There is a reason my picture is at the top of the page

Wow. You losers really love taking your marching orders from an obsessive dweeb you probably would have beat up in middle school. Not because you were tough, of course, but because he was weird and defenseless and made for easy prey. Its ironic that he now is both desperate for your approval and simultaneously directing you to swarm at his command. I mean, really fucking pathetic, but ironic, too.

Have fun being sad, worthless people who disappoint everyone around them!
So, someone on reddit linked to my post about White Knights today and my traffic shot up. I'm always amused by this in Blogger stats. They have a little chart of my blog traffic that defaults to the current week and usually there are normal little ups and downs but sometimes something throws off the curve and I get a straight line hugging the bottom of the chart and then a line going straight up to the top. This happens most reliably when I get linked on reddit or when I get linked from Shakesville.

Anyhow, someone made a sad little quip about supposed "white knights" and someone responded to them by linking to my deconstruction of that line of attack. It will not surprise you to learn that the response was a whole lot of guys dismissing me as a white knight and generally belittling me in a general.

Quite a few took the time to mock me for being fat. They saw my photo in my blog header and decided they could just stop right there. Clearly someone so fat wasn't worth listening to. It was a potent reminder of how much risk fat people face when they are publicly fat. Of how much entitlement people feel to insult and demean us on sight. Which, as it happens, is precisely why my photo is up there.

I put my photo on the top of my blog specifically to say "fuck you" to each and every person who thinks I don't matter because I'm fat. I put it up there knowing it would incite hatred and wanting that reaction. I don't want to comfort these assholes by hiding. I don't want to feel like I'm not putting myself out there to stand behind what I believe in. Mind you, I don't think this is something fat people are obligated to do. The risks are real, after all, and I can't ask anyone else to take on those risks. I can ask myself, though. I can decide for myself that I can take the abuse. When I was considering it, I was thinking about all the other fat bloggers who I knew what they looked like. It might not be because their photo was on every page of their blog, but they are putting themselves out there. I found that really inspiring and when I took some great shots of myself in Santa Monica last year, I decided to just go with it.

I'm not going to lie, there are moments where the insults hurt. Where the risks are realized and they sting, but they are getting less and less. Today, reading the insults, I mostly just laughed. Really? That photo up there is so outrageously ugly that you can dismiss everything I have to say? Bullshit. I look great in that picture. I love that picture. Not every fat person can get to the point where the really love how they look, even for just a moment in one photo. I am fortunate to have gotten to that point and its something that I can come back to in the times when I'm struggling. Is that vanity? Maybe. Maybe some vanity is a good thing for fat people to have. Given the way we are told to feel about ourselves, I don't really think there is any danger in going too far in the other way. That scale is never going to get imbalanced that way so we should have no shame of whatever bit of vanity we may get.

I put my photo in my header because I think I look awesome and I want the people who hate me to see it and know just how awesome I am. I want them to look at that picture and then tell me I'm ugly so I can know that they don't know what they are talking about. Never am I more confident than when responding to someone trying to strip me of my confidence. For me, the vulnerability of being fat and visible is ultimately a source of strength.

Like I said, I don't think this needs to be everyone's choice. Even those who shy away from linking their photos to their fat politics are still living their lives visibly fat. Even those who still hate their bodies are publicly fat and that should inspire us all. There is tremendous power in being seen. That is why people want to drag us down. They want to take that power away from us, but they never can. Our bodies are powerful and we can be inspired by this power. Not to put our photos on the internet, but to do anything in our lives. Being seen while fat is a real power we all have. They will never take that from us.


A Message to My Fellow Fat Admirers


What up?

So, I've noticed some of my fellow male fat admirers throwing tantrums when women object to be sexualized without consent. These dudes whine about how the women are telling them aren't allowed to find fat bodies attractive.

Cut that shit out. Like now.

No one is out to confiscate your boners. Sexual attraction to fat bodies is totally awesome. There may be people out there who want to shame you for your sexuality, but its not these women. So, by all means, holster your outrage and listen up.

The issue these women are complaining about isn't sexual attraction. They are asking to be treated with respect and dignity. Try not to be shocked at this stunning request. You still get that be sexually attracted to fat women. Just, maybe respect them.

And actually, strike that maybe.

