Author: has written 217 posts for this blog.

Guest Bloggers are most welcome to diversify the range of views and experiences presented on this blog. The opinions of Guest Bloggers do not necessarily represent other bloggers on Feministe: differing voices are important to us. Readers are cordially invited to follow our guidelines to submit a Guest Post pitch for consideration.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

231 Responses

  1. Chally
    Chally September 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm |

    Excellent post, mate. :)

  2. Fat on Feministe « Spilt Milk
    Fat on Feministe « Spilt Milk September 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm |

    […] Fat on Feministe Jump to Comments Oh looky here! I’ve a guest post up at one of my favourite group blogs, Feministe. Check it out. […]

  3. notsotupelohoney
    notsotupelohoney September 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    Very touching and incisive. Are all your posts like this one?

  4. Chally
    Chally September 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    All her posts are pretty fabulous :D. Spilt Milk is one of my very favourite bloggers!

  5. Jen D
    Jen D September 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm |

    I love your observation about the language of hurt around dieting. Even though my recent foray into Fat Acceptance/Feminism/Media Studies has made me more aware of that kind of thing, some things are so ingrained that you don’t even notice until someone else points it out.

    And I agree with Chally: Spilt Milk is one of my fave bloggers too! I highly recommend her blog.

  6. Annaham
    Annaham September 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    Amazing post, Spilt Milk. I enjoyed every single word of it.

  7. Dorian
    Dorian September 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm |

    This is a wonderful post. It’s lovely to see your writing turn up on Feministe!

  8. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm |

    Thank you. This is what I don’t get about the anti fat acceptance people, the fact that they don’t seem to realise how fundamentally cruel and hurtful they’re being.

  9. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney September 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm |

    This is much appreciated after some of the comments elsewhere lately.

  10. smmo
    smmo September 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm |

    Oh, what a wonderful post. Thank you so much, for every word of it.

    I love this:

    The unhappy, waist-minding, calorie-counting, love-handle pinching woman is such a common trope that we barely notice her anymore.

    It is such a big part of the alarm around FA. How dare you stop worrying so much! How dare you be happy! Just, how dare you?

    Thank you.

  11. FluentFarmer
    FluentFarmer September 12, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    As a plus size gal, I applaud you.

  12. Kelly
    Kelly September 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm |

    Very good post. And what you talk about here is why I loathe sites like People of Walmart, etc. Those are human beings.

  13. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 12, 2010 at 7:35 pm |

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  14. NattieNell
    NattieNell September 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm |

    Fantastic article.
    I guess being in fat acceptance is like being a conscientious objector in the war on obesity.

  15. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm |

    This is just fantastic!

  16. Living the Questions
    Living the Questions September 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm |

    I like this so much: thank you.

    Loving my body, receiving it gracefully, letting it speak to me, learning from it… all of this seems so absolutely feminist and empowering to me. Treating it as an object to sculpt and chisel and discipline and evaluate with numbers does not… those things feel violent to me. And so for me, eating when my body cues me to, stopping when I receive those cues, moving in ways that give me joy and breath and strength: all of this is the most feminist and lovely way to relate to my body. These are also the ways that Health at Every Size recommends that we relate to our bodies.

    Fat is absolutely a feminist issue, for many reasons… loving women’s bodies, including the adipose tissue of them, is a radical, feminist act.

    I’m reminded to Mary Oliver’s line, in “Wild Geese”:
    “You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.”

    (The rest of the poem is excellent, too, and available online.)

  17. Mama Mia
    Mama Mia September 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm |

    I wonder what it would be like if kindness was the foundation for all activism, from all political points of view. What if the first thing we wondered about every word and action was if it was kind? What a different world we would have.

  18. Austin Nedved
    Austin Nedved September 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm |

    Not only are we bombarded each day with impossibly airbrushed photographs of ‘perfect’ models and other celebrities, but we see plenty of the alternative. We see the headless fatties in the news reports, the women who loathe themselves in the breast cancer campaigns, and women who make an art out of self-deprecation in sit-coms and diet ads.

    I’ve always wondered why no one talks about tightening up advertising regulations. It’s illegal to advertise cigarettes on TV, so why not ban ads for weight loss products? They’re practically as harmful.

    Another idea would be to censor photographs of airbrushed and/or anorexic models, and require beauty magazines to contain women of all sizes. It should be illegal to depict dangerously thin women as attractive either to sell a product or as a means of entertainment. It should also be illegal to portray women who are overweight as unattractive, although this would probably be more difficult to regulate.

    My idea is that we should both strengthen advertising regulations relating to diet and beauty products, and broaden the legal definition of obscenity so that media which depicts dangerously thin women as attractive can be censored by the federal government. This isn’t going to completely solve the fat acceptance problem, but it would definitely help.

    The pressure on women to look attractive to men is just as much at the root of the fat-hate problem as the oppressive beauty standards themselves. Being overweight isn’t nearly as stigmatized for men as it is for women. If media did not portray women as objects of desire that exist for the viewing pleasure of men, the stigma against overweight women would be seriously reduced. This is another area where the federal government could do a great deal of good.

    Unfortunately, there is a widespread belief that a narrow definition of obscenity is a vital part of the First Amendment, and that government censorship is immoral, especially when it’s done at the federal level. We need to be willing to question popular morality, especially when it results in an absolutely massive amount of human suffering.

  19. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 12, 2010 at 10:40 pm |

    Mama Mia: It’s a nice thought, but I’m not sure people are wired to be nice. We’re nasty little animals and we always will be so.
    Personally, I’m not nice to my body. My body is not *me,* it’s just a sack of meat I use to haul my brain around. For the record, I was a fat kid and always will be fat- I accept this fact, but it doesn’t mean I have to like my stupid meatsack.
    I regard fat like menstruation. It’s a part of life, some people can celebrate it, most just accept it and go on with their lives, and some regard it as really inconvienient and try to get rid of it at the first opportunity.

  20. shah8
    shah8 September 12, 2010 at 11:37 pm |

    That was pretty interesting, Austin Nedved. There’s been a dialogue in the UK about children’s advertising. Law against it apparently == fewer children’s tv shows on nonpublic tv. It also equals more product placement in adult tv shows that kids watch. So they’ve been talking a bit more about expanding the regulations. In the US, we haven’t really gotten beyond making sure that people were informed of the calories of the food in restaurants. There is a very personal-responsibility dialect that herds policy responses towards deluging people with more information than people as a whole really could process. Of course, this is a rather well worn defensive situation that’s been fully mapped by the tobacco industry. Fight as hard as hell for control of the imagery and retreat slowly on the textuals.

  21. Panicpony
    Panicpony September 13, 2010 at 2:42 am |

    (Sorry, I made a mistake posting this above)
    This was beautiful. I think it is a great guide on how to behave towards ourselves and each other in not just an FA context, but in the encouragement and acceptance of our own personal measures of health and an ALL body acceptance movement. And all activism, in the small behaviors and actions that make it what up the bulk of what it is.
    Thanks!

  22. book_gal
    book_gal September 13, 2010 at 3:12 am |

    “Your cellulite is not a moral failing.”

    I am going to write this above my mirror. This article is lovely, thank you.

  23. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 13, 2010 at 4:17 am |

    broaden the legal definition of obscenity so that media which depicts dangerously thin women as attractive can be censored by the federal government.

    Errr….”Dangerously thin” women are also beautiful. Their bodies are not obscene. Let’s not harm other women in our attempts to remove the harmful perceptions of fat women.

  24. Jackie
    Jackie September 13, 2010 at 4:33 am |

    Austin I agree with you about the diet drugs. Reminds me of when Harry said to his mother in Requiem for a Dream, that the diet drugs she was taking were essentially the same thing he and his friends were trying to sell on the streets.

    There has been discussion about photoshopped thin images of women in magazines. Some people have said if they’re going to use those images, they need to put a note saying they’ve been photoshopped. They also should have more women of size in magazines, as well as different ethnicities. I don’t know since I haven’t bothered reading magazines since I was a teenager, so I can’t say it really affects me all that much.

  25. geek anachronism
    geek anachronism September 13, 2010 at 4:58 am |

    I had the amazing luck to be born to a woman who refused to fat hate – herself and others. She would defend that choice quite ferociously too. Ma was generally fat and edged into obese as she got older and is now doing the weightloss thing but I grew up in a diet free house. It feels uniwue sometimes, that I don’t have fat hate in my upbringing. She embraced all shapes and sizes and for that I am eternally grateful.

    It didn’t stop me from having moments of body hate but they are rarely about fat and when they are it feels self-conciously incorrect. Like I’m performing it rather than feeling it. I hope my daughter is even more blessed and can avoid hating herself (or her ‘meatsack’ since it’s a pretty huge disconnect to separate the body and the brain).

  26. Atheling
    Atheling September 13, 2010 at 7:29 am |

    This is excellent. Thank you.

  27. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 13, 2010 at 7:57 am |

    Austin Nedved, shah8:

    There is talk of making the diet industry show the typical results of their programs in advertisements, instead of the exceptions. I wish I could remember the name of that article…

  28. Dominique
    Dominique September 13, 2010 at 9:02 am |

    This: “If media did not portray women as objects of desire that exist for the viewing pleasure of men, the stigma against overweight women would be seriously reduced.” It’s true this is more of a women’s issue than a men’s issue. Not to say men are not stigmatized – they are – but women are chastised twice: once for being “unhealthy-looking” and again for not doing their “job” as objects intended to fulfill male fantasies.

  29. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 13, 2010 at 9:21 am |

    Jackie: I don’t know since I haven’t bothered reading magazines since I was a teenager, so I can’t say it really affects me all that much.  

    They tend to use the same images and models for in-store campaigns and on billboards. You can avoid the magazine, but it’s much harder to not be affected by the message at all. I personally would love to see more size diversity on TV.

  30. Linda Bacon
    Linda Bacon September 13, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    This is such an awesome post. To help negotiate this difficulty of educating others, I wrote a series of letters customized for different groups (family/friends, doctors, fitness trainers, journalists…) to “kindly” help educate on fat acceptance. Feel free to check them out and circulate them: http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook/excerpts.html.

  31. Roschelle
    Roschelle September 13, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    just wanted to say great post and thank you guys so much for forcing me to think outside the societal box! Nursing teaches one to look for a causative agent regarding medical conditions and disease processes. Years of seeing obesity listed (along with other things, of course) as a possible causative factor for many ailments inadvertently gave me the biased notion that “fat” was always bad.

    My sister has been obese her entire adult life. She’s three years older than me, rarely ever exercises and is on NO medication.

    Me on the other hand. I’ve never been overweight, exercise regularly, eat a relatively healthy diet and I’m the one on blood pressure medicine.

    A perfect case study to disprove that fat is always bad has been right under my nose the entire time.

    Again, thank you all!

  32. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni September 13, 2010 at 10:30 am |

    Thank you for this. After a lifetime of mother-induced self-hatred, calorie counting, disordered eating, and disparagement and harm caused by health ‘professionals’ who refused to look beyond my waist-size – the first form of activism was to love myself. It took me until the age of thirty to realise that my visual impairment, brain damage and inability to work weren’t mere trifles (mmmm… trifle) compared to my size, and that in my condition the last thing I should be doing was starving myself, punishing myself, hating myself.

    The second form of activism I engaged in was to eat what tasted nice and to relearn my body’s signals, to not use food as a reward for myself, or to withhold it as ‘punishment’.

    The last form was the hardest – it was telling my mother that if she could not refrain from talking constantly about calorie count, fat grams, her diets, her/my dad’s weight gains/losses in my presence ever again, that she would not be able to talk with me at all. For their 30th wedding anniversary we’d taken them on a spa weekend in a hotel with a great restaurant. I ended up having to self-medicate with vodka because all she could talk about the whole weekend was how many calories the sauna would burn, how she’d planned to structure her evening meal in order of fat/calorie/carb content, how I should be aware that the curry I was ordering (with it’s delicious fluffy naan and scented rice) was a “Hidden minefield of calories”. I snapped “fuck calories, fuck the control, and let me enjoy what’s left of the weekend in peace.”

    If she wants to damage her health by considering herself a mere number on a scale, and wants to carry on enabling the restricting behaviours that reduced caloric intake gave my father, then she’s welcome. The fractures he apparently acquires at the slightest trip (he’s only 59), and her glee at realising that the cancer she had last year made her lose weight, are not a future I want for myself. Loving myself in spite of my looks when she never could, and refusing to let her poison my mind any further, are the greatest form of activism I could muster. Along with that I’ll try my hardest to ensure that my niece is protected from the toxicity. Hearing a three year old cancer survivor say “Nanna, will this lolly make me fatter?” chilled my blood. Helping her see that’s she’s beautiful, whatever her size, will be the activism that needs to last for years. So I’m eating what I want, so I can be around for that kid.

  33. Sprout
    Sprout September 13, 2010 at 10:59 am |

    Oh my. I read this post before I went to bed last night and had a dream that I went to visit my parents and my mom told me I looked fat, which was just devastating to me. This hasn’t happened in real life in a few years, ever since I had the big conversation/fight with her about how it doesn’t help when she’s critical of me. And I wouldn’t even call myself fat – yes I could perpetually stand to lose 10-20 pounds, but I’m not fat. I do, however, have body issues and food issues, which I largely blame on her and her constant dieting throughout my childhood. All through my teen years she made weight an issue with me. I distinctly remember her telling me when I was in 7th grade and had joined the school track team that I would run faster if I just lost 10 pounds. I mean, come on! Who says that to a girl in the midst of puberty? And I look back on pictures of myself during that time and I think “wow, I looked really good and healthy. How terrible that I spent all those years worrying about my body and constantly trying to lose weight.”

    All this personal rambling to say that yes, mothers can have a huge impact on their kids’ – daughters in particular – body image and relationship with food. I don’t think your story of your mother calling you fat is so terribly out of the ordinary, and that’s a tragedy. I love all you said about acceptance and kindness – it’s still something I’m working on for myself, and something I will try even harder to practice with others. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  34. Austin Nedved
    Austin Nedved September 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm |

    Kristen J.: Errr….”Dangerously thin” women are also beautiful. Their bodies are not obscene. Let’s not harm other women in our attempts to remove the harmful perceptions of fat women.

    You’re right. I don’t think that it should be legal to publish magazines that feature predominantly thin women, given the number of eating disorders and borderline eating disorders in our culture. This isn’t just about fat acceptance, it’s about preventing eating habits and beauty standards that are dangerous and cause misery. All body types should be considered attractive or at least potentially attractive, and since thinness is already viewed this way, banning beauty magazines that contain only thin women shouldn’t be problematic. Allowing those that feature predominantly large women to be published while banning magazines that show only thin women is basically affirmative action.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm | *

      You’re right. I don’t think that it should be legal to publish magazines that feature predominantly thin women, given the number of eating disorders and borderline eating disorders in our culture. This isn’t just about fat acceptance, it’s about preventing eating habits and beauty standards that are dangerous and cause misery. All body types should be considered attractive or at least potentially attractive, and since thinness is already viewed this way, banning beauty magazines that contain only thin women shouldn’t be problematic. Allowing those that feature predominantly large women to be published while banning magazines that show only thin women is basically affirmative action.

      I think the idea of banning magazines or images because they show thin women too often is completely preposterous. I don’t think it’ll achieve many of the goals of the fat acceptance movement, either. Censoring access to certain images or materials has not really been especially successful at shifting social values or changing peoples’ minds.

  35. Manic Monday Link Roundup « Smart Angry Women

    […] At Feministe, Fat acceptance: when kindness is activism. […]

  36. shah8
    shah8 September 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm |

    Thing is, Jill, I think that will be unavoidable to a certain extent. Affirmative Action doesn’t really work well without quotas, and many other things don’t work well without a particular kind of Soviet style no-nonsense. People are really creative about their badness, and visual edits of people with the presumption of some correlation to reality (tho’ lord knows, not ever true of photography, but moving on…) has been an element of psychic attack since the first extra-extra large carved stone phallus. A real handle on many of the problems we face mostly has to do with stopping the Marketroids from systematically making people feel vulnerable to censure (among other things). Strong regulation of visual images has to be a component. I don’t know that I’d make demands that all body shapes be represented, but I think there is a great deal of trouble in trying to enforce something more nuanced than blunt force trauma of quotas.

  37. Emma
    Emma September 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    and since thinness is already viewed this way, banning beauty magazines that contain only thin women shouldn’t be problematic.

    I feel like your comment represents a misconception that as a thin woman you are already the epitome of beauty, and re-enforce that view within your own life. As a naturally thin woman I have to say that being thin does not detract from my own insecurities, nor does it create a shield that makes me not question my own body based on the comments of others. As much as other women should be represented in magazines (and this is horribly neglected), so too should women who are thin: because people are natural at every size. The censorship of such does nothing to create healthy body acceptance amongst all women.

    As for your comment about the normalization of eating disorders, it feels dangerously similar to arguments about why larger women should not be featured: “we don’t want to project fat as health – it encourages bad habits.”

    Both attitudes detract from the idea of Health At Every Size. Don’t blame the women for their bodies, blame society for the narrow definition of beauty and reject it by accepting all body sizes.

  38. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm |

    In their quest for exploiting marketing niches, companies are using models of different ethnicities and sizes, and all of the happy rhetoric that goes with it. Dove’s “Real Beauty Campaign” is one example. It’s not ubiquitous–yet–but I wouldn’t be surprised if the trend grew. I remain skeptical of this for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here–I wouldn’t mind those magazines and a lot of those media products just falling off the face of the earth because they are really fucking annoying to me. However, YMMV.

    Myself, I’d like to see us be free of the marketing juggernaut, but I’d also like a pony that shits rainbows, so pay me no mind.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm | *

      Unfortunately, there is a widespread belief that a narrow definition of obscenity is a vital part of the First Amendment, and that government censorship is immoral, especially when it’s done at the federal level. We need to be willing to question popular morality, especially when it results in an absolutely massive amount of human suffering. Austin Nedved

      Censorship of “obscene” material has also resulted in massive amounts of human suffering — not to mention intellectual poverty. There are a lot of ideas, images and things that I don’t like; there are a lot of images, ideas and things that I believe are incredibly harmful. But allowing the government to take certain ideas or images totally out of the marketplace is not something we should take lightly.

      It’s also a question of efficacy. Putting aside that fact that the government is never going to ban images of thin women because most people would agree that such a proposition is totally ludicrous, even if that proposition was grounded somewhere remotely in reality, I really don’t think it would do much. I mean, censoring pornography didn’t exactly get rid of peoples’ desires to engage in certain sex acts.

  39. Alison
    Alison September 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    I don’t think that it should be legal to publish magazines that feature predominantly thin women, given the number of eating disorders and borderline eating disorders in our culture.

    Oh FFS. I really hope you are not insinuating that all thin women have an ED or a “borderline” ED. If there are naturally heavy people, there are also naturally thin people. And yes, even some very thin women just have bodies and metabolism that makes them that way. Thin women are not all starving themselves to the brink, and the idea that you think the answer to fat-phobia is to paint thin women as these harbingers of eating-disorder doom is ridiculous.

    Also, if a thin woman DOES have an eating disorder, telling her that her body is not okay to show in public is pretty god damn unhelpful. This is along the “real women have curves” bullshit lines.

    I feel like your comment represents a misconception that as a thin woman you are already the epitome of beauty, and re-enforce that view within your own life.

    Seriously. You can still be called ugly or gross even while being thin. You can still have nasty comments flung your way and insecurities built up inside over things like your skin, your hair, your breasts, or even just how you look. Just being thin does not automatically mean you’re beautiful. Just as being fat does not automatically mean you’re not.

  40. shah8
    shah8 September 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm |

    I don’t the the models really fit with pornography. Those are visual images that people seek out. How many people will seek out specifically touched up images (if we could enforce that by magic)?

    1. Jill
      Jill September 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm | *

      Shah, that’s a fair point. But I think you would encounter some of the same problems as with pornography — how do we define “thin” or “fat”? “I know it when I see it” didn’t work so well with porn, and I don’t think it would work so well with body image either.

  41. smmo
    smmo September 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    The problem, as always, is capitalism. There is enormous cash to be made from exploiting and whipping up peoples’ insecurities about their bodies. The entire fashion world, of course. The diet industry, the OBESITY EPIDEMIC OMG PANIC industry, the obscene and deadly weight loss surgery industry, these are all huge money makers. For some of these legislative solutions make sense, but for magazines and other media the only solution is a counter-saturation of images of different body types. Even models don’t like that, Photoshop abounds, everyone knows it, we just have to train our minds to not take those images personally.

  42. smmo
    smmo September 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm |

    Correction, even models don’t LOOK like that. Oops.

  43. martini
    martini September 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm |

    This is a great post, would love to see people focusing on the kindness idea rather than derailing.

    My personal version of this is kinda backwards. My Mom is convinced that I’ll never get married because I’m fat (she’s probably right, unfortunately), but after years and years, I have managed to get her to stop commenting about my weight.

    My hurdle is that she needs me to support her weight loss goals. She’s significantly overweight, divorced for about 5 years, has some health issues that losing weight would help (bad knees is the biggest one). I did try a long time ago to talk FA to her, focusing on doing the good behaviours and not caring so much what your weight does in response to that, since you can’t affect it, but she wasn’t buying. At this point, I feel like supporting her efforts to lose weight are the kindest thing, even though it predictably makes me feel like shit to talk about that stuff. It feels like it’s something she needs, so I do it even though it hurts me. Sometimes, it’s really hard to know how to be kind – to others, and yourself.

  44. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni September 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    @martini – sounds like we have opposite predicaments and both need to utilise kindness to achieve them. Your mother is looking for help to lose weight to stabilise her health issues, and your act of kindness is to support that and keep her motivated even though it may cause emotional distress for you as you try to shrug off the years of programming.

    Mine is actively trying to lose weight despite the fact that she does not need to, and is shortening her lifespan by doing so. The only kindness I can give her at this point is the cruel kind, the refusal to enable her delusions, and by struggling to avoid the constant talk of food, of the clothes she bought today in size X, even though that’s emotionally distressing for me, as I try to shrug off all the programming, as I desperately try not to say “But you’re not fat” or “Have you lost weight?” because it’s kinder not to feed her demons. If I tell her she’s lost weight she’ll try harder to ‘keep going’, but if I say she hasn’t, then… she tries harder, the result is the same. Both of us angry, both of us hating ourselves and each other.

    I suppose our respective mothers are as indoctrinated as we are, so all we can do is be as kind as possible, by whatever means work best.

  45. Austin Nedved
    Austin Nedved September 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm |

    Jill: I think the idea of banning magazines or images because they show thin women too often is completely preposterous. I don’t think it’ll achieve many of the goals of the fat acceptance movement, either. Censoring access to certain images or materials has not really been especially successful at shifting social values or changing peoples’ minds.  (Quote this comment?)

    I didn’t say we should necessarily ban all magazines that show thin women too often. I said that beauty magazines that depict thinness and only thinness as attractive should be banned. This doesn’t need to be retroactive – it could apply exclusively to items published after a certain date in the future. This way, no currently existing magazines would have to be banned.

    As for achieving the goals of the fat acceptance movement, censorship could go a long way towards eliminating the view that women’s bodies exist primarily as objects of male desire, and that one needs to be thin in order to be attractive. Granted, censorship isn’t going to change people’s minds, but it will help change social mores and what people find attractive. Even if it doesn’t make people more willing to be accepting of individuals they find to be unattractive, it will broaden their idea of what is in fact attractive.

    Jill: Censorship of “obscene” material has also resulted in massive amounts of human suffering — not to mention intellectual poverty. There are a lot of ideas, images and things that I don’t like; there are a lot of images, ideas and things that I believe are incredibly harmful. But allowing the government to take certain ideas or images totally out of the marketplace is not something we should take lightly. It’s also a question of efficacy. Putting aside that fact that the government is never going to ban images of thin women because most people would agree that such a proposition is totally ludicrous, even if that proposition was grounded somewhere remotely in reality, I really don’t think it would do much. I mean, censoring pornography didn’t exactly get rid of peoples’ desires to engage in certain sex acts.  (Quote this comment?)

    Anyone who believes that all body types should be thought of as attractive and that women’s bodies don’t exist to gratify men is advocating for some type of censorship. You would like to see beauty magazines feature a wide variety of women of all sizes and colors. You would also like it if the media did not depict women’s bodies as existing for male enjoyment. But you don’t want the government to get involved, for whatever reason. You probably envision a situation where magazines that feature a narrow variety of women are boycotted, as are media producers who objectify women, but where it is nonetheless legal to publish that sort of thing. Using boycotts or social humiliation to censor this sort of material is what I call “social censorship.”

    Why is legal censorship ineffective, while social censorship is not?

    And you’re right about the pornography example. Banning pornography doesn’t eliminate the desire to have sex or to perform certain sex acts. I see human sexuality as a social construct with limits – certain aspects of it are malleable, while others are not. You can’t get rid of the desire to have sex no matter what you do, but you can construct it in certain ways. Take breasts, for instance. They are hypersexualized in some cultures, but are not sexually arousing in others.

