Rape apologists and the need to speak out

If you've seen my Twitter feed today, you've no doubt seen me tweeting about the #Mooreandme issue. While I normally focus on fat issues, I felt it was important to weigh in on rape culture. I think this is a serious concern in our culture and frankly men don't do enough to speak out against rape. Myself included. I was really moved by the eloquence of so many of the people who have spoken out against the rape apologies that are coming from progressives in the wake of Julian Assange's arrest. I didn't want to just keep letting other people speak so I joined in. The defensiveness people are having over Assange is really troubling. None of the critics are saying he doesn't need to have his day in court, but I feel like a lot of Assange's defenders ARE saying he shouldn't have his day in court and that the charges should just be disregarded. This is wrong. Period.

The justifications are really unhinged, too. Some say that the charges are obviously politically motivated, and therefore false. Well, one doesn't follow the other. Yeah, they are politically motivated, but that doesn't say anything about their veracity. Its easy to make up excuses why THIS TIME its okay to dismiss rape allegations, but what they fail to get is that this is the dynamic that ALWAYS happens with rape apologies. There is always a reason when these rape charges aren't worth taking seriously. The whole mindset is unsustainable. This only seems to happen with rape with this kind of regularity. No other criminal accusation is so routinely dismissed. So even if you think that this time its okay, you need to really question yourself. Because all those other times, someone else made that same judgement and this pattern is a problem.

I'm really bothered by those who say these rape charges should be ignored because most rape charges get ignored so it'd be insulting to those victims to care now. Important, serious people have made this argument. Which I would characterize as "You guys NEVER care about rape. Why you gotta start now?" Yes, the way rape isn't taken seriously is a problem. No one thinks this is a signal that rape is being taken seriously, either. Its obviously just politically expedient to do so. But thinking its politically expedient to keep ignoring rape is even worse.

Anyway, I hope no one minds getting off Fat Acceptance for a bit. For further reading on this issue, please check out the following...

At Tiger Beatdown...


Fat Admirer or Fat Fetishist

I was listening to the latest episode of the Two Whole Cakes Fatcast and Marianne and Lesley were discussing fat admirers and fat fetishists. Its a discussion that comes up a lot when discussing fat sexuality and specifically fat admirers. It struck me, though, that this common distinction is one I'm not convinced there is a justification for.

I know I didn't always think so. Indeed, fat admirers commonly talk about fat fetishists. Thing is, that's always something someone else is. The distinction is usually drawn as one group being good and the other bad. Now, to be fair, the Fatcast rejected that understanding, but I still think that's how most people view it. Fat admirers are fine, but fat fetishists are a problem. I know I've endorsed that idea in the past, though I've never been totally comfortable with it.

The problem is, I don't know what would usefully differentiate these two groups. Having been exposed to a lot of communities focused around attraction to fat partners, I just don't see any real camps of "admirers" and "fetishists". As to how both might respond to fatness, I don't think there is a meaningful distinction. I may not always feel comfortable with what they do with their feelings, but I can't say that what I feel seems any different from what other men like me feel. I think it'd be easy for me to say that I'm different or better, but I can't do that in all honesty. What I feel for fat is what they feel for fat, so I'm not comfortable singling some people out as fetishists. Not because fetishes are wrong, but because I just don't think its the right word for what this is and I'm not convinced there is something else it would describe. A point made on the Fatcast is that we never talk about having a fetish for penises. This is my sexuality.

Which is not to say that different men (and women) don't do different things with this. I have a post I've been wanting to write for a while called "The problem with Fat Admirers" because while I know I've been a bit of an apologist for Fat Admirers lately, I am actually acutely aware of how earned a lot of the perception issues are for my sexuality. I don't tend to last long in Fat Admirer communities because I invariably spend my time telling them to be better and being told to shut up for my troubles. But I can't divorce my sexual identity with their sexual identity. On a very basic level, the physical attraction we feel strikes me as essentially identical.

I also think this division is born out of trying to accommodate fat stigmatization rather than confront it. Outside fat communities, we're ALL fat fetishists. And this is not for any nuance of behavior but for the essential desire for a fat partner that we share. I feel like the dichotomy was born (quite some time ago) from an effort to flatter this conventional ignorance. Oh, sure, there is fat fetishism but that's not me. Well, I'm not prepared to make such allowances. I think many of the distinctions raised about the differences often have less to do with this sexuality as it does with male heterosexual identity in general.

I'm going to keep writing about this because its way to large to get into one post and I really do want to get into the problems in fat admirer behavior and how that links to male sexuality in general but also how the problems relate to the stigmatization of fat attraction. But I'm not going to try to draw very hard lines to credit myself over other men. On a very essential level, I think sexual attraction is a wonderful thing. Sexual desire is a wonderful thing. There shouldn't be shame about that. It is okay to sexually desire a fat body and in our culture that really needs to be said straight on and without reservation. My reservations absolutely will come, but I want to push that as far away from the essential act of sexual desire for a fat partner as possible. That should not be stigmatized in the least and I feel on that level there is no dividing line between so-called "fat fetishists" and so-called "fat admirers". On a fundamental level, we are the same thing.


A new conversation: fat and health

In my last couple of posts I've been looking at the backlash Fat Acceptance often faces. A common "stray fattie" charge is that fat activists are in denial about health concerns. Basically, they are so certain in their righteous that we don't merely disagree but are in denial. The fairly broad "nuance" of what Fat Activists actually are saying is irrelevant to them. We disagree with their assertions so they declare we are claiming the exact opposite of what they are. That fat is the paradigm of good health just as they claim thinness is.

They aren't interested in discourse, but rather enforcing the rules the powerful have set for our social conversation about health. We will never win playing within their rules, because their rules already dictate the outcome. That's why they want us to play by their conventions and dictates. Their conversation about fatness only allows one outcome and this enables them to distort our claims as they try to force them into their guidelines.

What Fat Acceptance must do is forge a new conversation. I think we see a relation to this in fretting about "good fatties" and "bad fatties". That moral dichotomy is informed entirely by the rules of fat hatred. They've decided we are bad. We will never be able to prove our "goodness" within their rules, but likewise we will never be able to excuse our "badness" either. I honestly haven't seen a fat activist suggest the former, that being "good" fat people was a solution but I have seen the later where activists bristle at discussions about so-called "good fatties" preferring to argue that health is not a moral imperative. Neither, though, would be effective although both speak to a truth that I think could be our key. We need to tear down the conventions which confine us in order to start a new conversation about fat health. We can't play by their rules, but we can't deny them, either. We need to confront them to dismiss them so we can move forward.

In the comments of this article, Silentbeep made a very astute observation about why we talk about so-called "good fatties". The point is not to exault them but to demonstrate "health variance when it comes to fatness". The current rules to discuss fat and health deny this. There is one outcome. One option. We need to show that this is a sham, that how they are defining health is functionally flawed. "Good fatties" aren't playing by the rules, they are invalidating them.

But this isn't an end. We need to move past this lest we be offered defensive indulgences where we are "allowed" to be fat so long as do all the "right" things. Its not about winning acceptance on their terms but completely revolutionizing what we understand to be right. And that means refusing to promote health as a moral imperative.

Fat activists don't deny that fat can impact health. We deny the conclusions drawn about that. Both about individual health and about personal morality or responsibility. Fat people have unique health concerns that need to be addressed. The issue is that our current system doesn't do that. It fails the health needs of fat people by insisting on stigmatizing fat and promoting failed treatments that do nothing to address one's health. They say that fat activists don't care about the health of fat people, but I say that's 100% false. We DO care about the health of fat people and that's why we demand better than futile weight loss dieting. They've had decades to enforce their views and its done nothing. We need to stop this and start finding ways to serve fat people's health needs with respect for their body. Not with an insistence that the body change before you start caring. That's not the conversation they want to happen, but its what must happen.

It isn't wrong to be fat and have diabetes. It isn't wrong to be fat and have high blood pressure. It isn't wrong. It just is. And we need to demand treatments that address what is an issue instead of trying to change our body into something else. Not only does this ignore what's actually going on, it doesn't work. We need to say that and demand better. We need to demand a new conversation.

Shame isn't a very useful tool in improving health to begin with and its utterly perverse that we shame people into treatments that will fail them. A dieter who regains the weight lost is not a failure. Those results ARE typical and is our cultural dictates on fat and health that are failing them. It needs to be okay to talk about how we are "good fatties" as well as how we are "bad fatties". Because this isn't about good vs. bad. This is about something different, something new. That is the conversation we need to have.


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.


They are talking about you

I was reminded lately something that I don't think most people in Fat Acceptance always realize. A lot of people make complaints about horrible fat activists who were so hostile to their dieting. I gather a few activists are inclined to take these complaints seriously and concur that such behavior is just plain wrong. What I'd like to tell those activists is that the complaints are about YOU.

