Audrey Bowers is a junior English education major and writes "Adult-ish" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, I heard that Midwest Writers Workshop discriminated against one of their staff members Sarah Hollowell because of her body, saying “do we really want someone like her representing us? ... Someone so fat. It’s disgusting.” Only two people in the room on that day stood up for her. This is so disappointing to me. At first, I saw Roxane Gay’s tweet and I couldn’t believe it, but after reading about what happened and reflecting on it, I realized that it was the disappointing truth. A hard pill to swallow, but something that needs to be recognized, called out and not condoned.
Out of all of the organizations out there, a writers’ workshop would be the one that I would least expect to discriminate against someone simply for the way that they look. A writer should be respected for how well they can craft a story rather than their weight, religion, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or any other factor that it out of their control. In general, people shouldn’t be judged for these things either, yet every day they are.
Oppression is oppression is oppression.
Midwest Writers was a group that I followed for awhile. They tweeted inspirational writing quotes and held workshops in the summer with well-known authors and literary agents. For a moment, I strongly considered interning with them because the experience I could gain in the world of writing and publishing was seriously enticing to me. Since this incident has gone viral, they have issued an apology on their official Facebook page:
“We screwed up in a way that has landed Midwest Writers in the middle of a social media maelstrom, and we owe all of our friends, faculty and alumni an explanation. But first, we owe someone dear to us a public apology. Sarah Hollowell @sarahhollowell has been a close friend of our conference for years … She is also an accomplished writer whose fiction, poetry, and essays exploring weight and femininity have been published in multiple online publications and literary journals … As we work address this matter swiftly, I ask our faculty, friends and alumni to understand that the mistakes that were made do not change Midwest Writers’s core mission to welcome everyone … And by everyone, I mean all people, regardless of their weight or appearance, gender or sexual orientation and identity, age, race, or whether they show up in the same model of wheelchair in which I sit.”
Sometimes a person has to take a stand instead of sitting back and being passive about their opinion. This is one of those times for me. There are too many women and men who are invalidated and discriminated against because of their weight, many of these people are perfectly capable of doing the work that they are supposed to be doing.
If I were to intern with them, I may not be able to work very well for the fear that my body is too disgusting. I may not feel comfortable or wear the clothes that I want to wear for fear of appearing too fat. I would feel like a very ingenuine person since I have recently started believing in and attempting to practice body positivity. If I were to intern with a group known for fatphobia, I don’t think that I would be able to sleep at night. It just doesn’t sit with me well.
The group telling someone that their fat is disgusting was a red flag to me. I have struggled with body image since grade school, learning how to suck my stomach in to appear thinner at a very young age. I also know many other people (people near and dear to me) who have struggled with body their image, even to the point of developing an eating disorder. This is not okay.
It’s time that we start focusing on who people really are on the inside, what their hearts and minds are like, rather than the appearance and aesthetic of their bodies. Instead of basing someone’s worth on an arbitrary beauty standard, we should base it on what qualities and characteristics they are able to bring to the table.
Let’s judge a person on how well they treat others, how hard they work at their jobs, and who they are striving to be in a world that tells them that they may or may not amount to anything at all. Let’s not assume that fat people are lazy or are less worthy of respect than someone with an ideal body. Let’s not assume that they cannot be kind, passionate, and hard-working, interesting, funny, and full of stories that can and should be told only by them.
If we begin to treat fat people with dignity and respect, it could truly make a world of difference.