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.

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.

 

 

Rompers, Judgment, and Hypocrisy: Wear Whatever the Hell You Want

romper

I used to be very judgmental of women for what they wore:

You’re dressing too young. You aren’t a little girl.

You don’t look professional. No one will take you seriously.

Those leggings aren’t doing anything for your figure.

That shirt looks trashy; it’s way too tight.

Don’t you think those heels are a little too high?

No one needs their ass bedazzled.

Want to know the truth? To some extent, I still have these thoughts pop up from time to time. Upon reflection, I am not 100% sure why I feel this way. It’s divisive. It’s anti-feminist. It’s body-shaming. I am pretty sure it is rooted in my own body insecurity. I am working on loving my body, but why do I need to sacrifice the self-esteem of others in the process?

I spend a lot of time on Reddit trying to figure out the whole anti-body-acceptance philosophy, and I frequently see people trying to justify their viewpoint, saying that they aren’t against fat people. They are against “stupid” fat people. Health deniers. Hambeasts who proclaim that there isn’t anything wrong with being “deathfat”, etc. Essentially, there are different kinds of fat people: ones that love their body and don’t see societal pressure as a reason to change, and those who dislike themselves and their body and see their self-worth in terms of how far they are willing to go to adjust their bodies to meet the societal norm, including clothing oneself in such a way as to keep their bodies from bothering others aesthetically.

Poisonous, right? I have been actively working on culling the latter attitude from my personality. I don’t know exactly when I changed my purview. I have been firmly in the “wear whatever the hell you want” camp for a couple of years now, because I know now that it is the ethical, social, and empathic right thing to do. Was it a gradual change? Was it precipitated by my fluctuating weight? Cultural minority studies?

Nope. I think it’s when I discovered leggings.

Many people who know me can confirm that on many an occasion, I proclaimed “leggings are not pants”. Saying it now, I feel like a prude. True, leggings are not pants. They are leggings. But what does that mean, exactly? That leggings shouldn’t be worn? Are they too risqué? Are they unflattering? Are they okay for thin people, but not for fat people? If so, why? Is there something inherently more acceptable about a thin person’s body so that they can wear leggings without judgement? Or is it just slut-shaming?

One day, I bought myself a pair of leggings. They are AMAZING. I wear them with dresses. I wear them with shirts. I wear them with heels and I wear them with boots. I bought more leggings. They are comfortable. They make me feel like a superhero. They spoke to me. They told me I was wrong for assigning value to someone’s clothing. Clothing is expression. Clothing is comfort. Clothing is an extension of one’s personality. Who am I to censor that?

shileggings

I see this picture, and I feel good about myself. Maybe a year ago, I would have seen something different. Now, I see a confident person, a person who feels good about themselves, at least most of the time. Nowadays, I read articles about what a woman SHOULDN’T wear, what is unflattering, what is inappropriate. I feel bad for the authors of those articles, because I empathize. I know where words like “shouldn’t” and “can’t” are rooted. I know the insecurity that comes with such words.

All of this brings me to the subject of rompers.

What is a romper? Put simply, it is a one-piece article of clothing that is essentially a pair of shorts sewn onto a top. Think summertime speed-suit.

According to the internet, they are uniformly ugly, unflattering, and definitely not designed for fat bodies. In the before-time, I would have nodded vigorously, agreeing with the romper-haters, echoing the sentiment. But you know what? I’ve looked them up and think they are pretty cute. So cute, in fact, that I might order one and wear it out with sandals and a cardigan. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. I’ll wear whatever I goddamn please, and so should you.

Swimsuit Followup and Poll

Both the Worldly Ikat and Bold Cutout bikini sets

My two new suits from Forever21 came in the mail yesterday. I was dubious because I’ve not had great experience with that store in terms of quality and sizing. They notoriously “size down” in that I am a street size XL or 1X anywhere else, but I am a 2X at F21. I went ahead anyhow and bought two suits, each one costing $29.80. I stuck with 2X just to be safe and make sure my bazooms were covered. I naturally assumed I wouldn’t look good, or the fit would be wrong, or the material would be cheap, or any number of other sad mantras us bigger folk resign ourselves to.

I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They are both adorable!

It’s unfortunate, but Forever 21 only goes up to a 3X, which really cheeses me off because their 3X is really a 2X and excludes a fair number of my would-be swim sisters. Do you like to swim? What do you look for in a swimsuit? Where do you usually shop for suits?

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?

Help dress me!

No LBD

Every year I attend a charity auction to raise money for the scholarship fund at my school. I have done the LBD in all of its infinite variations and want to do something different this year. I have two outfit ideas and was hoping to get some feedback from my fashionable readers. POLYVORE, ACTIVATE!

These two outfits are based around articles of clothing I already have or could easily acquire. I have no interest in shelling out a ton of money anymore for a one-night event — remember the boundless closet of LBDs?

This first outfit centers around some black, studded booties and a cool whale necklace I already own (similar to, though not exactly like the pictures) and a burgundy midi skirt I got at Goodwill the other day for $1.99. The peplum top is from Target and is on sale for $17.