It might be confusing because these complaints are almost always made without attribution. And, to be fair, they usually are transparently about straw fatties. The ones who say fat people are perfectly healthy and who spend their days screaming at dieters. The ones that don't exist. Which might make it easy to think that they are referring to other people. But they aren't. They really do mean you.

The few times I've seen any specifically called out as one of these mean fatties, its invariably someone I consider much more moderate about FA than me. People like me aren't on these people's radar screens, much less any of the activists who are actually radical who frankly don't participate online much to begin with. The FA activists they've encountered are usually the tip of the iceberg about FA thought and discussion and even that is completely intolerable to them.

I hope we can dispense with treating these kinds of straw fattie arguments, but I imagine that's not coming any time soon. We are disenfranchised and yet will constantly be called on to explain how we aren't using our total lack of power against anyone. Our marginalization should be the argument against criticism of our supposed oppressiveness but perversely it works in favor of those intent on enforcing our marginalization. They count on us not having the means to fight back. Because we can deny the absurd charges all we like, but more people will hear them than hear us. Because our culture is set up to define us as wrong, people will accept it just the way men honestly believe that women are oppressing males, just as whites feel discriminated against, just as heterosexuals feel threatened by a gay agenda.

While we struggle to get our message out, I wish we could spend less time denying those kinds of charges because its really about holding us back. About defining as tight a sphere for us to advocate for our beliefs as possible to make us pointless. Feminism didn't successfully refute to charge that it was oppressing men. It just moved past it. The charge still exists but its recognized as being as laughable as it is. Those who try to make FA about the rights of dieters should be dismissed with as much ease. Because it is laughable.


Its okay to be attracted to fat people

It occurred to me when writing my post last month affirming that fat acceptance is not about forced attraction to fatties (and how such a false fear is used to justify dismissing change), that there is a flip-side to giving people permission to not be attracted to fat people. That's giving those who want to be attracted to fat people the permission to do that. They are both problems stemming from one source. See, some people feel SO entitled to not be attracted to fat people that they want to enforce that lack of attraction. They turn a lack of attraction into a moral failing. Its not like those people needed my permission to not find fat people attracted. What I was doing was telling them to stop thinking it mattered. That's privilege in practice. They feel so privileged to what they do find attraction that anything outside of that is treated as an offense. But what about the people who ARE attracted to fat people?

Sadly, I've found very often that these people struggle with the notion that this is okay. Where the opposite choice gets so privileged, many act like they don't have permission to really be who they are. Being a fat admirer myself, I'm always frustrated by the lack of self-respect from many Fat Admirers. Even ones who are open about it seem to believe on a basic level that they don't actually have a right to their sexuality. That fat is fundamentally wrong. They may get to a place where they want to act on their sexuality, but they have no pride in themselves and provide no support to the political needs of the people they are attracted to.

I don't really know what to do about that because it feels so foreign to me. That political empathy developed in me almost immediately upon recognizing the physical attraction. As a kid, I didn't exactly have access to fat porn or the myriad of substitutes thin admirers take for granted, but what I did have access to was literature about fat acceptance and I read it voraciously. Politics and sexuality always went hand in hand for me, so in a lot of ways I don't know how to relate to fat admirers who act like they don't have a right to their sexuality. Like giving up their sexual desires is an inevitability.

Its okay to be attracted to fat people. Sadly, that can be a very important message, too. You don't have an obligation to consent to fat hatred. I get feeling like that's your only option, but its not. Its not shallow to be attracted to fat people. That's such a bizarre sentiment yet I see it so often from apologetic fat admirers. They'll date thin people as some sort of hairshirt to prove their virtue but its just such nonsense. Its accommodating thin privilege instead of challenging it. Its ignoring the ways fat people are denied attraction and instead creating a new instance of such.

Like I said, I don't have any easy answer to this, but I want to implore my fellow fat admirers to be proud of who they are and to know they have options beyond having their sexuality steamrolled by fat negativity.


Shakesville on Fat Shaming

Two very worthwhile discussions going on at Shakesville that I wanted to recommend checking out. One with people sharing stories of being fat shamed, and one with people sharing stories of having fat shamed others. I'm not the only one with stories of both and reading both threads has been very enlightening.

My fat shaming experience is something I'm still ashamed of and it was very powerful to see how others really had that same instant guilt I felt. I knew better when I did it. Though I was still too young to be fat acceptance aware, I knew I thought fat girls were cute. I even rationalized what I did as sticking up for a fat girl who was being insulted for her size by a fat boy. Obviously, now I know he was just engaging in his own defense mechanism not unlike a lot of the stories being shared in the thread. I thought it would be just to turn his fat hate back on him, but its not. Fat hate is never okay and as soon as I did it I felt sick about it. I knew better and I did it anyway. That so many of us who did feel sick over fat shaming others still did it says a lot about powerful fat stigmatization is in our culture.

In my experience being fat shamed, reading other people's stories had a reaction in me I wasn't expect. I know I'm not all that fat and I know that being a man limits the abuse I receive. I wasn't even fat as a child, which is perhaps the greatest "at risk" time for fat shaming. I thought I had experienced very little fat shaming, and just from strangers. I figured reading other stories would only reinforce how lucky I was. And while it did and I'm still very aware of my privilege in this regard, I also realized all the ways I was fat shamed and just didn't process it as such. I gained a lot of weight very quickly, and this hardly went by without comment. While most of my friends were not assholes, it wasn't a big issue but I knew people were talking about me behind my back because it would get back to me. I forgot how happy people were when I got sick and lost 40lbs in a month. How is that something to ever be happy about?

I definitely encourage you to read both discussions and hopefully contribute as well. There is much to be gained by sharing our stories like this.

Um, no. I will not be a paid diet spokesperson.

I ocassionally get emails from the blog from people looking to get me to promote something. They are almost always clearly people who just culled my email address and have no awareness of what I am writing about. They are just emailing a massive number of people in the hopes someone will bite. Today, though, I got something that did show some awareness of what I right about, but absolutely no comprehension.

I'm really not sure if this is a fake. The from email address is so unprofessional that it strains credulity. Still, its not worthy trolling at the least, so I'll still share it with you. I figure I'm not the only FA blogger who got this, so feel free to chime in if you were also propositioned.

Hello, Brian.

For reasons that will become quickly apparent, I can't identify myself or the company I work with immediately.

I'm a lawyer, and one of my firm's clients is a national weight loss company. We have a marketing initiative where we find prominent writers on weight issues and pay them to try out our client's program. The pay can be substantial, starting at 1,000 dollars a week, and goes up from there, depending on a few factors, including the amount of time the writer stays with the program. We have people making six figures a year.

Two things about the initiative:

1. It doesn't matter whether or not you lose weight, as long as you stick with the program and write about it.
2. Obviously, you can't talk about the fact that you're being paid to try the program. You'll be asked to sign a non disclosure form.

If you're interested in getting started, let me know and I'll give you more details. If you're not interested, thank you for your time.

Karen Jones
It really reads like the random scam spam you always get with the whole "I can't identify myself" bit. I mean, it makes sense, though, since what is being proposed is actually against the law. Paid bloggers are required to disclose paid endorsements. I suppose the claim would be that this isn't an "endorsement", but I doubt the FTC would appreciate that distinction. The real expectation is that no one would ever know or care. Still, I wouldn't exactly praise the weight loss industry for their ethical behavior, so that hardly is a proof that its fake.

So, what do you think? A troll with too much time on his hands trying an elaborate ruse or unethical diet company trying to drum up a secret shill? Of course, either way, they don't really read this blog if they think I'd do this. Its frankly insulting to me and to you, as well. Anyone else been similarly propositioned?


"It" not being gotten

When the Marie Claire debacle broke yesterday, I felt little need to respond directly the article as others had done such a good job. Thus, my pre-reaction to the kind of backlash those sentiments tend to engender from people fretting about us wanting to force our fatness upon them. While FA voices have acquitted themselves quite well, others... well, not so much.

For starters, there is the original author herself who posted an "apologetic" postscript to the original article. Its a total non-apology, but it actually seems even worse than that, to me. It was bad enough that she was all "in my defense, the people I'm disgusted by are REALLY fat", but I realized she actually only expresses regret to people who are trying to lose weight. Either the author thinks dieters are the only kind of fat people, or the only kind who matter. She's torn up if she offended someone who agrees with her that fat is a horrible problem, but that's not really addressing what was so offensive to people who don't concur that fat people are blighting the planet.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post offered its own "not getting" reaction to the reaction wondering if we need to ban the word fat. As if that was the problem that people were up in arms over. It makes a feeble connection to some Canadian article about a politician that called him fat a lot. Look, there is nothing wrong about fat. If people paid attention to the backlash from fat people, they'd notice we use the word a lot. The problem is the attitude. If someone uses fat as a slur, its that they think our bodies are wrong that is the issue. Not anything rude about the word itself. I don't care if someone calls me fat when they are expounding about how disgusted they are at having to glimpse my body. I care that they are disgusted by my body.

