For what its worth

A diet blog interviewing another diet blogger who wrote a diet book and which talks all about how dieting is awesome, fat is awful, and fat acceptance just as awful if not worse... well, that shouldn't be surprising. I get how some people were surprised, but there is really very little out of the ordinary about that. For what its worth.



So, my girlfriend owns a Wii. And its pretty fun. I never expected to like it, but the Wiimote controls are actually very easy to use and a lot of fun. One thing that's bothered me, though, is the way the Wii is often promoted as an "anti-obesity" tool. Ya know, cuz kids have to move and stuff and because video games had already been on the long list of things that are making kids teh fat.

Nintendo hasn't exactly stopped this talk and they are about the release the "Wii Fit" to really push their point. A more expressly fitness oriented accessory, its essentially just a balance board. Oh, but it doubles as a scale. With a weight limit, of course. In Japan it was around 300lbs, but I'm told its up to 330lbs for the American and European releases. This is actually a little higher than I thought, but obviously is still going to prevent a lot of fat people from using the product. The one being marketed as a weight loss tool.

Probably just as well. This story from Kotaku tells of a user in Japan who had the game tell her 10 year old daughter that she was fat. She was 4'9" and 92lbs at 10 years old. Which, for the record, is a "healthy" weight. Naturally, you've got no shortage of commentators taking the software's side and calling this unknown girl fat, so read the comments at your peril. The parent in the story told of how they had to reassure the girl who was devastated by the video games judgment of her. That's screwed up. We don't need video games expanding the threshold of who gets to hate their bodies. We don't need video games teaching children to hate their bodies. We already have too much of that as it is. Shame on Nintendo. For all their talk emphasizing "fitness" its seems clear that this is yet another effort to define fitness by fatness and nothing else.


Moderate Fat Acceptance

So, after grousing about the ways radical fat acceptance is marginalized, I find myself actually reigniting my dissatisfaction with radical fat acceptance. There are problems on both extremes and a lot of it comes down to how one extreme deals with the other. Essentially, both are trying to define the other out of the movement. And while I sympathize with the radical end more, that doesn't mean I think its ultimately been very productive.

The issue with radical fat activists is that they want fat acceptance to mean something. So do I, and I know I've hit that point over the head with a shovel about a hundred times. The difference for me is that I've tried to focus on talking about that rather than trying to enforce it. I want there to be a sense of a line more than I want to be responsible for actually drawing that line and enforcing those boundaries. Radicals, in my experience, have been more eager to clarify that identity. I get that, but I know its ultimately a counterproductive strategy. Inevitably, they fall into personalizing the debate, and that is something that the radicals will never win on. I know from experience that even talking in broad terms that one is bound to be confronted as making personal attacks. Actually making personal attacks isn't going to serve anything. This is tough, because one of the go-to strategies of anti-fat acceptance is to personalize the issue. Individualize it so it seems that fat acceptance is personally attacking each individual dieter. But I think its important to recognize that this is done because it advantages fat hatred. It isn't even something that's always consciously done because we're talking about a huge cultural force. Which is why I think broad themes need to be stressed. Personalizing it is done because it serves the purpose of fat hatred. Its a no-win for fat acceptance most of the time and we need to be very careful about picking our fights.

Which is hard. Restraint on issues of deep personal import isn't easy. I'd say it isn't even natural. But I think its something that has to be done to some degree. As cathartic as a full-frontal assault is, its something we're often manipulated into. I've fought this long enough to know that are times when we will need to speak out, but we undermine ourselves by being too quick to pull that trigger. At its worst, this frustration just keeps building, and radical activists become prone to attacking people who are allies and this ends up being just the reverse of those who try to push radical activists (or those who agree with them too much) out of the movement.

So, I shouldn't be mistaken from thinking there are problems on both ends. There are. I pulled back because I really wasn't happy with either. We need more "moderate" voices, but often those moderate voices want to shut out radical ones. And vice versa. Its important to remember that on the spectrum of fat acceptance, "moderate" isn't the center and it can't act like the center in the movement. And likewise, the radical end could stand to use a lot more strategy in advocating for a more progressive fat acceptance. I don't know how to solve it, obviously, since all I've managed getting in the middle of it is to have both sides attacking me, but it is a problem.

Radical Fat Acceptance

Radical fat acceptance exists. It isn't me.