Don't act all mystified at this concept. Its possible to interact with people you feel a sexual attraction towards without sexualizing them. Sexual attraction doesn't mandate objectification. That's just you being an asshole. Trust me, I've been attracted to fat women as long as I can remember. I'm still able to appreciate context and react accordingly. Its NOT. FUCKING. HARD. I'm sick and tired of men acting like this is impossible and that people are trying to police their arousal. Are these women saying its wrong to have sexual desire for fat bodies? NO.  Its not about your sexuality. Its about THEIR sexuality. They may well be very happy to experience a fat admirer's sexual desire, but on their terms and with their consent. This isn't outrageous or obnoxious. Its their right.

I get that no one has ever told you that you should respect fat women, but you should. I get that men are often taught by our culture to sexualize and objectify women constantly, but that doesn't make it okay and it certainly doesn't make you the victim when people tell you to stop. Our culture systematically attempts to strip women of their sexual agency and men have a responsibility to do their part to stop that. Which mans starting with not doing yourself and continues with telling other men to stop doing it.

This is especially important for fat women who already live in a culture that conspires to desexualize them. They often find themselves in scenarios where they are told to choose between never being desired sexually or always being objectified sexually. That's fucked up and wrong. You should be able to know that by just basic empathy, but I'd submit that as fat admirers its in our interest to combat thin privilege and male privilege. Not just because standing with our current or prospective romantic and sexual partners on issues of basic human dignity is the right thing to do (though that really should be enough), but its in our self-interest, too. Those restricted options women face impact us, too. We are being taught that our sexuality is wrong and that if we act upon it that we are deviants. We are told we don't deserve to open, loving relationships with partners we are sexually attracted to. We are told we shouldn't date them because they are "unhealthy". We are told there must be some defect that causes our sexuality. We are being denied the opportunity to embrace our sexuality in the ways men with conventional attractions take for granted. The women who complain about objectification of fat women aren't trying to take away our sexuality, they are trying to fight for it! We should stand with them and resist those who tell us to sexualize and objectify fat women because they don't deserve better and we don't deserve better.

I know there must be a lot of questions circling your head right now. Like, "but, Brian, how will I masterbate?" First off, find someone with a hand to spare and ask them smack you in the back of the head. What did I tell you about no one confiscating your boners? I'm telling you to recognize context as an element of personal expression. Fat people have a lot of reasons to display their body that have nothing to do with your personal gratification and that's what you need to respect. Maybe its body-positive photography on Tumblr. Maybe its burlesque dance. Maybe its just going to the beach in a bikini. These things aren't done to get you off, and that's okay. You can appreciate what they are doing for what it is. You can and should support fat women being affirmational about their bodies without expecting that is being done for your limited benefit. Its okay to just say "that's beautiful". It doesn't have to be about what's going on in your pants.

And, in case you hadn't noticed (and of course you have), there are fat women who want to express their sexuality in a way which DOES consent to your sexual gratification. You are lucky in that if you want to consume pornography that you have a wealth of options that are produced and controlled by the women appearing in it. These women have a made a choice for their own sexual expression and agency. Women of a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and even gender identity. So fucking spare me the complaints when women who don't consent take issue with being objectified. The problem is respecting their sexual agency. Objectification means you don't. Indeed, you probably specifically seek out women are not trying to express their own sexuality. Don't be that guy. Be better.


Maggie does a Podcast!

Okay, so maybe not Maggie and more me. I was honored to be invited to join the Friend of Marilyn radio show and podcast from Access Manawatu, but Maggie was the topic of discussion. Check out the October 12 episode on iTunes or RSS as I talk with host Cat Pause about the Maggie book and my appropriation of Maggie for body positive messages. I'm surprisingly happy with the discussion considering how self-critical I can be about these things. Download and listen now!

Also, check out Maggie's recent adventures from my Tumblr:

“Maggie Explores the Galaxy”

“Maggie Reclaims the Word Fat”

“Maggie rejects Fatphobic Fashion Dictates”

“Maggie Makes a Yay Scale”

“Maggie Goes to the Beach”

“Maggie Takes Up Hiking”


The right way to fat shame our children

Of course, there isn't a right way to fat shame our children, but that won't stop folks from trying. "Maggie Goes on a Diet" was clearly the wrong way, buts its not like people want fat kids to feel okay in their bodies. The solution? Why, semantics, of course!