Marie Claire (who don't forget commissioned the article in the first place) has also acquitted themselves poorly. Or, at least their social media team did. When they did a good thing by inviting Lesley Kinzel to write a response for their blog, they promoted it on Facebook. Lots of people declined to be terribly moved by this manner of reaction. Marie Claire then pushed back by insisting that the offending attitude was just an "opinion" and acted like they were just engaged in an exchange of ideas. Hate may be an opinion, but its not "just an opinion". No one is saying the author should be thrown in jail for her fat hatred, but they are saying its offensive and unacceptable. The level of bitterness and hatred the author displayed was openly and intentionally hurtful (well, maybe not if you loathe being fat). There is no civil debate between "your body is disgusting and should kept out of sight" and "um, no". Making it like it is just deepens the wound caused by the hateful attitudes. This isn't some sort of "point/counterpoint" situation. The disenfranchised don't have an obligation to endorse their stigmatization as a valid opinion.

Well, guess what. An increasing number of fat people don't care to know their place while other people check off Fat Hate Bingo squares. That's a very good thing.

Its okay to not be attracted to fat people

As luck would have it, the latest fatosphere topic of discussion dovetails nicely with the next thing I wanted to talk about relating to fat sexuality. A Marie Claire blogger (really, there is such a thing) wrote a post complaining about the overrepresentation of fat people in our entertainment mediums. No, really. Its all about how she feels uncomfortable with seeing fat people on TV because she's so disgusted by them. But she's only grossed out at us for our health, you see. Like everyone else who stigmatizes and bullies fat people.

Of course, that's not true. She clearly isn't concerned for our health when what she's talking about is a show about self-loathing fat people who regard weight loss as the ultimate goal. She's "aesthetically displeased" and she wants to rationalize that. So, to this writer and anyone else who is wondering, let me say this: Its okay to not be sexually attracted to fat people.

The purpose of fat acceptance is not making people be attracted to fat people. Actually, I think people in fat acceptance get this pretty readily, but ocassionally you'll see a post bemoaning the superficialism of people who only date thin partners. More likely, it'll come from people who aren't really fat accepting at all, but who think they are helping by regarding attraction to thin people as necessarily suspect. Its not. Its totally okay to not be aesthetically pleased by fat people.

I say that as someone who very much IS aesthetically pleased by fat people. Indeed, that's why I say it. My sexual attraction to fat people is not charity work. Its not because I'm enlightened in any way and am willing to date fat people in spite of their physical appearance. Its not because being fat myself, I feel it is the proper thing to do. Its not because I can't do any better. Well, actually it is. I just mean it in the other way. This is what I want. This is what my sexuality is.

I've really started seeing this through the prism of sexuality and its been making a lot of sense to me. As I started to have sexual feelings, an attraction to fat was one of the things I was immediately aware of. It reminds me a lot of stories I've heard of gays and lesbians coming to recognize their sexual orientation. This was something I felt very strongly, very innately. I simply wasn't sexually interested in thin partners. Fat is at the core of my sexual aesthetic and even calling it a preference doesn't feel like it does it justice to me. This is part of who I am and I'm prepared to demand respect for it.

And offer that respect to others. I would no sooner want anyone telling me I couldn't be attracted to fat people than I want anyone telling people oriented to attraction to thin people that they shouldn't feel that way. Both "orientations" deserve respect. And we should all recognize that this isn't something that acts as a binary. People don't all come in only fat admiring and thin admiring flavors.

I think if we had some sort of fat acceptance utopia, we'd find that a certain part of the population was specifically attracted to fat partners, a certain part of the population was specifically attracted to thin partners, and there would be a lot of people in the middle without a strong leaning towards one or the other. I don't think we see that much now because those people in the middle are strongly conditioned to believe that attraction to thin partners is appropriate and they decide to try to "pass" for thin admiring. Because its not very hard to pass. There are definitely still people who don't get caught up in this. I think a lot of fat people do have partners that come from this middle group which is awesome. But there are probably a lot more people who could potentially be in this group who instead do what they are told is expected of them.

Problem is, of course, that we can't really tell the difference. There is no way to know who is thin admiring because they are genuinely oriented that way, and who is just going along with what they think they are supposed to. So we have to just respect it all. Which also means not lionizing those who buck the system too much. Its great, and all, but no one is noble for dating fat people. Either because they want to or because they are willing to do. I think that kind of construction actually just endorses fat stigmatization by making too much out of resisting it. I mean, yeah, it means something but lets not act like it makes any of us better people. It doesn't matter in that way.

Which brings me back to the Marie Claire writer who decided to write an article consisting exclusively of things Google suggested be searched about fat people. Her problem is not that she's not attracted to fat people. Its that she thinks that matters. Its that she regards lack of meeting her sexual aesthetic is a moral failure worthy of condemnation. I'm not attracted to thin people, but I'm not disgusted by them. For pretty much the same reason I'm not disgusted by gay people. Because I'm not an asshole. Because I'm not offended by anything which doesn't turn me on. The privilege of thin attraction, though, allows this and it clearly fuels a great deal of fat stigmatization. They are allowed to elevate their sexual attraction to something that matters beyond their choice of sexual partners. There is a world of difference between not being aesthetically pleased by something and taking the time to be aesthetically displeased. But its a difference thin admiring people rarely feel the need to see.

It creates a false notion of a backlash against fat acceptance for the perception of trying to make them be attracted to fat people. While a few people do seem to advance this, I want to be clear that I utterly reject it and I think most fat accepting people would agree. We no more have a fat agenda to force ourselves on people sexually than gays are trying to turn straight people homosexual. No one is trying to take away their sexual attractions. We're just trying to get THEM to stop forcing theirs on us by elevating their sexual aesthetic to something objectively "right". You don't need to be disgusted by fat people to not be sexually interested in us. You don't need to be disgusted by fat people at all. Its just privileging your sexual interests as something more important than they are. Its okay to not be attracted to fat people. Its not okay to think that means anything more than that.


Let's reference Salt-n-Pepa, bay-bee.

I've been wanting to talk about fat and sexuality for a while now. The Rotund beat me to it and forced my hand to finally comment on the issue. Its a pretty broad topic (pun intended), so this might just be the start of a series. Be warned.

Its an important topic, though, because sex and the fat body is a vital subject not explored nearly enough while its one of the things we very explicitly deny fat people in our culture. Obviously its okay for a fat person to not be interested in sex for their own reasons. But our society denies fat people the choice. The idea of fat people as sexual beings is treated as an absurdity. The tricky thing is that its a lot easier to recognize that this is bullshit than it is to fully reclaim what gets lost.

Which isn't to say that its easy to reclaim one's sexuality as a fat person. Getting to the point of being comfortable with one's body and with another person's desire for your body is already a huge step in our culture. But the structural denial of fat sexuality means many of us lack a lot of basic vocabulary about understanding our bodies in a sexual context. I think our culture romanticizes the idea of sex as a discovery or revelation that we take for granted just how much assumed knowledge there is about the sexual experience. But all that knowledge presumes two thin bodies and that knowledge just doesn't reliably transfer to fat bodies.

Some does. For some fat people, actually a lot might. But for others there will be extremely little relevance. The truth that fat sexuality reveals is that bodies can be different and this can make a difference. I know this may seem obvious, but think of how most people relate to sex through pornography where the physical deviations are generally extraordinarily small. In the real world, though, bodies are wonderfully unique and varied.

This becomes a real problem because of the way our culture stigmatizes deviations from the "norm". Its not just about fat, of course. Anything outside of an arbitrary "normal" tends to be defined by its limitations. I think the conversation about fat sexuality needs to be about moving past this and into the possibilities of our bodies. A fat body can be very different from a thin body, especially in a sexual context. Not every position will "work". That can even be true for the same person with the same body depending on their partners. But these things shouldn't be seen as limitations, I think. Body diversity makes sexuality more genuinely a discovery because so much focus needs to be on what our bodies can do. But that requires us to start a new conversation instead of defining us by old standards of what we can't do.

This isn't easy. It requires a lot of trust and communication which aren't always well associated with sex for many people. But opening up the conversation allows us to explore our sexuality in a lot of the ways thin people take it for granted. Learning our sexual vocabulary is very much an act of empowerment and a response to oppression.

So, what does this mean? Well, a lot of is just talking about the basic mechanics. Sexual positions are a rich area of discussion because I think fat people need to draw from a rich palette to find out what works with any two bodies. Weight, height, shape, size, these all make each sexual partnership fundamentally different and unique. Positions that worked with one person, might not with another. I'll cop to have a go-to favorite, but I don't take it for granted, either. You need to explore what works for the unique scenario of any given pair of bodies.