    The trick to effective censorship is not to ban all depictions of the behavior you want to discourage. This will backfire tremendously. The right way to do it is it ban all positive or “titillating” depictions of the behavior you wish to deter. So if you don’t want people to think of breasts as sexual, only ban depictions of breasts that intend to appeal to the prurient interest. Similarly, if you don’t want people to think that only thin women are attractive, censor beauty magazines or anything else that depicts only thin women as attractive.

    I hope you don’t mind if I respond to your comment inteded for shah.

    Jill: Shah, that’s a fair point. But I think you would encounter some of the same problems as with pornography — how do we define “thin” or “fat”? “I know it when I see it” didn’t work so well with porn, and I don’t think it would work so well with body image either.  (Quote this comment?)

    That’s easy. You could require that women in beauty magazines or who are going to be portrayed as attractive in other sorts of media have certain measurements. Publications which intend to portray attractive women should have to contain women of a wide variety of measurements.

    I would agree that we should take censorship seriously, but only as far as protecting politicial speech and the free exchange of ideas are concerned. And while we shouldn’t take entire ideas out of the marketplace, we should regulate the way in which they are expressed. We already do this to some extent. For example, it’s illegal to advertise tobacco products on TV, but people can still argue that cigarettes are a good thing.

    This widespread belief that a narrow definition of obscenity is some sort of fundamental civil liberty is utterly ridiculous. Frankly, I’m embarassed to live in a part of the world where such an idiotic idea is so widely accepted.

  46. Alison
    Alison September 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    You could require that women in beauty magazines or who are going to be portrayed as attractive in other sorts of media have certain measurements. Publications which intend to portray attractive women should have to contain women of a wide variety of measurements.

    Your first sentence here seems to say only certain measurements would be allowed, which again, is completely wrong and not okay. If that’s what you meant, you are telling women with small chests or narrow hips or naturally slim bodies that they are not allowed to be called attractive. But then your second sentence says “wide variety”, so…which is it?

    And who gets to decide what those measurements are? I’ve had times of being 20-30 overweight, according to basic height/weight charts, wearing size 8-10 pants, and being called “thin” by other people. While size 10 does not have to mean fat (though it did for me, for myself) I would not call it “thin” at all. So who gets to set up the regulations for what measurements are okay to portray as attractive? You see no danger there?

  47. Alison
    Alison September 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm |

    (20-30 pounds, that is, obvs)

  48. martini
    martini September 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm |

    @Paraxeni: yeah, that’s it exactly. Best wishes to you and your Mom as well. So many of us are struggling with this in one way or another, and I think that centering kindness is an excellent way of thinking about this. I’ll be carrying this idea around with me for a long time.

  49. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    Austin Nedved: This widespread belief that a narrow definition of obscenity is some sort of fundamental civil liberty is utterly ridiculous. Frankly, I’m embarassed to live in a part of the world where such an idiotic idea is so widely accepted.

    How odd…as I am embarrassed to live in a part of the world that attempts define and censor consensual sexual expression “obscenity,” but I’m fairly certain this is a derail so why don’t we just let it go.

  50. zuzu
    zuzu September 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    shah8: Affirmative Action doesn’t really work well without quotas

    I don’t know where you live, but quotas are Not On for affirmative action in the US and haven’t been for decades.

  51. zuzu
    zuzu September 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    Hoo boy, Austin. Well, narrow definitions of obscenity are part of First Amendment jurisprudence and have been for a very, very long time; prior to . And even when things are obscene, it’s a violation of free-speech laws to prevent adults from consuming them — with the exception of child porn and a few other things.

    So good luck on that magazine ban. And Happy Banned Books Week!

  52. zuzu
    zuzu September 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm |

    zuzu: Well, narrow definitions of obscenity are part of First Amendment jurisprudence and have been for a very, very long time; prior to .

    Oops, got distracted there while I was editing. Make that “prior to the late ’50s and early ’60s, booksellers could be thrown in jail or bankrupted for really very tame naughty content sold to adults.” I’m not a big fan of the nanny state telling me what to do, or what I can read. I’m okay with required disclaimers, though, such as “This image has been Photoshopped,” because that’s adding information rather than telling me that the image is verboten.

  53. Diz
    Diz September 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |

    I have a huge amount of self-loathing from my grandmother and mother especially under the guise of health, even though my stats were good considering. The price of plus sized clothes alone when your income is crap is enough to make you try the worst diet plans in the world.

    Right now I’m battling how to deal with this with a 5 year old girl who is becoming aware of her body. It especially blows when people would make comments like “she’s so TINY!! were YOU ever that tiny??” or “coming from you, I didn’t expect her to be that small”. I constantly get those weird comparative stares when I’m with her and GOD FORBID I take her to a McD’s when I want to surprise her with a treat. It is the worst feeling in the world to be judged as a parent based on the fat and it really does make you feel incapable. I felt like I needed to design a T-shirt that read “no, my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels are fine, thanks for asking”

    I myself had a weak moment not too long ago, telling her that she shouldn’t eat another bowl of ice cream or she’ll get fat like mommy only to have her say “but I want to be fat like you!” and having no idea how to formulate a response. All I know is that it felt awful to project those insecurities onto her, when in her little world, there is nothing wrong with mommy at all, knowing full well that as she gets older there’s going to be plenty of people willing to fill her in on what’s wrong with mom.

    Navigating a world of princesses, toddler heels, kiddie manicures and dresses has been easier. Trying to teach the next generation to love her body when you’re barely learning to look at yourself in the mirror again and constantly putting yourself down? Dreadful.

    Which is why these posts at Feministe revolving around FA and HAES have been such a comfort to me, because I really did feel alone and ashamed. I feel better equipped to educate my wee one and start being positive.

    Thanks!

  54. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    I don’t think your story of your mother calling you fat is so terribly out of the ordinary, and that’s a tragedy.

    Thanks for your comment Sprout. I’m glad to see that others are opening up about those body-shaming experiences – I think if we talk about them, and think critically about them, we can reduce some of their power. You’re right that unfortunately, plenty of people are told by family members that they are fat – just I think (hope) that not many are told that in a reunion type situation!

    Diz: Right now I’m battling how to deal with this with a 5 year old girl who is becoming aware of her body.It especially blows when people would make comments like “she’s so TINY!!were YOU ever that tiny??” or “coming from you, I didn’t expect her to be that small”.I constantly get those weird comparative stares when I’m with her and GOD FORBID I take her to a McD’s when I want to surprise her with a treat.It is the worst feeling in the world to be judged as a parent based on the fat and it really does make you feel incapable.

    Oh I can relate to this so much! I would love to see more FA spaces tackling parenting-related issues, actually. You might want to check out this post from The Fat Nutritionist too, I found it really helped me when I first started thinking about motherhood and fat/health.

  55. Jadey
    Jadey September 13, 2010 at 6:12 pm |

    You could require that women in beauty magazines or who are going to be portrayed as attractive in other sorts of media have certain measurements.

    This (and the argument surrounding it) is one of the most disgusting things I’ve read in this whole series of posts, especially given its context in this particular thread. This helps no one. This perpetuates policing. This is the antithesis of what most of us have been asking for.

    Better representation and celebration of diversity is an outcome, not a means. To implement it in such a fashion would destroy its very purpose.

  56. Jadey
    Jadey September 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm |

    Thank you, Spilt Milk, for this post.

    I have been teaching and talking to my mother about this for years. I am very fortunate that, although she was in a very different place from me on this subject, she was able to bring herself to listen to me. She helped me hone my understanding and my arguments while I was helping her see the world from my perspective, and how much hurt and pain her comments caused me. I cried when I finally confessed to her (just a few months ago now) my fear of how close I am and have been to developing an eating disorder because of my food and body-related anxieties. I have always known that she meant to protect me from that, even if unintentionally what she was doing was making things worse. I was afraid of hurting her by confessing it. But she did not make the world poisonous any more than she is able protect me from the poison in it. We’ve just learned to hurt each other less and love each other through it.

  57. Jadey
    Jadey September 13, 2010 at 7:06 pm |

    And now I’m commenting a lot, but the final thing brought to mind for me while reading this amazing post, which is so personal to the writer and also resonants equally personally with many of us, is something that I have been thinking about constantly for the last week – why is FA failing to be relevant to so many people, and how do we address that?

    It’s not that I expect everyone to agree about everything, and I certainly recognize that there are many external obstacles for FA to overcome in reaching out, but I think we’ve highlighted again (not so much in this post, which may be an exception, but in terms of the whole shebang) that the FA movement as it stands frequently has a white and middle-class skewed representation, both in who claims membership and in the types of issues talked about and how they are talked about (and both of these problem obviously reinforce each other). I truly believe that FA is relevant to everyone, but I can’t lose sight of the fact that we definitely don’t always come across that way.

  58. catfood
    catfood September 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm |

    All I’m saying is… yeah, simple kindness really would go a long way with this. Body policing is just mean. I’m aware that’s not a very deep thought, but there it is.

  59. Austin Nedved
    Austin Nedved September 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm |

    Jadey: You could require that women in beauty magazines or who are going to be portrayed as attractive in other sorts of media have certain measurements.This (and the argument surrounding it) is one of the most disgusting things I’ve read in this whole series of posts, especially given its context in this particular thread. This helps no one. This perpetuates policing. This is the antithesis of what most of us have been asking for.Better representation and celebration of diversity is an outcome, not a means. To implement it in such a fashion would destroy its very purpose.  (Quote this comment?)

    A point of clarification: I do not think that only some people should be depicted as attractive. I do think that any media that is going to depict multiple images of what are supposed to be attractive women should be legally required to feature women with a variety of skin colors and body types.

    The purpose of measurements is to ensure the that body types the publications are promoting are in fact diverse. Jill argued that there was no clear way of legally defining “thin” and “fat,” so I pointed out that measurements could provide us with an objective way of differentiating between the two.

    Better representation of diversity is both a means and an outcome. Representation in the media is the means by which knowledge of what is and is not attractive replicates itself, so if the knowledge that thin and only thin is attractive cannot use the media to self-replicate, it will disappear entirely.

  60. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 13, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    OK, I’m really not liking this idea that we try to eliminate the current messed up, restrictive beauty standard by replacing it with a different one where we actually specify what measurements women featured in magazines may or may not have. Really? You honestly think that’s going to help?

    There’s really no way to regulate a specific set of guidelines as to what should be considered attractive without screwing some women over.

    Also you realise that women come in multiple heights and with multiple builds, right? So if you set it at say 38-30-38, that might look very skinny on one woman and kind of chubby on another, depending.

    It’s just a really stupid idea.

  61. Julie
    Julie September 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    I have a very skinny 6 year old… and in the last couple months I have been devastated to hear her say things like “I want to eat healthy so I can stay skinny” “I’m always going to be skinny, I’m not getting fat”. She has started doing jumping jacks before bed so she can be “healthy” and turning down cookies (though not often- she has a bit of a sweet tooth) so she can stay thin. This child is 6 years old! I am just beside myself. I try really hard not to talk down on myself but I know I do- I believe in FA, I believe in HAES and yet I just cannot accept that my body is ok. I hate the way I look and I hate even more that I may have been the one that passed this to my daughter. I know I’m not alone- my husband recently lost 20 pounds and was very down on his body before that as well- but it scares me that she is already worried about it at 6. I think it comes from hearing her dad and I, seeing how the kids are teased at school if they are being overweight and constantly being told by everyone how pretty and skinny she is (she’s also really smart but guess how often she gets told that by people other than my family?). I’ve tried to talk to her about how healthy has less to do with what you look like and more how you take care of your body, how mommy is still pretty healthy even though she’s fat (although she will assure me I’m not- at 5 foot tall and a size 18, I definitely am), how it’s ok to eat something you love, but I don’t know how much is sinking in. I get grilled before I serve anything about how healthy it is. It’s just so frustrating and upsetting.

  62. Jadey
    Jadey September 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm |

    Austin Nedved: A point of clarification: I do not think that only some people should be depicted as attractive. I do think that any media that is going to depict multiple images of what are supposed to be attractive women should be legally required to feature women with a variety of skin colors and body types.The purpose of measurements is to ensure the that body types the publications are promoting are in fact diverse. Jill argued that there was no clear way of legally defining “thin” and “fat,” so I pointed out that measurements could provide us with an objective way of differentiating between the two.Better representation of diversity is both a means and an outcome. Representation in the media is the means by which knowledge of what is and is not attractive replicates itself, so if the knowledge that thin and only thin is attractive cannot use the media to self-replicate, it will disappear entirely.  (Quote this comment?)

    I will acknowledge that seeing diversity can help promote further diversity as well as engagement. But I seriously don’t think that you comprehend the completely non-neutral context of measurements, and the idea of representing people by their numbers. In your hypothetical world, this may work and be okay, but it is seriously fucking triggering in the real world.

  63. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 13, 2010 at 11:40 pm |

    Spilt Milk: You’re right that unfortunately, plenty of people are told by family members that they are fat – just I think (hope) that not many are told that in a reunion type situation!

    Been there…done that…had it video taped…literally. In front of the entire family and saved for all posterity. Woot.

  64. Naamah
    Naamah September 14, 2010 at 6:07 am |

    This post: brilliant.

    The comments? Censorship? Fuck that. I would never advocate for that, even to force a variety of bodies to be depicted in media. I find that deeply, deeply upsetting and disturbing. Disgusting. Seriously, ew. No.

    If you want to make an issue of promoting the idea that disordered eating and so on is a bad thing, then do it, I am all for it, I will shout it from the rooftops, but for GOD’S SAKE don’t use the human body — of any size — to represent that behavior, so that you can then demonize and exclude it! That is NO different than using fat bodies as shorthand for heart disease/high blood pressure/what have you!

    And censorship is just fucking disgusting no matter how you cut it.

  65. blue milk
    blue milk September 14, 2010 at 8:50 am |

    This is an incredibly well written post, it was a joy to read, each and every word.

    Loved it!

  66. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 9:02 am |

    Jadey: why is FA failing to be relevant to so many people, and how do we address that?

    Personally, I’m not enamored on the focus of the FA people I’ve encountered online on Right Thinking rather than on social justice. I see the utility of the movement as Acceptance of Fat People, but I’m encountering a lot of people who insist that Accepting One’s Fat is the way to go, and if you don’t, you’re a self-hating anti-fat bigot. I support a lot of the goals, but I don’t sign on to the way the movement, as represented by some of the people I’ve encountered online, acts to implement them.

    It’s not a perfect analogy, but the GLBT movement has been enormously successful because they’ve focused on breaking down legal and social barriers to acceptance of gay people by society rather than making sure that gay folks accept their own identities. Outing is only used against those who hurt gay people in their professional lives while cruising in their private lives. I guess the idea is that they focus on creating the conditions where it’s safe, or less risky, to come out of the closet because legal and social rights are expanding, rather than on getting gay people to change their minds about coming out.

    I disagree about methods, particularly where I perceive that those methods involve body policing. Because of this, I’ve been called an anti-fat bigot. That’s why I don’t call myself part of the FA movement.

  67. IrishUp
    IrishUp September 14, 2010 at 9:39 am |

    Julie: I have a very skinny 6 year old… and in the last couple months I have been devastated to hear her say things like “I want to eat healthy so I can stay skinny” “I’m always going to be skinny, I’m not getting fat”. She has started doing jumping jacks before bed so she can be “healthy” and turning down cookies (though not often- she has a bit of a sweet tooth) so she can stay thin. This child is 6 years old! I am just beside myself. I try really hard not to talk down on myself but I know I do- I believe in FA, I believe in HAES and yet I just cannot accept that my body is ok. I hate the way I look and I hate even more that I may have been the one that passed this to my daughter. I know I’m not alone- my husband recently lost 20 pounds and was very down on his body before that as well- but it scares me that she is already worried about it at 6. I think it comes from hearing her dad and I, seeing how the kids are teased at school if they are being overweight and constantly being told by everyone how pretty and skinny she is (she’s also really smart but guess how often she gets told that by people other than my family?). I’ve tried to talk to her about how healthy has less to do with what you look like and more how you take care of your body, how mommy is still pretty healthy even though she’s fat (although she will assure me I’m not- at 5 foot tall and a size 18, I definitely am), how it’s ok to eat something you love, but I don’t know how much is sinking in. I get grilled before I serve anything about how healthy it is. It’s just so frustrating and upsetting.  (Quote this comment?)

    I hope this is not too much of a derail but this post jumped out at me, so this is a little bit of a PSA.

    Julie – those are some seriously distressing behaviors, and I empathize, having seen this in our own home with an older daughter. However, they are ones that raise red flags for those of us familiar with ED. Disclosure, my daughter has been suffering from ED for 4yrs now.

    I just wanted to alert you (and anyone else seeing something similar in their child) that these need to be taken seriously, and you might want to follow up with an evaluation to screen as to whether this is a transient phase, or early signs of incipient ED.
    Good sources for more information are the Kartini Clinic (national leaders in the treatment of food phobias and very young presentations of AN):
    http://www.kartiniclinic.com/home
    – the video “Spotting the Tiger” is most excellent

    And FEAST-ED
    http://www.feast-ed.org/

    The concern with very young children who exhibit the kinds of behaviors you describe is that their developmental tendencies towards black and white thinking and magical thinking can lead to serious trouble without early intervention. And early intervention can save a world of heartache and suffering for everyone. These sources have great information that I hope can help you, even if this is just a transient thing.

    It is through our experience with our kid that I got into FA several years ago. While I HATE ED, the process of trying to save her life – NOT hyperbole, I am sad to say – forced us to rethink all the negative scripts we had all absorbed about eating, health, size, and appearance. I am glad that we’ve mostly jettisoned all that garbage, although I still catch myself in self-hating at times. Sigh, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

  68. Jadey
    Jadey September 14, 2010 at 9:50 am |

    @ zuzu

    I find that interesting. Personally, I would not call myself “FA” most of the time, but I also don’t call myself “feminist” most of the time, and I never know if it’s because I’m a chicken or because I’m genuinely uncomfortable with adopting an ideological label that I feel like I don’t fully understand (right now I’m leaning toward the latter, but I have my chickenshit moments too). My experience with both groups is almost exclusively through my personal readings, online and off, rather than community involvement or direct contact with lots of other people who identify as FA*, outside of the fat-friendly blog writers I follow (not all of whom identify as FA). So I’m genuinely not terribly familiar with what you are describing, and maybe that’s a big part of why I’m not understanding the nature of the reaction to FA from within progressive and activist circles. Because of the size of the big ole Internet and the ease with which I can drift from blog to blog, itinerant lurker that I am, I’m probably self-selecting into groups and environments that appeal to me, and don’t have a representative idea of the full group. That kind of in-group policing you describe is really horrifying, but I don’t doubt at all that it exists. It would go a hell of a long way to explaining some of the internal barriers to the growth of FA and body positivity as a movement.

    *I know a few more feminists personally, but Feministe is the closest thing to feminist community involvement I have because this is the only blog where I’m not lurking 99% of the time.

  69. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    zuzu–the GLBT analogy doesn’t work at all. Fat people can’t be “in the closet” like gay people, we’re out there for the world to see. If you’re fat, everyone knows it, except possibly online I guess. Also, the closest thing to dieting in the GLBT community would be “conversion” programs put on by conservative religious groups. I can’t imagine someone in the conversion program being simultaneously thought of as being a GLBT advocate. How can you advocate for the rights and acceptance of gay people when you’re trying to become straight? And that’s exactly the criticism that many in the FA movement have for folks who are dieting.

    But also, because it just doesn’t work. Just like the conversion programs from GLBT folks don’t work, diets don’t work. But for completely different reasons (and yes, there are outliers who do actually lose significant weight and keep it off; I doubt there are outliers of queer people who actually become straight as a result of conversion programs).

    Fat Acceptance IS about radical acceptance of our bodies. It’s about EVERY body, including our own. It’s about letting go of the impossible goal of trying to control that which cannot be controlled; making decisions that honor our bodies and the bodies of others. With all that said, and despite claims to the contrary, I have never, EVER seen anyone be dogpiled for dieting within the FA community. What I have seen is critique—relevant, valid critique—of posts and comments made that relate to dieting behaviors or to assumptions about fatness and other fat people that are problematic. Somehow, this often seems to get interpreted as FA kicking someone out (as if there is ONE organization, that has the power to “kick someone out”) for dieting or other weight-loss-focused behaviors/thoughts. On the contrary, it’s just people pointing out what they believe to be problematic statements on a blog post/comment that is made publicly and thus, with the implicit invitation for public comment.

    And while I’ve never seen it personally, I have a hard time believing that GLBT advocates would sit silently by while one of their own decides to undergo a conversion ministry, blogging along the way about how much they wish they were straight and explicitly implying there is something wrong with being queer.

  70. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    I disagree, kataphatic, and I think it’s interesting that you choose conversion as your own analogy.

    I find the diet-policing uncomfortably close to body-policing, and I disagree that anyone who doesn’t embrace a movement 100% (though if there’s no central organization, who determines the tenets?) can’t be part of it. Look at feminism. Lots of women make all kinds of compromises in their personal lives, from following beauty standards to deferring to their husbands, etc., and still call themselves — and are accepted as — feminists.

  71. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    Zuzu, you disagree but you don’t say why. Why do you find it interesting that I think conversion is the closest thing to dieting? A gay person wanting to make themselves straight; a fat person wanting to make themselves thin. The mechanism is different, but the motivations and hoped-for end goal are the same.

    Also, I can’t help but feel you didn’t read my comment very carefully when you are still saying that:

    I disagree that anyone who doesn’t embrace a movement 100% (though if there’s no central organization, who determines the tenets?) can’t be part of it.

    I disagree too. And I also vehemently disagree that this is happening at all. No one has the power to kick anyone out and therefore no one is being kicked out. People say they’re being kicked out, but what they mean is that people are critiquing their posts. You make your reasons for dieting public, you invite public critique of those reasons. I haven’t seen a single instance where someone says “YOUR weight loss means you can’t be FA anymore!!” It is always (for example) “I take issue with you saying that fatness is symbolic of overconsumption” that ends up getting read as the former. I can find some links to examples of this if you like, but I’m headed out the door right now.

  72. Felicity
    Felicity September 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    This is a great post. Thank you so much.

    Also, Living the Questions, thanks for reminding me of “Wild Geese”.

    I have recently been spending a lot of time with my very dear grandmother, the only grandparent I have left. We were talking about some sort of clothing and I opined that that wouldn’t look good on me/fit right because of my fairly wide hips. She gave my leg a swat, and in this totally odd, faux-cheerful pep-squad voice, said, “You gotta lose those!” I was shocked, but managed to respond right away and said, “Uh, I cannot lose these, Grandma. This here is where my bone ends, so they’re not getting narrower for anything short of a bone saw.”

    It really brought home to me how deeply engrained this stuff is. My grandma is so loving to me, so kind and supportive, but what I said triggered this other set of values and behaviors, like a little sleeper-agent grandma. It made me think about the phrase “colonized mind”. And I know that, before old age and low appetite shrunk her a bit, she was the same way to herself (we are/were both what I think Shapely Prose calls tweenies). That kindness you advocate could have saved her a lot of anxiety and grief.

    I also wanted to add to the conversation these quotes from the end of Naomi Wolf’s _The Beauty Myth_, which I recently read for the first time: “We need to insist on making culture out of our desire: making paintings, novels, plays and films potent and seductive and authentic enough to undermine and overwhelm the Iron Maiden [of restrictive beauty requirements].” I liked that last chapter because it was *positive* and pro-active. I think this sort of approach — create, celebrate, express — is more of a natural fit for an activism of kindness than attempts to suppress.

    Fat talk — “Oh, I’m going to be BAD and eat dessert,” “How many calories do you think are in that?” “I earned this by jogging this morning!” — is not just policing ourselves and our friends, it’s a waste of our time and attention. We can use that time, and all the time we reclaim from self-hatred, to connect more meaningfully, to learn things, to enjoy new experiences, to grow wiser and better at our vocations, to help each other.

    We can’t build a new world just by recognizing what’s screwed up about the old one. We have to build something — a culture of kindness, love and acceptance — that is stronger and better.

  73. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    kataphatic: I haven’t seen a single instance where someone says “YOUR weight loss means you can’t be FA anymore!!”

    You must have missed when Hanne Blank announced that she needed to lose some weight for health-related reasons. Not to become thin. But there was a lot of discussion and hand-wringing about her fitness to be an activist, as well as a lot of questioning about whether she really needed to lose weight. I found that extremely invasive and a denial of her bodily autonomy. I was told that I was only defending her right to make her own decisions about her body because I wanted “the right” to talk about dieting — even though I have never done so, and don’t intend to. In fact, my defense of her right to determine the course of her own health pissed off a number of people – and I didn’t even do it here, where there’s a big audience, but on my own little blog.

    I find your choice of “conversion” as an analogy interesting because “conversion” implies becoming something else entirely. Someone who is fat may never become thin, but their weight may change — as it may well have done when they got fat in the first place. At what point does this become a denial of self in the same way that a gay person trying to become straight denies his or her self?

    By all means, show people that there’s an alternative to diet talk and that jumping off the yo-yo treadmill is possible, and healthy. But don’t let that go into a denial of bodily autonomy.

  74. catfood
    catfood September 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    Yay Felicity. That is all.

