End male privilege (to advance thin privilege)

David Sirota has come up with a novel reason to end male privilege. Because it gets in the way of thin privilege.

His recent article gets it precisely backwards on discussing the intersection of fat shaming and gender as he correctly identifies the disparity but then concludes that the solution is to make things worse for. Its really quite perverse. How often does a marginalized group see its injustice recognized only to then see expanded injustice advocated as a response. It would be like seeing the wage gap that exists between men and women and concluding this means men are paid too much.

Fat men do experience privilege. As a fat man, it would be dishonest of me not to recognize this. But Sirota's article is a good reminder that we are still stigmatized. Our fat bodies are the primary consideration for him and what should unify us all in being shamed and stigmatized. The whole article indulges in that peculiar trait of the privileged (left out of my last post) of insisting that the oppressed are the oppressors. He praises weight loss promotion as if it doesn't routinely get praised. He implies forces looking to protect fat men's fatness where none exist. There are a couple fat actors who get work so long as they are defined by their fatness? Why that means fatness is being treated as a virtue! De facto! Fat men play sports? Didn't anyone call them whales? Well, don't worry, David Sirota makes sure to right that wrong with his childish name-calling. Fat men experience privilege, but that doesn't mean we are celebrated. Rather, we are inoculated from some fat shaming to varying degrees. As usual, to the entitled, this just looks like we aren't getting our fair share of abuse. I guess we better vent some frustration while Sirota works to correct that.

In the end, this is just a powerful pundit concern trolling fat people. He's not actually exposing male privilege as much as just imposing thin privilege on people he feels are unjustly spared injustice. He's not out to end privilege. Just to deny it from people deemed unworthy like he's closing some sort of loophole.


You can't win with these people

A common theme I've touched on here are the ways the culture of fat stigmatization works to engineer the discussion of fat issues to conclude its own rightfulness. I want to focus a little more on this, but I should stress that this isn't about tactics to respond to these points. Rather, its about understanding that we can't.

This doesn't mean we do nothing, mind you. Quite the contrary. We do, however, need to be conscious of how privileged viewpoints structure debates to enshrine their views as inevitable. We must be aware of how fat shaming works to assert the authority to write the rules by which fat is to be discussed and how those rules are crafted to ensure their perspective will reign supreme. We cannot respond because any response is invalid by definition. Its not about working within this system, but staying mindful that this whole system needs to come down.

None of this is unique to the efforts of fat activists. My interest here is to look at the rules of discussing fat, but these techniques are invariably employed by the powerful to marginalize the marginalized and disadvantage the disadvantage. The tools of privilege are widespread, but that never obliges us to acquiesce as they might demand.

The Cost of Admission is Admitting You're Wrong
People in power love setting ground rules. These are the basic, guiding principles that surely we can all agree on. Not so coincidentally, those basics are the fundamentals of their viewpoint. For them to take you seriously, though, they insist that you acknowledge them.

"Surely, we can all agree..." is a common formulation of this. You'll often hear it repeated to you as if it were a mantra. Even after you've clearly disagreed with the thing that surely we can all agree on. Which is actually a good demonstration of the cost of admission. Until you've agreed, you won't listen to you, so of course they didn't hear you disagree. If they do hear, then they might tweak it to "Surely, you can't mean..." to emphasize that you didn't actually just express something they disagree with. Why, don't you realize what the cost of admission is?

For fat activists, this most commonly manifests as a demand to endorse a declaration of poor health for fat people. Surely, we can all agree that fat is bad. Surely we can all agree that fat people shouldn't be fat. Surely, we can all agree that fat children are a scourge on our planet. It has an institutional role, too. When scientists gather to discuss "obesity", the requirements to be recognized as an expert on the topic has nothing to do with scientific understanding about fatness. Rather, you have to be a weight loss researcher. Skeptics in the medical establishment are routinely shut out from discussions because no matter how much they know on the matter, if they aren't in the business of selling fat people on the promise of thinness, then they necessarily can't be an expert on fat people. Actual fat people, of course, are the least valid perspective. The fact that experts on fat people are called "obesity" experts exposes another tactic.

Write the Dictionary
Most of our society thinks "obesity" is a perfectly ordinary word to reference fat people. Likewise "overweight". Indeed, these aren't just appropriate, these are the nice words. What you use to demonstrate your sympathy for fat people. In truth, they are extremely loaded words that are structured to support fat stigmatization. We think "fat" is an insult, but not a word which explicitly defines us by a perceived failing? Or a word which trades of perceptions of authority to mark as diseased?

Controlling the way people talk about things is a way for powerful forces to maintain control. We see this in those who decry "political correctness". How dare people seek to define themselves? How dare people not just accept whatever we want to call them? The privileged seek to craft the vocabulary so that it presumes their privilege. From infantilizing terms for women to otherizing terms for racial minorities. Its about imposing a definition to keep people from defining themselves.

