The All-New Fat Hate Bingo 3

The All-New Fat Hate Bingo 3 is finally here!

So, back in 2007 in the early days of the "fat-o-sphere", fat bloggers were weathering seemingly endless fat shaming attacks from trolls and concern trolls alike. During a discussion at Shakesville, I made a subtle reference to the history in social justice movements of using "Bingo" cards to diffuse commonly repeated attacks. Kate Harding suggested actually making a Bingo card and 90 minutes later, there it was. Fat Hate Bingo 2 followed the next day and both remain among the most popular posts at Red No. 3. Each card catalogs many of the "brilliant" put-downs fat activists face online and in our lives when we try to advocate for the horribly radical concept that maybe its not the end of the world that we're fat.

Honestly, its something a lot of fat activists try to avoid because its emotionally draining to have to hear the same thing over and over and over again, always repeated by people who are enamored with their brilliance and courage to finally say this to a fat person. I usually avoid it, too, but last fall when I started doing the Maggie sequels, I came upon a whole host of new attacks that I'd see quickly repeated endlessly by all sorts of people who don't realize they are reading from a script. Thus, Fat Hate Bingo 3 was born.

I know fat people aren't supposed to have friends, but if you did have 2 friends, now all three of you can play against each other the next time the concept of fat shaming is introduced to a not so receptive audience. Actually, since we now have 75 Fat Hate Bingo squares, just as many as used in actual bingo, maybe we can all get in the act!

[Image Description: Header Text: “red3.blogspot.com presents Fat Hate BINGO 3. We really have heard it all before.” Below is a 5x5 Bingo Card with squares in alternating red and gray colors with text in each square.

Column 1: My tax dollars are paying for your fat lifestyle. | Shaming of Dieters is the real problem. | If you don’t like being bullied, just lose weight. | If that’s true, why are you so fat? | Fat people threaten our national security!

Column 2: You can’t control fat bigotry, but you can control your weight. | Diabetes! Hypertension! Heart Disease! | You are ugly. Do something about your health. | Fat acceptance shouldn’t mean accepting an unhealthy weight. | Somebody needs to start shaming fat people.

Column 3: Take responsibility for what you put in your mouth. | You can’t all have thyroid problems. | Its not a diet… | Thin privilege doesn’t exist because you can choose to be thin. | People shouldn’t have to look at you.

Column 4: What’s next? Cancer pride? | I can’t condone your self-destructive behavior. | Instead of promoting obesity, use your energy to lose weight. | Fat people are empirically unattractive. | We are becoming an obese nation!

Column 5: BMI may be flawed, but we have to do something. | Its not hate if you really are unhealthy and disgusting. | Your fat activism is killing people! | Since when is laziness like gender or race? | You can’t argue with facts.]


Anonymous said...

Hey there. I like this blog a lot.

I'm a fat man who is somewhere on the road to fat acceptance but maybe not all the way there yet. I have a question about a line of argument that the bingo brings up ("You can't all have ..."). It's probably somewhat out of bounds for this blog, but maybe you have a good response that might be helpful for me. I won't mind if you don't keep this comment, though.

Basically it's this: there definitely are more fat people than there used to be in the United States (since like 1980 or so). I say this in a totally value-neutral way, but of course the existence of more fat people is contributing to the fat hysteria that's going on in the mainstream media and broader culture. Many people's implied explanation for the increase in fat people is an epidemic of moral lassitude -- and that's clearly ridiculous. But it also seems unlikely that genetic causes of fatness could be solely to blame for such a sudden change. So that leaves acquired disease, the commercial food environment since 1980, and changes in social patterns / the way people live and eat (a.k.a. moral lassitude in the minds of fat-shamers).

For me it seems the most likely explanation has to do with the food industry, marketing, and more people being more isolated and therefor having different eating patterns. But my question is this: does that matter to fat acceptance? Does the reason matter at all? Maybe we'd like to say no, but it's hard to ignore -- witness the "born this way" vs. choice vs. it-doesn't-matter dialogue that's happening around LGBT acceptance (in the LGBT case, clearly it doesn't matter).

So what does fat acceptance activism have to say about the cause of the increase in fatness in the US? If the answer is "it just doesn't matter," wouldn't there still have to be an acknowledgement that (1) fatness is a hardship, even though it should not be and (2) some people might be better off if the cause of that hardship, probably related to corporate exploitation, was eliminated?

Brian said...

