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

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.

Every Body is Flawless

Gabi Gregg, Tess Munster, and Nadia Aboulhosn, I love you with the fire of a thousand suns. Your homage to Beyoncé’s “Flawless” video is the best thing I’ve seen in a month.

 

 

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…

View original 413 more words

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential

for your eyes

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Two: Too Fat, Didn’t Read, focused on the opinions of those who oppose Fat Acceptance, culled from +150 submissions I received based on a questionnaire written by supporters of Fat Acceptance. What happened when I provided a similar questionnaire to FA supporters, written by those who oppose their beliefs?

Firstly, I had trouble even finding people willing to write questions, let alone fill out the questionnaire. It took me days and days to get enough responses to create a reasonable analysis. Without a large enough focus group, it becomes difficult to write much more than possibly specious summative statements that may not accurately portray the movement as a whole. This lack of participation is probably rooted in the belief that by engaging in this activity, FA advocates are validating the opinions of people with whom they disagree. Thanks to a close group of supporters of varying backgrounds, I was able to generate enough questions to have a fairly well-rounded list.

  1. Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?
  2. Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?
  3. What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?
  4. Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?
  5. Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?
  6. Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?
  7. Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?
  8. In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?
  9. Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?
  10. The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

Just as before, I went through all of the answers, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?

“If those who are hostile to us are actually concerned about our health, and if we [show] them how the stigma they place on us is more dangerous to our health than our fat, it can be good for reducing our chances of being discriminated against. Much of their hatred toward us is based on false information about how obesity works, how we become obese, and how obesity affects the body. By debunking the false information, we hope to take away their reasons for making negative value judgments about us.”

“BMI is used as the basis for many of these studies. BMI in itself is not meant for individuals but population groups and is based on white men.”

“Your very question hints at the answer: there is a pervasive misunderstanding about what scientific proof is. The gold standard of scientific proof are double blind, replicable studies which establish a causal link, in this instance, between obesity and harm. These studies simply do not exist. The research has many correlative studies, which definitely point the way to more research, but are not a basis for diagnostics and treatment. Therefore, assuming proof with correlations leads to guessing about obesity and health.”

It is clear that the fat acceptance movement views current scientific research as very flawed, and corollary in nature. There is further concern that these flawed conclusions are frequently used to denigrate fat people, and that by promoting more rigorous research a common ground might appear.


Question Two: Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?

“I see the FA/BA movement going similarly to the Gay rights movement. People will continue to bicker, many people will come to accept it and understand it, but there will still be many people who completely disagree regardless of what the science says.”

“Continuing the battle to try to overcome the brainwashing that most of us have been and are being subjected to tells us that one particular physical appearance and size is acceptable.”

“Hopefully it will become more popular, but right now there is a lot of backlash by people who think they can shame us and bully us into looking the way they prefer. Whenever fat acceptance is mentioned, someone inevitably asks “at what cost to our health?” and makes the argument that accepting a variety of body types will only increase obesity, even though research shows that fat-shaming and discrimination do not reduce obesity rates.”

“Hopefully toward PERSON acceptance!”

This paints a picture of a battle against brainwashing and discrimination, where healthism is used as a battering ram to break down the gates of personhood. These comments hint that a lighter touch might be appropriate. If victorious, what are our spoils of war? Acceptance of all bodies, regardless of type.


Question Three: What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?

“Research about health is … unlikely to change my mind, because even if it could be proven that obesity always caused poor health, and even if it could be proven that obesity was always the result of lifestyle choices that were certainly within every person’s control, each person would still have a right to make his/her own decisions regarding the health of his/her body.”

“Nothing would lead me to reconsider size acceptance and an end to discrimination.”

“My only “belief” in this matter is that fat people deserve the same level of respect and dignity as thin people, including such things as equal access to adequate health care, clothing options, employment opportunities, public transportation, and the like. To me the entire argument over whether or not it’s healthy to be fat is nothing more than an irrelevant distraction from the larger issue of how fat people are treated.”

“None. I have no reason to believe that my body is an enemy or causes anyone harm. My body is not an indication of my medical or health status. Self-love and acceptance was the key to losing weight, and that is only achieved when ignoring cultural bullying about being fat.”

Question three elicited strong, poignant emotions from nearly all responders. The bottom line? No research could convince them to view their bodies as anything other than something to be accepted and respected. No scientific evidence exists that warrant bullying and discrimination, both major perceived problems in Fat Acceptance communities.


Question Four: Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?

“All shaming is awful, but I think the reason some would give is that society does not go out of its way to insist that thin people ought not to exist. But society DOES try to keep fat people as invisible and made to feel unworthwhile as possible. This is a form of oppression.”

“Because thin people don’t have an entire social system telling them that they are less than, worthless, etc. Yes, it’s wrong to make fun of every body type. But fat-shaming comes attached to a society that hates fat people, denies fat people equal access and opportunities on a regular basis, and turn fat people into scapegoats for just about everything. When thin people are treated in the same way and thin-shaming is part of an overarching anti-thinness message in society, it will be the same as fat shaming.”

“Both are against the goals of the size acceptance movement, but in the same way that calling a white person a “cracker” isn’t on the same level as using a racist slur against a black person, insulting a member of the privileged class by pointing out that s/he is skinny is not as potent as calling someone fat, because it doesn’t have the power of the entire oppressive system behind it. Fat people are openly hated in ways thin people are not. We are shouted at, criticized, beaten, threatened, and treated as though we were inferior. Fat people face systemic oppression. We are more often denied jobs, romantic opportunities, and respect. Thin people are represented in positive ways on television, in movies, in magazines, and have a full range of opportunities … Thin people are constantly having their bodies validated by the surrounding culture.”

The fat shame/thin shame debate is a hill this blog frequently dies on. It seems my participants feel largely the same way. The two takeaways? Firstly, fat shaming and thin shaming (and all shaming) are terrible and antithetical to the body positivity movement, including Fat Acceptance. Secondly, there is a socio-power dynamic at play when someone is fat shamed that is not present when thin shaming occurs, as evidenced by our interactions with others, and in areas of media and consumerism.


Question Five: Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?