"Obesity" has a particularly apt counterpart in "homosexual", a word also widely accepted to be without malice when its anything but. Both are examples of "scare Latin" where words that seem authoritative are used to dehumanize a group of people. It is about enforcing our outsider status with words that make our lives sound like a disorder or a disease. Obesity isn't even neutral in the Latin. The word a description of the assumption that fat people overconsume. Which is the point of fat stigmatizers. Getting us to use their dictionary is getting us to admit they are right.

Define Neutral
Both of the last two topics are about how the powerful try to define the discussion to their favor. Its not just about defining us, though. Its also about defining the parameters of the discussion. Its not enough to demand we use words that define us as diseased or as moral failures. Its also about insisting that such judgmental words are actually unbiased. It feeds into a larger tactic of defining what is neutral and what is the middle ground. Its all about establishing acceptable viewpoints. If the unbiased viewpoint is, itself, biased, this will only disadvantage the other side.

It carries strong advantages. It allows one to appear magnanimous in offering to compromise for everything they wanted in the first place. The debate about fat often takes this form. One far end of the debate calls fat people evil and calls upon draconian tactics to punish anyone with an unacceptable body. The opposite far side are people who say its okay to accept one's body without self-loathing or apology. Those are NOT two sides of the same coin. But by setting the respective goal posts here, the side of fat stigmatization is profoundly advantaged. Pretty much everything moving away from the "radical" side of fat acceptance is going to be fat stigmatizing to some degree. By making fat acceptance the extreme boundary of the discussion, they ensure our failure. Then people who merely say fat people should be subject to social stigma and workplace coercion seem measured against the people calling for us to be fined by the government and have our children taken from us. Defining moderation to serve your ends is a powerful tactic in the self-affirmation of fat shaming.

The De Facto Factor
Its not just the middle that gets defined, of course. So do our viewpoints. Numerous arguments will be smeared on sight as a de facto attack on thin people. Do fat activists actually attack thin people? No. But we sure do de facto attack them. We don't actually do anything, but promoters of fat stigmatization define much of what we say as thin hating in practice. Mind you, their ACTUAL fat hatred isn't actually hating, but we sure are oppressing thin people a lot for a group with so little power. We actually say a lot of really outrageous things when we aren't actually saying those things.

If you affirm a desire to stop hating your body and you have a fat body, this becomes a dangerous effort to promote obesity in our nation's children! Sure, you didn't say anything like that, but you de facto said it by refusing to hate yourself. Not hating yourself becomes the same thing as force-feeding toddlers crates of Twinkies. Recently, I said that I wouldn't accept that having hypertension meant I was unhealthy. People regarded this as a de factor renunciation of any and all medical treatment for high blood pressure AND an effort to force other people to have high blood pressure as well. I didn't say anything even remotely close to that, but lots of people insisted confusion because of what I de facto said.

Dismissing people based on these kinds of "de facto" definitions is a way of silencing people and it works to further their established parameters of discussion. If we don't cooperate by being as extremist as fat haters, they'll say we did anyway for the sake of symmetry. Its like complaints of "women hating" or "discrimination of whites" as being the practice of feminism or the civil rights arguments. Those also used de factor presumptions to radicalize an opponent who was stubbornly being reasonable. Reasonableness, after all, is the exclusive domain of fat shamers.

Motive Matters
The invocation of reasonableness, anyway. For the privileged, good intentions are the most powerful cleaning agent. Any manner of abuse can be metted out so long as you didn't mean to be abusive. Why, they aren't homophobic! They are just concerned for their souls. You didn't mean to be racist. You were just being opportunistic. As long as you didn't "mean it", you can get away with anything because motive is all that matters.

Fat shamers enjoy little more than flattering their sense of righteousness with their good intentions. Doesn't matter that there is a whole cliché about the folly of good intentions, they stand by it as completely absolving them from any responsibility for their actions. Fat shaming isn't even a thing because they didn't mean to shame us. They just meant for us to know how we are destroying our lives, and the economy, and the planet. How can it be stigmatizing to call us an epidemic? Don't we know they just want to help?

Reliance on the supremacy of "motive" is a means for invalidating much of what we will have to say. By their definition, most of our arguments are necessarily wrong because they aren't how they would define themselves. Sure, they get to define us, but we are obligated to accept their own self-image as infallible or we just don't want to talk seriously about how fat people are what's wrong with the world. Its not like they wanted us to feel bad about that. They just don't really mind if we do. We are what's wrong with the world, after all.

What about ME?
If fat stigmatizers are especially disinterested in engaging with what we have to say, there is a reliable stand-by of false equivalencies to make us answer for the tragedy of thin stigmatization. We talk about fat shaming, and it won't take long before some wails "what about the thin people?!?" and starts derailing the discussion with a litany of slights against thin people.

Of course, thin people can be treated very poorly. But why should every discussion about how fat people are mistreated turn into a discussion about thin people? Its about centering all discussions on the privileged group. Fat people are abused? Well, thin people get treated exactly the same.