  75. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm |

    Zuzu,

    Honestly, I wasn’t part of the controversy surrounding Hanne Blank so I can’t speak to that. What I have been witness to is people recently talking about the FA movement as if it’s some sort of monolith, and kicks anyone out the door who ever diets. There are some seriously compelling reasons why dieting is antithetical to FA in theory, but I, like many, many others, would never presume to police an individual person’s decisions about their body (witness meowser’s genuine congratulations on DaisyDeadhead’s weight loss in the final comments of this post: http://www.postbourgie.com/2010/09/07/postbourgie-the-podcast-9-the-notorious-b-m-i/). While I don’t know the ins and outs of what Hanne Blank faced, I do have to say that by writing about something private and posting it online, you really are inviting comment on that. Hanne has every right to say whatever she wants on her blog, just like all of us do, but our readers and our commenters also have the same right–to disagree, to feel triggered by diet talk, to stop reading. I mean this is not just an ideological fight, to many of us. Many of us, myself included, have real eating disorders and real ptsd that is really triggered by diet talk. Some of the fat syndication feeds have removed blogs for including diet talk, which has of course resulted in the cry of censorship, but many readers of those feeds choose to read them so that they won’t be triggered. But no one stopped those people from blogging; no one stopped them from calling themselves Fat Activists–including Hanne Blank. I guess at the end of the day I’m honestly not sure what you are asking people to do. Sit back and not express themselves when they read something they experience as oppressive? Because being critical, or expressing a sense of betrayal, is not the same thing as censorship. No one has the power to tell anyone else they can or can’t be part of the FA movement.

    Also, I completely agree conversion is not the same thing as dieting. I don’t even thing it’s a particularly good comparison. My whole point was that you can’t compare FA with the GLBT community, because it’s just not analogous. But the closest thing to dieting is conversion–even if it’s not that close.

    Your point about the fact that fat people may lose weight and still not be thin, but rather “less fat” is an important one. I just want to point that out because I think that you and I are probably mostly in agreement about what should be happening, I just think we’re not connected on what actually is happening.

  76. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    I also want to say that it all seems a bit rich to me that these discussions seem to always crop up in spaces that are hostile to FA, or at the very least neutral, as it seems Feministe is. We know at least one mod here is actively hostile toward the FA movement and from the comments on the posts about this it is clear that the readership is quite divided. Not exactly a safe space to be talking about in-group dynamics. What it feels like to me is just one more way to attempt to discredit FA folks, and it’s very “convenient” that it continually crops up in places where a good number of the community members participating aren’t really on board with the whole “fat people deserve to be treated like human beings” idea in the first place. Not exactly the kind of space where a relevant, respectful dialogue about this can happen, you know?

  77. shah8
    shah8 September 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm |

    kataphatic, I think you’ve read the post-bourgie thread then. I read it also, and it gave me a nuke’em low opinion of FAM people.

    I’ll stop at there.

    Meanwhile, stop trying to appropriate safe space language that isn’t meant to be used in the way you are using it.

  78. Jadey
    Jadey September 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm |

    kataphatic: I also want to say that it all seems a bit rich to me that these discussions seem to always crop up in spaces that are hostile to FA, or at the very least neutral, as it seems Feministe is.We know at least one mod here is actively hostile toward the FA movement and from the comments on the posts about this it is clear that the readership is quite divided.Not exactly a safe space to be talking about in-group dynamics.What it feels like to me is just one more way to attempt to discredit FA folks, and it’s very “convenient” that it continually crops up in places where a good number of the community members participating aren’t really on board with the whole “fat people deserve to be treated like human beings” idea in the first place.Not exactly the kind of space where a relevant, respectful dialogue about this can happen, you know?  

    I’m interpreting this as relevant to me, because I’m the person who first posted a comment referring to in-group dynamics. I did that because this is the main Internet activist space I inhabit, for the most part – I am not a regular commenter on most other blog spaces. So I am interested in having the conversation here, if at all possible, for several reasons, not the least of which being that there are many people here whose opinions I value. I’m certainly not hostile to fat or fat acceptance (uh, hell no), but I asked for myself, not for a movement.

  79. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm |

    kataphatic: I guess at the end of the day I’m honestly not sure what you are asking people to do. Sit back and not express themselves when they read something they experience as oppressive? Because being critical, or expressing a sense of betrayal, is not the same thing as censorship. No one has the power to tell anyone else they can or can’t be part of the FA movement.

    I never claimed that anyone was being censored; that’s your interpretation of my remarks. I’ve also never asked anyone to stop pointing out oppression where they see it, though I have to wonder why you think I did, unless you think that being uncomfortable with what I see as body policing is oppression. I responded to Jadey’s question about why people are turned off by FA. I gave my opinion about what I find off-putting, with examples. I’m not sure what else you want me to say.

    Frankly, I don’t care if anyone has the power to include or exclude me from the movement, because as I mentioned, I’m not seeking membership for the reasons I articulated. But Jadey seemed to be genuinely interested in why that might be, and I gave a genuine answer. If you are interested in expanding the movement and reaching more fat people who already agree with a lot of what the movement has to say but are uncomfortable with some of the things they observe, you might listen to what I’m saying rather than accusing me of wishing to censor you and/or accusing me of accusing you of censorship.

  80. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm |

    Okay, I think I’m seeing where you’re coming from a little more. But I disagree that these arguments about diet talk being appropriate in FA spaces is why FA is having problems gaining traction. I think that there are some problems in FA (that are present among just about every social justice movement) wrt to intersectionality. I have heard from many POC, for example, that the FA movement feels very white.

    But beyond that, every social justice movement has a problem gaining traction. Every social justice movement is up against people who benefit from the status quo and wanting to maintain it. Even fat people, who aren’t benefiting from the status quo, still find that it is difficult to truly embrace some FA principles if it means giving up hope, for example, of someday being thin. That was one thing that was difficult for me, and frankly still is sometimes. There are powerful social forces at work trying to keep fatphobia the norm.

    How do we know the difference between a true failure of FA to be inclusive or relevant and just bumping up against the natural pushback that every social justice movement receives? I honestly don’t know exactly how to draw that line, and all I can say is that we need to just do the best we can, listening to people who feel excluded from the movement because of an intersectional oppression that doesn’t get addressed well, or the loudest voices in the movement having the most privilege. But I really don’t think that people taking a hard line on dieting, and individual bloggers getting upset or feeling censored when commenters critique oppressive language and triggering diet talk, is one of those reasons.

    btw when talking about censorship, etc. I wasn’t referencing the things you were saying, I was referencing things I have seen people say in reference to having their posts about diet criticized.

  81. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    shah8, pretty much nothing in your comment made any sense to me. The most I can make out is that you meant FA (rather than FAM) and saying a “nuke’em low opinion” sounds pretty violent. Please do correct me if I’m wrong, because if that’s what you mean it’s disgusting.

    As far as co-opting safe space language, I really have no idea what you mean. Perhaps I should have said safe place instead of safe space, but even still, I don’t understand your criticism.

    Jadey, if my interpretation of shah8’s comments are correct, that should give you some indication of why this really isn’t a good place for conversations like this to happen. I understand it’s the only activist space you inhabit, but this is not currently a safe (or respectful or supportive or whatever word you want to use) place for FA folks to talk about problems with the movement. That’s an incredibly important conversation to have; just not in a space where folks are actively hostile towards fat folks and activists.

  82. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    zuzu:
    If you are interested in expanding the movement and reaching more fat people who already agree with a lot of what the movement has to say but are uncomfortable with some of the things they observe, you might listen to what I’m saying rather than accusing me of wishing to censor you and/or accusing me of accusing you of censorship.  

    I think it’s important to point out that FA is not a totally cohesive movement; we don’t all speak with one voice. In Australia, where I am, it’s really quite a burgeoning movement at present and there is a great air of positivity and inclusiveness about much of what we do. I have heard the criticisms and concerns you are raising before, zuzu, and whilst I don’t want to dismiss them out of hand I do also think that they are not a) insurmountable within the movement as it stands right now, nor b) something that will necessarily continue to be a problem in the same way as the movement inevitably grows and changes, nor c) something that is true of all, or even most, FA spaces anyway.

    A ‘no diet talk’ policy is not censorship, nor is it (as a policy on blogs) at all bad for the movement, in my opinion. I think it’s important to remember that FA activists aren’t necessarily trying to completely eliminate the practice of weight-loss dieting from our culture. We are trying to change the paradigm, so that weight-loss dieting no longer enjoys such a privileged position as the default behaviour for practically everyone. Right now, if you don’t diet at all, life is probably harder (socially) much of the time. That’s wrong, and bad, not least of all because dieting is harmful and, um, completely useless for most people. I also think it’s important to remember that you can be anti-diet industry and still respect the right of people to make their own decisions about their bodies. It’s a bit like how I can be a lactivist but still firmly believe that women have the right to decide how they will feed their babies: lactivism isn’t about forcing women to breastfeed, it’s about dismantling systemic barriers to breastfeeding and giving women greater choice (the end result likely to be that more – though not all – parents will choose breastfeeding.) In the same way, FA is about dismantling thin=healthy and weight-loss=always good thinking and replacing it with a more nuanced and respectful approach to our bodies. The end result won’t ever be that no one ever actively tries to change their weight (up or down) but it would certainly be that fewer people engage in dieting or other physically and psychologically harmful behaviours. My problem is with dieting and its incredible and completely un-earned popularity, not with individual dieters.

    (It’s also important to remember that changing your eating habits and exercising more in order to improve your health is not engaging in intentional weight loss, it’s not dieting, even if it does ultimately result in a lower weight – so long losing weight is the symptom of, not the reason for, lifestyle changes. So there is nothing in FA which says it’s wrong to change your body. A lot of FA activists are actively changing their bodies and blogging about it — strengthening muscles, eating differently, addressing health concerns like food allergies for the first time.) The misconception that “no diet talk” means “no dieters” or “no promoting healthful behaviours” is what is harmful to the movement, not the ban on diet talk itself.

  83. nathan
    nathan September 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    People go on diets for all kinds of reasons. I find the view that links a fat person dieting to lose weight with a gay person trying to “go straight” ridiculous. It assumes that all fat people are responding out of some sort of self-hatred, or from societal pressures to look a certain way, and that’s just not the case.

    Kataphatic said “Fat Acceptance IS about radical acceptance of our bodies. It’s about EVERY body, including our own. It’s about letting go of the impossible goal of trying to control that which cannot be controlled; making decisions that honor our bodies and the bodies of others.”

    I think it’s totally possible to fully accept your body as it right now, and also make the decision to change your diet for the short or long term because you think that’s the best way to honor your body.

    I’m very much aware that the crash dieting that is popular amongst people who want to lose weight quickly is a miserable failure, but not every diet is about crash dieting. Not by a long shot.

    I also have to say that some of the comments I’ve seen about weight on here – like “since you can’t change it” or “it cannot be controlled” sound more like resignation that exuberant embracing. Maybe I’m just reading it wrongly, I don’t know.

    I have to say I’m similar to Zuzu in that there are some things about FA that make total sense to me – especially the view that everyone’s body should be a place of respect, regardless of shape and size. But I also find that I’m not sure what to make of other aspects, and really do wonder how all this plays out with folks from poor communities, for example, because it doesn’t strike me as a poor people’s movement.

  84. Jadey
    Jadey September 14, 2010 at 7:47 pm |

    kataphatic: Jadey, if my interpretation of shah8’s comments are correct, that should give you some indication of why this really isn’t a good place for conversations like this to happen.I understand it’s the only activist space you inhabit, but this is not currently a safe (or respectful or supportive or whatever word you want to use) place for FA folks to talk about problems with the movement.That’s an incredibly important conversation to have; just not in a space where folks are actively hostile towards fat folks and activists.  

    You may be right that this is not going to end up being the most productive space. My thinking was that since some of the pushback or indications of irrelevance I’ve seen have been related to ablism, classism, and ethnocentrism, then a non-FA specific forum with a greater breadth of people participating (which is not to say that Feministe has achieved perfection in diversity, but it’s still a damn big audience) might include people who would otherwise never seek or enter an FA safe space. I know some commenters here are not all pro-FA, for various reasons, but it’s exactly some of those reasons that I wanted to learn more about.

    Nevertheless, the comment was also a tangent to this particular post. If you know of a place on other blogs where this conversation is happening, I would sincerely love to know, because I’m not seeing on the fat-friendly places I visit. I see other great stuff there, but I haven’t found this yet.

  85. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm |

    kataphatic: But I disagree that these arguments about diet talk being appropriate in FA spaces is why FA is having problems gaining traction.

    Oh, I give up. You keep acting as if I’m pro-diet talk, or as if all these encounters are happening in “FA spaces.”

  86. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm |

    Spilt Milk: A ‘no diet talk’ policy is not censorship, nor is it (as a policy on blogs) at all bad for the movement, in my opinion.

    You know, that’s fine, but when it bleeds into other spaces, it’s a problem. I had people trying to impose that on me in my own space, when I neither promote diet talk nor engage in it.

    Not all the discussion is happening on FA-designated blogs. And not everyone agrees with all the principles or all the tactics. It’s one thing to make and enforce rules about diet talk or what have you in your own space, but when you try to enforce that elsewhere, and flip out when someone doesn’t follow your rules — like the host of said space — that’s quite another. Not that you’re doing this.

    But this is probably getting very far afield. I answered Jadey’s question, and don’t want to derail further.

  87. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm |

    I also have to say that some of the comments I’ve seen about weight on here – like “since you can’t change it” or “it cannot be controlled” sound more like resignation that exuberant embracing

    Well for one thing, in the VAST majority of cases, we can’t control our weight. There simply is no verifiable way to make fat people thin permanently (or thin people fat!). Sure, some people do lose weight and keep it off in the long run, but the fact of the matter is that the vast, vast majority of people cannot. That’s just a fact.

    Resignation and exuberant embracing are not the only reactions one can have to this truth. The reaction I personally recommend is radical self-acceptance. To joyfully embrace your body for everything it is, everything it allows you to do, all the pleasures of life it allows you to enjoy. It is a release of control that may truly be accompanied by grief over the loss of the hope of a thinner life. But eventually releasing that control leads to peace and joy. Perhaps not exuberance for everyone—I’ve yet to ever describe myself as “exuberant” about my body—but some of us don’t really need exuberance. I’ll take peace and gratitude over the stress and frustration of attempting control any day.

  88. zuzu
    zuzu September 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm |

    Spilt Milk:
    (It’s also important to remember that changing your eating habits and exercising more in order to improve your health is not engaging in intentional weight loss, it’s not dieting, even if it does ultimately result in a lower weight – so long losing weight is the symptom of, not the reason for, lifestyle changes. So there is nothing in FA which says it’s wrong to change your body. A lot of FA activists are actively changing their bodies and blogging about it — strengthening muscles, eating differently, addressing health concerns like food allergies for the first time.) The misconception that “no diet talk” means “no dieters” or “no promoting healthful behaviours” is what is harmful to the movement, not the ban on diet talk itself.  

    OK, I said I wasn’t going to comment again, but I hadn’t read this. This. This drives me nuts. Why? Because it’s disingenuous.

    It’s disingenuous because you can engage in the exact same behaviors and, depending on your motivation, it’s considered HAES and Therefore Good, or Dieting, and Therefore Double Plus Ungood. I think that just leads to people lying about their motivations, frankly, while still dieting.

    I just wish the FA movement were less concerned about getting me to Think Correctly about my body and more concerned with getting employers, insurers, doctors and airlines to stop discriminating against me for inhabiting said body.

  89. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm |

    zuzu:

    Oh, I give up. You keep acting as if I’m pro-diet talk, or as if all these encounters are happening in “FA spaces.” zuzu

    I’m genuinely sorry for the confusion. I don’t mean to act as if you’re pro-diet talk; I have no idea if you’re pro-diet talk (from your comments elsewhere I would have assumed you weren’t). But I did get the impression that you thought that FA folks should accept diet/weight loss talk from other FA advocates without critique. And I didn’t realize you were talking about the conversation happening outside of FA spaces; I was talking about the conversations happening within them.

    Jadey:

    I know some commenters here are not all pro-FA, for various reasons, but it’s exactly some of those reasons that I wanted to learn more about.

    From what I’ve been reading, it appears the majority of the commenters here who are not pro-FA (and a few who are truly anti-FA) are so because they have beliefs about FA—beliefs of varying truthfulness—that they cannot get behind.

    If you know of a place on other blogs where this conversation is happening, I would sincerely love to know, because I’m not seeing on the fat-friendly places I visit.

    I don’t personally know of any going on right now, though I have seen some discussion over time. I think that part of it is that this movement is still so new, and the majority of the voices tend to be white, relatively class-privileged, women. I am one, and I try to keep intersections in mind when I write, but I also realize that my privilege likely makes me unaware of dynamics of exclusion. Ultimately, I don’t know what the answer is, and I want you to know I’m going to give this topic a lot more serious thought after this conversation. Perhaps I’ll host some conversations on my blog about this.

  90. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    zuzu:
    OK, I said I wasn’t going to comment again, but I hadn’t read this.This.This drives me nuts.Why?Because it’s disingenuous.It’s disingenuous because you can engage in the exact same behaviors and, depending on your motivation, it’s considered HAES and Therefore Good, or Dieting, and Therefore Double Plus Ungood.I think that just leads to people lying about their motivations, frankly, while still dieting.I just wish the FA movement were less concerned about getting me to Think Correctly about my body and more concerned with getting employers, insurers, doctors and airlines to stop discriminating against me for inhabiting said body.  

    I completely disagree with that, mainly because I believe that weight loss dieting prevents people from achieving eating competence. So even though a dieter and an intuitive eater/HAES proponent might both eat a chicken salad for lunch (seemingly receiving the same nutritional benefit) what it means to each of them is very different. The HOW of eating is very different for them – and it’s an important difference, if you’re talking about the relationship between food and health in the long term.

    On the other hand, I kind of see your point about resisting any thought policing. It totally makes sense to me that ‘thou shalt love thy body’ and ‘thou shalt not diet’ are forms of policing. But I personally don’t think that FA actually says those things – at least, not the version of fat acceptance I’m interested in. If the movement is giving that impression then that is a problem to address, I agree. I’ve just posted about FA and dieting on my personal blog, actually – I do think these are valid discussions to have.

    And whilst I’m not sure this is the exact right place for the discussion, talking about how FA might be failing at intersectionality is really interesting to me: your comments about that resonate with me kataphatic.

  91. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm |

    Spilt Milk,

    I would definitely like to see more conversation about this. Just some of the thoughts going through my mind in the last hour or so that I’ve been thinking about this…

    I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but what I have heard from some WOC about why they don’t spend much energy or time on FA is because to them, it’s just not the primary locus of where they experience oppression. In other words, race is a lot more salient to them. As a possible example, I don’t know if Renee at Womanist Musings ever said that specifically but I notice that her blog is really a very body-accepting and fat-positive space, though she doesn’t overtly ally herself as a FA blogger. Again, I really don’t mean to be putting words in people’s mouths, this is just what I’ve heard and read and I am 100% open to correction.

    Another interesting thing is that my sister was in a class recently and she talked about how there was some study that looked at economic oppression in terms of getting hired for jobs, what pay people receive, etc. and supposedly this study found that white, fat women are the most discriminated against in that regard. Now, of course, I did not see the study so I am not trying to claim that that is so; in fact I have some doubts about the validity of trying to figure out who’s got it worse in that regard anyway. However, I think what that sort of brings up is that race can really affect a person or group’s experience of fatphobia. Paul Campos does a good job of addressing some of this in The Obesity Myth; the idea that, because fatness is associated with/expected in POC and poor classes, a white person being fat associates them with a lower class and/or POC, which is a threat to whiteness/white supremacy. I’d have to re-read his sections to remind myself exactly what he said but it’s some really interesting stuff.

    The idea that fatness affects genders, races, and classes differently should come as no surprise, but I do think it has interesting implications for who it is that is doing the FA blogging. I focus my blog on FA because for me, that is the locus of my most life-crushing oppression. For many POC, that just may not be their reality.

    In any case, I do still think this is not the right place for this conversation, but let’s please have it on our blogs in the coming days, weeks, months, years.

  92. Meowser
    Meowser September 14, 2010 at 10:48 pm |

    Zuzu, I think you’re misreading what happened with Hanne Blank.

    If Hanne had simply decided to change her eating habits (low-carb to treat PCOS) and lost weight as a result of it — or even simply made a personal decision that she needed to try to lose weight — nobody would have cared. Hardly anyone would have known, in fact, unless they were one of the few people who saw her IRL on a regular basis.

    But Hanne Blank also spent years advocating to fat people that they NOT give in to pressure from doctors, et al, to lose weight “for their health.” Therefore, starting a blog specifically about weight loss — and furthermore, announcing in one of her first posts that too many FA advocates had their heads in the sand about their own need to lose weight — struck many of us as a slap in the face. I personally don’t give a damn at all what people eat or don’t eat. I do care about the pressure they put on me about how I should really be starving myself for my own good.

  93. BStu
    BStu September 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm |

    FA is SO far away from any “thou shall not’s” that I really don’t get why that sort of accusation still pops up. This is about what WE are doing and yes, what we advocate for others. But fat acceptance is so profoundly powerless in comparison to dieting culture that it feels really odd to me that FA so often has to defend itself from accusations of being oppressive. The most it has done is try to create spaces where we can nurture our chosen alternative. I don’t know anyone in FA who expects or demands that deference outside of FA. I don’t think that’s what any of these concerns are about at all.

  94. Maia
    Maia September 15, 2010 at 12:25 am |

    I think the principle Zuzu is articulating is an important one. I don’t think social justice movements should police people’s survival strategies (with two exceptions, if you’re crossing a picket line or abusing your power over someone else).

    Yes, self-acceptance has a lot to be said about it, as a survival strategy. In the long run, it probably benefits most people. However, it also takes resources, and if you use your resources accepting your body, they’re not available for other things, that you may need them for more.

    Even in this thread there are people arguing about whether or not someone was condemned for dieting – or for promoting dieting (and where the line between talking about dieting and promoting dieting is hugely subjective). I think that’s an important distinction, but also one that often people aren’t necessarily clear about. I also think that the internet can be tricky about the divide between personal statements and public statements. I don’t care if people have a conversation running down their bodies and food, as long as that conversation that everyone who hears it wants to be part of. However, writing that down in a blog post, can be a different matter, depending on the blog, depending on the readership, and so on. Because you are speaking to anyone, rather than to specific people. I think the effect of these messy lines is that unless you are 100% clear about what you’re saying it is easy to come across as policing, even if that was not your intention.

    I completely disagree with that, mainly because I believe that weight loss dieting prevents people from achieving eating competence. So even though a dieter and an intuitive eater/HAES proponent might both eat a chicken salad for lunch (seemingly receiving the same nutritional benefit) what it means to each of them is very different. The HOW of eating is very different for them – and it’s an important difference, if you’re talking about the relationship between food and health in the long term.

    Spilt Milk – To take a question from the other thread, what’s it to you if other people achieve eating competence or not?

    I absolutely agree with Zuzu – it’s no one’s fucking business why someone has a chicken salad, or goes to the gym, or doesn’t go to the gym. It’s bad enough to police someone’s actions, but to go further and police their motivations is even more fucked up.

    I probably disagree with Zuzu about how prevalent this sort of policing is – and would agree with Meowser that it’s completely legitimate to criticise someone for the way they write about dieting, and that is not the same thing as criticising them for dieting. But this thread has made it clear that some people think they do have a vested interest in other people’s body acceptance, and I think that’s as much of a problem as thinking that you have a veste dinterest in other people’s bodies.

  95. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 15, 2010 at 5:11 am |

    WRT race, class, and fat hatred: I remember blogging about a story several years ago about a doctor who told his overweight, white female patients that they’d better lose weight or else no one but Black men would find them attractive. There was so much bigotry in that one line of reasoning that it was ready to explode. Racism, fat hate, and sexism.

    As far as it not being a poor people’s movement, well, I’m neither fat nor poor, so I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you that obesity is linked with being lower-class and poor, and that poor people don’t have the same access to good food (and often lack the time and the resources to make healthful meals). That appearsto be one point of agreement between anti-poverty activists and FA people–structural changes to promote access to good food and healthy living. Obesity is one more thing many poor are policed about and shamed for (in addition to, say, owning somthing that is “too nice,” being a single parent, or making Very Bad Life Choices that middle class people can make and “get away with.”)

    And fat hatred and poor-bashing often do go hand-in-hand. I heard about that dogawful “People who shop at Walmart” website–and that’s just one craptastic example. A lot of the rhetoric flung at fat people is also flung at poor people–lazy, undisciplined, dirty, etc.

    Being neither fat nor poor, I’m not going to presume to lecture people who are either or both about The Right Way to Do Things or How They Are Bad Because of X. I’ll just point out the BS to other privileged people who make shitty, bigoted comments and assumptions.

    /derail

  96. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 15, 2010 at 5:47 am |

    Maia:I absolutely agree with Zuzu – it’s no one’s fucking business why someone has a chicken salad, or goes to the gym, or doesn’t go to the gym.It’s bad enough to police someone’s actions, but to go further and police their motivations is even more fucked up.

