I Want to Break Free

Shiloh Marie:

I too struggle with the notion that fat activism isn’t valid unless it includes aspects antithetical to the main core tenets.
“Reductionism is the dominant paradigm – and FA should not have to “make space” for something that already takes up ALL of the space. I had believed fat/body acceptance to be about breaking down dominant paradigms and being a space where fat people could have some respite from that constant harassment to lose weight, but more and more often I feel that I’m being pushed into being accommodating to a world that has refused to accommodate me.” – Kath

Originally posted on Fat Heffalump:

I came to a realisation last night.  Thanks to discussions on Twitter and Facebook, I realised that I no longer consider myself aligned to either fat acceptance or body acceptance.

Don’t be too alarmed, I’m still the same rad fat feminist I was before yesterday, I’m not about to start pushing diets and fat hate at you and change the direction of this blog.  I’m still a fat activist, and a proud one at that.  I just no longer wish to be aligned with the concepts of fat acceptance or body acceptance.

The epiphany was twofold.  Firstly, I came to the realisation that I have a problem with the concept of mere acceptance of fat people.  I think we deserve more than to be merely accepted into society.  We should be valued members of society, not merely accepted ones.  In the discussion we had on Twitter, someone mentioned that in…

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Fat America: Profiting off the Majority-Minority

Fat Wallet

A fundamental pillar of body diversity activism is the concept that fat people are a persecuted minority in this country. Statistically, people classified as “overweight” actually make up over two-thirds of the population. That means we can’t be considered as a minority, right?

Wrong.

This statistical discrepancy is used as fuel to discredit the body acceptance movement. What a cursory internet search reveals, however, is that this is a legitimate phenomenon called the “majority-minority”. In Texas, New Mexico, and California, for example, non-White Hispanics constitute a majority-minority, in that their population outnumbers that of other races in the same region. This majority-minority status does not negate the discrimination faced by the Hispanic population. Things like housing discrimination and hate crimes (which among immigrant populations are most likely higher than reported due to fear of deportation), are just as bad in these states compared to states where Hispanics are merely a minority-minority group.

Increased population, and thus visibility, is not a cure for discrimination. This is painfully apparent when looking at the treatment of fat people. Even though fat bodies, or at least bigger than “average” bodies (think about that statement for a second) are by far the numerically dominant group. Logically, businesses should be catering to us. Services should be catering to us. People who make waiting room seats, underpants, and cars should all be catering to our big butts. There are billions of dollars to be made here. A capitalist’s wet dream.

Instead, I hear arguments along the lines of, “just because you’ve let yourself get fat doesn’t mean you deserve special treatment”.

Is it special treatment when it directly caters toward the majority of people?

In fact, weight-loss is a huge money-making industry. It just doesn’t cater to us. It tricks us into THINKING it’s catering to us. In actuality, it’s taking advantage of us. Warning: dieting and weight shaming ahead.

From media empire charlatans …

… to the tech industry …

… to multi-level marketing schemes…

… to the pharmaceutical industry …

The diet industry is a $60 billion a year industry, and it works if your metric for “working” is making a shit ton of money reliably over time. What it doesn’t succeed in doing, however, is helping people lose weight and achieve that much sought-after “average”-ness. Most people regain the weight they lose. Businesses and corporations stand to gain by keeping your sad ass fat, and your fat ass sad. By treating the majority like a minority group, by keeping us feeling disenfranchised, lonely, ugly, and unloveable, corporations can keep us buying things that don’t work and things we don’t need. Fat Americans face discrimination on an economic level, with constant messages telling us we aren’t worth anything unless we change. That we don’t deserve to be treated well unless we stop being “lazy” and “exert some effort”. We are subjected to scare tactics, personal attacks, and public shame. “Average” and “thin” people are susceptible to these messages as well. People are pressured to utilize “willpower” to maintain their physique, to eat certain foods and take certain medicines so they don’t devolve into a dreaded fat person. This fuels societal stigma, and creates a body-type based class system where thin people benefit from fat people staying fat. People who stay “fit” because they “put down the cheeseburger” or “get off their ass”. They can feel superior. They can feel “better than”. They can feel right, as long as they keep taking their probiotics and count every calorie and exercise 90 minutes a day.

Show me a world where we aren’t profiting off telling people being fat is bad and you might just have a case against the overweight in this country being a true minority.

Jokey the Beagle goes on a Diet

chalkboard-fat-267x267

It’s Circle Time, children! Gather around! Today we will learn about Jokey the Beagle.

Jokey the Beagle was big. Jokey the Beagle was fat. The vet said that Jokey was too big and too fat. Jokey needed to go on a diet.

The vet told Jokey’s family that Jokey needed to eat very little. Jokey needed to eat very little so he would lose weight. Jokey’s family did what the vet said and fed Jokey very little. 

Jokey stayed on his diet for 10 days. On the 11th day, Jokey’s family took him to the grocery store. Jokey was very hungry. He snuck away and ate some dog biscuits. Jokey felt bad, but he did not feel hungry.

The vet was happy because Jokey lost weight. His family was happy because the vet said Jokey would be healthier. Jokey was still hungry.

Did you like that story, children? Any questions? 

Why was Jokey’s family happy when Jokey was hungry? Good question! It was because Jokey was healthier.

Why was Jokey unhealthy? Because he was too big and that means he could get sick.

If Jokey didn’t want to go on a diet, and was hungry, why did his family make him do it? Well, Jokey didn’t know any better. He can’t make decisions for himself. He’s a dog.

Now it’s time for us to work on our assignment. Turn to page 29 in your workbook. Touch Part A of Lesson 9.

