We open with a very telling sight. Valerie is in the middle of the screen with the Jenny Craig logo in the lower left corner and the words "Results Not Typical" in the other. Its an important phrase and keep your eyes out because you'll see a lot of it as diet-ad season heats up this week.
You'll find it at the totally not a diet Weight Watchers website. You'll find it at Jenny. You'll find it attached to Nutrisystem's ads. If a diet claims it caused people to lose weight, you'll find it. The all-important "product doesn't work" disclaimer. Of course, its worded obscurely enough and buried under asterix aplenty so no one ever needs to confront that message. Results not typical means the product doesn't work. See, even the diet companies can admit that diets don't work.
Anyway, back to the emotionally manipulative ad. after Bertanelli apologizes for still needing to lose a few pounds (actually, that might "test" better) she explains whats so wonderful about her diet. Seems the best thing is that this New Year's she's going to wake up for the first time and not think about her weight. And she doesn't have to make a resolution about losing weight. Thanks, Jenny!
Funny thing, though, is that I know something else that will do that. Its called fat liberation. I'm going to wake up on New Year's Day and not be thinking about my weight. I won't be making any resolutions about losing weight. Fat hatred isn't inevitable. Self-loathing doesn't have to be a way of life. Everyone has the capacity to liberate themselves from fat hatred. Everyone. I don't buy into the notion that self-love should be withheld from people if they really don't want to. No matter how certain you are that you can't accept your body. No matter how much self-justifications you make for self-hatred.
"I just want to lose some weight. I don't expect to be thin."
"I'm not comfortable at this weight."
"I need to get healthy"
These aren't mandatory. You can be comfortable, healthy, and accepting at the size you are NOW. Really. You ARE okay in your body. It doesn't have to be anything else. You can come to feel this way. No one is too far removed from self-love. Believe me, these results are very typical.
Not that its not without challenges. Emotionally manipulative TV commercials extolling the virtues of thinness, for instance. Openly hostile TV commercials decrying the horrors of fatness for another instance. But self-acceptance is a sure way to stop hating your body and a good deal more reliable than trying to remake your body into something acceptable. These results are typical.
Really. Don't be afraid to say so. Like I said when bashing WW, this is a message that is important and will resonate. If Weight Watchers can figure that out, so should Fat Acceptance.
Diets don't work. They don't work if you hate being fat. They don't work if you can't be fat. They don't work if you don't want to be fat. They don't work. I've said this before, but it does need to be said again and again and again. Because diets don't work.
I know some people don't want to hear this. That's not a reason not to say it. Its a reason TO say it. Because diets really don't work.
Do some people lose weight? Heck, everyone on diets loses weight. But nearly everyone gains it back. The fact that disordered eating induced initial weight loss isn't proof that the diet works, though. It is the way fat people are made to feel like failures, though. It is the way the diet industry is able to stay in business after its customers have had their products not work time and time again. That is EXACTLY why diets don't work and why someone needs to actually say so. Fat people are being lied to. All people are being lied to. The initial weight loss isn't proof that diets work. The inevitable regain is the proof that they don't. Disordered eating cannot be sustained. Only 5% of people at best actually sustain the disordered eating and maintain the weight loss. No, that's not working.
I've repeated this before, but its a good illustration of the point. Losing weight is as easy as holding your breath. Keeping it off is as easy as continuing to hold your breath. Diets are made to seem easy, achievable, but its all a fraud. It doesn't work.
Someone needs to keep saying it. That someone shouldn't be Weight Watchers.
Diets don't work.
So, just to check....
"Weight Watchers" + diet = 594,000 results
I guess they must all be talking about how they aren't a diet.
I'm sure the diet acceptance crowd is sething right now at such an awful sentiment. How dare I call diets mean! What an awful lack of compassion for people trying to better themselves! Bad me!
No, not me. Well, okay, I do think diets are mean, but I don't think I've had occassion to say that. No, I read that on bus stop billboard.
"Live or Diet"
Saw that one on a Taxi-top. Agree with it, too. Its a good distillation of the options available to fat people.
"People don't fail. Diets do."
Right on! The failure of diets is always turned into personal failures which just perpetuates fat hatred and turns fat people themselves into eager advocates of fat hatred.
"Stop Dieting. Start Living"
Saw that one on a website. Some fat liberation group taking a long-await defiant stand against dieting? Gosh, no.
Its Weight Watchers.
See, "diet" tests poorly. I guess something about them never working has harmed the "diet" brand. That doesn't deter Weight Watchers, though. They were one of the first diets to insist that it isn't a diet. "No, no. We're not a diet! Diet's don't work, after all. We're... a lifestyle choice! A whole new way of living! Gosh, no, we're not a diet."
Not coincidentally, this all started around the time fat acceptance first started agitating back in the 70's. It freaked out the diet industry much more than it did the rest of society. While the Fat Underground was struggling for any acknowledgement from their progressive peers, Big Diet saw the movement turning into the feminist movement or civil rights or the also burgoning gay rights movement. While those groups all had powerful cultural opposition, fat acceptance had a somewhat different foe. Oh, sure, there was cultural opposition, too, but fat lib also had to deal with a wealthy industry whose financial interests demanded that fat acceptance be suppressed. While products existed that fed off other forms of bigotry, they weren't really centralized in one industry like Big Diet. This was a product which existed by promoting fat hatred and they had a powerful monetary motive to silence the young fat liberation movement. So they did so in the most insiduous and effective way possible.
They stole our voice. They co-opted our vocabulary, repurposed our slogans. The failure of diets was no longer a call to advocacy, but a sales pitch for repackaged diets. Before fat acceptance could be heard, our message had become synonymous with the industry we needed to stand against. It was an awful blow, and in many ways fat acceptance still hasn't recovered. While it is bigger in numbers, its message has suffered. Its never been able to reclaim opposition to diets from the diet industry itself. Its never been able to assert itself over the marketing might of an industry who rightly sees us as its biggest threat. Fat acceptance can't by bus-stop billboards. It can't buy taxi-tops. No civil rights advocacy can, really. Not on this scale. But Weight Watchers can. So it uses it to dilute our message and confuse it with their corporate brand. Here are a few more of their co-opted fat liberation used to promote fat hatred...
"If Diets Work Why Do We Need a New One Every 5 Minutes"
I don't know, WW. Maybe we should ask the thousands (millions?) of Weight Watcher drop-outs? (That ought to be a song)
"Expecting a Sleep Deprived Mother to Go on a Diet is Cruel But Not Unusual"
Yes. Its cruel for mothers to be forced into Weight Watchers and its ilk to meet physical expectations that are sadly all too common in our culture.
"Diets Take Away the Things that We Love"
Yes. It takes away joy, self-acceptance, comfort in ones body. It replaces it with a constant focus on maintaining expectations, doing whatever is necessary to attain an arbitrary physical goal. It takes away our friends, our mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It takes away ourselves. Diets aren't bad because it takes away food. They are bad, because it takes away OURSELVES.
"DI*T is a four letter word"
Really reaching back to the 70's on this one. Another four letter word? Lying F*CK.
Weight Watchers does this because discontent with diets is a powerful force in our society. Playing against diets sells for them, because it is a message which resonates with so many people. Fat Acceptance shouldn't give up, though. This IS a powerful and important message that people need to hear and at some level want to hear. The solution isn't to play nice with diets. For goodness sake, even Weight Watchers gets that.
The reason? Well, evidently its super hard to treat to fat people and that costs money so... well, you know. Its totally not conscious, though. The doctors swear. Must be subconscious or something because they TOTALLY wouldn't deny medical treatment to fat people. No, that never happens.