    Oh I absolutely agree that it’s not my – or anyone’s business – what people eat or how/why they eat it. I am really not at all interested in policing either people’s actions or motivations where they don’t encroach on me. I’m sorry to have given that impression: I don’t think I worded my response to zuzu very clearly.

    What i meant was that there is a very important distinction between ‘diet talk’ and ‘health talk’ and that conflating the two (and therefore assuming that FA spaces exclude the latter as well as the former) is problematic. It’s also problematic, in my mind, that when you are talking about eating/food/health/fat to assume that motivations don’t matter at all because I actually think that’s one of the important things about FA: it opens up the possibility for different ways of thinking. To even allow for someone’s eating habits to be dictated not by the motivation to lose weight/maintain thinness but for other reasons is going against the dominant culture as it stands at the moment. So I think that for people who want to learn about FA and engage with FA spaces, it’s really valid to distinguish between different approaches to eating. But that doesn’t mean that I want to police what people actually do with their eating and their bodies or how they feel about that!

    You asked why it matters to me whether people achieve eating competence or not: my answer to that would be that a lot of people WANT to achieve eating competence and/or a more peaceful (kinder) relationship with their bodies and with food. It matters to me whether those people have the space to talk about what they want and how to achieve it. But I certainly don’t think that it should be compulsory for everyone to have the same goal and to prioritize it in the same way – and that goes for people engaging with FA as well as people outside of the movement.

    Maia: Yes, self-acceptance has a lot to be said about it, as a survival strategy. In the long run, it probably benefits most people. However, it also takes resources, and if you use your resources accepting your body, they’re not available for other things, that you may need them for more.

    Thank you for this, I think it’s a valid point to make. I also know there is a great deal of privilege bound up in discussions about intuitive eating and HAES: there is an assumption of basic food security underpinning it that is simply not a reality for many people.

  97. BStu
    BStu September 15, 2010 at 9:00 am |

    Aren’t these kind of “thought policing” charges the kind of things other progressive movements get targeted with all the time, though? I don’t really understand why they should be regarded so much more credulously in fat acceptance. Policing implies authority and fat acceptance is in a position of far less authority than other “identity politics” issues.

    It isn’t wrong that we want to advocate for our beliefs. So yeah, that means being somewhat invested in helping other people. FA just isn’t where other movements are. We are still building a lot of that core self-respect so that’s going to put our fight in a very different place. At the same time, if someone is committed to dieting, that’s not something I care about. What I have experienced, though, and I’m sure other fat activists have seen this as well, is that this alone sparks a great deal of anger in dieters. That’s where the attacks come from. Not because we’re attacking dieters, but because we’re not celebrating them. I want to opt out of diet talk. I don’t seek out diet forums to convert the non-believers. Dieting doesn’t make me angry on an individual level. If anything it makes me sad. So my response to that is to want not want any part of it. What I have seen again and again, though, is that this is not good enough. What is asked of me IS to be invested in other people’s body acceptance but in a way that is at odds with my personal beliefs. The thought policing that goes on with this targets fat acceptance, not the other way around. We’re in no position to dictate even if we wanted to, but we do have a desire to define ourselves and build a community and we should get to do that.

  98. Lu
    Lu September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    I’ve had the same experience as in the original post, too, more than once. Once my grandmother–from whom our family was semi-estranged–came to visit. When we picked her up at the airport after not having seen her for years, she said, “You’ve gotten so fat!” Folks, I was about 11 years old, and I was not fat. I wasn’t even overweight and didn’t even think of myself as fat; all I knew was I wasn’t skinny and reedy like a lot of girls in my class (which I still felt very self-conscious and bad about). I was so shocked and upset by her rudeness and bluntness that even she (a mean and small-minded person) picked up on it and stammered out something about how she had meant something else.

    I also once, with my parents, visited an Italian family I had stayed with about 10 years previously, at a time when I was temporarily thin due to food issues and felt much more attractive, albeit in a neurotic way. The first time I stayed with them, the mother, who was and is a really nice person, commented on my eating, saying approvingly, “Mangia poco, beve poco” (she eats little and drinks little). What a dainty lady I was, huh? Good for me. {sarcasm} So, having gained an appreciable amount of weight in the interim, I was really apprehensive about seeing that family again. I said to my mom, “I really don’t want to go. I know they’re going to think I’m fat.” My mom tried to reassure me that nobody would say that. HA. Practically the first words out of the mother’s mouth were, “Come ti sei ingrassata!!” (How much weight you’ve gained!) THANK YOU, INTERNATIONAL BODY-SHAMING CARTEL. Thanks for giving me another shame-inducing memory and reminding me that I’m being judged everywhere and the world doesn’t want to see pretty young eating-disordered ladies who start eating again.

  99. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 15, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    Maia,

    But this thread has made it clear that some people think they do have a vested interest in other people’s body acceptance, and I think that’s as much of a problem as thinking that you have a veste dinterest in other people’s bodies.

    I haven’t seen this; would you be willing to provide examples?

    Yes, self-acceptance has a lot to be said about it, as a survival strategy. In the long run, it probably benefits most people. However, it also takes resources, and if you use your resources accepting your body, they’re not available for other things, that you may need them for more.

    Sure self-acceptance takes resources, but only a different kind of resources that dieting and constant weight-loss attempts take. The diet industry in the US is a $40 billion industry. Self-acceptance is not just another burden, it is ultimately freedom from the economic and emotional burden of having to constantly police our own bodies (this is where we need more political activism in the movement as well, to advocate for laws protecting against fat discrimination in the workplace, etc.)

    Spilt Milk,

    I also know there is a great deal of privilege bound up in discussions about intuitive eating and HAES: there is an assumption of basic food security underpinning it that is simply not a reality for many people.

    This is a good point, and I also think it’s true that there is an awful lot of privilege bound up in discussions of weight loss as well. People who have money for gym memberships and time to go; people who have money for diet products, services, and clubs, and time to attend meetings, calorie count, read relevant books, etc.—these are privileged people as well. But FA people are not usually, IME, calling HAES/intuitive eating synonymous with FA. In fact I see plenty of people talking about how we have no moral imperative to be healthy. Obviously, we believe a healthy relationship with one’s body and food intake is important and available to so many more people than it is now, but people who live in food deserts or don’t have enough money to have much choice in the food they are consuming are neither dieting nor intutive eating.

  100. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 15, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    BStu,

    Your comments on thought policing and privilege are very interesting, and I think relevant. To some extent, isn’t all activism about “thought policing”? Anti-racism and pro-GLBT work is about changing attitudes just as much as it is about changing laws. I hate the term “thought policing” but helping people to change their thinking in ways that lead to freedom, joy, and more fullness of life does sound like a worthy goal, IMO.

    And I’m really struck by the issues of privilege in this discussion. Who has the privilege? Are FA folks speaking from a place of privilege when they react critically to diet culture? Heck no! And I never really thought about it much before this conversation but dieting truly is a privileged behavior. People who are able to engage in dieting and weight loss behavior have privilege that allows them to do that. I have neither the time nor the mental or physical health to make weight loss attempts. FA, for me, was a matter of necessity. It was either embrace my body for all that it is and stop making it what it can never be, or live in utter despair.

    So yeah, I’m sick of people framing this as the poor oppressed dieters being ganged up on by the privileged FA folks. Not only does policing of individual body-related choices just not happen in FA (I challenge anyone who disagrees to find just three—only THREE, in the entire fat-o-sphere—actual examples of that happening) but even if it did, it sure as hell isn’t necessarily so that the FA folks are the ones with social privilege in that conversation.

  101. Jesse Lu
    Jesse Lu September 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    Hi,

    Made it over here from Bliss in a Teacup. This was a great read. I want to comment on the opening anecdote. There are more mothers like this out there than you realize. It doesn’t make them horrible people, just, like the author said, a bit ill in the head. (Granted some of them are actually very ill in the head like I assume the author’s mother to be and like my mother was.) I love my mother dearly but had a very similar situation growing up. Unlike the author we were always together, a single mom single daughter team. Nonetheless, my mom constantly sabotaged our relationship by impressing on me how fat I was. I was not allowed to where certain clothing items, my every snack was scrutinized, I was blamed for being an artist instead of an athlete. By the time I was in my late teens and out of the house I had an image in my head of an obese person (I still have that image though I fight it every day). One day, looking through old pictures from my childhood and early teens I had a revelation. The girl who was supposed to be me in my photos was not fat. Not in the slightest. Perhaps a bit more voluptuous, but not much different looking than her friends in size. How could this be? I actually examined and scrutinized the photos intently, so confused was I. I had lived my life up until then in the mind of a fat girl (albeit not a self-loathing fat girl). Now, how was I going to come to terms with not actually being fat. How was I going to deal with my mother’s continued scrutiny. I actually confronted her and told her that she had lied to me all those years. She said she didn’t know what I was talking about and refused to acknowledge that she had harassed that girl in the pictures about her body and weight. Now, I’m not a slender lady, I am a very soft, and healthy, size 12. But now I have to contend with this whole obesity ‘epidemic’ and Kate Moss residue that reminds me of the same junk I battled with my mother. According to beauty standards I’m supposed to be a size 2 (never gonna happen) and according to obesity charts I am in fact obese (not possibly true).

    Here’s the thing. Is BMI a health factor? Sure. So treat it as such, not a terminal illness. Is our societal weight gain due in large to our societal diet (corn products, pop, fast food) and societal activity levels (desk jobs, video games)? Yes, so deal with the problems not with the symptoms. Are some people unhappy being fat? Yes, so help them be happy. Are some people already happy and fat? Yes, so stop attacking them. Is it impossible to be 250 pounds and healthy? No… So quit buggin’.

    I have some trepidation about universal fat acceptance. Fat-positivity can lead some folks into unrealistic ideas of their physical and mental health (this is coming from personal experience here with friends). But as long as people are happy, (which usually means healthy, too, good nutrition and regular exercise do that) why does anyone care how much another person weighs or how big their pant size is?

    THanks,

    Jesse Lu

  102. Miss S
    Miss S September 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    I think the issue of fat as it relates to privilege is at least part of the negative reaction.
    Right now, if you don’t diet at all, life is probably harder (socially) much of the time.
    I have to wonder if the movement doesn’t appear inclusive because you’re discussing (what appears to me) a specific group of people. I don’t know many people who diet at all. In fact, in my experience, the only women who are always dieting are white women/girls with all of 2 exceptions. To add, those white girls and women also carry an enormous amount of class privilege and entitlements. My experience and perception is as limited as everyone else’s but that has to mean something. To even have the time and money for all those diet pills, workout programs, gym memberships, mail order dinners… (Of course, exercise is not solely done for the purpose of losing weight). It’s hard to see this as a serious issue when it seems like it surrounds a very specific group of women who already have enormous privilege and advantages.

    It’s not just dieting though. It’s the discussion of weight in general. Someone above mentioned that marginalized people often feel more oppressed by their other identities than their weight. I would have to agree. If you’re a poor black woman, you’re facing racism, sexism, and classism. Any discrimination faced for being fat seems kind of trivial comapred to the rest.

    Arguing that women your size aren’t seen as beautiful sounds really trivial to someone who is denied education, employment, opportunities and livelihood because of 3 or 4 other identities.

    I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be important to anyone. I’m just offering my opinion on why it won’t seem important to everyone.

  103. Miss S
    Miss S September 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm |

    People go on diets for all kinds of reasons. I find the view that links a fat person dieting to lose weight with a gay person trying to “go straight” ridiculous. It assumes that all fat people are responding out of some sort of self-hatred, or from societal pressures to look a certain way, and that’s just not the case.

    I agree. Wouldn’t it more analogous to someone experimenting with their sexuality, and possibly changing their sexuality? For instance, a heterosexual woman wanting to experiment with women could end up defining herself as bisexual. It’s changing her sexual orientation, sure, but it’s changing it to please herself.

  104. Heidi
    Heidi September 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    IrishUp:
    I hope this is not too much of a derail but this post jumped out at me, so this is a little bit of a PSA.Julie – those are some seriously distressing behaviors, and I empathize, having seen this in our own home with an older daughter. However, they are ones that raise red flags for those of us familiar with ED. Disclosure, my daughter has been suffering from ED for 4yrs now.I just wanted to alert you (and anyone else seeing something similar in their child) that these need to be taken seriously, and you might want to follow up with an evaluation to screen as to whether this is a transient phase, or early signs of incipient ED.

    I wanted to second this. Six or seven was when I started to hide/hoard food and be sensitive about my size – I went on my first “real” diet when I was eleven, having felt quite firmly that I was fat and hideous for a good three to four years before that (note: I was an “average”-sized child). I am recovering from compulsive eating disorder.

    Not implying that the original commenter’s daughter IS going to develop an ED, just that the behaviors surrounding them can start that early – they did for me – and if she is potentially on that path, it’s worth seeking help now rather than later. I wish my parents had known enough to do so with me.

  105. BStu
    BStu September 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    Talk to a fat woman about how much they fear their size impacting their educational and employment opportunities and tell them its not a serious concern. Discrimination against fat people is very real and indeed it often is in interaction with other prejudices. My race and gender unquestionably limit the impact of fat prejudice in my life, but those are privileges being denied others. Fat hatred rarely is the only factor at play. Its profoundly trivializing to say this is just about one’s body being beautiful. I recall a study that found fat women received less emotional and financial support when considering college than thin women and that this went across different socio-economic backgrounds. Fat women earn 7.47% less than thin women, a gap that has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. Different studies have put that gap at 20%. It may not have the impact gender does, but its clearly interacting with gender pay gaps to make things even worse for fat women.

  106. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    Arguing that women your size aren’t seen as beautiful sounds really trivial

    Sigh. That is one very small part of FA. FA people are also pointing out the very real discrimination that fat people face. And there is research to back this up.

  107. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    Miss S, if you think that the FA movement can be reduced to, “people think thin people are prettier than me! boo hoo!” then you are not paying much attention to what FA is actually about.

  108. Heidi
    Heidi September 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    BStu: At the same time, if someone is committed to dieting, that’s not something I care about. What I have experienced, though, and I’m sure other fat activists have seen this as well, is that this alone sparks a great deal of anger in dieters. That’s where the attacks come from. Not because we’re attacking dieters, but because we’re not celebrating them. I want to opt out of diet talk.

    I’d also like to add that, for FA advocates like me, who are also recovering from eating disorders (note that I am CLEARLY stating that this does not include all, or necessarily even most FA advocates or fat people), there is the additional layer of diet talk being a trigger for the ED-related behaviors and self-loathing.

    I have a friend who just posted on her Facebook page about losing X amount of weight in X number of days in preparation for her weight-loss surgery. Clearly I’m not posting in comments to her that I feel dieting is wrong/bad, or that I have deep concerns about WLS, if those are my opinions, but I *have* had to make the decision to hide her FB updates, because it isn’t my right to ask her not to talk about her life but it absolutely DOES start the endless “omg, you fat fat FATTY, you’re so disgusting…” thoughts and the sweet, sweet siren call of “oh, take CONTROL of your caloric intake and you will feel so powerful! so strong! you will be a worthy, loveable person!”.

    I absolutely need a space where I can feel safe to explore my own body issues without having anyone imply that my body (and therefore I) am not valuable as a person. That is why I appreciate what the Fats feed in particular does wrt dieting – there may well be people there who ARE dieting, and FA advocates who have made the choice to lose weight and do dramatic things to stay at that weight (and that’s absolutely their choice)…but I can be confident that doesn’t intrude into the Fats feed, because, for people like me, it IS dangerous and harmful and it is, essentially, the only place in my life where I know for certain that I will not encounter those triggers. That isn’t true anywhere else.

  109. BStu
    BStu September 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    You bring up a good point about your FB friend, Heidi. I’ve seen a lot of dieters act like imposing on fat activists is a good thing because we are in some sort of fat accepting bubble. Aside from whether that makes any sense, its also hilariously wrong. I don’t know any fat activist who is able to surround themselves with only fat positive people. Its simply not a luxury we can afford. We all have to confront how to deal with diet talk from our loved ones and acquaintances on a pretty regular basis. Just because we have FA spaces doesn’t mean we feel any entitlement to have that throughout our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably love that, but no one is getting close to that. Its just another way painting fat activists as intolerant feels so divorced from reality to me.

  110. Intersectionality: fatness and the bodies of women of color « Kataphatic

    […] the comments of the most recent post, a beautiful reflection from Spilt Milk, there has been some discussion of intersectionality of race and fatness and how well (or not so well) the FA movement addresses […]

  111. zuzu
    zuzu September 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    BStu: What is asked of me IS to be invested in other people’s body acceptance but in a way that is at odds with my personal beliefs.

    Actually, what’s being asked of you is to NOT be invested in other people’s body acceptance, and instead be invested in their justice. At least that’s what I’m asking.

  112. Miss S
    Miss S September 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm |

    BSTU- I’m not saying it’s not important to anyone. I’m saying that it might be hard to reach individuals who already have multiple points of oppression. Many on this comments thread have questioned whether the movement is inclusive. I used the quote in my earlier post to highlight that the people the movement is targeting is already somewhat exclusive.

    Kataphatic- I didn’t say that’s what the movement is reduced to. I. My point is, for some people, ending other forms of oppression may take precedence.

  113. Heidi
    Heidi September 15, 2010 at 6:00 pm |

    Miss S: My point is, for some people, ending other forms of oppression may take precedence. Miss S

    I can absolutely understand that this is the case, however, you also did say that “Arguing that women your size aren’t seen as beautiful sounds really trivial to someone who is denied education, employment, opportunities and livelihood because of 3 or 4 other identities” which does, to a large degree, trivialize FA as something that is solely about looking pretty! Considering that fat people may well be denied “employment, opportunities and livelihood” because of their size (and education too, I suppose, although I don’t know that there are any studies showing that, say, a college interviewer would choose the thin applicant over the fat applicant, what we’re talking about is hardly just about whether or not I’m considered to be attractive by society.

    Of course, considering that being viewed as conventionally pretty is arguably also a form of privilege (see Lesley’s great post here), perhaps wanting to be seen as pretty isn’t such a simplistic, silly thing either….but I digress.

    I am ready and willing to admit that my color, economic status, and level of education make me privileged. I will also say, quite truthfully, that being fat means that, put up against a thin person with precisely the same resume and lifestyle, I will face discrimination from many (if not most) medical professionals, employers, and society at large – the other, thin person will be treated differently, and better, by many, if not most, of those groups.

    Can’t we agree that FA is about fighting marginalization too, even if other groups may well face MORE marginalization/discrimination than fat people? I don’t think anyone is suggesting that fat oppression trumps any other form of oppression.

  114. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 15, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    Kataphatic- I didn’t say that’s what the movement is reduced to. I. My point is, for some people, ending other forms of oppression may take precedence.

    Yes, I said the same thing upthread, but I didn’t imply—and vehemently disagree—that the main thrust of FA is about other people thinking we’re pretty. There may be some energy toward self-acceptance, which includes seeing ourselves as beautiful, but trying to get the rest of the world to think of fat women as pretty is kinda low on the priority list, below, you know, things like hiring discrimination, pay discrepancy, violence against fat bodies, the prevalence of eating disorders, and other things that are a HELL of a lot more important than being seen by others as beautiful.

    I’ll accept that you may not disagree with me on this, but I still stand by the fact that your comment communicated a dismissive view of FA—if both BStu and I read it that way, we can’t be the only ones.

  115. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm |

    Actually, what’s being asked of you is to NOT be invested in other people’s body acceptance, and instead be invested in their justice. At least that’s what I’m asking.

    There IS justice in having communities that are safe for people who suffer from ED’s and are triggered by diet talk. There is also confidence-building and community-building and empowerment in such communities; and it is empowered people and communities who develop the internal resources required for political and social agitation.

    I am with you; I would like to see FA take on a more politically and socially active role, agitating for civil rights for fat folks. I was just talking about this the other day with Heidi. But that doesn’t just come out of nowhere. And there is valuable groundwork being laid right now in the FA community for that. Our challenge now is to continue to propel it forward, and not get stuck in endless arguments about whether or not we are hurting the feelings of people who want to use FA spaces to talk about dieting and find that they receive pushback for that.

  116. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm |

    zuzu:
    Actually, what’s being asked of you is to NOT be invested in other people’s body acceptance, and instead be invested in their justice.At least that’s what I’m asking.  

    And I’m asking that you not be so invested in supporting people’s ‘right’ to promote diet culture. BStu is absolutely right that outside of FA spaces, diet culture and body-shaming flourishes, so talking as if FA advocates are the ones policing others is drawing a pretty long bow. As I wrote here , there is no need for a diet acceptance movement.

    Do you honestly think that ‘other people’s body acceptance’ is in no way linked to justice? Because I pretty much think that was my whole post was about. Diet culture is all about policing: kindness and acceptance is about finding space outside of those ‘rules’ and refusing to buy into the really fucking harmful notion that some bodies are better than other bodies and that we must engage in body-shaming. It’s actually about letting go of the constant policing. And that is very much linked to justice for fat people. The fact that fat people face employment and health care discrimination is not independent from the fact that our culture promotes body-shaming and sells us diets to the detriment of our emotional and physical health. I’m not saying that everyone must love themselves 100% before weight discrimination can be tackled, but I am saying that one of the reasons that fat people are so discriminated against is because body-shaming is normalised.

    Holding on to internalised body shame and deliberately engaging in diet culture can actively work against seeking justice for fat people. To use an analogy: if someone claimed to have feminist goals but was expressing internalised misogyny in a way that was harmful or triggering to other feminists, and then refused to acknowledge, examine or work to change that, would it just go unchecked in feminist spaces? Is asking people to face their internalised misogyny and take responsibility for the effects it has on other people and the movement, being the ‘thought police’?

  117. Miss S
    Miss S September 15, 2010 at 9:21 pm |

    Heidi, I appreciate the reply. I realize that the goal is to end marginalization. But it’s to end marginalization of women who aren’t considered ‘conventionally’ attractive. Discrimination for being fat is discrimination for not fitting into the beauty standard.

    I don’t see how listing ‘fat’ as a marginalized identity is any different than listing ‘acne’ or ‘being short.’ These are things that work against you, yes. But to lump them in with identities like race, or religion, seems unfair.

  118. Julie
    Julie September 15, 2010 at 9:27 pm |

    Thanks Heidi and Irish-up… I appreciate and will definitely look into in it. It’s definitely concerning to hear her talk like that, so if we can help now instead of later, I am all for it.

  119. Meowser
    Meowser September 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm |

    Yeah, it does take a certain amount of privilege to practice HAES. I’m certainly what you’d call lower middle-class in terms of finances; I have enough money to get Spud deliveries and goodies from Trader Joe’s, but not enough to own a car (if I drove anymore, which I quit doing because I realized I’m not roadsafe) or a house (or even a condo). Where I live makes a huge difference; there’s decent enough transit, rents aren’t off-the-charts ludicrous, and there are some very affordable options near me for buying high-quality food, which I know not everyone has access to. Oh, and I telecommute, too, something else only a few working-class people get to do, and which makes cooking one hell of a lot easier.

    As for people who belong to multiple stigmatized groups besides fat people, and where their “priorities” are, there’s no pat answer. I didn’t realize until a few years ago, when I was diagnosed, that I had suffered pretty much nonstop shunning and discrimination for being autistic, and that wouldn’t go away if I was thin. I actually started blogging about fat before I was diagnosed.

    On the other hand, while there’s certainly plenty of poor-mouthing of autism and even more covert prejudice against autistic people, blatant fat hate is like wallpaper in Western society, wallpaper that’s in every frigging room. I barely even turn on my TV and I feel totally saturated with it, all the talk about Obeeeeeesity and how awful it is and how uncouth and uncultured it makes us look in front of those classy thin Europeans, and how we’re stealing food out of poor people’s mouths (yeah, that explains why so many fatties LIVE IN FRIGGING POVERTY, brainiacs), and we’re taking down the whole health care system and we’re greedy and stupid and poor cows led around hopelessly by the nose by McDonald’s (just another way of calling us stupid, really), and and and…there’s no escaping it, unless you go totally off the grid and live in a cabin in the woods with no electricity and no media, and even then the birds in the trees will probably crap on your head while calling you Shamu.

  120. Meowser
    Meowser September 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm |

    And I’ll amend what I said about not caring about what people eat or don’t eat: I care that they have access to the foods they want and need, and too many people don’t.

  121. sannanina
    sannanina September 16, 2010 at 6:35 am |

    Miss S: Heidi, I appreciate the reply. I realize that the goal is to end marginalization. But it’s to end marginalization of women who aren’t considered ‘conventionally’ attractive. Discrimination for being fat is discrimination for not fitting into the beauty standard.
      

    I think that discrimination of fat people has a lot to do with them not fitting into the beauty standard, but I also think there are other aspects to it. There are some very specific personality traits that are ascribed to fat people – and the same is not true for people who are considered “not beautiful” in other ways.