You saw this dynamic a lot in the hand-wringing over "Maggie". People thought it was really important to do something about all this fat kids, but Maggie's attempt just seemed mean. Surely they could have all the shame without the guilt? Well, if there is one thing the diet industry specializes in, its guilt-free through cheap pretense. The problem with Maggie isn't its content or intent. It was the word "diet". Just take that out and everything will be okay.

Well, fat activists aren't likely to agree, but unfortunately lots of people are. The semantics around "diet" are something a bedrock in the weight loss industry. While Maggie's author clearly didn't get the script, another new book for kids gets the pretense right. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch has also written a children's book about how awful it is to be a fat child and how fat kids should really do something about that. Unlike "Maggie", Koch's book, "Eddie Shapes Up," might end up in a lot of homes and classrooms. While the celebrity author helps a lot, it also keeps to the agreed upon script.

According to reviews, the book gives lip service to ideas of there being "all kinds of bodies" and makes sure not to use the "d" word. Diet has a bad reputation, you see. Why? Well, because diets fail. Like, virtually all of the time. That's created quite a marketing problem for the diet industry. They solved it through a masterful bit of unified denial. Diets are what everyone else is selling you. Diets are what everyone else is buying. Diets are everything you did before now. Diets are never what you are doing now, because we all know that diets don't work. So Eddie doesn't go on a diet. He "shapes up" and "gets healthy".

This semantic game is played a lot. It sort of acts like a dog whistle to allow fat shaming while letting everyone feel less guilty about it. Inevitably, it gets defended with lines like "how can anyone disagree with this". Indeed, the plans often offered in these scenarios could be fairly innocuous and fat neutral. The problem is, these scenarios aren't fat neutral and that is the problem. Their proposals are secondary to their purpose. So long as the purpose is to "fight" to existence of fat children (or combat, wage war, or whatever other violent vocabulary is favored), they are still working to shame fat children. No matter what semantics they use to advance their war, that statement of purpose is what is creating the problem.

"Eddie Shapes Up" will no doubt curry favor with a lot of people who don't want to think they are shaming fat children, but still feel a deep need to wring their hands over fat kids. It'll be compared quite positively in relation to Maggie. Don't believe this hype. There is no right way to fat shame children. We don't need to teach fat shame to teach healthy eating and activity. Indeed, you can't. Because actually healthy eating and activity is not some magic that makes fat people into not fat people. It can improve health for those who desire that, but its not likely to make you weigh less. So, what do you get when you teach people those things as a means to weighing less in response to an "epidemic" of fat children? You teach them that their bodies are wrong that healthy eating and activity don't work to fix it. Every time someone self-righteously demands to know how I can be against this sort of thing, I have to think, "How can I not be against it?"

We need to move past fat shaming and fat stigmatizing if we actually care about the health and well-being of our children, both fat and thin. All kids should learn that all bodies are okay. None of the exceptions and qualifications so often tacked on. No matter the content of one's proposals, so long as its being taught under the banner of fighting childhood "obesity", then its just a pretense.


ALL fat bodies are made into a public concern

Like most fat people, Chris Christie is apologetic for his body. Most fat people have internalized the fat shaming that gets directed at them every day of their lives. Most never even think to question it. Of course they shouldn't be fat. Its not a topic they ever give any consideration. Indeed, they often have more hostility towards fat activists because of this. Its important to remember, though, that internalizing fat shame doesn't immunize you from it.

There has been lot of concern trolling of Chris Christie lately along those very lines. People are gravely concerned about the prospects of him running for President. Not for his politics, mind you, but for his health. He obviously is much too unhealthy to consider higher office. This concern trolling has now reached the editorial pages of the Washington Post thanks to a supremely self-righteous bit of concern trolling from Eugene Robinson. He acknowledges that Christie feels ashamed of his size, but this merely justifies his paternalistic lecture about how Christie needs to lose weight if he plans to run for President. It is a shameful hit-piece and has no place in our political discussion. It builds on all sorts of tired and clichéd attacks on fat people.

Perhaps the most fundamental being the notion that this needs to be said. It is always preposterous when you see people so proud of themselves for stepping up and telling a fat person to stop being so fat. Already, we're seeing other pundits contribute to this by congratulating Robinson for saying the things that needed to be said. Why does everyone person who tries to put fatties in their place think they are the first person to do so? Heck, Robinson even quotes Christie saying he knows all of this. Christie AGREES, but that's still not enough to prevent the smug satisfaction over "telling it like it is".

