By Sasha - 04 Apr 2012

Public Bodies

Your freakish author with Phil Plait, 2011 (Photo: Taylor Proctor)

I’m a very large man. I’m 6’5″ (~196 cm) tall and weigh in around 400 pounds (~181 kg). I started losing my hair when I was 16 years old. I wear glasses. Those are things I have little-to-no control over. I also have tattoos that are almost always visible and a beard ranging from goatee-and-mustache with stubble to full, depending on how ambitious I’ve been lately. I’m funny looking. My appearance attracts attention.

Not only would I make a terrible bank robber because of how easy I am to pick out of a line-up, but my appearance frequently invites comment from strangers on the street. I’m asked if I play basketball, football, or if I’m a wrestler. Drunks say “I wouldn’t want to fight you!” When I worked in a night club drunks would attack me to prove their courage. More commonly they say or shout “Damn, you’re big!” Usually once a week complete strangers ask me how tall I am. Monthly a stranger violates social taboos and asks what I weigh.

I’ve had more than my share of very uncomfortable moments in elevators and other enclosed spaces where people violate my personal space to discuss my body. Usually they are curious, often they are insulting, occasionally they are threatening. In our society I have privilege as a man. I don’t usually worry about violence being done against me, but there are times that privilege is gone. There are times when I am reduced to my body and feel harassed, annoyed, and even unsafe.

My point here is not to feel sorry for myself. What I’m talking about is that my freakish body gives me an occasional, unpleasant, and very unsettling glimpse at what every woman lives with every momement of every day. I am singled out and I am objectified (and not in the sexual way we usually think of when we use that word) because my body deviates from the norm. In our society every woman is treated as if her body is abnormal. By being gendered as a woman in society makes her body public.

I sure as fuck hate that that happens to me, I’m sure you would hate if that happened to you, and I can only imagine how maddening and frightening it is for women.

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