Except, the story also says that fat people are routinely denied organ transplants. I mean, its just obvious. So why would they need subconscious meddling to deny treatment to fat people? Seems the problem is that some doctors are promising kidney's to people on spec. Lose weight, get a kidney. If like 95-99% of dieters, you don't lose weight? Well, sorry, no kidney for you fatty. I guess they used to just never pretend they were going to treat fat people so they didn't have to deal with uncomfortable statistics showing how medical indifference is costing the lives of fat people.
I guess this proves that it is unhealthy to be fat, though not really in the way we keep getting told. But I'm sure fat people being 44 times more likely to be denied this treatment doesn't really mean anything. I mean, they swear its subconscious and all. Besides, haven't you heard how horribly unhealthy fat people are! Why, we're two times as unhealthy as perfectly healthy people. That's 1+1, people! That's huge. You can totally see how that justify denying us treatment at a rate of 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1. I mean, look at how similar the math is! Totally the same thing.
So says San Francisco Chronicle columnist Richard Torregrossa. Very much into the war metaphors, Mr. Torregrossa. He's clearly an expert on the subject, what with being the author of such relevent tomes as "Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style" and "Fun Facts about Cats". He illustrated the last one, too! What a learned scholar on the subject of fat people.
Such knowledge came in useful when Torregrossa writes a column about he is coming to really admire fatties. See, usually he just hisses at us (silently, of course) but just look at his progress. As long as we're trying to lose weight, we have his respect. What progress! I think this qualifies as a huge victory for fat acceptance. We'll be tolerated while we do what we're told to do. Let's throw a party! No cake, though. We're dieting for fat acceptance!
The patronizing brand of tolerance here is not what we're fighting for. Well, its not what I am fighting, anyway. For all his talk about admiration and respect, he seethes with demeaning contempt. But this is precisely the attitude a lot of fat bigots have and they all act so proud for themselves. So self-righteous that they've been able to dress up their resentment and bitterness so it looks like respect. But the reality is that this is no fancy costume. Its a dollar store smock and plastic mask. Good enough for pretend, but its not fooling anyway. This is fat hatred.
Fat bigots want to be thanked for coming "this far" and I know there are plenty out there eager to congratulate them, but they don't deserve. They've done nothing but play pretend and we'd be fools to play along. Torregrossa's words are in a column, so its easier to see through the facade. He has the space all to himself, and he can't help but let his true colors shine through. Be mindful that this same attitude will look less obviously hostile when delivered in little bits and chunks. The simple truth is that if you feel the need to say you admire fat people, you almost certainly don't. You just want to give us a pat on the head when we do what we're told. We're not dogs being trained. We don't have to like a belittling pat on the head.
Which brings us to Janice Dickenson, the former supermodel, who "defended" Hewitt by using it as an excuse to pick a cat fight with Tyra Banks by calling HER fat. You may recall in January that Tyra was defiantly accepting of her post-modeling body and insistant that it wasn't fat. You may also recall in May when she was on magazine covers boasting of her amazing weight loss. Mixed signals, there. Doesn't excuse Dickenson's insane use of defending someone from petty nitpicking about a thin woman being fat to offer her own petty nitpicking about a thin woman being fat.
Even more stunning is where this happened. Was she at some mindless industry photo-op where she was asked by the fine reporters of Extra or E!News about Hewitt? Nope. She was on the freaking Today Show. Admittedly not a bastion of serious news reporting, but not really E!News, either. First off, why are they covering a silly gossip story like "JLove is a fatty"? Secondly, why would they bring on the notoriously trash talking and notoriously superficial Dickenson on to discuss the issue? Oh, right, because they wanted this sort of thing to happen because cattiness and fat mocking makes "good TV". I guess maybe Extra and E! are actually a step above Today.
I'm increasingly convinced Dan Savage is one of these people. Only he has a nationally syndicated column instead of Rants and Raves.
How else do I make sense of his regular fascination with picking fights with fat people? Its not on a regular schedule, but he always comes back to it. And when he does, he never lets it go. He just keeps on going after them. Again and again and again. What else but to conclude he's just generally offended by fatness and whenever he has to confront the existence of a fat person on the subway or at a show, he picks a fight in his column. And he won't let it go. How many follow-up attacks on fat people is he going to do? Near as I can tell this isn't a regular feature of his column. Its usually just a normal weekly column which devolves into a never-ending fat bashing escapade when he picks a fight with the fatties.
A couple weeks ago he wrote a phenomenally cliche column telling a husband to trash his wife for getting fat. Same nonsense that's been written by "edgy" and "conventional" advice columnists alike for years. They all act so smug and satisfied with their daring for encouraging confrontation with a fat person because they all buy into the notion that we've never heard we're fat before and just need someone to be "honest" with us. They all live in this fantasy world where most fat people aren't horribly self-hating over their bodies, but rather blissfully unaware of our offending adipose. Without fail, they all seem to think they are the first person to think of this. And whether they counsel compassion or bluntness, they all say the same damn thing and then congratulate themselves for their originality.
Dan does the spiel and justifies the fat hostility on the basis of the woman owing it to the man to be attractive to him. Its just being "honest" Dan, says. Yeah, you know what? I'd like all of those advice columnists to respond to the man who is upset that his wife has LOST weight and see if they are just as favorable to his point of view. Can you imagine that? One of these boring-ass advice columns comforting a man whose wife has abandoned fat acceptance in favor of weight loss? I can't. So they can shove their honesty up their ass, for all I care. They are just buying into fat as a crime, sin, moral failing, healthy crisis, etc. Fat is a state of wrongness. Fat is without privilege. Not fat is privileged. I'm sure the husband/wife/boyfriend/etc who wants his fat betrothed back would get lectured, not supported. Every time someone justifies fat hatred on the grounds that its not "fair" to a loved one to be fat and ugly, don't think for a second that goes both ways. Its justification that goes in one direction only. You want your special someone to be fat, I have no doubt that you'd be called a monster while even the most mean-spirited who wants their wife to diet will still get supported in their ultimate goal.
ANYWAY, in spite of his cliche advice, he was spoiling for a fight. Well, two fights, I guess. After teasing a follow-up in the subsequent column, he devote his entire column last week to a follow-up. His enemies? Stupid women who want honesty and, of course, the damn fatties. Given his past habit of not letting it go, I guess he won't let this go, either. He spent the whole thing insisting that he wouldn't have given the advice he did, yet also constantly validating it. See, it really WAS the advice he'd give, he just tried to be comically blunt about it to show the folly of "honesty". But the truth is, its still what he was trying to say. He'd just have made it about "health" or "maintenance" or some such. He teases that he'd offer the reverse advice to chubby chasers, but I don't buy it. Now, maybe, because he has "cred" to preserve, but nothing in the hostility he expresses towards fat people suggests an honest acceptance like that. All the same "stuffing Twinkies in your mouth" garbage that's fat trolling 101. Well, I think so anyway, and it seems that when Dan Savage, says it, at least, others agree.
Anyway, I guess Savage isn't good at letting things go either. He's still ranting about this on his blog. I am mildly amused that the response he's getting as a columnist is much harsher than he'd have gotten saying the same things as a commentator, but mostly just bored. Every time he sits near a fat person on a bus, we're going to have to deal with the same damn shit. Someone tell him about Craigslist, already. Its a much more receptive audience for this stuff.
The first story I read about this had the usual vagueness that comes from the respectable press when they don't want to call someone out for being fat. They simply suggested that there were unflattering pictures of her in a bikini and had accompanying quotes from Hewitt supporters saying that they were concerned that girls were being told they needed to be super thin. Naive as I am, I actually assumed that the problem was that the pictures showed how THIN Jennifer Love Hewitt was and she was concerned about being held out as an example to strive for. I mean, its Jennifer Love Hewitt for goodness sake. The problem couldn't possibly be that SHE was too fat.