Jokey the Dog

“Everybody in the pictures below should be on a diet. Under each person, write what kind of diet the person should be on. Write L under the two people who need a diet to lose weight. Write P under the two people who need a diet to put on weight. Write H under the two people who need to be on a diet to stay healthy.”


While this story is paraphrased, the student workbook page is 100% genuine. It comes from a program called Reading Mastery, an edition for 3rd graders. 10 year olds. Kids who rely on their families, teachers, and schools to guide them. Kids who are just starting to develop their own body images. Children who, like Jokey, don’t know any better.

Imagine yourself, as a 10 year old, looking at those six people. What context do you have? Well, you know Jokey was too big. You know that Jokey needed to eat little so he could lose weight. You also know he needed to lose weight to be healthy. But these people aren’t dogs. They are people that look like all the other people in your life. There are two that are bigger. If the story is right, those people must be unhealthy! They need a diet to lose weight! The story didn’t talk about diets to put on weight, though. Does that mean being too small is unhealthy, too? And that as long as you stay in between, you’ll stay healthy?

Consider this paper out of the University of South Australia by Birbeck and Drummond (2006) entitled Very young children’s body image: Body and minds under construction. In it, the authors use a similar set of pictures and interview a group of five and six year olds with questions like:

  • Which of these images looks the most like you?
  • If I was Harry Potter and I could change you into any one of these images, which one
    would you like me to change you in to? Remember you might have to stay that way for a
    long time so it needs to be one that you really like. Why?
  • Harry Potter sometimes makes mistakes. What if by accident he turned you into this
    image (largest person). How would you feel? Why?
  • Out of all of these images which three would you invite to your birthday party? Why?

According to the authors, the real information comes from the “why” questions. Girls tended to make associations with the thinner figures, saying they were probably blond with blue eyes and a tan. The smaller figures were nicer and kinder. They did not want to be like the bigger figures, because they feared being teased or were already teased as “fat”. The boys frequently saw the larger figures as aggressors, bossy, or threatening. 

Even at this very young age, the link between health and size is being solidified. Consider the following:

The children’s perception of the images regarded as being healthy varied widely but can be categorised as belonging to broadly three constructions. For some children the thinnest images, Images 1 and 2, represent the healthiest bodies. Typically comments such as “they look good, they  are on diets, and they are skinny”, support their choice.

Another group identified images in the mid-range as being healthiest because, as (one boy) claims “the little ones have not eaten enough healthy food and the big ones have eaten too much fat food, probably hamburgers and nuggets.” The children’s understanding of health includes their own creative understandings with respect to what they have been taught.

When you delve even more deeply into the responses, you start to hear a strong parent tape, the voice of an authority figure coming out of the mouth of a child:

“The three thin ones have not eaten enough lollies to keep you just right. If all you eat is dairy you are always going to get skinnier but if you eat just some lollies you’ll be just right. It is really, really important to be the right shape.”

Black and white. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Is that really the best tactic when teaching children about body types and body image? Is it appropriate to create associations between body type, health, and worth at such a young age when, much like Jokey the Beagle, they can’t possibly understand the power of such value-laden, biased judgements? This is a form of indoctrination that is rarely questioned because, hey, we want “healthy” kids who make “good choices”. I am so grateful our children can now make good choices like dieting and excluding other children from birthday parties. 

Don’t worry readers! We haven’t forgotten you!

The Fat Word has been on a temporary hiatus to investigate new ways to garner support for the cause through cross promotion and public speaking. In the meantime, stay tuned for new content featuring childhood body image and stereotyping from a young age.

How to know if you’re a Men’s Rights Activist

privilegedude

I generally consider Facebook to be a fairly neutral place for internet discussion. It’s not a magical, fluffy land of Charlie Day GIFs and body-pos posts of girls in crop tops like we’d find on Tumblr, and it’s not the demoralizing, Libertarian fuckery of Reddit. ‘Taint quite Reddit, ‘taint quite Tumblr.

Facebook is the taint of the internet.

Every so often, while balanced comfortably on the taint, someone can come flying in from one side or the other and catch us off guard, American Gladiator-style. While startling, these encounters can actually become learning experiences. We can learn a lot about people, and a lot about ourselves. Today, I learned that I am not a Men’s Rights Activist.


HOW TO TELL IF YOU ARE A MEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

1. #NotAllMen, but #TotesSomeWomen

You respond to this article with the following comment:

MRA1

To which a logical person might respond by saying:
MRA2And you retort with:

MRA3

2. “Your feminism isn’t REAL feminism”

MRA4

To which someone might logically respond thusly:

MRA5

3. RAPE CARD

This is a form of #TotesSomeWomen, but more ignorant and significantly more rapey:

MRA7 MRA6

Cue the feminist OP and then incredulous me:

MRA8

And then you continue:

MRA104. Failing to understand the conveyed message

You might be an MRA if you require this level of detail:

MRA11MRA12

…. and even after that, you still don’t get it:

MRA13

5. DERP PATRIARCHY WAT

If you look around, desperately trying to find something everyone’s pointing at, and you can’t see it. chances are YOU are that thing being pointed at.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 5.52.36 PM

MRA14

6. “I support women more than feminism does!”

You think women are victims of feminism:

MRA15


Are you frustrated by how often you, a man, are held accountable for your own actions? Do you hate being lumped in with all of the “assholes” who are the real problems? Do you want to be able to bring a rose to your lady-love without having your balls cut off?

You might be a Men’s Rights Activist.

Growing Straw Men in a Field of False Equivalence: Conflating HAES with Fat Acceptance

straw men

The fat acceptance debate is one fraught with logical fallacies. People who don’t support fat acceptance cite a variety of reasons.

Fat is ugly.

Being fat can’t be healthy.

Fat people use up a disproportionate amount of resources.

