Walking back into the house with a new red satin teddy for tomorrow’s two-hour booking, I glanced down at the Sydney Morning Herald and spotted the two headlines: “Cancer deaths much higher for Aborigines” (no shit, we needed another study to tell us that colonialism is bad for Indigenous people’s health?) and directly below it, this headline: “Girl, 12, turns her life around after removal from mother”
Huh. Since when is forced removal a good thing for kids? I wondered.
Answer: when the mom is a hooker and the kid–no, the daughter— is fat.
Turns out this article is about a sex worker who’s had her “obese” “unhygenic” daughter removed from her. Nothing triggered this article. It was written just to demonstrate how “prostitutes” make fucked up, unfit mothers who let their kids get fat and obviously don’t know how to raise proper little middle class white girls who eat “healthy” and play sports. This maps directly onto ideas that sex workers, and certainly sex working mothers are unhealthy. That we are unfit parents, vectors of disease, lazy, unhealthy to our communities, social fabric and to a threat to heterosexual marriages (god I can only hope so).
There is mention that the woman exposed her daughter to “inappropriate sexual issues”. What the fuck does that mean? That the daughter knew she worked? That mom didn’t enforce middle-class white norms around sexuality? Again, this does not require explanation because a sex working mother is defined already as inappropriately sexual and a danger.
There is reference to the mom possibly having mental health issues. Y’know what? I’m the daughter of a single mom and a fuck of alot of them have mental health issues because it’s BRUTALLY HARD TO BE A SINGLE MOM. Instead of punishing mothers for failing to be perfectly happy robo-women, how about providing support and self-determination so they don’t drown? And by support, I’m talking decent wages, culturally appropriate childcare, educational opportunities and respect. And as for sex working moms? DECRIMINALIZE AND DESTIGMATIZE.
But mostly the author delights in sharing how the girl had “turned her life around” with, among other things, a “less sedentary lifestyle” and substantial weight loss. I wonder if this child apprehension would have happened if the child had been a boy as a girl child is much more likely to be seen as emotionally and physically unhealthy due to fatness.
I am specifically using the word “fat” here and not “overweight” or “obese” because I think these latter terms are bullshit made up by not-fat people to police and punish people (especially women and girls). Not only is there is nothing wrong with being fat–it’s awesome. Or it’s irrelevant. But one thing I know for sure is that it’s none of my business.
This removal, this violation of a mother’s right to raise her own child, is the terrible example of how fatphobia, sexism and ableism can be used to legitimize whorephobic state violence against poor and working class sex working mothers– in some incredibly vicious ways, up to and including stealing their own children.
ps check out this great resource on fatness: the It Gets Fatter project for some sense around size.