We Do Not Revel In Fat

We do not revel in fat. We do not choose the physical difficulty, social ostracism, and too-small world as ends in themselves.

We do not revel in fat. We are not gleeful when the numbers on the scale get bigger. We do not hide skinny photos in shame, evidence of an awkward era of less-than-perfection.

We do not revel in fat. We do not make a careful study of ‘healthy’ foods so that we may eschew them, turning up our noses like children at the idea of greens as we reach for boxes of processed sugar. We do not avoid healthful avenues or parties hosted by vegan friends.

We do not revel in fat. We are not disgusted when thinner people walk past. We would not deny a thinner person—thinner than fat us—his or her chance to grace the pages of a magazine or star in a film. We do not curse out our children if they aren’t fat like we are. We don’t cry if they refuse to gain weight Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, or think that they’re less worthwhile for their non-fatness.

We do not revel in fat. We are not unmindful of our own mortality, sickness, age. We are not blind to the Reaper, nor do we wish to invite him sooner. We do not choose to exchange momentary pleasure for future consequences. We are not numb to struggle, sickness, or pain.

We do not revel in fat. We are not enamoured with sugar, lard, sloth.

We do not revel in fat. We are not addicted.

We do not revel in fat. We are not diseased.

We do not revel in fat. We are not morally bankrupt.

* This is a piece intended to run counter to the myth promulgated by anti-FA that Fat Acceptance means Fat Revelry. It is intended to expose the myth of Fat Acceptance as necessarily pro-fat, instead of what it really is—pro-human.

A Little Fat Sociology

Have you seen Google Books Ngram Viewer yet? They are awesome. Play with them right away. That is, after you read this post, of course. ;)

The basics – Google Books Ngram Viewer searches for keywords in Google Books from way back to 2008. You can search for multiple keywords (up to four worked best for me) and graph the results next to each other. It’s pretty awesome.

h/t to Sociological Images for first pointing this out to me. I immediately thought of building some graphs that were relevant to Fat Acceptance and the sociology of size. Here are some initial results. There’s a link to the NGrams Viewer for each graph above the image, and you can click on the images to enlarge them.

Fat Acceptance

link

BLUE - "fat liberation" RED - "fat acceptance" GREEN - "size acceptance" YELLOW - "fatphobia"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Perfect Bodies and Inner Beauty

link

 

BLUE - "thin figure" RED - "hourglass figure" GREEN - "perfect body" YELLOW - "inner beauty"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Fat is Ugly and Thin is Beautiful

link

BLUE - "fat is ugly" RED - "thin is beautiful"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Muffin Tops and Baby Weight

link

BLUE - "baby weight" RED - "love handles" GREEN - "muffin top" YELLOW - "junk in the trunk"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Obesity Epidemic

link

BLUE - "obesity epidemic" RED - "healthism" GREEN - "bmi"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Lose Weight…But You’re Too Skinny

link

BLUE - "need to lose weight" RED - "too skinny" GREEN - "go on a diet" YELLOW - "stop dieting"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Epidemics, Nutrition, and Surgery

link

BLUE - "obesity epidemic" RED - "childhood obesity" GREEN - "food pyramid" YELLOW - "gastric bypass"

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Another interesting one – Shed pounds, burn calories

Universally Loathed

So many intelligent people can’t comprehend the genetics of size, which I find both astoundingly disappointing and rather nauseating.

If I hear one more time — just one more time — that the size of my body implies I’ve got some bevy of psychological issues, whoever makes that claim will be told in no uncertain terms why they are wrong. I’m done being silent about this, going along when other people spew misinformation and bigotry because I don’t want to rock whatever boat. I’m not out looking for a fight, but unfortunately you don’t have to go far these days to either get attacked or experience others being attacked for happening to embody the ‘wrong’ shape.

Nearly every group strives to disinclude fat people, to the extent where vociferous, well-reasoned  arguments will be levied against the culture of lookism only to then exclude fat people yet again. For example, a recent comment (which sparked this post), ran along the lines of: “Judging potential partners based on looks is wrong, but hey, sometimes you can tell when someone’s messed up and that’s when they’re OMGFAT!”

(because, the argument ‘from reason’ further stated, fat people must be fat because they overeat and they must overeat because they have some disturbing emotional problems which imply they are broken and hence undesirable partners)

I’ve had conversation with and read articles written by people with multiple degrees in tough disciplines which still cave to the rabid cultural assumptions surrounding size. My hypothesis is this usually stems from the fact that they themselves aren’t fat, nor do they have any experience with people of size. Since they’re perfectly reasonable and intelligent, that must mean fat people are broken! The same goes for average-sized people who rag on very thin people: they can’t seem to understand that many naturally thin people have tried to gain weight and can’t, and are mocked or derided for their size.