They don't. Again, this does not mean that there isn't abuse of thin people that is completely unacceptable. There is and its absolutely worth discussing. That doesn't make it "exactly the same", though. Saying that is a pretty sure way to show you don't really care to listen to what fat people are talking about. We saw that repeatedly in #thingsfatpeoplearetold. We've got story after story of unimaginable indignities but I read some websites where people responded to it by insisting that treatment of thin people was just as bad. It can be bad, but "just as bad" is not really a respectful place for a privileged group to come from when responding to a marginalized group's stories of disrespect, discrimination, and dehumanization. What most of these people were really saying is that their mistreatment really mattered because they didn't deserve it. Unlike the fat people. They didn't want to seriously discuss the dehumanizing treatment of thin people (which, in truth, often comes from the same sources as fat shaming). Like those insisting on a "White History Month" or "Men's History Month", its not about engaging but about derailing discussions they don't approve of.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, but that's what these all get back to. The status quo doesn't engage with marginalized groups. It dismisses them. You can't win with these people, because they wrote the rules just to make sure you lose. So what do we do?

While we would be helpless to try to constructively engage fat stigmatization, that doesn't mean we can quite ignore it, either. We just shouldn't expect to be constructively engaged and plan accordingly. In many ways, they free us up to not worry about what they have to say by so readily saying the same things and doing the same things and generally not respecting us. We have no motivation to make concessions to fat shaming even on tactical or pragmatic grounds because no such bargaining will be accepted. Sure, the status quo may pretend to bargain, but that's just another tactic to define us away. They'll allow fat people to have ill-defined "glandular problems" so long as its understood that's next to no one and that they only pity them, not respect them.

We have every reason to stand our ground and demand the radical changes that fat sitgmatization's failures demand. I don't think that necessarily means exaulting idealism above all else, mind you. For instance, it shouldn't matter why someone is fat for fat shaming to be wrong. It does, however, matter to the people doing the fat shaming AND what they assert is genuinely wrong. While what we demand is radical change, what we are confronted with is still there and in some ways we must respond to it on its own terms, if just to reveal those terms to be a false foundation. They think fat is absolutely a choice AND that it matters. Neither is true, so both are worth confronting and refuting. There will never be the time fat shaming is willing to bargain to limit fat stigmatization for those who weren't born this way. We saw this demonstrated with gay bashers who've skipped that step and acknowledge that LGBTQ individuals didn't choose their sexuality but insist they must be shamed anyway for their own good.

Radical change is possible. The massive social shifts of the 20th century show us that. There is still a long way to go to advance idealism and equality, but change has taken place. This is not cause for complacency but it must embolden us to keep demanding more. Fat stigmatization enjoys widespread casual support and fat activists lack the financial backing and social support of fat shaming, but this was once true of other marginalized groups who are making change happen. We will, too. We won't win on their terms, but we can win.


Fat acceptance is for all fat people

Fat acceptance is for all fat people.

I'm hoping most of my readers find that an utterly mundane thing to say but we shouldn't lose sight of how provocative it is. Or how important it is to stress it. Fat acceptance is for ALL fat people. If you think fat acceptance needs to be withheld from anyone, then you are not talking about fat acceptance. If you think fat acceptance is only for the acceptably fat, then you are not talking about fat acceptance.

I recognize that this isn't something that will come easy for many people, but it is important that fat acceptance challenge people to think differently. It is not enough to carve out some sort of narrowly defined exemption to allow yourself to be fat while continuing to fat shame others. I would also question the inverse, where you allow for others to be fat, but not people like you. I get that it may take some time for people to get there, but we need to challenge them to get there. We need to challenge people to think about fat differently.

Fat acceptance is for fat people with health concerns like hypertension, diabetes, PCOS, and the like that are typical a focus of fat shaming. Fat acceptance was not created to champion fat people without these health concerns at the expense of those who do have them. It was created for all of us. Fat people with health needs are often the most vulnerable to our culture of fat stigmatization and we must be committed to fighting for them. For us. I was diagnosed with hypertension about two years ago. I'm not going to be ashamed because of this. I'm not going to apologize. I'm not going to justify myself. What I will demand is weight neutral treatment. Shaming me does no good, not that this will stop people. I know why fat people with diabetes are reluctant to speak out in fat acceptance circles. I know why fat people with sleep apnea may avoid talking about it. We shouldn't. Anyone who tries to withhold fat acceptance from us is wrong. Fat shaming is not a fair response to our health concerns. It is not a productive response. It is no response at all. It is a distraction and we must not be told that we don't deserve respect because we don't meet an external standard of health. We can be healthy. Not by a standard which will deny us health no matter what, but we should not let that standard define us.

Fat acceptance is for fat people with health concerns not typically blamed on fatness. Both because when you are fat, ANYTHING will be blamed on fatness, and because no health concern is a moral failing. No health care need should exempt someone from pursuing a healthy relationship with their body. Not in the stigmatizing way health is defined for us, but in a way which focuses on what we are capable of and not defining us by perceived limitations. I think we have to be even more radical than saying that health is not a moral obligation and question the very definition of "health" which is only used to shame and stigmatize people for being "sick". We can live our lives and pursue our health right now. With diabetes, with hypertension, with whatever. "Health" as a tool for shame has nothing to offer us. This is about something different. About enriching our lives instead of defining us by what we are not.