But, no, that's what all this fuss is about. I guess its even on the cover of People this week. Hewitt has come out and said she's happy with her body. Though it had the usual tone of "Dude, I'm NOT fat" kind of self-love, its better than a lot of what see, so good for her, I guess. I sought out the pictures (no, I'm not linking; find them yourself) and am really stunned at what passes for fat these days. Her stomach wasn't concave, though it could have just easily been muscles at fault an wasn't much to begin with, and her hips are, I guess, wide if you think Olive Oyl has an achievable body. Oh, and she sorta has flesh on her ass so no hip bones are in sight. What a fatty!
Its nice to see some stars rally around her and denounce the absurd expectations placed on women's bodies. I don't really expect a more critical examination than the "Dude, that's not fat" from those speaking out, though it'd be nice if once someone would try to discuss the problem in more depth. For the next starlet deemed unacceptably not-thin, I guess. Yes, its a problem that size 2's are now being ridiculed as fat, but without tackling the hysterical fear of fat our culture fosters, we won't really change that.
Even a weight loss expert found this to be discriminatory. Not that surprising, actually, as there has long been a thread of anti-fat crusading that masks its intentions by claiming to be fighting for the rights of fat people. The "until they lose weight" is always added in hushed tones right after. Here, its the "National Obesity Forum", which evidently gets a lot of funds from the pharmacutical industry to promote weight loss drugs. Gosh, I wonder if their handlers might also not want to limit access to fertility drugs for some reason. Couldn't be that a front for the drug companies might have another motive to promote access to drugs, could it?
As always, "balance" in a story about fat is two sides who want to promote weight loss arguing over who promotes weight loss better. I'm reminded of a story I just read about fat discrimination in the workplace. A statistic from NAAFA about fat discrimination was a launching point for a story about why we should lose weight to avoid workplace discrimination. Even when they quote fat acceptance, the media pretends we don't exist.
Still, its important to examine what we take for granted. A lot of the gender defined toys reinforce beauty ideals and expectations. For instances, sports equipment was exclusively advertised with boy models. We're not talking about footballs here. Bikes, scooters, moon shoes, even air hockey and ping pong. Boys are supposed to be athletic, but we wouldn't want girls to go sweating or anything.
I guess I'm being a little unfair. See, there are some physical activity toys for girls, but they weren't sports related. They were branded dance games. Put on a blonde wig and dance your way into looking like Hannah Montana! (Edit: Fine, so the blonde wig is from the show, too) If they are younger, though, they can get their princess training video and mat. Not sure why princess training needs a mat, but that's what this Barbie branded toy has. It brags that it "teaches girls how to act, dress and dance like a princess".
The Barbie section also offers a styling head and a vanity, in case we weren't sure that being a princess meant being "beautiful." Disney agrees, too, as they also offer a vanity. Theirs has more mirrors than the Barbie, one, too. Count on Disney to get to business. Even Dora gets in on the act, though her vanity isn't princess themed. Does come with a creepy half-body styling head seemingly trapped in the table, though.
We're not all about hair, though. Gotta tell girls they need to wear make-up, too. The "Girl Gear" section offers a make-up vanity and a "Glitz & Glam" Cosmetic case. It also offered the Monopoly Pink Boutique Edition. Don't want girls thinking they can be real estate moguls. No, pink Monopoly has a "fabulous mall makeover". No make-up, but the game case does double as jewelry box. Honestly, the product description reads like a parody of gender belittling toys. Its all revamped with shopping sprees and cell phone bills and text messaging.
Since some people cannot figure this out for themselves, I'm not saying you can't like pink, or you can't wear make-up, or enjoy fashion. The issue here is how dominating these things are in the options for girls, and likewise in the sports toys and construction training toys for boys. I mean, would it be so hard to advertise roll play toys together? Play kitchens with play tool sets? I've known boys who liked playing kitchen and girls who liked playing for toy power tolls. But in the book, those two things are very clearly stratified as being for boys or girls.
With the beauty toys, this doesn't simply reinforce professional gender roles for kids, but reinforces beauty ideals. Girls are supposed to be pretty princesses. They are supposed to be made-up, with flowing blonde hair. And you don't see fat princesses. Maybe if you did, these toys wouldn't be as stifling, as oppressive with regards to identity and objectification. Maybe they would. But we know that the ideal of beauty being reinforced doesn't allow room for fat children. Its not like you'll see any playing with the toys in catalogs or commercials, after all.
Dora, the animated character, looks like a child. She's not fat, she just looks like a kid. I guess that's not enough, though, so for this toy, she was elongated into something much taller and much thinner. Its a fashion doll with Dora's head plopped on top.
The problem is, kids know what Dora looks like. They aren't just making a skinny fashion doll. They are remaking a beloved character as one. What is that telling children? That Dora isn't thin enough? What kind of a message is that supposed to be?
We know about Barbie's inhuman proportions. There has even been some attention to proportional difficulties in boy's action figures. The problem is still going on, though, with kids still being trained to adopt fat negative ideals.
Now, I know that race isn't an easy thing to catalog like this. I don't know for certain much of this. Even with gender, there were a couple I wasn't sure of. The important thing here, though, IS perception. This is about what the reader/customer will perceive, so I figure my perception is as fair as anyone else's. Just understand that it IS a perception.
GENDER Big Toy Book
Boys: 51% (77)
Girls: 49% (74)
So, girls are very slightly overrepresented, but this is actually pretty on target with the demographics.
RACE Big Toy Book
White: 55.6% (84)
African-American: 17.9% (27)
Latino: 15.2% (23)
Asian: 11.3% (17)
Not bad representation here, either. Whites are technically underrepresented and non-whites are technically overrepresented, but its important to remember a lot of states in the US have demographics that vary widely from that full country. None of these isn't accurate somewhere.
Big Toy Book
Wheelchair Using: 0.7% (1)
Fat: 0% (0)
Thin: 100% (151)
Wheelchair Using: 0.1%
So, the one child using a wheelchair was technically overrepresented. Obviously, though, it was well within reason considering a laudable desire to portray a differently able child. Also, its worth noting that Toys "R" Us has an entire section of their website dedicated to toys for differently able children.
But, um, where are the fat children? We're an epidemic, right? So where are the 17.5% of children who are fat? When will they take their place in the Big Toy Book?
Exclusion is the cornerstone of oppression. Others before us recognized the harm done by treating their group as invisible in media like this. The results can be seen in the demographics I described. Models aren't all white. They represent the diversity of the population. They even acknowledge differently abled kids, as well they should. Not fat kids, though. Not yet. They are still invisible, non-existent. It teaches fat children that they might as well not-exist. It reinforces the otherness of fatness to other children. It may seem inconsequential, but this is part of a collective cultural alignment against fat people.
What do we do about the ways we are made invisible, though? Fat people are only "seen" through these attacks. We can try to refute them, but there often isn't a fall-back position in our culture. Fat people are either sight gags of a walking epidemic. Beyond that, we simply don't exist. We are excluded and denied any identity.
This often seems meaningless. What does it matter if fat people aren't characters on some Fox melodrama? What does it matter if you don't see fat people in ads?
It does matter, though. It reinforces cultural disgust of fat people. When you don't see fat people, it reinforces the notion that fat people shouldn't be seen. It "justifies" discrimination of fat people who want to work in public situations. No, no. We have to be behind the back, out of sight. I mean, do you see fat people working on TV or in magazines or in movies?
It matters because of the subtle ways people are coached to value thinness and devalue fatness from an early age. Through their toys and cartoons and books. Fat people are either jokes, villains, or simply not there. The value of beauty and thinness is reinforced to girls and boys alike.