Accepting fat people is acknowledging fat is okay.

The list goes on.

Health at Every Size is a movement dating back to the ’60s and, simply put, it states that aggressive dieting rarely works, and is emotionally and physically damaging. The idea is that everyone has their own natural metabolic weight ranges, and through intuitive eating, paying attention to what one’s body needs, and providing nutritious and varied meals combined with enjoyable exercise, the body will find its own set weight point for optimum metabolism and health. In short, many attempts to lose weight through drastic dieting do not lead to successful, sustained weight loss over time, and optimal mental and physical health comes from self-acceptance.

Self acceptance is the only real link between fat acceptance and HAES. HAES is a lifestyle. HAES is a choice people make for themselves to promote their own health and well-being. Fat acceptance is none of those things.

Fat acceptance is a movement. It is based in justice, equal rights, fairness, ethics, and inclusivity.

Fat acceptance isn’t a bunch of Tumblrinas HAES-binging on cupcakes screaming “MUH CURVES”.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating thin people.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating “small fats” for not having as tough a time as fatter women.

Fat acceptance isn’t about food.

Fat acceptance isn’t about dieting.

Fat acceptance isn’t even about science. Science is HAES territory.

Fat acceptance is a campaign to end weight discrimination and the negative stigma perpetuated by societal pressures of consumerism and mass media.

Fat acceptance is the idea that no one, regardless of size, deserves to be treated poorly.

No, you DON’T have to find us attractive. Attractiveness has nothing to do with equitable treatment.

No, you DON’T get to worry about our health status. Health status has nothing to do with fair treatment.

… And there’s the rub. When you lump HAES in with fat acceptance, you are opening the door for all sorts of fallacious arguments. It’s food for the Concern Trolls who seek to delegitimize the fat acceptance movement with health science “proving” fat is unhealthy and therefore is not an acceptable way to live. It also invites in all of the simplistic calories in/calories out “nutrition experts” saying that, if we’re unhappy, it’s because we aren’t taking the necessary steps to make our lives better.

How people appear, how they feel, how abled they are, what their BMI is, none of that matters. A fat person with diabetes deserves to be treated the same as a fat person with perfect metabolic health, a thin person with great metabolic health, or a thin person with terrible metabolic health.

Health. Is. Not. Relevant. Period. This is an issue of discrimination and tolerance. Using health status to justify why we shouldn’t treat everyone with the same care and compassion is a slippery slope. Making assumptions about a person’s lifestyle and then judging people based on those assumptions is unconscious, societally-bred prejudice at best, and at worst it is open hostility toward someone who does not conform to a prescribed “normal”.

If we open up HAES as a talking point in any debate about the fat acceptance movement, we are not just opening up the field in which detractors can erect straw men; we are giving them the straw for free, and showing them the best and most efficient means for construction. People will start trying to prove that being fat is bad for your health. They will turn the conversation from a social justice issue to a health science issue. It will become a discussion of will power, of laziness, of lack of motivation. It will become a conversation of “but we’re just trying to help motivate you to make better life choices!”

Fuck life choices. Who’s job is it to police life choices? Especially if said policing is, in actuality, just inferring one’s life choices with a cursory glance, confirming “yup, that’s a fatty!”, and then telling them to feel bad for it.

It’s my body. It changes. It gets bigger, it gets smaller. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. It does not matter. It’s my own goddamned business. My body, body choices, and health status do not factor into the reality that I am a human being, a member of society, and deserve to be recognized and respected as such.

“If you worked out as hard as you blogged, you wouldn’t need to blog anymore.”

Opponents will bring it back to metabolic health, again and again, because FACTS SCIENCE FATTY LIVER DEATH FAT DIABEETUS is the only real leg they have to stand on, and a hollow one at that, because again:

HEALTH STATUS IS IRRELEVANT in issues of basic human rights and social justice.

Yes, there are many fat people who practice HAES. There are thin people who practice HAES as well. HAES has self-acceptance at its core; it plays a key role in helping people overcome disordered eating, low self-esteem, and other symptoms of fat discrimination.

Fat acceptance is the movement that will end fat discrimination.

Here’s a space cupcake:

space cupcake

The Acceptance Gap: Partners

By sc189 on Deviant Art

Continued from The Acceptance Gap: Friends

Definition of THE ACCEPTANCE GAP

When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.

We have compiled vignettes submitted by readers. These are all genuine; nothing has been added except formatting.


“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”

― E.E. Cummings

One of the hardest relationship struggles is when our partners, the people we choose to be our lifelong companions, do not see eye-to-eye on an issue which we hold close to our hearts. What’s worse is when that issue is, on a fundamental level, tied directly to our self esteem. Body positivity and fat acceptance are both shield and spear used to protect us from derision while simultaneously asserting our rights as individuals to live our lives how we choose. What happens when our lovers break our spears, sunder our shields? With our armor gone, can we still be the vanguard?

Barbed words and open wounds:

My husband is not supportive of the fat acceptance/body positive movement. We love each other dearly and are very devoted to one another, and have a great sex life; we both think the other is hot and desire each other. We have similar life goals and have a lot of fun together. We are both larger individuals though I am morbidly obese and he is overweight. He hates his own body and has an extreme problem with his body image. When we argue, though, and especially when issues about fatness come up – for us, it’s around meals and whether or not to have kids – we fight about fatness. Specifically, when my husband gets very angry and past the point of his ability to control his mouth attached to his emotions, he says very hurtful, awful things about fatness. Specifically, mine – that he’s ashamed to be seen in public with me, that I should feel ashamed in public, I obviously eat too much and unhealthily because if I did I’d be thin, etc. Generally hateful and incorrect assumptions.