Another thing is what does sexual desire mean to us and for us. This is something I've wanted to get into for a while from the perspective of a "Fat Admirer". I really feel like this isn't just a preference but very much a part of my sexual identity. What does that mean for my sexuality? What does it mean for the fat people I find attractive? What does it mean for myself as a fat person? What does it mean for how I perceive others with like interests? What does it mean growing up feeling this way and having it shape my sexuality? Its a pretty huge topic but I hope to get into some aspects of it moving forward as I think there really is a lot to talk about there and I think its something that doesn't get talked about enough. At least not in a serious and considered manner.

So, that's probably enough talking about sex for one night. Please dive in with your thoughts and follow the discussion over at The Rotund.

The Google Proof

Very powerful post on Tumblr looking at the suggested search results when someone tries to search for information about fat people. You will probably not be surprised to learn that the results are almost exclusively fat hostile. Its a very stark demonstration of thin privilege.

I took the author's suggestion and tried repeating these searches for thin people and was alarmed that the results there were also advancing fat hostility. About half of the results of the "thin people" search were things thin people aren't supposed to get. Like diabetes, high blood pressure, PCOS. Of course thin people have these health concerns, too, but the search suggestions were a reminder of all of the health problems thin people don't have blamed on their bodies. Its the natural result of the fat associating results for the "fat people" search.

More alarming, though, was the "thin people are" search. The results are exclusively fixated on fat stigmatization. The most important thing that thin people are, it seems, is not fat people.

I tried searches for "thin people should" and "thin people can" but it turned up no results. I'm taking that someone philisophically as an example that thin people's possibilities are unbounded. They are not limited by their body. While the "fat people should" search was most disgusting of all, thin people, it seems, can do anything. That's privilege.


Hating fat people is not "edgy"

Dr. Samantha Thomas points out a rather obnoxious ad created as a demo for some Australian ad agency. In the ad, we see a woman presented as if she is preparing drugs to give her child, only she gives him a burger and fries. The ad isn't for anyone. The ad agency itself took it upon itself to do this service announcement. Basically, they are advertising themselves as the makers of such an "edgy" and "controversial" take on condemning fat people.

Which is idiotic. This isn't an auteur art project. Its an ad agency trying to drum up work. They are doing this precisely because piling on fatties isn't really edgy at all. They are doing this BECAUSE fat people are disenfranchised. Its like people who think saying racist or homophobic jokes makes them a politically incorrect rebel instead, ya know, a fucking racist or a homophobe.

What this really is is the flattery of privilege. I feel like I saw this a lot defending fat acceptance on other sites recently. There is no shortage of people looking to congratulate themselves for hating fat people. They want to flatter their ego with the notion that they are courageous to verbally beat up on fat people. Except, of course, that they are just standing up for the status quo, defending the privileges of fat hatred. That's pretty much the opposite of "edgy", but people in power have a way of convincing themselves that THEY are the ones who are being put upon.

You see it in the "Men's Rights Activists" who rush feminists sites to complain about how much men are abused in our society. You see it in the people who send race baiting emails about President Obama. You see it in those who complain about the "assault" on Christianity in an oppressively Christian society. Its not just that they are standing up for disenfranchisement to preserve unjust power. Its that they convince themselves THEY are the ones being oppressed. They manufacture these absurd notions of an oppressed majority just to impress themselves. They think of themselves as brave as they pile on a group with little power. They think they are being edgy and contraversial but they do so purely within the confines of a shared delusion. They aren't taking any real risks. They know full well they are presenting dominant views and people will flock to congratulate them on their courage. This isn't speaking truth to power. Its smug self-satisfaction.

This ad is actually quite deft in its way. It pushes buttons of two very different threads of fat hatred and would find haughty support from both camps. For the liberals, it presents the notion of fighting an evil corporate threat with the imagery of fast good. For the conservatives, the text suggests issues of personal responsibility through the drug metaphor. It walks the line between both takes leaving just enough for either group to feel vindicated in their privileged hate.

The message, of course, is foolish. It advances the notion that fatness is something done to people, particularly children. I know progressives tend to like telling themselves that this is kinder, gentler fat hate but its still hate. Blaming anything for my body is still about defining it as transgressive. Doesn't matter if you blame McDonald's or my mother. Its still about stigmatizing me and disenfranchising me. The ad is so lazy in its cliche's, but it knows they are cliches people cling to. Fatties eating burgers is second only to donuts as a go-to insult for someone prejudiced against fat people. I could see PETA running this ad in a second to advance their increasingly untethered message of "Meat isn't murder but it is making you occasionally have to glimpse fat people and that's much worse".

Eating isn't like doing drugs. I know a lot of fat haters think they are brilliant for coming up with that silly rationalization for their prejudice, but its just plain dumb. I could not sooner give up eating than breathing. Eating gives us strength and energy. Eating brings us life. Stigmatizing eating only creates patterns of disordering eating and a frightening amount of social acceptance for disordered eating.

So, in conclusion, eating is fine. Fat people eat more than burgers and donuts. (Some of us are even vegetarians!) Hating fat people is positively ordinary and fat shamers deserve none of the flattery they lavish on themselves because there is nothing brave about standing up for the status quo.


So, I guess "Mike & Molly" is starting

Among the two fat-themed shows debuting this year, I was always a bit more curious about "Mike & Molly". I'm something of a sitcom afficianado to begin with and I recently got into "The Big Bang Theory" which shares a producer with "Mike & Molly". Chuck Lorre is something of a sitcom dynamo, too, and his involvement suggested reason to think the show might be a hit and all the positives and negatives that would incur.

Lorre, also, has a track record of nuanced portrayals of fat people on shows. He actually got his start as a writer and co-producer on Roseanne relatively early in the show's run, so his background with fat characters in love is about as good as it gets in Hollywood, albeit largely by default. He went on to create a number of interesting if somewhat disposable sitcoms until creating the juggernaut that is "Two and a Half Men". I don't watch the show or get its appeal, but I have noticed Conchata Ferrell in the cast. She's long been one of Hollywood's go-to fat women for character work and she always does an exceptional job, even earning an Emmy nomination for a one year stint on LA Law. From what I can gather, her character on "Two and a Half Men" is not particularly defined by her size, which is refreshing if true.

"The Big Bang Theory" has also dipped its toes on the topic with relatively good results. I can think of a couple of sight gags over the show's run with a fat woman as the punch-line, but even then there was a little nuance. One scene is shot for shock value with a character waking up next to a fat woman he met at a bar the night before. It teases the notion that this is a bad situation but the character himself actually happily embraces it. Its nothing I'd give an award for, but I've seen that gag plenty of times without the switch so it was largely playing on expectations. More substantively, though, the show featured a short-sting by pre-diet spokesperson Sara Rue in a role which made utterly no distinction of her size and indeed treated her as obviously sexual and an obviously desirable partner. She dated one of the show's leads for several episodes (actually starting out being chased by two characters) and at no point did the show suggest this was anything but a happy situation for him. He wasn't settling or unhappy. While not exceptionally fat, she was still unmistakably not skinny and most shows would have at least commented on it. This time, it was trusted that the audience would accept her as a potential and entirely welcome mate for a lead character. Sure, the lead was a "nerd", but the lack of commentary is still there. Or not there to be accurate.

So, I have some reason to be hopeful of "Mike & Molly". However, like "Huge", the premise is setting off huge warning signals. The titular characters meet at an Overeater's Anonymous meeting. As with "Huge", I get that this is sort of realistic but it still concerns me. You worry that its going to be a show mocking fat people at worst and about diet buddies at best and suffice to say I'm not sure we need that. Still, these are actors we're dealing with here, not sequestered reality show contestants. They can't make them lose weight to serve the story. The Molly of the duo, Melissa McCarthy, has already dieted in the public eye AND regained the weight. At the time, she was on "Gilmore Girls", which I recall steadfastly refusing to acknowledge any of that in the text of the show. Roseanne, if I recall, also did little to draw attention to the actors when they regained weight loss in high-profile cross-marketing campaigns. Other shows haven't been as good and with it being the purpose of this show, I'd worry about its sensitivity if one or both of the actors did lose weight only to gain it back later in the show's run. There is little precedent for how to handle that.

The AV Club reviews the pilot and both reinforces my fears and hopes. They describe a show that is literally one half sweet romantic comedy that just happens to feature two fat people and one half cascade of fat jokes. The show is going to need to find its balance. Over the summer, Chuck Lorre made a remark that stressed that the show will need to move past commentary on the character's weight pretty quickly. I don't expect them to be there in the pilot, but if there could be a show with a minimum of fat hostility that treated fat characters as humans capable of love (shocking, I know), that'd be a good thing. "Mike & Molly" has a much better chance of success than its peer fat shows (toss "Drop Dead Diva" into the pile) but in a lot of ways that makes it the biggest risk. If its a hit, the marketing departments of Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem will be out in force trying to capitalize and that alone would be a major blow.