Robinson also asserts that Christie is obviously too unhealthy to run for President. His proof? Well, just look at him being all fat and stuff. It takes him a while to offer anything more than his obvious fatness to justify his obvious lack of health, and even then the evidence is weaker than he'd like us to believe. Christie has had problems with asthma and was hospitalized for it briefly over the summer. When this happened, Christie obviously takes responsibility for his fatness, but also noted that he's relatively healthy by objective indicators. That doesn't slow Robinson down who proceeds to threaten Christie with the usual litany of fat diseases he's obviously going to fat himself with any day now.

Robinson continues by trotting out some dubious statistics about how fat people are causing the national health crisis. He tries to be clear that he's not blaming Christie for the National Debt crisis, shortly after blaming all fat people for the National Debt crisis. Easier to blame us collectively than individually, but don't forget that you can't do one without the other. We can't all be responsible for something without being responsible as individuals. Fat people having higher health care costs is something oft asserted, but with little discussion of what goes into that. Reading through Robinson's evidence, at least part of the increase is just based on costs associated with trying to make fat patients into not-fat patients. We'll never know much of the increase is due to fat people not receiving adequate preventive care due to stigmas involving seeking medical treatment while fat nor how much may be attributable to the life-time of weight cycling seen in virtually all fat patients who have made countless attempts to lose weight.

Robinson concludes by giving false lip-service to the notion that Christie isn't at fault for his weight. Sadly, this kind of tone is used by a lot of liberals eager to shame fat people collectively but rightfully squeamish about doing it individually. They like to talk about how they understand genetic factors, or they may try to blame evil corporations. Anything to comfort themselves with the notion that they aren't bullying fat people even while they are talking about how we need to eliminate fat people. Its an extremely hollow bit of pandering that I'm getting quite sick of. You can't write a whole column about how Christie needs to stop being so fat already and just assert that you aren't blaming him so you are somehow so terribly mature. Its a charade and one fat people aren't falling for. When you fixated on shaming and stigmatizing fatness, you are shaming and stigmatizing fat people. I don't care if you want to think you're better than that, but you aren't. You aren't saying anything different than all of the other people who tell us every day that our bodies are unacceptable. Your message is substantively NO different, no matter how you want to excuse it to yourselves.

Again, though, the tragedy of all of this is like with most fat shaming, its directed at someone who agrees with it. Maybe Christie will object to the the tone or venue, but he's repeatedly endorsed the substance. Yet people will still make a point to shame him over and over and over again. Christie will win himself no reprieve for his own acceptance of shame for his weight. It simply doesn't matter to the people doing the shaming. To them, if he didn't want to be shamed for his body, he should just stop being so fat at them.

What bothers me the most with Robinson's article, though, is his self-justification where he explains why this is his business. Christie's weight isn't a private matter, you see, because he has chosen to enter the public arena. Much like the "hasn't anyone told you to stop being fat" sentiment, this is the sort of wildly divorced from reality assertion that any fat person should just laugh at it. Really, his body is a public concern just because he's a public figure? Funny, because to most fat people, it seems like people are always making our bodies their business. No special justification needed, this is just another day in the life for a fat person. Our bodies are always treated like public property and we are subjected to repeated shaming and belittling for our transgressive size. Robinson may want to act like he's just making a special allowance for himself, but this is no special risk Christie faces for being in the public eye. Going out in public while fat is enough to make it a public issue for most people. What is happening to Christie is happening to fat people every day. Don't think for a second that he's some kind of special victim for being a fat politician, nor that he faces some sort of special responsibility for it, either. This is positively mundane.

I'm no fan of Christie politically. I think he'd make an awful President. There are lots of ways to make that case without concern trolling him for being fat. That is unequivocally wrong and I demand better. There is nothing mature about fixating on his weight instead of his policies. Christie gives people ample reason to oppose him based on his ideology. That has far more to do with how he'll govern than his pants size.


Its not discrimination if I think its wrong for everyone!

In reading some of the discussion around L Word actress Leisha Hailey being kicked off a Southwest Air flight for kissing her girlfriend, I was reminded of a favorite defense trotted out in favor of discrimination. "But I think publicly kissing your partner is wrong no matter what your sexuality!" Indeed, its Southwest's defense here, too. Its not the sexual orientation, its the behavior. There is roughly no reason to ever take this sort of line seriously.