These things always hurt my feelings and I get understandably angry about them. I also realize that he says these things when he’s feeling badly about himself – and when he feels emotionally attacked, either from himself or by me over a completely different topic, he lashes out. And as painful/angering as it is, it’s not enough that I want to throw away my marriage and the majority of our relationship that is good.

The eye of the beholder:

I’ve had some problems talking to my boyfriend about fat representation in art. I follow a wonderful blog called Keep Ursula Fat on tumblr and their aim is to point out fat erasure in the Disney fandom with their most popular fat villain. Despite being a villain, Ursula is a fantastic fat character, who is sexy and confident and is happy with her body. Too many fanartists out there are depicting her as thinner than she actually is, and as an Ursula cosplayer, lifelong Little Mermaid fan and fat woman, I love this blog and join in on discussion from time to time.

A recent post that I put on my main blog (I have a side blog for most of my political opinions, which is also something I do to maintain my IRL relationships) was seen by my boyfriend and he figured that the Keep Ursula Fat blog was overreacting to one image, which depicted Ursula as a smaller fat instead of the fabulous size she is. According to the media’s standards, this Ursula was a little chubby, but part of her fatness had still been erased. It’s dumb to have to argue with him that, yes she was still chubby, but no that blogger was not overreacting. For the most part, we see eye to eye on socio-political issues, but the world of art is where we both have stronger feelings.

The exception to the rule:

My husband knows that I work out 5-9 hours a week and he knows that I eat the same amount as he does. He stays “normal” weight and I stay “morbidly obese”. When people say fat-phobic things to me, his response is, “but most people your size don’t take care of themselves the way you do” or “they are just trying to be helpful because most obese people aren’t healthy like you are”. It doesn’t matter. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Whether they overeat or not, whether they work out or not, NOBODY deserves that.

I consider myself lucky that I am married to a wonderful ally, someone who supports my work in BA/FA and fully understands the concepts of privilege, discrimination, and human rights. However, even when we argue about something petty, something unrelated to activism, it cuts. It wounds. It shakes up my worldview and causes me to question my own beliefs.

Remember, readers: equal rights, equal representation, anti-discrimination, self-love, these things are not beliefs. They are truths. You can always pick up another spear. Need a shield? Take mine. I have plenty. Family, friends, lovers, their opinions matter. But when their beliefs hurt? Take shelter in your community. We’ll protect you while you heal up, until you’re ready to reenter the fray.

The Acceptance Gap: Friends

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.03.35 AM

Continued from The Acceptance Gap: Families

Definition of THE ACCEPTANCE GAP

When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.

We have compiled vignettes submitted by readers. These are all genuine; nothing has been added except formatting.


Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?

– Abraham Lincoln

There is a saying something along the lines of “you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends”, and to a large extent it rings true. However, we as people are not static beings. We are dynamic. We change and evolve. We don’t stay in the same place, think the same things, and hold the same values for the entirety of our lives. We make friends, and unless we co-evolve in the same general direction, our friendships dry up, weaken, or dissolve altogether. Naturally, we don’t want to lose our allies and friends because they mean something to us. They validate us and our existence via their own existence. It’s natural to want to preserve and nurture friendships for that reason. How do we know when, how, and for how long we should try to sustain? What happens when we realize a friend who has been so devoted, so true, has views diametrically opposed to our own? When it comes to fat acceptance, there is no clear answer.

The breaking of ties:

My best friend, who was actually involved in the body acceptance movement decided to get cosmetic surgery… by which I mean weight loss surgery. I guess she didn’t understand or support fat acceptance or body positivity like I thought she did. In the end I decided that, for my own mental well being, I had to get away from that person.

Blindsided by personal truth:

One of my closest friends (a fat lady like me) seemed interested in all of my talk about fat acceptance and body positivity. We used to hang out a lot. The more I would talk about it, the less we hung out. We became distant. One day, she came to me and told me that all of my fat acceptance talk was making her feel worse about her body. She didn’t like to think of herself as fat. She wanted to diet and lose weight for “health reasons”. I decided to just remove fat acceptance talk from our interactions. I feel terrible thinking about not having her in my life.

Staying strong with a toxic roommate:

When I was in ED Treatment, I met several people who were to become very close friends of mine. One of them, is now my roommate. We had the same diagnosis and we went to all the same group sessions as well as the educational sessions together. I tried to encourage him to read some of the stuff I was reading…he didn’t want to, as he put it “I don’t want to spend any more of my time thinking about this “stuff”. I have seen first hand the kind of progress he has made…he’s gone from a sedentary, sleep deprived 27 year old man, to a 28 year old who is doing challenging (for anyone) hikes, splitting cords of wood and is now truly LIVING his life.

The other night he was upset and in a crappy mood. So I asked what was wrong. He had gotten on his scale and found out that he hasn’t lost any weight in 4 months. I told him that while I didn’t know what the scale said, I could see that his body HAS changed and that he is much more fit and active than he was 6 months ago. While telling him this he claimed he didn’t want to go into diet mode, but he was going to cut back on his snacking…I’ve already seen him reduce his food intake a few months back. He said he couldn’t stand his lack of progress and I explained all the progress I have seen him make. Then “I can’t be healthy at 400 pounds. I’m going to die an early death. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurts. I’m headed to an early grave.”

Here is a guy that has completely changed his life and just because the fucking scale hasn’t moved he’s going to die an early death? UGH I’m hoping that with age he will maybe gain more perspective…I know I wasn’t ready to accept myself or embrace HAES at 28…hell, I don’t even know if there WAS such a thing then…I’m 40 now. I’ve had people ask me if it’s triggering to live with him and it’s not…because the kinds of conversations like we had above strengthen my resolve and make me reflect on how much better live is now, than it was before I found HAES and FA.