It’s all so very unscientific, and so very non-rigorous and logically fallacious that I can’t help to conclude there exists an intellectual double standard concerning size. I’m not quite sure why – perhaps it stems from the infallible authority granted to doctors and other medical researchers, who are of course just fallible people subject to the same bigotries as the rest of us, and who don’t necessarily conduct their research more rigorously nor do they possess some sort of super-reason inaccessible to the rest of us.

All of this leads me to conclude -

If you are a person of size there is one thing you can count on in modern society, and that’s being universally loathed.

So right, I’m pretty pissed off.

…because it’s abuse. It’s a way for one set of people to commit violence against another without having to make the effort to be physically violent. It’s a way for them to feel artificially superior by climbing on the backs of the deviant ranks, though really whatever status system being contrived is based on completely arbitrary values. (Like thinner is better – better for whom? Like more makeup is better than no makeup – better for whom? Like dark hair and blue eyes and fair skin is better – better for whom? Why? How did it come to pass? How is it rigorous or objective in any sense whatsoever?)

I’m going to say it right back – Modern Culture – yeah, look at me when I’m talking to you, damnit – I loathe you, too.

But my loathing is based in reason. Because I loathe any entity, group, or collection of ideas constructed in order to do violence to other people, to keep them from reaching their full potential.

I especially loathe intelligent individuals with willful blind spots. Perhaps that’s because I used to be one of them, I’m not sure. Regardless, while I don’t think intelligent people need to be perfect (honest intelligent people will be the first to claim that they’re not perfect) I do think they have a responsibility to closely examine their own potential biases. Else doff that elitist mantle: you are no enlightened thinker if you willfully latch onto a belief because it conveniently supports your worldview without making sure it is rationally sound.

Most modern intellectuals, along with everyone else, have been socialized to believe fat people are low-status, disgusting, and broken. Hence they are willfully ignorant with respect to any information that might suggest the opposite. They want to keep finding us ugly, and disgusting, and broken. They want to other us. They want their bigotry to be reinforced, because they have a visceral fear of fat people.

And visceral fears are difficult to root out. Flipping through the pages of history they might in fact be one of the stickiest points of human prejudice. Why is that? I have a few theories.

Visceral fears are self-regulating. Teach a populace to loathe something, and they often self-segregate based on that characteristic. In that same sense those fears are passed from generation to generation, since children will be — through horrid, memorable abuse and punishment for deviance, often at the hands of their parents, teachers, and peers — well-taught to toe loathing’s line.

So what do we do? How do we handle being loathed? Well I know what we can’t do — OBEY.

Which suggests that the initial reaction we must cultivate is ANGER.

(I won’t go into constructive/destructive anger at the moment, but obviously I believe the above falls into the constructive category)

So get angry. What makes you angry about the way you were treated in your past, or currently, or the way you fear you might be treated in the future? Why do you think it’s unfair? You have every right to loathe what is being done to you, because it is objectively wrong. You know that, you agree with that, or else you wouldn’t think this whole Fat/Size Acceptance thing holds any water.

Get pissed; you deserve it.

The Mia Freedman Debacle, or, Why Moral Panics Need Strawmen

Bri King of Fat Lot of Good, fellow Fat Acceptance blogger and general advocate, recently came under fire as she found herself daring to push back against a so-called body image activist allowing virulently anti-fat comments on a recent post about feederism.

Bri has since been asked to comment for articles in several Australian news outlets. (students of sociology, pay close attention to the language used in the titles of each of these articles—five extra brownie points for some analysis, if you wish to provide it!)

1. Herald-Sun: Body blogger Mia Freedman gets heavied

2. Today/Tonight: Heavyweight fury

3. A Current Affair: Mia’s fat fight

The article is the fairest, though uses some cheap fat-mocking ‘colorful’ descriptive language here and there. Both of the other segments I watched briefly without the sound so that I could get a sense for the kind of imagery they put forth, and it’s immediately problematic — headless and legless fatties, thinner people who get attractive straight-on headshots, and so forth. But I think others can go through the segments with a bit more of a detailed analysis, what I want to talk about is what really went down, here, and why this is an example of how the strawman effect is the most powerful foundation block of a moral panic.

For Bri’s explanation and links to Mia’s post and its comments, please see her posts here (ordered by date):

1. This Angry Fatty won’t just shut up and go away…

2. still Angry Fatty

Freedman has since come back to explain that, in fact, she wasn’t talking about fat people in general but was highlighting the feederists, which we can all agree are bad, bad, bad! And why don’t us regular fatties just shut up about it, what, do we think that kind of behavior is good or something? Of course, the arguments being made against Bri are chock full of logical fallacies (extra points for those who list which ones!). And it shows either a great deal of ignorance or intellectual dishonesty on the part of a so-called body image advocate to claim that highlighting feederism in the midst of a moral panic where fat people are the folkdevils isn’t harmful to fat people in general.