Let Them Die

I hardly know how to respond to this.

Glenn Beck thinks fat people should be denied medical care and simply left to die. That is his reaction to the Michele Obama anti-obesity program. I always hate it when I see people arguing about best to hate fat bodies.

Beck, obviously, doesn't even care about fat people. This is just the next thing on the list to flip out about from the Obama administration. He even self-servingly defines an exception for his kind of fatness. Oh not him. Just those other fat people.

What's unnerving, though, is that fat acceptance makes a very nuanced response to the "Let's Move!" program addressing how even good measures can be undermined by a flawed purpose and I feel like a lot of FA critics just stare back blankly and decide we're just saying we should let fat people die. But we here we have someone outright saying it. Probably going to be cheered for it, too. I'm sure folks on that side were just staring at FA blankly and deciding we were just saying the opposite. I don't like feeling the only acceptable positions on fatness are "Let 'em die!" and "Thintervention!" When we try to argue from something truly balanced, both extremes just label US as extremists and keep on gravely shouting about what to do about all the fat people.


On dieting and the illusions of common cause

As the debate over Fat Acceptance continues to roil at Feministe and less Sanity Watchers friendly destinations, I've been really troubled by what strikes me as concern trolling from a lot of quarters about how fat acceptance is too intolerant of dieters. There is always an example of some dieter who was attacked by fat acceptance. I've blogged about this form of self-made martyrdom in the past and its distressing to be reminded of how they are using the privileges of the status quo to make an absurd point and being taken seriously. What they are out to do is push the buttons of people unsure of what to think about fat acceptance. They craft a false "backlash" narrative to fits into people's expectations of fat activists so few question it. Of course we're attacking dieters. I mean, we aren't celebrating them, right? So we must be meanly attacking people for just discovering that they shouldn't be fat. The credulous never stop to realize that this backlash is already being described from the moment the diet martyr speaks out on the matter. That when criticism does come, its for the attacks the dieter makes on fat acceptance, not for their personal choice.

I think people are free to make common-cause with Fat Acceptance on the issues they agree with while reserving the right to disagree on other issues, but over the years the people who have this split view on fat acceptance have often spent far more time attacking FA over what they don't agree with than allying with it on what they do. I feel like many just give lip service to opposing fat discrimination while their only expressed interest is in demanding Fat Activists celebrate dieting. Its like they want to propose to agree to disagree but then only care about the disagreement. I've often seen this as proposing Fat Acceptance become a movement of the lowest common denominator. Anything too challenging shouldn't be expressed because it will upset the sensibilities of those who disagree with us.

Isn't that what we want, though? I'm not saying tone isn't a valid concern, but at the end of the day, challenging the status quo has to be a core part of our purpose. I'm reminded of gay activists who pressed on issues of gay marriage while many people would express "concern" that this wasn't prudent and they should limit their advocacy to smaller goals. I was one of those people 15 years ago. Today, I feel I was utterly wrong and am extremely grateful that the gay rights movement didn't listen to those voices. That instead, they challenged people to think differently.

If FA abandoned its stance on dieting, it would no doubt win many converts but if we aren't challenging them to go further what progress can we win? I think the reason FA focuses so much on personal acceptance over political acceptance is that one must come before the other. By the time the gay rights movement was focusing confronting social and legal boundaries, there was already a significant threshold of personal acceptance within that community. Especially among those politically motivated. I'm just not at all convinced that fat acceptance can get to that place without advocating for acceptance on the individual level. Its nice to say in theory that discrimination is wrong no matter what and I certainly agree, but we aren't the architects of the prejudice against us. On some level, we must confront the internal justification of the stigmatization of fat people. I'm happy to find common cause with groups that think that anti-discrimination efforts need not be joined with self-acceptance and even those who outright oppose self-acceptance. I still think it is important, though, for the common cause not to be the only cause. I don't expect the common causers to agree with me, but I don't think its wrong to expect them to respect that I will disagree. Otherwise, I have to question if they seeking common cause or just trying to be reductive towards my beliefs.

The idea that fat activists are marginalizing anyone is a tough for more to respond to because it strikes me as a bizarre inversion of the power structure in our society. I think its a reminder of how far we still have to go but also of how important it is to maintain our struggle. We may be powerless, yet others still feel the need to fear us. In a way, I almost find that encouraging. No matter how stigmatized and marginalized we are, the status quo remains ill at ease with us. We'd be doing something wrong if the status quo didn't find reason to keep pushing back against us. We just have to keep pushing right back against them.


Push Back

I find myself in complete agreement with Maia at Alas concerning the kerfuffle that erupted at Feministe over a guest blogger. (And seriously, how often has that phrased been uttered this summer?) The guest made a post positively coated in fat shaming. It largely comes from the "Yeah, but you don't really mean that" school of responding to fat acceptance. The author is simply dismissive of the notion that someone could believe that. OBVIOUSLY fat people are unhealthy and OBVIOUSLY we should pressure them to lose weight because OBVIOUSLY they are eating too many donuts.

Yes, the author really "went there" bringing up donuts.

Its all very scoldy, bringing nothing new to the discussion beyond telling people they are OBVIOUSLY wrong. But like Maia, what I see as progress is the reaction which is darn near universal in calling out the author on her sizist attitudes. That really isn't something you see even on progressive websites filled with people who ought to be our allies. Fat shaming enjoys such privilege that few people ever examine it and instead knee-jerk defend it. That so many people are pushing back so unapologetically is very encouraging to see. Even on fat accepting sites not very long ago, commentators harping about people eating too many cheeseburgers could be excused for their concern trolling and pushing back against them discouraged.

But we need to push back. When people adopt the attitude of "You can't really mean that" we must be there to say, yes. We do mean that.


Obvious advice is obvious

I had this revelation about a month ago and even I quickly recognized it was so stunningly obvious that it didn't really merit much mention. And yet, I just saw it used as a reason to go on a Weight Watchers, so maybe it does bare some discussion.

It feels better to wear clothes that fit.

I've put on a little weight over the last year and its put me in an awkward position between sizes. I'm wearing the same size pants, but different cuts yield very different results. Initially I wasn't really doing anything to accommodate this which meant much of the time I was wearing pants that didn't really fit comfortably anymore. I could get them on, but they felt tight and uncomfortable all day. Which wasn't making me feel good about my body. One day, I got tired of this and culled anything from closet that didn't currently fit a way I was comfortable with. I spent a little money to get some new things. Male privilege admittedly made that a pretty easy endeavor.

Since then, I've felt much better about my body. Surprise, surprise. I haven't lost weight. I checked just to be sure. Wearing uncomfortable clothes was causing me to fixate on my body in a negatively reinforced manner. Which sucks. Not having that feels better. All stunningly obvious.

Yet it took me a while to do it. I was partly waylaid by changed sizing from some retailers I frequented. The same sizes from just a year ago still fit fine, it was just the new stuff that was troublesome. That was part of why I kept wearing them because I struggled to acknowledge that this wasn't right. There is a strong impulse, I think, as a fat person in this culture to accept indignities big and small. Even among the fat accepting, some times. I should have just returned the stuff that didn't fit and gotten pissed off that I couldn't reliably buy clothes from that store. But I refused to admit that and I let myself feel bad about my body.

Which was stupid. But maybe not uncommon. I caught the Sara Rue commercial for Weight Watchers recently and one of her reasons for needing to lose weight was not having pants she could feel comfortable. And I totally know how demoralizing that can feel. But there is a solution. Get pants that feel comfortable.

Yeah, I know this can be an investment but it can be done incrementally. And honestly, its just worth it. A comfortable pair of pants is also a much more reliable way to have clothing that fits comfortably than spending time, money, and energy trying to make your body comfortable for the pants.

Again, I know this is much easier to act on as a man. But in most cases, we're not talking about replacing a closet in one fell swoop. Just making a point to get betting fitting clothes when you buy new things. Maybe get a couple cheaper outfits that fit to tide you over. I'm not saying I love all the new stuff I got, but it fits and I feel better as a result and that's absolutely been worth it.


That's entertainment

I figure its worth making something clear about my feelings about Huge. My frustration with the show being leveraged to sell fat stigmatization (and an exceptionally class-ist form of fat stigmatization at that) doesn't mean I'm telling you not to enjoy the show. I don't watch the program, so I can't judge its quality, but my understanding is that on a purely textual level it hasn't made the sorts of easy conclusions its handlers have. Getting in bed with an onerous promoter of fat hatred is disappointing, but it doesn't mean you can't like the show still.

It'd be nice to think that we can have purely fat positive, body affirming entertainment, but we can't. And we don't. I don't, anyway. If you are trying to, believe me, all power to you. But I can't even begin to try policing for this because I'm always reminded that I'm just punishing the people who open their mouths. Because we live in a society where fat hatred has been enshrined as common sense. One entertainer may have said something, but the overwhelming majority will find nothing wrong about that. Fat hatred is systematic in our culture. Most people, even most fat people, accept most of it without every really considering it. For myself, I don't think its fair to have high standards on this issue when making my entertainment choices. Its a luxury I don't think I can enjoy.

