Content warning for weight loss and talking about being fat.
I just found out about “scopophobia” – the morbid fear of being stared at. For most of my life, social anxiety has been present and a large part of it is about the fear of being seen and acknowledged.
In a weird way, I have always felt invisible OR hypervisible1 – I have no idea how that works but it is what it is. It might be that I don’t consider myself to be real, and when I am acknowledged it’s confronting and shocking to me? I remember feeling like a ghost when I have been really sick.
When I was a lot fatter it was even more of an issue for me and I don’t think that’s imaginary – people dismiss and discount fat people’s existence but they also target fat people to ostracise and embarrass them. My social anxiety was absolutely at its height when I was very fat.
At my current body size, my anxiety about being hypervisible has mostly evaporated. I must stress this part though: I do not think that reducing the body is the solution for this phobia, the issue is cultural. It is fatmisia (fat hatred). My social anxiety has always been present but the cultural hatred and exclusion of the fat body aggravated my existing mental disorder.
When you leave the house and can’t fit into seating, find clothes that fit, health workers dismiss your valid health concerns2 and blame it on fatness, your job opportunities are limited, people look at you and even say hateful things to you/ about you… you don’t feel welcome in the world. The world doesn’t want to include you. I think that falls into a failing of our culture, an active malevolence and violence against the fat body. It’s not necessarily a mental disorder.
- I was first introduced to the paradox of invisibility/ hypervisibility through the writing of black women. Particularly fat black women. Many of those writings were in the 00s and a lot of blogs have been deleted from the internet which is absolutely tragic. This is a scholarly article on the topic as it applies to black women. ↩︎
- I am not fond of the medicalised term “obese” but a lot of research uses it and while a lot of the research validates fat embodiment and experience it also reinforces the pathologisation of the fat body instead of recognising that disadvantage is also due to capitalism, social abuse and physical exclusion (amongst other things.) ↩︎