  122. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 16, 2010 at 8:52 am |

    Miss S-
    The problem with your comparison here, is that being short or having acne isn’t seen as a moral failing. You may lose pretty points, but, ultimately, fat is used as shorthand for lazy and stupid. That’s the real problem behind fat discrimination. Pretty is only a small part of it. In fact, society is extra quick to fat shame beautiful women, because heaven forbid we start to think that fat is in any way acceptable, which we might if people realize that fat women != ugly hags. Because, of course, a woman’s value and acceptability as a human being is all about her fuckability.

  123. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    I don’t see how listing ‘fat’ as a marginalized identity is any different than listing ‘acne’ or ‘being short.’ These are things that work against you, yes. But to lump them in with identities like race, or religion, seems unfair. Miss S

    Race is an identity now? Silly me, I thought it was a classification system made up by white people to codify their privilege. I thought race was a set of physical characteristics of human bodies that was used to oppress some and privilege others (gee, sounds a bit like body size).

    And you don’t see ANY difference between acne or height and fatness?? Are you serious? Do you really think that people’s height has anywhere near the same effect on whether they get hired for a job as fatness does? Do you really think that doctors tell acne patients to “stop eating chocolate, put some cream on your face, and that should fix itI don’t see how listing ‘fat’ as a marginalized identity is any different than listing ‘acne’ or ‘being short.’ These are things that work against you, yes. But to lump them in with identities like race, or religion, seems unfair. Miss S
    ” about ANY medical condition they come in with, whether or not is has anything to do with skin and/or their face? Do you really think that there is documentable short-bias in the medical field? Do you really think that short women are being told they are too short to give birth, or that people with acne are left to die while EMT’s make jokes about their face? Is anyone calling for the removal of short children from the homes of short parents?

    I cannot believe what I am reading.

    FA is not about attractiveness

    Please, for your sake and for the sake of the rest of us, do some research before continuing to argue with the straw woman you’ve created.

  124. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 9:46 am |

    Apologies for the accidental copy-paste in the middle of my previous post. Here is the fixed comment:

    I don’t see how listing ‘fat’ as a marginalized identity is any different than listing ‘acne’ or ‘being short.’ These are things that work against you, yes. But to lump them in with identities like race, or religion, seems unfair. Miss S

    Race is an identity now? Silly me, I thought it was a classification system made up by white people to codify their privilege. I thought race was a set of physical characteristics of human bodies that was used to oppress some and privilege others (gee, sounds a bit like body size).

    And you don’t see ANY difference between acne or height and fatness?? Are you serious? Do you really think that people’s height has anywhere near the same effect on whether they get hired for a job as fatness does? Do you really think that doctors tell acne patients to “stop eating chocolate, put some cream on your face, and that should fix it” about ANY medical condition they come in with, whether or not is has anything to do with skin and/or their face? Do you really think that there is documentable short-bias in the medical field? Do you really think that short women are being told they are too short to give birth, or that people with acne are left to die while EMT’s make jokes about their face? Is anyone calling for the removal of short children from the homes of short parents?

    I cannot believe what I am reading.

    FA is not about attractiveness

    Please, for your sake and for the sake of the rest of us, do some research before continuing to argue with the straw woman you’ve created.

  125. zuzu
    zuzu September 16, 2010 at 9:52 am |

    Spilt Milk: And I’m asking that you not be so invested in supporting people’s ‘right’ to promote diet culture.

    I think you misunderstand me. I’m not asking for the “‘right’ to promote diet culture” (and, for real? That’s just insulting; I’ve never said anything of the sort, and I defy you to show me where I did). I think it’s a fine thing to encourage people to treat themselves with kindness, but I think it’s very dangerous to start requiring adherence to certain modes of thought about oneself before one is allowed to be taken seriously within a movement. Especially because self-acceptance is a very, very long road, with many detours, and there’s an awful lot of stigma and many penalties for not conforming.

    Maia, I think, mentioned survival tactics, and I think that’s a good way to put it. I think it’s something like makeup and hairstyling and other beauty rituals for women: there are penalties, social and economic, for not following these, so while a woman may completely sign on to the *idea* that wearing makeup and heels to work is abhorrent, she may still do so because she is explicitly required to by her job, or because she knows that she will be considered, unofficially at least, “unprofessional” if she doesn’t, and it’s hard enough to prove your fitness for promotion as a woman without getting slapped with “unprofessional” on top of it. I myself am rapidly going gray, and I hate buying into the culture which values a woman’s youth above all others, but fuck if I’m going to stop coloring my hair while I’m on the job market, because I’m already 42 and can only offer the *appearance* of youth. This doesn’t make me less of a feminist.

    But somehow, I can’t be a fat activist (or at least am accused of “promot[ing] diet culture”) because I don’t support getting invested in the decisions of individual people about their bodies, or telling them that their motives are impure if they struggle with self-acceptance and do so out loud, even if they fully support the overarching goals of dignity, acceptance and equality for people regardless of size and of changing the culture to one where size is irrelevant and fat is not a matter of morality.

    See what I mean?

  126. zuzu
    zuzu September 16, 2010 at 10:09 am |

    I also think that there’s some confusion about what I’m talking about here: there seems to be an assumption that I’m advocating diet talk in FA spaces, which I’m not.

  127. BStu
    BStu September 16, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    Actually, what’s being asked of you is to NOT be invested in other people’s body acceptance, and instead be invested in their justice.At least that’s what I’m asking.

    You aren’t the only person asking things of us. But the kinds of examples you cited of what we’re doing wrong are asking exactly what I stated. Not that we leave them alone, which FA does. Fat activists don’t spend their time picketing Weight Loss centers or trolling diet boards. The complaint you endorsed were people who upset that we didn’t celebrate their dieting and welcome their dieting into fat acceptance spaces and presented a contrary argument in fat acceptance spaces.

    Fat activists aren’t out in the wild beating people into belief. We’re just trying to create spaces that can nurture our own convictions and provide room for people to learn and be exposed to it. As any activist does. The extent that we invest ourselves into other people’s self-acceptance is about creating a supportive community. And when someone attacks that community, of course we stand up for ourselves. Its not because they no longer want to be a part of it, its because they’ve made a decision to attack what WE are doing and what WE believe. These people are complaining about a “backlash” before any even could occur. Their characterization of us simply isn’t fair. What we respond to are their substantive criticisms of fat acceptance, often made IN fat acceptance spaces as a means of co-opting our work and our community to present a contrary message.

    No activist should have to put up with that. Not just ones I agree with. I have no stomach for progressives who flatter themselves into thinking going to Tea Party sites and snarking at the membership is some kind of act of courage. Its rude and self-important. Likewise the Men’s Rights folks who stalk feminist sites, homophobes going after gay rights communities, etc. Its uncalled for and FA is right to stand up for its community and for creating a space for people to work towards a different path.

    That really is what is at issue here. We’re not policing people’s individual choices, we’re just trying to preserve a community to support our choices and provide that support to new people who are interested. I believe this approach can help people. I’m not sorry that I want other people to accept their bodies. I think it can help them and I think it can help our society. That is justice. But I advocate, I don’t police. I wouldn’t have any power to do so even if I did want to, but I don’t. But I will defend what I’m advocating for and I won’t stand for it being redefined by people who disagree and want to mute my voice. That’s something I expect of all activists, even those I don’t support.

    If someone wants to diet, there is nothing I care to do (nor could do) to stop them. That’s their decision to make. And my decision to disagree with dieting is MY decision to make. I won’t endorse something I don’t agree with. This becomes a problem not because I impose my disagreement on people but because others demand my endorsement. This is what Fat Activists are confronting that leads people to accuse of us of body policing and its not a reasonable characterization. It disrespects our autonomy and inverts the true power structure at play.

  128. BStu
    BStu September 16, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    Zuzu, I can respect that you were not intending to make that point but I would ask you to understand that you cited an example earlier in this thread that IS perceived as making that point in FA circles. Because that was the discussion in Fat Acceptance at the time. It was about defining dieting as being something regarded as outside of fat acceptance. It wasn’t about policing individuals, but about defining our community and what we wanted to represent. That is what the episode meant to us. Because we weren’t trying to police attitudes. We were trying to define and support our own beliefs.

  129. Miss S
    Miss S September 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm |

    The problem with your comparison here, is that being short or having acne isn’t seen as a moral failing
    Thank you for clarifying this. I’m not sure if I agree but I do understand the distinction.

    kataphatic
    Race is an identity now? Silly me, I thought it was a classification system made up by white people to codify their privilege.
    What are you even talking about? Yes, it’s a classification system. It’s also a basis for oppression and it’s how many choose to identify. I’m sure you were already aware of that. Being a woman is a basis for my oppression, and it’s also part of my identity. See how that works?

  130. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua September 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm |

    It’s unfortunate that this issue is pushed personally at individual women, and that’s a real feminist issue. But some of the fighting back takes the form of minimizing a serious problem–there genuinely is an “epidemic of obesity” and even if individuals can truly say that they’re fat and healthy, statistics aren’t the same as anecdotes. I’m sure there are 80-year-olds who smoke 2 packs a day, but that doesn’t mean smoking is harmless! I also wonder how many middle-aged people who are seriously overweight would join in to talk about being “fat and healthy”. A young body can take, or seem to take, things that come back to haunt us later.

  131. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm |

    What are you even talking about?

    I’m white so this may inform my understanding, but I have read in numerous places that race is not an internal identity, but rather a classification system placed upon people by outsiders. That if there was no racism—no white people having created the construct of race—that people wouldn’t “identify” as being different races. But whatever, we can agree to disagree on THAT particular point; the point remains that fat is not an identity, it’s a physical characteristic. When my mom got cancer and went from fat to thin in the course of a year or so, nothing about her identity changed, it was a physical characteristic of her body.

    So in one sense, yes, fatness is like eye color or height. But in another sense, you can’t compare fat oppression to how short people or people with acne are treated because there is no systematic oppression of people with acne.

    (there IS systematic oppression of people who are not considered conventionally attractive, but that is not the same marginalization that FA is fighting)

  132. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm |

    Miss S—Oh and just to clarify, I got confused for a moment and thought you were saying fat was an identity. Now I realize you’re not saying that; in fact you seem to be saying that the fact that fat isn’t an identity means it’s not oppression akin to racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. But disabilities are not usually about identity, nor is class. Gender isn’t even always about identity (I don’t identify as any particular gender; I have been identified by society as a woman). Basically my point is that whether or not fatness is an issue of identity is irrelevant to whether fat people experience actual oppression in the actual world.

  133. zuzu
    zuzu September 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    BStu: Zuzu, I can respect that you were not intending to make that point but I would ask you to understand that you cited an example earlier in this thread that IS perceived as making that point in FA circles. Because that was the discussion in Fat Acceptance at the time. It was about defining dieting as being something regarded as outside of fat acceptance. It wasn’t about policing individuals, but about defining our community and what we wanted to represent. That is what the episode meant to us. Because we weren’t trying to police attitudes. We were trying to define and support our own beliefs.  

    And what I’d like you to understand is how this whole discussion appeared to those fat people outside FA circles. Because it sure looked — and still does, at least to me; I just re-read a lot of the stuff posted back then — like policing an individual’s decisions about her health. Maybe you see her as a representative of the movement, but many of us on the outside saw it quite differently. It’s every bit as appalling to me today as it was then that her activism on behalf of all fat people was so easily dismissed because she made a considered decision to become somewhat less fat for the sake of her health, and that many people within the FA movement who commented on her announcement — which was not made in a specifically-designated FA space — second-guessed her self-care, said she shouldn’t bother because she wouldn’t succeed (even though she had succeeded enough to notice a difference), or compared her decision to that of someone who wanted to fit into a bikini.

    And I guess I’ll throw out there something that Kataphatic said above:

    I’ll accept that you may not disagree with me on this, but I still stand by the fact that your comment communicated a dismissive view of [FA skeptics]—if [several others] and I read it that way, we can’t be the only ones.

    And now I should really walk away from this and finish packing.

  134. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm |

    @kataphatic –

    I have never, EVER seen anyone be dogpiled for dieting within the FA community.

    I’m more dismayed that I can say — though less and less surprised, unfortunately — that this seems to have to be said here, in a conversation like this, among purported progressives, but just because you personally have (apparently) never seen a behavior occur, it absolutely does not follow that that behavior does not exist.

    Wow.

    #comeonson

  135. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    BStu: It was about defining dieting as being something regarded as outside of fat acceptance. It wasn’t about policing individuals, but about defining our community and what we wanted to represent.

    I absolutely support the FA movement’s right to define its community…but I think zuzu is right that defining dieting and those that diet as definitively outside the FA movement* is off putting to people who support most of the fundamental principles underlying the FA movement but disagree that dieting is a moral failing. I know when I was reading blogs like Shapely Prose I was completely taken aback by this post (which isn’t up on Shapely Prose anymore).*

    At the time I had been nodding along for quite awhile, but the complete rejection of dieting by others and the idea that dieting for any reason is oppressive to others is antithetical to my understanding of social justice and anti-oppression. In my view the source of oppression are the differing valuations of people and expectation that people should act or exist in a way that is different from their authentic self. What is not oppression is living your life in the way that works for you (caveat re: harming others) regardless of whether that lifestyle also involves sleeping with men, wearing makeup, or trying to to fit into a size two.

    So, in spite of my support for the FA movement, I don’t consider myself part of the FA movement because I have a different view of oppression.

  136. BStu
    BStu September 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    I re-read a lot of discussion, too, zuzu, and I still think that characterization just isn’t fair and defines as policing what was really self-definition of what fat acceptance means and represents. I also recall some of the details that I can’t go back and reference because the blog in question doesn’t exist and I couldn’t trace back its archives. I do recall that there were specific attacks leveled against fat acceptance on substantive points and that was what most people responded to. It wasn’t simply a statement of support of dieting but a denunciation of fat acceptance’s stance on dieting. Of course people are going to respond to that from a fat acceptance perspective.

    I was also reminded that what I was saying then is what I’m saying now. I understand that people will perceive fat acceptance’s opposition to dietING as policing dietERS but I just don’t think we can do anything about that. What would be asked of us would put severe limitations on what we can do to advocate our position and we cannot afford to do that.

    I don’t think diets work. I also think their rational is flawed, but even if all the hand-wringing over the epidemic of fat bodies was correct, we still have no reliable and safe means of making fat bodies into not fat bodies. That’s a vital point to make because it is what feeds the systematic oppression of fat people. It shouldn’t matter why we are fat to oppose fat discrimination, but it matters to the people discriminating against us. The illusion of choice is the bedrock of fat discrimination. I’ve no doubt that if we do expose that illusion that many people will shame us nonetheless. The gay community can certainly attest to that. And yet, in getting to that point the gay community made enormous strides in breaking down prejudice from people who could not sustain their hate as they accepted this was not something mutable. I admit its not an endgame, but its not a resource I am willing to throw away because I happen to think its also true. Dieting is not a moral victory worthy of my congratulations. Such a construction is inherently hostile to my beliefs.

    What fat acceptance says is not comforting to dieters, but it shouldn’t be. Is feminism comforting to misogyny? An individual invested in weight loss culture will be challenged by what I’m advocating, but that’s the point of advocacy. You challenge the people who disagree with you to see things differently. I don’t feel like this is something fat acceptance can afford not to do nor do I think that reflects how other activism movements operate or are expected to operate. Sure, a lot more people would “agree” with fat acceptance if we limited what we stand for, but does that really advance our purpose or what we believe in? I’m not happy that people will perceive us in a way I don’t think is representative of our purpose or actions, but we can’t always do something about that. I respect your perception, but I can’t agree with it.

  137. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    Argh, I forgot the footnote

    *Not that any one persons speaks for all of FA (anymore than any one woman speaks for feminism)…so this is just based on some of the things I’ve read and the general impression that I’ve reached.

  138. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm |

    @ Split Milk –

    I kind of see your point about resisting any thought policing. It totally makes sense to me that ‘thou shalt love thy body’ and ‘thou shalt not diet’ are forms of policing. But I personally don’t think that FA actually says those things – at least, not the version of fat acceptance I’m interested in. If the movement is giving that impression then that is a problem to address, I agree.

    Then what do you think it’s going to take for people to actually begin addressing it, as opposed to continuing to run around debating constantly about whether it is or isn’t happening?

  139. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm |

    @ BStu –

    FA is SO far away from any “thou shall not’s” that I really don’t get why that sort of accusation still pops up. This is about what WE are doing and yes, what we advocate for others.

    Um.

    If you don’t see it after *that* juxtaposition …

  140. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm |

    zuzu, seriously? Are you really going to take my words and interchange “FA skeptics” for FA? As if both are coming at this on equal social footing? As if we’re not talking about an oppressed group and a privileged group?

    men use that tactic to say that feminists are man-haters. white people use that tactic to say that POC are “racist” against whites.

    Privilege has a vested interest—and power—in silencing FA. You can’t take my words and twist them around as if that dynamic doesn’t exist.

  141. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    I’m more dismayed that I can say — though less and less surprised, unfortunately — that this seems to have to be said here, in a conversation like this, among purported progressives, but just because you personally have (apparently) never seen a behavior occur, it absolutely does not follow that that behavior does not exist.

    Good thing I wasn’t saying that then.

    I have asked, repeatedly, for specific examples of FA people dogpiling on people for personal choices they make about their body. No one has been able to point any out. I am perfectly willing and open to admit this might be a problem I haven’t seen but I’m going to need to like, actually see it happening somewhere, before I agree that this is a major issue in FA.

    Come on indeed.

  142. On respect, empathy, and idealism about conversations in feminist spaces « Kataphatic

    […] community, fat activism, hope, intersections, love, restricting, shame, visibility, vulnerability I am just getting hammered at Feministe (and not in the fun […]

  143. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 3:36 pm |

    @kataphatic –

    I’m white so this may inform my understanding, but I have read in numerous places that race is not an internal identity, but rather a classification system placed upon people by outsiders.

    As I’ve seen put forth by yourself (and others) on this thread, that experience of imposed construct, as opposed to identity, that you may have gleaned from one person — or one book, or one source — may well not be monolithic as experience, to all the members of that group.

    O irony.

  144. zuzu
    zuzu September 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm |

    kataphatic: zuzu, seriously? Are you really going to take my words and interchange “FA skeptics” for FA? As if both are coming at this on equal social footing? As if we’re not talking about an oppressed group and a privileged group?

    I’ve been pretty clear that I’ve been talking about fat people who are FA skeptics; do fat people become suddenly non-oppressed if they don’t buy everything you’re selling?

    And as for your challenge, look around the comments. Several people have given examples.

  145. Miss S
    Miss S September 16, 2010 at 3:42 pm |

    Kataphatic- When I said identity, I was referring to the ways that people identify wrt the areas of oppression. Person of color, queer, woman, etc. These are the areas of oppression, and they are part of someone’s identity. Yes, if there was no concept of race/color, I wouldn’t identify as a woman of color. But there is, so I do. While it’s an area of oppression, it’s also part of who I am. Some people choose not to identify with any labels, and that’s fine too.

    My original point was that listing fat as a basis for oppression seems trivial, as listing short, or having acne, or whatever. Someone explained that fat is seen as a moral failing, while acne or height isn’t. Again, I’m not sure I agree but I do see the distinction. To me, fat is somewhat objective. Obese isn’t. What you call fat, someone else could call curvy, phat, thick, etc. Depending on who you ask, those can be negative or positive descriptions. It may be a cultural thing, and that may be the reason why I don’t know many women who diet or obsess over every pound. On the other hand, I would agree with the above commenter that obesity is constructed as a moral failing.

  146. BStu
    BStu September 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm |

    Just to be clear, Kristen, that post still is up on Shapely Prose.

    http://kateharding.net/2007/09/06/the-elephant-so-to-speak-in-the-room/

    And I have very different feelings about it and I think Kate makes very good points about how diet culture is oppressive to fat people. If someone thinks dieting is a good thing, fat acceptance cannot accommodate them. We’re arguing for something different and advocacy movements can’t always accommodate every view point. Indeed, they never do. I think a lot of people here can ultimately respect that, but when you see FA talking about this issue we’re usually responding to the people who don’t respect our difference of opinion. Maybe that creates a perception problem for those who disagree but respect us, but we need to respond to those who don’t respect us, too.

  147. Miss S
    Miss S September 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm |

    Also, I agree with Tei in that anecdotal evidence is not the same thing as data. I’m sure we all know someone who smoked a pack a day, or was obese or whatever, and didn’t suffer any consequences. In no way does that negate the fact that some behaviors are unhealthy. And a movement that rejects women who change their lifestyle to lose weight, but accepts women who do it for other reasons (as though it’s that easy to separate motivation) is just another form of body policing. Or mind policing. Focusing on access to healthcare and healthy food isn’t body policing. Telling someone there are acceptable reasons for eating healthy is.

    It reminds me of the way in which natural hair (not relaxed) is encouraged among some groups. I have seen (in online communities) the way women who choose to relax their hair are shunned. These groups have good intentions, but sometimes it just turns into another form of policing.

  148. iiii
    iiii September 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    I’ve seen a bunch of these kerfuffles, and the pattern I’ve seen goes like this:
    – Newbie posts a comment to an established FA blog about her weight-loss diet, complete with calorie counts.
    – Blog Owner says, read the FAQ, no diet talk allowed here.
    – Newbie argues back that *of course* she gets to talk about her diet here. Whoever heard of not talking about her diet? That would just be silly, to not talk about her diet.
    – The regulars chime in, with varying degrees of directness: respect the blog owner’s rules, read the FAQ, and, to save you the trouble of reading the FAQ, the reasons diet talk is not allowed here are because it’s antithetical to our aims and it’s triggering to people in recovery.
    – Newbie withdraws in confusion. Invective-laden tantrum of thwarted entitlement optional. Comments in other parts of the internet about the vicious dogpiling nature of FA people, how they tried to force me to be unhealthy, and can you believe those delusional losers deleted my comment? optional.

    I’ve seen exactly the same dynamic play out on feminist blogs, with men flipping out at their first experience of being de-centered. I’ve seen exactly the same dynamic play out on anti-racist blogs, with white people flipping out at their first experience of being de-centered. (Hell, I’ve been that white person. Sorry, everyone.) It seems to be what entitled people do when we first happen upon a space that doesn’t privilege us they way we’re used to.

    Has anyone come up with a way to keep highly entitled people from throwing privilege-shock tantrums? Because it seems like that would be a generally useful thing.

  149. BStu
    BStu September 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    If you don’t see it after *that* juxtaposition …

    No, I don’t. And I’ve already explained why.

  150. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm |

    @littlem, why do you keep putting words in my mouth? All I did was state a fact, “this is what I’ve heard POC say.” I didn’t say that ALL POC felt that way, and I even took care to point out that I’m white in a further attempt to make it clear I am not trying to speak for all POC. Honestly. You keep making extra assumptions about what I’m saying, that aren’t based on the actual words I’m using. What the hell?

    @zuzu, er, no. For one thing, fat people are not immune from fatphobia. But more importantly, I have never said that fat people have to agree with every detail of what FA (typically, since it’s not a monolithic, organized movement) supports. I’ve never said that people have to agree 100% to call themselves FA.

    Also, I have read every comment to this post, and I haven’t seen one example of someone policing an individual’s choice of what to do with their body. I’ve heard people talk about how they don’t have a desire to stop anyone dieting and do not do so even when a loved one is doing it and it hurts their heart. I have heard people talking about calling out problematic statements and assumptions about FA, fatness, weight and health in general. But I have not seen anyone provide an actual example of someone policing anyone else’s choices. The closest I’ve seen is discussion of Hanne Blank, but I’m inclined to take the comments of folks like meowser, who were there, and who say that it was never about policing Hanne’s body, in good faith. Plus if this is some giant problem, there should be examples everywhere.

    @Miss S, do you think it’s trivial that fat women make 7% less in the workplace than thin women? Do you think it’s trivial that doctors neglect patients because of their fatness? Do you think it’s trivial that fat bodies are routinely subjects of emotional and physical abuse? More importantly, do you think it is ever okay to minimize someone’s experience of oppression?

  151. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    Miss S-

    I see where you’re coming from here, especially in your comparison to natural vs. relaxed hair. And I totally agree that individual woman should not be policed for their actions. I think that is deplorable.

    I stumbled into the fat acceptance movement right around the time that Heidi (from Attack of The Sugar Monster) posted about her weight-loss surgery. Some asshats were posting asshattery condemning her for opting for the surgery, but most people wished her well and offered their hopes that she would find herself in a healthier space and more at peace with her body. I think, as a movement, we DO need to call out the asshats and tell them that body policing is NOT ACCEPTABLE. But I think a lot of the movement is already doing that.

    Now, I think there’s a world of a difference between someone saying “I’m in pain and my body is breaking down and losing weight is my only chance in the world at stopping that pain.” or “Accepting my body is so hard and I really want to, but fatphobia is so strong and I want to be taken more seriously at work, so I’m losing weight because I feel like I have no other choice in my life right now.” and “I decided to go on a weight loss diet because I’m a fatty fat fat and I can’t stick with this delusion that someone can be fat and healthy. Y’all realize that our knees are going to break down, right?” The first two are purely personal commentary. The third statement invalidates the lived experience of many other folks inside and outside the fat acceptance movement. I haven’t seen a ton of people dogpiled for making statements like the first two (though asshats will be asshats). In fact, people frequently blog about their journeys in fat acceptance and their own bumps along the way. But I’ve definitely seen people get pissed for statements like the third one. And, I think, with good reason. It’s the difference between someone saying, “DUDE, patriarchy sucks, and my husband makes so much more money than me and gets promoted so much easier because of the stupid all-boys club, so when we’re picking someone to stay at home with kids, I’m it.” and “I’ve decided to become a stay-at-home mom because maybe there is something to this whole gender role business.” I know that I would totally offer my support to the author of that first statement, but think the author of the second statement is both wrong and participating in the oppression of women.

