The Fucking Awesome Truth

Go read this fucking awesome post by Joanna at Dead of Winter:

The Truth is Radical

It will blow your fucking socks off. It’s so old-school FA, I’m all a-quiver like it’s 2007 again. Dammit, I miss Junkfood Science!

Some candy:

Instead of feeling liberated with the knowledge that I was not a failure or defective because of my weight, my health, or my lifestyle, I insisted on holding onto my prejudices, not just against others, but myself.

Why would someone do this?

The reason is two-fold: One is that we still want to hold on to “The Fantasy of Being Thin” that Kate Harding discusses. The other, more subtle, one is that we can’t bear to face it. To face it would be to realize just how thoroughly people hate us and how pervasive fat hatred is, inserting itself in every area of life, held by virtually all people in our culture, and knowing there is no escape for it.

Ding-ding-ding-ding-DING! Sometimes when I really think about how much I’m hated — how irrevocably the culture equates my value as a human/women to my weight, and how many times and in how many ways I’ve been discriminated against, seen as less valuable or even valueless because I’m fat — well, I get really fucking depressed. It’s hard to handle. Really hard.

Finally, holy awesome, Batman:

No. It is our anti-fat, healthist culture that is radical. It refuses to acknowledge any factor in health, fitness, or weight besides lifestyle. It refuses to allow people with socially stigmatized bodies and lifestyles to exist. It refuses to allow them any measure of worth, intelligence, or morality. It seeks to deny basic rights and social support.

Joanna has written the post I’ve wanted to write for at least a year. Con-fucking-gratulations, I’m so fucking glad to see something like this on the feeds, it made my fucking weekend. And I’ve been having a pretty good fucking weekend.

(EDIT: I just found out this is my 250th post on Big Liberty. Holy fucking mother of shit. W00t!)

On Mother’s Day 2011, Hate for Fat Moms in Abundance

I’ve been tweeting up a storm this Mother’s Day morning, all on the #thingsfatpeoplearetold hashtag. Not about anything particularly new, or some fat-hating piece released this morning, but rather on the messages about fat motherhood and mothering fat children I’ve heard in some context or another during the past few years.

Full disclosure: I’m not a bio mom. I have three stepchildren between the ages of 17 and 21. I’ve been in their lives since the youngest was 12. None of them are fat; all three are quite thin and conventionally attractive. My husband and I can’t have kids the traditional way, since he’s got a 15 year-old vasectomy. A couple years ago (when I was a fledging size activist) I started looking into non-traditional ways of having kids. I quickly learned there were two huge barriers: sizism, and ageism. My husband is 24 years older than I am, turning 53 this year after I turn 29. Adoption agencies, both local and international, discriminate against couples who have at least one member over the age of 50 (sometimes even 40). But also? Couples with at least one ‘obese’ or ‘morbidly obese’ member are discriminated against as well. Given that many private adoption agencies in the US are Christian, and I’m not Christian, there’s another roadblock.

So we considered artificial insemination or some other procedure. They are very expensive, not something we could even dream of affording in the short term. Also? Some fertility clinics put up major obstacles (i.e., charge you much higher fees) if you’re over a BMI of about 33, or just outright disallow it, though there’s no real evidence that the IVF limit is justified in any medical sense (though we can be sure the social engineers have their justifications).

But the final nail in the coffin of my desire to have children (at least, in the short term) was the barrage of negative/othering messages directed at fat moms, moms of fat kids — which my child has a decent chance of becoming, given that body size is 77% heritable.

Some of the messages our enlightened age given in regards to fat motherhood:

Fat children are a symptom of bad parenting.

Didn’t you hear? If you’re a mom who works (like most moms do), you’re making your kids fat. But if you shelter your kids too much and cater too much to their wants and needs? You’re also making your kids fat. And you’re ignorant, too; moms of fat kids don’t understand it’s just calories in/calories out, stupid.

Becoming a mom while fat is irresponsible and dangerous to both you and your child.

Maternal obesity is the plague of the land, didn’t you know? It’s causing the obesity epidemic (which surely exists, am I right?). Fat pregnancies result in fat children. Or maybe it’s being too thin while pregnant. Or maybe it’s dieting while pregnant. Or maybe it’s eating too many fats. Or it could be that you didn’t control your weight gain while both fat and pregnant. But it’s definitely your fault! Couldn’t be that pesky 77% heritability. Certainly not.

