Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"We Who Are Not As Others"

A family member was watching this movie, it is not my usual fare of choice but I watched it curious, about how they showed people in the 1930's with severe disabilities. Some of the movie is sympathetic to their plight such as when one of the Little People affected with dwarfism points out how they are made fun of, and he is made a mockery of, instead of being treated like the man he is.
Boy I could relate to that and said, yes, the world sees you as just your "body", too many times. The smiling mocking grinning faces surrounding him during a few scenes, reminded me of a few times I faced especially as my weight gain came on and I became a "joke" to some wicked people around me.

For us super-fat people there can be those who do mock you and or infantilize you. One thing I always faced was the assumption by the outside world, that I was "slow" and "mentally deficient" based on my body weight. Even in the size acceptance world, those of us who have breached a line are not taken seriously, ignored and dismissed as if we know nothing even though we have lived the most severe form of the condition, that the so called experts and pundits think they know so much about. Marilyn Wann, that comment includes YOU.

The villains in the movie are also shown as hateful and dismissive of those with differences and disabilities. There are horrible things said about those with disabilities, where some of the villains call them "monsters".  This movie was very controversial even at it's time, other parts were very gross and evil, and I would not recommend this movie unless you were watching it for other reasons besides entertainment.

Obviously this being the 1930's, there was less education and people who faced severe differences and disabilities were not treated the same they are today. There was endless abuses and horrors visited upon those facing rare conditions. There was no fat characters in this particular film, the "freaks" ranged from people with no arms or legs, or missing their legs,various forms of dwarfism-Little people, a "bearded-lady",and a "thin man", thrown together for the sake of working for a "circus".

Why do I bring up "Freaks"? I was thinking about what people like this have faced in history, and how many were not taken seriously and their very humanity was denied as shown in this movie. While in the age of TLC shows, and such, there is more acceptance for those who are very different,  and more education, after all Abby and Brittany now work as math teachers,  there does remain a bit of the "side-show" with all this....

 When I had my 400lb plus weight gain within 2 and half years, I know I crossed the status from "normal" status to what could have been considered "freak" status. Today I gather the occasional glimpse and stare, but near 700lbs and since I was still able to walk out in public, the googley eyed stares stay with me to this day. Psychologically all I can tell you is the effect was overwhelming, in my case, things made far harder from the fact I was normal or near normal until my mid-20s. Even trying to explain this to counselors and in other formats, I definitely entered territory, that most normal people could not even understand.

Years ago, even 400lb people were deemed rare enough to be put on the stage, which should tell you something about how we have been fattened up for multiple reasons. The man below was a professional "circus fat man". Today we would see at least 10 near his size in your average mega-store.

[source for pic, warning anti-fat people]

These feelings of being "not physically normal" and realizing I did not fit into the normal web of society in many facets, let to an interest I developed into other people who did not fit the mainstream due to whatever medical malady. In those early years as my body went mad, the emotional hits were as hard as the physical ones, sometimes I do not know how I got through it. Perhaps knowing that others faced even worse and more severe emotional and physical challenges gave me the courage to march on.

While probably 99% of the world brought books like this to GAWK, I bought them to ask, how did these other people handle things? How did they manage to face the world and what could I learn from them? While I of course have personally known those facing everything from severe disfiguring facial maladies to dwarfism, I wanted to especially know what those who dealt with being superfat had to say and what they faced.

In fact most books detailing the lives of "freaks" [an unfortunate title] that, did speak of the lives of the severely overweight. One thing I noticed in these books for the super-fat people who predate the 1970s and 80s, glandular conditions and malfunctioning metabolisms are pointed out as a serious problem for the rare person. Seems to me there was far more wisdom back then at least on that score.

What does it mean to have become one of the world's heaviest people? It definitely does not bring a life that is easy. One common thread I noticed that helped people survive, was finding support within either family or a network of friends or a kind partner. For me I know having my husband stick by my side, helped my life immensely. This is a life where one either forms a strong will, or one doesn't make it.

In days past, many did take to the sideshow circuit, which was a very sad statement of those times.
Thank God, those days are over. There is a reason I put no pictures up on this website of myself because I do not want to be made into a "sideshow" but to have my thoughts held to the forefront.  Very super fat people who do put their pictures online outside of a controlled setting such as a social website with privacy settings are taking a chance of having those photos used for nefarious purposes and by the fat haters of the world.

I am fascinated looking at the pictures of the very fat people of the past, I have even used some of these pictures in a respectful fashion. To me their humanity is what matters, and it is interesting to find a selection of pictures where people actually look like me. I often wonder what their lives were like? Were they loved? Were they treated kindly? Did they live in towns where they were treated with respect? I would move from a place that treated fat people horribly to a very small town where I was treated well by the locals, here where I live now, people are respectful and kind as well too.

Did they have some of the same thoughts, that I have faced? About how they feel so "different", and feeling the effects of never looking like anyone else, feeling so different and out of the mainstream? Was their emotional life like my own? Add a swollen leg, bigger feet and a hearing aid, and the picture below could have been one of me.

Disability rights would bring a end to people being treated like side show "freaks", and education including more knowledge about science and medicine would help those facing a myriad of health conditions, though sadly when it comes to fat people, the old attitudes seem harder to get rid of. 

How many of us now are dismissed and our humanity denied? There definitely needs to be far more understanding out there.

See: "Your Future as a Circus Fat Lady"


  1. Reading this post made me think of a circus "fat lady" who was actually a minor chn aracter in Sara Orne Jewett's novel Deephaven. Interesting that back in the 19th century people were less judgmental of the obese. Even when they stared at them in side shows they were less apt to consider their different sizes as indicating moral failure or character weaknesses. People were a lot thinner back then too.

    1. from what I can tell in the old days, people were smarter and realized that many fat people had metabolic issues or other health problems. They accepted the reality of "SLOWER METABOLISMS", something the stupid Fat Logic crowd who thinks everyone can lose weight the same, never could conceive of. They were not seen as moral failures like today. I find it interesting how fat is being more villified the more fat everyone gets. Yes people were thinner then and one didn't have to battle night and day to be "thin" and they ate foods like bacon and eggs and not everyone was a marathon runner.