When you can’t tell the differences between allies and enemies:

I can’t talk/vent about my spousal fights because people are incredibly judging of someone who says mean things to fat people (even if they believe personally that fatness is bad). They also are very judging of me for staying with him. My friends regularly encourage me to leave my husband, and a few times, to cheat on him. This is so hurtful to me and even though I express this gently to my friends I generally feel I can’t. It’s very isolating to not have anyone to talk to about our fights when I want to process and feel validated in my opinions without him being judged as a horrible person and me as stupid, weak, or something else negative for wanting to stay with him.

One of the key characteristics seen again and again regarding friends and fat acceptance is a propensity for judgmental thoughts. People feel judged by their friends for supporting fat acceptance. People feel judged by their friends for not understanding fat acceptance. People feel judged by their friends for not agreeing with the fat acceptance movement. People are judgmental of their own bodies. People judge themselves for judging others. There are a lot of shoulds, musts, and oughts when talking about civil rights and body autonomy. How much judgment should we take? How much is reasonable to give? Perhaps it’s variable. Perhaps there is a correlation between how much we want to preserve a relationship (fucks given) and the amount of judgmental sentiment polluting the relationship (toxic waste).

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.03.35 AMWhen you see the end coming, you feel it in the pit of your stomach. You think that maybe, if you hold on tight, you can ride it out. Once you hit the bottom of Shit-Splash Mountain, however, you’ll never get the stink out. It’ll always be there, lingering. The question is, can you learn to live with it?

Stay tuned for the final installment, The Acceptance Gap: Partners.

 

The Acceptance Gap: Families

family

Some of you may be familiar with our recent anonymous poll asking one question:

Describe an experience or conflict where someone close to you didn’t support/understand the fat acceptance/body positivity movement.

The purpose? Create an outlet for those who have complicated relationships with other people who do not support or understand the fat acceptance movement. It is difficult to work on building positive self-image and fighting prejudice when surrounded by people who reject these notions. We weren’t sure what sort of responses we’d receive, or how many. Maybe people wouldn’t be interested in telling their stories. Maybe there wouldn’t be many stories to tell.

Oh, how we were wrong. We here at The Fat Word have stumbled upon something we like to call “The Acceptance Gap”:

Definition of THE ACCEPTANCE GAP

When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.

We have compiled vignettes submitted by readers. These are all genuine; nothing has been added except formatting.


The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.

― Jim Morrison

Immediate family often have the biggest impact on how we act, what we do, and how we see the world. They are the initial shaping forces as we grow and mature, and more often that not we maintain strong relationships with these people. Oftentimes, our close family members just don’t “get it” when it comes to fat acceptance and body positivity because it feels counter to the ideals the “health” and body shame industrial complexes push so hard for.  These are tales of expectations not met, of disappointment, and judgement.

A brainwashing grandma:

At home I teach my children, a 7-year-old gender creative child and an 8-year-old daughter, about body positivity and fat acceptance. My graduate studies are in this area. Yet, after a weekend with grandma, my daughter came home telling me how many ‘points’ were in all the foods I was eating, and it broke my heart.

A mom who knows God wants you to be thin:

I love my mom dearly. I really wouldn’t exchange for another one. That said, she does not have a very open mind. Religiously she believes that all negative things, emotions (she has a way longer list than I do on the subject), are something that the Devil and his allies whisper to you, and you accept what was whispered as your truth. This is how she copes with most things in life. Especially when it comes to her own actions, or lack there of. She is fat as well as I am. Her whole side of the family is. Yet when it comes to accepting and loving our bodies as they are, it takes her to a place I do not want to go. Even though her belief system says she is to love herself, she cannot get past the devil’s whispers. As in she believes her fat is because she accepted something whispered to her as truth that really isn’t and that is why she is fat. She believes she (and everyone else too) would be healthy, disease free, without the help of any kind of medical assistance if they didn’t believe the devil’s whispered lies. To her fat is unhealthy because God did not intend for us to be fat.

Aunts who praise weight loss over health or activity:

I often talk about HAES and have been shamed for being humorless at family gatherings when I pointed out fat-shaming and said it wasn’t funny. I’ve invited my aunt to my belly dance performances several times over the years and she often declines or says she’ll come and then no call, no show. So I’ll share photos or video of the performance with my family afterward, and the most praise she ever sent me was, “I like you covered up and it creates a prettier line with the soft sleeves etc…. Just a plug from Aunt [L] for conservatism in dress!:) Love you pumpkin” I’ve been practicing belly dance since 2006 and am very passionate about performance. That comment wrecked my headspace for nearly a week. More than a year later I told my family that I’d placed 3rd in my age group at a 10k race, something I never expected to accomplish, and she said, “Congratulations! You look great! One of the perks of regular running and exercise.” Seriously?! For one, when have I ever not looked great? I’ve been running regularly for over four YEARS. And two, I’m here talking about my ATHLETIC achievement. My appearance and weight haven’t changed by any significant factor and are not at all within the realm of my fitness goals. Though I understand that she’s trying to be complimentary and it’s the sort of thing that she wishes she could achieve or be told, it really hurts that all she sees is the size of my belly.

A mom who runs the gamut from subtle psychological abuse, to criticism, to denial:

My mum was really hard on me growing up for being fat. Constantly comparing me to my thin friend (who frankly had basically the same lifestyle as me, I should know, I hung out with them), getting angry at me when my clothes wouldn’t fit. Putting me on diets and making me go to the gym etc. For years I took it, and actively hated my own body as well. Discovering fat acceptance was incredibly freeing for me, but before long I began to see the utter injustice in the way my mother was treating me.