Fat moms are a burden to society.

You cost more in hospital resources, fatty! It couldn’t be that C-sections are way over-prescribed for fat pregnancies relative to thinner populations, given that fat pregnancies almost automatically get slapped with the ‘high-risk’ label despite the individual health of the mother (hello, failure of population study research to apply to the individual).

Fat moms are embarrassing to their children and husbands.

Kids can be cruel, can’t they? But is it really the kids, or a combination of their youthful urge to categorize and understand the world, including complex social mores, in the context of what they hear from their parents, see on TV, read in magazines and the internet, and hear from their friends? Children are wonderful, tragic barometers for the bigotries of our age. So is it so surprising when a mother hears that her child is being teased because she has a fat mom? And, moreover, that her child wants to transfer that bigotry to her mother to stop the teasing? Or that her husband doesn’t want her to participate in public activity because he’s embarrassed of her size?

Fat moms are guilty of child abuse, and should have their kids taken away from them.

This one, more than any other, made me change my mind about having kids. Having been abused by other people in my life, the idea of being categorized as one of them — whether justified or not — was too much to bear. There are many other examples of this, please Google it if you’re interested (and have banked the requisite Sanity Watcher’s points).

I want to issue special Mother’s Day good-wishes to fat moms, given the above, and everything else they must put up with to survive in a society who hates and blames them at every turn.

What other messages directed at fat moms have you heard, both from the media and in your own life?

The Fat Balancing Act

This is a post initiated by Raznay’s “Some Studies Show Fat Is Bad… Mmmkay?” on the never-ending oodles of studies trying in every which way to investigate just why “fat people are so disgusting.” It discusses the implications of the mindset which is generated by assumptions made in these studies — that is, how fat people are commanded to strike an impossible, delicate balancing act in order to be granted the respect and dignity accorded axiomatically to their non-fat peers.

Like Raznay points out, this is often to the detriment of more deserving topics, like cancer research. Then again, many obesity researchers (not all — hi, Dr. Samantha! :) ) I’ve run across in real life, in comments on blogs, and on their own blogs/articles, are convinced that fat cells and hormones are absolutely causing or triggering fat-related diseases in the predisposed.

But I think two major factors are never accounted for in most of these “fat is bad go mutilate yourself/starve your body/feel like a drain on society” studies: dieting history, and current dieting status of participants.

See, lots of fat people diet. In fact, we make up the larger proportion of dieters. (My ‘normal’ -sized stepdaughter would say, “Ew, diet! Why would I ever want to go on one of those? They sound awful.” — but that’s nurture as well as nature, there.)

And those of us who’ve dieted for any length of time know:

  1. Dieting makes brain fuzzy. Huh? What about the food I can’t eat now? Oh you were actually asking a math question? Mmm, math. (Homer drool)
  2. Dieting is very stressful. So is living in a fat-hating world. Researchers are finding out more and more about the deleterious effects of stress on physical health. What they find might account for some the more specious claims correlating cognitive decline and fatness — that is, it might be about anxiety, at bottom.

There are a great many novelists, scientists, and all-around smart people who are big. Some of my most beloved writers are big people. One of my favorite politicians puts Taft to shame. They’re all extremely smart. And they’re not outliers — in fact, I’m willing to wager that intelligent, capable people, correcting for the stress and side effects of a life time of dieting and social stigma, are present in fat populations to the same degree they are present in non-fat populations. If I could commission a study, I would.

Here’s one tweet from the #thingsfatpeoplearetold hashtag which rings particularly true with my own experience of being fat and mingling with ‘intelligentisia.’ –

“Fat people are stupid. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be so fat.”

I’ve especially gotten this impression from intelligentsia who are/were themselves fat and take it upon themselves to expound on their diet/reduction techniques:

“Oh, it’s easy, I just bag up smaller portions and do all my meetings on the treadmill. I rigged a laptop stand and I can just exercise all day if I want to!”