I reject the premise behind fat blaming. The idea that something must be blamed for the existence of fat people contributes to fat stigmatization. Also routinely ignore in the rush to make someone culpable for fatties is the role the diet industry plays in pushing weights up. Not only do diets fail the vast majority of time, but they result in weight gain in the vast majority of those failures. With a diet industry that is aggressively expanding its target customer base into smaller and smaller weights, there is a pretty obvious result of that. That's a far more compelling (and factually supported) explanation than conspiracy theories about evil corporations fattening us up or equally unfounded assertions that fat people are all personally stuffing themselves fat.

Fat people are an oppressed group, but I reject any suggestion that our bodies are a hardship and especially that our bodies are the thing to be fixed as opposed to the oppression. Your entire proposition ultimately reinforces fat hatred by reinforcing the idea that fat is a flawed state, a state of failure. That you try to shift blame is meaningless. You are still promoting a narrative which fixates on stigmatizing fat people and our lives. There is no justification for this beyond a reluctance to shift away from the basic cultural notion that fat is bad, and however that notion gets propped up will only serve to harm fat people. We need better and fat acceptance demands better.

Janet said...

It's an interesting question that was brought up. If mentioning anything that contributes to rapid fat gain is helping to oppress fat people, then doesn't that let a whole lot of people/companies off the hook for creating an unhealthy food environment, one of the consequences of which is - in some people - obesity. To dismiss critiques of very real problematic corporate behavior as 'conspiracy theories' is letting some major corporations off the hook.

Anonymous said...

Well I think the diet industry probably does qualify as corporate exploitation, if not a conspiracy. I guess you're right, though, minimizing fatness only makes sense if you think that fatness is bad. I wish I could achieve enlightenment but I haven't: I still would prefer to be thin, in the same way that I would prefer to be taller or better at math or whatever. So this might be a case of me projecting my own insecurities.

Brian said...

Janet: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was letting corporations "off the hook" if I didn't allow you to make things up about fat people are all their fault. I thought an anti-corporate agenda could best be pursued by bringing up actual things they've done. Not by exploiting fat hatred and endorsing fat stigmatization to prop up fictional notions of corporations rapidly fattening up people and subjecting us all to the horror of having to look at fat people.

There is no proof of these supposed corporate misdeeds. Its pure conjecture born out of prejudice. You have no right to throw fat people under the bus. If you can't make a case without exploiting fat hatred, you don't have a case. There are plenty of valid concerns about corporations. That some people don't want to look at fat people is not a valid concern.

Meowser said...

The diet industry is part of Big Food. They own the commercial diet companies, plus they manufacture "special" diet foods at huge markup. Not only that, they get to be the beneficiaries of millions of people being on a starve-binge-starve-binge cycle by making foods that are especially appealing to binge on when one is starving. Weight-loss fixation benefits them, it does not harm them in any way.

And you can't discount the fact that over the last 20-30 years, people have been dieting at younger and younger ages. I started at 11 or 12, around 1975, and not many other girls my age were dieting; when I was in fourth grade, almost no other girls were on diets. Today, even before the M. Obama stamp-out-fat-kids hype, at least HALF of fourth grade girls were already dieting, and almost 90 percent of seventh grade girls were dieting. And yet, people think the answer to all this is...more dieting. I don't get it.

Brian, this is fantastic. Take a bow!

Janet said...

Sure diet companies are part of the problem. But wow, just wow that a progressive movement is on message with far right libertarians. The growth in hyper-palatable foods, with food scientists deliberately engineering poor quality foods with hidden fats, sugars and starches to make them ultra-attractive; the fact that many people now live in food deserts, where their only options are these corn-based foods tricked up to look like something they're not; the fact that high quality foods have become the prerogative of the rich. That doesn't bother you? Take a look at those diet foods - they're made cheaply, of poor ingredients, by the same companies that are making a killing on selling poor foods to families. If you honestly think that the way that the food system is rigged is just conjecture, then... like I said, wow.

By the way, your conflation of a critique of corporate excess with fat hatred is all in your head.

KellyK said...

Janet, I think the real disagreement is where the harm lies, not about what corporations are doing. The fact that a poor person in a food desert is stuck living on the food they can buy at 7-11 is a problem for their health and quality of life **WHETHER THEY ARE FAT OR THIN.**

Also, personally, I'd rather have access to corn-based,artificially flavored, high-calorie food than no food. For people on a "do I want heat or groceries this week?" budget, actually getting enough calories to function is the first concern.

Brian said...

Janet, I know you can go most places and say really awful things about fat people and have folks just be so impressed with your insight, but this is not a place that acknowledges the privilege of fat hatred. If you want to abuse fat people to promote an agenda, you will find no comfort here. You are seeing real problems, but you are marrying them to fat prejudice. The price for increasing access to high quality food in lower income households is not consenting to fat bigotry. Those concerns are not owned by fat hatred. That you see them as intrinsically linked is an expression of your own prejudices. I get that you don't expect to be called out for abusing and exploiting fat people, but that's because your prejudices are privileged.