Here are a few facts to chew on, in case you’re still not convinced:

  1. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if society wasn’t already panicked and disgusted by fat people in general. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe there exist people who not only like being fat but want to get fatter?”
  2. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the common wisdom wasn’t erroneously that people with few exceptions have the ability to control their body weight. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people want to be fat when they could be thin if only they got their priorities straight or were sufficiently shamed, and further, that they want to be so very fat indeed?”
  3. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the nanny-state wasn’t continually making its version of ‘health’ a public responsibility (thus placing people’s bodies into the black box of common ownership and hence critique). The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people are irresponsibly choosing fatness when it’s my wallet on the line?”

Let’s further the analysis, for those who still aren’t clear on the connection between these points — demonizing feederism in the context of a moral panic where fat people play the part of folkdevil — and why such a blog post, made by a so-called body image advocate, furthers general sizism and worsens general hate of all fat people.

Feeders/Gainers, and those who are seen as clearly choosing to get fatter, are the strawmen of the ‘obesity epidemic.’ Because one of the fundamental lines of reasoning behind the moral panic of fat is that the vast majority of fat people choose to be fat. Hence, in the common-wisdom narrative of the ‘obesity epidemic’ all fat people are, to some degree, feeders/gainers.

So demonizing feeders/gainers in the context of the ‘obesity epidemic’ moral panic is the same as demonizing the vast majority of fat people.

And the comments on Freedman’s site prove this point to be true, as do many of the comments on the Herald-Sun article linked above. Those commenters don’t care if Freedman was talking about feeders/gainers in particular — to them regular fatties aren’t really that different from feeders/gainers. So what Freedman has written has the effect of only reinforcing the bigoted notions of fat put forth by the common-wisdom narrative, reinforcing people’s disgust over fat people. What Freedman has written reinforces their horrified sensibilities concerning what and how it is proper to consume food or think about wellness and how they believe ‘proper thought’ to be inextricably tied to a particular ‘proper’ size. What Freedman has written reinforces the idea that it is okay to hate and ‘be against’ this behavior, which to them is only an extreme version of what they believe all fat people do.

Freedman, a so-called body image advocate, is doing nothing more than promoting the ‘proper’ body — one that isn’t too fat — by means of what she surely believes is well-placed concern about feederism.

Still don’t believe me? Take the tenor of the comments on any article which treats this debacle (including comments on Freedman’s blog). The high level of outrage and disgust signify rage and panic over someone daring to be an outspoken member of a deviant class. This is traditionally how moral panics police their deviant classes. If most of these commenters came in with honest curiosity or concern over health, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt the level of emotion would be quite a bit lower.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate a comment I made on Bri’s blog about this whole debacle, in particular the backlash against her take on the situation.

Remember, the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a moral panic, and by being an outspoken member of the deviant class you threaten the status quo and that’s obviously ruffling some feathers.

In fact, congratulations are in order: it seems you’ve advanced your particular message to the third stage of activism. For as Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

They’re definitely fighting you. Cheers, Bri, keep on!

EDIT (5/13/10, 11:30p EST): Please also take a look at Spilt Milk’s current Freedman post. She replies to a comment Mia Freedman made to Spilt Milk’s blog—it’s really fantastic, please read it!

NOTE: If you have come to submit the comment, “But don’t you know that feederism is bad? What, are you promoting feederism or something?” I might actually publish it, just to get laughs. But I request in any case that you re-read this post — and again, if you’re still scratching your head — and if you can’t get it after that, congratulations! You’re a bigoted pawn of the moral panic. Or should I say, I send my deepest regrets to your friends and family.

On Being Pro-Liberty and Anti-Dieting

elizebeth has a post today, in which she says:

The conflict comes when I think about suggesting that path for others. It’s one thing for me to say “I’M” fine with accepting my fate…but am I promoting the idea that others should too?

What if the science is suggesting that being naturally fat ALSO means I’m naturally meant to die a little earlier than my thin counterparts?

Am I suggesting that EVERYONE should just accept that? Do I think we’re just supposed to accept our genetic destinies, regardless of the possible outcome?

It’s a hard question.

At the very same time, I also can’t imagine trying to DICTATE how people SHOULD live their lives. Which is why I take a diet neutral stance.

If people can find some way to be happy with who they are AND diet with the goal of weight loss, who am I to say their choice is wrong?

So, if I am to say that I’m “pro-fat”, I have to add the addendum that I’m also “pro-liberty.”

I think there are a few things going on here. First off, there is the murky suggestion that ‘science might say…’ and then a hypothetical decision being made based on what you’re hypothetically positing science is saying at the moment. Namely, that certain fat people ‘will’ die sooner than other people, due to their fat.