I started to confront her about it. It lead to some pretty big arguments before I moved out, but even in the most civil of times it was the same thing. I’d come at her with all sorts of facts and figures I’d learned (as if we need scientific proof that people should be treated decently…) and her response would essentially be “yeah but fat”.

The last time I was properly willing to have a conversation about it was a few months ago. My confidence was higher than it had ever been so I was able to really talk and not let her shut me down. I came up with plenty of points she couldn’t directly argue against, which is always a little victory.

In the end, she changed tactics, suggesting that I was overreacting to everything, that none of this is really that big a deal, or doesn’t exist all together. In the end, I just rattled off down the phone a long list of very recent instances of the ways fat people have been seriously harmed or even killed by doctors working off of stereotypes instead of responsible medicine. I capped it off with “I’m passionate about this because this is my life. This isn’t just because people say nasty things to me on the street sometimes. If attitudes towards fat people don’t change, I could be killed because of it in the future.” Will that get through to her? Or will she still think the obvious answer is I lose weight? I may never know. I’m in no rush to talk.

Having to carry mom’s baggage:

My mother has always supported me in other things: my work, my hobbies, my activities. But this body love/HAES adventure? This my mother does not understand. She is big herself. She has slimmed down, ballooned back up again and again through all the different diets and propaganda (like Sensa, Atkins, South Beach, The Rice Diet, etc).

She has tried to get me to participate with her, I refuse. But every time I take a step forward (healthy eating, starting to walk, etc.) something like a diet creeps in and suddenly she is portioning MY food, telling ME what to eat to lose weight. I have stayed at a steady 274 for the last 3 yrs regardless of what I do, regardless of her portioning and pushing me.

My boyfriend thinks I am beautiful, and wants me to eat healthy and take my time losing weight because he knows if he pushes I will push back. My mother does not understand this concept. I am independent, I am stubborn, and I rebel against people telling me what to do- especially involving my health. Back to my mother, when I introduced her to the thought of HAES (Healthy at Every Size)- she asked if they had an eating plan. I was ill prepared for this reaction: No mom. It’s not a diet. It’s a way of life- it’s your own plan and you get to love your body for how it is, if there are weight loss results from getting healthy then great, but it is about body love, not body hate until you get into that size 8 (which is what we equate to non-plus size).

Her answer: Oh, no plan. It’s not for me. As if all the other plans she had been on had worked… After that discussion, I am getting no help. No support for this way of life. Simply because she doesn’t understand how I don’t want to push myself to lose weight. That I don’t feel like I look like a mountain of flesh in my head anymore. I have tried again, and again- not pushing, just explaining what was going on in the groups I am in, or with certain articles I’ve found. She shows no interest- there is no diet, no plan, it’s a no go. It drives me insane to have her, the one person that has supported me in everything else, not support me in this- this wonderful change in my life.

So many of these conflicts crop up in relationships between mothers and their female offspring. The “ideal” human body is simply not a feasible reality for most women. Does it come from a place of competition? Of wanting the best for one’s child? It seems like weight-loss talk as a pastime is an ever-increasing phenomenon. My own mother talks about dieting; close friends do as well. It’s so normalized — it’s water cooler talk. Flippant dismissal and rejection of my body and what it looks like is EVERYWHERE.

Family members are supposed to love you the most. They are supposed to defend you and never let anyone pick on you. But somehow, nonstop diet talk is considered okay. It’s accepted. It’s encouraged. If it has infected the deepest inner circle of familial safety, then what do we do? Cut and run? Or tough it out, with a little part of us knowing that it might not ever get better?

Stay tuned for the next article on The Acceptance Gap: Friends.

Burn the Underpants: What happens when those you love don’t understand fat acceptance?

underpants

A lot of us have come into conflict with others close to us who just don’t understand the fat acceptance and body positivity movements. Some of our loved ones openly disagree with the concepts involved. These conflicts can be damaging not only to our relationships with these people, but damaging to our psyche.

Ragen Chastain has spoke frequently about the “Underpants Rule”:

The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do. To illustrate, if you’re considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that you are about to break The Underpants Rule.

This makes a lot of logical sense. We don’t want others to tell us how to live our lives, that we are doing the wrong thing, making wrong choices about our bodies. But then, by the same logic, it is not our place to tell others that they are living their lives wrong. This puts us into an uncomfortable position, one resigned to not actively engaging with those who disagree.

I don’t subscribe to the Underpants Rule, because I see the fat acceptance movement fundamentally as a civil rights issue, and as such I see the sort of passive resistance the Underpants Rule requires only promoting the visibility of the issue to a small degree. It does not actively challenge the damaging viewpoints and actions of others.

Chances are, there are many people, people close to you, who don’t agree with the fat acceptance movement. The Underpants Rule tells us to leave them and their beliefs alone. Let them change their own underpants over time. Unfortunately, some people have some awful, stinky underpants — underpants that are nearly impossible to be around. What if you love someone with horrible, shit-stained underpants who also hate your underpants?

There are two choices: stick around the stinky underpants and not acknowledge them, forever exposed to their aroma, or go find others with less offensive skivvies. Essentially, what is most important to us? Our objective (commitment to the movement), our self-respect (maintaining one’s feelings of self worth), or our relationship with the other person?

Because of the intimate nature of this issue, many people keep a lot of their emotions and struggles to themselves. It’s pain we all carry so as to not push our views and decisions on others. The Fat Word would like to offer an opportunity to share your stories of frustration, rejection, conflict, and pain, without fear of reprisal or hurting the feelings of others. Please take the time to fill out the form below. Write as much or as little as you’d like. We’ll be collecting submissions for a week or so, and then compiling the responses to feature them in a future article.