 

Auction Outfit #1

 

This second outfit is what I am currently leaning toward, though it requires me to procure more items than the first. It is based around a striped blazer I love. Coral and teal are a color combo fave of mine, and gold accents it well. I would need to get all three items to pull the outfit off; Target carries the dress, and I am sure Goodwill has suitable accessories, though I am at a loss as to where to find the gold sandals.

Auction Outfit #2

 

Thoughts? Where do you weight in?

5 Things Shiloh Doesn’t Hate: March Edition

You matter

Believe it or not, dear readers, but I don’t hate everything. There are certain things I am quite fond of, and I want to share some of them with you to help break up the repetitive, indignant ranting that makes up the bulk of the content on TFW. I can be positive! The constant hating just means the things I don’t hate are EXTRA rad.

1. Goodwill’s glorious accessories case

Behold the majesty of the accessory case at Goodwill

Behold the majesty of the accessory case at Goodwill

Most of my friends and acquaintances can attest to the fact that I am proud that my wardrobe is primarily thrifted. A lot of people scoff, thinking that those who wear secondhand clothing have mostly boho or shabby chic aesthetics, but I assure you — my shit looks PULLED TOGETHER, even though I wear an 18W/1X. There is surprising variety if you know how to look and what to look for. The key, however, is having something to tie the outfit together. One can dress relatively conservatively and still look fashionable with the addition of a few accessories. This is an area where the Goodwill in my neighborhood excels. In a fit of ennui (Can one have a fit of ennui? Or would it be more of a shrug?) I headed over to Goodwill in search of nothing in particular. I had been feeling mopey about myself, but didn’t have the scratch for a proper power shopping binge. What costs $3, fits in your hand, and is as versatile as a black t-shirt? A Goodwill necklace. What costs $12 and is four times better than a Goodwill necklace? FOUR Goodwill necklaces.

2. Edible lab experiments I love kombucha. As a gift, my wonderful friend Marianne gave me a kombucha home brew kit. I’ve been trying variations on the recipe. The first batch was a tasty success, though I don’t think I waited long enough for the second ferment to thoroughly carbonate the bottles. The second batch came into contact with some mold spores and needed to be disposed of. The third batch is currently bottled and in the second ferment stage. I just started a fourth batch this evening, this time with green tea instead of the standard black tea. I wish I had cooler glassware and some goggles so I could get my Dr. Horrible on.

3. Well-fitting bras As most plus-sized ladies know, we come in a variety of proportions that vary more extremely than our straight-sized counterparts. That makes finding clothes that much harder — big butts, round tummies, big boobs — no wonder plus-sized clothing is so boxy! It needs to be cut in such a way as to accommodate everyone’s lumps, bumps, and curves, no matter where they are. I personally have a pretty big differential between my bra band size and my cup size. I recently gained some weight, and when from a 36 G (that’s four Ds, people) to a 38 H. Now, I could still technically wear my old bras, though structurally they are designed for smaller boobs and the added strain is spread out through the muscles of my neck, shoulders, and back. If you have chronic back pain, there’s a good chance your bra is the wrong size. I had terrible back pain for years until my friend Susie suggested I go to Nordstrom’s and have a proper fitting. I was cramming my poor sweater puppies into a 38 DD, just because that was the biggest cup size I could find in conventional stores. In case you didn’t know, 38 H is a tough size to find. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to find cheap bras again, and it’s also tough to find bras that aren’t matronly and plain. This month, I lucked out big time.

I was able to get both of these comfortable bras, in the correct size, on sale for less than $50 apiece. They are also the two cutest bras I’ve ever owned. That is a major win for the big boobed.

4. Sleeping in and maintaining fabulous hair I have been trying out different hair colors in an effort to find something a bit more distinctive than my typical mouse-brown. I dyed it auburn for a while, and then dyed over that with black. I’ve been told it’s now “black cherry”.

My hair is pretty wavy, and I usually blow dry it in the morning to tame the bed head. Since springing forward for DST, I’ve been having a hard time waking up. I moved my alarm time up 10 minutes, then 20, then 30, then 30 with a snooze-button press… something had to drop out of my morning routine to make room for the extra zees. That translated into evening washes, and a metric butt-ton of bobby pins.

I generally get lots of compliments for this ‘do, which only reinforces sleeping in. Pretty soon, I’ll be getting up just in time to do my hair and then go back to sleep again. I’ll be the most well-coiffed, well-rested person in the history of this blog.

5. The Fat Word I started writing this blog when I was experiencing a lot of self-esteem problems and personal tumult. I was tired of passively cruising through existence having life happen to me. I needed to have some control over my life, do something positive with my free time, and generally realign my ethics compass. I conceived of The Fat Word originally out of frustration with life. Now that I’ve been writing, I’ve felt more connected not only with those around me, but with a whole community of people who also want to create a positive change in their lives and the lives of others. I have received overwhelming support for this blog from friends and loved ones. The Fat Word has dramatically improved my quality of life. It is something I have control over than is consistently positive and reinforcing, something to look forward to when everything else seems shitty. The Fat Word is perspective, perspective that I badly needed; The Fat Word works to help keep me from hating ME.