You have no proof that the food industry has made people fat. You just see fat people and assume that's a problem to solve. I'm not satisfied with people using my body as an illustration of corporations gone horribly wrong.

dee.calarco said...

I am interested in why people are fat and on why some keep getting heavier while others don't. Although I think that having a large body is value neutral, having one that continues to get larger and larger is problematic for most people.

The number one reason for weight gain that I have seen is dieting. In my experience, people who yoyo get heavier and heavier over the years, and I think it's a major and largely unacknowledged driver behind the average weight increasing. Other drivers: people from formerly food insecure ethic communities (who have a tendency to get fat) immigrating to wealthy western countries in large numbers. Baby boomers ageing and hitting their peak average weight...

There are more, but those are the ones that came to mind immediately.

sossajes said...

"You have no proof that the food industry has made people fat. You just see fat people and assume that's a problem to solve. I'm not satisfied with people using my body as an illustration of corporations gone horribly wrong."

i think that sums up the core of the issue. are there food deserts and nutritional inequities in the US? fuck yes.
does seeing fat bodies as The Problem solve this, or even help address this? fuck no.

Brian said...

I'm going to work on a post actually talking about this. Its ironic that I left out a Bingo square on this particular talking point when I drafted Fat Hate Bingo 3. I'd note, too, that a lot of people insist that fat people aren't the problem, just a "symptom". What they fail to see is that this is just a different way of calling us a problem.

Anonymous said...

So I've thought about this (I was first commenter) and I think I can intellectually accept Brian's argument that fat people are not a problem for which to assign blame. But in my own personal case I have a harder time. Am I a bad fat person for still wishing I had never been fat? You say it's not a hardship to be fat per se, but I'm sure that fatness (or the response to my fatness) has hurt my career, excluded me from social opportunities, and made people think I was stupid or lazy. Am I wrong for wishing I could have avoided that? If something made me fat, am I wrong for wishing it never happened to me? Maybe I'm failing to stand in solidarity with other fat people or something, but am I really required to be happy about being fat just to not be anti-fat?

JoannaDW said...

Wow, they're out in full force now, aren't they?

I love the square where people say that, since you can change your weight (theoretically), then you can't be oppressed. You can also change your religion, but I don't hear anyone suggesting that religious oppression isn't real because you can change religions. You can also lighten your skin or lie about your nationality to your neighbors. But we don't suggest that prejudice based on looks or national origina isn't real because its visibility isn't 100% inevitable.

Good job! Looking forward to your next post (or bingo).

Brian said...

I have no doubt that my size has hurt my career, impacted my social life, and caused others to view me negatively. I'm not happy about that. I just refuse to blame myself. You aren't "required" to do anything, Anonymous. If you looked past the one small pocket of people disagreeing with the mainstream, you'd actually see that being unhappy and fat is profoundly encouraged in our society. I'm not going to participate in that. If that is what you want to do, I have no means to stop you but every right to make the decision for myself to opt out of endorsing or affirming it. If you want me to give you permission to hate your body, you won't get it. You also don't need it, which you must know.

wriggles said...

To answer the first response from anon, end the categorisation of fat people as units of disease.

Even if you accept an authority mandated prognosis, that lends itself to being a risk factor, not a disease, similarly being working class is not a 'disesase' because of the difference in overall prognosis between that and being upper class.

Another thing that needs to stop is the assumption that something bad must be leading to the rise in weight, when it is clear that overall health has increased even in the last 30+ years.

I shouldn't have to tell anyone that environment, including things like economics acts on genes, changing the way/extent they realise themselves.

You could say there are more GLBT people now than 30 years ago, to give you an idea of what I'm getting at.

The eating disorder level obssession with food is a dead end those needing to indulge should stop hiding behind fat people or using us as a vehicle for it, we are bored, bored, BORED with you.

Food is clearly not the answer to changing weight, manipulating/altering the function of overall metabolism is.

And on that score the real problem is those charged with researching into this, are too often, a bunch of useless ideologues producing nothing use to anyone who wants or needs it.

Let's see food whinners stop being on board with that kind of anti intellectualism.

Big Liberty said...

Brian, I just want to say brav-fucking-o with your responses to Janet. I'm so impressed with your activism. You're a role model for me and hopefully lots of other fat activists.