Of course, they’re smart, but they nevertheless don’t seem to make the connection between their twig-like human garbage disposal of a colleague who hasn’t seen a treadmill in forever, and metabolism and predisposition. If all it takes is living on an exercise machine and having bags of carrots and grain around, whose kind of lifestyle are you living? Your thin colleague’s — who is “better” because he is thin — or a horse’s?

And why the hell should fat people have to live like livestock in order to get the most basic kind of respect freely granted to the naturally-thin? (no insult intended to horses or livestock, of course)

Many fat people who’ve played this game long enough know that we’re expected to conduct a very delicate balancing act every day, seven days a week, until we die. We are supposed to “have it all” — aspire to the high-powered position, parenthood, hobbies, and community involvement — while still paying 15+ hours/week of penance on a treadmill, powered by a handful of carrots, oats, and apples. And advertising, of course, since fat isn’t okay unless you’re ‘doing’ something about it. Then you’re a go-getter! But not if you stay fat for too long!

Sound familiar? It’s chasing the dollar on a string. The dollar is basic human respect and dignity; the string is a tool of oppression, that with which we’re controlled and kept in our place. The man working on his treadmill, surrounded by plastic baggies of veg — is he free? And what is he chasing after? Is it thinness, or is it basic human dignity and respect, despite the fact that he is otherwise an example of success? Perhaps he runs to deserve his success in some intangible way unavailable to a person of his size unless human sacrifice is made? And is this the Puritan work ethic rearing its ugly head yet again, or is it something else?

Being seen as a successful, respectable fat person is a delicate balance, one which I’m not sure most people can strike. But should we have to? When do we get to step off of our treadmills, abandon our baggies of ‘good’ treats, and enjoy the world? When do we get to start being more than second class citizens? Isn’t this world — love, drama, beauty, art, travel, science, family, pleasure — isn’t it our world, too?

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.

The Dieters’ Clusterfuck

It’s 11:52 a.m. You hear your tummy growling and, with satisfaction, remember that you brought your lunch today. Tuna salad sandwich with muenster cheese, sea-salt-and-cracked-pepper kettle-cooked potato chips, a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Honest Tea. You decide to shoot off a few more emails before heading down to the shared office kitchen to retrieve your carefully-packed lunchbag, currently chilling in the refrigerator.

But, like sitting next to a cougher on the subway, your small bubble of contentment is suddenly violently and irreparably popped. All it took was a colleague loudly proclaiming to his open-office-concept compatriots that he “brought [his] low-fat lunch today because [he's] trying to lose weight!” The implication is, of course, that he believes being fat and either enjoying one’s food or not dieting is poor behavior he’s attempting to best by taking the dieter’s moral high-road. And he’s going to let you—well, everyone—know about it.

Then another employee chimes in. “Yeah, after Holiday X my pants are totally tight and I was like, time to switch to yogurt for lunch for a while! It’s great, I’m not hungry at all.”

Yet another member of the chorus: “Nah, you just need to start running. It’s more sustainable, and just look at my calves!”

And the (nonfat, sugar-free) icing on the cake: “I’ve got a couple free passes to my gym, a group of us should work out together. It’s better in a group anyway so we can keep each other honest!” (and what is worse—that you know they aren’t mentally including you in the group that could potentially get together to work out at the gym, or that it’s being used as a tool of employee bonding in the first place?)

Everyone starts pulling out their lunches. And commenting on them. And praising each other for only finishing half, or for being ‘better’ than their own selves by having a nonfat fiber-stocked twig salad or heavily processed frankendairy sugarfree nonfat yogurt substitute. You, prisoner of the open-office-space concept have nowhere to go, though your pointed absence would have been conspicuous, anyway. Of course the fatty isn’t joining in! Does she even know what a calorie is? Silly fatties. You pick at your tuna sandwich and barely touch your chips. Every crackle of the chip bag is a loud reminder that you’re not a part of their world, that you either don’t agree or are not privy to the Mystic Vision of Food Restriction and/or Sacred Treadmill of Redemption.

But that’s not the whole reason your appetite has fled. Frankly, you’re pissed off. You’re mad as hell, and you don’t want to take it anymore. And, dammit, you’re hungry and want to eat your fucking sandwich and chips in peace!

Welcome to the Dieters’ Clusterfuck.

