Size Acceptance actually means SIZE ACCEPTANCE

I got into a discussion on Facebook today on the “International Size Acceptance Association UK/MENA” page that really has me annoyed. I don’t want to hijack someone else’s page, so I thought I would put it here with the commentary that I didn’t put on Facebook and see what you guys think.

Original Post by FP:  “In my opinion, women should have hips, boobs and a stomach. Women shouldn’t be made to think that we have to look like skinny boys to be attractive – we are meant to be shapely.”  It linked to an Article titled “Woman are meant to be curvy…not look like boys”

Me:  I object to this very strongly, especially on a size acceptance space. Size acceptance means EVERY size. There are plenty of women who are not “meant” to be curvy and they are not less a woman than I am. I don’t believe that the road to size acceptance is paved with blatant hypocrisy and so I think that since we want acceptance and respect for our bodies, we should probably take a pass on trashing other people’s bodies.

FP:  We are not against the naturally thin, but I want to show the harm of body hate, starvation and the harm the thin is in message has on women and children all over the world. we are all worthy of respect and dignity and our body size is not our identity or a measure of our worth. There are many women who are thin and shapely. women’s bodies are meant to be shapely womanly, not looking like teen boy’s like they force women all over the world, to starve themselves down to, shapely is not plus size only.

Ok, first of all, it’s not your job to be for or against anyone’s body size or shape.  You are not the grand overlord of body sizes.  Secondly I know women who are built like teenaged boys who don’t appreciate hearing that they are meant to be more shapely than they are.  If you are against body hate and starvation then let’s actually be against that, not against people’s body shapes.  When you say that some body shapes are right and some are wrong, then you are opening the door for people to say that your body shape is wrong.  I don’t know about you but the discussion I want to be having is that we should respect and embrace people of all size, not that we should stop shaming fat people and start shaming thin people instead.  Some women aren’t meant to have hips, boobs or a stomach, and their bodies are beautiful as they are.

PD (new commenter):  Maybe Ragen is reacting to the headline of the story. It’s slightly offensive.

On the other hand, I think there is a great deal of “size acceptance political correctness” out there that needs to be reined in. “Size Acceptance” is a euphemism for “fat acceptance”–I prefer the latter term.

For example, we are not necessarily about protecting the rights and sensibilities of men who are 6’1″ and weigh 185 pounds, therefore, I do not understand the insistence that we protect the rights and sensibilities of women who are 5’7″ and weigh 125 pounds. Size acceptance is fat acceptance. Others may see this differently than I do.

Holy crap do I see it differently than you do, and while I respect your right to have this attitude, it makes my blood boil.  I settled for this profanity-free response:

I am reacting to the title but also to the idea that there is a way that women’s bodies are “meant to be shaped”. To me it’s not about political correctness or protecting anyone else’s rights, it’s about not doing to others precisely what we don’t want done to ourselves. We can demand respect for our bodies without putting down other’s bodies. This is not the Oppression Olympics and everyone is affected by a culture of body hate. I disagree that size acceptance is a euphemism for fat acceptance, and I certainly don’t think that it means that we only give acceptance to those people of whose size we approve. I don’t mean to link spam but to avoid this comment getting any longer, you can read my blog about it if you are interested: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/hypocrisy/

What I wanted to say was:  Are you fucking kidding me with this?  I cannot stand this kind of attitude.  Why aren’t you protecting the rights of men who are 6’1, 185 or women who are 5’7 and 125 pounds?  How much shorter and/or fatter would they have to be for you to deem them worthy to have their rights protected?  Also, did I miss the e-mail where you were put in charge of who deserves rights and who doesn’t, because the gays would like to have a word with you.

If you mean fat acceptance than say that.  If you say that you are for size acceptance but you don’t accept people of all sizes you are at best a hypocrite and at worst a sneaky liar who says you are for one thing but is actually for something else. It’s idiotic statements like this that cause people to constantly assume that those of us who fight for size acceptance are thin-bashers. This isn’t about political correctness, this is about living in integrity.

Please consider this:  The idea that thin people are not harmed by our culture of body hate, so it’s ok to say nasty things about thin bodies, is not just a lie it’s also a trap.  Besides making us look like complete hypocrites, it creates a chasm instead of a bridge, and it makes an enemy instead of  an ally.  I shudder to think that someone who is traditionally very thin might be thinking “Wow, the way we treat fat people is bullshit, I’m going to look into this whole size acceptance thing” only to find websites where they are greeted with the message “Where are your hips, boobs and stomach?  You represent body hate and starvation.  Your body is wrong! You don’t look like a woman, you look like a teenage boy!’  Go ahead, bask in the “acceptance” of that message, I’ll wait.