My Ass is Not a Microaggression

bus seats

Due to unforeseen car trouble, I have been riding the bus all week to and from my various jobs. On the way home yesterday, I found myself a seat on the bench on the back of the bus next to a man dressed as a cowboy. I sat down in my seat, and he moved away. And then moved even further. He squashed himself next to the window so completely that I became concerned that I smelled unpleasant, or perhaps was covered in bees. My internal dialogue began thusly:

Do I smell bad? No, I always smell good and shower daily, plus I used antiperspirant/deodorant and also applied a little perfume this morning, so by now I should be a nice, mellow, average-person smell. Am I sticky? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? Am I breathing heavily from running for the bus? Do I look disheveled? Deranged? Dangerous? Did someone tattoo my face without my knowledge?

I eventually looked down and saw that my butt was extending past the boundaries (?) of my seat. Not a lot… but just enough that I was probably touching him when I sat down. Maybe he didn’t like to be that close to another person. Understandable. I don’t like people touching me without my permission. But isn’t there a social contract on a crowded bus? People touch people. It’s a BUS, not Business Class on a luxury airliner. Suddenly, I was flooded with feelings of inadequacy. I made him uncomfortable. I did this. I did it with my butt. It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered a response from a recent questionnaire that I did about Fat Acceptance, where I asked questions of people opposed to the movement. One of the questions I asked was, “Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?”

In certain understated ways, I actually consider the large bodies in public spaces to be “micro aggression” against people with smaller bodies. In my experience, large bodied individuals will not hesitate to let their body infringe on others’ personal space in public transit, while in a queue, or other spaces of modern urban environments. I consider these things “micro aggression” due to the unwillingness of large bodied peoples to not force their bodies on others. I am expected to move, or to get out of way in a lane even when I do not know anyone is there, I am expected to be accommodating at all times.

I hadn’t heard the term “micro-aggression” until I did the survey in question. What IS micro-aggression?

Basically, a micro-aggression is a socially acceptable put down that happens so frequently that it seems commonplace. The unifying trait of micro-aggressions is that the target is a member of a marginalized group. Ethnic minorities. Homosexuals. Religious minorities. Oh yeah, and fat people. 

The worst part of fat-centric micro-aggression is that those targeted aren’t seen as victims. Society is structured so that fat is seen as “less than” and that those targeted by such micro-aggressions are “asking for it” because they are perceived as having control of how their bodies appear.

“You look good. Have you lost weight?”

“You’re not fat! You’re curvy!”

“I feel so FAT today!”

“Ha! That mean girl from high school got fat!”

All of the above are examples of micro-aggressions, subtle put downs that seem harmless at first, but upon closer inspection show a very clear reflection of the status of fat people in modern society.

Let’s snap back to the bus ride. Maybe I AM in the Cowboy’s personal space. Why is it that I immediately feel guilty? I am trying to put him down? I am TRYING to invade his personal space because, hey, cowboys are used to cozying up to people? Does society view cowboys as flawed in some way? Is there a systemic, historical pattern of discrimination against bus cowboys? No?

Well, then don’t blame my ass.

GUEST POST: A Problem of Perspective, or, Hate is Easy

squirrel

By Dan C.

I want you to picture someone society considers fat.

Got that in your head?

Most of you–including me–are probably picturing someone leading an average, healthy life, who happens to be girthier than “average” (whatever the average is supposed to be!). Thus, we’re rightly baffled by anti-body-acceptance or “sizeists” and the hate they spew toward others.

Now, let’s shift gears into their minds. When we say “fat” they don’t picture what we do. Instead, they picture someone in a mobility scooter splashed on the front page of “People of Walmart” or another equally-awful website… and then associate all “fat” people with that. They take an extreme example–someone who legitimately has serious health and mobility issues–and conflate that to equal anybody that they consider “overweight”.

But then, instead of actually being compassionate or concerned for people with debilitating medical issues, they mock. Then they assume that body acceptance means we’re encouraging people to be like that, as if anybody wants to be mobility limited! We aren’t encouraging anybody to be anything. We are simply stating that everyone deserves to be treated equally.

Thus the problem that our gracious host has had in finding not just common ground, but even the willingness for anybody on either side of the issue to talk at all. On the side of the sizeists, they’re either wallowing in hatred for the “other” or they have really convinced themselves that the body acceptance movement is promoting unhealthy behavior, and thus feel they’re doing the right thing fighting against it.

You can see why those in the body acceptance movement are then so reticent to even engage in debate with someone like this. When you’ve been hated on or discriminated against for so long over something about yourself that is you, how are you supposed to react to someone who considers your mere existence to be “disgusting” or offensive, or to be promoting unhealthy behavior?

Again, the problem on the sizeist’s side is one of a lack of compassion. They see a “problem” and are utterly unconcerned with the fact that this thing they’ve decided is a problem are actually other people.

Is there anything that can be done about this? Can we actually reach these people? I think it depends on the subset. Some are no different from anybody else who has decided to hate the “other”–racists, homophobes, jingoists/nationalists all fall under this category. No amount of talk will change them–only long term exposure to the “other” that they’ve decided to hate as counterexamples to the image they’ve formed in their heads will do anything.

But perhaps we can reach the second set–those who perceive the body acceptance movement as promoting unhealthy “do whatever you want” living. Yes, there are health issues that affect people who are extremely obese, but many of these same issues affect people of all sizes — we just can’t “see” them. What needs to be made clear to the ones we’re debating is that simply because those health issues exist doesn’t mean we should be discriminatory toward those that have them.

Many of these opponents of body acceptance likely have their own body image issues, and that they may simply be unconsciously trying to make themselves feel better by attacking others. It’s classic bully behavior, and to quote Wil Wheaton on bullies,

“When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you…it’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad. They don’t get positive attention from their parents. They don’t feel as smart as you.”

