I just finished the first week of the online course I teach, Babecamp. For this session, I decided to try adding a new component I had never incorporated before — a Facebook group, where people could support one another, talk about the day’s homework, ask questions and just vent about anxieties or blow off steam about living in a horribly fatphobic culture. Can I just go right into a PSA for venting right now?
Venting. Is. So. Important!
I just got out of a relationship where I was encouraged never to vent because my partner perceived venting as complaining and I think he saw complaining as a sign of a bad work ethic or perhaps an inauspicious expression of ingratitude. I have a theory that he grew up in a household that had a zero-tolerance policy toward venting. I will admit, though, that I don’t know exactly what the core of his discomfort was. I do know, however, that it was very stifling being unable to discuss things that brought up discomfort, anger or confusion in my life. Like, when I ran into a neighbor who is also a suspected fatphobe at the coffee shop, or someone gave me side-eye on the train. I wanted to be able to talk freely about it, but I knew I had to save that conversation for a date with a friend.
Because I was discouraged from talking about these experiences, they sort of rattled around in my head endlessly. I didn’t have a sounding board to tell me “Yes, that is how I too would have perceived this behavior” or “Have you considered that maybe this person meant this instead of that?”
For people who are in the process of healing from diet culture, we are often wading through an enormous ocean of misinformation, gas lighting and dirty ol’ lies. Without access to venting, our emotions and thoughts occur in sort of a vacuum where we can easily talk ourselves out of what may well be very astute analysis.
Venting is seen as the domain of femininity, and so it has a special extra charge because it is considered something that primarily or exclusively women do (which in a culture likes our, immediately casts suspicion upon it).
Stigmatized people need to be able to vent so we can share information and analysis about the world around us, gauge how others experience the same stimuli, receive and practice empathy, and feel not crazy in a world that is trying to make us feel crazy in order to stop us from rioting in the streets and demanding justice.
Venting is something I grew up with. The women in my family vent all day, every day. They would vent about how awful life is, how unfair it was that someone was a widow before another person was a widow, about the shifting prices of things, how one grocery store was illogically more expensive than another, how no one had sent a Christmas/birthday card, and a plethora of other rotating topics. Coming up with a solution or a resolution was not the point, but being able to discuss what was irking them felt very validating to these women whose entire lives revolved around the home and their families.
I know that not everyone has the same appetite for The Vent, but when it comes to doing work around diet culture and fatphobia, venting is a powerful tool. For people who are in the process of healing from diet culture, we are often wading through an enormous ocean of misinformation, gas lighting and dirty ol’ lies. Without access to venting, our emotions and thoughts occur in sort of a vacuum where we can easily talk ourselves out of what may well be very astute analysis.
For me, the right to vent is self-care and undoing just a little bit of the damage of living in a culture that seeks to undermine my sense of reality every day.
So, I’d like to give anyone who’s reading this permission to share things – good and bad.
Go forth, and vent on.