Its a pretty common tactic and that's what we need to recognize. This is a tactic and even an earnest proponent of it references it while willfully ignoring the larger social context. They think if they, individually, are willing to apply something to everyone, that's a get out of prejudice free card. That doesn't really work on a personal level, and it is pretty much insulting on a cultural level.

I'll take the cultural level first, because, well, it's low-hanging fruit. Trotting out this kind of "well, I'd discriminate against everyone" line in response to instances of discrimination is just an attempt at derailing. It doesn't matter why you'd do it. What matters are the systems of discrimination. By centering the discussion on your hypothetical motives, you just seek to distract from focusing on the larger social issues at play. You make something about you which isn't remotely about you. The reality is, your supposed even-handedness isn't what is happening in our culture. When gay people are scolded for showing affection, there is no counterpart among straight couples. Straight couples aren't being thrown off airplanes for kissing. Thin people aren't subjected to ridicule for eating in public. Men aren't viciously denounced for being sexually assertive. Your standards aren't the point, because your standards clearly aren't what's happening.

I feel this generally fails on the personal level, too. All too often, "but, its wrong for everyone" thinking only ever comes up when its wrong for the group society agrees its wrong for. Its essentially a hallow claim. You protest that you'd feel the same way if this were happening to a socially privileged group, but you never have to worry about that because it never will happen to a socially privileged group. Its just something to make you feel better about cheering for the stigmatization of marginalized groups.

The fat community sees this played out a number of ways. I suspect the most recognizable would be the fashion policing of fat bodies. Fat people are often scolded for their clothing choices by people who insist they'd find it distasteful on any better. Not coincidentally, though, they only ever voice that disgust with fat people for whom it is culturally protected to scold and demean for their bodies. They love claiming their prejudice is without regard for body size, but they never question their own actions and how even-handed they actually are when directly scolding people. They might like to think it and maybe they'd snark at celebrities, but I've seen little reason to think these people are seeking out thin bodies to police at the rates they are seeking out fat bodies. People like claiming they think its wrong for everyone, but the next time you hear someone say that, ask them to demonstrate that thinking in action. They like saying that to scold marginalized people, but how much time are they actually out there being publicly outraged when privileged people do it? I doubt many would even pass that test, much less be able to justify the recentering aspects of that position that draw attention away from social discrimination.


Maggie After Dieting

So, by now, I'm sure you've become aware of a rather awful book aimed at children called "Maggie Goes on a Diet". The book depicts a teenaged girl who is bullied for her size and then goes on a diet and becomes thin and popular. While the protaganist is 14, the book's target audience is actually girls as young as 6. The cover depicts fat Maggie holding a dress in front of a mirror with her thin reflection looking back at her.

So, yeah, pretty much a horrible, horrible thing. Its been getting widespread condemnation, which, of course, means even people who think fat people don't deserve respect think this goes too far. The imagery of the cover really struck me for how tactless it is. It reinforces so many notions of there being thin people just waiting to come out of our fat bodies, a cliché which mostly serves to dehumanize fat people. We aren't actual people, just something covering up thin people. While a lot of mainstream critics were blandly attacking the book for not promoting fat stigma the right way, I kind of kept thinking to what happens after the book.

See, most fat people have dieted and lost weight in their lives. Maggie's story is one I've heard time and time again in fat accepting communities. Growing up fat and getting teased. Finally being able to maintain a low weight for some brief period of time before the inevitable swing of weight cycling brings their size up higher than it was to start. Indeed, its a cycle most fat people experience over and over. Maggie's story rings true to many fat people. Its just not the whole story.

