Your comments answered!

Here at The Fat Word, we’ll get comments from time to time that warrant lengthy, thoughtful responses.

Here’s one responding to Power, Privilege, and Fatness:

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No one is saying you have it great. No one is talking about YOU, specifically.

On the whole, most people feel bad about their bodies in some way. This essay isn’t about the individual slights against innumerable targets, each contextually unique. This essay is about sociology — the dynamics of fat and thin shaming working on a societal level.

Just because there are people made to feel badly about themselves for their appearance doesn’t automatically make them a member of a target group when studying systemic discrimination. On a societal level, fat shaming is different from thin shaming because fat people belong to a target group with less power and influence than the agent group of thinner people. Because society on the whole treats fat people with less respect, and fat people can do little to change it, they are the persecuted minority.

This sociological assessment most certainly doesn’t discount the individual suffering of people made to feel ugly and worthless for reasons other than being fat. Everyone has the right to feel good about themselves regardless of their position in any given power dynamic.

We another comment we wanted to address, this time on When Does “Fitspo” Become “Thinspo”:

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Weight loss is not the same as being healthy. Being fat isn’t the same as being unhealthy. A person’s body type and body size is not carte blanche to make judgements about them, their life, or their habits. In fact, unwanted, unwarranted judgement is DETRIMENTAL to one’s self-esteem and mental health.

The analysis of the “fitspo” pictures is to show that “motivation” can be unhealthy. Belittling others, making people feel bad about themselves, and promoting extreme and unhealthy means of weight loss creates an adversarial relationship with not only our own bodies, but with the bodies of others.

Lastly, we have one more comment from Power, Privilege, and Fatness:

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Joseph, the original author, wanted to respond to it himself:

I may not have made something as clear as I ought to have, as several posts have been brought to my attention by this blog’s founder from Facebook, Reddit, and even our own comments section, and I have been asked to respond. The posts in question read something like this:

“This jackass is comparing being fat with being black!”

I may be a jackass, but I am not, nor will I ever, compare the plight of the fat to the plight of any other target social group. To ensure that most got that message the first time around, this paragraph sat near the end of the original article:

“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.”

I hoped the paragraph would curb that particular line of thinking before it began, but I may have been too cute with it (it’s a problem I have), so let me state it here again, clearly:

In no way are any two minority experiences are analogous or interchangeable. They’re not even the same between two different members of any one target group, much less across categories.

And in no way are fat people analogous to black people in terms cultural experience.

The actual comparrison being made was of dismissive behavior from agent groups. And again, as stated in the article, while I certainly don’t view them as in the same ballpark, I do firmly believe that they’re playing the same sport.

The wonderful thing about encouraging people not to be dicks to each other is that it isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t have to focus on one target social group and fix everything, then move onto the next only if there’s time and energy left over. We can be nice to everybody, surface our assumptions, challenge damaging cultural norms, be aware of how our actions play out on a societal level as well as the individual level, and all come out ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I’m glad the article resonated with so many.

We here at The Fat Word appreciate all of the feedback we’re receiving, both positive and negative. We are not here to preach to the choir. We are excited to be able to encourage critical thinking and discourse by sharing our messages of body positivity and respect for all.

6 thoughts on “Your comments answered!

  1. I’m glad you took the time to respond to these comments. While thin shaming might not be the same on a societal level, to the person being shamed, it probably feels much the same. I realize your original article wasn’t meant to marginalize that pain, but I’m also glad you clarified that in your responses.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed your communication with your audience, and good clarification and expansion all around. I especially liked Joe’s revisit of his own post, though I have to say I thought he was pretty clear about what he was doing the first time around. I think the big revelation for me here is that everybody’s individual feelings of oppression and shame are unique and personal; this has the potential to produce sizable backlash when those feelings are in any way connected to the feelings of any other individual or group dealing with their own oppression and shame. I think people have a tendency to see any such comparison as a belittling of their own pain. Which I understand and am sensitive to, even if I also think it’s a little rhetorically unsound. Anyway: the comparison was clearly one of concept and NOT degree; I think the personal and emotional implications of the content obscured that for a lot of readers, which is just the reality of such a conversation.


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