If an entertainer DOES find something wrong with fat hatred, awesome. If they are committed to oppose that, awesome. I'm by no means discouraging seeking out the entertainment venues that do try to offer something consciously free of fat stigmatization. Do not mistake me here, we need that and we should applaud it. But when someone fails, its okay to make a personal decision to keep being a fan. Just remember, its okay to be a fan AND feel disappointed and frustrated.

It pisses me off to know end when a show I love hauls out a fat suit for an episode. But I can still like the show in spite of the miscue. I really enjoy Ben Folds' music but there is one song I will not listen to because of the way it demonizes fat people through a hostile metaphor. I still listen to the rest of his ouvre because I still like him as a performer/songwriter. I kept enjoying Al Franken as a humorist after I stopped rationalizing his fat hatred as a parody and recognized that he meant it, too. I still watch Pixar movies even if I found Wall-E very troubling. Heck, I still watch Wall-E. I rewatched it a couple months ago and felt my concerns with it stand, even as I find other elements of the movie profoundly beautiful. You can enjoy an artist and still be frustrated with elements of their work or the manner in which their work is marketed.

Again, this is not to say that its not valid to make the choice to opt-out, too. Believe me, there are a lot of things I would not be forgiving about, even though they are not as personal an issue to me as fat acceptance. On this issue, though, I personally feel that banishment isn't a viable option in all cases, or frankly even most cases. Its a valid choice, too. Just know that you can balance your appreciation and disappointment. You don't need to reject your disappointment in order to appreciate them.

Cynicism still a winning bet

I've been watching the Huge blogging from afar wanting to think it was justifying the optimism that its been inspiring among fat positive viewers. While the setting always struck me as mine-field with no up-side, the notion of fat people just being on TV is incredibly radical and of course I wanted that to be a good thing. Withoutscene over at BFB, however, spots a pretty good sign of where the show really lies with an essay contest for a fat-stigmatization program scholarship.


I mean, this just pisses me off. I may be inclined to be cynical about shows like this, but it doesn't mean I want to be. It doesn't mean I don't sit around eager to proven wrong. Which, I guess, isn't really cynicism for reals, so much as a defensive mechanism.

Just... damnit.

See, here is my worst fear about Huge. That it would talk like it was body positive for a long while before pulling the switch. Only, it would take this inversion of body positivity and insist that it is actually the true end-result of body-positivity. In that, it would cut Fat Acceptance down in the same its been done before. By taking everything we say and repeating it only changing the ending to be one which serves fat stigmatization. And people have gotten away with this BS before, no matter how implausible. Soon we'll hear self-righteously about how wanting to lose weight is the obvious end result of loving yourself at any size. Doesn't matter that it makes no sense. It'll take hold and fat acceptance will be further marginalized while the only people who get to debate fatness are those with differing opinions on how to stigmatize us.


This is not a good sign, but I hesitate to say it betrays the show that a lot of people have felt positively about up until now. The people behind the show, after all, know how it turns out already. Is this a mis-guided effort at cross-marketing or have they betrayed the show's intent? We'll have to wait to see, but some people know. And I wouldn't be the least bit shocked to see them through Fat Acceptance under the bus.

Its perverse, really. What is Fat Acceptance? Its a very loose community of individual activists using their own time, money, and resources to advocate for a better life for themselves and for others by ending fat stigmatization. We're incredibly marginalized, underfunded, and disadvantaged. Yet there seems to be no end of people who want to self-righteously lump us in with those who make billions off selling fat hatred to all corners of our society. People who hate fat, but want to pretend that they are somehow more moral about it than the Me!Me!'s of the world by pulling this "a pox on both their houses" bullshit. They grandstand to soothe their ego, but at the end of the day what they call for and what the lunatic fringe of fat stigmatization call for isn't very different. Both of them want to make it unsafe to question fat stigmatization. Both of them want to disenfranchise fat activists. I'm sick of it. Whether intended by its producers or not, this product synergy with Huge will ensure no shortage of others happy to pull this act on us.

We're going to be self-righteously told to keep in our place. Don't we know fat is wrong? Don't we know we are wrong? They'll just keep asserting again and again and again how implausible and how unthinkable it is for us to think this way. We'll be disregarded into irrelevance. Any gains we might have seen from Huge would have just set up a more thorough burying.

Well, I'm sick and tired of this. If Huge is about something different, it should repudiate this contest. If it really is just an elaborate and poisonous infomercial for weight-loss camps, then it should be straight about it. Because I'm sick and tired of people using me and my beliefs to prop up their fat hatred. If you think body positivity leads to body hatred, you're insulting us.

UPDATE: Huge Co-Creator Shannon Dooley commented about this at Fatshionista. I certainly suggest you check that out, but the jist is that she is denying that there is any commercial tie-in planned between fat-stigmatization programs and the show and takes a few swipes at program at issue. This is good news, but it doesn't mean this is all about nothing, either. Whether it indicated the creator's intent or not, the show has been leveraged to promote fat hatred and this is troubling for many reasons outside of the concern that this would be reflected in the text of the program.


Oh noes! Ur bein fattened!

Its like CNN is basing stories around the fevered conspiracy theories of undernourished, 14 year old Weight Watchers wash-outs.

Shakesville called it "the worst thing you're going to read all day" and pretty much gets it right. CNN, by way of Oprah.com, is warning us of how our loved ones are making us fat! Because emotions are like the flu. Or athlete's foot. You can catch them after they linger a month in your shower.

Wait, what?!?

The whole story is alarmingly bullshitty. It keeps asserting things in the way some utterly convinced teenager would when the pieced together unrelated trivia and think they've figured out stuff. I would have rejected this story in my high school newspaper as poorly written and even more poorly sourced. It gets published because its author is an "expert". In what you ask?

She's a psychic. Oh, I'm sorry. An "intuitive". Wikipedia says she prefers that. She's gotten a few celebrities to buy into her nonsense, so she gets an even bigger platform with which to offer her delusional rants to the world. Honestly, it makes me want to scream sometimes the way utterly unqualified people get huge audiences to pontificate about fat, a subject they have no professional or personal experience with.

Its bad enough when people presume fat people are all "self-medicating" with food because they are so depressed, no its that OTHERS are making them depressed so they are, I guess, proxy self-medicating. She sort of seems to blame FAs for fat partners by using fat/thin couplings as "proof" of her point. Just by pointing it out, of course. It doesn't actual prove anything, she just says it did. No word on what fat/fat couples are doing wrong. I guess we have other thin friends forcing their fatness into us. I am an empathic sort. That must be why I'm fat! Oh noes!

Honestly, I'm just sitting her stunned that this incoherent nonsense was published. I'm just mentioning it as a reminder of the frighteningly low bar people need to clear in order to blather on about teh fatness in major media venues. I almost want to be relieved its not another stupid article about catching teh fatness from your fat friends. This time its your thin friends psychically projecting their potential plumpness onto you. The press just loves finding new things to blame for fat people. Themselves! Other fat people! TV! Thin people! Birds! Corporations!

I don't want anything blamed for fatness. I don't want my fatness treated as a source of blame at all. I don't care if you're making excuses for me to "let me off the hook" for my fatness. This garbage stigmatizes my body and I have no tolerance for that. Stop looking for someone to hold responsible for my belly and just accept it.


Where fat shaming and sex shaming meet

My friend Jaclyn Friedman (NAME DROP!) recently wrote a great article for Feministe called "My Sluthood, Myself". Its a great article that's about her experiences reclaiming her sexuality and learning that it was okay for her to have sex outside of a relationship and while this isn't for everyone, it is for some people and its important to be supportive of these sexual choices.

You will not be surprised to learn that this outrages some people. They are terribly upset that she isn't properly ashamed of herself and she's gotten several hyperbolic reactions bemoaning how she's going to destroy the world with her sluttiness or something. Part of their condemnation surrounds how Jacyln is not willing to give up searching for love while enjoying her sexuality. People can't seem to get that you can do both at once are are launching into her for her naivete, I guess. Doesn't she know she'll never get a man that way? Doesn't she know she'll only be horribly sad? Why isn't she crying? Hasn't anyone told her to be ashamed?

The attitude actually started feeling very familiar to me. This is what fat people get, too. "Why don't you feel ashamed?" Often, we get attacked by people who just can't process that we aren't ashamed. Or worse yet, think the problem is that no one told us to be ashamed. In spite of the fact that Jaclyn clearly talks about confronting this specifically in her article, people still act incredulous and insist she must not be aware of how sad she is and they ought to tell her so she knows to cry. They think if they just shout louder, we'll learn the error of our ways. And at the least, no one else who hears the shouting will make our mistake.

