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.