  152. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm |

    @ kataphatic –

    I am perfectly willing and open to admit this might be a problem I haven’t seen but I’m going to need to like, actually see it happening somewhere, before I agree that this is a major issue in FA.

    So unless it’s proved to your satisfaction, then …? Okay.
    I won’t tell you what you sound like.
    *rolleyes*

    I think I see where your “head is at” with this — it’s the fairly frequently observed “Don’t confuse me with the facts” stance. You’re not interested in other points of view on this issue other than your own, even though people are repeatedly telling you what they themselves have experienced.

    (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)

    That’s fine. People can read for themselves where you are on this issue and decide whether they’ll choose to engage with you as a supporter of FA principles in the way you choose to represent yourself as such.

    I’m out. I don’t have the time to waste.

  153. littlem
    littlem September 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm |

    @zuzu re: kataphatic

    And as for your challenge, look around the comments. Several people have given examples.

    Yeah, the vibe I’m getting is “LALALA I’m deliberately choosing to miss all that”.

  154. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm |

    what? Who here has said they themselves were policed by FA advocates? I only see people ostensibly talking about other people getting policed, but so many commenters (meowser, BStu, iii, Heidi, and others) have discussed the nuances of these dynamics. We have run this theoretical discussion into the ground; there is still an amazing lack of specifics.

    I’m not sticking my hands in my ears and refusing to listen to facts. I am basing my comments on my own experiences within FA (or perhaps it’s other people’s—and not my own—experiences that matter?) I really do not think it’s too much to ask people to substantiate their claims that FA is oppressing dieters when 1) the claim itself derails from the topic at hand, 2) dieters are the ones with the social privilege in this conversation, and 3) the claims directly contradict my lived experience.

    But you are right—people CAN read for themselves where I am on this issue. I speak from my experience and am always open to new information. Had you provided any, besides just looking for any possible way to try to catch me out, perhaps we could have had a productive conversation.

  155. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    littlem: @ Split Milk –Then what do you think it’s going to take for people to actually begin addressing it, as opposed to continuing to run around debating constantly about whether it is or isn’t happening?  

    Well, if it’s not happening then it makes far more sense to address the misconceptions about the movement that make people think that it is. Besides, The Rotund, Fat Heffalump and I have all written recent posts that address this from our perspectives on our blogs and no doubt many other bloggers have as well.

    zuzu:
    I think it’s a fine thing to encourage people to treat themselves with kindness, but I think it’s very dangerous to start requiring adherence to certain modes of thought about oneself before one is allowed to be taken seriously within a movement.Especially because self-acceptance is a very, very long road, with many detours, and there’s an awful lot of stigma and many penalties for not conforming.

    I completely agree. Which is why I explicitly do not do this, and have never done this (nor do the other FA blogs I read… which are probably different to the ones you have read, incidentally, since I tend to stick mostly to the Australian ones). I don’t understand why there is a perception that FA as a whole (bearing in mind that we’re not a monolith) does this as a matter of course. There is no way that I am self-accepting every moment of the day. I would never ask that others be! But I do ask that they try not to put their ‘my fat body is gross, therefore all fat bodies are gross’ bullshit on to me or anyone else. That’s all.

  156. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm |

    What iiii said. You see it when people encounter the idea that it’s not OK to blame the victim too, the exact same pattern (see almost any conversation going on about what happened when the Jets harrassed Inez Sainz right now for examples). When people confront a situation in which they say something they’re used to being able to say and be supported, and instead they encounter coldness/hostility to the ideas they’re expressing/a detailed explanation of why people don’t think it’s OK for them to be saying those things, a significant percentage of people throw a tantrum. It happens all the time, about all sorts of different issues.

    I read Shapely Prose a lot and saw it happen there on multiple occasions. Sometimes people would take the STFU on board, go think about it, and then come back willing to follow the rules. Other times they’d flounce. Ditto men on feminist blogs, white people on POC blogs, etc – it’s a recognisable pattern.

    So I think the basic conflict here comes down to the question of whether or not people believe being anti diet talk is ethically defensible and/or practically a good idea. And then there’s the issue of diet talk in spaces not officially designated as FA, where you run into some real conflict between people who are and are not FA identified. I don’t think it’s reasonable for FA people to expect non FA blogs to ban diet talk – whether or not they’re right about dieting being inherantly harmful, it’s just not going to happen, and if it’s not your space you don’t get to set the rules. I do think it’s totally reasonable for FA people to ban diet talk in their own spaces.

    I think there’s also a deeper conflict playing out here that’s to do with whether feminism in general is going to include some elements of FA. As a group, on a macro level, we don’t seem to be even close to coming to any conclusions about that.

  157. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm |

    BStu: Just to be clear, Kristen, that post still is up on Shapely Prose.

    Oh, good…I couldn’t put my finger on it for some reason.

    BStu: We’re arguing for something different and advocacy movements can’t always accommodate every view point. Indeed, they never do. I think a lot of people here can ultimately respect that

    Well, see that is what I find problematic. Its one of the reasons I struggle with feminism as a movement. I’m anti-oppression. Including the oppression that dieters feel (and for as much as dieting is considered “good” by society, the “need” to diet is not privileged, in general, and is in many cases inextricably bound up with fatphobia). I think limiting concern to one group or one type of oppression while explicitly decrying the non-harmful actions of others because you disagree with how they deal with oppression is fighting the wrong sort of battle. Nevertheless, while I think this is a valid criticism of FA, I completely support people’s right to limit the conversations in their space. BUT if someone asks what is problematic about FA, I think its relevant to point this out.

  158. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 16, 2010 at 10:53 pm |

    Kataphatic:Got your policing right here.

    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2010/02/first-sunday-of-lent-lenten-blog-break.html

    I’m just going to say that I think FA goes overboard sometimes. I’m a fat girl, okay? I’m always going to be fat, and I’m too fond of tasty things to diet. If “you” (FA activist) are happy in your skin, good for you. But your skin, your body should not define you, and yeah, society should not define you by your body either. But if you want me to join the ‘all bodies should be celebrated chorus’ count me out. That starts coming a little too close to the hippie moon stuff.
    (Don’t even get me started on the period worship that sometimes takes over feminist spaces..)

  159. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 17, 2010 at 12:04 am |

    Politicalguineapig-

    You see people piling on someone because they decided to diet…I see criticisms of an essay that rejects the notion that someone can have 50 “extra” lbs (extra than what?) and still have working joints. And conflates fat with destruction of the environment and overconsumption of resources. These are problematic assertions about fat people, and it doesn’t shock me that folks were offended. Not at what Daisy Deadhead was saying about her actions, but what she was saying about other people’s actions and behaviors. Sort of like I was talking about in my comment above.

    And if you don’t think all bodies should be celebrated, can you at least agree that all bodies should be respected and treated with dignity? That doesn’t seem super radical to me, but somehow it is.

  160. Jadey
    Jadey September 17, 2010 at 12:25 am |

    Politicalguineapig: Kataphatic:Got your policing right here.
    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2010/02/first-sunday-of-lent-lenten-blog-break.htmlI’m just going to say that I think FA goes overboard sometimes. I’m a fat girl, okay? I’m always going to be fat, and I’m too fond of tasty things to diet. If “you” (FA activist) are happy in your skin, good for you.But your skin, your body should not define you, and yeah, society should not define you by your body either. But if you want me to join the ‘all bodies should be celebrated chorus’ count me out. That starts coming a little too close to the hippie moon stuff.
    (Don’t even get me started on the period worship that sometimes takes over feminist spaces..)  

    That actually doesn’t seem like a great example. Even reading that post for the first time and going into it assuming that it’s an example of policing as you say (and I am still taking people’s word that this does happen, even if I think this was a bad example to demonstrate it), the pushback seems to have nothing to do with the parts where the OP talks about her own body and its needs, but rather the paragraphs at the end where she seems to be suggesting that everyone in America is getting too fat. That’s not about her body – that’s about other people’s. I’ll admit, I think that she didn’t flesh out her thoughts fully in those last few paragraphs (it’s a blog post, afterall – not a memoir), so I’m totally open to the idea that the hardline interpretation of “People are too fat!” (and the subsequent implied “Stop being fat!”) was not actually what she was thinking, but it does really read that way without too much trouble considering the fatphobic context we’re all living in. Either way, the comments on that thread don’t seem to be policing her body and her body choices, but reacting to her statements about other people’s bodies and general standards of bodies.

  161. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 17, 2010 at 12:29 am |

    Politicalguineapig, that actually illustrates my point quite nicely. In that thread, DaisyDeadhead did not just talk about her personal choices, she was talking about her assessment of fat people in America in general. She got mostly positive, affirming comments to her post. A few people pointed out statements she made about fatness (e.g. what it represents), or about dieting and health generally, that they found problematic. And from those who were pointing out things they found problematic, I saw nuanced discourse. For example, Plain(s)feminist said the following during the exchange:

    Daisy,
    Wow, this turned out to be a clusterfuck. Yikes.

    I didn’t intend to participate in dumping on you. There is a lot of research to suggest that fat is not the medical problem that we think it is – that poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the culprits and where we should put our focus – and that is really the whole of what I wanted to say in response to your piece. I think this issue is one that is so fraught that it’s difficult for folks to come to a friend’s place and see anti-fat language, even if you are writing just about your life. Sorry you’re feeling beat up in your own space.

    And Meowser, one who I’m guessing you are saying is policing in this thread, makes her position pretty clear in the comments to this post over on PostBougie, as she genuinely affirms DaisyDeadhead’s choices of what to do with her body—including congratulating her on the weight loss that made her happy.

    Hardly the dogpiling frenzy that’s being alluded to in the comments to this post.

    Someone upthread mentioned that there are jerks in every movement. I’m not going to deny that. But the point being made here is that body policing is a problem that permeates FA (rather than just being a few jerky individuals) and that is uniquely problematic of FA. That claim has not been substantiated. I am not going to sit here and claim that no one in FA ever says anything problematic, or never says anything body-policing (although my experience has been that FA spaces are the least body-policing I’ve ever been a part of, and the only place that I personally have felt safe from body-policing). This may sound like I’m backtracking, but honestly I was thinking this before replying to your comment. As I said before, I am open to ways I have been wrong, and it probably would have been wise for me to say—and I do believe this—that FA doesn’t magically make people these awesome, understanding, empathic, kind people all the time. I am perfectly willing to admit there are people saying stupid shit in the name of FA, some of it may even be body-policing.

    But seriously, to make the claim that this is a huge problem, that’s holding the movement back, that’s pervasive in FA spaces… to make the claim that this is NOT just what iiii and others have referred to as “privilege-tantrums” …. you’re going to have to give us more than comments that are by and large respectful (if firm) and nuanced in response to posts (such as Hanne Blank’s and DaisyDeadheads) that contained problematic content.

  162. BStu
    BStu September 17, 2010 at 12:30 am |

    4 posts from two people constitute a “pile on”? And those posts specifically did not address a personal decision to lose weight but rather blanket statements made about all fat people. This is the dynamic iii referenced earlier. The OP was already complaining about straw men in the post and immediately took personally comments that clearly addressed the generalized statements they made.

    Frankly, this is why advocating for personal acceptance is part of the FA movement. Because people who feel self-shame over fat are very likely to transfer that shame onto other fat people as well and THAT is when it becomes a very real social justice concern for fat activists. People aren’t keeping fat hate to themselves. When you start talking about how bad fat PEOPLE are, that is something that merits a retort. To shield criticism of fat acceptance and fat people from response only serves to enforce the privileges FA is battling. Its policing our beliefs, not preventing us from policing others.

  163. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 17, 2010 at 12:47 am |

    Here’s some evidence for what I’m saying. A post on Shapely Prose by a woman named Heidi titled “I hate WLS — here’s why I’m having it.” A flood of supportive comments, many of which I am absolutely sure come from people who find WLS and the doctors that push it absolutely abhorrent, but aren’t going to judge any individual woman’s choice to have it.

  164. Miss S
    Miss S September 17, 2010 at 1:19 am |

    Shoshie- I appreciate your reply. Although I see the distinction, I feel like there is such a thin line here. Someone could want to lose weight because they think it will help them get the job they want and because they want to look a certain way. Someone can relax their hair because their boss has commented on it, or because it takes longer to style, and because they want to look a certain way. I’m not sure if motivations can be that easily separated, especially when everyone is influenced by outside factors in some way.

    Sure, maybe a woman becomes a stay at home mom because she makes so much less than her husband and another becomes a stay at home mom because she really wants to. It’s the same end result, but one feels enlightened and the other one is supposed to feel…. bad? By the way, I’m not directing this at you, just expanding this discussion a little further.

    It can be off putting when people assume a morally superior attitude. I’m not saying that goes for everyone in the FA movement, and I’m sure it’s not. But when people respond to your choices with “well I would never do that because I’m comfortable/happy/enlightened/strong/not partaking in this patriarchal environment, it sucks. It sucks even more when the same people turn around and make the exact same decisions, but justify them with morally superior reasons.

  165. iiii
    iiii September 17, 2010 at 1:56 am |

    Thanks for posting the link, Politicalguineapig.

    That post, and the comments, are pretty much as I remembered them – Daisy noted that we living in a “fat-hating, fat-hysterical culture,” followed by a bog-standard anti-fat piece. A couple people pointed out that somewhere in there she’d stopped talking about her own body and started in on other people’s. Daisy got HIGHLY OFFENDED, HOW DARE THEY, THAT’S NOT WHAT SHE SAID AT ALL, FAT KILLS, here are EXAMPLES. Daisy’s regulars agreed about how awful those FA people are, and one person said she wasn’t coming back.

    Didn’t see anyone trying to police Daisy’s choices for Daisy’s life. Could someone help me out and pull a relevant quote?

  166. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 17, 2010 at 8:50 am |

    Miss S: It’s the same end result, but one feels enlightened and the other one is supposed to feel…. bad? By the way, I’m not directing this at you, just expanding this discussion a little further.

    I guess I don’t think that my examples were ones of people choosing an option because they feel “enlightened.” I think the examples I gave are of different people who feel boxed in by kyriarchy and are choosing the socially acceptable option because they feel like they have no other choice. The difference is in how they elect to see other people’s choices. I think BStu made this point very eloquently:

    “Because people who feel self-shame over fat are very likely to transfer that shame onto other fat people as well and THAT is when it becomes a very real social justice concern for fat activists. People aren’t keeping fat hate to themselves. When you start talking about how bad fat PEOPLE are, that is something that merits a retort.”

    I don’t have problems with people’s choices for their own lives, until they turn into commentary on my own life. Fat hate, or any kind of prejudice, doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. You can despair of the kyriarchy, still perform some of those socially acceptable activities for whatever reason, and you can still be fighting oppression. As long as you don’t actively work against others who are acting against the status quo (eg. not dieting, being working mothers). That’s when things become problematic– not someone’s personal actions, but how their actions influence their commentary on what other people ought to be doing.

  167. annalouise
    annalouise September 17, 2010 at 9:36 am |

    I think there are conversations that should happen with in the fat acceptance community over how we balance supporting each other as people who struggle with message about how worthless we are and the different places we all are in relation to our internalized oppression on with a firm commitment to calling out oppression, even when its internalized.
    Me, I stand firmly on the side of not-cosigning people’s nonsense, in the form of expecting a movement to fat liberation to support fat-hatred, even when self-directed.

    But regardless, that conversation, an intense one, one that involves opening ourselves up and being vulnerable to each other about how we live in a world that hates us, needs to happen within a community of fat people. I cannot possibly happen in a space like feministe, where fatphobia is the norm. It is also a conversation that non-fat people should not be involved in.

    I should also say that, while the conversation about who is “fat” enough to be a fat activist is also a tough one and also one that need to happen only within in an explicitly fat positive space, it is also a very alienating conversation to those of who are inarguably fat. No one will ever, ever, mistake me for something other than fat. I weigh 300 lbs, there’s no ambivalence here.

  168. BStu
    BStu September 17, 2010 at 9:50 am |

    You know, I feel like this is going to devolve into a meaningless game of “gotcha” pretty fast so I’ll stipulate that there have been fat acceptance activists who have lashed out personally against dietERS and not dietING. But this needs to be seen in context.

    First off, the instances are rare and as such its not fair to hold all of FA responsible for a few isolated instances that in my experience are pretty quickly condemned within FA. Secondly, we contend that the accusation is usually leveled against FA responses to dieting promotion and countering what we believe to be unfair attacks on fat acceptance or fat people in general. I’ll grant people are perceiving this as FA being aggressive with dieters, but I certainly don’t feel this perception is fair to us.

    I would draw comparisons to criticism of feminism for being “man hating”. There are a few radical feminists whose statements perhaps drift into expressing hostility towards men. But these individuals do not prove that A PROBLEM exists that feminism needs to address. Even more, it would be terribly unfair to equate what they are doing with the gender inequities that feminism is responding to. Mary Daly arguing to invert gender equality is not the same thing as the systematic oppression of women. There are superficial similarities but the weight and authority of the statements are profoundly different. Even agreeing that Daly’s suggestions are counterproductive, they simply do not carry the weight of the oppression of women. People who try to present it as an equivalent problem do so to minimize the status quo oppression and preserve its privilege.

    In reality, I think those kinds of radical voices can be very valuable in a political movement, even when I strongly disagree with them. They can still produce interesting ideas that merit discussion. In a lot of ways, I wish it were easier to find examples of this from FA because we lack genuinely radical viewpoints to consider as we shape our own.

  169. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 17, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    You know, I feel like this is going to devolve into a meaningless game of “gotcha” pretty fast

    It already did, yesterday evening, for me. But that seems to have gone silent. I suppose as littlem said, the readers will now be the judge of whether the “gotcha’s” actually got me.

    But regardless, that conversation, an intense one, one that involves opening ourselves up and being vulnerable to each other about how we live in a world that hates us, needs to happen within a community of fat people. I cannot possibly happen in a space like feministe, where fatphobia is the norm. It is also a conversation that non-fat people should not be involved in.

    Thanks, annalouise, for articulating what I was trying to say but in a much more clunky way, in 77 and 82. Where were you 100 comments ago?? ;)

  170. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm |

    It is also a conversation that non-fat people should not be involved in.

    If this is the feeling throughout FA, and I think that is a big if, then FA is not an anti-oppression movement or even and anti-fat hatred movement (non-fat persons are often also the targets of fat hatred). Its a support organization for certain people who mutually agree on their self and group defined fatness. Which is fine, but is decidedly not social justice.

  171. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm |

    Kristen J.-

    Out of curiosity, do you feel the same way about women-only conversations and spaces? Do you think there is ever a time or place or topic where a marginalized group is allowed to say “with all due respect to our allies, this is members-only time”? I’m not trying to set up a gotcha here, I’m really just curious. Because if it’s only fat people who aren’t allowed those spaces and conversations, I’m really not sure what to say to you.

  172. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 17, 2010 at 10:05 pm |

    Shoshie: Out of curiosity, do you feel the same way about women-only conversations and spaces? Do you think there is ever a time or place or topic where a marginalized group is allowed to say “with all due respect to our allies, this is members-only time”?

    Except you aren’t defining membership via oppression…you’re defining membership by some other near random category that you’ve determined is pertinent. If a non-fat woman experiences daily and real world fat hatred that impacts her life, how is her experience irrelevant just because she doesn’t meet a size standard? Women share in the fight against misogyny…hence feminism. But a lot more people than just those over X weight are marginalized by fat hatred.

  173. annalouise
    annalouise September 17, 2010 at 10:29 pm |

    My mind really boggles at the idea that it’s contrary to the principles of social justice to have space for oppressed people to share their experiences without the presence of people outside that group. That’s a load of nonsense. So, whatever, we’ll just move the fuck on from that.

    But yes, kataphatic, as much as I”m pretty hard-ass radical on the line that diet talk and internalized fatphobia are not something fat activist should have to support or refuse to call out, I do not want to have any specific conversation about the inappropriateness of diet talk and whether or not fat activism is accepting enough of people who are in different places around how they feel about their weight here, or in any place that is not explicitly fat positive and centered around fat people.

    For two reasons, the most frustrating one for me is that if a fat person expresses self-hatred and despair that fat activism is not for them because of their entrenched self-hatred, there will be a chorus of fatphobic people to comfort them and criticize fat activists. This is not out of any genuine concern for our emotions. This is because they think it is right and appropriate for us to hate ourselves. They hate our bodies, why shouldn’t we hate them? The loathing for our bodies is normal and good and should not be questioned.

    The second, is less frustrating, but deeper. To challenge someone’s self-hatred is to hurt them. That’s okay, sort of, in the long run. It hurts to let go of the fantasy of thinness. It hurts to relive the torments of healthcare providers, high school bullies and random dudes on the street, if only to see them for acts of oppression instead of something you deserved. It hurts, a lot, to openly name yourself as something that our entire culture uses as a stand-in for disgusting, morally-deficient, worthless. It’s fucking hard and it’s a process sometimes we need to prod each other along that road because it get betters.

    But it’s wrong to push someone into that painful process in the midst of people who hate them. It’s not loving to expect someone to make themselves vulnerable they aren’t protected from a world that is so vicious. It’s not loving to ourselves either, even if we think we’re totes in love with our own bodies and ready to spread that love….let’s get real.
    Like, those two posts on WLS that, I think, someone linked to here, those are beautiful and painful and so real and so fucking brave. Both of them. I admire both of those women for writing such personal stuff and they’re adults who are plenty competent to decide whether or not they put their writing out there, but it pains me to think of fatphobic people reading those words.

  174. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 17, 2010 at 11:29 pm |

    Shoshie, iii, Jadey and Kataphatic: What I actually saw was a fairly well-handled criticism of the American food system and the cult of carnivorism. I don’t believe Daisy was aware of FA (which, in all honesty is a fairly new thing) and I think her frustration at people she knew in her life got the better of her.

  175. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm |

    Shoshie: “But your skin, your body should not define you, and yeah, society should not define you by your body either.”
    I think you missed that line in my first post. I do support all bodies.

  176. Meowser
    Meowser September 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm |

    People are using the Daisy post as an example of me “policing” people for dieting? Good gods. If I can’t even complain, on a blog on which I am (i.e. was) a regular about someone who I thought was size-accepting suddenly going on about how Archie Bunker looked like a fat guy in 1972 but doesn’t know because Americans are so Shamu-like now, and how fatness is a metaphor for overconsumption, without it sounding like me telling someone what they should be eating, I honestly don’t know what to say — other than that people who make this charge don’t know deliberate flamebait when they see it.

    Also, related: Saying “diets don’t work for most people” does NOT mean the same thing as, “You are a stupid ass if you diet.” You’d probably have to be made out of stone NOT to cave in to diet pressure in this society now and then. But once I’ve said what I have to say about it, if people still think they can beat the odds, I’m not going to do much besides shrug and go, “Whatever, knock yourself out.” I mean, seriously, does anyone think that’s what I do, go around all day and night trolling other people’s diet blogs? All 70 glabillion of them? The very idea.

  177. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2010 at 1:06 am |

    annalouise: My mind really boggles at the idea that it’s contrary to the principles of social justice to have space for oppressed people to share their experiences without the presence of people outside that group. That’s a load of nonsense. So, whatever, we’ll just move the fuck on from that.

    Do you really believe that people over X weight are the only people marginalized by fat hatred?

  178. Meowser
    Meowser September 18, 2010 at 2:11 am |

    “doesn’t know” = “doesn’t now”

  179. closetpuritan
    closetpuritan September 18, 2010 at 7:46 am |

    Except you aren’t defining membership via oppression…you’re defining membership by some other near random category that you’ve determined is pertinent.

    You know, I’m not sure where I stand on whether non-fat people should take part in that conversation… But seriously? “Near-random”? There’s no doubt in my mind that non-fat people are hurt by fat stigma, just as there’s no doubt in my mind that patriarchy hurts men, and in fact I would argue that both are under-recognized. But I think it’s obvious that a 300 lb person’s experience of fat stigma is very different from mine.

  180. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2010 at 8:25 am |

    closetpuritan: But seriously? “Near-random”? There’s no doubt in my mind that non-fat people are hurt by fat stigma, just as there’s no doubt in my mind that patriarchy hurts men, and in fact I would argue that both are under-recognized.

    Well, I guess that’s your experience. In my experience some of the worst fat hate is aimed at models that most of us would consider thin. I’ve had friends who were fired for gaining a single pound, whose agents called them lard ass every single day, who were required to “weigh in” before every single shoot and shamed for whatever the number is, who were given drugs to “help” them look thin enough, the list goes on. If you think that is equivalent to “patriarchy hurts men too,” I don’t know what to tell you. Because at my largest strangers rarely commented on my weight. I received my share of dirty looks for eating “unhealthy” food, but no one directly told me that I was disgusting and tried to gave me water laced with amphetamines.

