Exclusion by "inclusion"

Guess I'm not letting this go, but I'm just annoyed when I see a position misrepresented to make it easier to dismiss. So, just to be very very clear...

Accusing someone of wishing harm on people because they didn't disagree enough with someone you don't like isn't fair. Its bullying and intimidation. You may not want to confront that reality, but people who did aren't "overreacting".

Misrepresenting someone's position is lying. Its not expressing an opinion. You can disagree with someone who believes in fat acceptance, but when you accuse them of not caring about the health of fat people because they don't think they way you do, you're lying. Don't expect to be respected for misrepresenting someone.

Suggesting that fat acceptance is all about gluttony, stuffing one face, gorging on food, etc. isn't disagreement. Its trolling and it deserves to be called as such.

Saying that someone is "retarded" for, well, any reason isn't reasonable discourse. Saying it about people who believe a fat-acceptance position is most decidedly anti-FA trolling. Its not astute. Its not moderate. Its not talking sense. Its hateful. Praising the person doesn't make you inclusive. Condemning people for being insulted and knowing it doesn't make you inclusive.

It makes you exclusionary, and the people being excluded are the ones who actually believe in fat acceptance. Its telling them that they aren't safe. Its telling them that the rules of discussion will allow hate directed at them, but no proportionate response will be tolerated. That recognizing this behavior as unacceptable will get you labeled intolerant or extremist. For all the hand-wringing about perceiving exclusion in disagreement, this behavior creates a very hostile environment that drives people out. No amount of denial, no amount of insistence that we don't know we are talking about will change that. is going to make it right or make

Maybe worst of all, it won't work. You can drive out anyone you like for believing in fat acceptance too much. You can drive out everyone whose commitment gets them deemed inconvenient. You can drive out everyone who critics whine about being insufficiently nice and capitulant to their attacks on fat acceptance. But it won't be enough. As moderate and "inclusive" as you try to be, in the end you'll be labeled as out-of-touch extremists. No matter how many people you identify as "the problem" and make unwelcome, demands will keep being made for more people to be offered up. The attacks will lose all pretense of respectability and veer into increasingly vitriolic and outrageous slander. The "respectable" naysayers will be joined by more and more overt hate-mongers and you'll find that they respectable naysayers will find little to complain about them. They'll run out of distractions and you'll be targeted. You'll be accused of murder, profiteering, and brainwashing. People will call on you to be thrown in jail. They'll call for your deaths. There will never be enough people to throw under the bus to stop it from bearing down on you.

People who are passionate and committed to fat acceptance aren't a liability. Playing "nice" with people who hate us and what we believe in isn't a virtue.


Addendum, of sorts

You cannot change minds without asking people to change them.

You cannot make progress by allowing critics to define the acceptability of your position.

You cannot challenge the status quo without defending your positions.

People will attack fat acceptance. Playing nice and coddling them won't get us anywhere. When people insult us, we cannot praise their sentiment. We must challenge their insult. When people attack us, we cannot affirm their right to disagree. We affirm our right to our beliefs. If we don't challenge people, they will never think to stop insulting us. They will never think to stop attacking us.

Defining gross insults as moderation doesn't serve our convictions. It betrays them. It shifts the playing field in favor of fat hatred and gives people no reason to consider our cause. Opposition to fat liberation is the status quo. It is a status quo so overwhelming and monolithic that it will be difficult to make any gains against. We can make gains, though. We cannot make gains by playing by the rules set out by the status quo. We cannot make gains by wallowing in concern for how the status quo will feel if we disagree with it. We disagree. We challenge. We stand for something.

It is not polite to thank someone for insulting you. It is not polite to thank someone for disagreeing with you. We don't need to ask permission to disagree with someone. We don't need to ask permission not to be insulted. We demand it.

Fat acceptance means something, and that's a good thing. Not everyone will like what it means, but we owe them nothing. When they malign us as gluttons or idiots, we do not need to accept this is reasoned disagreement. When someone reasonably disagrees with us, we don't need to agree to disagree. We can just disagree and we can say so.

