12.12.2010

What Fat Acceptance actually threatens

So, in my last post I was grousing about the straw fattie attacks we so often see. These people accuse fat activists of threatening dieter's rights. We threaten body autonomy. We threaten the health of fat people. We threaten our national security. We seem to threaten a lot for a loose assemblage of unfunded political activists. Of course, none of these charges are remotely true and we should recognize them as such. But we should remember why we are subject to these accusations. Because we actually are threatening something many people hold very dear. Privilege.

What are really fighting and really threatening is thin privilege. Diet privilege. And that's what scares people. In my last post I pointed out how other marginalized groups face the same attacks of threatening their oppresses. The same dynamic is at work their. Gay marriage doesn't remotely threaten straight marriage but it sure threatens straight privilege. Feminism doesn't really imperil men, but male privilege is absolutely at risk.

All of these fights are about disadvantaging the dominant group but only in relation to their unearned advantages through cultural privilege. If women get a fair shake in the workforce, that is a loss for men in the workforce because right now men benefit from the unfairness. As FA grows, it does endanger the privileged position of the dieting culture.

Many people have placed a great deal of their self-worth on the privilege of dieting culture, though, so they take it personally when we attack the culture. That is what fuels the straw fattie arguments that we are trying to hurt people by presenting an alternative to fat hatred. That is what internally justifies the wild accusations. These people are consciously lying. They don't think they are inventing attacks. They sincerely believe them because they take things we say even about our own lives as a slight against them. But they are still mistaken and we cannot allow this to dissuade us from speaking truth to power.

I've said this before, but on some level FA needs to be about making dieters uncomfortable. Not with personal attacks, but by upsetting the privileged position of fat oppression. We need to present and advocate for alternatives, and those deeply embedded in the culture that harms fat people are going to be upset by this but we need to keep pushing. Marginalization doesn't reverse because you accommodate those who want you marginalized. Fat acceptance is a threat. Its a threat to fat stigmatization. Its a threat to diet culture. Its a threat to those who profit off destroying our lives. This is a feature, not a bug.

11 comments:

silentbeep said...

"They sincerely believe them because they take things we say even about our own lives as a slight against them."

This happens a lot and I don't know why I'm still surprised by this. Not in an offended way, but in a truly baffling way. It confuses me. This not only happens with dieting,but with a myriad of other topics like health, to HAES or not to HAES, etc, etc. Most of our blogs are often memoir-style and yet, I notice some treat them as if they are not.

rhondaroo said...

You are right. I need to stop with the stuff about the fact that fatter people are just as healthy as thin people, (or more so). That is not the point. Fat stigmatization needs to stop. There is no excuse for it. Everyone of every size deserves to be treated with respect.

Brian said...

That the health risks of fatness are overstated is worth talking about. That its not a reason to deny fat people treatment for their health concerns is worth talking about. Health is a fat issue but we need to change the conversation about it, even if those who feel threatened will accuse us of being apologists. They like the conversation that's happening right now because it only has one perspective. That fat people are irredeemable and the only treatment offered must be fat hatred. They will brand our resistance as something it isn't, but we still need to say it.

silentbeep said...

I think anyone that wants to speak to the truth of their health experience as a fat person, is a good thing, not a bad thing. This includes pointing out that yes, health risks of fatness are overstated, and that their are plenty of real-life examples of people on the 'sphere that illustrate that.

For example: this can include people that want to talk about how their blood work is fine and they like to exercise. However, we also need to include different stories as well: this can also include people whose blood work is not fine, and who have mobility issues. Because you know what? It's all true. The fact is fat people are people, and just like people, we are varied, multi-dimensional, and you can't tell our life story just by looking at us, let alone our medical charts. People get sick and that includes fat people. The issue here, for me at least, is adding nuance and variation to the health narrative of fat people. Not all of us are at death's door, and not all of us are ready for a marathon.

The point being, there is health variance when it comes to fatness, and that variance is all along the spectrum of what it means to be "healthy." Additionally, where ever we are at with our health, we deserve respect and care as human beings, no matter what state our body is in.

Brian said...

The point of health variance is the essential point. Its not about being "good" fatties or "bad" fatties. The conventional narrative about fat people offers no variance. There is one outcome and on treatment. But that treatment doesn't work and the outcome is far from universal.

The current system is failing all fat people, though. There aren't fat people its appropriate to stigmatize because of their health concerns. A fat person with health needs isn't served by diet culture and that's what we need to change. We need real treatments, not lectures to do something that fails nearly all of the time and which isn't shown to be helpful even when it works. People want to distort our discussion so they can dismiss it, but we need to talk about the health of fat people. We just don't need to do so in the narrow boundaries we are told its okay to do that. Boundaries which assume fat people must be unhealthy and that weight loss is not only a useful treatment but the only treatment. None of that is true. That's not saying all fat people are paragons of health. Its saying we're human and deserve respect as we are instead of constantly having our health treated through a prism of what we aren't.

silentbeep said...

Your above comment Brian? Co-sign. Exactly.

Notblueatall said...

Nothing to add to this, just Woo!

Kristen said...

Eloquent and powerful. Thank you for your voice.

wriggles said...

As FA grows, it does endanger the privileged position of the dieting culture.

Yeah, as they insisted on building on the backs of our stigmatization, using our destruction as their diet aid.

I say to dieters, if what you are doing is so positive, do it positively without any fat hating, but by loving wanting to be thin.

Rarely can they do it because to endure self abuse they must burn their bridges proving that there is nothing wrong with being fat unless you decide to make it so (or are conned into that).

Sleepydumpling said...

Yes, I too have nothing to add, I just want to pop in with my "Wooo!" (I now hear Marianne Kirby's voice in my head whenever I see a "Wooo!")

PJ said...

Great article. I had never thought about it in this way before.

Health and obesity have become so enmeshed with each other in a "diet" culture that we have lost the "health" culture altogether. You might say that the health focus actually got co-opted by the diet focus as an overlapping but also competing intent. I hadn't thought about this till just now but it's true.

The fact that modern health advice literally contradicts good research, is based mostly on bad science funded by pharma/food corps to be press releases (way cheaper and more pervasive than advertising and the air of authority), and basically has a list of suggestions (e.g. gluten grains, vegetable oils) destined to not only increase fat (and hunger/eating) but disease -- just makes it so much worse.

I once went to the doc with 2 jobs, 1 toddler, for 'unusual exhaustion and overwhelming need to sleep and falling asleep', and he tried to prescribe me prozac. I had sleep apnea. I went to a doc to have my thyroid checked and he said there was no point, because obese-enlarged heart would cause similar symptoms anyway. I know a lot of people who haven't been allowed to have surgery pending weight loss that either never happens or returns. I can't go to a doc without the nurses assuming, in conversation (even when corrected) that I intend to have bypass surgery (WTF?).

I spent 5 years diligently eating dominantly toward 'diet' more than health, only to conclude at the end that after all that (and I was very successful if 170# counts, but I had more like 300 to lose). Repeatedly. Alas.) it's pointless. Science doesn't know why but research makes clear it's true. Losing weight is difficult but some kinds of eating make it a lot easier. But as Dr. Sharma blogged on recently (article in NEJM) there is no known solution to avoid weight regain. It is biochemistry and the body drives it, period. You can't out-will evolution forever.

There was an article I just hated by someone who'd lost weight and was essentially now the judge and jury on all fat people, that I blogged about (in 'fat politics' section of my blog, 'The Ex-Dieter Complex'). I said that fat people were literally developing a Stockholm Syndrome response to the culture-wide pervasive abuse, so then it's as much work to convince fat people they're ok as it is to convince anybody else.

PJ

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