    These women need FA…they need to feel okay in their bodies, put their well-being first, and de-couple their sense of selves from the scale. But if they aren’t welcome in the FA movement because the FA movement doesn’t really think they are oppressed, then I don’t think the FA movement is really about fat hatred as much as they are about supporting people of a certain size.*

    *again, this is assuming that most FA people would have a weight restriction on membership…which I think is a big if.

  181. BStu
    BStu September 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm |

    Do you really believe that people over X weight are the only people marginalized by fat hatred?

    Kristen, where do you get the idea that Fat Acceptance has a weight requirement for entry? No one is talking about excluding people from FA for not being fat, its about whether they want to express ideas hostile to FA. That’s the line being drawn. Not a “you must be this wide to ride” sign.

    Even then, not that the issue is expressing ideas hostile to FA, not having them. A lot of people who aren’t there yet, may never be there, come to FA spaces to listen and participate but don’t expect us to accommodate their anti-FA feelings. There is no litmus test for thoughts and frankly I’m upset that those people who can show respect to what we’re trying to do get ignored in favor for those people who can’t deal with us advocating something they don’t believe in and want to repeatedly make us justify themselves.

    I’ve heard from a lot of people who first discovered FA at a time when they weren’t ready. Some listen to what we have to say. Some stay a little while only to leave. But they were coming to FA spaces not to have their views repeated back but to be challenged. To be exposed to a different viewpoint. Many of these people have told me how much they appreciated that there were people challenging them to see their relationships with their bodies and their attitudes towards fat people differently and that it did make a difference in their lives. If we censor ourselves for the benefit of the people who don’t agree with us, we do no benefit to those people at all.

    It should be noted that what we also don’t want to have happen is for Fat Acceptance views to be limited to FA spaces and I think that’s the greater issues that are being dealt with here. While I don’t advocate going into weight loss counterparts to confront them with our ideas, we shouldn’t have to only share our point-of-view with like minded people. I don’t think that’s a standard that would be asked of other progressive causes. We cannot expect a safe space when we venture out of FA, but should we just shut up? I hope not. There is a large space between what is an FA safe space and what is a diet safe space and I’m uncomfortable with the notion that this ground should all become a diet safe space by default. When people use our bodies as negative metaphors to make a political point, we should speak up. When people presume to speak about the obvious moral failures of all fat people, we should speak up. When people make jabs about cheeseburgers and donuts, we should speak up. We have a right to a safe space and our internal discussions, but we should not be jailed there, either.

    Just to return to the initial point, though, you will find no disagreement in FA that fat shame negatively impacts people of many different sizes. While we should take care not to act as if the impact is the same for all people, I don’t really know of anyone who denies its harmful effects on people who might not be readily identified as fat. That is very much something considered and articulated as to what this fight is about. Fat shame is near universal in its application and the damage it causes takes many forms. While the struggles of a size 4 woman made terribly afraid of wearing a size 6 are different from a size 32 woman who gets denied decent medical care by doctors only interested in treating her weight, both struggles are real and unjust and part of what FA wants to change.

  182. piny
    piny September 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm |

    This is where, from Shoshie at 170; I understand that a lot of issues are circling around this one exhange–and that some commenters are talking about FA space not fat-people-only space, and that the two are as different as feminist-only space and women-only space:

    Shoshie: Kristen J.-Out of curiosity, do you feel the same way about women-only conversations and spaces? Do you think there is ever a time or place or topic where a marginalized group is allowed to say “with all due respect to our allies, this is members-only time”? I’m not trying to set up a gotcha here, I’m really just curious. Because if it’s only fat people who aren’t allowed those spaces and conversations, I’m really not sure what to say to you.  (Quote this comment?)

    On the one hand, I agree that fat people suffer from specific fatphobia; I understand that it’s important to talk about that specific issue, and that the level of vitriol directed towards fat people and fat bodies is incredible. On the other hand…well, the example I saw was women-only spaces? And it seems like the associated raft of shit is analagous too.

  183. Miss S
    Miss S September 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm |

    No one is talking about excluding people from FA for not being fat, its about whether they want to express ideas hostile to FA.
    Actually, some was talking about that. Annalousie said
    It is also a conversation that non-fat people should not be involved in.

    Fat isn’t objective. I have been called thick, curvy, and small by different people. Someone actually called me skinny. If only fat people are welcome into conversations, someone is going to have to define fat. Using… what? Weight/height? BMI? Jean Size?

  184. closetpuritan
    closetpuritan September 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm |

    If I understand correctly, though, they only experienced these things because they worked in the beauty industry? There, people who would not be directly experiencing fat stigma in the rest of society will experience a lot of it–and people who WOULD experience fat stigma in the rest of society simply are not allowed in that environment. The fact that they’re even allowed to be there is the result of thin privilege. Some models might not feel like they have much of a choice about working in that environment, and they might not like working there (if they’re sane, at least), but people who are actually fat simply do not have that choice. (Perhaps we’re also on different pages on how much patriarchy hurts men, because I believe it is very serious.)

    Yes, it is still A Bad Thing, but I still find your “near random” characterization very odd.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm | *

      I think there’s a good point to the “near random” characterization. Being fat is a sliding scale — what I consider “fat” is not necessarily the same as what you consider “fat.” Who is fat is variable by culture and context. In my social circles, and in my family, I’m considered to be on the chubbier side — maybe not fat fat, but no one would ever call me thin either, and I’m one of the bulkier people I hang out with. Then I see friends from high school who live in more rural places, or outside of large cities, and they think I’m on the small side. And as Zuzu’s post pointed out, I’ve been called “fat” on the internet, but she Zuzu herself considers me to be not-fat.

      Point is, it’s a sliding scale. I don’t self-define as fat, but there are certainly situations where I’m qualified as such.

  185. iiii
    iiii September 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm |

    Fat isn’t exactly subjective, either. Some of you can buy clothes that fit at the Gap or Goodwill, some of us are limited to Lane Bryant and specialty consignment stores, and some of us can’t buy off the rack at all. Some of you can buy passage on an airplane and have a reasonable expectation that the airline will honor the ticket. Some of us can’t.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm | *

      Sure. I wasn’t trying to say that fat is entirely subjective. Obviously some bodies are more marginalized and discriminated-against than others.

      My point was that if we’re saying that there are some conversations that non-fat people shouldn’t be involved in, where do we draw those lines? Is it worth trying to draw lines?

  186. closetpuritan
    closetpuritan September 19, 2010 at 8:39 am |

    The combination of one person initially arguing that thin privlige is only a type of pretty privilege, and another person arguing that fat and not-fat people are about equally subjected to fat stigma, makes me think that a lot of people are resistant to/uncomfortable with the idea of thin privilege.

  187. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm |

    @closetpuritan,

    yeah, I think thin privilege is a hard one for people to grasp, especially women who qualify as “chubby” or “inbetweenies” or whatever you want to say. Maybe women in a range of sizes from, oh, say 10 to 18. There is some gray area there as there are not exactly discrete categories between “thin” and “fat” and bodies are all so different. To even further complicate matters, there is also body shape privilege. Women with hourglass figures experience a very different type of fatphobia than women with apple shapes. Given my own size and weight, for example, if I was an hourglass figure I’d be fitting into clothing in the 14-18 range, but with my apple shape, and therefore very large waste with relatively small hips and butt, I am in sizes 20-22. I think life would be very different, and the fatphobia I experience would not be nearly as pronounced, if I had an hourglass figure.

    So there is nuance here. But the very fact that people who have admitted that at times they can be considered “thin” are trying to police whether or not people like me—who is never socially considered thin, under any circumstances—are “allowed” to have spaces for ourselves to talk about what it’s like to be fat (fat fat. Really fat. FAT) just shows how much thin privilege is here going unchecked.

    I wanted to believe that feministe was a more positive and respectful space for fat people and fat activism, but alas.

  188. closetpuritan
    closetpuritan September 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm |

    Kataphatic: Agree. Although, BMI-wise, I’m nearly obese, I definitely fall into the relatively-privileged hourglassy size 14 category, and I’m in a rural area. I don’t seem to read as fat enough for people to think of me as “fat”. Frankly, if more unambiguously-fat people want their own space, I don’t think it’s my right to tell them that they shouldn’t.

    In some regions and/or subcultures the fat stigma starts at relatively low weights, with the beauty industry being an extreme example. But here’s the thing: I don’t think that there’s a point where you become less fat-stigmatized as you weigh more, in any region. That is, if you picked a cutoff weight for that conversation, you may unfairly exclude a few people who experience high fat stigma relative to their weight (if you set the cutoff high, say 300 lbs), or unfairly include some fat people who don’t experience much stigma (if you set the cutoff low, say 175 lbs). But whatever their region, the people above that cutoff would experience more fat stigma than the people below that cutoff in their region, and on average, across regions the people above the cutoff would experience more stigma than the people below the cutoff. (And it wouldn’t even necessarily have to be weight or BMI–it could be a more subjective category like, “I am perceived as unusually fat by the people around me”. Although it would be more subjective, it would arguably be fairer, or at least perceived as fairer.) So it doesn’t seem all that unfair to me, and I don’t know why 100% fairness would be a greater priority than respecting people’s wish to have their own space–even if it does piss some people off.

  189. Maia
    Maia September 20, 2010 at 6:01 am |

    Hey I want to make a longer contribution to this thread (I’ve got it half written on another computer). But I just want to object to this formulation:

    That is, if you picked a cutoff weight for that conversation, you may unfairly exclude a few people who experience high fat stigma relative to their weight (if you set the cutoff high, say 300 lbs), or unfairly include some fat people who don’t experience much stigma (if you set the cutoff low, say 175 lbs). But whatever their region, the people above that cutoff would experience more fat stigma than the people below that cutoff in their region, and on average, across regions the people above the cutoff would experience more stigma than the people below the cutoff. (And it wouldn’t even necessarily have to be weight or BMI–it could be a more subjective category like, “I am perceived as unusually fat by the people around me”. Although it would be more subjective, it would arguably be fairer, or at least perceived as fairer.)

    This is not a formula for a liberatory social justice movement. It is a reason why, ‘fat only’ spaces are tricky and while they can and should exist (for example, the outfit of the Day posts on the fatshionista live journal community), they must have a specific purpose.

    People have brought up perfectly reasonable objections to the idea that ‘only fat people should decide rhetoric….” I’ll provide a different sort of example. I have no one in my family life, or friends who would make a derogatory comment on my body, I have never had a doctor comment on my size. I think many people I know, who are significantly smaller than me, are on the receiving end of more fat hatred directed towards their bodies. Now this is mostly because I’ve fought for this tooth and nail, and I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t have to fight any harder. But it does mean that a much smaller person than me might have more experiences in common about external body hatred with someone else who is my size, than that person does with me.

    I think there is a tendency, possibly more among blog writing I’ve seen than others I’ve seen, to construct cookie cutter analysis of oppression. That there is both one way oppression works, and one way to fight it.

    I don’t agree with that generally, and I really don’t think it applies to fat. I think it is short sighted to see fat as just a discrete category of oppression, rather what I aim to do is develop an analysis of the way fat hatred operates within society, what purposes it serves, and how it can be fought. When you get to the ‘how it may be fought’ some of the answers may be places for fat people to get together. But to suggest that only fat people can develop that analysis (however you define fat), that’s ridiculous.

    I think the original argument about the place of self-acceptance within a social justice movement for fat acceptance is an important one. But this tangent really depresses me. I already find ‘fat acceptance’ far too limiting (how about fat liberation). To try and narrow down what we talk about even more, and exclude anyone who is harmed by fat hate, what good does that do?

  190. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm |

    maia, you must not be aware of the fat liberation feed then, or my blog, which is about fat liberation theology. Fat acceptance is about liberation.

    Also, I don’t think anyone is talking about excluding anyone from FA in general because they are “too thin.” All we’re saying is that there is some value to having fat-only spaces and to having discussions that require fat people to be vulnerable in spaces that are at least not fatphobic as a default (such as Feministe). My first foray into the fat acceptance community was a women’s group in Seattle called Water Women Swim. It was for fat women to get together for a couple hours three times a week and swim. Some swam laps, some did water aerobics, some just hung out talking in the pool. It was a safe place for fat women to come together to enjoy—and not have to cover up—their fat bodies for a few hours every week. Did they “exclude” thin women or men? No, but they explicitly stated, if you are thin or if you are male and you come into this space you must support our cause that all bodies are to be respected. No men ever showed up while I went, and very few thin women; probably because the fat women dictated the terms. They were the ones who took the money and ran the show.

    Maybe that’s what’s most important—who defines the space. Here at Feministe two mods have outed themselves as not knowing very much about FA and one has outed herself as being openly hostile to FA. Here in this thread, it is not the least marginalized (aka the most fat) who are setting the terms of the conversation. It is the thin and the “chubby” or “inbetweenies” with the thin privilege they have over the fat, wringing their hands over what “we” are allowed to do, as if they can claim full community with the fat while at the same time engaging in oppressive speech and actions.

    These conversations should be happening spaces where fat is the majority, and fat voices are setting the terms. That this is at all debatable is just evidence that FA has not yet become one of the fashionable social justice causes to get behind around here.

    I thought I was done commenting here, but the bane of my existence is misrepresentation and I just can’t seem to let it go without addressing it. *sigh*

    1. Jill
      Jill September 20, 2010 at 3:51 pm | *

      So there is nuance here. But the very fact that people who have admitted that at times they can be considered “thin” are trying to police whether or not people like me—who is never socially considered thin, under any circumstances—are “allowed” to have spaces for ourselves to talk about what it’s like to be fat (fat fat. Really fat. FAT) just shows how much thin privilege is here going unchecked.

      No one is trying to police anything or say that you aren’t “allowed” certain spaces. I was just bringing up the fact that “fat” and “not-fat” are not clearly-delineated groups, which isn’t a totally out-there point when you’re arguing that there should be in-group-only conversations or spaces.

      Here in this thread, it is not the least marginalized (aka the most fat) who are setting the terms of the conversation. It is the thin and the “chubby” or “inbetweenies” with the thin privilege they have over the fat, wringing their hands over what “we” are allowed to do, as if they can claim full community with the fat while at the same time engaging in oppressive speech and actions.

      Well, first, I don’t think anyone is hand-wringing over what you’re allowed to do. This isn’t personal — I don’t really care if someone decides that I should not be a part of a certain space or conversation (unless they decide that I don’t have a right to be a part of it in my own space, in which case, no). But I think that your comment here illustrates the problem — clearly there’s some idea that “chubby” or “in-between” people have some amount of thin privilege, and therefore aren’t really fat enough to be part of fat-only spaces, and are possibly oppressive people. It’s Oppression Olympics based on pants size. And I don’t think it’s as simple as, “The fatter you are, the more anti-fat hatred you experience.” A lot of how people experience fatphobia is based on context and culture and a host of other factors, including what is considered “fat” in their communities.

      None of that is say that fat people can’t have their own spaces. It is saying that line-drawing can be tricky, and that some of the lines you’re drawing strike me as really reductive and based on narrow experience.

  191. Jadey
    Jadey September 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm |

    the “chubby” or “inbetweenies” with the thin privilege they have over the fat

    Sorry, what’s the exact threshold of when I’m fat enough to count? I’ll just sit quietly until then.

    I guess I got my answer about policing in FA.

  192. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm |

    and that some of the lines you’re drawing strike me as really reductive and based on narrow experience.

    In my 29 years of live I’ve lived in 7 different cities on two different continents. In my adult life I have been both the middle of “overweight” (as classified by the BMI, which I’m only using as a common reference point) to the high end of obese. I have experienced what life was like in multiple places, in different cultures, at these different sizes (because my weight change wasn’t uni-directional; as a result of dieting it fluctuated).

    I have also had the opportunity consistently read amazing FA bloggers like living~300lbs and have become good friends with women in FA who are larger than me. By listening to their stories with empathy I can see how the oppression they experience is often much more hateful and pronounced than my own; and I certainly know that what I experience at a size 14 is very different than what I experience at a 22.

    One of the things I think is really important is to separate out the body-policing that all women—no matter what size they are—face because of sexism, and true fatphobia which affects people of all genders. Yes, FA has some extremely important and useful things to say to thin women who experience a culture which uses sexist body-policing and fatphobia to try to keep them small and submissive and invisible and non-threatening. However, people’s experience of fatphobia is directly related to just how big they are. I say this not based on my own experience (which isn’t “narrow” thankyouverymuch) but also based on years in the FA movement and actually listening to what people who are fatter than me are saying about their lives (which may in some cases be narrow but it matters).

    And a “funny” thing… it’s always the chubby/inbetweenie/etc folks who are arguing that the weight-based oppression they face is no different than that of folks who are truly fat. deathfat. “Morbidly obese.” etc.

  193. Li
    Li September 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm |

    I’ve mainly just been lurking here, and am going to go back to doing that forthwith, but I’d just like to throw out there that “but how do you draw the line?” is actually a really common thing thrown at autonomous spaces, and I think it’s as easily dealt with here as it is with every other autonomous space that has ever faced that criticism. You just ask people to self facilitate, and state that a space is for people who identify as facing the particular oppression being discussed. That way people draw their own line.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm | *

      I’ve mainly just been lurking here, and am going to go back to doing that forthwith, but I’d just like to throw out there that “but how do you draw the line?” is actually a really common thing thrown at autonomous spaces, and I think it’s as easily dealt with here as it is with every other autonomous space that has ever faced that criticism. You just ask people to self facilitate, and state that a space is for people who identify as facing the particular oppression being discussed. That way people draw their own line.

      Yeah, I agree with that. I’m pointing out, though, that if we’re going to say that non-fat people should not be involved in certain conversations, then that’s different than saying, “Let’s create a space for people who identify as fat.”

      And a “funny” thing… it’s always the chubby/inbetweenie/etc folks who are arguing that the weight-based oppression they face is no different than that of folks who are truly fat. deathfat. “Morbidly obese.” etc.

      …who is arguing that here, though? I’m definitely not. I haven’t seen anyone in this thread say that all weight-based oppression is exactly the same.

  194. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm |

    Sorry, what’s the exact threshold of when I’m fat enough to count? I’ll just sit quietly until then.

    I probably wasn’t clear enough in the way I worded my comment. Thin privilege isn’t like male privilege or white privilege in the sense that you either have it or you don’t. Because, as we’ve all been saying, bodies are so different and the lines are so blurry between fat and thin. But there is some amount of privilege held by folks who can sometimes be considered “normal” or “thin”… there is some amount of privilege that smaller people have over larger people. As a size 20-22 person, I have some amount of body size privilege over someone who is a size 30-32. One example of that is that I don’t have to worry about chairs breaking on me in public or being kicked off of an airplane or even, for the most part, about random strangers on the street saying something to me about my weight.

    If you disagree with my conception of privilege on this one, fine, so be it. But don’t accuse me of saying that I am “policing” just because I’m saying that there is a difference in the way people experience fatphobia based on the size and shape of their body.

  195. Jadey
    Jadey September 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm |

    Also, I really want to point this out: If you are limiting the people who are “eligible” to participate in your conversation, then you are necessarily limiting the representation of perspectives you are including, which not automatically a bad thing any more than it is automatically a good thing. I’m not opposed to all limits, both for reasons of scope and safety. But, to get into the admittedly dangerous realm of analogies, I think what you’re describing is more akin to a space for POC that excludes light-skinned POC on the basis that they can experience skin privilege and sometimes pass as white. But “passing” is not the same as being immune to the fucked up destructive bullshit. Sometimes it just means encountering it in a different but still severely fucked-up way. This does not exempt anyone from checking whatever privileges they do have, but privilege in whatever form or degree doesn’t invalidate oppression. We’d all be up shit-creek if it did.

    You may feel that you personally only want to have that conversation under those circumstances. Fine. I disagree, now more than ever.

  196. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm |

    Jadey, I actually think we must be in a lot more agreement than you think we are, since I agree with nearly everything you are saying. For my mental health, I am getting very close to choosing to not to come back to this post, but I have made a post about this topic on my own blog and if you wish to continue the conversation I invite you (and anyone else reading) to continue with me there.

    http://kataphatic.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/defining-fat-and-thin/

  197. zuzu
    zuzu September 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm |

    kataphatic: and that some of the lines you’re drawing strike me as really reductive and based on narrow experience.In my 29 years of live I’ve lived in 7 different cities on two different continents.In my adult life I have been both the middle of “overweight” (as classified by the BMI, which I’m only using as a common reference point) to the high end of obese.

    Obese doesn’t have a high end.

    Also: BFD. I can say the same, and I’m older than you. So I get ageism thrown in the mix, too! Thhhbbt.

    One of the things I think is really important is to separate out the body-policing that all women—no matter what size they are—face because of sexism, and true fatphobia which affects people of all genders.

    Didn’t various people jump all over someone who made this point earlier from a thin perspective, that there was a such a thing as “truly obese”?

    And a “funny” thing… it’s always the chubby/inbetweenie/etc folks who are arguing that the weight-based oppression they face is no different than that of folks who are truly fat.deathfat.“Morbidly obese.”etc.  

    I don’t think anyone’s made that claim. I think the most anyone’s said is that it’s a difference of degree, not of type. Which I can also attest to, having been at various points morbidly obese and merely overweight. Sure, some of the worst of the shit I had to take when I was a size 28 disappeared when I was a size 14, but there was plenty of other shit served up to me. And it wasn’t merely gender-policing, either. Unless you think that being mooed at out car windows or having some random dude at my gym introduce himself as a trainer and tell me that I was making a big mistake lifting heavy weights and I should be doing cardio if I wanted to lose weight had nothing at all to do with my size and was solely based on my gender.

    As I said in my post, fat phobia is used against thin women to keep them in line. Yes, they experience it differently than someone who’s chubby, who experiences it differently than someone who’s morbidly obese. And if you want to make your delineations based on weight/size because your shared experience of fatphobia is closer to that of someone who’s larger than it is to that of someone who is closer to “normal,” and you want to have mutual support, then have at. Hell, have weight classes like in wrestling or boxing for all I care.

    But don’t kid yourself that you’re doing anything but being a support group at that point.

  198. zuzu
    zuzu September 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm |

    kataphatic: As a size 20-22 person, I have some amount of body size privilege over someone who is a size 30-32. One example of that is that I don’t have to worry about chairs breaking on me in public or being kicked off of an airplane or even, for the most part, about random strangers on the street saying something to me about my weight.

    Really? Because at 20-22, I worried about all that stuff, and certainly had strangers making comments about my weight. And now that I’m a smaller size — though not that much smaller — I still worry about that. I recently got a bruise on my hip because Continental has narrow fucking seats and the seatrest jabbed me the whole flight, even though I had my ass clenched the whole way to draw my hips in a bit. I was considering a vacation in Iceland, but found out that I was too heavy at size 20-22 to ride the Icelandic ponies on one of the excursions I was interested in.

    Just another way of saying: Your experience is not universal.

  199. iiii
    iiii September 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm |

    I don’t care how much people weigh. That is not my litmus test.

    I do care whether people accept as fact that we don’t know how to make fat people thin. That there is no reliable method for sustainably reducing fat bodies to the currently fashionable weight. Dieting isn’t healthy. It’s magical thinking. Disapproving fat-hate while encouraging dieting is just so much double-think.

    If you can accept that and reason from there, I’d be happy to share a movement with you. I’d be even happier if we could take a a lesson from all the social justice movements of the twentieth century and know that truckling to the dominant paradigm is a waste of time. Or if we could acknowlege that the Deathfat are getting the same verbal abuse and shitty medical care as the In-betweenies, PLUS a whole lot more businesses who refuse our business.

    Really, really don’t care how much any of you weigh.

  200. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 20, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    Personally I don’t care what weight someone is: if they are size accepting and want to be in on the FA conversation then, great. But I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask that in fat acceptance spaces, those with thin privilege are willing to check that privilege. Arguing over what actually constitutes thin privilege and what cut-off points actually are in a general sense? Futile, and derailing.

    Yes, fatness comes in degrees. Yes, experiences are not universal and depending on your cultural background and where you live and what kind of work you do and your gender and a whole lot of other factors, you will experience different forms and degrees of body-shaming.

    That’s why I think body-shaming is such a problem, whether it is directed solely at fatness or not. Body shaming is a function of kyriarchy.

    zuzu:
    And if you want to make your delineations based on weight/size because your shared experience of fatphobia is closer to that of someone who’s larger than it is to that of someone who is closer to “normal,” and you want to have mutual support, then have at.Hell, have weight classes like in wrestling or boxing for all I care.But don’t kid yourself that you’re doing anything but being a support group at that point.  

    Actually, no. No one is arguing that fat acceptance spaces are always only for people who are a certain size. No one is arguing that fat liberation, fat activism focusing on political action, is not an important part of the movement or that it can only be fought for by fat people. It has merely been suggested that there are some circumstances where it’d be better if fat people could speak up without having to constantly deal with other people’s unexamined privilege and unfortunately that might mean there need to be some spaces where thin privilege is effective disarmed by subverting it entirely (and figuratively or actually excluding thin people). I don’t really advocate for that but I’m more than okay with other people wanting to do as they please in their own spaces.