This doesn’t ever excuse the behavior, but explaining a behavior can go a long way toward healing.

I should know, I used to be one of them. Just because I wasn’t ever fat doesn’t mean I didn’t have my own body image issues, but instead of dealing with those issues, I disdained others. “I may not like my body, but at least I’m not fat!” I would think. Then I’d think of why I was so much smarter and had so much more self control than “those fat people that can’t stop eating” and I wouldn’t have to think about the parts of my body that I was still insecure about or didn’t like.

But I was able to grow up and change. I was able to see my insecurities for what they were, and just like that, the sizeist attitudes I had melted away, and let me see other people for what they are: people, like me, who have their own bodies they live in and that I hope they love, regardless of shape or size or color or anything else.

Love yourself. Try to feel some compassion even for those who try and bully you, because in reality they probably feel worse about themselves. That doesn’t mean you should be passive about it though. As rapper Akala says in Fire in the Booth Part 2:

And oh, for the record no doubt I believe in peace

But not for one second will I turn the other cheek

They slap you, slap them back, take teeth

The only way a bully ever learns is getting beat

Keep up the good fight, stay strong, and stay body positive, my friends.

My Skankles, My Rules

Skankles are what you get when you become a fat whore, be careful.

Fat whore. Slutty cow. Fat-ass scag. Skanky hambeast. Flabby cum dumpster. Hoochie heifer.

These pejoratives slide right off the tongue as if coated with bacon-flavored lube.

Every seasoned heckler and troll has an entire pocket dimension dedicated to these and similar slurs for use in the Comments Section of any given website. I am disappointed that such creative and nimble phraseology is so casually tossed about like so many croutons. The relationship between slut shaming and fat shaming is something much weightier; these slurs are just the top layer of a promiscuous, full-fat word lasagna.

Even if you are a kind, thoughtful, progressive person, you’ve heard these jabs. I’ve heard filth like this come out of the mouths of people I’ve actually considered friends at different points in my life. I’ve heard similar terms in movies and on TV. I’ve heard radio personalities speak in this way even more; the additional layer of anonymity lubes loose lips (see bacon reference above). No wonder this language is even more prevalent on the internet; the Troll Cloak of Parent’s Basement conceals all. I try to stay out of the dark corners and instead bask in the warm, nurturing light of sites like Pinterest. Did you know 80% of its users are female? Did you know that 20% of women internet-users in the U.S. use Pinterest? I’m safe there.

Except for the fact that when I searched Tumblr, Google, and Pinterest using the terms “fat slut” and “fat whore”, the site that produced most results was *AHEM*…

PINTEREST.

Notice how the majority of these images depict women disparaging one another. The kyriarchy of sizeism and sexism is not a concept perpetuated solely by men. It’s perpetuated by the acts and words of large portions of the population, by the media, by consumerism, and the ever-present just-world fallacy that people reap what they sow. Don’t want to be called a whore? Stop whoring around. Why are you surprised that people want to objectify you? You wear, like, zero clothes and obviously want all of the sex. In fact, there is no more sex because you took it all. Oh, and you fatty over there being all fat? You know people are going to call you fat because you did it to yourself! If you want people to stop calling you a manatee, then maybe you should put down the cheeseburger and go for a walk. Why should we change our behaviors when you are the ones making the poor decisions?

The above line of logic may be slightly exaggerated, but I think the message comes through. We are targets because we made decisions that lead us down the road to ridicule. The idea that there is something so wrong with our behaviors or even our very selves that justifies poor treatment and rejection is indicative of a larger societal problem, being that it’s okay to bully as long as the victim does something outside of society’s narrow definition of “rightness”.

When I point this problem out, some people meet me with knee-jerk reactionary statements like “I’m not like that! I’m just being funny. Can’t you take a joke?”

No. Sorry. I can’t take a joke like that. It devalues my body, which I love. It devalues my womanhood, by telling me that I can’t dress or act a certain way without opening myself to ridicule and intimidation. My body, and what I do with it, is not an area of concern for other people. My decisions are mine, and my body is mine, and I WILL defend those things in the same way I would defend my reproductive rights, or health decisions. The above image macros are filled with hate speech designed to devalue and demoralize people into conforming to unhealthy, unreasonable societal standards. It’s the language of the privileged, people who’ve never been shamed for being fat or judged as less than for how they dress. It’s language that has become common parlance casually slung for comedic effect.

The Fat Word was created in hopes of reclaiming these slurs, to take away power from those who would seek to deride us or make light of the indignities we’ve suffered in the name of cosmic justice. Go ahead. Call me a fat hoe, but you better be prepared because I am the phattest fat hoe to ever hoe someone’s row, and I am proud. My skankles, my rules.

URGENT! Fat Filmmaker Being Harassed by Haters

Shiloh Marie:

There is a line between trolling and harassment, and this dude pole vaulted so far over it he might have broken a record in the Douchenozzle Olympics.

Originally posted on Dances With Fat:

fight back Lindsey Averill is in the process of co-creating the documentary “Fattitude:  A Body Positive Documentary” which the kickstarter page describes as “A feature-length documentary that exposes how popular culture fosters fat prejudice, and then offers an alternative way of thinking.”  She is working to crowdfund the project and has created the Kickstarter and a trailer on YouTube and then, she told me, this happened:

It all started when I reported a YouTube user, “GODBLESSADOLFHITLER” for copyright for posting my trailer verbatim on his youtube channel – I also reported another video of his that featured my film and horrible images of 9/11 hate speech, etc. YouTube pulled down his videos and he and his followers began to torture me. They were calling our house till I changed our number. They are now calling my family, my husband’s business and the have collected all the information on my interviewees and posted…

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