Have I said anything about "newbies"? Or, am I just being lumped in with someone else's impatience with "newbies" because its convenient. Because in spite of publicly disagreeing with someone, I didn't sufficiently condemn them to escape being blamed for whatever they do. Seems to be a recurring issue, lately, and is pretty much the crux of my disillusionment right now. I was taking things I didn't like in stride, but smearing me and someone else for something we didn't remotely do simply because we didn't condemn someone who did in the right way is WHY I feel there is a hostile environment against fat activists right now. Doing more of it isn't exactly disproving my point.
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.