A curvy friend shared a meme on Facebook the other day that said, “Curvy girls are just as beautiful as skinny girls.  You know what that also means?  It means skinny girls are just as beautiful as curvy girls.  Don’t bash one to lift the other up.”

My initial response was to agree.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that.  Our definition of beauty is skewed by the increasingly insidious belief—which has become an expectation—that thinner is better.  But there are plenty of very beautiful women who happen to be heavy, just like there are plenty of thin women who happen to be less physically attractive than some of those beautiful curvy ones.  Weight should not be the deciding factor when measuring physical beauty.  But it too often is.

The weight-challenged have pretty much always been targets.  Our society is quick to judge, and these days, it seems judgment is passed even more quickly than it used to be on those of us afflicted, for whatever reason, with overweight issues.

Yes, I said us.  I am among those who are classified as obese.  I currently weigh close to twice as much as I did when I was twenty-one.  Well, OK, not quite, but plenty close enough.

And no, I’m not happy about it.

I’ve done Weight Watchers.  Had great success with it.  The first time, I lost thirty pounds.  The second time, forty-five.  But I weigh more now than I did when I started the program either time.

I bought a treadmill.  I honestly thought I would use it.  I don’t.

Meanwhile, as I avoid fighting the battle that I know must be fought for my health, I also avoid posting recent pictures of myself on Facebook, and when I do post something recent, I make sure my body isn’t visible.  (Since I know you’re wondering, I’ll come clean and tell you that the picture on the “About” page on this blog is only fairly recent, having been taken in 2009, which was fifteen or twenty pounds ago.)

Why do I do that?  Because being fat is BAD.  I’ve internalized the cultural expectation, just the same as almost everyone else has, and I know, or at the very least I fear, that I will be judged.  When I see recent pictures of myself, I can’t help using them to judge my value as a human being, and thus I have an unfortunate but not altogether unreasonable concern that others will do the same.  A woman’s value as a human being, in today’s culture, is inversely proportional to how much she weighs.

So for all of these reasons, I was initially inclined to agree with the message implied in the meme my friend posted.  To cheer, even.  Yes!  Yes!  Fat people are just as valuable as thin people!

Ah . . . but reality intrudes.  We aren’t.  We should be, yes, certainly–but in general terms, we aren’t.  Neither in society’s eyes, nor in our own, specifically because of the way we’re viewed by society.  Society has pretty much determined who all the valuable people are, and who is more valuable than whom.  Men more than women.  Rich more than poor.  White more than black.  Young more than old.  Thin more than fat.

I’m not saying that’s what I personally believe.  I’m saying that’s how society is.

And that was when the second part of the meme jumped out at me:  “Don’t bash one to lift the other up.”

We don’t just do this where obesity is concerned.  We do it all over the place.  This need for superiority is the foundation of all prejudice and discrimination.  All racism, all sexism, all ageism.  All the -isms.

“Don’t bash one to lift the other up.”  Thin and fat, white and black, old and young, rich and poor, “legal” and “illegal,” educated and uneducated, gay and straight, blue collar and white collar, Christians and Muslims and Jews and atheists and every other group in between—I’m talking to you.

You’re not superior.

But–and this is a big but, if you’ll forgive the pun–you are also not inferior.

You’re just human.

Is it human nature to want to be better than others? To bring one group down, humiliate them, show their real or imagined deficiencies, in order to raise our own status, both in our own eyes and in others’?

Because that’s what we do.  I love ads that show husbands changing diapers and washing dishes and doing other traditionally “female” household jobs, and ads that show both women and men in nontraditional professional settings . . . but all these ads in the past few years that make men out to be fools?  Not so much.  If one group feels it necessary to humiliate another—for example, if women feel it necessary to bring men’s status down in order to raise their own status up—then the implication is that one group IS beneath the other. The purpose should be to position ourselves BESIDE each other (neither above nor below).

Don’t bash one to lift the other up.

We’re all in this together.