So, for the next few posts, I'm going to examine the Toys "R" Us Big Toy Book with an eye to its implications on fat people. How does something as innocuous as a toy catalog reflect and reinforce cultural standards of beauty and body size? What kinds of messages is it sending? We'll see a few things coming up.
"I began this letter in response to your statement that you have a fat client in therapy who has to lose 50 pounds or she'll die of diabetes. I hope you can see how this woman cannot afford to continue trying to lose weight. The damage has been done to her. Your efforts to make her slim, no matter how well-intentioned, will hurt her even more. What you can do is join with her and other fat people in demanding a realistic cure for her diabetes, and an end to her oppression. Coercion to diet is denial of real cures. Liberation is not a luxury."
But just to disprove the points being ascribed to me, I have no objection to engaging with people who are just learning about fat acceptance. As I've said repeatedly in the past, OBVIOUSLY we need to do that. But we need to set the tone of that discussion. We should lay out the ground rules. When engaging people who want to learn, we need to demand their respect, not respect the disrespect some will return back to us.
There is a spectrum of responses to fat acceptance for people coming upon it. We need to acknowledge that spectrum instead of just saying anything goes. We need to respond differently to different people. We need to draw our own lines instead of having them drawn for us. One-size-fits all doesn't work and it just excludes the people who really need to be here.
You have the people who really want to learn and will genuinely respect us whether they decide to agree with us not. These people are great. They aren't everyone, but they do exhibit the behaviors we want to encourage and foster. They show us why everyone isn't the same, and they aren't exactly rare, either. I'd actually say they are the rule, rather than the exception. They just get drowned out and overshadowed by other "newbies".
Then you'll have the well-meaning folks who don't get "it". "But, you don't want to lose weight? I mean, what if it was totally safe and possible? You would then, right?" They don't hate us and they may have the capacity to respect and maybe even agree with us. So sure, a soft approach is valid with those folks, but there needs to be a limit. If they keep asking us to justify ourselves, if they keep not getting it, then they show us that they aren't so well-meaning.
See, another class of people will spend all their time insisting that we justify ourselves. When long-timers expression frustration with "newbies", these are probably the people being talked about. See, at first they seem like they could be well-meaning. In an effort to be welcoming, they'll be cut some slack at first. But what's often happened is that when it becomes obvious that they don't get "it" because they don't care to, they'll seem established, entrenched, and criticizing them unseemly. As they increasingly show active disrespect, the retain a critical mass of supporters who shout down any efforts to point out their behavior and its effects. They just "disagree" they'll say. But what is that disagreement achieving? How is it constructive? There needs to be a willingness to say enough is enough. To say that constant nit-picking and demands that we justify our beliefs for the 1,000th time are having a negative impact on the community. Yes, some are too quick with the trigger in dealing with this, but I see far more who are disastrously too slow and this has repeatedly been the downfall of fat acceptance communities I've seen. See, because in spite of ingratiating themselves to people who probably do believe in fat acceptance, this group never has any qualms siding with, encouraging, and protecting a more destructive group.
Not all trolls just march in and say "fatty, fatty, fatty!" Disrespect isn't always so easy to identify and indeed is most dangerous when it doesn't flash its credentials like that. A lot of people are aghast at fat acceptance. A lot of articulate, non-mouth foaming people regard us with a scorn and derision that is a lot like the "fatty, fatty, fatty" crowed. They just won't say it like that. Instead, they'll go on about how we don't know what we are talking about. About how we are ignorant, oversensitive, overreacting, or ill-informed. And they'll take it upon themselves to educate us by telling us nothing we haven't heard before with more than a subtle note of condescension. They count on people misreading belittlement as respect. Sometimes, they let their colors show. They'll denounce us as gluttons, or mock us for thinking of ourselves as beautiful. But at all times, their disrespect will be there for us to see. Just like the more base trolls, its all a game to these folks. Belittling us is a hobby, of sorts.
And then we have the base trolls. The "fatty, fatty, fatty!" types. They are easy to spot, but they still can be revealing. See, the last two groups I described never seem to object to them. For all their self-appointed respectability and even-handedness, they've nothing to say when obvious trolls show up to viciously insult us. Its a silence that really is deafening.
This is a generalization, of course. There are layers of complexity beyond this. The issue is, though, that there is this complexity. And treating anyone who shows up at our doorstep the same won't cut it. When someone shows up and calls us retarded, we're right to be offended. Not just because of the disrespect to the developmentally disabled, but the disrespect to US. When someone suggests that fat acceptance is about stuffing ourselves with food, we're right to be offended. Those aren't close calls, yet those are precise examples where I'm told that this is reasonable discourse we need to foster.
Its not. I don't think we should ban anyone who isn't a card-carrying activist, but I don't think we should welcome everyone who isn't, either. There needs to be limits to the disagreement that will be tolerated in our proverbial house. There needs to be a line. I don't get why it has to be either or. Either we engage people new to fat acceptance AND people mocking and belittling it, or we engage no one. Either we become completely insular or let people run roughshod all over us.
Both of those choices suck and I'm not going to feel very motivated to participate in either. We're not even trying to find a balance. I'm going to get bashed by some for being too forgiving, and others for being too hard-line. One will misrepresent me as attacking newbies, the other as selling out fat acceptance. I'm sick of that. I'm kinda bemused right now that I've got two sides condemning me for being too close to the other side. Both doing exactly the same thing. Only kinda, though. Mostly I'm just disillusioned and disinterested.
One side says I see things in black and white. The other says I see things in shades of gray. Well, you can do both. If all you see is gray, you don't have the context to distinguish between the grays. If all you see is black and white, then you miss the subtleties that lie between. Neither approach works on its own lets you see the full spectrum that's out there.
" Oppression is mystified when it pretends to be love ... An up-front oppressor says, 'I'm going to oppress the shit out of you.' One can hate such oppressors and struggle against them clearly and cleanly. This makes such oppression hard to enforce. Mystified oppression is much easier to enforce, because it tricks oppressed people into hating themselves and makes them feel guilty for not liking their oppression. It diverts energy that could be used toward liberation into futile struggles against one's own desires."
Accusing someone of wishing harm on people because they didn't disagree enough with someone you don't like isn't fair. Its bullying and intimidation. You may not want to confront that reality, but people who did aren't "overreacting".
Misrepresenting someone's position is lying. Its not expressing an opinion. You can disagree with someone who believes in fat acceptance, but when you accuse them of not caring about the health of fat people because they don't think they way you do, you're lying. Don't expect to be respected for misrepresenting someone.
Suggesting that fat acceptance is all about gluttony, stuffing one face, gorging on food, etc. isn't disagreement. Its trolling and it deserves to be called as such.
Saying that someone is "retarded" for, well, any reason isn't reasonable discourse. Saying it about people who believe a fat-acceptance position is most decidedly anti-FA trolling. Its not astute. Its not moderate. Its not talking sense. Its hateful. Praising the person doesn't make you inclusive. Condemning people for being insulted and knowing it doesn't make you inclusive.
