My post the other day generated some good comments that have made it clear to me that I should clarify myself more. I have duel problems when discussing fat acceptance in that even at 29, I've been talking about fat acceptance actively for over 15 years, with over 10 years online. I have a lot of personal memory that I bring to the discussion which I sometimes gloss over without realizing that others won't understand what I'm getting at. This is made worse by the fact that I tend to write in broad terms rather than use specific examples. This is by design. When something bothers me, I don't want to make it about that one instance bothering for me and I'm not interested in "calling out" specific individuals. I want to take the conversation about fat acceptance into something that does address broad ideas which transcends isolated offenses. And sometimes, I'm not interest in criticizing someone specifically. Calling someone out implies more anger than may be justified. Such as when I bemoaned fat acceptance blogs linking to diet blogs. It happens all the time and it troubles me. I'm not upset at the individuals who do that nor did I want anyone to feel like they needed to justify themselves. Not that this approach completely solved that, but it at least didn't imply the animosity that calling someone out specifically would do. So, take that as my mea culpa for my forays into the oblique without any promises that I won't keep it up.
The real confusion, though, came from my own little institutional memory clouding the issue. Kate Harding and my girlfriend both pointed out that I seemed to be coming down against people who are coming around to fat acceptance. This really wasn't my point. I was talking about the parade of individuals who actively what to remake fat acceptance in their image and shame and condemn anyone who has the audacity to believe in fat acceptance. Sometimes they organize, but often they pop up on their own. Functionally, they are critics of fat acceptance who want the movement's message to be silenced. They aren't on a different step on the journey to fat acceptance. They want to destroy it.
Now, this is something I've seen a lot of on fat-related forums and communities. These are people who want fat acceptance to be a movement of the lowest common denmonator. These aren't people who are exploring fat acceptance but still unsure. These are people who have considered what fat acceptance has to offer and their response is to work to silence the voices of those who promote it. When I'm angry and ranting, this is what I'm talking about. As I mentioned in the earlier comment thread, there is a difference between being halfway there and only going halfway. My concern is with the latter group who have reached their destination and have resolved themselves to attack, belittle, and discredit fat acceptance.
Body acceptance comes gradually for most. There is no magic bullet. I'd consider myself as advantaged as they come on this issue given that I believed in and advocated for fat acceptance before I was fat, but that didn't mean I just accepted the changes my body went through as I reached adulthood. I knew not to diet, but I didn't like my body. I really hated it at first. But I was able to change the way I saw myself and learn to apply what I believed in the abstract to my own specific experience.
I don't expect 100% self-acceptance, 100% of the time from anyone. I know its not something I can do myself, so how could I possibly expect it from someone else? But you can accept that you will have moments of doubt and self-hatred without accepting the self-hate. If you feel that you need to lose weight, you've accepted the self-hate. That's not body acceptance. Its not size acceptance. Its not fat acceptance. All of those terms are just different ways of expressing the same thing. I won't accept some nuanced redefinition that promotes one individual's self-hatred. I don't feel its right to accept anyone's body hatred. Some people want fat acceptance to make exceptions. They say they believe, they just want a dispensation to hate themselves. To think that their bodies are wrong and need to be changed. To think that their bodies can be changed. Fat acceptance cannot be in the practice of offering their own version of papal indulgences. For it to mean something, well, it needs to be something.
Fat acceptance needs to have its doors open to talk to people who aren't there yet, but we can't let those people redecorate while they are inside. I'm not pretending these are always easy distinctions to make. This is more of a perspective than a set of rules, but I still think its important to try to keep that perspective. At some point we all have to speak up for what fat acceptance is and stand up when others try to "tweak" fat acceptance to remove the acceptance bit. Fat acceptance cannot be all things to all people and that's a good thing. If people are going to be engage to continue past halfway, fat acceptance has to stand for something. Not everyone is going to be there yet, and that's fine. But I want them to come the whole way. I know the power of fat acceptance and how profoundly positive it can be in a person's life. I can't force acceptance on anyone, but you can't tell me I should just give up, either. I can't do that. I can't say that anyone's self-rejection is good. They make their choices, but I make mine. And I know that fat acceptance is worth fighting for, and its worth waiting for.
I know I'm not the most eloquent spokesperson. I'm a disorganized thinker and I suck at self-editing. I'm more passionate than I am persuasive. I get this. I get that I'm not the best person to reach out. I'm not here to pretend to do that. Don't mistake me, though. I know that we need to engage people who aren't all the way there. I don't hate those people and I have no animosity towards them. I believe in that because I want to see them go the whole way. But I know we can't do that by telling them that half-way is far enough. I'm not saying attack them or insult them or harass them. But don't let them think that self-hatred is okay. That a different kind of fat loathing is good enough. They have to know that there is more. They have to know that they can escape the self-loathing. They have to know that there is another way. Engage them. Please! Just don't let affirm half-way acceptance as a goal. Its a step, but we have to believe that everyone can take the next step. And the step after that. Its okay if they aren't there now, but fat acceptance needs to be there when they are ready. To be there, fat acceptance can't bend to become whatever anyone thinks it should be. It can't make qualifications or exceptions. It needs to mean something. I hope it still can.