We can do better than this.  Putting others down to make yourself feel better: didn’t work in Junior High School, won’t work now. If you want size acceptance, how about you start with, you know, accepting people of all sizes.

Published in: on June 22, 2011 at 8:56 am  Comments (92)  

92 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh Ragen, you make my soul happy. This is so spot on. There’s no difference, bar vocabulary, between saying “put down the donut, hippo” and “eat something, skeletor”.

    We simply cannot claim to be invested in body/size acceptance or HAES if we’re telling people their size is “wrong”.

  2. Hi

    There are so many issues to deal with in that original conversation.

    I find it sad when people in Fat/Size Acceptance agree with Society that a woman is defined by having breasts and hips and then further saying that they should meet Fat Admiration/Fetish ideals of also having a stomach. As a fat guy with significant moobs, I wonder what the original statement is saying about me.

    Not all women are shapely. I know women of all sizes who lack curves. Many Fat Men and Fat Women share similar round silhouettes.

    I use the term Fat Acceptance because most of the time I am talking about and resisting the oppression of Fat People, but Size Acceptance is always part of the concept.

  3. I don’t know what to say except I completely agree with you. I can respect that people have a particular body shape that they find most appealing. I have noticed that I find some shapes to be more attractive than others, so I can empathize with that. But to say that everyone should be shaped like me?! Or that I should make judgments of other people based on their shape, whatever it may be?… It boggles my mind how anyone could even consider that reasonable.

  4. YES. THIS. Another beautifully and skillfully articulated post. Sharing this on my FB page!

  5. Wow. That original convo makes me sad. I have a good friend who is naturally very thin and has a very hard time gaining weight. I know that she struggles to accept her body the way it is just as much (or maybe even more) as I struggle to accept mine. Telling her that her body is wrong is just as horrible as telling me that mine is. Even if hers might be more socially acceptable.

    Keep fighting the fight, Ragen!

  6. I think that while it is very understandable to want to lash out at those you feel embody or are the face of the group which most often puts you down, it is not very admirable.

    This whole idea that we can or SHOULD be dictating what other people are allowed to look like is horrible… and I’m not going to go the route of proclaiming that it’s less horrible because they’re members of the ‘privileged majority’ or whatever. Wrong is wrong is wrong, and just because thin people usually have advantages not available to fat people doesn’t make it right to dismiss their feelings and their right to be treated respectfully and with dignity the same as we want for ourselves.

    You don’t get equality by stomping other people into the mud and standing on them.

  7. People don’t seem to understand that it’s just as hurtful to call someone too skinny as it is to be called too big or too fat, etc. We all have our insecurities and no two bodies are the same….
    I liked your response.

  8. What a great post. I would never be described as curvy and I often feel like I can’t have conversations about “size acceptance”.

  9. I have been working on this kind of judgement myself recently.
    I am considered “Acceptably Fat” because that is how I am treated.
    My doctors don’t give me lectures on my wieght, they gently encourage me to lose if I feel uncomfortable or unhealthy.
    If I tell people my wieght (315 6 feet tall) they tell me I “dont look that heavy” or ” you carry it well”.
    Yes some people can be cruel and my office has institued a new “wellness program” but otherwise I am and always have been a very healthy fat person.
    My blood pressure is great, organ function right where is needs to be, cholesterol good.
    What amazes me is that somehow we have to catagorize people at all to determine if they are acceptable.
    Why is it anyone’s business that someone is the size/shape they are.
    Before I pass any judgement on another person I ask myself 2 questions.
    1. Does this effect me in any way?
    2. If so, can I solve it myself?
    It makes me wonder if the people from this page have ever asked themselves that.

    I still struggle from time to time biting my toungue when I want to tell a person who’s so thin I can see her organs to ‘go eat a cheeseburger’. I just try to keep remembering that this person does not effect me. They may be going through something I cannot fathom, or be a product of this kind of acceptance and I have no room to judge them

    Thank you for this Blog Ragen, I am loving your writing and insightfulness!!

  10. Where were you when I was writing my thesis? No, really… thank you for “getting” it. It took a long conversation and many tears to fully understand size acceptance and the fact we are ALL in danger. When I started writing it was all about fat acceptance because that is what I needed, but as I kept reading and talking and reading some more, I finally “got it”.

    And might I also say… I love the line by Erin S. “You don’t get equality by stomping other people into the mud and standing on them”… .