It makes you exclusionary, and the people being excluded are the ones who actually believe in fat acceptance. Its telling them that they aren't safe. Its telling them that the rules of discussion will allow hate directed at them, but no proportionate response will be tolerated. That recognizing this behavior as unacceptable will get you labeled intolerant or extremist. For all the hand-wringing about perceiving exclusion in disagreement, this behavior creates a very hostile environment that drives people out. No amount of denial, no amount of insistence that we don't know we are talking about will change that. is going to make it right or make
Maybe worst of all, it won't work. You can drive out anyone you like for believing in fat acceptance too much. You can drive out everyone whose commitment gets them deemed inconvenient. You can drive out everyone who critics whine about being insufficiently nice and capitulant to their attacks on fat acceptance. But it won't be enough. As moderate and "inclusive" as you try to be, in the end you'll be labeled as out-of-touch extremists. No matter how many people you identify as "the problem" and make unwelcome, demands will keep being made for more people to be offered up. The attacks will lose all pretense of respectability and veer into increasingly vitriolic and outrageous slander. The "respectable" naysayers will be joined by more and more overt hate-mongers and you'll find that they respectable naysayers will find little to complain about them. They'll run out of distractions and you'll be targeted. You'll be accused of murder, profiteering, and brainwashing. People will call on you to be thrown in jail. They'll call for your deaths. There will never be enough people to throw under the bus to stop it from bearing down on you.
People who are passionate and committed to fat acceptance aren't a liability. Playing "nice" with people who hate us and what we believe in isn't a virtue.
You cannot make progress by allowing critics to define the acceptability of your position.
You cannot challenge the status quo without defending your positions.
People will attack fat acceptance. Playing nice and coddling them won't get us anywhere. When people insult us, we cannot praise their sentiment. We must challenge their insult. When people attack us, we cannot affirm their right to disagree. We affirm our right to our beliefs. If we don't challenge people, they will never think to stop insulting us. They will never think to stop attacking us.
Defining gross insults as moderation doesn't serve our convictions. It betrays them. It shifts the playing field in favor of fat hatred and gives people no reason to consider our cause. Opposition to fat liberation is the status quo. It is a status quo so overwhelming and monolithic that it will be difficult to make any gains against. We can make gains, though. We cannot make gains by playing by the rules set out by the status quo. We cannot make gains by wallowing in concern for how the status quo will feel if we disagree with it. We disagree. We challenge. We stand for something.
It is not polite to thank someone for insulting you. It is not polite to thank someone for disagreeing with you. We don't need to ask permission to disagree with someone. We don't need to ask permission not to be insulted. We demand it.
Fat acceptance means something, and that's a good thing. Not everyone will like what it means, but we owe them nothing. When they malign us as gluttons or idiots, we do not need to accept this is reasoned disagreement. When someone reasonably disagrees with us, we don't need to agree to disagree. We can just disagree and we can say so.
We will be misrepresented in speaking out for fat acceptance. By attackers and "allies" alike. We don't need to play nice when our views are misrepresented. We don't need to play nice when subjected to unfair accusations, implications, and insinuations. We don't need to. We shouldn't. We can't.
Insults should make us angry. Not just that an insult is politically incorrect, but that the insult was made at all. Misrepresentations should make us angry. We should never have to respond to someone else's unfair characterization of our position.
People will attack fat acceptance. Other people will insist you're making it up. Resist the demands for concessions. Resist the demand to play by their rules. Resist the demand to play "nice" with those who disrespect you.
I don't oppose weight loss to be incompassionate to dieters.
I don't oppose weight loss because I ignore the health concerns of fat people.
I don't oppose weight loss because I'm stupid.
I oppose weight loss because it doesn't work. No amount of wishing, hoping, wanting, or needing will change the crap shoot that is weight loss attempts. Fat people deserve better than failed options. We deserve better than the same old answers. We deserve better than to be told our lives aren't worth living. We deserve better. That is what fat acceptance is about. Its about demanding better for the lives of fat people and honoring the useless deaths of so many anonymous fat people every year.
Fat acceptance is not about drawing lines around the unacceptably fat and living them behind. Fat acceptance is not about telling people that their health problems will go away if they lose weight. Fat acceptance is not about asserting the rightness of weight loss.
No one is obligated to agree with fat acceptance, and in case some have failed to notice, most of the world doesn't. But we're not obligated to agree with them. We're not obligated to affirm their choice to disagree. They have a right to make their decision, and we ours.
If you think sticking to our decision lacks "compassion", that's your problem because its not true. If you think sticking to our decision makes us mean, that's your problem because its not true. It just means we are sticking to our decision.
For all of the times fat acceptance communities have been beseiged by weight loss promoters, I've never wanted to turn around and confront dieters in their own space. It isn't right and it doesn't accomplish anything. And I've told people who did do that what I thought of their actions. We solve nothing by attacking individuals who want to lose weight.
But we also solve nothing if we fall prey to a false notion of politeness that requires us to affirm other people's choices. Those choices are theirs to make, not ours. They don't require our approval any more than we require theirs. Yet, it is often offered. That's not compassion. That's not laudable. If we don't believe a course of action is right, we have no reason to affirm it and no need. We shouldn't attack someone for choosing differently. We shouldn't harass them. Last I checked, very few fat activists would ever so much as think of doing that. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed into offering affirmations because we fear it would be impolite not to to do so. We cannot throw our hands up in their air and say "who are we to judge?" We aren't judging by having our own opinions. If it is taken as such, that's the fault of that person, not us. We cannot subjugate ourselves to a one-sided notion of niceness. If someone wants to try to lose weight, we recognize its not a choice we have control over, but also reaffirm our own convicitions.
Fat acceptance is not just for the fat accepting. To withhold fat acceptance from people because they don't want it would be folly. It would enshrine a perminant stalemate with fat acceptance at an enormous disadvantage. A person wanting to lose weight isn't something we can change, but it must not be something we accept. It isn't right. We do not blame the person who wants to lose weight, even if they want to see our actions as such. We blame our culture and we blame those who promote that culture. Some people will be offended by that. They'll take it personally. We need to accept that and we need to understand that their response isn't fair. It isn't fair to us or to our beliefs and we need to remember that.
Fat acceptance is not for the acceptably fat. It is not for the acceptably healthy. It is for every fat person. At the same time, fat acceptance cannot be what every fat person wants it to be. It cannot be a weight loss support group. It cannot cloud the world in grey and lose its purpose. Fat acceptance is and will always be something a lot of people will find threatening and intolerable and wrong.
We need to threaten a culture which values a dead fat person over a live one. We shouldn't be tolerated by a system which dehumanizes us. If fat hatred is our cultural right, we damn sure want to be wrong.
I'm angry about the way fat people are treated. About the defeatist options they are given. I'm angry that criticizing this system must always be on their terms, under their rules. I'm angry.
I should be. You should be, too.
You should be angry at the emotional manipulation used to tell us to keep quiet. You should be angry about the anonymous deaths of so many. You should be angry about being told to keep in our place. You should be angry at the people who misrepresent fat acceptance to serve an agenda. You should be angry at those who do it to shut us up and you should be angry when its done in the name of niceness.
We need more anger right now. No, not at dieters. Anger about a culture of fat hatred. Anger about being told to pipe down. Anger about being told to place nice with those who treat us with disrespect and scorn. The person wanting to lose weight isn't the problem, but there are people who are and we can't be nice to everyone. When people insult us, we should be angry. When people tell us we don't have a right to be angry about being insulted, we should be angry. We cannot be afraid of anger anymore. Playing nice, playing by their rules, its not working. It won't work.
When a person tells you that you have to accept dieting, say no.
When a person claims that you're ignoring the health of fat people, tell them that they are wrong.
When a person defines you to suit their condemnation of you, resist.
And when you are told its not nice to do any of that, keep doing it.
Speak up. Speak out. Use your anger, don't bury it. You are so important and your voice is needed. Find places to speak out. Learn when you're energy is wasted and move on. Take action. Don't give up. We cannot change the world overnight. We cannot stop the tragedies. But we can make a difference. We can change things.
I oppose weight loss because I oppose a system of failure forced upon fat people. I support fat acceptance because desperately need to chart a new course and find new answers to serve the health and happiness of all fat people.
In the words of a far better manifesto than mine...
Fat people of the world unite. You have NOTHING to lose.