“I am fat. I cannot separate myself from my phenotype. Attacking fat is attacking me.”

“Fat is not a problem, and by turning our bodies into a problem, you are essentially saying that we, the people who identify as fat, are something horrible that you hope to get rid of. You are saying that fat people only deserve respect if we are trying hard enough to become thin people, because really, only thin people are acceptable. The main problem with fat in our society is how it is being stigmatized. Discrimination is a much more serious problem than obesity, and the complications it adds to our lives are much more damaging for our health.”

“I think the premise of this question is immediately problematic because it assumes that “fat in our society” is a problem. Why are we even concerning ourselves with others’ bodies? It’s a matter that should be between them and their doctors. People feel attacked because the attacking is typically relentless, and when one has experienced it so frequently, one feels very defensive, because someone has just referred to our bodies as ‘a problem in our society’.”

This question makes clear a key dichotomy in the FA community: We do not suffer from obesity. We don’t have fat. We are fat, and when people talk about our bodies as inherently flawed and in need of fixing, how can it not be personal?


Question Six: Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?

“I think that doctors most certainly have the right to discuss weight in this way. There are millions of reasons why people may be perceived as ‘fat’, but that shouldn’t preclude my ability to be treated for the non-weight related issues that I have. I was told by the medical system for 20 years that my joint pain was due to my fat.When I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that causes joint pain I realized that I had been ‘fat-washed’ as a patient for decades, suffering needlessly. It is not always so clear that the weight is exacerbating problems if you aren’t willing to look at the patient as a whole being and not just a ‘fat’ being.”

When a doctor graduates and becomes a doctor, they take what’s called the Hippocratic Oath. The first part of that oath states that the doctor commits to doing no harm, first and foremost. Commenting on a patient’s weight can be harmful to that person’s psyche an it isn’t very helpful.

“Fat people *know* they are fat. Being condescending to a patient serves only to breed distrust. Doctors who treat their patients as whole organisms, instead of reducing them to something short of an ideal, will achieve much better patient compliance.”

Responders expressed concerned that they weren’t being looked at as a whole person by their health care professionals. This oversimplification is seen as discounting, with a strong negative stigma attached. This “fat washing” creates a hostile atmosphere where further critique emotionally damages the patient.


 Question Seven: Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?

Fat people have always existed and will always exist. Why should fat people have to change to gain the privileges society gives to thin people (e.g. clothing options, fair treatment in employment, seats that fit us on airplanes, the basic dignity of being treated in a humane fashion at all times or at least of being able to accept such treatment, etc.)? The answer to oppression and unfair treatment isn’t for the oppressed and unfairly treated to change. It’s for the oppression and unfairness to end.

For me, it isn’t about accepting “fat”. It’s about accepting my body as it is and loving it. My depression, anxiety, and negative feelings for my body all stem from the hatred and disgust I have been shown through other people my entire life. Loving and accepting my body as it is means that I can be free of all of my pain, my tears, my depression, my anxiety, and my fear that people won’t accept me as I am. Who wouldn’t want that feeling of love and peace for themselves and for everyone in the world? That’s why I focus on love.

First, let’s address the issue of obesity – the BMI is flawed. It was never intended for individual assessment but for use in studies of a mass population. It was developed at a time when people were several inches shorter, when deprivation and starvation were common and therefore the ‘base’ scores were founded in an underweight, unhealthy and underfed population. It was based on men – not women or children. Even so, there does seem to have been an increase in overweight people in our western culture … so what? Does that mean that overweight people don’t deserve to be treated as human beings with the same level of respect that thin people do? We are being brainwashed into believing that fat people should be treated with contempt because they are gluttons, pigs, unhealthy etc and are a burden on our health systems and our society in general.

Those polled did not like this question. Frequently, they questioned the statistics, taking issue with their relevance and accuracy. The take away, however, is that love (both inward and outward) is the driving force behind participating in the Fat Acceptance movement, and that everyone is deserving of it.


Question Eight: In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?

“I did not know they were.”

“I have no idea. I certainly don’t consider them to be self-harm sites. This Is Thin Privilege is a place where fat people go to share the difficulties they experience as fat people. I fail to see how that is self-harm in any way, unless you suddenly believe that acknowledging and sharing the realities of how someone is treated is somehow harmful to them.”

I’ve had no exposure to them, so I cannot comment.

Many of the responders were not familiar with This is Thin Privilege at all. The ones that were didn’t seem to know about it being listed as a self-harm site. I took it upon myself to research why TiTP was listed as a self-harm site, and all I could find was that Symantec, a company that makes computer protection software, has a blocker in place for TiTP. I could not find other similar sites blocked in this way.

Symantec

As far as I can tell, there was a campaign against the site comprised of people who oppose the Fat Acceptance movement, citing that promoting fat acceptance was tantamount to promoting a detrimental, self-harming lifestyle.


Question Nine: Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?

“Stating someone has privilege is fact, not an attack or an insult. I have white privilege. I do not mind that people tell me I have white privilege, but because of that privilege, I am going to be ignorant of some things. As a good person, it’s my job to shut up and listen, to not speak over the oppressed group and then call out any racism I see. I keep my privilege in mind when I act and speak and it makes me a better person. I expect the same courtesy from my thin friends, none of them have an issue with it.”

“I would hope that for some people if they were told they had thin privilege it might make them ponder what that meant and look it up. I was in a situation where I had not heard of white privilege, but now I am aware of what it is and aware of the fact that I have it. This means that I can start to notice my own white privilege and where I see it in others, which allows me to try to address problems caused by it. I would hope that some people who become aware of their thin privilege would become allies. I have thin friends who understand their thin privilege and are amazing allies.”

Many answerers questioned whether the question writers had a solid grasp on what “privilege” was. They point to awareness of privilege as a transformative experience, showing the world through new eyes. They see the “thin privilege” movement as an invitation to become an ally.


Question Ten: The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

The term fat is the defining adjective that pertains to members of this group. Should we accept all people? Absolutely. Can this term still be an effective tool to use in working to promote acceptance? Yes.

I think the important thing is to take the negative association away from the word Fat.