It’s not just work, it’s parties, family reunions, holidays, anywhere there’s food. Like a timid mouse in the face of the jackal the Dieter glares fearfully at the food table, occasionally darting in to take a single plum tomato or grape or (gasp, “I’m being so bad!”) cube of cheese. Those who share the anxiety of the Dieter—other Dieters—quickly discover each other and coalesce near enough to the food table to feed their starvation ideation and far enough away not to be ‘tempted’ to actually take anything.

If you are the non-Dieting thin your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a level of awe and disbelief. You are Neo, The One. How Do You Eat That and Stay So Thin? they ask, voices trembling in appreciation and envy.

If you are the non-Dieting fat your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a sharp cessation of diet talk (since you don’t belong or they think it might offend you, a silly fatty), or an assumption of inclusion—“oh, I was afraid I was going to be ‘bad’ today and brought my baby carrots with me!” they exclaim as you savor a bite of homemade carrot cake. You see, baby carrots, carrot cake, it’s all the same thing, right? Healthy Alternatives! Why can’t you be as smart as Baby Carrots Lady, who knows that baby carrots and carrot cake are in fact the same thing?!

After becoming thoroughly bored with the Clusterfuck (which takes about 0.68 seconds in my experience) you wander elsewhere. Once you’ve left there’s general agreement among the Dieters—usually unspoken—that you didn’t belong, anyway, and isn’t great they can now get back to their circle-jerk and painstakingly show off to each other how much of the diet culture they’ve absorbed? Their cake and cookies, as it were, is the approval and admiration from their fellow dieters as they detail their regime, or empathy as they verbally flog themselves for not being ‘good’ enough by way of an extra snack or missed workout.

This, as I’m sure you know, can go on for hours. Hours. Despite having been a part of the culture in my memoried past I cannot currently fathom how in the deep dark Hades they don’t fall dead asleep after fifteen minutes. Perhaps it’s a way of keeping busy so that they are distracted from their foggied intellect and gnawing hunger, I’m not sure.

And then, by Jove, there’s the Internet. Whole forums dedicated to continuing the Clusterfuck and cultivating the circle-jerk. Not only hours but days, weeks, years are spent basically talking about the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. “Holiday X came and my jeans are tight, eek!” “Weight Loss X Plan Pill Bar has worked for me!” “In a perfect world beauty’s on the inside but we live in practical reality, am I right? So how many cals in one Arby’s french fry, again?”And still, they keep coming back for more flogging, for more sympathy, for more emotional cookies. If you are extremely lucky you can escape—as many here have!—but most people unfortunately never, ever escape.

Because the Dieters’ Clusterfuck is, by its very nature, unending and infinitely repetitive. Because if you “keep the weight off” you remain as an Enforcer, a Top Dog, an After Picture. This elite status makes you stay on your Lifestyle Plan Change New Lease on Superior Existence and gives you the moral rectitude to keep Active Members and Dietn00bs in line.

If you are in the process of losing weight you are an Active Member of the Dieters’ Clusterfuck. You are likely between your Before Picture and After Picture, a self-righteous Pilgrim on a journey to Enlightenment. You’ve probably lost and regained weight many times before but This Time It’s Going To Work. Most in the Dieters’ Clusterfuck are Active Members. In truth, though they are widely touted, there are really only a rare few After Pictures. They are often diet forum moderators, family members which get trotted out in food-related conversations whether or not they happen to be present, or celebrities endorsing the Diet That’s Going To Work This Time.

Lastly there are the Dietn00bs, those only just opening their eyes in childlike wonder to the vast promises of the Clusterfuck, How It Will Change Your Life and It’s Just Calories In, Calories Out and Anyone With Half a Brain Can Do it! Dietn00bs also include people who don’t currently diet but believe in the verity of the dieting culture. They can include health reporters, anti-obesity researchers, and a plethora of other ‘concerneds.’

The reason I decided to write this somewhat satirical take on diet culture is that I want to reinforce how lucky we are to be out of it. It’s a sticky thing, the diet culture. It pulls you back in with its snake-oil promises of a better life—even vocal fat activists have fallen prey to it, abandoning fat acceptance out of fear of Eating the World or hope that This Time it Will Work. Even some so-called body image promoters and internal beauty enthusiasts adhere to or otherwise believe in the dieting culture. Even people who are otherwise liberally minded believe in or adhere to the dieting or anti-fat culture.