Many studies have shown a J-curve relationship between BMI and mortality (here’s one). They each suggest that underweight is the most risky category in which to reside throughout life, and overweight the least risky. ‘Normal’ and small fats (BMI 30 – 35) have the same risk. BMI > 35 has more risk than the others except underweight. I would guess that further partitioning the BMI >35 range would show most of the ‘increased risk’ was at the far higher end. I would also suggest that most people at the higher end of the BMI range are fat due to illness or some kind of condition (that is, fat as a symptom). And it would be the illness or condition that’s a greater predictor of early mortality, which would be conflated with fat in most risk-factor analyses (which don’t care about chicken-and-the-egg causation, just correlation).

So, that being said, your blanket implication (without any real analysis of the gravity of that implication) that ‘science might say…fatties are doomed to die earlier,’ and how you as an individual process that pseudoscienterrific statement, doesn’t really fall out of the evidence.

What I’m seeing a lot of in this post is this fake-skeptical balancing act which seems to grant the fatphobics their arguments in the name of ‘skepticism,’ then goes on a hypothetical walk around the pond to sort out implications. It just doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like we’re in the nineteenth century, when no real science had been conducted on this subject. You don’t have to sit around and ‘wonder’ what might be true. Go out there and read the evidence (The Fat Nutritionist has a superb list of links…magnifica, amica!), and then sort it out on your own. It’ll make your arguments on the implications of science a lot more rational. I mean, I could sit around and say, “Hey, what if unicorns do exist?” and write a blog post about the implications, but it wouldn’t really mean anything in reality, would it?

It’s your blog, you can say anything you wish on it. But as a fat acceptance activist, I take issue with some of your claims (especially since you’re on the Fat Liberation feed), and the way you choose to argue them.

Okay, time for the next point here — on why being pro-liberty doesn’t mean one has to be diet-neutral (or anything-neutral).

There’s a false dichotomy being built in elizebeth’s argument above. The suggestion is that those of us who don’t take a diet-neutral stance want to dictate to others how they should live. But, of course, that simply isn’t true. I can root for you to have the power to make any choice about your body you deem expedient, or not, for whatever, or no, reasons. All being pro-liberty means is that one is anti-interventionist. It doesn’t mean that one has to sit twiddling their thumbs in a dieting-obsessed, fatphobic world, and not speak out against these things.

As an anti-interventionist pro-liberty gal, I think I can speak to this point with some kind of expertise.

The evidence suggests that dieting doesn’t work. The evidence suggests that we are in a moral panic where fat people play the part of folkdevil. The evidence suggests that the vast majority of fat people are programmed to be some degree of fat. Many pro-interventionist, anti-fat studies are conducted in a non-rigorous manner, play fast and loose with the statistical analysis, are meant as anti-fat propaganda/marketing pieces which go straight to AP press-release and then to your local nightly news, or feature giant conflicts of interest in funding or authorship.

Okay, let’s check — yep, I’m still pro-liberty. Now, what just happened here?

I was able to define clear points on why I’m fat accepting, and how the evidence plays a crucial role in that state of being. I didn’t breathe a word about what other people should or shouldn’t do—in effect, I was engaging in education and promotion, not public policy. There’s a difference. I didn’t assume that my fat readers fell into any particular categories, nor did I feel the need to talk out of both sides of my mouth in order to appear as some kind of ‘moderate.’

What I don’t think is understood clearly is that this ‘skepticism’ being employed on some pro-fat blogs is not making your arguments appear more reasonable, it’s just watering down their meaning to nearly nothing. I can still give my opponent his best argument while fashioning one of my own. For instance, even if fatness qua fatness is associated a higher risk of death in some fat populations, that doesn’t meant the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a reasonable movement of any kind. Because, quite simply, there are other populations that experience this same kind of J-curve relationship with respect to mortality, with respect to other characteristics. Athletes and tall people, for instance. Yet, I don’t see people talking about a Tall Epidemic, or angrily protesting outside Olympic stadia that they have to support these athletes and their irresponsible, health-costly lifestyles.

We’re in a moral panic. Moral panics infuriate pro-liberty people like me. The vastness of the ignorance that needs to be put in motion in order to force society to evolve to this state is astounding. Additionally, moral panics often result in some kind of intervention forced on deviant groups by the other groups in power.

So what does being pro-liberty have to do with taking a neutral stance on dieting? Well, nothing. I can be pro-liberty and anti-dieting without contradiction. However, one cannot be pro-dieting and anti-dieting without contradiction. And one certainly can’t be fat accepting while weakly arguing the other side’s case without necessary logical and evidential caveats, under the guise of ‘skepticism.’

Real Fucking Fat Acceptance

(this post has NO TRIGGER WARNINGS, no diet ratings, or anything. It’s just FA, baby.)

There is an unavoidable plethora of diet-talk, fat-negative-talk, and pro-weightloss-intervention-speak  nearly everywhere in Western society. What actual fucking fat acceptance (FA) does is first off give you a break from all of that. Secondly, it challenges those negative, hurtful, and hateful messages. But, most importantly, it does a third thing: through discoveries and analyses of medical and sociological literature, it provides convincing evidence that:

  1. diets don’t work for the vast majority of dieters,
  2. fat is largely genetic,
  3. the correlations between fat and certain conditions haven’t yet been shown to be causative,
  4. the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a moral panic.