Fat acceptance is for fat people with mobility issues. It is for fat people who use wheelchairs, canes, and scooters. It is not okay to rationalize that some people "need" to lose weight. That is not productive or helpful. Fat stigmatization does not magically start to work because someone "needs" it. All it has done is fail us. We need to start challenging these attitudes in our culture and in ourselves. Shaming fat people who are differently abled is one of the most perverse and horrendous instances of fat stigmatization. For working with the needs of their bodies they are subject to all manner of scorn and hostility. They deserve our respect. Period. Fat shame never has a time and a place.

Fat acceptance is for fat people who weigh more than 300 lbs. And more than 400lbs, 500lbs, or whatever arbitrary line someone wants to draw. If you want to try to justify walling off fat acceptance for people who are too fat, remember that what we are told is that we are ALL too fat. No matter how much you think it makes sense to stigmatize fat people at whatever point you've decided is "too much", remember that the "common sense" of fat stigmatization makes no such distinctions. We are ALL collectivized by this fat shaming. There is no distinction between someone who is 250lbs and someone who is 500lbs. If you don't think that makes sense for you, why are you so quick to presume it makes sense for someone larger? Your line is arbitrary. There is NO point when fat stigmatization starts showing "results". There is no point where fat shaming "works".

Fat acceptance is also for the person who weighs 200lbs. It is also for the fat person who is currently able bodied. It is for the fat person without immediate health concerns. It is for the fat people who are not so easily categorized (which is to say, all of us). I don't earn fat acceptance when I go hiking through rocky forests. I don't lose fat acceptance when I monitor my blood pressure. It is about sharing all of our experiences to show what a rich and diverse tapestry of potential fat people have. It brings together our collective strength through our unique experiences. All of our experiences are okay. All of our lives deserve respect. None of us deserve shame or moral judgment.

Fat acceptance is for all fat people.


On reclaiming "health"

Got a couple concern trolly comments on my last post trying to enforce conventional moralizing about health. Which is pretty par for the course. While I feel a lot of "good fatty" fretting amounts to a straw-man argument, there are people who do promote this kind of bargaining. Its just rarely the so-called "good fatty". More commonly, I've seen it coming from people who are far more interested in the prosecution of bad fatties. They magnamonously agree to let a platonic "good fatty" off the hook so long as we all agree the bad fatties are SUPER BAD. I don't agree that any fatties are really falling for this, but it clearly exists and clearly should be resisted.

These are the people who like to shame fat people who are diabetic or who have high blood pressure or PCOS or... well, as you might imagine the list will go on. Rest assured, when all is said and done, they will probably ensure that no "good" fatty even remains, but they'll have flattered their sense of even-handedness by offering their false compromise. There is this notion that fat acceptance can't be "serious" or "realistic" without playing by their rules, and I'm sure some fat people buy into this. In the end, though, every fatty will be a bad one.

Which is what troubles me when my fellow fat persons feel the need to self-identify within their system. Because their system has no room for our health at all. Their system will only ever look at us and think we're ignorant, making excuses, looking for an easy way out. I said that I refuse to be excluded from "health" because I have high blood pressure and the snarky attack is that I'm glorifying high blood pressure. This is why we can't play by their rules. Not just in theoretically self-identifying as "good", but also self-identifying as "bad". In the end, they will always moralizing our lives because we have fat bodies. We have to break this and reclaim health. Not by their rules and standards, but by ones which are free from their shaming and which affirm the right for all fat people to receive health care free of shaming, stigmatization, and judgment.

When I talk about reclaiming "health", I mean the word. Not the concept as those who stigmatize and moralize define it. I don't want that because all that is is an unattainable standard. It has nothing to offer us. It wants us to be ashamed of our health concerns. No. I will not be. Fat acceptance is for all fat people. Those with health concerns, those who differently abled, all of us. We need to move past the shame and stigmatization of good vs. bad, healthy vs. unhealthy. We need to reclaim "health" as something we all have a right to. Not as something withheld if we have a condition to care for. As much as they want to make us out to be looking for excuses, what fat acceptance is really fighting for is for every fat person to have a chance to have their health needs addressed as they desire and without shaming. We are past their rules of healthy and unhealthy. Their rules have failed us and are failing us. When fat acceptance talks about "health", we aren't talking about what our fat shaming culture is talking about. We aren't trying to tweak their rules, we are tearing them down to their very foundation so that we can construct something that will actually serve our needs and wishes.


"Good Fatties" is not a self-definition

I still don't really get how to respond to something on Tumblr, so I'm just going to do it here. There is a discussion today about the problems with good fatties and something clicked with me reading it.

Good fatties don't define themselves that way. The term was coined to mock the subject, not valorize them. I'm having trouble taking seriously people who employ this sort of stigmatizing language. Has this gotten lost over the years? The sarcasm of it seems pretty evident to me, but does it not translate? To me, using the term in an attack on the supposed subject strikes me as really bad faith.