“Fat Acceptance is important because we’re fat and that’s what needs to be accepted. What about Gay rights? Would you say it should be called “people” rights? No, that’s ridiculous because it erases what society has a problem with. I am a FAT person, it is not an insult, it is not something to be ashamed of. It is something I am that everyone else has a problem with. I accept it and I feel so much better about myself. I didn’t need to learn to accept myself as a person, I knew I was a person, I needed to accept myself as a fat person.

Answerers uniformly felt that being accepting of all people is important, but fat acceptance is a different, more specific issue that deserves attention all its own. Fatness is a visible attribute, and one that faces daily criticism and scorn.


Overall, these responses show genuine confusion and concern about the reasons why people oppose the fat acceptance movement. Responders spoke of feelings of fear, rejection, exclusion, discrimination, and displayed anger when posed questions invalidating or diminishing those emotions. Participants questioned the validity of scientific research, and emphasized that regardless of size or medical status, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

Writing this series was an emotional journey for me. It grew from a desire to be more educated, and to promote awareness of the topic among those perhaps unfamiliar with Fat Acceptance and its opponents. I faced stonewalling and ridicule during the seemingly simple act of data collection. People on both sides diminished my cause and dismissed my efforts. Even those close to me told me I was wasting my time, or looking for negative attention. During the analysis stage, I read seemingly endless tales of degradation, denigration, abuse, and bigotry. I read stories about people fighting for their lives, and for the lives of those they love. I read about science, both legitimate and faulty. I respect and love science; I see it is a tool to help us understand the world around us. It saddens me when I see it used as a weapon in a fight about social justice.

This brings me to my final point. Why can’t we discuss? Why can’t we have an open dialogue? Why does it fall to me to force these opinions out into the open? Are we so hopeless that we think we can’t sway people? Change someone’s mind for the better? Can we really expect to create social change without the “social” part?

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 2: Too Fat, Didn’t Read

tfdr

As I learned in The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 1: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stonewalling, the mere idea that the opposing sides of the Fat Acceptance movement could have a productive, positive discussion was dismissed out of hand by most parties involved. Still, I persevered and compiled a list of questions written by those who support the Fat Acceptance movement geared toward those who oppose it, as well as a list of questions written by those who oppose FA to be answered by FA supporters. This article will focus on the first set of questions, those written by supporters of FA.

Procuring the questions, as stated in the previous article, proved to be challenging. Many people in the Fat Acceptance camp didn’t want to engage in the activity at all, claiming doing so would “legitimize the toxic viewpoints” of people who didn’t agree with FA principles. Through this blog and its Facebook presence, I was able to cull a relatively anti-inflammatory set of questions from readers and friends supportive of the FA movement.

  1. Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?
  2. Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?
  3. What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?
  4. Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?
  5. Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?
  6. Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____
  7. Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?
  8. What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?
  9. How do you feel about your body?
  10. What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

I posted a link to fill out this questionnaire on Reddit and immediately received responses. Overnight, I had reached over 100 submissions. By midday, I had to close the questionnaire because I had more responses than I could possibly analyze. The first comment on Reddit was fairly telling of the overall response to the questions:

reddit questionnaire comment

This reply demonstrates three key principles of the anti-FA movement:

  1. They believe that the Fat Acceptance movement, or at least part of it, ignores scientific evidence that shows that being fat is unhealthy.
  2. They believe being fat is a choice.
  3. They consider thin privilege and oppression models to be invalid.

Do the answers to the questionnaires mirror these principles?

I went through, question by question, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: 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.”

“Yes. Normalizing unhealthy weight ideas, disregarding science, and forcing me to see things I really don’t want to.”

“In Canada our healthcare is covered by taxes. People who have obesity related diseases are therefore a drain on this and are directing resources from diseases that can’t be so easily changed. I pay taxes, I pay for the obesity related diseases.”

“If I know that person, hell yeah it affects me.  My mom is slowly killing herself.  She won’t live to old age. How the fuck do you want me to feel?  And she’s not enjoying herself, either. Her joints hurt, she has breathing problems, she can’t find clothes in her size, medications don’t work properly at her weight, and when she needs a surgery she will be at a considerably higher risk of complications.  The FA movement would have me applaud her for this.  Well no.  Fuck that.  She’s my mom, and when she hurts herself she hurts me too.  You wouldn’t stand idly by while your friend committed suicide or spiraled into drug addiction, would you?”

This first question is very illuminative. A fat person is seen as a drain on society, and an abuser of resources and space. They are also seen as pitied individuals, whose choice to remain fat ignores science and the advice of health professionals, and that not taking action constitutes standing by and letting someone self-destruct.


Question Two: Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?

“Yes. Anything involving a lot of physical activity or requiring attractiveness, e.g. model, demoing stuff, etc. In general, obesity is an indicator of other traits undesirable in an employee such as a lack of impulse control.”

“No, I don’t feel that just because someone is overweight or obese that they are automatically unqualified for a certain job. If you are physically and mentally able to do something then, by all means, do that thing.”

“Yes. There are many jobs that require strenuous physical activity. If you cannot pass the physical qualifications for that job you should not be hired, as simple as that. If you are unable to perform your job and you were, for example, a firefighter you would be putting other people’s lives at stake because of your weight/physical condition.”

“I … think that obese doctors, nurses, nutritionists, personal trainers, and the like, would suffer from a credibility problem if they are obese and may not be as qualified for their position, vis a vis giving advice on health and weight.”

There are two lines of reasoning emerging from this question. Firstly, it is assumed there is a level of fatness that would inhibit a person from physically doing a job. Secondly, there is stigma that would preclude a fat person from being a successful model, or credible health professional.


Question Three: What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?

“This question makes a pretty big assumption that is flat out wrong. Most people against the FA movement aren’t trying to just go around hurting fat people’s feelings. Yes, sometimes there are some unfortunate truths and harsh realities but saying that obesity is unhealthy, that it takes hard work and discipline to drop the weight and that most people that large lack the willpower isn’t about being mean. It’s just the way it is. No one will make any changes if they have convinced themselves nothing is wrong and that they are perfect and enclose themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded people.”

“Completely irrelevant. It’s peoples’ choice what they put in their mouth.”