So, as I had been dabling with Tumblr, I saw an opportunity for an art project and several weeks ago started posting my own book covers for sequels to Maggie's first story. Starting with "Maggie Gains Back the Weight and Learns to Accept Her Body":
Whether fat haters like it or not, gaining back the weight is next chapter of virtually ever diet success story. Not because Maggie failed or wanted to gain back the weight, but because dieting is a failed system. I did this pretty quickly in Photoshop, but it got a very nice response on Tumblr and I solicited suggestions from folks on Twitter. I got quite a few great ones (many of which I haven't gotten to, yet) of what else Maggie could do to empower herself. @FatandtheIvy had a particular good one which lead to my next Maggie sequel, “Maggie Gets a Master’s Degree in Gender Studies”:
As I continued making these, I've tried to avoid putting too much baggage on Maggie. She's really meant to be an "every fat woman", so I want people to feel free to envision her whatever they like. As far as I'm concerned, she's female presenting, relatively fair-skinned, and has red hair either by nature or design. Anything else, feel free to imagine. She can be cis or trans. She may be queer or straight or ace. I try not to even think of her as necessarily white, though I presume that was her original creator's intention. She's not pale, after all. I've known people of Latin America, Middle-Eastern, and Asian decent with similar coloring. I've clearly decided that Maggie is not bound by her original creator's intentions and I'm trying to recognize that she need not be bound by my own, either. Maggie is all about possibilities and the possibilities available to fat people are far more numerous than we are often led to believe. Yes, Maggie went on a diet. That just gives her something in common with nearly every fat activist out there. She, like every other fat person, deserved more than for that to be the whole of her story.

So, because not everyone follows me on Tumblr or Twitter, here are the continuing adventures of Maggie as she subverts her diet propaganda roots and empowers herself:

“Maggie Joins a Roller Derby League”
“Maggie Learns to Belly Dance”
“Maggie Goes to Re/Dress NYC”
"Maggie Joins a Punk Rock Band"
"Maggie Protests Fat Stigma"

More, surely, to come. You can follow me on Tumblr for updates.


The continued failure of fat people prevention

If fat people were preventable, why are there so many fat people?

Its notable that anti-fat crusading celebrity chefs have shifted to talking about "preventing" fat people. Its a tacit admission that there is no safe, reliable way to make a fat person into a not-fat person. Which in the minds of fat-haters just increases the imperative to prevent us. Stop us before we fat! Not that this relieves any stigmatization of actual fat people as they focus on the potentially fat.

If anything, it makes it much worse as we're now a cautionary tale complete with an utterly made-up statistic of fat people costing "$10,273,973 per hour". Imagine if that song from from Rent had a chorus of "How about... the supposed economic impact of the continued existence of fat people." As a Shakesville commenter notes, this highly specific number is clearly derived from a far less specific $90 billion a year number. Basically, if you take $90 billion and divide it by the number of hours in a year (8,760), and then round up to the nearest whole dollar, you get their figure. They took a broad statistical estimate (prone to all of the usual manipulations that come with estimates based on assumptions which presuppose what you want to believe) and broke it down to the hour to make it seem more authoritative.

Still, we get back to the essential question here, if fat bodies can be prevented, why are the so many fat bodies to use as cautionary examples? Why has Jamie Oliver and those who have come before him failed so triumphantly to prevent fat people? The prevention and elimination of fat bodies has been a medical imperative for decades. Stigmatization of fat bodies is enforced through massive amounts of social shaming from family and peers and authoritative shaming from medical professionals. If fat people were preventable, everything ever done by those trying to prevent them has been a spectacular failure.

In his petition, Jaime Oliver says we must "demand better" from our UN Representative. I'm not sure what he thinks better will be exactly. He's already gotten the whole structure of our society behind him. Its a rather massive degree of entitlement for people who already run the world to be demanding more. But such is thin privilege.

He isn't wrong that we need to demand better, though. But who we need to demand it from are Oliver and his cronies. We need to demand better from every self-appointed "obesity" expert who perpetuates shame and stigmatization in the name of failed policies. We need to demand better than treatments that have never been shown to work and prevention that has never been shown to be effective. Fat people must demand better. Better health care. More respect. Less discrimination.

You're damn right, Jamie Oliver, that we should demand better. Better than you. Better than self-promotional marketing campaigns that will do far more the elevate the global brand of a celebrity chef than improve the life of one fat person, much less make anyone thinner. We need to demand options to improve our health and well-being that are not fixated on making our fat bodies not fat. We need to demand that health stop being an issue of right or wrong, good or bad. We need to stop shaming people for their health concerns and valorizing those who do "right". We need to stop the endless repetition of failed directives and stop predicating medical treatment and medicinal shaming on the size and shape of our bodies. Fat people deserve better. We demand better.


Bigotry doesn't always announce itself

"I never said I hated fat people!"