I've written about these issues before, but I don't think I went far enough. While there could be a theoretical issue of the so-called "good" fatties bargaining with fat stigmatizers, as the term was created and repeated, it actually endorses the definitions of health used to disenfranchise fat people. We need to remember that those definitions don't provide for ANY of us to be "good". There is no bargaining with it. Fat acceptance isn't arguing for accommodations, but for genuinely radical shifts in what we understand "healthy" to mean. "Health at Every Size" is a contradiction under the status quo definition of health. It is functionally incompatible with those ideas of good and bad. If there are any HAES promoters who do practice it as an effort to justify a few fat people, I'd suggest they reconsider the system the are trying to negotiate with. Because that status quo will not and cannot allow for "good fatties". To me, any "good fattie" example is necessarily an example not to glorify but to disprove. Because its their system that is defining good and bad and that system which is shown to be a lie when any fat person defies it.

I'm not a good fattie. I definitely defy conventional expectations in some ways, but not all. I won't define myself as "bad" or "unhealthy" when I fail to meet the status quo's standards. Those standards are what we are all trying to dismantle. There may come a day when the status quo tries to bargain and allow for HAES so long as its health on their terms. We should reject that bargain when it comes, but we also shouldn't forget that the status quo is NOT bargaining with us at all. It is denying us. Well, screw that.

I'm not going to let the medical status quo tell me I can't have "health" because I have high blood pressure. We shouldn't let it tell us we are bad if we have diabetes or PCOS or headaches or anything else. Good and bad are their concepts, not ours. Not fat acceptance's. Any of us who defies their concepts in any way defies it for us all. Its about finding our own health in our own lives, not adhering to any external standards. Those standards have no room for us and it would be folly to try to bargain with them.

It is also, however, folly to see bargaining where what is actually happening is much more radical. We're reclaiming the very definition of health from those who want to use it as a moralizing cudgel to shame and stigmatize. We are taking it back, and no one should be stigmatized for what that means for them. Not those of us with conditions traditionally blamed on our fat bodies, but also not for those who live in their fat bodies in ways traditionally limited for thin people.


Some benefits of being aware of fat stigmatization

While looking through my blog's stats, I noted a number of links coming from Sociological Images. Specifically, from a post where the author considers the "benefits" of being fat. As you might suspect, this is not actually the conversation the author is having, but rather it is an example of the kind of "this must be why you're so fat" line of thinking that has come up so often in the #thingsfatpeoplearetold. I replied with a comment, but I wanted to include it here as well...

I'm afraid your evidence does not seem to support your conclusion. As the #thingsfatpeoplearetold meme demonstrates, fat people are told all manner of things and given the existing social structure, many fat people feel an obligation to be credulous. The lesbian quoted did not independently think she gained weight to distance herself from male attraction, but rather was told to think that. Even in that context, it is not a suggestion of an active instigation, but rather a psychological explanation. The fact that we feel the need to psychologically explain the existence of fat people, though, is far more telling. It is an effort for privileged persons to rationalize the existence of an underprivileged group. This very act is one not of understanding, but of enforcement of stigmatization. Fat people are told something must be blamed for our presence. This is never an act of respect. It does not matter of blame is laid on ourselves for perceived immoralities, on psychological desires rooted in formalizing our disempowerment, or corporate conspiracies to deprive us of exalted thinness.

The Postsecret post is, at least, in the actual voice of a fat person, but it still doesn't tell us anything about why she came to be fat and it is still a reflection of all too common clichés that fat people are told. The writer has learned to hold herself responsible for her body. She has been told to explain her body, to rationalize it. She presumes that she could be thin because she has been told this is the only allowed presumption a fat person can have. She frames her attempted justification not on why she is fat, but why she is not thin. THIS is what fat people are told to answer for just as much as "why are you so fat". It presumes that weight loss, which fails 95% of the time, is still expected of us and any failure to lose weight is the sole responsibility of the fat person. She is not expressing an answer as to why she was fat in the first place, though. Rather, she is trying to answer for her continued fatness. The truth, though, is that she is not afraid to lose weight. She may be afraid that weight loss won't solve her problems (it won't), but she is not afraid to lose weight. She wants it desperately. She, like so many fat people, has been made to feel personally responsible for the fact that her weight loss efforts have not succeeded. Like many others, she has apologetically concluded "she doesn't want it bad enough".

This isn't about benefits of fatness. These are illustrations of the shame and stigmatization imposed on fat people.


#thingsfatpeoplearetold: Suggested Readings

I'm pretty sure most of my readers have already seen these other discussions of #thingsfatpeoplearetold, but they are so essential that I wanted to make sure.

Fat Heffalump has been leading the discussion on Twitter from day one and continues to promote it and contribute to it tirelessly. If you haven't read her thoughts on the discussion, you should. She discusses the catharsis she felt unpacking all the bullshit dumped on her as a fat person, why people should have noticed what was happening to fat people before this, and where we go from here. Awesome, action-provoking stuff.

Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville didn't just graciously host my own thoughts on the meme, but gave her own as well. She considers the strength seen in the fat people who put up with #thingsfatpeoplearetold and she's spot on.

