I started writing a comment at Big Fat Blog that was getting WAY too long for a comment, so its becoming a blog post. BFB has a post up explaining that Fat Activists don't hate dieters. All of it is completely true and I completely feel the same way but the post still kind of frustrates me. Not that BFB made it but that there are those who made it necessary. Its not that I feel any hatred towards dieters, but I do feel some anger over the way Fat Activists constantly have to explain that.
We obviously aren't demonizing dieters. I've never seen any legitimate Fat Acceptance voice do anything that could fairly be even perceived that way, much less characterized as such. That it is an attack that gets made so frequently isn't a reason to question ourselves because its not really about us at all, but rather the limited tolerance others have for Fat Acceptance. Its a way, conscious or otherwise, for others to try to disenfranchise us by making our discussion about THEM rather than US. And frankly, THAT is something for us to actually get upset about.
We should hate that we are constantly made to feel like we need to explain that we don't hate dieters. That we are constantly being pushed to wish them good luck. Its a way of trying to enforce a discussion on their terms and that is something that should bother us. Its about not letting us move forward to make our case. I'm not upset when someone wants to lose weight. Well, not at them personally anyway. It upsets me on a cultural level, but I feel utterly no hatred or anger towards the person who feels what is the natural way to feel for most people in our society. My anger about these issues is towards the larger cultural forces and frankly I have a right to that anger and I have a right to feel like the way fat people are made to feel is an injustice.
I do hate the culture of dieting, but I feel no animosity towards individual dieters. Point of fact, I feel terribly sorry for them. Hearing someone is on a diet doesn't anger me, it saddens me. These people aren't who I am fighting, they are who I am fighting for. There isn't a "who" I am fighting at all, really. Its an attitude the justifies fat hate, internalized or externalized. It is a culture which promotes and endorses fat stigmatization. If there are individuals I am fighting, it would be those who promote and often profit off this status quo. Not the people I perceive to be victimized by it.
And frankly, that should be clear. The only dieters I've ever called out are those who promote it to others. And its not their internalized fat hatred I am troubled by but that they have taken steps to promote and exploit internalized fat hatred in others. The issue we see is that the culture of fat stigmatization encourages people to so completely internalize fat hatred that they see any threat to that attitude as a threat to them personally. While I can I understand that dynamic, I cannot compromise to it because to do so would be to deprive and limit my right to feel differently.
What this is really about is our right to opt out. To opt out of a cultural structure that stigmatizes our bodies and to find a new path to serve of physical and mental well-being. That right is what is threatened when people try to bring diet talk into fat acceptance spaces. Oh, I have seen dieters who like to portray themselves as the victims of big bad fat acceptance, but nothing could be further from the truth and that is why I don't think we can respond to such distortions with platitudes and protestations. We need to call it out as an attack on OUR autonomy. Their autonomy is not remotely imperiled by someone finding their own space to express their own views and find support for their choices. We shouldn't have to even explain that. This is OUR space. OUR community.
Maybe there will be a day when the power of fat acceptance threatens the autonomy of those who disagree with us, but that day is absurdly far off that even entertaining the notion of it is farcical. The truth is, I don't go to diet support sites to tell them they are wrong. I'm not aware of anyone in FA who does that. I don't post scolding lectures on the walls of dieting Facebook friends. In spite of what you see on TV, fat activists don't protest weight loss meetings. We do nothing that would make it fair for people to accuse us of hating dieters. But the people who often make those charges ARE the people acting that way. They are disrespecting us by trying to destroy our spaces, our communities by insisting we offer them "inclusion" to disagree with us and demean us. We show our respect for their autonomy, but there are many who won't show us that same respect who want to silence us.
I don't wish dieters ill. I don't hope their diets go poorly. I also won't hope they go well or wish them good luck. What I want is the right to wish them nothing. I cannot in good conscious wish someone well doing something I feel is a horrible mistake. Our options aren't limited to two, however. Its not wish them ill or well. We can simply opt out. I do not condemn individual dieters and I should have the right to also not congratulate them.
When someone hates their body, wants to lose weight, stigmatizes their fat, I feel sympathy and frankly some sorrow. I don't feel hate and anyone who perceives that is just making that up in their head and I can't be held to that. I don't hate them for those feelings. I'm not angry at them. But for my own conscious and well-being, I cannot feel happy about those feelings either. I can accept that people will feel differently. I can tolerate that difference of opinion. Obviously I'm already doing that. But that doesn't mean I have to like that opinion. Agreeing to disagree means still disagreeing. It means respecting that disagreement. Nothing FA does shows disrespect to those we disagree with. For some on the other side, that's just not the case. They shouldn't set the terms and limits of our own discussion, though. I have utterly no desire to hate a dieter, but I also have no desire to wish them all the best with their internalized fat stigmatization. That is NOT too much for us to ask for.