A few weeks back I saw someone pull out this line in an argument. Variations of this remark come up a lot among people defending bigoted remarks of many stripes, and fat people certain see a good amount of this. In this case, someone had written an article suggesting fat people are unfit to serve in political office. (the original article seems to be down as a result of a site update, so no link) Calling for discrimination seems to be pretty clearly a case of bigotry to me, but not to many. After all, they never said they hated fat people.

Bigotry doesn't always announce itself. Indeed, it rarely does. Lots of bigots out there like to flatter themselves with justifications and explanations for why their calls for discrimination, stigmatization, and disempowerment aren't actually bigotry. Its an example of the entitlement that comes with privilege. They feel entitled to not have their hate labeled as such. Doing so would terribly rude and hostile. Far more rude and hostile than suggesting a class of people be barred from public office. So long as they don't label what they do and say as hate, no one else can.

Well, that's bullshit, isn't it? We can't count on hate to be self-labeled. Sure, a lot of people DO feel free to hate fat people because we live in a culture which privileges such hate. That a few do so openly, though, is a reflection of the far greater number that so less overtly. They fully believe themselves when they decry the awful treatment of themselves when called out on their privilege, too. They believe every one of their justifications for their hate. There is no "deep down" where they know they are hateful. Deep down, the just know they are right and will angrily defend their righteousness.

Fat hate has an especially potent system for denial, too. Its not hate or bigotry. Oh, no. They actually just act out of concern for fat people. This doesn't make fat the last acceptable thing to hate, of course. Indeed, this dynamic plays out precisely with hatred for women, African-Americans, gays, and so many others. There is always a culturally acceptable coat of paint slapped on the hatred so everyone can pretend its something else. You see this in the white racists so concerned about how the end of slavery has destroyed black families. You see this in the homophobes so concerned about the supposed mental instability of gays and lesbians. You see it in the misogynists who are so concerned about protecting women by infantalizing them and lionizing them as their noble protectors.

For us fatties, its always concern for health. Fat people must be barred from politics because they are so gosh darn unhealthy. We'll just go dying in the middle of our terms, leaving chaos in our wake. Sure, we keep electing 80 year old white men to office. Sure, we elect persons who have recovered from cancer. But fat people are just going to die any day now! I mean, there isn't actually anything to justify the perpetual death threat our culture puts fat people in, but why let relevance keep people from dredging up health. Dan Savage brought health in to justify his disgust with "girl love handles". No, it wasn't some arbitrary system of aesthetics that Savage was elevating to a beauty mandate. Its not that he finds it ugly (though, he totally does), its that he finds it so gosh darn unhealthy. I'm sure health concerns were paramount in the minds of those who decided to pick on a 19-year old recovering bulimic for looking slightly heavier since getting treatment for her eating disorder.

Limiting activists to calling out that has announced itself is a way of privileging the status quo and skewing the debate in its favor. Its all about making sure the culturally dominant hatreds end up looking like the moderate stance. They want to position those calling for empowerment as an extreme opposing the actual extreme of people expressing crass, direct hate. Then the status quo gets to act all above the fray for its sainted reasonableness by not hating too obviously. Compromise!

We must call out all hate. Not just the hate that makes itself plain. The hate that tries to blend into the background noise of our culture is far more insidious and far more of a threat. We will not wait for hate to make itself known before we speak out. We will seek it out and expose it.


In defense of Fat Cosplay

I feel a great disturbance in the force. As if a million voices cried out in entitled indignation at having to see a fat person enjoying their life and were suddenly not silenced. Indeed, they won't shut up about it.

Its a disturbance we feel every July coming out of San Diego and sporadically the rest of the year at conventions around the world. Pity the poor convention goer who must endure the sight of fat people doing stuff. I mean, don't they know they are fat?!?

I know I shouldn't be surprised. These are issues of privilege, after all, and privilege means never having to have the slightest iota of self-awareness. As a geek/nerd/etc., though, I find it especially disappointing when my fellow geeks wallow in what entitlements they do get. Thus we get the positively absurd sight of people angrily lashing out to protect the sanctity of adults dressing up as cartoon characters.

The arguments are always incredibly silly. "Character X wasn't fat!" is always a go-to. How much nit-picking do you think Wolverine cosplayers get if they are taller than 5'3"? Or Hulk cosplayers for being too short?