Also ignored in the fat panic: increased prescriptions of psychiatric meds that have weight gain as a side-effect; BMI changes in 1998. Not that they matter in that there's no good reason to hate fat people and demand a reason for their existence as such. But for clarity's sake.

I routinely see the food desert argument and lots of concerned hand-wringing about how this is obviously what causes fatter people, without evidence. Not one study. NO studies have been done that show the reason people are 'getting fatter' is because they're eating more or X and less of Y. ALL the evidence points to:
* Diets
* Changing definitions
* A healthier, not sicker, population (cheaper food, medical technology, and psych meds have made us healthier)

The solutions I see proffered by most concerned commenters tend to suggest that more people should diet or diet 'better', we need to change the BMI definitions down or use some 'better' metric like waist-hip ratio to make sure we're hating on the 'right' fat people, we need to force people to buy more expensive food either through taxation or subsidy, people who gain weight on psych meds should try alternative treatments even if those treatments aren't as effective, and fat people should not have access to some of the edgiest medical treatments or should be forced to pay more for them than thinner people.

All of which will serve to make the population - you guessed it - a fuckload sicker.

So, concerned commenters of the food desert variety, I'm not sure if this is a privilege issue for you (you don't actually know any fat people, you're not fat yourself, or you recently dieted and lost weight and want to generalize your experience to everyone else throughout all time), or if some prof or book or article hooked you on both the existence and problem of the obesity epidemic then claimed the latter could and should be solved, but in this case please direct your good intentions elsewhere.

Think about what Brian is trying to tell you, don't just try to stick him in a box or insult people who believe in certain things (I'm an anarchist; I apportion blame according to actual evidence of wrongdoing, not because some institution has a socioeconomic structure that's not in keeping with my preference). And for all you want to solve the problem of my existence by telling people like me what to do, let me make some suggestions for how you could improve your arguments:
* Check your privilege
* Make tolerance, not hunting down and destroying deviant(ce), your goal
* And for fuck's sake, do your fucking research

Anonymous said...

Fat Hate Bingo 3!! Happy to see it and it's about time. There are some entries which seem very similar to me, and if you combined them, you might be able to slip in a couple more "choice" remarks. For example:
"Fat people are empirically unattractive." and
"People shouldn’t have to look at you." and
"You are ugly..." and
"...you really are disgusting"

I would contribute a couple of doozies I've heard over the years, but I'm reluctant to give ideas to people who would use the FHBs as cue cards.


Amber said...

@ Anonymous first commenter:
I'd argue that it's ok to wish those negative events/situations had never happened, but the important part is seeing that your fat body is not the problem, the Social Stigma that prompted the negativity is the problem. The cure for social stigma is not to remove the condition being stigmatized, it is to end the social stigma. Kind of like how racial prejudice was overcome, not by eliminating blacks, but by renouncing the racism.

As for the US getting fatter, there are a number of confluent factors I think are contributing: shift to "office work" (i.e. sedentary) as primary mode of employment, more women entering the workforce (into office work), improved food availability for all (fewer are literally starving or just scraping by), shift in overall diet (ex. margarine, HFCS, MSG, etc), increase in Dieting, aging of the population, and a few others including the improvement of healthcare and long term survival for formerly fatal conditions/diseases.

I also read an interesting article on the multi-generational effect of scarcity. What it boiled down to is that if your maternal grandmother experienced food scarcity, especially while pregnant with your mother, then the likelihood of your "scarcity gene" being switched on is greatly increased. In other words, our grandmothers went thru the deprivation in the Great Depression and the Wars, and our genes still haven't gotten over it. I wish I had saved the address for it.

Anonymous said...

Great work Brian! I will print off copies for my friends after the 20/20 episode about fat activism airs in NZ next week. Would love to get you back on the show to talk about Fat Hate Bingo!

Ruth said...

I think the main reason people are fatter nowadays is because they have enough food, not "too much". There have always been fat people because there have always been people with a propensity to fatness. But if you don't eat enough, or don't eat at all, you won't be as fat as your genes want you to be. I think it's great that there are more fat people now, because it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

Thanks for the new bingo card! It's funny how repetitive these criticisms are, and how convinced each critic is that they are telling us something we haven't already heard.

Brian said...

Apologies to Big Liberty. Your post got stuck in my spam filter which I didn't really check regularly because this has never happened before. Sorry about that.

Big Liberty said...

Hi Brian,

No worries figured as much, and just forgot about it, I probably should have emailed you. Too busy these days. And wow, was I angry in that comment! Just tired of being 'concerned to death' by people who want to tell me how to look and how to live but can't take five minutes to reflect on what it is they're actually saying. o_o

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