“I agree with the sentiment, and therefore think that we should be motivating overweight people to lose weight, instead of telling them that they’re simply ‘disgusting’ or a ‘waste of space’. Promoting healthy eating, ease of exercise and education is essential to reversing the obesity trend of today.”

“Effective at what, exactly? Accepting lower standards for yourself?”

“Very much agree with this; however, I don’t really see this movement advocating change, just advocating acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and people should be accepted for who they are, but I think one should always work towards bettering oneself. Having a healthy self-perception is a thing to work towards, but I think the extreme to which this movement takes it leaves individuals less capable of dealing with real life stressors involving weight issues. While advocating for acceptance is noble, it will more than likely not change societies perception about weight as a whole, therefore if you build your platform on just accepting individuals for who they are you ultimately are setting them up for failure when they leave your bubble of protection.”

Question three allows us to see the crux of the anti-acceptance argument: fat people should want to lose weight. They struggle with problems like a lack of will power, discipline, and education, and by ignoring these problems while surrounding themselves by people who encourage them to love themselves for who they are, they are ignoring the reality that there is something fundamentally wrong with themselves that they should be trying to better.


Question Four: Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?

“Obesity and smoking fall under the same category of being under the person’s control. Insomnia and cancer are out of a person’s control. So no, they should not be commented on in the same way.”

“I usually do not begrudge smokers for smoking, because most will readily admit that, yeah, they know it’s bad for them. So I, personally, comment on smokers pretty neutrally. There seem to be a lot of fat people, on the other hand, convinced that they are somehow fat without over-eating, or that they’re perfectly fit and healthy despite their weight, or that their various bodily ailments are not caused/exacerbated by their excess weight. We all know that that’s bullshit, and because (some) fat people say a lot of bullshit like that, I personally will comment on them with a fair bit more scorn.”

“The reason obesity is so widely commented on as a major issue in healthcare is because of its prevalence and visibility in everyday life. We can’t always tell when a person is a smoker or a drug addict, but we can immediately see when someone is overweight, so it seems like a prominent issue. Therefore, we see obesity as a bigger issue than many other health problems.”

“I’m not sure what this question is actually asking… but not getting enough sleep, smoking cigarettes, and being overweight are all unhealthy. The difference is that there are no advocacy groups encouraging people to smoke and not sleep.”

Question four raised the hackles of quite a few responders. Many responders became very irate at the comparison between being fat and having cancer, but I think that was the point of the question. How ARE they related? What are the similar threads? Responders point to the visibility of fatness as a major reason it is commented on frequently, and that it should be commented on negatively as a choice people make to be unhealthy.


Question Five: Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?

“When it comes to fat people, it’s like passing a car wreck. It’s utterly fascinating, yet horrifying and disgusting. I mean you’re PUSHING THE HUMAN BODY TO LENGTHS IT IS NOT SUPPOSED REACH.”

“It goes against everything we know on a basic biological level. We aim to be the best option for procreation that we can be. That’s literally our goal. We need to be good enough that someone we find good enough returns the feelings and decides to have children with us. Morbidly obese people are the bottom of the barrel especially if they cannot provide financially or have poor social skills.”

“A team is only as strong as its weakest player. In this sense we are all judged as members of society. If the majority deems that you are not up to standard, you will face stigma.”

“First, outward appearance has been used to determine if an individual is sexually fit (as in genetically fit) for breeding … Being fat can, in some instances, be a massive indicator of mental health problems as well as physical health problems. Not always but when someone is obese one has to wonder how it happened, is it an addiction, is it a lack of self awareness, is this a reaction to an event?”

Here we start toeing into the waters of bigotry. Fat people don’t meet acceptable, biological standards for reproduction. One’s fatness is indicative of other issues, such as mental illness and addiction. Is that why fatness is stigmatized? We are flawed on a basic, genetic level?


 Question Six: Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____

“Gross. Squishy. Unhealthy. Ugly.”

“Do you mean fat as in extra adipose tissue or the idea of fat people? If you mean the latter, I see it as a resignation that life cannot be improved upon.”

“Reduced willpower.”

“Lack of discipline.”

“Lipids. For real, I know this question is baiting me. You’re expecting me to say “unhealthy”. It is less healthy than being fit. And we’re not going to get into the “fat athlete” myth.”

“Adipose tissue in the body formed when the body’s energy input exceeds it’s output. Also a descriptive term for someone who has a large volume of this tissue, resulting in negative physiological changes to body size and shape.”

This simple question actually opens a big window into the anti-FA argument. A large proportion of the answerers commented on how the question was loaded, and that it was just meant to illicit answers like “gross” or “lazy”. A larger proportion actually answered with responses like “gross” or “lazy”. Very few answers listed any sort of neutral or positive connotation, outside of dictionary definitions.


Question Seven: Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?

“Our body is designed to crave fats and sugars, a necessity when there is not enough food. Our society now has too much food, and companies are preying on those designs and ease of access to market unhealthy food to an entire populace.”

“Lack of self control. The entitled “me” generation that can’t stand to hear the word “no” and the parents who didn’t say no often enough.”

“Poverty, lack of education, lack of intelligence.”

“Because people are overeating.”

“The nature of our food has changed (intensive farming, processing, GMOs, pesticides), the abundance of our food has increased, our food is engineered to encourage overeating, our daily activity levels have decreased, our stress levels have gone up, our environments are polluted, we’re too distracted, we put too much emphasis on competitive sports and not enough on activity, we don’t get out in nature enough, the ‘worst’ foods are the most affordable and the ‘best’ foods are more expensive, we don’t have walkable neighborhoods.”

I was surprised by the amount of blame most responders put on society itself. There was the token “BECAUSE HAMPLANETS CAN’T STOP EATING HURR HURR”, but mostly answers focused on specific, systemic problems rather than individual actions. No one questioned the term “epidemic”, though; it’s clear this focus group equates fatness with illness.


Question Eight: What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?

“Education about how to eat properly would be helpful for K-12 students. They should learn about portion control, exactly what foods will lead to weight gain, what is a good any time food vs. what is a good sometimes food, how to be critical of the media and advertising, how to avoid common pitfalls like ruining the healthfulness of a salad by smothering it in ranch or eating more to keep your metabolism from slowing down.”