You—the activists reading this post—are brave. I appreciate you. I know what you’re doing is hard. I know it’s sometimes thankless. I know what you’re up against. And I know it sometimes can be hard to stick to your guns in the face of so much distraction and disgust. I applaud you for plowing ahead, regardless. I celebrate your joy in throwing off the chains of the diet culture and I support you as you weather the backlash from those still immersed in it.

And here’s to seeing the diet culture for what it really is—a giant, self-righteous Clusterfuck.

The Obesity Epidemic is a Moral Panic, FTW!

A quick hit today, for anyone who’s still wondering whether the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ is really a phenomenon rooted in concern over public health, or has reached the fever-pitch of a moral panic:

(h/t Corpulent)

Negative attitudes towards obese people are based on an emotional response of disgust, a new study suggests.

Previous research had focused on the fact that overweight individuals are blamed for being lazy and not exercising self-control, leading to negative evaluations of those individuals.

The new findings, published in the International Journal of Obesity, suggest that the emotion of disgust can explain that association and may help explain why negative attitudes toward obese individuals are so resistant to change.

“Although the scientific community acknowledges biological, behavioural and social contributors to body weight, a common belief in society at large is that one’s body weight is almost infinitely malleable,” says UNSW psychologist Dr Lenny Vartanian. “The problem with this idea of willpower is that we chalk it up to a moral weakness.”  Dr Vartanian’s findings suggest that this moral judgement is not based on logic but on an emotional response to obesity itself.

And further down the article, to leave no room for misinterpretation…

Disgust is a basic emotion that motivates distancing from a perceived physical or moral contaminant, Dr Vartanian says, yet such responses can change as a result of social influences: attitudes to smoking, for example, have swung from acceptance towards disgust since the 1950s.

“Attractiveness standards have shifted over time, with more curvaceous figures being preferred in the beginning of the 20th century and again in the 1950s, but more slender ideals being prominent in the 1920s and continually since the 1980s. In parallel with this latter trend, attitudes toward obese individuals are worse today than they were 40 years ago.

“It is possible that these body-type preferences over time have also become moral values, and that those who violate this moral value elicit a disgust response. Efforts to change negative attitudes toward obese individuals, therefore, might work toward reversing this moralization process and reducing the moral value placed on leaner body types.” [bold mine]

As an activist this kind of result only highlights the need to attack the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ as a moral panic, rather than some kind of extreme, yet well-intentioned, concern for public health. For instance, this means we need to see childhood obesity interventions for what they are—political capitalizations on the moral panic, not true concern. It means we need to hear our relatives’ weight-related comments not as concern, but as dutifully policing the standards of the moral panic. It means we need to understand that most doctors who shell out diet plans and gastric-banding pamphlets are willfully abandoning the Hippocratic Oath to be good soldiers for the crusade.

In fact, it is important at this point to note that in my opinion we can firmly conclude we are in the midst of a moral crusade, not just a moral panic. Moral panics are often reactions, temporary, lasting only as long as the perceived ‘threat’ exists as such. The study above makes it clear that the moral disgust of fat people isn’t transient and doesn’t have a context. It has become “We have always been at war with Eastasia…” That is, a fact of history and life that is portrayed as immutable though ultimately based in some kind of fundamental choice (usually the choice is whether or not to question it).

While fat-health-mythbusting gets a lot of face time in the movement, I think it’s important to note here that, at bottom, fat disgust is not determined by whether or not fat bodies are perceived as healthy. That’s simply the current popular vehicle for the hate to seem acceptable and reasonable. Rather, fat bodies have been dehumanized as monstrous lumps who exhibit some of the worst personal vices, universally loathed. How can one argue against an emotion? How can one myth-bust disgust?

Truly, it’s time to hunker down and really think about how we, as size activists, can effectively work within the context of this moral panic. Which messages best undermine the moral panic? I’m not quite sure at this point, but clearly the good/bad fatty dichotomy is something to avoid (the latest example of this was the Mia Freedman debacle, where feeders/gainers — and soldiers of the anti-fat moral crusade see all fat people as to some degree a feeder/gainer — were bashed and dehumanized, and a highly predictable moral panic feeding frenzy ensued in the comments).

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.