We will be misrepresented in speaking out for fat acceptance. By attackers and "allies" alike. We don't need to play nice when our views are misrepresented. We don't need to play nice when subjected to unfair accusations, implications, and insinuations. We don't need to. We shouldn't. We can't.

Insults should make us angry. Not just that an insult is politically incorrect, but that the insult was made at all. Misrepresentations should make us angry. We should never have to respond to someone else's unfair characterization of our position.

People will attack fat acceptance. Other people will insist you're making it up. Resist the demands for concessions. Resist the demand to play by their rules. Resist the demand to play "nice" with those who disrespect you.


A Manifesto, of sorts

I don't oppose weight loss to be mean to dieters.

I don't oppose weight loss to be incompassionate to dieters.

I don't oppose weight loss because I ignore the health concerns of fat people.

I don't oppose weight loss because I'm stupid.

I oppose weight loss because it doesn't work. No amount of wishing, hoping, wanting, or needing will change the crap shoot that is weight loss attempts. Fat people deserve better than failed options. We deserve better than the same old answers. We deserve better than to be told our lives aren't worth living. We deserve better. That is what fat acceptance is about. Its about demanding better for the lives of fat people and honoring the useless deaths of so many anonymous fat people every year.

Fat acceptance is not about drawing lines around the unacceptably fat and living them behind. Fat acceptance is not about telling people that their health problems will go away if they lose weight. Fat acceptance is not about asserting the rightness of weight loss.

No one is obligated to agree with fat acceptance, and in case some have failed to notice, most of the world doesn't. But we're not obligated to agree with them. We're not obligated to affirm their choice to disagree. They have a right to make their decision, and we ours.

If you think sticking to our decision lacks "compassion", that's your problem because its not true. If you think sticking to our decision makes us mean, that's your problem because its not true. It just means we are sticking to our decision.

For all of the times fat acceptance communities have been beseiged by weight loss promoters, I've never wanted to turn around and confront dieters in their own space. It isn't right and it doesn't accomplish anything. And I've told people who did do that what I thought of their actions. We solve nothing by attacking individuals who want to lose weight.

But we also solve nothing if we fall prey to a false notion of politeness that requires us to affirm other people's choices. Those choices are theirs to make, not ours. They don't require our approval any more than we require theirs. Yet, it is often offered. That's not compassion. That's not laudable. If we don't believe a course of action is right, we have no reason to affirm it and no need. We shouldn't attack someone for choosing differently. We shouldn't harass them. Last I checked, very few fat activists would ever so much as think of doing that. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed into offering affirmations because we fear it would be impolite not to to do so. We cannot throw our hands up in their air and say "who are we to judge?" We aren't judging by having our own opinions. If it is taken as such, that's the fault of that person, not us. We cannot subjugate ourselves to a one-sided notion of niceness. If someone wants to try to lose weight, we recognize its not a choice we have control over, but also reaffirm our own convicitions.

Fat acceptance is not just for the fat accepting. To withhold fat acceptance from people because they don't want it would be folly. It would enshrine a perminant stalemate with fat acceptance at an enormous disadvantage. A person wanting to lose weight isn't something we can change, but it must not be something we accept. It isn't right. We do not blame the person who wants to lose weight, even if they want to see our actions as such. We blame our culture and we blame those who promote that culture. Some people will be offended by that. They'll take it personally. We need to accept that and we need to understand that their response isn't fair. It isn't fair to us or to our beliefs and we need to remember that.

Fat acceptance is not for the acceptably fat. It is not for the acceptably healthy. It is for every fat person. At the same time, fat acceptance cannot be what every fat person wants it to be. It cannot be a weight loss support group. It cannot cloud the world in grey and lose its purpose. Fat acceptance is and will always be something a lot of people will find threatening and intolerable and wrong.


We need to threaten a culture which values a dead fat person over a live one. We shouldn't be tolerated by a system which dehumanizes us. If fat hatred is our cultural right, we damn sure want to be wrong.

I'm angry about the way fat people are treated. About the defeatist options they are given. I'm angry that criticizing this system must always be on their terms, under their rules. I'm angry.

I should be. You should be, too.