“Joining in with us healthier people to shame you about your terribly stupid decision-making.”

“Research obesity related issues, develop ways to reduce the problem, and inform the public of these ways.”

“The media is concerned with entertainment, so don’t go looking to them to fix any problems. Also consider the amount of self generated content that is overtaking traditional forms – breaking through people’s self constructed echo chambers will only get harder.”

“The government and health care providers should stop giving money to non-disabled fat people. As for the media, how about some healthy fat-shaming?”

I like this follow-up question; it’s the seasoning bringing out the flavor profile of the relatively benign responses from question seven. The obesity epidemic? It’s a systemic problem. The solution? A healthy portion of “education” with a side of fat shaming. Unfortunately, we keep ourselves from being educated through the creation of our own fat-accepting media.


Question Nine: How do you feel about your body?

“I am 400lbs and very unhappy with my body.  I am currently doing what I can to lose most of the weight.”

“I love my body. I am a healthy weight for my height, and after recently losing some weight (about 10 pounds) I have become more confident.”

“I feel great about my body.  I’ve lost 80 pounds with a healthy diet and exercise and know it is possible.  I’ve never been happier.”

“Unhappy. I’m morbidly obese. Two weeks ago I changed what I eat and began walking some evenings and I’m already down 8lb. Aim to lose 100lb.”

“I love my body. As should everyone.”

“Why should I accept it if it makes me unhappy?”

This question generated the greatest diversity of answers. One surprising thing is the number of answerers who identify as being fat and unhappy. They see the relinquishing of “fat logic” as the first step in a transformative journey toward non-fatness. It’s reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome; people repeatedly hammered by the rhetoric of one’s persecutors until they start to sympathize with the message.


Question Ten: What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

“The best way to motivate people, I’d say, is to make obesity illegal and arrest obese people on sight (barring those who can prove they have conditions that make weight loss impossible). Why I say this is because there are people in the world who believe they are healthy no matter what … With these kind of people, you cannot sway them to even think there is or will ever be anything unhealthy about them, and they will never do anything about their weight or general health.”

“I can say that the worst way is by making fun of people. Nobody should make fun of fat people, and I would never promote such a thing. But people should encourage fat people to exercise more and to eat better. They should be shown support.”

“Stop the fat acceptance movement. Once people stop believing that their doctors are shaming them and their family members are shaming them and start believing that people around them actually care about their health, they may realize they actually have a problem. If people are unwilling to get healthy, they need to shut their mouths. This is Darwinism in action. Adapt to the world around you or expect your bloodline to disappear.”

“Education.”

“Provide incentive and a conducive environment for health.”

“Have all obesity-related expenses come directly out of obese people’s pockets. This would include disability payments, knee braces, gastic bypass, ambulance calls for heat attacks and type II diabetes treatment.”

What a strange combination of positive reinforcement and punishment! The solutions involve education, denial of access to crucial services, access to incentives, removing support systems promoting fat acceptance, and criminalizing how someone looks. Can all these options exist simultaneously? Many answerers of this question strongly blame the Fat Acceptance movement for the problems faced by fat people, and many of them suggest penalizing fat people in some way just for being fat, but earlier, the “obesity epidemic” was blamed as a societal problem.


The responses to the survey paint a very clear picture of the anti-FA movement. The emphasis seems to be on promoting individual and public health, but the execution leaves something to be desired. The loathing (both outward and inward) is palpable. Guilt is seen as the primary, most effective motivator to make changes in one’s life, and that people should want to make that change regardless of how they feel about themselves. People filling out this questionnaire see fatness as a disease needing to be cured, and that any other viewpoints ignore science and are therefore invalid. Fat people who promote fat acceptance are seen as promoting disease and contributing to societal crisis, and therefore are treated with hostility and scorn.

Want to know what questions were asked of those supporting the Fat Acceptance movement? Want to know their answers? Stay tuned for The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential.

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part One: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stonewalling

strangelove

This piece was originally supposed to be an examination of opinions. It began as nagging thoughts resulting from my Adventures on Reddit and an exchange on Facebook regarding something I wrote about a Jezebel article. Here are some comments from Reddit about my Reddit article:

fatlogicreddit Comments on Facebook about the Jezebel article:

jezscreenshot

Both of these encounters left a bad taste in my mouth. I know what I believe, and the science behind it. I am a science-based person by nature — I need proof of something before I hitch my wagon to it. Sociology, however, is an arena with much more flexible rules. I tend to be swayed by my own background in behavioral psychology, and for these reasons I am absolutely fascinated by the fat acceptance discussion. There are sizable groups of people out there that firmly believe in the Fat Acceptance movement as social justice advocating for equal rights and basic human decency, and those who see it as enabling/legitimizing a detrimental social problem/health epidemic. I wanted to know: How do these groups interact? How do they relate to one another, if at all. Why do they interact the way they do?

Throughout my adventures, I only saw groups of people together, all echoing the same ideology. I rarely saw them meeting and discussing. What would they do if they met? What would they say to one another? I went to the far corners of the internet, asking people on either end of the fat acceptance spectrum to generate questions for me to pose to people who may disagree. I wanted to take the questions and answers and compile them into one article so my readers could get a clear idea of the opinions and feelings surrounding the topic. What I ended up with looks far different from what I envisioned.

I entered a war zone. I emerged, scarred.

Here is what I asked for from the body acceptance crowd:

“I am writing an article trying to address both sides of the body acceptance issue without requiring any direct confrontation between those involved. My goal is to shape an academic discussion free of logical fallacies. I first need a list of questions from those supporting fat acceptance/body positivity that they would like to see answered by people who disagree with/oppose the body acceptance movement. Once I get the list of questions, I will pose them to people who disagree. I am doing the same procedure with anti-FA supporters, getting questions from them to have you answer. Once I have questions and answers from both sides, I will compile them in an article. I am looking for questions that are not loaded and as anti-inflammatory as possible so as to promote a clear and academic dialogue.”