I personally best summed up the reality of the ‘obesity epidemic’ in my post, The Tall Epidemic. Tall people are at greater risk for certain conditions, too; tall people could be argued to cost more health-dollars that normal-height people; and tallness, though largely genetic, is not entirely so (one’s height can be stunted by means of poor nutrition during childhood, for instance). Like fatness, tallness is hard to correct, though due to the nature of the tissue only the most drastic means of correction can be undergone, like surgery (but there is also surgery to ‘correct’ fatness, mind).

Not to plug, but you should really read it if you’re teetering on the edge of uncertainty about whether, goshdarnit, perhaps certain people or populations should try to reduce their weight, or that perhaps maybe us fatties are doomed to a shorter lifespan due to our fat, and why that’s alarming and perhaps should be corrected, if not through dieting now, ultimately through the next-gen ‘safe’ anti-fatness measure that’s coming down the pipeline.

Because hiding under the veil of the concerned skeptic doesn’t wash with me. Because, ultimately, the ‘obesity epidemic’ doesn’t have a darned thing to do with actual health. If it did, other populations who arguably engage in ‘risky’ lifestyles, like being tall, or male, or an athlete, would be focused on, too. Once you accept the premise that one doesn’t choose to be fat, then giving credence to arguments that the weight of certain populations should be reduced for their own good is no different han giving credence to arguments that the height of certain populations should be reduced for their own good. Silly, no? And yet, here we are.

Real fucking fat acceptance. Riff-raff. Extremists. Those hard-liners in the community who recognize that lending credence to anti-fat arguments is not only usually at odds with more rigorous arguments and scientific reasoning, but also it is at odds with sociological realities. It doesn’t take much digging and studying to come to this conclusion: that’s why there’s a bevy of FA 101 posts floating around the ‘sphere which many of us link to religiously. Because we’ve made these arguments before. We’ve read these studies. We’ve lived our experiences. And, despite our best skeptic sensibilities (or perhaps due to them), many of us are coming to the same conclusions, namely, the four points listed above.

I always find it kind of amusing when I get the occasional troll or even attack-post on an external blog which loops back around to this argument that us riff-raff hardliners are delusional and enforce an echo-chamber precisely because we can’t handle opposition to our ideas, which to them is the veritable house of cards that blow down with a single strong whuff of anti-fat logic.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The trolls, anti-fats, and concerned skeptics tend to be the delusional ones. And lazy, to boot. See, the reason why I personally (and I’m sure many of my FA brethren) sift out these common anti-fat arguments is because we:

  1. have already heard them and responded to them earlier in our blog, or there exists an awesome FA 101 post on another blog (the trolls are too lazy to read, especially links)
  2. know that we’d be engaging in a particularly prolonged game of bash-head-on-wall if we choose to argue with these trolls (they are impervious to logic)
  3. understand that these knock-down-drag-outs in comments sections sap our energy to make more posts and tackle new subjects, which is ultimately more important (they are unreasonable)

A mentor of mine, a philosopher and economist, once told me that you have to give your opponent his best argument if you are to argue effectively. Most riff-raff hardliner FA blogs do just that: we are not burying our heads in the sand with respect to actual fucking medical research and actual fucking reality. In fact, most of these ‘skeptics’ engaging in balancing acts between calling themselves fat accepting and lending credence to the same tired old points the riff-raff have debunked years ago and over, and over, and over again are the ones burying their heads in the sand. It’s even worse than the ignorance perpetuated by the true pro-weightloss anti-fat ubiquity, because you’ve ostensibly had the opportunity to educate yourself in that you have access to challenging arguments, and still you cling to hope?– fear?– loathing?– whatever it might be to make you uncomfortable with the strong body of evidence gathered by us actual fucking fat acceptance riff-raff hardliners.

Because, your arguments? Heard them before, debunked them last weeks, probably multiple times. Our credentials? Well, I can read and understand scientific literature — logic and rigor are my two oft-used watermarks, and you know what? Most anti-fat pro-interventionists studies, they don’t measure up. From the sociological angle, there is the impeturbable elephant in the room mentioned above: all signs point to us being in a moral panic, and not just the media or the great unwashed, but the research community, as well. And we all know what great science comes out of the research community operating within a moral panic.

I’m not sure exactly what I’d term this new pro-FA-while-skeptical-of-FA-while-ignoring-the-body-of-evidence-FA-has-built community, but I know what it’s not: real fucking fat acceptance.

Note for the comments: I famously have little patience for bullshit I’ve already argued seven thousand times. New angles are interesting, but old stuff? Boring. And arguing old stuff already debunked because it’s some kind of chesnut you fear to abandon? Trolling, and will be moderated into the ether. Because I’m not here to hold your hand through FA 101. And if you’re too lazy to do your homework or too delusional/irrational to understand it, that’s not my fucking problem.