Lastly, Maia at Alas, a Blog looks at a few different things to come out of the stores from #thingsfatpeoplearetold. The stories offer recognition and legitmacy to our own experiences, it reveals the systematic forces of fat hatred, and reminds us that we can work to change to change things.

If you have other discussions of the #thingsfatpeoplearetold meme, please share them in the comments. Thank you, as always, to everyone sharing their stories and experiences and to everyone sharing in those stories.


#thingsfatpeoplearetold at Shakesville

I was invited to write a piece about #thingsfatpeoplearetold for Shakesville. I'm very thankful to Melissa McEwen for the opportunity. Feel free to give it a read.


#thingsfatpeoplearetold: Many Things to Many People

When I read through all of the #thingsfatpeoplearetold tweets for my recap, I was really struck by just how many different people were speaking up. I started the hashtag for essentially snarky purposes, ironicly expressing fat stigmatization. It was quickly adopted by the always awesome Aussie fat activists, starting with @mymilkspilt, in part to express their outrage over an offensive joke made by an Australian celebrity. Fat Heffalump has more on that angle here.

As people kept sharing their experiences, it quickly became apparent what a universal experience #thingsfatpeoplearetold represented. The posts were really heartbreaking, but also utterly cathartic. People weren't just unburdening themselves of this abuse, but recognizing what a shared experience this is and that they are not alone in having been mistreated, nor in finding the strength to resist the mistreatment.

Some very distinct themes also emerged. I almost wrote my last post in catagories because familiar messages came up again and again in slightly different expressions. "Such a pretty face" might seem like a cliché, but false complements designed to emphasize our failings is a common experience for fat people. Sadly, this is considered the nice way of expressing that sentiment and its darker variations also show up repeatedly. "No one will love you", "No one will want to have sex with you", etc. are all too familiar. The line of logic just keeps going and even when fat people do find love and/or sex it is still denied. "There must be something wrong with anyone who likes you" get mirrored by "you should be lucky to get the attention" or "we can have sex, but I'll keep you a secret".

Beauty and love is just one thread, though. We also see themes of fat people being denied access to jobs, housing, medical procedures, clothing. Each one expressed from multiple people in new variations. Fat people are being things thin people take for granted. Even health. We see multiple people who were denied their good health from medical professionals who refused to believe it. We see people denied help when they are in poor health because fat is the only thing that will be covered. These experiences are not exclusive to the so-called death fats, either. A very wide spectrum of people found the same thing. If their health was good, this was denied. If the had health needs, they were denied. There is a universality here. The experience can be challenging to read, but also inspiring because they remind us of what fat people are capable of enduring. Fat people are strong. Fat people can find love and health and happiness. These are things WE tell fat people. The things we tell ourselves. The things we tell each other.

I hope people keep sharing. I'm thinking of soliciting longer form "Things Fat People are Told" essays to post here and if you have something you'd like to share outside of 140 characters, please email me at red3blog@gmail.com. My continued gratitude to everyone who has shared their stories. This is very powerful.


#thingsfatpeoplearetold: The first 24 hours

The #thingsfatpeoplearetold hash tag is still tearing it up over at Twitter with over 1,400 tweets and retweets as of this writing. I'm so grateful for the courage its taken so many people to share what are often very raw experiences with entitled fat stigmatization. To be clear, some of this can be trigging given how brutally honest the experiences are, but I want to share some of the Tweets here. I can't stress enough that these are just some of what people are sharing. Follow #thingsfatpeoplearetold to know you really aren't alone or to learn what fat people are really experiencing.

@mymilkspilt: Your body sends a bad message to your children. #thingsfatpeoplearetold @red3blog
Apr 9, 2011 10:20 PM GMT

@TheRotund: @mymilkspilt Your chronic illness would disappear if you lost weight. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 9, 2011 10:31 PM GMT

@MargitteLeah: "no one will ever love you." actual #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 9, 2011 10:34 PM GMT

@BookMD: Fat people are stupid. If they were smart, they wouldn't be fat. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 9, 2011 11:58 PM GMT

@Fatheffalump: Telling anyone that it's ok to be fat makes you personally responsible for their death #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 12:45 AM GMT

@elizabethgallo: You have such a pretty face... #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 12:56 AM GMT

(Brian: This may seem like a cliché, but it came up repeatedly. Fat people really do hear this. A lot.)

@_FatWaitress_: They probably didn't give you a promotion because you might not fast enough to do the job. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 01:06 AM GMT

@katejames: "You're not fat!" (Meaning: I know & like you, you're not like those *other* lazy smelly greedy fat people.) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 01:16 AM GMT

@Living400lbs: But have you really, really TRIED to lose weight? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:22 AM GMT

@sweetnfat: Would you even feel my touch through all your fat? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:30 AM GMT

@princessnowhere: "You should try going on The Pill [to lose weight]" Seriously. I wish I was kidding. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:31 AM GMT

@AmadiTalks: In hospital for serious illness: "You should get weight loss surgery, so long as you're here." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:34 AM GMT

@etamny: We can't show you on TV because that would be endorsing the fact that you exist. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:36 AM GMT

@AmadiTalks: From the window of a passing car: Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:40 AM GMT

(Brian: Another one that was repeated many times was slurs yelled from passing cars.)

