Let me tell you about T.
T was raised by feminist parents. T has always been a size six, but five years ago, T went through a period where T didn’t like her body and thought it should be thinner. T got really invested in learning about diet culture and weight loss. Now, after spending so much time thinking about weight, T teaches other people how to stop thinking about weight, and learn to love themselves!
T has created a business out of this, making money off of other women’s neuroses. T invites women to participate in small groups to say, “I have a body. I love my body!” and then think hard about complex topics like the “double whammy” of feeling shame about your body, then feeling shame about feeling shame.
T thinks fat people are gross. T would like fat people to lose weight. T runs her program because she wants to help skinny girls who obsess about their bodies too much, not fat women who actually need someplace to go to feel safe, whole and seen.
There are many Ts in this world. These women tell you that they “really understand” your struggles with weight, because they were once a size eight and they felt like they swallowed a whale, but now they’re back to a “normal,” thin weight, thank G-d!
These women would really like to tell you that you aren’t normal, and that as far as they’re concerned, if you’re fat and not on a diet, you’re killing this planet and yourself with your excess. Could you please do that somewhere else so they don’t have to look at you?
These are the people who look you up and down when they meet you, very obviously taking note of where your body has gone wrong.
These women don’t want to get lunch with you, because, ew, then they’d have to see you eat! They think you eat too much, that you breathe too loudly, that the way you sit in a chair is the wrong way to sit in a chair.
These women look great in bikinis, because they spend roughly half their lives working hard to look great in bikinis. These women don’t go to church, they go to step class. When these women binge on donuts late at night, they have to puke them right back up. When these women get angry, they take a deep breath, smile through gritted teeth, then walk around the block a few (dozen) times, like a nice girl.
They were bullies in high school and probably never realized it. These are the women who claim other women don’t like them, and it’s so confusing, and why are other women so sexist? These are women whose adult bullying takes the form of “concern.”
This is concern trolling.
Being a victim of concern trolling is painful. It’s a mindfuck, a form of gaslighting. It’s the reason you start to feel that the things you say are unacceptable, or unimportant, or not allowed.
When your bestie side-eyes you every time you eat something more caloric than a side salad, and sits you down one day and says, “Honey, I’m concerned you’re eating more food than I believe is healthy/appropriate/acceptable for a woman to consume,” that’s concern trolling.
When your boyfriend buys you a gym membership for Christmas. When your mother buys you clothing two sizes too small “for inspiration.” When your housemate insists that you’re taking up too much space in the fridge even though you’re taking up the exact same amount of space as she is, except that she’s 40 pounds lighter than you.
The perpetrators aren’t “concerned,” they’re furious at you for reminding them of their shitty relationships with their own bodies.
Just because you’re fat doesn’t mean you’re not a person. It doesn’t give anybody the right to disrespect you.
And they are. I’m telling you what lies beneath the concern and faux-drama of their over-investment in your body size.
They’re just afraid. You’re making them afraid.
And there’s power in the terror you instill in them, too. If you learn to use it.