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.


Anonymous said...

I don't really have a comment, but I love your posts. Please keep them coming!

Ms. Heathen said...

I had to stop reading at about 45 comments, mostly because I was getting that feeling like I'd skip the thread, post something that had already been discussed, then feel massively embarassed that I'd done so.

I was a little dismayed at the comment thread at Feministe that it took almost 30 comments before someone brought up the idea that health is a completely private issue and not anyone's business. It took quite a few comments after that to link attitudes about health with attitudes about ableism. I'm constantly amazed that my fellow feminists can support bodily autonomy when it comes to reproductive rights, but fall down on this very same concept when it comes to health in general.

I feel very unsafe sometimes when the subject of health is raised because health is defined largely by temporarily able bodied people, and predominently by a medical establishment that is comprised of middle and upper class white men. Even discussions of HAAS make me feel uneasy. In a health focused paradigm, my lameness isn't a part of my identity, but a problem to be cured. In a health focused paradigm my mental illnesses are not something that I own and deal with, but a condition for which many people suggest treatment. Health talk pathologizes the disabilities I inhabit that I believe are central to my identity.

Perhaps FWD is the better place to broach this subject, but as I'm still trying to find the language to identify myself as disabled I don't think I can contribute to a community where many of the members are way ahead of me. I just felt the need to point out, even in discussions where we think we are being neutral on the subject of health, I'm still going to believe that we need to move past that paradigm to get to true rights and acceptance for all people, regardless of body.

Brian said...

That the argument wasn't being made doesn't mean it was being ignored. Fat is a complex issue and everyone comes at it differently. What I'm really impressed with there is that nearly every one came at it from a perspective of thinking fat stigmatization is wrong.

I think an important thing to note is that arguing for fat acceptance is inherently arguing against healthism. While it can theoretically simply offer an alternative healthism, even then its still radically challenging what "health" means. In practice, most fat activists regard that challenge as an opening to completely redefining what health means to be inclusive of all bodies. That is why I find the good/bad fatties notion such a red herring. The whole point of "good fatties" is that this shows that what we're told "good" is simply isn't right. I know some FA allies have tried to urge some kind of bargaining with healthism from this, but most fat activists simply reject that.

Anonymous said...

@Ms. Heathen

the very last comment allowed (#123) in that awful Feminist post, was so damn kick-ass you have got to see it, here it is:


"I think this is time to bring out my tried and true FAT RANT –


“So if you are one of those people who cluck and moan over fat people and their supposed ill health – shut up. You don’t know what you are talking about, and you sound pretty ignorant and obnoxious.”"


I highly, highly encourage you to go to the "voracious vegan's" blog post link above. The blogger is a thin, athletic vegan who totally gets FA and thinks bashing people over the head with "health concerns" is complete b.s. It was so worth it to find that little gem of a comment! I don't think you will be disappointed with the "voracious vegan."

Anonymous said...

Monica is in a new podcast at http://www.postbourgie.com/ where she defends her post. Basically she believes that we are all in denial about our ill health and we are too blinded by our delusions to reasonably consider her argument. The site is having technical difficulties so I couldn't listen past the point where someone compares the fat acceptance movement to the anti-vaccine movement. I found the whole thing ridiculous and ignorant and hateful.

Sleepydumpling said...

I was really heartened by the push back. Once there would have been one or two voices. This time it was overwhelmingly in the favour of that push back. Fantastic stuff.

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