After writing my infamous Dialogue, I starting thinking about the profound challenges fat acceptance faces in communicating its message. I gather some were eager to dismiss the dialogue as a straw-man attack, but as those who it resonated with can certainly attest, its actually pretty frighteningly real. This is the way FA is confronted time and again by hostile outsiders. And given the social marginalization of fat activism, there are a LOT of hostile outsiders, even among communities that really should be strong allies of fat acceptance. I was very tapped out on these fights a LONG time ago so I generally focus on in-the-community rebel-rousing, but seeing the reactions to the Savage reminded me of how daunting a task we are facing. As a movement, we need to speak outside ourselves, but what can we say to voices who treat us with such disdain or to the voices who may not do that, but still demand we treat disdainful voices with respect and deference. It often seems like a Catch-22. We can't talk to these people, but we also have to talk to them.
I recognized, though, that this actually relates to a post I made a couple months ago about how Fat Acceptance needs to foster a new conversation about health. The Rotund made a similar point more succinctly but noting that we want a new paradigm, not a shift in the existing one. We cannot have a productive discussion about the issues facing fat people within the current system, because it is a system which predetermines our failure. It is a system constructed with rules which presume us to not only be wrong to be without any valid recourse to suggest otherwise. It is a system built from the ground up in service of fat hate trolling. When we see a troll scolding us, that is the inevitable result of a refusal to process the fact that we are not playing by the rules they want us to play by. We are not engaging in the conversation they are insisting upon and in many ways that just does not compute.
In my post about the new conversation we are trying to have, I tried to see a way through to engaging with people who cannot understand what we are talking about. This is why I'm not against discussing the so-called "good fatties" on a basic level. Because while we fret that this is just shifting paradigms, we need to realize that these are paradigms not designed for movement. The foundations of fat stigmatization are not earthquake proof. They will not bend and sway with new information. There is no room for it. "Good fatties" are a contradiction in terms. We point out inconvenient realities not to plead for a shift in fat stigmatization to allow dispensations for fat people who prove worthy. We do it to show that the paradigm is a lie.
The thing is, this is a very different conversation than what we have when we talk about what will take the place of the systems used to stigmatize fat persons. Refuting the current rules is necessary, but they have no baring on what takes its place. We refute not as an example of the new conversation, but as a response to the old conversation. Refutation is not an end, but rather a means of engaging a paradigm that has no place for our voices. This is a system where the needs and concerns of fat people are only talked about by those who feel fat people must not be and that we must achieve this by any means necessary. A system where the official debate often is between those who feel fat people should have healthy organs amputated, and those who feel fat people should simply have healthy organs strangled permanently. There is no place of us in this debate. As it exists, we have no seat at the table. As it exists, we cannot engage with it. As it exists, our only option is silence and that cannot stand.
What I realized today is that much of the trolling we see is actually an informative example. This is how a paradigm of fat stigmatization processes our nascent conversation. With a lot more aggravation and very little satisfactioning. In its own odd way, its why we need to keep building a new conversation among ourselves while we try to break down the systems outside of ourselves. The cognitive dissonance fat hate trolls experience when trying to process what we are talking emphasizes the need for a two pronged approach. The need to refute their terms in the hopes of finding an opening so we can create the new conversation and one day the action needed to better the lives of all people, fat and thin. That some people don't get it really isn't a problem. Ultimately, that's why we are doing what we are doing. Because within a culture of fat stigmatization, you shouldn't get what we are saying. When we eschew binary constructions of fat vs. thin, people shouldn't know how to respond to us. Because this isn't about those who think fat=bad. Its about getting to a place where no one feels fat is bad. Which isn't a place where everyone feels fat is good. Its a place past that. Where fat just is.