Well, now that the rant is out of the way, I can be a little more positive. Actually, in truth, the positivity and the ranting are very much connected. While noting that no fat activist has the luxury of surround themselves only with people who believe in fat acceptance, I actually had a bit of a taste of what it would be like if we could and gosh was it nice.
Okay, so many not fat acceptance specifically, but at least a group of people who oppose fat negativity. I don't know enough of the politics in the crowd to say with certainty anything more, though I gather some are hard core pro-fat acceptance, others are more "soft-core", others aren't at the point where they are thinking about politics but do know that they are sick of being treated like second class citizens, and others probably "support" fat acceptance as long as its not too "extreme". Nevertheless, fat negativity was unwelcome and that was pretty cool.
So whats all my fuss over? A fundraiser for Big Moves that involved, well, floating fatties. The "Float-a-thon" involved 5 volunteers (including my girlfriend) floating unassisted in a pool for 3 hours with sponsors pledging money by the minute, hour, or event. Let me just say that for most of the floaters, this was definitely a lot of work. They got breaks each hour to use the bathroom, but while fat may float, it takes more than a little effort to stay afloat for 3 hours. They absolutely earned their pledges and then some.
I wasn't floating, but I did enjoy the pool along with a number of other sponsors and supporters. Its funny. I can't swim. Didn't even go into the deep end except desperately gripping the side to go hand my girlfriend a soda while she was floating. All the same, I love going into the water and just playing. So, I was inclined to have a good time. But really the greatest thing about it was just being around other fat people or fat friendly people who saw no reason to be ashamed about their bodies. Now, like I suggested, I didn't take a survey so I don't know precisely what every person felt but I imagine it was actually quite a spectrum. Still, I'd like to think that events like this can have a positive influence on all ends of that spectrum, leading people towards a fat and happy place. That sort of environment is the kind of thing "normal" people take for granted. They don't think about it. Yet, its very much part of what fat people are denied.
Social settings clearly cannot overwhelm the fat acceptance movement and I think there is cause for concern that this has already happened. That fat communities fufill the social needs, but without any engagement about fat politics. That's a problem. I mean, diet clubs can provide a sense of "community" to fat people, but one which is engaged with promoting fat negativity. I'm concerned that fat socializing has often come to be hostile towards fat politics in the name of being "inclusive". You can't be fat and political because that might be off-putting to people who don't accept their bodies. Yet, such restrictions are never placed on those individuals so in the name of neutrality, the scales are tipped towards the status quo. Like I keep ranting, this is just privileging the privileged. So, I get why a lot of fat and political people tend to feel pretty negative towards notions of fat socializing. All the same, this was a useful reminder of how positive and affirming such social engagement can be. The key is finding ways to then engage people to take the next steps. Again, though, we need to have the freedom to engage, to advocate, to make our case without constant protestations in support of the opposing view. If we can find the right balance, though, we should never underestimate the value of community and socializing. It may not have been a tool for social change, but that doesn't mean it can't be.