The FA Weight Loss Strawman

This was originally written as a comment on Bri’s post: FA, weight loss talk on the feed, blogging and me. Please read her post, it’s good stuff .

First of all, I agree with the vast majority of what Bri said. She spoke about how and why she became an FA blogger, which I appreciate — it’s always interesting to hear how people got started.

Personally, I got started after I read a seminal article on FA in The New York Times. The article was written almost exactly two years ago, on January 22, 2008. I started this blog on January 24, 2008, after two solid days of voracious reading of all the blogs mentioned in the article. Many of the blogs mentioned in the article are still around today, though some have changed the nature of what they blog about (usually trending towards including more material than just FA, or less frequent posting).

I’m certainly not one of the oldest blogs out there. But I like to think that I got involved at a very heady time for FA in 2008, when a bunch of new blogs started, traffic increased substantially, and many, many conversations have been had about what FA means and who/what it includes/excludes, good/bad fatties, the politics of FA, and so on.

One topic I’ve seen pop up time and again is what I like to call the FA Weight Loss Strawman. This is the logical fallacy that FA:

a) excludes dieters or even just thinner people

b) denies that weight exacerbates any medical conditions

c) creates the impression that activists in FA are somehow bigoted, out of touch, in denial, or actively dishonest

Sometimes the strawman has been posed by trolls, sometimes it’s been posed by people in the movement. I’ve seen blogs leave the ‘sphere because of their differences on this. And I’ve also seen people argue that if we actively try to include dieters, admit that weight exacerbates some medical conditions, and admit that we are only a small corner of the world that doesn’t intersect with what most people believe about weight and health, the movement will expand and be more powerful and effective.

I beg to differ, and will bust this strawman point-by-point.

1. FA doesn’t exclude dieters or thinner people.

How do I know this? There are dieters, and people who have maintained a weight loss, who are ardent FA supporters and those people can be ardent FA supporters. The whole point is not to claim that weight loss makes one morally superior, or that others should do it, or that since one believes weight is strongly correlated with certain health issues, that somehow trumps the message of FA. Those dieters and maintainers who are ardent FA supporters don’t make those claims.

And of course thinner people can be important voices of FA. FA is a subset of SA, Size Acceptance. As such, it inherits the points of size acceptance, one of which is that someone’s contribution to the community is not measured by the size of their waist.

2. FA doesn’t claim that weight doesn’t exacerbate certain medical conditions.

While many people in FA are currently investigating the literature on fat and health, and actively coming to the reasoned conclusion that the body of evidence suggests that the common-wisdom connections between health and fat are contradictory at best, and, when correcting for funding sources and bias, suggest strongly that fat does not cause diseases like diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer, I don’t think anyone in FA would claim that issues like joint pain, back pain, foot pain, etc., can’t be exacerbated by weight.

But these issues can also be exacerbated by height, occupation, age, and so forth. It still does not make dieting work for the vast majority of people, nor does it make trying to change weight necessary. No one would suggest I should try to make myself shorter because it will ease stress on my knees.

In other words, when we myth bust the common-wisdom health/fat connection, it doesn’t mean we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we don’t talk about, in the same breath, those instances where weight can exacerbate certain medical conditions. Healthism is a modern morality which paints people blackly if they aren’t trying to be ‘healthy.’ So myth-busting the health/fat connection is often a moral matter. The point is that activists in FA don’t believe that health should be a moral matter, but we understand that others do, and that untying body size from morality often requires taking on these health myths.

3. Fat Acceptance activists aren’t out of touch with regular people and how they think.

Why? Because we are regular people. And most of us did buy into the common-wisdom fat/health connection. Many of us had eating disorders. And the part of us that was lucky enough to have fat accepting parents, friends, and environment isn’t and hasn’t been living in some kind of fat accepting impenetrable bubble. Anti-fat rhetoric is everywhere. Fatphobia is rampant. The common-widsom fat/heath connection myths inundate us.

It’s pretty much impossible to avoid fat myths and fatphobia in our current society. However, it is completely possible to avoid fat acceptance messages. The very idea that we are somehow oppressing those who buy into the common-wisdom fat/health connection by not promoting proponents of that common wisdom in our discussion is flat out wrong, and frankly short-sighted. The idea that we’re oppressing anyone by having a community with rules is ridiculous. You can choose to participate or not, or to create a new space or not. No one is twisting your arm.

The alternative is this: FA allows diet-talk. FA can’t myth-bust health issues and especially particular studies and claims without always prefacing that the evidence is, on some issues, not cut and dry. FA apologizes to the dieting and fatphobic world constantly, and instead of incubating and strengthening internally, commits itself to reaching out externally, trying to actively ‘change’ minds instead of provide a space for the incubation of ideas of the minds that have already changed themselves.