I went into a sub forum on Reddit (that I knew to be critical of this blog’s message) and presented this:

“I am a body-positive blogger, whose work has been prominently featured in this subreddit. I am getting a lot of feedback. I am trying to organize it all in a fair way that addresses the issues I see coming up in the threads on this site and the comments I receive on my own site. I am asking for any /r/fatlogic Redditors to pose questions they would like to see answered by people I know in the body acceptance community. I am collecting questions from them currently that I plan on posing to members of this subreddit if everyone is amenable. Of course, everything will be anonymous. If you think there would be another subreddit that could also pose good questions, feel free to link them. I am attempting to write a well balanced presentation of both sides.”

Wherever I went, whenever I asked for questions, I felt attacked, regardless of who I was asking. Often, I was dismissed out of hand. I learned on Reddit that this is called getting my “SJW fee-fees hurt” (Social Justice Warrior feelings). The following examples come from both camps, some more transparent than others. Let’s see if you can guess which came from where:

“Yeah, I don’t have high hopes for this.”

“Might it be a fallacy to assume that you can get non-trite answers … ?”

“If people are convinced by junk science that their beliefs are correct, showing them real science proving otherwise isn’t going to change their minds.”

“I’m glad that there is a [group] like this, where we all know the truth about ‘fitness’.”

“You can take people who believe in junk science, pseudoscience, correlations, and their confirmation bias, show them actual facts that prove them wrong, and they will come up with 1001 reasons why they are still right and your facts are ‘wrong’.”

“I’m not sure [you understand] that “non-biased” means something different from ‘agrees with me’.”

“Not interested in playing this game. Goodbye.”

I found that I had to explain, repeatedly, that I wasn’t trying to set up a debate with a winner and a loser, but instead was just trying to show the argument in its entirety so that readers could walk away with an understanding of the issue. This took time. Lots of time. I found myself repeating it over and over. It felt like no one could grasp the concept that I wasn’t setting them up for failure. I needed to again and again make statements like this:

“I don’t care what the answers look like. I just want to show them.”

“It’s not a conversation. I do not think anyone is going to have their mind’s changed. I just want to show the perspectives.”

“I am simply looking for questions using clear, non-judgmental language in the interest of the clear exchange of information.”

“I am just interested in what the questions and responses are. I have no illusions that I will be changing anyone’s mind. I just think it’s worth looking at.”

“This isn’t a game of tennis. This is an article about how people PLAY tennis.”

So I guess you want to know, eh? How the game is played? It isn’t how you think.

Let’s start with my acquaintances over at Reddit. The problem with talking to a collective is that they all give different directions, make different requests, and protest vigorously when you don’t meet one of the many, contrary expectations they have. It’s like trying to please everyone, when everyone doubts your motives and suspects your competency for different reasons. This protest is done in the form of something called “down voting”.

Reddit Hates Me

As you can see, /r/fatlogic did not like me very much. I did receive some compliments from a few users regarding my patience and my ability to remain calm despite being in a clearly hostile environment. I started the thread asking for questions. A common theme, however, was the inflammatory, hostile nature of the questions. They were so inflammatory that I thought no one would be willing to even attempt to answer them. I started suggesting some alternate wording. In hindsight, I think it was a bad choice; aren’t I trying to show the argument how it currently exists?

Angry Reddit

One thing stood out to me, and bothered me greatly. I felt dismissed, like my endeavor wasn’t worthwhile, and that nothing good would come of it. When I mentioned it, I was essentially told that my impression was wrong. It went something like this:

Reddit Dismissal

I got the impression that they very much wanted their opinions heard, and they shared them openly — I received a great many questions to use for my article, ranging from somewhat neutral to extremely inflammatory. When I submitted questions for them to answer, I got over 150 responses.

What happened when I went to members of the Fat Acceptance community, with whom I identify, and whose message I try to promote through this blog? I was also dismissed, but in a different way. My attempts to reach out on Tumblr were completely rebuffed.

tumblr dismissal 3

tumblr dismissal 2

tumblr dismissal 1

I think I was perceived as sympathetic to a cause that is socially damaging and discriminatory, but as I stated earlier in this article, I was just trying to gather information. What information did I glean from Tumblr? Acknowledging the viewpoints of people that they have decided aren’t valid is an exercise in futility.

I was going to include the responses I received from the /r/BodyAcceptance subreddit, but they deleted my entire thread, presumably because Redditors from the /r/fatlogic subreddit were copying responses into their own thread for dissection. Still, what’s a better example of stonewalling than completely erasing any evidence of my questions and work?

I did eventually get a good number of questions from various fat-positive Facebook communities, as well as from my own readers and personal friends. What were the questions I got from either side? What happened when I asked for answers? What WERE the answers?

Stay tuned for the next installment, The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 2: Too Fat, Didn’t Read.

 

 

What questions do you want to ask those opposed to the body positivity movement?

logical fallacies

I am writing an article trying to address both sides of the body acceptance issue without requiring any direct confrontation between those involved. My goal is to shape an academic discussion free of logical fallacies.

I first need a list of questions from those supporting fat acceptance/body positivity that they would like to see answered by people who disagree with/oppose the body acceptance movement. Once I get the list of questions, I will pose them to people who disagree. I am doing the same procedure with anti-FA supporters, getting questions from them to have you answer. Once I have questions and answers from both sides, I will compile them in an article.

I am looking for questions that are not loaded and as anti-inflammatory as possible so as to promote a clear and academic dialogue.

Your questions, when posed to others, will be completely anonymous.

 

Power, Privilege, and Fatness: Why thin shaming isn’t on the level of fat shaming

body shame

Greetings, fellow naturally thin-ish people.

I’d say “thin people,” but most of us are a few years past the point that the angles on our face were perfect no matter what we ate, or our asses could stop traffic. If not? We soon will be. But I’m speaking, here, to the non-fat. The wee. The svelte. The thin. The fast-metabolismed. The genetic lottery winners.

You know who you are. We don’t count calories, we can spend entire days without thinking about our body sizes, and while we may feel like shit about how we look, we certainly aren’t told that it’s all our fault. That’s who we are. If not? Quietly leave. I’m not talking to you.

