I had an experience the other day which, a month ago, wouldn’t have particularly struck me one way or the other. Yay FA for a bit o’ eye-opening, eh?
I was having lunch with a semi-friend (I am a Resident Assistant (RA) at my college, and she is another student in the next job level up, but not my direct boss. She handles a different building). I’m going to call her Sandy. ^_^ We talk sometimes, and more often than not we discuss fairly lofty things, since she’s one of only two or three other self-identified feminists that I know.
On Tuesday, which was Earth Day, our dining hall decided that in order to save a bit of energy, they would not be using trays for us to carry dishes on – the idea being that this would save water from washing the trays and perhaps encourage students to take less food and thus waste less – for one day only. Because of this, our conversation started out by discussing how superficial most efforts to be “green” usually are – especially from large corporations. From there we started to discuss, more or less, how we both want to change the world and are sometimes overwhelmed. This brought us to the topic of how we were coping with that, and the smaller, more feasible ideas that we actually want to implement.
Sandy has a great idea. She thinks it might be her calling, in fact. She noted that while many communities have fitness centers, they rarely have a place that will combine a fitness center with healthy living classes, a place to get healthy food, etc. That is, a place that rather than addressing a single component of the “healthy lifestyle,” includes something to cover all parts – in her words, “physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.” She has already identified her target demographic as busy middle-class women. And obese people.
I struggled to keep a frown from my face at this point. We were talking about dreams for our futures and passions for careers, and I really didn’t want to derail our conversation by hauling off on a HAES lecture.
I really wish I could remember exactly what she said. What her words said (if not these precise words) was basically that she wants a place that makes it more convenient for people to combat obesity. She also said, and this is much closer to her actual words, that when people come out of those week-long, intense “healthy-living” boot camps, she wants them to have a place that will help them maintain those habits. Sigh.
This conversation wasn’t a total loss. When talk turned to our quick-fix culture and how people need to learn to sacrifice, two things happened. One, we clarified her definition of “sacrifice,” which she meant more to say that we need to think long-term. Two, I was able to bring up the intuitive eating concept, which she immediately agreed was a great idea. Sandy is not a scared-of-teh-fattiez type person. She is very happy in a body that would probably not withstand the BMI test-of-doom. She’s also very active, athletically, but…whatever.
This leads me, finally, to the ultimate point of this post.
The most disturbing aspect of this conversation, to me, was how the concept of obesity was dropped in so casually as something that she expected me to understand as what-not-to-be.
Intent vs. Impact
Her intent is to tell me about her dream of a place that aids others in living healthy. Her impact is to tell me about how awful the obesity epidemic is and how no one in his/her right mind could possibly be happy being “overweight.” Would she have brought it up if she perceived me as fat?
Sandy is a pretty open-minded, cool woman. I’m going to link her to Shapely Prose and I imagine that will have a lot of good effect. But I was just struck by how much she had internalized this idea of an obesity epidemic, and how she assumed that I had, as well.