I do not think that alternative will work. I do not think minds are so easily changed, unless they are already ready to change themselves (and in that case, they would likely be seeking us out rather than the other way around). Maybe you do. If so, I encourage you to create your own new space. But realize that FA is a lot bigger and older than your particular participation in it. And that these issues have come up many, many times and reasoned arguments have been had which conclude that diet talk and apologies will only erode our movement and message, not strengthen it.

De-segregation of plus sizes at Fashion Bug

This post is inspired by Unapologetically Fat’s post on Fashion Bug, please read it, it’s great!

It was a late summer’s day, and my mother was down to visit. I hadn’t seen her since the wedding (so since May), so it was fantastic to have a visit. We usually go clothes shopping when she’s down — call it a bit of a tradition — and we talk about fat issues. Call that a tradition, too. My mom isn’t quite a convert to FA yet, in that she still has a bunch of image/health issues that unfortunately her doctors have compounded.

We decided to stop by Fashion Bug — I had heard there was a store re-do, and I was interested to see how it would look. I walked in, and was pleasantly surprised — it looked like a regular boutique, instead of the usual segregated sections (plus on the right, straight on the left). I could see the clothing more clearly. Instead of having a casual rack crammed next to formal rack (both made of the same cheap knits and polyester), there was a casual and formal side, in which straight and plus sizes generally populated every rack.

Prices and selection was better, yes. But what impressed me even more than that was that I was, for the first time in years, shopping next to women of all sizes. There was a straight-sized woman who was interested in the same shirt, for instance, as I was. There were straight and plus sizes interspersed, shopping together for the same things.

And it was a freaking wonderful feeling.

I had never really thought about how confining and shaming it was to be segregated to often the back corner of a store (in a much smaller section), next to the FOOD (Super Walmart’s new brilliant placement for its Plus section), or next to Maternity or the kid’s clothes (cuz fat people are never single or young, yanno). I told myself that it feels better to shop near people of my own size.

But you know what? It really didn’t. That day at Fashion Bug, when I was shopping amongst straight sized people for the first time in years, *that* is when the shame lifted. *That* is what made me feel like we were all normal, just differently sized. That fat and thin people don’t inherently like different things, or inherently represent different demographics (in a broad sense), or inherently don’t want to shop near one another, or that plus sized people should have smaller selections of cheaper-made clothing because they don’t *deserve* the selection the straight sizes get.

As far as I know, Fashion Bug is the first mainstream store to integrate the straight and plus sizes. For that, Fashion Bug, I will definitely give you more of my business (your price drop doesn’t hurt, either!).

All I know is that I loved, loved, loved being able to shop with my mom again, who is a straight size. That we aren’t banished to different ends of the store. That she doesn’t come back from her side with a top she rightly knows I’d love, but dangit, it’s just too small (not her fault, she perpetually thinks I’m a 1x for some reason lol).

Rush Limbaugh Spreads ‘Fat is Genetic’ Message

On Rush Limbaugh’s radio show today, he quoted at length from the Newsweek article that obesity is genetic, as heritable as height. Millions of people listen to this show every day.

I know many of my readers here don’t agree with Rush’s politics, but spreading the message that fat has been shown to be as heritable as height, and is not under a person’s control in the long run, is extremely important. Rush was responding to Michael Pollan, who argued in the New York Times on September 9 that Obama should go after Big Food first before going after Big Insurance, because — you guessed it — fat people are the reason why health costs are going up, and they’re going to keep going up unless you go after Big Food (i.e., eradicate fat people).

(as a note, many Sanity Points are required to read the article — it contains the usual myths about the costs of fat people. It also, aggravatingly, euphemizes the ‘obesity epidemic’ with phrases like ‘a result of the Western diet’ — because, yanno, there aren’t any people who eat a non-Western diet that are fat!, and ‘fast-food diet’ — because, yanno, all us fatties do is chow on McWhatevers. Additionally, it assumes all diabetics are diabetic because of what they eat and how they exercise)

Rush has been notably up and down on the issue of fat in a personal sense — a fat man himself, he has regularly undergone diets and then regained the weight (he’s on a diet right now in fact). However, he’s been fairly consistent with his message that it’s no one else’s business but your own what goes into your mouth, and certainly isn’t something that should be regulated by some Nanny-state. He’s also been the brunt of much fat-stigmatization (his opponents regularly take cheap shots at his weight before they go on to explain why they disagree with this-or-that message, or even use his weight as a symbol for what they perceive as his moral failings), and has said surprisingly refreshing things about fat:

The Left’s New Villain: Fat People where he takes some delightful shots at MeMeMeMe Roth:

Did you catch what this Roth b-i-itch said at the beginning of the bite?  You’re supposed to be working out every day?  You’re supposed to be working out. You’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, you’re supposed to be.  And MeMe Roth, who nobody has ever heard of, is now the sole authority on what you ought to be doing.  I tried to warn people.  This is the SUV all over again.