@meag26: From my doc, when I explain how healthy my lifestyle is: "well obviously you're doing SOMETHING wrong." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:52 AM GMT

@liveonce_juicy: Unrelenting stomach pain and constant puking? Take two diets and call me when you aren't fat anymore. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:56 AM GMT

@kiddotrue: "He didn't get you candy for Valentine's Day, did he? You don't need it." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:05 AM GMT · via Twitter for Android · Reply · View Tweet

@AmadiTalks: Asked for sugar for coffee in a restaurant, got artificial sweetener instead. "Here, you need to use this." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:07 AM GMT

@kiddotrue: "you should lose weight and get a boyfriend." #thingsfatpeoplearetold (when they're 12 and at their first gyno visit. in the stirrups.)
Apr 10, 2011 03:09 AM GMT

@MargitteLeah: "I won't treat you until you've lost 50 lbs." #thingsfatpeoplearetold by medical professionals
Apr 10, 2011 03:10 AM GMT

@_FatWaitress_: Are you sure you didn't just imagine them checking you out? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:27 AM GMT

@AmadiTalks: In the back of an ambulance, by a police officer: "Who would rape you?" #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:28 AM GMT

@MamaBrownBear: "how did you get pregnant? You are too fat to get knocked up" #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:45 AM GMT

@fatlazyceliac: Oh, it's so great you're allergic to gluten - not eating it is supposed to help you lose weight! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:50 AM GMT

@Fatheffalump: "Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies." (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:07 AM GMT

@ginamariewade: #thingsfatpeoplearetold - You're too fat to have a baby, and if I'd had anything to do about it, you wouldn't be having this one. from my MD
Apr 10, 2011 04:11 AM GMT

@mskozlowski: We don't carry bras for PEOPLE LIKE YOU. #thingsfatpeoplearetold #Victoria'sSecretemployeesaidthistome
Apr 10, 2011 04:12 AM GMT

@ginamariewade: #thingsfatpeoplearetold If you don't lose weight, your child will never love you. (also from my MD)
Apr 10, 2011 04:15 AM GMT

@redheadedgirl: Why would anyone want to fuck you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:18 AM GMT

@ginamariewade: #thingsfatpeoplearetold If I looked like you I'd kill myself.
Apr 10, 2011 04:19 AM GMT

@girlndocs: We know your kidneys are failing and you may die but you can't get on the transplant list until you lose weight. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:19 AM GMT

@etamny: We'll sell you clothes, but we can't have you in our stores. #thingsfatpeoplearetold [Hi, Old Navy! Hi, J. Jill!]
Apr 10, 2011 04:23 AM GMT

@Quiara: Your blood pressure and blood sugar are fine, but if you don't lose weight you'll be diabetic & hypertensive soon. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:24 AM GMT

@TheRotund: You're a symbol of America's overconsumption and the evils of capitalism. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:27 AM GMT

@ravengeary: How do you, you know, have sex? #ThingsFatPeopleAreTold
Apr 10, 2011 04:29 AM GMT

@fatandtheivy: You're diseased #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:33 AM GMT

@mskozlowski: Your boyfriend must be really into your mind (not your body). #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:34 AM GMT

@sarahnbay: Did you not realize they're called "skinny" jeans? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:37 AM GMT

@AmadiTalks: At an mentorship program for at-risk girls: "You aren't a good fit, our girls need positive role models." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 04:47 AM GMT

@hungrylikewolf: You obviously can't be telling the truth about what you eat. #ThingsFatPeopleAreTold
Apr 10, 2011 04:49 AM GMT

@MuseofIre: Sure it has dangerous side effects, but it's better than being fat. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:06 AM GMT

@Dresswhore: Yes it could help w/your period but I can't in good conscience put you on the pill b/c you might gain weight. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:18 AM GMT

@shonias: At least the terrible illness you've just had has made you lose weight. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:21 AM GMT

@red3blog: "Take this fat out while we are in here" -Surgeon during a C-Section #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 06:22 AM GMT

@hungrylikewolf: Come on, why don't you want to go shopping with me? You can always check out the accessories. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 07:30 AM GMT

@Xhollzy: "I'm not going to show you the room, I need the people I rent to to be healthy."- with one look at me #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 08:50 AM GMT

@annacaronz: If you were thin you wouldn't need to be gay any more #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 09:06 AM GMT

@JonelB: You would stop getting bullied if you just lost weight. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 09:21 AM GMT

@Beezelbubbles: Don't you just hate what you see when you look in the mirror? #thingsfatpeoplearetold #mymomsgreatesthits #yesreally
Apr 10, 2011 09:41 AM GMT

@Beezelbubbles: You twisted your ankle playing tennis? You should really lose some weight and exercise more. #thingsfatpeoplearetold #butiwasexercising
Apr 10, 2011 09:50 AM GMT