  11. Imagine my shock to read this this morning when I first got on my computer while I enjoyed my first cup of “life” (i.e. coffee). Hell to the fucking yeah! It’s so freaking easy to fall into the trap of the “opressed” and hate on people who are not like us simply because someone that may LOOK like them hated on us. It is so easy to say mean things because they have been said to us. It is so amazingly easy to let hate beget hate. What isn’t easy, but what is necessary is to do, is to realize that if we want to be respected we abso-freaking-lutely have to give that respect in return. I keep coming back to Voltaire. “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” While I understand that Voltaire was speaking from a purely ideological standpoint, but I think if we lived that way things just might be better for all of us. Do I agree with what these people are saying? Fuck no I don’t! Am I going to try to educate those who allow hate to beget hate? Fuck yes I am! Am I going to join in the bashing of other groups simply because they are not like me? I think you can see where this is going, but no. No I am not.

    • And apparently my cup of “life” hasn’t kicked in yet. Opressed = Oppressed. *sigh* I think I need to allow myself to wake up more before I start posting comments.

  12. RC
    I have been reading you for a couple of weeks now – thank you for your blog. I am thinking differently now. It’s almost as though the axis of my reference has shifted a little. I realize now that I have no right to judge anyone – whether their body shape is due to genetics, sheer laziness (I know even this is a value judgment that I should be careful of), health factors – it’s just not my prerogative. And you know what – that’s helped me stop being so critical of myself. This may seem odd, but since I decided that this was the way to go, my yoga practice has taken off… I have been doing my positions with such ease and aplomb, what can I say. Dances with Fat has centered my mind!
    Warmly,
    S

    • S,

      Sorry so late with the response but i just wanted to say that I think it’s amazing that you’ve been open to change and I love that you’ve seen such great instant successes from your work. I might have provided some information but you did all the hard work and heavy lifting. If I am able to support you with any of that then I feel very lucky and very honored.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  13. YES! Completely aside from the fact that it’s completely unacceptable to judge other people’s bodies, it’s against our own best interests:

    1) We need thin allies, and we’re not going to get them by insulting them.

    2) It’s hard for a lot of thin people to understand that sexist body policing and fat hatred are different things. (They’re closely linked, and both of them harm everybody, but they’re different operators.) There is a whole lot of intersection there to untangle, and it’s very hard to even start that conversation without acknowledging that what our thin sisters are going through (including the things that we have done to them) is a piece of the oppression puzzle.

  14. The title of your post really says it all, and it’s well said. Respect and Love are for EVERY BODY, including people who are the ‘right’ size.

  15. I would like to add a “hell to the fucking yeah” (thanks Karen for the phrase most likely to be overused by me in the next week)

    • You are most welcome. That totally made me giggle. I feel a bit like the Dos Equis guy, “I don’t usually curse, but when I do I do it with style!”

  16. AMEN! I completely agree. This type of pick-and-choose style of acceptance irritates me to no end. If people have the right to be fat, then they have the right to be thin as well. If we’re only going to “protect” the people who fit some arbitrary description of body size, then we’re not really advocating for anything at all.

  17. Ragen, you are absolutely one hundred percent spot on!!! size acceptance is size acceptance…proving once again that you can be the boss of my underpants any day!!! :D
    Warmly, Dr. Deah

  18. This whole “real women have curves” bullshit and in particular, the “We aren’t spending our time defending the rights of someone who’s 5’7″ and 125 lbs!” response, reminds me of PHMT (Patriarchy Hurts Men Too) and the issue of feminism representing men’s struggles in patriarchal culture. In feminism, no, we aren’t *focused* on men’s struggles, but we also aren’t trying to leverage them to advance women’s causes by being nasty, exclusionary, or denying that those struggles exist. Similarly, size acceptance doesn’t need to be *focused* on people who already very nearly or totally fit our culture’s dictatorial standards of “acceptable” body size/shape, but that doesn’t mean we need to be hating on those people to try to advance size acceptance for larger bodies, either.

    So I think she’s right that we don’t need to prioritize the rights and sensibilities of thin people *over* the rights and sensibilities of fat people, but I also agree with you that bashing the one in order to “elevate” the other is not the way to productively realign priorities.

    • But why can’t we prioritize the rights and sensibilities of thin people *as much as* the rights and sensibilities of fat people?

      And that goes for every other group too… why can’t we fight for EQUALITY, full stop, instead of JUST the rights of the oppressed while totally ignoring the less common but still in existence violations of the rights for the group perceived as being the oppressors?

