So, let me tell you a story. A couple days ago, I was checking my blog's stats and noticed someone had come to my blog from Feministe. Curious about the context, I clicked through to the post and discovered a minor fat hate free-for-all over New York's plan to limit the sizes of sodas because... um, fat people. Disappointingly, Jill Filipovic comes out pro-STOP THE FATNESS and the commenters mostly follow her lead, feeling unburdened with the need to respect fat people and giddy at the opportunity to concern troll fatties to their hearts content. I was not surprised to find that the link there was to Fat Hate Bingo as the comment thread was pretty much covering the Bingo cards in the rush to hand-wring over fatness. Its just the sort of discussion progressives tend to have when showing that fat stigma is non-partisan with a lot of outrage at the suggestion they are disrespecting fat people, only outdone by the actual disrespecting of fat people. Sadly, its nothing I haven't seen before.
In scanning the comments, one thing jumped out at me. One commenter had praised New York's fat shaming, saying "I’m glad to see a move against an agent of obesity." The continued on with some boiler-plate liberal fat hate about consumeristic culture of over-consumption, blah, blah, blah, but that phrase struck me as kind of funny. Soda is an "agent of obesity"? Fat people have agents now? Out servicing our agenda? Obviously, this was a person who prefers their fat shaming with a big dose of dehumanization, regarding "obesity" only as some nebulous concept and forgetting about the actual fat people that exist that they are trashing, but I couldn't help giggling at the concept of being an "agent of obesity". Like a spy organization? We have secret agents in service of OBESITY.
And off I went. I went over to Twitter and made a joke about the remark. Then created a hashtag. Then saw a bunch of other people joining in the fun, imagining our secret agent code names. Mine is Nick Fatty, Agent of O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. I even came up with acronym for that! Operatives Built with Exceptional Size Imperiling Thinness' Yoke. And from there I expanded to Tumblr and created my secret agent portrait and even an official seal for O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. (Which I've now typed enough times to wish I wasn't amused by the periods denoting the acronym). And eventually portraits of a whole lot of other O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. agents having fun with this as well. Heck, there are even t-shirts!
It occurs to me that this all might seem rather strange. The phrase "agent of obesity" was used to scare us, to stigmatize our bodies. To make us something other. And here we all are having a jolly time coming up with silly fat jokes and pun as our nick names. (The Incredible Bulk, Fatness Neverlean, Emma Frosting, Feastmaster) We came with other silly acronyms (FAT COW is Field Agent Training in Championing Obese Women, FAT PIG is Field Agent Training in Promoting Immense Gents), one of the Agent portraits features a fat superhero shooting laser donuts from her hand, I suggested an army of fatties in CPAP masks called our Sleeper Agents. How could we have so much fun with fat hate?
Well, what else are we to do with fat hate by belittle and diffuse it? And humor is a great way of sucking the venom out of hate. I'm not saying we always have to respond to fat stigma with humor, of course. Gosh knows I'm well known for my righteous indignation, but that doesn't mean humor can't be in our toolbox as well. Humor is used to dismantle the foundations of hate and shame built up to pen us in. We laugh at it. We scoff at the hate. Why should we take you seriously when you are fretting over an "agent of obesity"? Why shouldn't we regard that with all the respect it deserves? None. In the end, it feels silly to even say this was started by something at Feministe because we are so past that one bitter attack. Its about mocking the self-righteousness of fat stigma with goofy silliness. They demand to have our bodies acknowledged as a grave threat to all of civilization. We respond by imagining a network of super spies with silly puns for codenames. Seems like an appropriate response to me.
Humor's not just a tool to fight oppression. Its also a tool to simply cope with it. When we use humor to mock fat hate, we aren't belittling the problems of fat stigmatization, we are trying to find ways of dealing with it. When we create our own mocking language around fatness, we make it that much harder to hurt us when someone comes along trying to use humor to put us in our place. It means we already know our damn place and know we want nothing of it.
Fat Heffalump has already covered this with a lot more eloquence than I've mustered. I know it sounds like I'm being dour and serious about humor, but I guess in a way I am and that's okay. Mostly, though, I'm just having fun and amusing myself and that's great, too.
So join the revolution and sign up with O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. today. They say they want a war on obesity? Well, O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. is fighting back!
(UPDATE: I've removed the Tumblr and Twitter links as I've taken them all down. I'm not comfortable exercising the role I had to with this project and would rather take it down than upset or offend anyone. I'm sorry.)