@WeightlessOne: If you don't lose weight you'll be dead before you're 30. #thingsfatpeoplearetold (told to a 16 yr old me by a new doc-I'm 38 now)
Apr 10, 2011 01:27 PM GMT

@FatVeganCommie: Yes, you are perfectly heathy. Have you considered bariatric surgery?" #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 02:24 PM GMT

@AbigailNussey: You really need a kidney transplant/knee replacement/other surgery. But you can't get it until you lose 60 lbs. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:10 PM GMT

@thepiouswench: I don't think we carry your size. (Sales associate, before I've specified what I'm looking for or given my size). #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 03:44 PM GMT

@Lyrical_Huldra: "I don't know why you bother. You're so fat you look awful no matter what you wear." #thingsfatpeoplearetold #bymymother
Apr 10, 2011 03:51 PM GMT

@RaisingBoychick: "You're too fat to deliver vaginally." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:29 PM GMT · via Twitter for iPhone · Reply · View Tweet

@AmadiTalks: "You're too wide/heavy for our equipment so you can't get this important medical procedure." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:48 PM GMT

@zaftigvegan: "There's no point in doing any physio on your knees if you're not willing to lose weight." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:48 PM GMT

@zaftigvegan: "That can't be right." #thingsfatpeoplearetold (a nurse checking my blood pressure [normal] for the third time)
Apr 10, 2011 05:50 PM GMT

@cinnamaldehyde: #thingsfatpeoplearetold if you'd just lose a little weight, your disabilities would go away.
Apr 10, 2011 05:51 PM GMT

@zaftigvegan: "If you were *really* comfortable in your body, the ignorant things people say about fat wouldn't bother you." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 05:57 PM GMT

@zaftigvegan: "You *can't* be fat, healthy and happy. You're in denial. You're putting other fat ppl at risk by promoting HAES." #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 06:01 PM GMT

@notinseason: All fat patients will lie about their diet and exercise. #thingsfatpeoplearetold #thingsivelearnedinmedschool
Apr 10, 2011 06:01 PM GMT

@FatVeganCommie: We can't date, but we can secretly have sex. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 06:09 PM GMT

@red3blog: We will only learn how to perform anesthesia on you for weight loss surgery. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 06:35 PM GMT

@HiddenTohru: "I imagined that weight as someone who can't even get out of bed." #thingsfatpeoplearetold (by a coworker when I told her I was 380 lbs)
Apr 10, 2011 07:45 PM GMT

@mymilkspilt: You're so selfish. You're going to die and leave your kid without a mother. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 07:48 PM GMT

@no_oneimportant: You must have a really hard time having sex with your belly getting in the way. #thingsfatpeoplearetold also #liespeopletell
Apr 10, 2011 08:08 PM GMT

@MissSuperfluous: #thingsfatpeoplearetold You're not quite this store's demographic.
Apr 10, 2011 10:11 PM GMT

@kawaiimarti: You don't have to pretend to be happy with yourself to me. I know it can't be true. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
Apr 10, 2011 10:17 PM GMT


So, I brought back a Twitter hashtag I've used a couple of times when I want to sarcasticly paraphrase some online anti-fat concern trolling, #thingsfatpeoplearetold. As hash tags are often wont to do, its completely taken off with fat people sharing their experiences with the kind of entitled, everyday trolling fat people experience in their daily lives. And that's honestly what it is. The same kind of obnoxious, privileged trolling we see online is a part of the day to day lives of fat people. Check it out and maybe share your own. I offer my utter and frankly humbled gratitude to everyone who has shared their story. If you want to know what fat activists are fighting, THIS is why. These indignities forced on us with such casual contempt and unearned superiority. THIS is why are fighting for a better world for all of us.


Glorifying obesity

Hey, did you hear? Fat activists are glorifying obesity. That's what the concern trolls keep saying. You know, like how gay rights activists are glorifying the homosexual lifestyle? I guess we should all just pack it in. They're on to us.

Of course, its a deeply silly accusation. At least, a deeply silly one for fat activists to take seriously. Its just a fancy way of saying "but don't you know fat is bad?" That is ALL it says, only coming from an individual entirely unwilling to take responsibility for their promotion of fat stigmatization and fat shame. They want to believe they aren't that kind of person. Oh, no. They just shame and stigmatize anyone who suggests fat people shouldn't be shamed and stigmatized. Sadly, this has come to represent "moderate" views on fatness. They don't want to be responsible for shaming fat people, but they are all too happy to condemn any fat person who doesn't feel disgraced by their body.

You know what, though? Maybe we are glorifying fatness. We certainly are by their standards. By their standards, "normal" is some state of glory to which fat people are not welcome. Well, screw that. I want to glorify fat people who resist the shame and stigmatization. I want to praise fat people who endure all manner of injustice and keep on fighting. I want to honor the fat people who stand up and demand respect. Fat people are awesome. Fat people kick ass. Fat people deserve glory. We just don't think anyone else needs to be disgraced or shamed for us to be glorified.

So, let's glorify fatness. If that just means we don't apologize for not being ashamed, that's the kind of glory I can absolutely get behind.