Are they gone?

Okay.

So hello, thinnish people.

I have some distressing news for all of us, and it comes straight from the fat horse’s mouth:

We don’t get to talk about thin shaming like it’s every bit as bad as fat shaming.

Yes, yes, I know the argument. “Isn’t making fun of anybody’s body just as bad as making fun of anybody else’s?”

No. Just, like, way no. All the no. There’s no more “no” left, because I just took it all.

Stick with me, here.

I rejected this idea for years, myself. I wanted, very badly, for all prejudicial language, and every minimization of a group of people to be analogous and equal. As a thin (not to mention white) male, I wanted very badly for any member of any minority groups’ criticism of me based on anything but my actions to be every bit as bad as every insult thrown at them for no reason. Every barb. Every discriminatory act. Every oblivious act. I wanted my resentment to be as justified as theirs. I wanted them hating on me for being white, or male, or thin– I wanted it to be just as unthinkable and obviously terrible as it would be for me to hate on them for being black, or female, or fat.

But dude, I say, hoping the colloquialism doesn’t alienate…

It way wasn’t.

I was just an asshole.

I have an analogy here that many haven’t considered. It’s obvious, which means I’m a bit of a hack. It’s simplistic, which means I’m not the academic I would love to be, but it is also accurate. When people say that shaming the thin for being thin as akin to shaming the fat for being fat, here is what they are saying:

“Whites are the new blacks.”

Ridiculous, right? But this is an argument that is currently being made. According to a recent survey performed by Harvard and Tufts sociologists, many white Americans believe that they are now the persecuted minority.

Speaking as a white man, we’re not. We absolutely aren’t. We couldn’t be less the new blacks were minstrel shows about white folks to suddenly become, y’know, a thing. I can picture it now:

“Did you file those reports, Johnson?”

“No, Thomas. I was busy getting STARBUCKS!”

<Dismissive song and dance>

<Laughter>

Almost sounds like the Big Bang Theory.

Here’s the thing: there’s no comparing the oppressed with the oppressor. Agents and targets of oppression, as they’re known among several frameworks of social theory, will never be the same thing.

And that doesn’t mean that anybody’s a bad person. Nobody’s suggesting that anybody should be shot for laughing at fat people. But, y’know, nobody was suggesting that many others should be shot for laughing at movie portrayals of House Mammies. And yes, I am comparing these things, and yes, I do believe they’re analogous. Not on the same level, sure, but the same act. The same superior dismissal. The same subjugation and disenfranchisement of a target group.

It’s unthinkable to act, consciously and publicly, as if those who are born different should be treated with malice, but it is still totally okay to treat the larger members of our country with constant disdain, and disrespect. The reason for this is the same reason you’d almost never hear somebody say “I’m fine with Mexicans so long as they’re not all up in my face with it,” but the same is said about gays on a fairly regular basis:

Choice.

Fatness, like sexuality, is seen by many as a matter of choice. And worse yet, while a gay man can’t make himself straight, nor should he, a fat person can make themselves thin, so that must mean thin is better, right? That fat means unhealthy, right? That every fat person is just lazy, right? They should be thin and healthy like us! Go health! Dog-whistles!

I eat like shit, never exercise, and spend all day sitting. My wife eats well, controls portions, exercises, and spends all day on her feet. I’m thin, she’s not. I’m considered height-weight proportionate. She’s not. Oh, and I’m at risk of heart disease. She’s not.

Bullshit it’s all choice, and the health argument is ridiculous. And I am here, in my pants that fit, gleefully doling out said ridicule.

Our differences in metabolism are ignored. People wrongly assume I’m the healthy one and she isn’t, and for this reason, she can be mocked and I can sit in my bubble of oppressive social agency, secure that I’m a part of dominant culture, body-size wise. It’s not okay to say “nigger,” or “bitch,” or “fag” offhandedly on, say, network television, but it is 100% okay to call somebody a fatass. Or tank-ass. Or lard-ass. Or bubble-gut, or even such subtle jabs as “she’s let herself go.”

So when somebody who is exposed to this every minute of every day lashes out and says, “yeah? Well FUCK thin people!” we don’t get to act as if this the same as somebody calling a bigger guy or gal a fatass, because we are told, every time we watch television, every time we see a film, every time we look at a billboard, and every time we see a fashion magazine: “You’re okay. You count. You matter.”

When a gay man says, “fuck straight people,” he is not oppressing, because he is not in power, culturally-speaking. He is not in the position to oppress. When a black man says, “fuck white people,” he is not oppressing white men, because his group is not the dominant group. When a woman says, “fuck men,” she is not oppressing men, because to oppress, your social group must be on top. That’s what oppression is. 

But when a fat person talks smack about the “rail thin,” or the “anorexic models,” or even something so naked as “those fucking thin people,” they are treated, just as their oppressed contemporaries are when they retaliate, as oppressors.

They’re not, dude. They’re way not.

They’re just being assholes.

It’s a very important distinction to make.

Fat people are a persecuted minority. If you don’t believe this, just take in all of your daily media with the idea in mind of how you’d feel if you had what I like to call The Big Gene; if your metabolism sucked, and no matter how healthy you were, you still just had some heft to ya’. Just pay attention for one day to how godawful you’d feel. Most of us don’t even have to reach too far for this, because we’re not models. We’re already facing it, just not on nearly the same level.

Nobody is suggesting that there has ever been a fat-person lynch mob. Nobody is suggesting that fat people are regularly murdered for declaring their love in public. Nobody is actually comparing the plight of the fat to the historical and contemporary plight of other minorities. Nobody who matters, anyway.

But, as always, there’s a “but.”

Fat people are consistently mocked on television and in movies. Magazines have whole issues devoted to “Worst Bathing Suit Bodies”. Fat people are told how they should (and shouldn’t) dress, how they should eat. They are judged much more critically, and much more frequently than non-fat people. They are targets, because they are at the weaker end of the power dynamic. That is what makes “fat bitch” a different insult than “skinny bitch” and why fat shaming is different than thin shaming. Neither is positive, and neither should be acceptable. But thin shaming doesn’t excuse fat shaming; if anything, it only continues to oppress an already oppressed minority.