Which ultimately is why I get pissed off when people brand me radical. Its not that I hate the label, but I'm profoundly troubled by what the label accomplishes. Its a step towards marginalizing fat acceptance. Of defining what is acceptable. Its not about defining me, but defining the limits of fat acceptance. Even if I'm a "limit", I don't think that's a good thing for fat acceptance because it acts to exclude those who are more radical than I am. It pulls fat acceptance in the opposite direction it needs to go, and that's a problem. While I don't think this is her motive, Rachel branding me as a radical benefits fat hatred, because it acts to move the debate back into fat hatred's direction.

What I suspect Rachel is doing is just trying to define herself as the center of the debate. Which is admittedly something everyone does to some degree, but the problem here is that Rachel is an opposite extreme in the fat acceptance spectrum and that's something that needs to be respected. The "all on the same team" point she tries to make in this post is undermined by the ways she tries to set the rules for that team. Where I am an extreme on one hand and the Rudd Center an extreme on the other.

No. The Rudd Center does do some useful research on fat stigmatization, but for fat acceptance they are at most a useful fool and we would do well to recognize that. Moreover, the Rudd Center has no interest in being in the fat acceptance spectrum. Read their blog. They routinely attack fat acceptance for ignoring the fat-hating truths that the Rudd Center holds so dear. They don't respect us. To them, we are at most useful fools. Frankly, we need to return the favor.

There can be room for a spectrum of beliefs in fat acceptance, but the problem has always been that different points on that spectrum keep trying to recenter the debate. That's where this spectrum breaks down. Mind you, I've no claim to representing centrist fat acceptance, either. I'm not. I'm just not willing to play the role of the outer limits of fat acceptance, either, because it excludes too many meaningful voices that already have found little to interest them in the fatosphere. That's a problem this community needs to deal with and the hostility towards confronting it is a reason I've largely been disillusioned with this segment of fat acceptance. Because its repeating a pattern of throwing radicals under the bus that has plagued fat acceptance for years.

This all came to a head with Kell Brigan last year. The result being both sides (centrists and radicals) branding me as the enemy and blaming me for that, too. I feel naive, trying to play peacemaker, because it just got me attacked from both sides. I adopted a nuanced position because I felt it was appropriate, but nuance gets you no where. Kell was angry that I publicly disagreed with her. Folks at Shapely Prose were angry that I didn't publicly disagree with her more forcefully. To Kell, I was a tool of the SP crew. At SP, I was just a stooge of Kell. The only thing everyone agreed with was that it was all my fault. But the fallout is what continues to trouble me the most, because Kell's blog went silent. She was a radical voice that this community lost and that profoundly imbalances the debate in ways I'm not sure a lot of people respect. And talking with other radical fat activists, its the kind of thing that just reinforces a disillusionment that has gripped a lot of them for quite a while. This is a pattern in NAAFA's dealings, too. Pretty much from the start. Radical activists had to scratch and claw their way into NAAFA. Eventually they did and they and profoundly improved the organization and its direction about 30 or so years ago. But there hasn't been much movement since then. The radicals who made those changes fell off as things stagnated. A few good people stepped up, but not enough to effect change. Indeed, it often compartmentalized radicalism which is what I fear the fatosphere is eager to do. With NAAFA, it was okay for Marilyn Wann to be radical, but anyone else had to deal with the establishment who didn't welcome it. I don't want to fit that role for the fatosphere. Not just because I don't think I'm radical, but because that role just marginalizes fat acceptance. I was on the other side, so I'm not willing to accept these dispensations. Because I know it just works to exclude people and ideas from the discussion that fat acceptance needs.

That's why I'm offended when we suffer trolls in the name of giving them a chance. Because it moves the limits of the discussion in the wrong direction. Its why I tried in my own way to mend the bridge to people like Kell Brigan, because we needed someone like HER to balance out someone like Rachel who are more comfortable limiting discussions to bias and stigma. That's fine, but we need to do more and we need people pulling us in that direction. We need both, and this community doesn't have that right now. And there is some degree to which this community needs to recognize that it isn't creating a safe harbor for radical fat acceptance. Certainly, I wish more radical activists would speak up and speak out here. I wish they would take those risks and bring their voices to the table. Still, like the discussion on the involvement of persons of color in the feminist movement, I think the solution will require both groups to step steps forward. It can't just be one group educating the other. This fat acceptance community needs to address the reasons radical fat activists feel disenfranchised here just as those radicals need to step up and talk out, themselves. And labeling me a radical extreme isn't going to be part of that solution. Trust me, the people out there that do represent radical fat activism will see as proof of the problem.