You matter, and so do I.

You matter, and so do I.

 

The Counter-productivity of Craigslist Revenge: How Jezebel got it wrong

Jezebel recently featured a Craigslist “missed connection” where a woman read the riot act to a man for making another woman cry on the subway by calling her fat.

First, the ad-writer describes the initial interaction:

You got up right before the Stony Brook stop and said something in a low voice to the woman next to you. You exited the train and she burst into tears. I asked her what you said—-and in between sobs she goes, “he said ‘Have some respect for yourself and lose some weight’

This is classic thin privilege — someone concern-trolling a complete stranger, not knowing their history or a thing about them. The man clearly has no concept of what his comment actually meant. Shaming a total stranger under the guise of helping them? Despicable. Inexcusable. Disgusting. How does the woman respond? What is her logical, convincing argument to help coach the behavior of the Subway Concern Troll?

Here is the full Craigslist post:

Craigslist Revenge

She insults him. Not just his behavior and actions (“dog”, “miserable coward”) but his personality — something she can infer based only on the one transaction she observed on the train, combined with (drumroll please…) his appearance. Here is her analysis (emphasis added by TFW):

You: blond, slicked hair, hipsterish. You manage to be both tasteless and sanctimonious, and something tells me you brag about loving Bukowski even though you only made it 80 pages deep into Women. You definitely think you’re smarter than everyone, and you love reflective surfaces. You work in design/tech/oh wait, who cares, you don’t fucking matter. You treat women like garbage, but don’t worry—-we hate you. You have a stank on you, and a lot of us can smell it…truly a dookiestain made flesh. You don’t have an original thought under that stupid haircut. You are a straight up fucking bully, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Bullies are the absolute worst.

The thing is, part of you knows this, and you’re upset that no one treats you like the special snowflake you believe yourself to be. So you say horrible things to strangers in public to make yourself feel better. Stop being such a fucking bully and shitting on other humans just because your wounded-ego feels like taking a dump. No really, just fucking stop.

Any of my fellow feminist vigilantes who might be reading this: keep an eye out for a white dude, around age 30, who looks like a wacker version of Macklemore, if that’s possible. Make sure you remind him of his insignificance.

Notice the repeated references to his appearance, and what his appearance must mean. He dresses like a hipster, therefore he must be pretentious and full of himself. He must work in tech or design based on his haircut. He has no original thoughts, and is vain, and resentful of women for not appreciating him. But none of that really matters, because he himself is an irrelevant human being.

Someone making judgements about another person based on their appearance does not make it okay to tear into them based on their own appearance. It is not okay to use a haircut and one comment as a baseline for inferring the entire world view and personality of another person. Nor does it do anything to convince the man to understand his mistake. It doesn’t serve to educate, just alienate. It is no better than telling the woman on the subway to have respect for herself. He doesn’t know her. His behavior could be coming from a place of genuine (albeit prejudiced and misguided) concern. Do you think he’ll feel concern now? Probably not. He’ll be angry. Defensive. Resentful. And he’ll have no reason to feel otherwise.

Jezebel provides very shallow commentary:

How many Craigslist missed connections/personal ads include the word “dookiestain”? More than you’d think, I bet!

As is the case with anything on the internet, there’s always the chance that this isn’t real, but what is real anyway? Are you real? Am I real? PROBABLY NOT.

Anyway, see it as a win-win. If it’s fake, then some poor woman wasn’t verbally harassed on the train. If it’s real, then the person who wrote this just delivered a slam dunk ass whooping AND coined the phrase “like a wacker version of Macklemore.”

Thank goodness we now have the phrase “like a wacker version of Macklemore”. It’s so much better than genuine social change and respect for each other as human beings.

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!

Fat, Foxy Style — A Pinterest Roundup

fox dress

Adorable animal clothing need not be relegated solely to the closets of cute, thin hipsters. Fat hipsters must also have access to such adorableness. We need not shy away from attention-grabbing graphics and dresses with cute prints.

How cute is this skirt? Fox in the flowers, indeed! What I really like about this skirt is that you can layer and downplay it, or you can feature it prominently by just wearing colorful flats and a long necklace.

The majority of fox-themed clothing I found involved jumpers. This sassy sweater has a large graphic and would look good with a simple pencil skirt or skinny jeans, with some brown, strappy booties.

See? Jumpers. I love this casual, unisex look. The flats pull the whole thing together.

The animal-print leggings and stilettos really make this outfit. I also love the bold, collar necklace.

The addition of the midi skirt and cute pumps supports my assertion that sweatshirts can be classy.

This dress is perfect for spring. Add some combat boots, a belt, and a military-style cardigan, and you’ll be good to go.

In terms of whole-outfit completion, a Fat Fox over at Tumblr really killed it with this little number:

SHE EVEN HAS A FOX PURSE! AND A SNOOD!

I own a lot of clothing items with birds on them. Do you have any cute, animal-themed clothing?

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.

lsp2

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.