You should be angry at the emotional manipulation used to tell us to keep quiet. You should be angry about the anonymous deaths of so many. You should be angry about being told to keep in our place. You should be angry at the people who misrepresent fat acceptance to serve an agenda. You should be angry at those who do it to shut us up and you should be angry when its done in the name of niceness.

We need more anger right now. No, not at dieters. Anger about a culture of fat hatred. Anger about being told to pipe down. Anger about being told to place nice with those who treat us with disrespect and scorn. The person wanting to lose weight isn't the problem, but there are people who are and we can't be nice to everyone. When people insult us, we should be angry. When people tell us we don't have a right to be angry about being insulted, we should be angry. We cannot be afraid of anger anymore. Playing nice, playing by their rules, its not working. It won't work.

When a person tells you that you have to accept dieting, say no.

When a person claims that you're ignoring the health of fat people, tell them that they are wrong.

When a person defines you to suit their condemnation of you, resist.

And when you are told its not nice to do any of that, keep doing it.

Speak up. Speak out. Use your anger, don't bury it. You are so important and your voice is needed. Find places to speak out. Learn when you're energy is wasted and move on. Take action. Don't give up. We cannot change the world overnight. We cannot stop the tragedies. But we can make a difference. We can change things.

I oppose weight loss because I oppose a system of failure forced upon fat people. I support fat acceptance because desperately need to chart a new course and find new answers to serve the health and happiness of all fat people.

In the words of a far better manifesto than mine...

Fat people of the world unite. You have NOTHING to lose.


Institutional memory

(What follows is a lengthy rumination, long on perspective and contemplation but short on focus and conclusion. Consider yourself warned if this all seems lacking in purpose, but purpose isn't quite my purpose today, I guess.)

I've been frustrated with Fat Acceptance for the last couple of months and haven't really wanted to say anything. My reasons felt impossible to explain because I'd have to get into my institutional memory of fat acceptance. Over 10 years now of engaging in discussions about it online and the frustrations in seeing the same things crop up over and over again. The same attacks, endlessly replayed. I was encouraged when Kate Harding posted her frustrations with diet talk last month, but in the free-for-all that ensued, I saw the same patterns playing themselves out again and I found it discouraging. So much of the discussion that ensued was being controlled by people who never posted comments before and never would again. The dove in to deliver the message that opposition to dieting would not be tolerated. That's it. And yet, they were essentially allowed to set the agenda of the discussions, some even falling into overt fat bigotry. I'd seen it before so many times. People claiming to be allies of the movement. Offering their support if we just let dieters be. Asking why we can't just play nice. I've seen this before. I've seen these people with their pious attacks, and I've seen how they never actually offer anything to the movement accept attacks in support of dieting. The claim that we should be welcoming to them, but they do nothing to change the state of fat people. They do nothing to improve health care for fat people, to denounce discrimination, refute exaggerations and lies about fat people. Yet they still claim to be allies when all they have to say about fat acceptance is critical.

Its an attack. I get that. After seeing it dozens of time, I get that its all just gamesmanship. But so often, they are allowed to get away with it. They set up shop, pretending to be in favor of fat acceptance when all they care about is silencing criticisms of dieting. The proclaim themselves to represent "true" size acceptance as they distort of vocabulary beyond recognition. They fashion themselves as underdog crusaders against the evil oppression of fat acceptance. They offer a world-view detached from reality.