I've been frustrated with Fat Acceptance for the last couple of months and haven't really wanted to say anything. My reasons felt impossible to explain because I'd have to get into my institutional memory of fat acceptance. Over 10 years now of engaging in discussions about it online and the frustrations in seeing the same things crop up over and over again. The same attacks, endlessly replayed. I was encouraged when Kate Harding posted her frustrations with diet talk last month, but in the free-for-all that ensued, I saw the same patterns playing themselves out again and I found it discouraging. So much of the discussion that ensued was being controlled by people who never posted comments before and never would again. The dove in to deliver the message that opposition to dieting would not be tolerated. That's it. And yet, they were essentially allowed to set the agenda of the discussions, some even falling into overt fat bigotry. I'd seen it before so many times. People claiming to be allies of the movement. Offering their support if we just let dieters be. Asking why we can't just play nice. I've seen this before. I've seen these people with their pious attacks, and I've seen how they never actually offer anything to the movement accept attacks in support of dieting. The claim that we should be welcoming to them, but they do nothing to change the state of fat people. They do nothing to improve health care for fat people, to denounce discrimination, refute exaggerations and lies about fat people. Yet they still claim to be allies when all they have to say about fat acceptance is critical.
Its an attack. I get that. After seeing it dozens of time, I get that its all just gamesmanship. But so often, they are allowed to get away with it. They set up shop, pretending to be in favor of fat acceptance when all they care about is silencing criticisms of dieting. The proclaim themselves to represent "true" size acceptance as they distort of vocabulary beyond recognition. They fashion themselves as underdog crusaders against the evil oppression of fat acceptance. They offer a world-view detached from reality.
I've seen it so many times and I've seen how it effects discourse. Some people will try to engage them, going so far as to shame or silence anyone who doesn't given their thinly veiled hate a warm welcome. And then the hate loses some of that veil. More overt trolls creep out from the shadows and are embraced by these "respectable" critics. It happens slowly, but surely. A handful of supposed contrarians becomes a gaggle of naysayers and hate-mongers, snapping at any advocacy of fat acceptance. Those who tried to be nice at first are worn down by it all. And those who wanted to fight have given up and left. I can't tell you how often I've kept fighting this kind of fat hatred and found so much silent support. So many people weary of the distractions and wanting it over but unwilling to join the fray. I don't blame them for not joining in. The kind of bile and fear I've been subjected to isn't something I'd wish on someone else. But without support, I always ended up in a losing battle. See, the critics always seem versed in divide and conquer strategies. Pick one fat activist and drive them out. Demand that they be banned. Insist that we are the problem as a false olive branch to the powers that be. They always seemed to give in. At first anyway. But one down is never enough. Its always someone else. By the time the powers that be are clued in, its usually too late. What community may have once existed has collapsed. Too many people have been driven out or left in silent frustration. I've seen this happen again and again because there never remains enough institutional memory to stop it from happening again. Too few people are left to know this all happened before. That the trolls M.O. stays so much the same. That often, its the same dedicated trolls launching new attacks year after year. They might be immature pranksters. They might be frustrated dieters. They've got a dedication to subvert and pervert fat acceptance and they keep at it, always finding more help with each new year. Once, they tried setting up their own shop. Their own site so they wouldn't have to deal with us size-acceptance types. For about a month, there was a lot of hatred there. (Also a lot of capitulation from so-called fat activists. I guess they missed giving into the fat haters.) But without people to attack, hate to expose, the community collapsed in a few short months. Hundred of posters weened down to maybe a dozen, then to none. They don't have their own purpose. They just have their antagonism towards ours.
Its tiring. I don't say this to garner sympathy or praise. I just say it because its true. I'm weary of it. I'm weary of getting my hopes up only for everything to collapse. I pulled away from the new community of fat blogs because I was afraid it was all happening again. Complete with one self-righteous "ally" making a big self-serving ploy to compare himself to Martin Luther King at the expense of those he actually agreed with. I pulled away because this time, I didn't want to be fighting and thrown to the wolves again.
I maybe jumped the gun. Maybe this time, the crowds of sudden commentators criticising fat acceptance was just happenstance. Not a sleeper cell waiting to strike, or at least not yet. Just the all-too-familiar group of people who are committed to fat hatred in its most personal form and who don't want to be challenged to see the world and their bodies differently. But the institutional awareness led me to pull away. Afraid of the pattern emerging and reluctant to see it all play out once more.
I say this now because a blogger and commentator Kell may have had the same reaction. The same impulse. Where I drew away, Kell lashed out. Kell is a new name to a lot of my fellow bloggers (as am I and a lot of my fellow bloggers to each other), but she isn't new to me. She's probably been active in online discussions of fat acceptance as long as I have, and I'm sure she's seen the same patterns of attacks that I have. In the business with another blogger and commentator having WLS, Kell saw something familiar and I suspect had a very viseral remark. I don't think she was right, but I know what she lashed against this blogger. There have been patterns of attacks of fat acceptance from WLS promoters. They've taken over NAAFA discussion forums, coordinated USENET attacks. Even from within the movement, there have been agitation to make WLS acceptable in fat acceptance, to promote it to fat people. Kell has seen all this, and I wouldn't be surprised if she saw this all playing again.
I think she was wrong this time. I don't think this was an effort to subvert fat acceptance. I think this was one individual coming to the conclusion many before her had that WLS was the only answer. That's all I think it was. I don't affirm that decision. I don't have to. It was her decision to make and she doesn't need my approval. Nor should I need her approval to remain resolutely anti-WLS no matter what justifications she may feel she has. I didn't feel that this was a transformative battle. I'd be with Kell if it were, though, as it has been in the past. I know I'm speaking to someone else's motivations here and I'm sure Kell will disagree with that. Unfortunetly, after posting her anger towards her perception of a welcoming of WLS into fat acceptance, Kell took down her blog. I know where she's coming from there, too. I don't think she's right here, but I don't want to see Kell go, either. She has a lot she can offer the fat acceptance movement but she's spent a lot of time being told to shut up by critics and allies alike. Kell has had a very different journey in fat acceptance than some more recent bloggers, unfortunetly. The anger which a lot are understandably put off by didn't come overnight. I know she is something of a reactionary radical if you can allow that concept. I don't agree with that, but I understand it. I've gone through a lot of the trials Kell has gone through and I really do see how she could get to this point. I get frustrated by it because I know Kell can push people away from what she believes. With years of being pushed away herself, I understand it, though. And I hope there will be the day when she can be engaged in a positive and productive fashion.
The stakes are high with fat acceptance and WLS is a fight we need to take on. Is not against individual patients, though, which is a key area where Kell and I seem to differ right now. The problem is institutional and its damn sure something worth caring about. Its not exaggeration to remember that thousands of fat people die anonymously every year because of WLS. It isn't right, but attacking patients isn't the answer. It isn't productive. Look, I'm not saying that we shouldn't refute weight-loss promoters just because they are also practitioners. I'm saying we refute weight-loss promoters and not practitioners. This is made difficult enough when practitioners take attacks on the institutions as personal attacks. We cannot muddy the water ourselves by picking fights with every individual who wants to lose weight. We'll be distracting ourselves then, and I don't see that being productive any time soon.