“People who regularly exercise….are the ones getting regularly injured. …. you’re the ones putting stress on the healthcare system.” link is to audio, not text

Of course, his track record isn’t perfect. But he’s regularly saying a lot more fat-positive things, especially in the context of body autonomy, than the vast majority of media with his kind of audience. And that’s important, regardless of how you view his politics.

Here’s to you, Rush, and I hope that your journey becomes personally fat accepting with time, though I thank you for a few sane points about “the obese” in a chaos of illogic, hate, and blame!

Fat Ladies Singing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

In the comments of a recent post on Shapely Prose, a few of us in the fat community mentioned that we were classically-trained singers. For those not in the know, a classically-trained singer typically sings opera or folk music and ballads.

An interesting thing about classically trained singers is that, for a significant span of time, fat people were quite present and sometimes dominated the scene, especially as what are called “Wagnerian sopranos.”

As you can see, there are faces of all sizes in this crowd, but the average is decidedly fat, even in the modern-era sopranos. It should be noted that Deborah Voigt, the last soprano on the list, got WLS after being fired off one show by a fat-phobic director for not fitting into a dress. The director decided to replace the filler of the dress, rather than letting the dress out, or switching to a more reasonable period dress. Voigt then caved to insecurity and concern trolls and butchered her healthy organs in a three-hour weight Voigt, post-WLS, in the controversial "little black dress"loss surgery procedure. She lost 100 pounds afterwards and was rehired by the company that had fired her for being too fat. Her fans have cheered the results of her barbaric surgery, and she’s working more now than ever, though I’m fairly certain her voice and talent haven’t improved because she now can fit into some particularly-shaped bits of cloth.

But she’s not the only one on that list who was plagued with problems based on her weight. Want to guess which is the next one? If you scanned through and picked out the other modern soprano of the fatphobic era we all currently “enjoy,” you’d be correct. Jane Eaglen has also been badly characterized and passed over because of her weight in favor of thinner, less capable singers. Unlike Voigt, however, Eaglen refuses to apologize for or mutilate herself because of her weight:

Eaglen doesn’t fit the stereotype of a reigning superstar. In this age of marketable singing actresses who pride themselves on being nimble and trim, the thirty-eight-year-old Eaglen is a throwback to an earlier age of Wagner sopranos, resplendently zaftig and virtually immobile onstage. She acts with her voice, not her body. And she’s proud of her appearance, making no apologies for her weight, arguing that as long as she’s healthy, it’s no one else’s concern. If a director won’t work with her because of her size, she says, that’s his problem, not hers. Such candor and defiance are refreshing, if controversial.

Additionally, I highly recommend this article, which is surprising fat-positive, and textually sneers at shallow producers and directors who are trying to turn opera into yet another plastic veneery low art form. The article was written as an angry (yet classy) response to what happened to Deborah Voigt.

Jane Eaglen, performing

Jane Eaglen, performing

These stories hit close to home for me. Growing up, I always had an extraordinarily powerful voice. My grandmother and grandfather sang semi-professionally during the post-WWII years before they had children, as a way to make a little extra money. My grandfather was English — a broad, tall man with power — and my grandmother was German, a petite, yet broad-framed woman whose voice could knock your socks off. My Italian grandfather on the other side of my family had perfect pitch and was an extraordinarily tall, broad-framed man.

Those qualities all came together in me. I inherited large lungs, a large frame, a voice that could knock your socks off, and perfect pitch.

For a while, it was obvious that I was going to do something with singing, as a career, that is. But I kept losing leads to more petite, prettier, wispier voiced bodies. Frustrated, I concluded that the world of performance was inherently fatphobic and began turning my attention to other pursuits.

Only recently has my voice changed yet again (one’s voice changes constantly, and in a good way if you maintain it, until well past 50). I’m singing parts I could never quite handle right before. My voice is so powerful that my neighbors can hear me singing even when all the doors and windows in my house are closed (and my house is well-insulated!). My perfect pitch means I can practice without accompaniment…and I’ve begun to write music again, namely, operatic music.

Accepting a body that is widely unacceptable in a particular culture or society is one thing. Your main battle is with hate: banish hate and disgust, and you will be able to reach that place of acceptance.

However, my fat, tall, broad body allows me to produce uniquely beautiful music I would be unable to produce in a different body. Fat acceptance, for me, is not enough. I need to revel in my fat. Love my size. Appreciate it the way women today are told to appreciate a rock-hard stomach. It allows me to do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise do. It adds to my abilities rather than, as we are taught to believe about large size, takes away from them.

Appreciating and loving your large size, especially in an age that would have you revile it, is, in my humble opinion, the hardest step of fat acceptance. But for many singers who have profiles similar to mine, part of what we can do is defined by that size (and I hate to say it, but WLS-induced bulimia cannot be good for one’s voice, ultimately).