"Fat people just shouldn't wear those costumes. They aren't flattering." Hello, body policing. Who says they aren't flattering? Oh, that's right. The people who think fat bodies are irredeemably ugly. God forbid a small number of fat people decide that maybe they won't live their lives by no-win rules about what they are allowed to wear. That's not even getting into the ways appropriating fashion standards for conventional bodies onto unconventional bodies can expose the absurdity of those standards. Think of the Gender Bent Justice League where cosplayers swapped genders on DC Superheros, but retained the scantily clad costumes on the now male bodies. Seeing a male Huntress or Power Girl is a reminder of how dehumanizing portrayals of women get taken for granted. Fat cosplay can have much the same activist purpose in drawing attention both to the objectification of thin women and the way fat bodies are made invisible. Lest any of the cosplay police complain about getting politics into their fun, they are already doing it themselves. They are taking just as much of an activist position on cosplay as the Gender Bent Justice League is. Difference is, they are activists for the status quo.

"Its just not healthy." I swear, you cannot talk about fat people doing anything in their lives without running into this one. Its the fail-safe for those who want to police fat bodies for not meeting aesthetic standards. If someone challenges aesthetics, just pretend its all about health. Tell me, though, what other health standards are enforced for cosplayers. Do we measure people's blood pressure and cholesterol? If you have cancer, do you not get to cosplay? What about the myriad of diseases more prevalent in thin people? Are they forbidden from any moment of fun? As usual, health is a concern stated because our culture has deemed this an acceptable reason to hate people.

Cosplay is about having fun. Its about self-expression. There should be no "Cosplay Police" at all. People get to make up their own minds on how to express themselves and their fandom. Some people are going to want to dress up as characters they look like. Which is awesome. I get that mentality. Other people are going to be drawn to the characters they like. And that's cool, too. Its bizarre that people think there must be rules about playing make-believe.

That's not what they think, though. They just think there are rules about being fat. It all comes back to privilege. Its obviously absurd to try to codify pretend. Its obviously hypocritical for geeks and nerds to slam people for defying conventional norms. Thin privilege is a bigger problem than that. Its just how privilege acts. Of course you can't try to police make-believe, but you damn well can police fat bodies. Thankfully, I gather most cosplay communities soundly reject that line of thinking. Just another reminder that really has nothing to do with the act of cosplay and everything to do with attacking people for the crime of being publicly fat.

I've never cosplayed myself, but I envy the hell out of people who do so it really upsets me when I see someone's beautiful expression of self demeaned by rank bullies. It just wasn't something I feel like my generation did much to begin with, and even there I never really found myself in a community of geeks where I could really feel comfortable exploring that. It bums me out, though. I'd love a great looking Star Fleet Uniform (from Next Generation, of course). I'd love to use my white jacket to cosplay as the villainous Gideon Graves. I went as Jedi for Halloween once in college and you can't tell me holding a lightsaber in your hands isn't flat out awesome. I also remember how "on display" I felt when I wore my white suit and I can only imagine how amplified that feeling would be when cosplaying. Fat or thin. Doing that is incredible and I am in awe of everyone who does it and utterly disgusted with everyone who tries to belittle it for interfering with their pristine sense of aesthetics.


So, I was on TV again

The story I posted last week from WBZ-TV in Boston had actually gotten its start as a story intended for CBS-3 in Philadelphia and their version of the story was aired tonight and can be seen on their website. As a news geek, I'm fascinated at how the two stations took the same content and edited it into two very different stories. I'm happy with both, but I feel like the new CBS-3 story is actually more true to what the hashtag was trying to accomplish. Even if you watched the story last week, this one is actually largely new and well worth checking out.


So, I'm on TV and stuff

So, hello anyone who found this blog from seeing it on WBZ-TV in Boston. For anyone not in Boston, I will post video when its available. Consider this an open-thread of sorts on #ThingsFatPeopleAreTold and remember that trolling is not welcome here.


#thingsfatpeoplearetold Media Inquiry

This is for any readers in the Philadelphia region. A television producer has contacted me about doing a story on #thingsfatpeoplearetold for a Philadelphia TV News program. They were hoping to speak to someone local about their experiences with fat stigma. If anyone would be willing to be interviewed and leaves in that area, please email me and I can get you in touch with the producer. Thank you!


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