I've seen it so many times and I've seen how it effects discourse. Some people will try to engage them, going so far as to shame or silence anyone who doesn't given their thinly veiled hate a warm welcome. And then the hate loses some of that veil. More overt trolls creep out from the shadows and are embraced by these "respectable" critics. It happens slowly, but surely. A handful of supposed contrarians becomes a gaggle of naysayers and hate-mongers, snapping at any advocacy of fat acceptance. Those who tried to be nice at first are worn down by it all. And those who wanted to fight have given up and left. I can't tell you how often I've kept fighting this kind of fat hatred and found so much silent support. So many people weary of the distractions and wanting it over but unwilling to join the fray. I don't blame them for not joining in. The kind of bile and fear I've been subjected to isn't something I'd wish on someone else. But without support, I always ended up in a losing battle. See, the critics always seem versed in divide and conquer strategies. Pick one fat activist and drive them out. Demand that they be banned. Insist that we are the problem as a false olive branch to the powers that be. They always seemed to give in. At first anyway. But one down is never enough. Its always someone else. By the time the powers that be are clued in, its usually too late. What community may have once existed has collapsed. Too many people have been driven out or left in silent frustration. I've seen this happen again and again because there never remains enough institutional memory to stop it from happening again. Too few people are left to know this all happened before. That the trolls M.O. stays so much the same. That often, its the same dedicated trolls launching new attacks year after year. They might be immature pranksters. They might be frustrated dieters. They've got a dedication to subvert and pervert fat acceptance and they keep at it, always finding more help with each new year. Once, they tried setting up their own shop. Their own site so they wouldn't have to deal with us size-acceptance types. For about a month, there was a lot of hatred there. (Also a lot of capitulation from so-called fat activists. I guess they missed giving into the fat haters.) But without people to attack, hate to expose, the community collapsed in a few short months. Hundred of posters weened down to maybe a dozen, then to none. They don't have their own purpose. They just have their antagonism towards ours.

Its tiring. I don't say this to garner sympathy or praise. I just say it because its true. I'm weary of it. I'm weary of getting my hopes up only for everything to collapse. I pulled away from the new community of fat blogs because I was afraid it was all happening again. Complete with one self-righteous "ally" making a big self-serving ploy to compare himself to Martin Luther King at the expense of those he actually agreed with. I pulled away because this time, I didn't want to be fighting and thrown to the wolves again.

I maybe jumped the gun. Maybe this time, the crowds of sudden commentators criticising fat acceptance was just happenstance. Not a sleeper cell waiting to strike, or at least not yet. Just the all-too-familiar group of people who are committed to fat hatred in its most personal form and who don't want to be challenged to see the world and their bodies differently. But the institutional awareness led me to pull away. Afraid of the pattern emerging and reluctant to see it all play out once more.

I say this now because a blogger and commentator Kell may have had the same reaction. The same impulse. Where I drew away, Kell lashed out. Kell is a new name to a lot of my fellow bloggers (as am I and a lot of my fellow bloggers to each other), but she isn't new to me. She's probably been active in online discussions of fat acceptance as long as I have, and I'm sure she's seen the same patterns of attacks that I have. In the business with another blogger and commentator having WLS, Kell saw something familiar and I suspect had a very viseral remark. I don't think she was right, but I know what she lashed against this blogger. There have been patterns of attacks of fat acceptance from WLS promoters. They've taken over NAAFA discussion forums, coordinated USENET attacks. Even from within the movement, there have been agitation to make WLS acceptable in fat acceptance, to promote it to fat people. Kell has seen all this, and I wouldn't be surprised if she saw this all playing again.

I think she was wrong this time. I don't think this was an effort to subvert fat acceptance. I think this was one individual coming to the conclusion many before her had that WLS was the only answer. That's all I think it was. I don't affirm that decision. I don't have to. It was her decision to make and she doesn't need my approval. Nor should I need her approval to remain resolutely anti-WLS no matter what justifications she may feel she has. I didn't feel that this was a transformative battle. I'd be with Kell if it were, though, as it has been in the past. I know I'm speaking to someone else's motivations here and I'm sure Kell will disagree with that. Unfortunetly, after posting her anger towards her perception of a welcoming of WLS into fat acceptance, Kell took down her blog. I know where she's coming from there, too. I don't think she's right here, but I don't want to see Kell go, either. She has a lot she can offer the fat acceptance movement but she's spent a lot of time being told to shut up by critics and allies alike. Kell has had a very different journey in fat acceptance than some more recent bloggers, unfortunetly. The anger which a lot are understandably put off by didn't come overnight. I know she is something of a reactionary radical if you can allow that concept. I don't agree with that, but I understand it. I've gone through a lot of the trials Kell has gone through and I really do see how she could get to this point. I get frustrated by it because I know Kell can push people away from what she believes. With years of being pushed away herself, I understand it, though. And I hope there will be the day when she can be engaged in a positive and productive fashion.