They want to redefine us for their benefit. Jaclyn talks about her positive experiences, so they just keep insisting that she's really horribly sad. Its pathological, but they naturally feel entitled to do this. Indeed, they feel smug about it. Like they've obviously proven her wrong simply by saying she is actually sad and ashamed. Fat people get that, too. If trolls bother to recognize what we are saying, they just insist its all a lie. We secretly know they are right and are horribly depressed over our lives. This is an especially insidious line of attack because it preys on our self-doubt. That is their key to introduce self-loathing. Because we are putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable. This manner of trolling seeks to take advantage of that. Having feelings of vulnerability are normal, though. Being brave is tough work and Jaclyn is pretty damn brave. I know from my own experience that self-doubt is normal. Healthy, really. I think a lack of it would strike me as somewhat pathological. Confidence doesn't mean not having those nagging questions. That is something our attackers will try to exploit, though. They want to use those normal anxieties to infiltrate our psyche and expand those anxieties. Multiply those doubts. Its a supreme act of disrespect .

Another similar attack are the death threats. No, not in the form of "I'm going to kill you". But they are still saying that if you disagree with them, you will die. Having casual sex? Don't you know that will kill you!?!? Fat? Don't you know that will kill you?!?! They use these impersonal threats as a form of intimidation. Again, as much to us as anyone else listening. They invent these extreme stakes that aren't really true as a means of scaring people into going along with them.

So, I keep babbling about what I'm learning as a fat activist in seeing how people are attacking Jaclyn for her own outspokenness, but that's not actually why I wanted to post about it. Sadly, I don't just need to draw parallels between slut shaming and fat shaming. The people attacking Jaclyn have shown that the two often go hand in hand. This is all about her attackers expressing ownership over her body, and they are just as judgmental about how that body looks as how she chooses to use it. They shame her for having sex and then turn around and shame her for not being someone they want to have sex with. While the lead condemners aren't making these fat shaming remarks, its illuminating to me that they aren't shunning them either, even as they get horribly infantile. The name-calling is disgustingly petty and immature, but because people think fat people deserve to be called names, supposedly civil people rarely find much offense with off-topic fat shaming. They might tut-tut it at most, but rarely even that. They don't seem to have much of a problem with it at all.

Fat acceptance is about more than fat. Fat shaming is a tool in the toolbox for many different kinds of oppression. It may not be something lead shamers will get their hands dirty with, but they sure don't care much when others do. Mocking someone for being fat is never okay. That includes the more limited times progressives do it, too, but the predictability of this coming up in reactionary assaults on feminism, civil rights, gay rights, etc is alarming. These kinds of oppression always get interconnected. We aren't just fighting for ourselves, but we're fighting to blunt a favorite attack against women, gays, African-Americans and others who stand up for themselves. Hate is rarely confined to one thing at a time.

I know I didn't really stay on track there, so for supportive articles that stay on topic, check out Not a Dirty Word and Pandagon.

UPDATE: More people supporting Jaclyn more eloquently and directly than I did. Jessica Valenti offers a devastating take on how the aggressively personal nature of the attacks is self-serving and self-promotional by the attackers. Particular "damn right" going to:
I also think it’s incredibly important that we not forget the personal and professional downfalls of being an unabashed feminist online. When we’re called whores, attacked and mocked online – those posts follow us forever. We take the hit so others don’t have to.
Damn right. (Emphasis hers, btw) Much love to Jaclyn and all others who expose themselves to speak out. Its not easy and you have my complete respect.


The perils of test marketing plus-size clothes

Jezebel is reporting on plans to introduce a plus-size line at the flagship store of Saks Fifth Avenue. Now, before you get super-excited, the expansion is only to size 14 across the board, though some lines will extend to size 20. But this does involve a lot of high-end labels that have a long tradition of avoiding even the lightest of the fatties like Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, and others.

This naturally sparked some questions from Jezebel on the specifics of this plan. Saks doesn't seem eager for attention, though, and only offered a boilerplate statement. Surely, someone somewhere is taking their bland endorsement as cause for the next great fat panic, but I'm a little more concerned about the reticence to promote this.

See, what's going on here is a bit of product testing. This is only being launched in one location. They see how it goes, and then decide how to expand. Its like Old Navy a few years ago when they expanded plus-sizes in their stores. Anyone remember how that turned out?

There is a fundamental flaw in the test marketing of plus-size clothes by retailers who've never offered them. See, if McDonald's wants to test market a new sandwich, they can rely on the fact that the people coming into the store are looking to buy a meal. Maybe they didn't know that the McNewwich was on the menu, but they are still there to get something to eat.

That isn't the dynamic here. It would be more like Victoria's Secret introducing a line of jeans for fat men. I might be the target audience, but at no time in my life do I find myself walking into a Victoria's Secret so it won't much matter. I'm never going to happen upon their awesome jeans, because I had no reason to be in their store. This can be combatted with a marketing campaign, but product testing often has little money for that. Word might leak out virally like this, but let's face facts. Most people aren't aware of what's being talked about on a few websites. That's what doomed Old Navy, I think. Without promotion, why would a size 24 woman have been in Old Navy to discover their plus-sizes? A few will hear about it online. Some might be shopping for others. But most of their potential customers just won't know about it and nothing can doom a product faster than ignorance in the marketplace. No matter how awesome your offering is, if no one knows about it, so what?

So, while its awesome that Saks will offer clothing in larger sizes, I worry that the intended clientele will never be stepping foot into Saks to discover this. And really, why should they?

So then the question because why these sorts of product launches are so consistently botched in this way. Is it simple incompetence or something more nefarious? I doubt anyone is trying to doom these lines to fail, but I also doubt anyone cares too much if they fail. A craven reluctance to be associated with fat people isn't an unthinkable motive. It may not be why they do it, but its an attitude which may still inform their approach.


Speaking of silly outrage about clothing

I went to tweet about my last post (oh, yeah, I'm trying out Twitter; @red3blog) and realized some sort of brohaha had erupted around Lane Bryant snarking about this t-shirt by definatalie.
@lanebryant: Is this really necessary? We say NO! Share your thoughts! http://ow.ly/2fILH #lanebryant
Seriously? Part of me is most baffled that THAT is the message Lane Bryant considers beyond the pale. I mean, its so ordinary. I'd hardly call that confrontational, yet we are reminded the very low bar some feel to be confronted by fat people not apologizing. Why on Earth is that where Lane Bryant wants to draw the line. Aside from how silly it is for a corporation to be picking fights with a CafePress site, its silly to be doing it over such a simple message. Especially with the scare capitals of NO! I don't want to seem like I'm ragging on the shirt. Its just, I really don't see what Lane Bryant's fuss was all about.

Naturally people took Lane Bryant up on their suggest to share their thoughts. Want to guess how that went?

Really, I find it bizarre that Lane Bryant would pretend to have ANY credibility to talk about what is necessary to promote acceptance of fat people. Like Lesley from Fatshionista, I don't expect Lane Bryant to be fat positive, but that's precisely why I also don't expect to appoint themselves the arbiters of appropriateness in fat positivity. Their track record on such issues is awful. And self-defeating, too.

One of Fat Acceptance's greatest challenges is that an industry exists to make money selling fat shame. Lane Bryant is a company that stands to make money from the opposite, yet they have never really seen that potential. People who have a loving relationship with their body will be more interested in buying clothing than someone who is mired in self-shame. This isn't rocket science. Lane Bryant has spent decades leaving an untold amount of money on the table by not getting this. By being content to being a destination of necessity rather than desire. Its baffling from a financial stand-point and speaks to just how ingrained fat stigmatization is in our culture. Even capitalism can't fight it. Whatever baby-steps they are taking now, their place is hardly to scold people for being ahead of their very curve.

Its like they want us to be naked

Oh noes! Fat students can buy school uniforms! Teh horror!

I think this may qualify as old news, but its too silly of a moral panic not to comment on.

"We want to make sure our schoolwear range is accessible for children of all shapes and sizes.” -Marks and Spencer spokesperson
Won't someone please think of the children? Oh, wait, I guess that IS what they are doing. Thinking about affording fat children the same opportunities to buy stuff as thin children. What should be a boring press release has been mutated into an excuse to fat shame. As if they really needed the excuse.

It should be alarming that an article about something so mundane would be a platform for outrage, but this is what we are up against. Even the most utterly boring victory for fat people is cause for epic hand-wringing. Its not even like this hasn't happened before. I've seen some especially unhinged fat bigots compare plus-size clothing stores with crack houses. No matter how reasonable our demands are, we'll still have some who act like we are murdering kittens with our bare hands.

What on Earth do they think we should do about the clothing needs of fat children? Send them out naked? Wrap them in burlap sacks lest they forget to feel ashamed? Fat stigmatization dominates our culture and society and yet its promotes genuinely feel like we aren't doing nearly enough to make fat people hate themselves. And lets not let the media off the hook, either. BBC News felt this was an appropriate angle to report on without the slightest counterpoint. And no, the retailer doesn't count as a counterpoint.