Dieters shouldn't feel "safe" in fat acceptance circles. They should feel challenged. That is an influence fat acceptance needs to provide, but also one which is constantly threatened by those who don't feel contrary viewpoints should be tolerated. Claims of a fat acceptance orthodoxy are grossly exaggerated. No dieter has their rights to expression endangered by fat acceptance. Even from those fat activists fed up enough to want to threaten that expression. Its all a misdirection, and its a not a new one, either. Dieters aren't supposed to feel protected in the fat acceptance community. They have a whole cultural hegemony to feel protected in. Why do they need to be protected in the one place which challenges us to think differently about issues of weight? Because the truth is that disagreement won't be tolerated. That can never be a reason to give in. To agree to disagree. To silence ourselves in the name of inclusiveness. Fat acceptance is a radical concept, and its going to make some people uneasy. They need to. I'm not an advocate of invading non fat acceptance spaces to force unease on people, but I'll be sure to advocate for us not withholding our beliefs in our community, or own spaces. That's what has long been at risk, and I'm sad to say that fat acceptance has lost far more times than its won. If some of us seem weary or angry with this struggle, its because we've seen it before and in our own ways don't want to have to see it again.
I'm going to take a break from my self-imposed exile/sabatical to let you all know about the new Big Moves show, LARD (Like Grease, but thicker). I'm really so impressed and grateful for the work Big Moves does promoting size diversity in dance. I've blogged about it before and will surely again. Fat acceptance absolutely needs groups like them and I count myself as very lucky that I'm able to attend their shows here in Boston. They have a really positive influence on their dancers and a real impact on their audience as well. If you are in Boston this weekend or in New York in two weeks, I really hope you can make it out to the show. If you can't, definitely spread the word. Its so great to see fat activism in the context of performing arts. We're lucky to have such a top-notch group like Big Moves around and I'm very thankful for them. Here is the info about their show...
Big Moves proudly presents
LARD the musical ("like grease, but thicker")
October 18-20, 2007 - doors at 7:30, curtain at 8 p.m.
Cambridge Family YMCA Theater, 820 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
General: $15/adv., $20/door VIP: $20/adv., $25/door (if available)
Lily and Patty danced together, skated together, and invented 13 new burger toppings over the summer. They said they'd be friends through thick and thin. Then came senior year and everything changed...
Continuing in its award-winning tradition of producing size-diverse performers in super-size shows, Big Moves is proud to present the world premiere of LARD (like grease, but thicker). Set in the late 1950's and loosely based on a very familiar movie with another cooking substance as the name, LARD brings together upbeat dance moves, tuneful singing, and two best-friends-forever in a challenging, laugh-a-minute musical that will entertain audiences of all ages.
Director's talk before Thursday's preview! Mix-and-mingle opening-night reception!
Fantastic bake-sale table!
Thursday night is pay-what-you-can preview, cash at the door.
Friday night opening reception package: $25/adv. only
All tickets available online at http://www.bigmoves.org OR through your favorite Big Moves dancer!
(Brian: My favorite is Cristin, my girlfriend, so be sure to tell them she sent you if you can buy tickets)
This is the alternative musical theater event of the season, so be there!
"As bigger becomes more acceptable (look at the fashions available now for fat women) then people will continue to get fatter and fatter..."
"This ever-expanding national girth is a reflection of our over-tolerant attitude to fatness. It is a much more comfortable social experience to be fat in the UK or the US than it is in Europe. Call it body fascism if you like, but in Europe excessive weight gain, much like excessive drinking, is socially disapproved of.
In the UK, on the other hand, being fat is so common as to be acceptable, even expected. Indeed we live in the era of fat militancy, borrowed from the US, where clothes shops catering for teenagers are taken to task for not stocking previously unheard-of sizes upwards of extra large, and where the design of everything from toilet seats to bus aisles is rapidly being scaled up to cater for greatly enlarged dimensions."
The pre-portioned diet fad is obviously all the rage right now. The idea, of course, being that since fat people keep being fat that we must be too stupid to diet and need to pay Kraft Foods to diet for them. The mark-up is often over 100%, too. Dieters are eager, of course. After all, they ARE still fat so they obviously think they need help. Its never questioned whether the trying is really necessary or useful in the first place.
They've struck on this 100 calorie mark. Because it's scientifically justified? Nah, probably because it looks good with product branding. Nice round number, you know. So they've encouraged a massive fad of people living 100 calories at a time. There is something dispiriting about that. The thought of these modern day Prufrocks measuring their lives in pre-portioned snack packages seems sad to me. Making life and joy into a packaged experience to the whims of a big corporation. Count me as quite happy my life is more than 100 calories at a time, and I hope it is for you, as well.
Fat hate is actually a hobby of his as he's usually a right-wing pseudo-scientist who denies global warming, denies the AIDs epidemic, denies Iraq... well, you get the picture. Still, he's come back to it with regularity for about a decade now and he's back at it in the American Spectator where he accuses "fatophiles" (he means fat acceptance advocates) of preying on fat people. Its part of his long-term "Believe more or die" approach to promoting his band of fat hate. He's fallen back on this not at all vailed threat with Marilyn Wann, Paul Campos, Sandy Szwarc, you name it. In this article, though, he renews his efforts to fued with Campos and Szwarc as he accuses them of catering to "delusional" fat people. Evidently, we're a "lucrative" market which I'm sure is news to Campos and Szwarc.
He's especially belittling of Szwarc, but that's nothing new. He calls her a "nurse and cookbook author" which ignores her extensive journalism and nutritionist background, of course. It also doesn't address Mikey's own background as a photographer and lawyer. I mean, Sandy actually has a background in medicine. His long-standing obsession with labeling her as a recipe writer is dripping with sexism.
I'd like to refute Mikey's article, but in truth there is nothing to refute. He keeps asserting his rightness but never really backs it up. Campos calls the supposed benefit of weight loss surgery "very, very modest" and Fumento response is about as meaningful as "Na-uh". He states the statistics, but doesn't address the context that Campos was referring to when he conclude the benefit to be quite small. Sandy makes a point and al he does is laugh at it without offering any contradiction.
Overall, he's just proudly declaring the results of the WLS studies I mentioned here a few days ago and asserting that these two studies showing small differences are "overwhelming" proof of Mikey's eternal rightness. He barely even mentions any statistics and when he does he withholds any meaningful context. It was a response I noticed from others, but has yet to be as childishly advanced as with Mikey's efforts. A lot of anti-fat "experts" were crowing about how at long-last there was overwhelming proof that weight loss improves health. Which first gives away that there was never *any* proof before (trust me, not for lack of trying), and secondly overstates their point by declaring the debate over with two studies showing small differences at most. (And maybe not even that depending on what they corrected for; do not that Mikey himself mentions the anti-fat obsession with "correcting" for any evidence that doesn't support their view like the Flegal study). It reminds me of the kid who tries to declare a game over the moment he's winning. Except here they aren't even winning. They, at best, have proof of a very, very modest benefit which entirely doesn't square with the claims the anti-fat crowd have long made.
I'm sure others will have more patience than I in dealing with Fumento's latest barage and giving it the thrashing it deserves and inspiring a full-fledged Fumento hissy-fit. Prepare to be told that you'll die if you don't believe him, that you're a fool for disagreeing with such a big important person, and to be shamed for denying the enduring brilliance that evidently is Mikey Fumento.
This actually reminded me of the long history in the diet industry of co-opting fat acceptance. Whenever I get discouraged about the progress (or lack thereof) of fat acceptance, I just need to look at how aggressively the diet industry was tried to subver it. If they think we're this much of a threat, we must be doing something right, you know? Still, its frustrating to see the language and vocabulary of fat activists constantly redefined by those opposed to fat acceptance to suit their contrary needs.
Frankly, its made a lot of long-time activists very skeptical. Talking the talk isn't enough, because our harshest detractors keep stealing our copy points. Its profoundly frustrating to see all of the messages of fat acceptances perverted with the addition of "but not our diet" at the end of all of our messages.
"Diets don't work! That's why we're not a diet, but a whole new way of eating."
"Weight and food obsessions overwhelm your identity, but not with our handy diet aid."
