“unhealthy”: on fatphobia and state violence against sex working mothers

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.

6 thoughts on ““unhealthy”: on fatphobia and state violence against sex working mothers

  1. I find myself in a somewhat similar plight. While I do not have children, I do have dogs. My neighbour has found out I am a prostitute and has taken it upon herself to “run me outta the neighbourhood” and has made numerous complaints to animal control about my dogs barking. These complaints have been completely false and are a pattern of her harassment and attempt to drive me out of the area. I have spoken to other neighbours as well as the tenant in the basement of my home if they heard my dogs bark. They said they have not and that the woman is making it up to harass me. I called the cops and lets just say they have not been so responsive to me.

    Anyhow is it just me or is being a whore a subset of being a bad mother? Why is this woman’s profession of any importance when it comes to her ability to parent? I mean we would never see an article about a city worker whose child is obese getting taken away. It does not make good news. But a whore? Oh yeah because we all know us whores are immoral/stupid/criminal people (being sarcastic). And being a whore certainly has something to do with being a bad parent *rolls eyes*.

    There could be a number of reasons why this girl is overweight, none of which have anything to do with her mother being a whore.

  2. common prostitute, you raise some really good points there, as does the writer of this blog. Social stigma and prejudice are all too often sneaky little ways of controlling and maintaining poorer people in our society, those with less opportunity, education, money, access to health etc and as you so rightly said, would we see this happen if it were a city banker with a fat child? No! Whores are always in the direct line of fire but we are the same and face the same challenges in work as any other person…good days bad days, great freedom, some pain in the ass moments. However, most of the violence and the problems we face are down to bad laws or social stigma. LET’S CHANGE THAT!!!

  3. it is disturbing the author of this article is critical of the weight loss of an obese child; that is a weird attitude. why would anyone want a child to be overweight? obesity is extremely unhealthy and potentially dangerous, e.g., Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks. no normal parent would want their overweight child exposed to such potential hazards.

    • Hi silkyvelvet, your comments reflects a misunderstanding of health that is promoted by a fat-phobic society. Many of us will have never even heard of the idea of “health at every size” but please check it out along with the It Gets Fatter Project here: http://itgetsfatter.tumblr.com/
      Also: fuck “normal”. Why try so hard to be “normal” when you can be beautiful and free?

      • i realize your response is well-meaning, and i appreciate that, but i really don’t put any stock in the anecdotal stories and self-affirmations listed in the blog you presented. i do agree with your assessment of the word “normal” in the sense that living an unconventional life is more rewarding than sticking with the tried-and-true. i would more accurately reword the last sentence in my response as “no concerned parents would want their overweight child exposed to such potential hazards.”

  4. We’re gonna have to disagree on this one silkyvelvet. No concerned parent would let their kid be bullied and internalize self-hate for having a body that is beautifully theirs no matter the size. That is actually killing kids, destroying self love and squandering unimaginable financial resources that could be directed into *anything other than punishing fat people*. I saw a little girl on a beach recently, about 3-4 years old. She had the most adorable belly hanging out of her little bikini and was so shameless and confident. She was so awesome and I wondered for how long her parents could protect her from the diet industry. Clearly she has parents who are “concerned” enough to raise a girl who feels right in her body.

    If anyone wants to add some links to all the “hard science” about the bullshit of the anti-fat industry, you’re welcome to. (Personally, I’ll take femme science any day…) Sending love to all my fat, chubby, supersize friends for all you bring to my life including this luscious brilliance! ^^

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