So, y’know, try not to pile on by pretending to be a victim.

Don’t be an asshole.


UPDATE

We have been receiving a lot of feedback on this article. Check out our responses!

Reblog: Why to love your double chin

The Offbeat Empire is one of my favorite repositories for body-positivity content. I was particularly pleased with this article:

Why I love my double-chin laugh (and hope to see it at my wedding).

This article because it expresses genuine joy about one’s appearance, not in spite of “flaws”, but because of them. When the author sees pictures of herself laughing with a double chin, she knows she is ACTUALLY laughing, and actually happy.

Body Competition as Anti-feminism: A Pinterest Round-up

A reader recently suggested a topic for The Fat Word, namely the incessant fat-shame/thin-shame nastiness that is flung back and forth in the name of “self-love”. Now, while I do not consider “fat shaming” and “thin (fit) shaming” to be truly comparable (a topic for a future lengthy article in the works), I do think the struggle represents something else even more unsettling. Not only are we allowing societal norms to dictate how we feel about ourselves, we are allowing a gut, reactionary response drive us away from fellowship with other women. Somehow, body empowerment has become a form of anti-feminism.

I myself have a bit of a Pinterest addiction. I use it for many diversions, including fatshion/style, home decor ideas, and as a depository of fatbulousness in the form of The Fat Word pin board. I have created a new board in search of the sort of divisive body “positive” propaganda that undermines the progress of women in society. I would like to share a few particularly aggravating images, along with a brief discussion.

This is probably one of the more aggressive pins I have found on the “fit” side of the fence. The pin reads:

“Fuck yeah, I’ll show off the body I slaved for. You can cry all day about my so-called arrogance, but if you worked as hard as I did for what I have, you would be flaunting it to (sic). Enjoy your jealousy. I’ll enjoy looking good.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on, girl! I am proud of you! You clearly work hard to maintain a certain body type. Hard work is commendable, and feeling proud about your hard work is natural. You have obviously received some degree of flack for your body, but do you really think jealousy is the problem? Maybe your “jealous” critics simply feel bad about themselves because of unrealistic societal expectations? Oh perhaps, they feel bad because they are being aggressively told that they AREN’T working hard, and that this perceived lack of effort makes them inferior in some way.

As you can see, us chubby chicks are equally responsible for this divisiveness. This pin reads:

“Thigh gaps are so last year.”

Um, what? Firstly, I am pretty sure the lack or increase of thigh gap-iness isn’t something in the Sportsbook at Ceasar’s. It’s not something that varies year-to-year, and certainly isn’t a fashion trend. Thigh gaps, or a lack thereof, are physiological. They aren’t something invented by the Fashion Industrial Complex, and they definitely aren’t something you can pick up at Macy’s. The insinuation here is that a certain physiological feature makes one more or less fashionable. This alienates thin women, rather than unites all women together against the common cause of fashion bias.

Here we have a double-whammy (really, it’s more like an exponential whammy) of two different “Love Your Body” campaigns smooshed into a single pin. If that isn’t direct comparison, I am not sure what is. First of all, my body doesn’t look particularly like the body of any of these women, so there is some alienation right there. Each ad by itself is harmful because it proclaims what “real” beauty is. The mad-pinner that mashed them together is the real trouble-maker, however. Together, these images create the message that there are super-thin women, and “regular” women, with “regular” women being more deserving of respect and admiration. The point of this pin is to make the viewer of the pin look at one graphic or the other and say, “Ew”.

Here is another highly aggressive pin. The stance is aggressive. The facial expression is aggressive. What it literally says is:

“Fat? No, I prefer too wide for your narrow mind.”

This pin does not say, “Cross this bridge with me.” Instead, it seems to say, “Get off my fucking bridge because I am hot and you can’t handle it.” This pin is divisive because it tells people their perceptions are not only incorrect, but that they are, in fact, stupid. As a hypothetical thin woman, am I supposed to feel unity with this pinner? Shouldn’t it be women vs societal oppression rather than aggressive, militant fatty versus poor, thin victim?

Okay, y’all… one more and I promise the torture will stop.

I think this is technically a “thinspiration” pin, to help motivate the pinner to work out and lose weight. It reads:

“Make them regret the day they dared call you fat.”

There are so many layers of malcontent discord-mongering in this one pin, I feel like I need a toothpick to hold it all together. First of all, who is “them” in this scenario? A particular person? Ex-lover? High school bully? Or is it society in general? If it is the latter, then doesn’t “them” encompass everyone viewing the pin with the exception of the original pinner? Secondly, I am really fixating on the phrase “make them regret”, as it implies there will be some sort of dire consequence exacted by the pinner against all who implied her fatness, because “fat” is a terrible, shaming insult. This pin suggests that being called fat is something so egregious that a POUND OF FLESH SHALL BE EXACTED FOR EVERY POUND OF FLESH IMPLIED. Again, a wedge is being driven between women of different body types under the guise of “fitness”.

If we really want to make progress in the arena of body positivity, we need to stop driving a wedge between ourselves. This isn’t just an issue of body type, it’s a fundamental feminist issue. We shouldn’t be on Team Fit, Team Thin, Team Curvy, or Team Fat. We should be on Team Woman, working together towards goals that will benefit ALL women, not just a small subset. Petty infighting will only further the agendas of others who look to oppress women and keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

The Fat Word: The Beginning

Starting a blog is hard.

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First, you need a central concept and theme. For me, the central concept started as a gripe. Actually, more like a series of interconnected gripes that bordered on angry ranting and came across as sour grapes. I am fat, therefore flawed in some way. There are vast machinations that remind me on a daily basis that I am ugly/lazy/stupid/ill/undesirable. Most of the time, my logic and self-esteem win out and I saunter through my day with sass and self-possession. Roughly 20% of the time, however, societal pressures win out and make me feel like a disgusting, lumpy monster. No one should feel like that. Even “thin” and “attractive” people feel that way – we live in a media-rich world saturated with body-shaming messages disguised as entertainment and advertising.

This blog is for the Lumpy Ones.