"Fat is genetic. Your only option is to amputate your digestive organs."
"The thin ideal is unattainable for nearly everyone. Our weight loss plan encourages you to find attainable ideals to redefine what kind of a failure you are."
"Being fat isn't your fault. Its still horrible and unacceptable, though."
This places constant challenges on communicating about fat acceptance. That challenges for which there are no easy answers. The radical power of fat acceptance has become diluted by our language being misused like this, which in turn makes what statements remain undamaged all the more extremist to a casual observer even if the aren't remotely extreme. Our message is really quite sedate, but its been radicalized by is opposition. Mainstream fat acceptance is treated like extremism. Its something activists either embrace or resent, and I admit I'm in the resentful camp primarily because this redefinition has allowed a lot of diet promoters to now also subvert the term "size acceptance" and they try to position diet promotion as the moderate face of the movement. Its the ultimate subversion of the diet industry. While it may prove we are doing something right, I'm still not saying I'm happy with it.
We need to take back the language of fat acceptance. The fat that's not your fault? That's all your fat. And its okay, too. Diets don't work, even if you call them something else. Allowing big food companies to charge you to pre-package food into diet friendly portions isn't giving up food obsessions. Giving up food obsessions is giving up food obsessions. If you accept your body, you'll have already attained an ideal. Surgery, pills, dieting are not the only options for dealing with a genetic tendency towards fatness. Acceptance is always an option, always attainable
All the same, I actually do have a number of fat action figures. Most notably, a wide variety of wrestling figures of various shapes and sizes. These WWE action figures are what is known as "mass market" toys. Mass market toys frequently reuse parts between characters and generally have less detailing than specialty market toys or the high-end dolls mentioned at "The Rotund". With the wrestlers, two different characters can have the same exact body, for instance, with only a different head and paint decoration. Initially, they only drew upon a small handful of parts which predictably showcased an unrealistic male physique. Unrealistic, even, for some of the wrestlers they figures represented. But the same torsos were used again and again.
An interesting thing, though, sprung up with toy collectors. They clamored actively for more realistic bodies. These toys were representational, after all. There were real people behind the toys and collectors wanted them to more closely match. So the company started introducing torsos beyond "muscular" and "more muscular". First a barrel-chested torso (though which still featured overly defined muscles), but followed there by a quite fat torso originally designed for the 600 lb. wrestler "Yokozuna".
They seemed content, though, to use a torso designed for a 600 lb. man for anyone 300lbs an up thereafter, but again collectors demanded more. They didn't just want a catch-all "fat" torso. They wanted the parts to represent a wide variety of physiques. They wanted a smaller "fat" sculpt used for big but not superfat wrestlers. They wanted a shirt and tie for larger wrestlers. They even wanted torsos of a more average size without the exaggerated definition that marked so many of the wrestling figures. The company responding with all of this and its been very warmly received by the collecting community.
I don't kid myself into thinking these collectors were pro-fat in any meaningful way. Yet, they wanted the toys to accurately represented the people portrayed. An idealized image wasn't desired. Rather, the collectors kept asking for accuracy and honesty. I found that interesting in its own right, that so many people wanted these toys to be fat if that's what the person was. They wanted reality, not fantasy. Though hardly a victory for fat acceptance, I still think incidents like that tell us a lot about how big businesses underestimate pop culture consumers by thinking we want an idealized reality and not simply reality.
This was on display in the last couple of days when they made one post condemning me for not doing enough for fat acceptance. Then they turned around yesterday and mocked me for being fat and ugly. I can't say this enough, people. Don't let trolls get to you. They will say whatever they feel is necessary to hurt you. They'll test drive lots of different attacks to see which one works. See through it and understand that they are just sad, spiteful people whose lives are obviously very unfulfilling and probably quite pathetic. They earn our pity, not our
First you've got the genuine euphemisms. I don't mind a lot of this, though I get mileage may vary. The big issue is when they are used as substitutes because fat shouldn't be used. I don't mind rubenesque of zaftig on their own, but used in avoidance of "fat" troubles me. Even when used positively, if used a substitution it works to reaffirm the unacceptability of fatness.
See, I don't have a problem with fat. Not merely as a concept, but the word itself, too. At its heart, fat is really just an adjective. A description. Its neutral on its own. Negative connotations are introduced to the word rather than being inherent in it. Fat is just fat and its a word we have to reclaim. As long as "fat" is unspeakable, then fat people will be dehumanized and stigmatized. We need to make the word neutral again. We need to win it back from those who'd rather use the word as a club to beat us with than a word to describe us.
Worst of all, though, are the "polite" alternatives. These words are imagined to be non-judgmental but are anything but. Learning not to use these words should be Fat Acceptance 101. I'm talking, of course, about "overweight" and "obese".
Overweight is a no-brainer, really, except that the word has been so sanitized by its cultural dominance that the inherent hostility in the word has become background noise in our cultural fat hatred. Its there, but its become hard to notice. But like the magic clue revealed by red cellophane, there is an easy way to expose the word for what it is.
Over whose weight? I'm not over my own weight, after all. So what weight am I over? A standard I'm expected to live up to? A standard which I'm not defined by my failure to attain? "Overweight" defines us not by what we are, but by what we have failed to be. This simply cannot be tolerated in pursuit of fat acceptance and asking that question, "Over whose weight?" is important in driving the word out of our cultural vocabulary.
Obese is trickier because it has an air of authority behind it. Why its Latin. How can we argue with Latin? Obese is what we "officially" are. I'll get to the etymology of the word in a second, but don't think for a second that being the "scientific" word for our bodies is any reason we should accept the word. Obese medicalizes our bodies. It defines us as diseased. It has a powerfully dehumanizing effect. Consider Little People, for instance. As a community, they have rejected medicalized words to describe them. Even if it is the technical term, dwarfism won't get a warm reception. "Little People" on the other hand , emphasizes their humanity, their sameness with others. It doesn't compartmentalize their lives the way defining them by a medical condition. While "dwarf" may not be taken as much as an insult as, say, "midget", many little people see the benefit in looking past technical language to define them.
(For anyone who doesn't know, while the etymology of "dwarf" goes back to around the year 700, "midget" didn't originate until late in the 19th century and was coined to describe "publicly exhibited" little people. Essentially, its association is with freak shows. While I'm all about reclaiming fat, the phrase "fat lady" would garner a similar response given its close cultural association with circus side shows. "Midget" is also derived from "midge" which is a small fly which really reinforces the hostility of the word.)
A similar dynamic is found in the gay community where the technical term "homosexual" is often seen being used as a means of medicalizing their lifestyle with the technical, Latin word being used instead of the popular words "gay" or "lesbian". Again, we see a concern over the dehumanizing use of language. Like fat, "gay" is often used as an insult but that doesn't mean the word should be abandoned. Also, while "homosexual" may seem descriptive, albeit in Latin, its origin was an effort to define what was seen as a mental disorder. Just another reason to avoid medical or technical language when referring to people.
That does bring us to the issue of whether "obese" is even neutral or descriptive at its origin. While this is essentially true of "dwarf" or "homosexual", its not the case with "obese". The Latin root is the word for the past participle of "To Eat" and the prefix "ob" would mean "on account of". Obese defines someone as a glutton, essentially, and that is a negative connotation if ever there was one. Obese isn't simply a word made hostile by doctors attaching modifiers such as "morbid" or "malignant" to "obesity". The word is very much judgmental to its core and we need to look past it to define ourselves.
I like fat. While twisted by cultural use, its etymology is comparatively pure next to the alternatives. It comes from the old English word for "to cram" which isn't great, but that word also meant "to adorn". Yeah, its a rationalization, but one not available with "overweight" or "obese". My body is simply adorned, and that I'll take.