As the debate over Fat Acceptance continues to roil at Feministe and less Sanity Watchers friendly destinations, I've been really troubled by what strikes me as concern trolling from a lot of quarters about how fat acceptance is too intolerant of dieters. There is always an example of some dieter who was attacked by fat acceptance. I've blogged about this form of self-made martyrdom in the past and its distressing to be reminded of how they are using the privileges of the status quo to make an absurd point and being taken seriously. What they are out to do is push the buttons of people unsure of what to think about fat acceptance. They craft a false "backlash" narrative to fits into people's expectations of fat activists so few question it. Of course we're attacking dieters. I mean, we aren't celebrating them, right? So we must be meanly attacking people for just discovering that they shouldn't be fat. The credulous never stop to realize that this backlash is already being described from the moment the diet martyr speaks out on the matter. That when criticism does come, its for the attacks the dieter makes on fat acceptance, not for their personal choice.
I think people are free to make common-cause with Fat Acceptance on the issues they agree with while reserving the right to disagree on other issues, but over the years the people who have this split view on fat acceptance have often spent far more time attacking FA over what they don't agree with than allying with it on what they do. I feel like many just give lip service to opposing fat discrimination while their only expressed interest is in demanding Fat Activists celebrate dieting. Its like they want to propose to agree to disagree but then only care about the disagreement. I've often seen this as proposing Fat Acceptance become a movement of the lowest common denominator. Anything too challenging shouldn't be expressed because it will upset the sensibilities of those who disagree with us.
Isn't that what we want, though? I'm not saying tone isn't a valid concern, but at the end of the day, challenging the status quo has to be a core part of our purpose. I'm reminded of gay activists who pressed on issues of gay marriage while many people would express "concern" that this wasn't prudent and they should limit their advocacy to smaller goals. I was one of those people 15 years ago. Today, I feel I was utterly wrong and am extremely grateful that the gay rights movement didn't listen to those voices. That instead, they challenged people to think differently.
If FA abandoned its stance on dieting, it would no doubt win many converts but if we aren't challenging them to go further what progress can we win? I think the reason FA focuses so much on personal acceptance over political acceptance is that one must come before the other. By the time the gay rights movement was focusing confronting social and legal boundaries, there was already a significant threshold of personal acceptance within that community. Especially among those politically motivated. I'm just not at all convinced that fat acceptance can get to that place without advocating for acceptance on the individual level. Its nice to say in theory that discrimination is wrong no matter what and I certainly agree, but we aren't the architects of the prejudice against us. On some level, we must confront the internal justification of the stigmatization of fat people. I'm happy to find common cause with groups that think that anti-discrimination efforts need not be joined with self-acceptance and even those who outright oppose self-acceptance. I still think it is important, though, for the common cause not to be the only cause. I don't expect the common causers to agree with me, but I don't think its wrong to expect them to respect that I will disagree. Otherwise, I have to question if they seeking common cause or just trying to be reductive towards my beliefs.
The idea that fat activists are marginalizing anyone is a tough for more to respond to because it strikes me as a bizarre inversion of the power structure in our society. I think its a reminder of how far we still have to go but also of how important it is to maintain our struggle. We may be powerless, yet others still feel the need to fear us. In a way, I almost find that encouraging. No matter how stigmatized and marginalized we are, the status quo remains ill at ease with us. We'd be doing something wrong if the status quo didn't find reason to keep pushing back against us. We just have to keep pushing right back against them.