      We do more harm than good by completely ignoring when members of “Team Fat” go off on members of “Team Thin” and “Team Average”. Why do there NEED to be teams? Why can’t we just say “Ok, that is hateful body policing, and we don’t support that.” regardless of whose body is being policed, what shape that body happens to be, and without deciding to brush off some people’s feelings with “well, you have thin privilege so being told to eat a sandwich can’t possibly be as painful as being told to put down your fork”?

      Everyone’s feelings matter. And by focusing on only the feelings of the oppressed, and telling people who ostensibly belong to the group of the oppressors that their feelings don’t matter, we’re only making enemies where we don’t need to.

      We need to be the bigger person as it were… yes, we’ve all been hurt but ignoring the hurts of others because they look like the people who hurt us isn’t the way to move towards actual equality.

      • “But why can’t we prioritize the rights and sensibilities of thin people *as much as* the rights and sensibilities of fat people?”

        In the context of *size acceptance* (which is what we’re taking about here), I totally and completely agree. Body policing is bad and hurtful, and affects us all, so we shouldn’t privilege one experience of it over another.

        And that’s why I’m not crazy about the term “size acceptance”. I believe (some people will disagree with me here, and that’s fine) that sexist body policing and fat hatred are separate modes of oppression. They are closely linked, and often act in concert, but I see them as two different forces.

        I think “size acceptance” (the term, not the lovely people doing it) muddies that distinction, which makes it harder to talk about how our experiences of body policing differ, depending on whether they’re being mediated by fat prejudice. (Like how women of color and white women have different experiences of sexism because it’s being influenced by racism.) I think that makes us MORE likely to play oppression olympics, instead of listening to each other’s experiences, understanding the similarities and differences, and supporting each other.

        In the context of *fat acceptance*, I don’t believe that a *fat* acceptance movement is obligated to prioritize the right of thin people. Thin people are hurt by fat oppression too, but it is appropriate for a fat rights movement to prioritize the group that’s being marginalized on the particular axis of fat oppresion.

        That said, I think that any social justice movement IS obligated to be a good ally against other forms of oppression. So fat folks absolutely should NOT be policing thin women’s bodies under ANY circumstances, and should fight it where we see it happening. (Just like we should be good allies against racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, you name it.)

        That came out all ranty, but I mean it as a positive thing. You don’t have to form teams to compete against each other. You can form teams to cheer each other on.

  19. I applaud you yet again, Ragen! It makes me think about the women’s movement in the 70s. Most of the women involved simply wanted equal rights and equal pay, but there were a few radicals and many people blamed the entire movement for wanting to advance women to be better than men. This is the same kind of thing—No one is better or worse than anyone else. All bodies are good bodies! I happen to love my body very much, which is a huge change for me, having believed all my relatively-thin life that I was an ugly bovine. If I had had the kind of accepting atmosphere in high school that you promote, even if I had felt like I wasn’t very thin, I could have been happy with what I had. And geez, the energy I wasted on that!!! I look at pictures now and I was just plain adorable. Tsk. I hope each generation gets better and better with self-image and self- and other-acceptance.

    Now, all of my sanctimonious, wish-I-were-really-that-loving attitude aside, there is one woman I know who just irks me. She insists on a vegan diet, never wears a bra, and looks (to me) like death. She’s very political about her diet and I want to say, “But, honey, you look like death!” But that’s not about size, that’s about health. And, as I said on Facebook, unless you’re eating me, your diet is none of my business. So I keep my mouth shut. I’m trying, really I am.

    • “Unless you’re eating me, your diet is none of my business.” ROFL! I love it! I’m gonna have to keep that one in mind. Thank you!

    • Susan,

      Thank you so much, and good for you for keeping your thoughts about the other woman’s body to yourself. The ability to not engage in body snarking and to respect people’s choices about their health takes a lot of maturity and self-control, especially in this culture. I will absolutely be stealing “unless you’re eating me, your diet is none of my business”.

      Thanks for being an awesome person and a great example. Rock on!

      ~Ragen

    • I am totally pulling out “unless you’re eating me, your diet is none of my business” the next time my sister tries to push her vegan diet on me. Although I suppose that doesn’t help so much with her “but you love animals how can you MURDER THEM” argument heh.

    • I too will be stealing that expression, I love love love it.

  20. Right on, Ragen! My experience has been that the truly thin women (who can’t gain weight no matter what they eat) have been my biggest allies. They agree that diet ≠ size and they get, honestly, just as many nasty comments as I do. They are constantly accused of anorexia and told to eat more. Some are in good health, some are in poor health – just like fat people!

