said...

Good grief! I must admit I have been known to say unbelievably dumb things to people (and then kick myself for a year or two afterward) but geez. I am firmly in the "don't assume someone is pregnant unless you see an actual baby emerging" camp. And as for body image, ours seems to have become extremely distorted.

Penny said...

I've learnt to never assume someone is pregnant unless I hear it from their lips ;-)

The others are shockingly bad behaviour.

Ali said...

Why it happens without people pulling them up? In my opinion, there are many people out there without the courage to take a stand... they don't like to be seen to be disagreeable or strong, but would prefer to be fence sitters - I come accross sooooooo many of these day to day, it does my head in :)

Bridgette said...

I have been asked that question and my response is "So you think I am fat do you?" I am very overweight and it can get depressing sometimes. I have done the usual things. weight watches (where I put on 11kg while still attending and redoing weeks one and two all the time duh go figure) slogged my guts out at the gym for 18mths and never never dropped a dress size Yes I toned but never dropped a dress size. Comments from people and customers at my work also get the reply "So you think I am fat" I know I am. my friends know I am and my family LOVE me

Lisa66 said...

Mel, I have no answers for you. I am utterly astounded by people's lack of empathy in this (and other) areas.
I belong to a group of women who meet weekly (a common interest group). One woman (who is trying to be kind) asks me every week how my weight loss is going and makes "encouraging" comments like - it'll all be worth it when you're slim. (Read - you'll be worthwhile when you're slim.) I know she doesn't mean to hurt my feelings but I find her constant scrutiny of my weight very intrusive. I have explained to her that I am not "slimming" as she calls it, but that I am attempting to live a fit and healthy life and that sometimes weightloss is a by-product of that. But it doesn't work - each week I'm subjected to the rounds of the table on whether I've been "good" or "bad".

There is another member of this group who has thinly veiled contempt for anyone larger than size 12. I feel I can't eat anything in front of her without being judged.

I wish I had the courage to use Mim's method. Maybe I'll work on that.

Sandra said...

I don't believe you are being over sensitive.

There are a lot of rude people out and about these days.

Whenever people have asked me if in pregnant when I wasn't, I reply "No I'm just fat". Works a trick, lol.

Anonymous said...

Anti-fat is about the only remaining, socially acceptable bias. Health advertising is taken to justify that bias. We get told constantly on telly what to eat, how to dress to look thin, how to eat curry to lose weight, etc etc.

As someone very overweight (you've met me, you know) I see this all the time. If I could get thin without wrecking the rest of my busy life, would I? Of course. But I don't, cos the price is too high in other ways.

I had some teens, annoyed cos I removed their mate (who was standing on the window sil) from my library, inform me recently that I was "egotistical, arrogant ad obese". Yep, and now you can leave too, cos it's still my library. Sigh!

As for being pregnant, I'm too old for that one now but when it was an issue I had a fix for that one that not everyone can use. I'd say "actully no, I'm not pregnant. I've had mutliple miscarriages in the last few years. Is there anything else you'd like to know? How much I earn perhaps?". Although it felt mean, I always hoped it might make them think twice next time.

karen said...

bizarre. I've not been in such company as those you describe ... I am astounded.