The stakes are high with fat acceptance and WLS is a fight we need to take on. Is not against individual patients, though, which is a key area where Kell and I seem to differ right now. The problem is institutional and its damn sure something worth caring about. Its not exaggeration to remember that thousands of fat people die anonymously every year because of WLS. It isn't right, but attacking patients isn't the answer. It isn't productive. Look, I'm not saying that we shouldn't refute weight-loss promoters just because they are also practitioners. I'm saying we refute weight-loss promoters and not practitioners. This is made difficult enough when practitioners take attacks on the institutions as personal attacks. We cannot muddy the water ourselves by picking fights with every individual who wants to lose weight. We'll be distracting ourselves then, and I don't see that being productive any time soon.

Dieters shouldn't feel "safe" in fat acceptance circles. They should feel challenged. That is an influence fat acceptance needs to provide, but also one which is constantly threatened by those who don't feel contrary viewpoints should be tolerated. Claims of a fat acceptance orthodoxy are grossly exaggerated. No dieter has their rights to expression endangered by fat acceptance. Even from those fat activists fed up enough to want to threaten that expression. Its all a misdirection, and its a not a new one, either. Dieters aren't supposed to feel protected in the fat acceptance community. They have a whole cultural hegemony to feel protected in. Why do they need to be protected in the one place which challenges us to think differently about issues of weight? Because the truth is that disagreement won't be tolerated. That can never be a reason to give in. To agree to disagree. To silence ourselves in the name of inclusiveness. Fat acceptance is a radical concept, and its going to make some people uneasy. They need to. I'm not an advocate of invading non fat acceptance spaces to force unease on people, but I'll be sure to advocate for us not withholding our beliefs in our community, or own spaces. That's what has long been at risk, and I'm sad to say that fat acceptance has lost far more times than its won. If some of us seem weary or angry with this struggle, its because we've seen it before and in our own ways don't want to have to see it again.


Big Moves presents LARD, the musical!

Photo by Dave Anderson, www.djaphoto.com, (c) 2007

I'm going to take a break from my self-imposed exile/sabatical to let you all know about the new Big Moves show, LARD (Like Grease, but thicker). I'm really so impressed and grateful for the work Big Moves does promoting size diversity in dance. I've blogged about it before and will surely again. Fat acceptance absolutely needs groups like them and I count myself as very lucky that I'm able to attend their shows here in Boston. They have a really positive influence on their dancers and a real impact on their audience as well. If you are in Boston this weekend or in New York in two weeks, I really hope you can make it out to the show. If you can't, definitely spread the word. Its so great to see fat activism in the context of performing arts. We're lucky to have such a top-notch group like Big Moves around and I'm very thankful for them. Here is the info about their show...

Big Moves proudly presents
LARD the musical ("like grease, but thicker")
October 18-20, 2007 - doors at 7:30, curtain at 8 p.m.
Cambridge Family YMCA Theater, 820 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
General: $15/adv., $20/door VIP: $20/adv., $25/door (if available)

Lily and Patty danced together, skated together, and invented 13 new burger toppings over the summer. They said they'd be friends through thick and thin. Then came senior year and everything changed...

Continuing in its award-winning tradition of producing size-diverse performers in super-size shows, Big Moves is proud to present the world premiere of LARD (like grease, but thicker). Set in the late 1950's and loosely based on a very familiar movie with another cooking substance as the name, LARD brings together upbeat dance moves, tuneful singing, and two best-friends-forever in a challenging, laugh-a-minute musical that will entertain audiences of all ages.

Director's talk before Thursday's preview! Mix-and-mingle opening-night reception!
Fantastic bake-sale table!

Thursday night is pay-what-you-can preview, cash at the door.
Friday night opening reception package: $25/adv. only
All tickets available online at http://www.bigmoves.org OR through your favorite Big Moves dancer!
(Brian: My favorite is Cristin, my girlfriend, so be sure to tell them she sent you if you can buy tickets)

This is the alternative musical theater event of the season, so be there!

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

"Supermarket shoppers may soon be cruising the aisles with "intelligent" shopping carts that warn them if they're buying too much junk food."