Fat children should be able to get clothes for school. That should not be a controversial statement. That fat stigmatizers treat it like it is is just a way of trying to control the debate in their favor. So our response must be two-fold.

Fat children should be able to get clothes for school and you're an idiot if you think otherwise. Maybe that's not inclusive, but screw that.


Pre-Accepting of Fat?

So, the other day I happened to note that I had a unique journey to being a fat accepting fat man in that I was fat accepting before I was fat. Some commentators were quick to note I'm maybe not as unique as I thought, so I'm curious to here more from others who believed in fat acceptance before becoming a fat person and applying those principles to their own lives.

For me, my first awareness of Fat Acceptance was as another kind of FA, a Fat Admirer. This is something I was aware of and open about at an earlier age. I'm thankful that at the time I didn't settle for just understanding this as a passive sexuality, but rather I wanted to learn about the experience of fat people. This intellectual curiosity led me time and again to Fat Acceptance and I found it all very persuasive. This is really a whole 'nother post I need to make (or several) but I've long be disappointed with how Fat Admirers weren't really political engaged by Fat Acceptance and how easily many FAs were about to disassociate themselves from the political struggles of the people they were sexually attracted to. I very much saw this as my fight and learned early on that I couldn't think I could just tell a fat woman that I thought she was pretty and have that undo the systematic culture stigmatization fat people endure. I wasn't just looking at this as what I found attractive. I was reading magazine articles on the movement, scouring libraries for books like Shadow on a Tightrope to learn more about the ideology and philosophy of Fat Acceptance.

So, I was, shall we say, more than aware of Fat Acceptance. One of the first things I did in college was join NAAFA (again, whole 'nother post). The second thing I did was gain weight. Not intentionally. It just, well, happened. I don't think I even realized it until I had put on almost 20lbs. I ended up gaining about 40lbs my Freshman year. I was not really happy about this. I think I had a misplaced sense of superiority as a thin fat admirer. Really, I just understood that being thin lended me a privilege of credibility with some I'd lose if I was also fat. I was frustrated with my body and disbelieving. I'd always been thin, after all. Maybe it'd be okay for me to lose weight since I wasn't "supposed" to be fat. Of course, I soon recognized that this was a genetic pattern in my family. The men grow up very thin and gain weight as adults for the most part.

For all my frustration, though, I still knew deep down that hating my body wasn't going to be productive. I felt fat acceptance was right. By then I was taking in all this fantastic online writing by people like Marilyn Wann and members of the Fat Underground. I may have hated by fat body, but I knew that hate wasn't going to be productive. I wanted to do something about that.

The summer after my first year in University, I got sick and lost all of the weight I gained only to put it on and then some the following year. While I internally was happy with the initial loss, I also found myself upset when I was complemented for it. I really tried to be introspective about these feelings. I worked to expand my sexual attraction to fat women to a more general aesthetic appreciation for fat in men and women alike and then tried to transfer that to myself. This didn't happen over night and in some real ways, its still happening but I am deeply grateful for the "head start" I got because I already knew of and genuinely believed in Fat Acceptance.

Please share your own stories in the comments. I'm fascinated at how other people might have had a similar journey or how it might have been different. And others, certainly, please feel free to reflect on these themes even if it doesn't quite describe your path to fat acceptance.

Other posts about my Fat Admirer experience:
Eventually not about Britney Spears
Sexual Aesthetic

"Disruptive trolling is essentially anti-freedom of speech"

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon had a post last week articulating her opposition to censorship and how this fits with banning disruptive trolls from her blog.

Indeed, I would say disruptive trolling is essentially anti-freedom of speech, in that the troll wants to shut down certain conversations that he thinks shouldn’t exist here or anywhere. He’s denying the right of us to run a blog that communicates what we want to communicate. We have a right here to conduct conversations on our grounds, not just hand it over to some guy who has managed to hone his skills at shouting others down and making intelligent discussion impossible.

Emphasis mine.

I simply cannot agree with this more and I think it captures the dynamic seen in Fat Acceptance spaces extremely well. FA spaces should not be afraid to conduct our discussions on our standards, not the standards of anyone who waltzes in and starts throwing a tantrum at us. Concern trolling about "censorship" when its their behavior that is target the expression of people they don't agree with. They are trying to appropriate the platform and audiences others have built and use it to to attack the principles advocated by those communities.

This is what FA has seen time and time again with weight loss supporters and their abuse of fat acceptance communities and its something we should forcfully resist. No one has to agree with any of what we have to say, but that doesn't give them the right to redefine our beliefs to their liking. It doesn't give them the right to drown out our expression. Those kinds of things are forms of intimidation and they are not unique to Fat Acceptance. They are practically cliche. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone abusively disrespect a progressive community all the while patting themselves on the back for their "bravery". There is nothing brave about disruptive trolling, nor is there anything cowardly by showing no toleration for that nonsense.

In the last 14 years I have seen so many fat acceptance communities destroyed by relentless disruptive trolling. Some have come from hardcore trolls who simply hate fat people. Others from concern trolling from dieters who cannot deal with the fact that not everyone supports weight loss dieting. Others still from foolish self-promoters who pick fights to "raise their profile". What they all share is a sense of entitlement and privilege to disrupt us and silence us all why insisting THEY are the victims. We cannot tolerate this. We need to move past it. Fat Acceptance has been unusually vulnerable to concern trolling, but we need to push back.

So, consider this my call to my community to not put up with people who want to shout us down. When they shout, shut them down. If you it is your space, just don't allow it. We could drown in this kind of petty snipping and lame feud baiting and we need to move past their efforts to define us and dictate the rules of debate to us. We don't allow such indulgences. We can't get lost sniping back, but if we cannot remove them we should still stand clear in our refusal to condone the disrespect and disruption. This really is about free speech, but not in the way they'd like us think.


The enemies of the good

I didn't want to seem like I was bagging on withoutscene over at BFB in my last post. The frustration is very much not with the content of the post, but rather those who keep insisting that Fat Acceptance stop to grovel at the feet of those who disagree with us over their imagined slights. Everything withoutscene said in the post was right, and not surprisingly she also made a very good observation in the comment section there which I'd like to quote...

I do think that people encounter people like me and somehow get the impression that I'll look down on them if they have body shame. Like, they find it hard to understand that despite the fact that I celebrate my body and I'm a fat activist, I still struggle. As if I become hard to relate to when I'm not wallowing in body shame or something.

This is actually something I think about a lot. I imagine people look at me and think I am an extremely fat accepting individual. And I am. I had a unique journey to FA in that I was exposed to FA and very strongly believed in before I was fat myself. I very unintentionally found myself in position to be a testing ground for my own adopted ideals. I'm extremely grateful for all this as I think it saved me from a lot of the body shame most people experience in our society. Which is all to say that I, myself, consider myself to be unusually fat accepting sometimes.

I still struggle with body shame every day of my life.

In the past I have seen people justify abandoning fat acceptance because they have those feelings of shame. The truth is all of us do. That is why having a community is so important because we really do need to share our strength. Every last one of us. I don't think I'd be speaking of turn to suggest that ever fat activist you see blogging or organizing is someone who very much needs the community of FA on a personal level. The most gung-ho of us still struggle. What we are talking about is not perfection. We cannot afford to make perfect the enemy of the good. No one in FA will scorn someone for having doubts or for dealing with self-loathing because all of us deal with the same things. What we can do is share our strength in responding to internalized body shame.

The way I've always looked at it is, "Accept that you will feel the shame, but do not accept the shame." We can't fault ourselves for not being perfect, but that's not an excuse to not keep striving for it. We recognize our limitations without letting the limits define us. We choose to be defined instead by what is possible in our lives. The body shame will be there, but it will not defeat us. We may never do away with that nagging doubt, that lingering shame, but what we can do is control what we do about those feelings. We can control what we become because of them. Do we resign ourselves and let the shame win? No. That is what we can do. We meet this challenge and we push on and I believe that this is something we can all do.

So, can you be in fat acceptance and still feel body shame? Absolutely. I'm not sure there is anyone who doesn't at some moment in their lives. What defines you is how you choose to act on that shame. FA is about how we act in the face of the shame. Its not defined by some perfect ideal of living free of shame, but our choice to not let that shame win. In time, things can get better. We can all be on different places on the journey, but so long as we share a destination we are striving for, we have the bonds of community. We are are all moving in that direction, and THAT is what defines us. No one is keeping score on where we are on that journey and in a lot of ways it doesn't matter because the pitfalls and risks we face as individuals are the same as we all face. There is just no meaningful hierarchy for that. Whoever you think is super-fat-accepting is far more like you than you think, but let that say something about YOUR potential rather than their limitations.