A woman named Jill Strasburg appeared on Oprah in 2005 to confront her fat-phobic father for being
a giant garbagey dickweed rather insensitive about her weight. She was the youngest of his children, her father, Kirk, explained, and always the fattest. She was always chubby, always bigger. Childhood photos reveal a normal, seemingly happy kid—swimming, playing outside, not impeded by her extra pounds. Nonetheless, Kirk was ashamed of his daughter's size, and was proud to admit it on fucking national television. It is honestly shocking to watch.
Via HuffPo (and there's video at the link):
"I just have this built-up hatred, like, 'What is wrong with you? Why don't you love me?'" Jill said, through tears.
Oprah posed the question to Kirk. "Is [Jill] good enough the way she is, if she never lost a pound? And gained 10 more?" Oprah asked. "Would that be okay with you?"
"No," Kirk answered. "It wouldn't."
DOOOOOOOOOD, THAT GUY. That fucking guy.
Jill, essentially blackmailed by her father, proceeds to lose 170 pounds via a gastric bypass surgery.
"I [had the surgery] because I wanted to feel good about myself," Jill told Oprah. "I wanted to lose the weight and I also wanted a relationship with my dad."
They return to Oprah for a follow-up. Jill explains that, via extensive therapy, she realized that her father did what he did (which, in case you forgot, was withhold love until she resorted to an invasive major surgery to become the conventionally "hot" daughter he thinks he creepily MUST HAVE) "out of love."
I am so, so happy that Jill is happy. But I think that the route to her happiness—rooted in inarguable emotional abuse, and bolstered and openly validated by our culture at large—is downright barbaric. People often treat body image advocacy as a frivolous concern based in laziness, in lack of accountability, in recreational victimhood. To those of us who actually understand what body positivity (or, god forbid, the dreaded fat acceptance) is all about, those objections are downright alien. The oppressive expectations placed on women's bodies—combined with the assumption that it is a woman's lifelong duty to starve, cut, and sweat her body into an "acceptable" shape—literally ruin women's lives. They keep us hungry and distracted, they riddle us with self-doubt and self-hate, and, not infrequently, they kill us.
I'm sure people will argue that at least Jill is "healthy" now. But is she? Really?
Jill says that she has a good relationship with her father. Other parts of her life, however, remain painful. "Every day is a struggle," she says. "I have constant pain in my stomach. I am also extremely weak. I have endoscopies every few months. I get really tired and I hurt. I'm nauseated 24/7 — that's something I will live with until the day I die."
What's more, Jill also received devastating news after her 2009 wedding. "I found out that I'm unable to have children," she says. "That was really, really difficult... I remember telling [my husband] Dave, 'I did this to myself. Because I had gastric bypass and because I went through all of these things, I took away the opportunity to be a mom.'"
So, so heartbreaking. So enraging. If that Jill is "healthier" than pre-surgery Jill, then I'm not sure what "health" means anymore. Body positivity is a pro-health movement (although people with poor health are also worthy of respect, dignity, and compassion), but we believe that health is best pursued independent from physical appearance. Focusing on body size to the exclusion of anything else is the opposite of health.
Nonetheless, Jill says she doesn't regret any of it. Because she's thin now—she got the brass ring that she was always told she should want more than anything else. The brass ring that's the key to 100% nonstop happiness.
I don't regret getting the gastric bypass. I would do it again tomorrow. And the reason why is because before the gastric bypass I didn't go out places, I didn't have friends, I didn't put myself out there, because I was so uncomfortable in my body. And so when I made that decision that I was going to accept this life that I gave myself, I started to put myself out there and I started to have experiences. I gained a confidence that I never thought possible.
The basic message of fat acceptance is very, very simple. No one should have to go through that. No one should have to have their stomach surgically removed and then endure a lifetime of pain, weakness, nausea, constant medical procedures, and fucking needless infertility, in order to achieve friends and self-confidence and "experiences." Everyone has the right to be happy and live right now.
Man, fuck that dad.