    And, more to the point, what is so wrong with a ‘support group’? One of the reasons fat hatred is so pervasive is that we turn it against ourselves: actually having the support to find other ways of thinking about ourselves is hugely beneficial for fat activism. If some FA spaces function as a ‘support group’ then I think that’s wonderful, and important, and it should not be devalued. Without a supportive base, how are fat acceptance activists meant to venture into hostile spaces and try to affect change? Support, ‘support groups’ and community building are all related to the kindness-as-activism that inspired this post.

  201. kataphatic
    kataphatic September 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm |

    Zuzu,

    Obese doesn’t have a high end.

    Yes it does; most BMI calculators include “morbidly obese” as a category that comes after “obese.” I have never been in the “morbidly obese” category but am right now, at my highest weight, quite close to it.

    Just another way of saying: Your experience is not universal.

    Uh, yes. I realize that. That is why I talked about listening to other people about their own experiences.

    And with that, I’m out. We’re having a productive conversation over at my blog about this, and frankly I’m just done talking about this in a fatphobic-as-the-default space like Feministe. Anyone on this thread—anyone, no matter what size or shape or belief—is welcome there. I mean this sincerely, and you will be welcome.

  202. BStu
    BStu September 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm |

    Looking back at what annalouise said that seems to have launched this notion that people are weighed for appropriateness to discuss fat acceptance, I have to say I really don’t think that is the conversation she was referring to at all. The FA community is complex so I can respect the misunderstanding, but reading her point I really don’t feel it would be correct to take her remark as meaning non-fat people aren’t welcome in the conversation or as allies. Plenty of people now have emphatically insisted that’s not the case and I don’t think that’s at all what was meant.

    The FA community serves multiple needs, though. One is advocacy but there is are also needs just for support. Safe space isn’t just for incubating our ideas, but also finding a community in people who’ve faced the same struggles. Those are different facets, though, and serving very different purposes. I think we can all agree that there is a place for women only spaces within the feminist community. As a man, I certainly respect the need for those spaces and would steer clear from such a conversation. A lot of feminists may not feel a need for such spaces, which is totally fair, too, but some do. Some fat people feel the same. That’s very different from setting rules on who can advocate or ally with fat acceptance. I guess you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t have an innate hostility towards providing emotional and psychological support to people who feel they need it. Look, I’d love for FA to be big enough and widely respected enough for fat people to have separate avenues for that kind of support work, but its not. Maybe that’s a luxury other political movements can enjoy, but we’re not there yet and I don’t think that means we’re somehow bad for trying to find ways to serve the needs of the people in our community who are underserved. FA also does this through medical resources, too, with advice for dealing with health care professionals. Its a need that needs to be served. Believe me, I’ll be thrilled when FA can be broad enough that these unique needs can be seen as more distinct, but the struggle is still trying to organize.

    Thin privilege acts in a lot of very complicated ways, not just other forms of privilege but in many ways as a sliding scale in and of itself and that is an important to make. The most challenging way is that even someone who is very privileged in many ways can still be confronted with internalized fears over fat. Someone who enjoys thin privilege in many ways can still be targeted for fat shame by others. This doesn’t make an awareness and discussion about “sliding scale” thin privilege important, though. That discussion shouldn’t be presumed to call into question the ways fat shame can hurt many people. I feel the patriarchy is genuinely very harmful to men, but it doesn’t mean I still don’t experience privilege as a man. All that I think is really being asked is an awareness of that nuance. Fat shame hurts lives in many different ways and I think we need to shed light on all of it. I don’t feel I’m going out on a limb to say that the general feeling in fat acceptance.

  203. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm |

    BStu: Someone who enjoys thin privilege in many ways can still be targeted for fat shame by others. This doesn’t make an awareness and discussion about “sliding scale” thin privilege important, though. That discussion shouldn’t be presumed to call into question the ways fat shame can hurt many people. I feel the patriarchy is genuinely very harmful to men, but it doesn’t mean I still don’t experience privilege as a man. All that I think is really being asked is an awareness of that nuance.

    Word.
    I agree with all you’ve said, BStu.

  204. Jadey
    Jadey September 20, 2010 at 8:56 pm |

    I have moved my part of the discussion over to Kataphatic’s post as well, so that’s where my responses to some of the stuff being talked about here are. This is a good thread, but it’s more convoluted than I can follow anymore. Still gung-ho for good fat-centric and intersectional posts on Feministe, though. Thanks again to Atheling, Zuzu, and Split Milk for the recent ones, and to the Feministe mods for hosting them.

  205. closetpuritan
    closetpuritan September 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Maia, it sounds like you interpreted my post as though it was about who is allowed to be in Fat Acceptance? I was talking about a particular hypothetical conversation. There seems to be a lot of that going on in the recent comments, and I think it’s leading to a lot of people talking past each other.

    I guess, looking at annalouise’s comment again, which I think started this tangent, she was talking about the one at the beginning of her comment and the other at the end, and I kinda glossed over the who’s-fat-enough-to-be-a-fat-activist thing at the end. It seems like people have been picking one or the other to talk about, and attributing the question they “picked” to everyone whose comments they’re reading.

    I personally think there is definitely a need for allies and smaller fat people, but I think there can also be a place for fat-only or larger-fat-only spaces. And I’ve heard supersize people say that they feel they are not welcome in FA; smaller fat people and allies need to be aware of this feeling and try to make sure they’re not doing things to make larger fat people feel excluded.

    I’m also a little surprised at Maia’s centering of how one is treated by one’s family and friends, rather than society as a whole. I think there may be merit to that (your family and friends have a stronger effect on your happiness than most individual people you meet), but my impression is that it’s very different from how privilege/stigma is usually discussed. In any case, it wasn’t what I was trying to talk about; I still think that in any given place, the fatter you are, the more stigma/less privilege you’ll get from the people around you–when you’re talking about people in general, rather than family and friends specifically.

  206. zuzu
    zuzu September 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm |

    Spilt Milk: No one is arguing that fat acceptance spaces are always only for people who are a certain size.

    Aaaannnnd I’m not arguing that that’s what Kataphatic or whoever else originally said there should be fat-person only, or rather “truly obese” only spaces argued, Spilt Milk. You’re adding the “always only” bit. Love to see where you got that from.

    I’m also not saying that dedicated FA spaces are bad, or not allowable. As if I’m the fucking Queen of the Internet and can ban such things by decree. But you may have noticed we’re not in an FA-dedicated space right now, so I can disagree with the FA party line and get my comment published. And others — who can also get their comments published — are welcome to conclude that I’m a self-hating, fatphobic-as-default fatty with thin privilege and a dieting fetish, which would be about as reasonable and as well-supported as anything other point of view that’s been attributed to me in this conversation.

  207. zuzu
    zuzu September 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm |

    Spilt Milk: And, more to the point, what is so wrong with a ’support group’? One of the reasons fat hatred is so pervasive is that we turn it against ourselves: actually having the support to find other ways of thinking about ourselves is hugely beneficial for fat activism.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with a support group, as I believe Jadey mentioned above. But it’s not a substitute for activism. And when I say “activism,” I mean more than just getting fat people to feel better about themselves: Where’s the equivalent of Lambda Legal for fat people? Where’s the legislative agenda? Kevin Smith’s probably done more of this activism by going after Southwest for kicking him off a flight than much of the online FA movement. And he’s certainly done more than all the dieter-police.

  208. Heidi
    Heidi September 20, 2010 at 11:38 pm |

    This is going to be my last comment in this discussion too – as BStu pointed out, the idea that all sizes aren’t welcome in FA is a misunderstanding, in my opinion. I know for a fact that the bloggers in the Fatosphere feed, for example, are many shapes and sizes and that’s entirely okay.

    The issue, for me, is that sometimes, as a DEATHFAT! woman, while I understand that size 4 model might bemoan the fact that she’s not a size 0, based on her profession…that is completely and entirely outside my human experience. I cannot wrap my head around size 4 being considered fat, when my reality is that I cannot even go to lunch with my husband and son at a large chain sit-down restaurant without having the arms of the patio chair dig into my thighs for the entire meal. As others sit and laugh over their meals, sometimes glancing over at me, as I glance at them, in my mind they are laughing at the DEATHFAT! woman and wondering if the fact that her son just snarfed up a little dessert means that *he* is going to be as fat as she is…and oh, did I mention that for the 45 minutes we had been sitting at the table at that point, I’d been in constant discomfort because of the chairs?

    A size 4 model, while she may well have deeply internalized fatphobia and self-loathing that affect her life, simply cannot understand that feeling. She just can’t – and, while I would hope that she is able to sympathize with me, I sometimes need spaces (and this is not all the time or everywhere) that I can comfortably talk to another person who, like me, has to eye up a restaurant’s seating and figure out where they will fit, and understand the deep sense of shame and self-hatred that the chair in question triggered for me. The layer upon layer of diet/binge/diet/binge cycling that brought me to this point and the screaming inner critic that HOWLS that I am a disgusting, fat whale…and has the right to say it, because even in FA spaces, I am at the high end of the weight spectrum.

    Size 4 can speak to me. Size 4 can ally with me in the fight against fatphobia and body policing…but sometimes I need a space where I can just be fat, with other people who are fat like me, and not feel like I have to feel empathy for Size 4. Some days I just don’t have the energy, as badly as I want to.

    Does that mean I want to exclude Size 4 from the conversation? Of course not. I’ve never asked any commenter on my blog to go away because they were Size 4, or size 10, or size 20. Some of my best friends are size 10 (see what I did there? ;) ) However, if I post on my blog tomorrow about how awful it felt to be FAT FAT FAT in that chair, feeling eyes on me (real or imagined) and fighting NOT to fall into that old hating pattern, and Size 4 tells me that she understands, because she got told to lose weight to a Size 0…that would hurt. Attempted sympathy or not, it would hurt like hell and I would NOT want to hear it, well-meaning or not.

    If she offered the same comment on a post by me on how women’s bodies are policed in society, it would be entirely welcome, however, and a valuable part of my blogging experience and FA community. Heck, if she offered that same comment on a post where I talked about my diet/binge cycle, and talked about how oppressive dieting is, *without implying that I, as a fat person, am disgusting or that dieting is in any way desirable*, I would be okay with hearing it, I think.

    When my Size 4 sister, dearly though I love her, complains about not being able to find clothes that fit…oh, God, does that hurt. She can walk into essentially every store in the mall, try something on and have the luxury of being picky about fit. I don’t always even fit in Lane Bryant, never mind whether or not the outfit looks GOOD on me. It’s a completely different dynamic, even though we can easily turn it into a conversation on how designers make clothes to fit specific body types. I love my sister deeply, and I’ll wander around a store finding size 4s for her to try on…but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes loathe the fact that she’s a size 4 and I’m a size 30, even though I wouldn’t change her for the world. Sometimes I need a place to talk about that where nobody is going to tell me that a. I should diet; b. I should respect her body issues; c. I should do anything other than be mad/angry/sad.

    I hope that makes some sense. Finis.

  209. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 21, 2010 at 1:01 am |

    zuzu:
    Aaaannnnd I’m not arguing that that’s what Kataphatic or whoever else originally said there should be fat-person only, or rather “truly obese” only spaces argued, Spilt Milk.You’re adding the “always only” bit.

    You’re right, you didn’t say that, I apologise. I guess I’m just getting the feeling that there’s a fairly strong focus on the concept of ‘fat only spaces’ coming from a few commenters and I don’t really understand why, unless people are feeling that ‘fat only’ defines the fat acceptance movement.

    zuzu:
    There’s nothing at all wrong with a support group, as I believe Jadey mentioned above.But it’s not a substitute for activism.

    How people do activism is up to them. I don’t think their energies should be devalued, or their activism seen as lesser, just because it doesn’t fit into your idea of what activism should be.

  210. zuzu
    zuzu September 21, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    Spilt Milk: How people do activism is up to them. I don’t think their energies should be devalued, or their activism seen as lesser, just because it doesn’t fit into your idea of what activism should be.

    Well, considering this all got started because someone waaaayyy upthread asked why so many fat people felt as if the FA movement had nothing to do with them, or as if they weren’t welcome in the FA movement — at least as it’s represented on the internet — and I answered honestly.

    For me, the fact that support and a focus on how fat people think about themselves seems to be the extent of the activism I see means that I don’t think it’s an effective movement. Also, the obsession with dieting; while I’ve certainly felt pressure to lose weight, have dieted, and was even sent to fat camp as a kid, it’s not an all-consuming obsession with me, so I just don’t relate.

    It would be one thing if this were a brand-new movement that hadn’t yet found ways to diversify. But it’s been going on about as long as the gay rights movement and second-wave feminism. If I’m gay, and I don’t really care about the marriage agenda, there’s plenty of other stuff I can get involved in. As a feminist, I can work on a number of different issues in a variety of formats. The FA movement seems to be inviting me to get my head straight on dieting and maybe write the odd letter to Southwest.

    I just don’t feel that there’s a place for me in the movement as currently constituted. And I really, really resent the idea — expressed by kataphatic above — that if a space isn’t 100% FA-approved, it’s “fatphobic by default.” Because that also tells me that if I don’t follow the party line, I’m self-hating, fat-hating and a diet pusher. I don’t want to dance in that revolution.

  211. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 21, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    zuzu: There’s nothing at all wrong with a support group, as I believe Jadey mentioned above. But it’s not a substitute for activism. And when I say “activism,” I mean more than just getting fat people to feel better about themselves: Where’s the equivalent of Lambda Legal for fat people? Where’s the legislative agenda? Kevin Smith’s probably done more of this activism by going after Southwest for kicking him off a flight than much of the online FA movement. And he’s certainly done more than all the dieter-police. zuzu

    Zuzu, I’ve agreed with a lot that you’ve had to say, but I felt like this statement was INCREDIBLY misinformed. I really liked what BStu said about FA having multiple purposes and agendas right now, because we’re just trying to organize. We haven’t been around as long as feminism or the gay rights movement. In order to get things going like Lambda Legal, we need to have more people involved. I would love to be part of something like that, but I’m not a lawyer. So I do what I can, as a scientist, and that has to be enough.

    One enormous barrier to FA’s growth and organization is that so many fat people still think that they deserve the treatment that they receive. They think that they deserve to be mocked on the street or don’t have the right to decent medical care. They think that it’s right for them to be passed over for work because they buy in to the cultural message that their fat is wrong and they are wrong. So, yes, a big part of FA organizational efforts is support and encouraging people to get the help that they need, because so many people don’t think that they even deserve it. I can’t tell you how resistant I was, at first, to the idea that my fat wasn’t some moral failing, and that the harassment I got wasn’t just more motivation. Now that I have stopped dieting, well look at that, I have more time…which I use for fat acceptance.

    As for your questions like “where’s the legislative action,” well, some of it is happening. Some people are working to get size added to the anti-discrimination clause in various states. But I can’t even imagine how little support we, as a group, would get in Congress at this point. I mean, seriously, look at how FA is treated on a progressive website like Feministe. For goodness sakes, one of the few things that Congress can agree about right now is that my body should disappear. They’re really going to listen to a fat lobby group? Right.

    And I wish that I could make as big a fuss about airlines as Kevin Smith, but, unfortunately, I don’t have his platform. I do what I can with what I have. As do we all. And if that’s not activist enough for you, then I’m incredibly OK with not being your definition of an activist.

  212. BStu
    BStu September 21, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    zuzu, it feels like you are blaming fat acceptance for being disenfranchised and marginalized. Do you honestly think fat activists hadn’t tried to draw attention to what the airlines are doing? We’ve been trying for years. We’ve been shouting about that for years. But we aren’t celebrities who immediately demand media attention. The rare times FA is covered in the media, it is ALWAYS given equal time with fat shaming. Often not even that equal. We aren’t being given space to tell our story so we are struggling to find our own spaces. We didn’t choose to be ignored on these issues. That choice was made for us and it reflects where FA is politically. I wish we were diverse enough to have all these facets separately served. I wish we we had the support to get legislative action. We aren’t there yet. We’re getting there, which demands a very different approach.

    But really, it still seems like the core complaint isn’t tactics but beliefs. Fat Acceptance argues against dieting and this makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I still think this is a reason for FA to keep up that stance. We’re trying to get a reflection on those attitudes because we believe they are an injustice in and of themselves and also because they are the foundation for other injustices fat people struggle against. On a theoretically level, it shouldn’t matter if fat is a choice or not, but it does matter to the people oppressing us AND its not a choice for us. Those two points are a powerful reason to keep on that issue.

  213. annalouise
    annalouise September 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm |

    This thread, and the behavior of feministe’s moderators on this thread, is utterly disgusting and with it, I am done with feministe.

    I cannot believe the audacity of people who don’t id as fat telling fat people how oppressive we are for not giving a shit about their body shame. I cannot believe that it is genuinely argued that concerns of people who may be thought of as fat in some circumstances but thin in others should be centered over the experience of people who are, in every situation, F-A-T.

    I admire all the fat activists participating in this thread, but personally, I think that, like maia’s thread, this is not a viable place for us to hash out the complexities of the fat liberation movement because I don’t, for a nano-second, trust that the majority of commentators are in any way invested in advancing fat acceptance or really questioning their assumptions about fatness.

    1. Jill
      Jill September 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm | *

      I cannot believe the audacity of people who don’t id as fat telling fat people how oppressive we are for not giving a shit about their body shame. I cannot believe that it is genuinely argued that concerns of people who may be thought of as fat in some circumstances but thin in others should be centered over the experience of people who are, in every situation, F-A-T.

      If you can show where anyone said any of that, that would be awesome.

  214. zuzu
    zuzu September 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    BStu: zuzu, it feels like you are blaming fat acceptance for being disenfranchised and marginalized.

    It’s not like disenfranchised and marginialized groups have never gained anything. Hell, being gay used to get you thrown in jail. Women were literally disenfranchised and couldn’t vote. Black people were chattel, and even after gaining freedom, were regularly strung up, kept from voting and prevented from getting educations and working certain jobs. Immigrants have been subject to deportation and horrific working conditions and are blamed for dragging down the economy and harboring terrorism.

    None of those groups have limited their efforts to gain equal treatment to making sure the members of those groups felt really good about who they were. Gay pride, black pride, feminist consciousness-raising, etc., has always been a *component* of those liberation movements, but not the whole enchilada.

    I don’t think you’re ever going to move into a true liberation movement unless and until you start listening to the people who are telling you why they aren’t joining your cause even if they agree with the broad principles. And several people here have done that, but they’ve been dismissed as fatphobic and/or hateful and/or diet pushers. So I don’t really know what else to tell you.

  215. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm |

    I’m really confused as to where this idea that FA is hostile to people who are thin, or who’re fat but not really fat, is coming from. I was a regular commenter on Shapely Prose and I never felt excluded/unwanted/unwelcome, and I’d certainly be considered thin by FA standards. What I did sometimes feel was what Heidi has been talking about – that there were some particular conversations where the input of not-fat people wasn’t really appropriate. Not “STFU skinny girl”, more “I have nothing relevant to add to this discussion that wouldn’t seem like it was minimising what other people have to deal with that I don’t have to deal with”. I mean hey, I’m a former anorexic, and I have body dysmorphia – body image issues up the wazoo, which is part of how I came to FA. But still, I’m capable of recognising that there are some conversations that I don’t really belong in except as a reader, and that trying to insert myself into them would be insensitive and kind of assholish. That’s not the same thing as thin people not being allowed to participate in FA at all, so I’m kind of confused by this whole conversation.

    I dunno, was Shapely Prose unique in that regard? Because there were plenty of thin women and inbetweenies who were regular commenters there, and I don’t think any of us ever felt like we weren’t allowed to participate. Are people misinterpreting that “hey, maybe I shouldn’t talk now, while people are discussing a specific issue that’s way outside the realm of my experience” feeling as “I’m not allowed to talk at all, so people are excluding me”?

  216. chava
    chava September 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm |

    I am currently a size 4, and have commented on SP, The Rotund, as well as numerous other FA and ED blogs for quite some time. Never have I faced any hostility, as long as I didn’t behave like a flaming idiot, and YES, that included sticking your nose in on discussions where you clearly can’t empathize in the same way–and even when I screwed up and did that, I was given more courtesy and sanity points of others than I probably deserved.

  217. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm |

    @chava – Yeah, honestly, I’m wondering how much of this idea that FA is hostile to non-fat people is just the fact that thin people aren’t used to being de-centered, so it feels like exclusion to them.

    Taking SP as an example, well, there was me (sz 6), you, can Volcanista is even thinner, and that’s just to start with. All of us were regulars, clearly none of us felt exluded. All of us were probably called on our thin privilege at some point and hey, the people doing so had a point.

  218. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk September 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm |

    zuzu:
    For me, the fact that support and a focus on how fat people think about themselves seems to be the extent of the activism I see means that I don’t think it’s an effective movement.

    Zuzu, I’m in Australia. The movement IS new here. And we don’t actually send you a memo every time we do something other than ‘focus on how fat people feel about themselves’.

    We also currently live in a climate where our government’s policies are actively hostile to fat people and those who advocate for them. The chair of our government-appointed Body Image Advisory Group has vocally attacked FA activists in the past: she was taken to task for it, by some of us, including in the mainstream media, but she has the backing of the relevant federal government minister. And a huge media platform and popular following. In other words, FA activists are very much marginalised and we have to work very hard to have our voices heard but we keep working. It’s insulting to imply that we do not, simply because you’re not personally hearing those voices above the din of anti-fat sentiment that spouts from the media and from politicians every single fucking day.

    I’m inclined to agree with annalouise: this thread is a really inappropriate place to concentrate on these sorts of issues that some people have with the FA movement. (I’m not saying that such issues shouldn’t be expressed, just that currently this discussion isn’t productive and it’s coming across to me as a major derail.)

  219. littlem
    littlem September 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm |

    I am currently a size 4, and have commented on SP, The Rotund, as well as numerous other FA and ED blogs for quite some time. Never have I faced any hostility, as long as I didn’t behave like a flaming idiot

    People really aren’t getting that “Your experience is *not* universal” part, are they?

  220. BStu
    BStu September 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm |

    zuzu, the issue of how fat people think about themselves is not the extent of the fat acceptance now or really ever. It certainly wasn’t the extent of the work of the Fat Underground. I mean, you raised the airline seating issue yourself and that’s something fat activists have been protesting about for over a decade. You talk about FA limiting itself, but its not. Its talking about these things. Its just most people don’t care about what we have to say.

    Other movements have been at that place and it would be disingenious to suggest that the Gay Rights movement that exists now sprung forth fully formed. It took decades of very marginalized community building. And even then, what exactly do you think was the media treatment of gay civil rights in the first couple of decades after Stonewall? I expect a great majority of the coverage was focused on enforcing their disenfranchisement.

    This isn’t a place to discuss the institutional mistakes of fat acceptance. I agree, they have been there and I agree that the slow progress is frustrating, but a lot of it the difficulty has come from outside the movement. I look back at where FA was in the late 70’s and I think it may have been poised to break through but that is also a time when the diet industry exploded and largely co-opted the language of fat acceptance and reframed our points into marketing slogans. The people who profit off fat shame and fat stigmatization DID recognize what a threat we posed and spend millions annually on promotional campaigns which ignore us by name and re appropriate us in message. Just look at the big complaint that we say diets don’t work. Yet this point is echoed in the advertising of virtually every diet plan. They don’t avoid it, they just use it to frame the deception that they are somehow unique. Which makes it more difficult for us to respond to what they are doing. They probably have thousands of marketing professionals looking to convey their brand of fat shaming. They have a vested interest in social stigma and discrimination and have spent money and time promoting both. That’s a lot to fight and in many ways its a unique way of explicitly promoting stigmatization that there aren’t many models to follow on how other group have dealt with it. Obviously, people have profited off inequality before, but so directly is a trickier bit and its something FA struggles to respond to.

    Gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights, all of these fights have existed for over a hundred years in some form. FA is about 40 and all of that in a very different world for that kind of ground floor work. I want us to be further, but I don’t think that we’re not there yet is a reason to start shedding our beliefs for the benefit of contrary views. We need to keep challenging the status quo, not make accommodations to it. Because the status quo will not benefit fat people. It will not further our health or happiness. It won’t even make us not fat.

  221. chava
    chava September 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm |

    @ littlem–

    Well, obviously. I didn’t realize I needed a double blind gold-standard clinical trial in order to share my experience on a blog. Thanks for not referring to me directly, though.

    There will be people whose experience is different than mine. Yahtzee. However, given my lack of time, interest or ability to produce objective data which may then be turned into a pie graph of What About the Thinz, my anecdata shall have to do.

  222. BStu
    BStu September 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    Littlem, that is the point being MADE by Chava and others. We’re sharing our experiences as a demonstration that other experiences are not universal.

  223. 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival
    29th Down Under Feminists Carnival October 4, 2010 at 8:40 am |

    […] Milk also guest posted at Feministe about Fat acceptance: when kindness is activism where she discusses how acceptance of your body and kindness to yourself are […]

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.