    I have no interest in demonizing the thin, the slender, the average, the plump OR the fat. We should be all in this fight together.

    • Thanks Zaftigwendy,

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I thinks it’s so important for people to see the kind of world we can create when we stop putting other people down and start trying to raise everyone up.

      ~Ragen

    • I’m a thinny & I’m on board with this totally. I am sick of people telling me that I look sick and/or that looking at me makes them sick. I’ve never said anything mean about anyone else’s size, and I don’t understand why anyone does. Size just happens, and I don’t understand why those middle-of-the-road sized people don’t understand that. (the ones who make cruel remarks)

  21. Thank you for this. I was the founder and director of the Body Image Task Force (Santa Cruz, CA) and the co-author of the Santa Cruz Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. We worked very hard to work on the acceptance of all bodies, including fat acceptance, but not limiting it. When we wrote the ordinance we made sure to include “height, weight and physical appearance” – to be as inclusive as possible. it hurts me to see one oppressed group attack others.

    • Hi D.M.,

      Thank you for your work in body positivity, and for making sure that body’s of all size are respected. I will never understand how oppressed groups choose to oppress each other but I do believe that we can do better.

      ~Ragen

      • I think it’s because we all have that desire to be one of the popular kids/ part of the privileged group. Ain’t no top dog if everyone is equal. So we drag others down to put ourselves on top. This might be even more pervasive among marginalized groups who, given the opportunity, leap at the chance to feel like THEY are the acceptable ones. There is also a strong current of revenge running underneath all that. The desire to retaliate in kind against the oppressors is a powerful one, but of course it does nothing to change the fundamental injustice that is occurring– the hate being heaped on those of “unacceptable” body type. Shots are still being fired, they’re just being aimed in a different direction. You can’t have peace until people STOP SHOOTING AT EACH OTHER. As the apostle Paul said,”The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘ Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” I wish more people would see that we need to treat others with the kind of respect we want for ourselves. We must model the behavior we want to see in others and this cause is bigger than any one person.

  22. Thank you, Ragen. Thank you for your smarts, your compassion, and your consistency. Thank you.

    I feel so often a hatred and anger coming from women regarding my size — a size that “happens” to me like anyone else. I do not TRY to be like this. I eat well and I move a lot and my metabolism HAPPENS to be like a freaking hummingbird. But I feel judgment for that in a lot of the “body acceptance” conversations. Yet, we all have parts of ourselves that this culture decides are “wrong.” My boobs are “too small” for example. “You look gaunt,” a “friend” said to me. Um, okay, those are my cheekbones. That is how I was made, for god’s sake.

    Anyway, I was just expressing the pain of this to a (REAL) friend and then you write this loving piece. Loving for ALL of us. Thank you, yet again.

    • Hi Christine,

      I can’t tell you how sorry I am that this stuff happens to you. It’s shameful that people behave this way, super shameful when it is your ‘friends”, and super extra shameful when it’s people who claim to be part of the size acceptance community. I’m glad that you and I, with our opposite body types, can agree that body’s of every shape and size deserve respect.

      ~Ragen

  23. Bravo!
    When I was thin, I was told I was too thin.
    TOO THIN! I felt horrible, like I was a walking corpse. What makes me want to scream-besides the fact that I didn;t tell anyone who commented on MY body to fuck off-was that I then purposefully gained weight and muscle to make myself BIGGER. And now that I’m bigger,I’m too fat. ARG!

    • Hi Lael,

      I’m so sorry that you’ve gone through this, especially if you’ve gone through it at the hands of those who demand size acceptance for themselves but don’t want to give it to others. I hope that you can create exactly the relationship that you want to have with your body and I think you’re awesome at any size!

      ~Ragen

  24. I don’t have words to describe what a great post this is.

    • Thanks Kelsey, I’m glad that you liked it!

      ~Ragen

  25. A-Fucking-Men. I have a friend who’s very boyish in her look – she also loves working out and eats very little junkfood, and people are constantly telling her to “eat a cheeseburger” or that she’s too thin or even that she should stop working out! How ridiculous is that?!

    It’s kind of sad that the movement that’s supposed to be fighting for us is succumbing to the very thing we fight against.

  26. Thank you for this post. I wish when I began looking at feminism and size acceptance I came across this blog first. When I first started looking up stuff I saw so much of the “real women have curves”, “body like a 12 year old boy” etc and it made me hateful. It made me defensive. It made me very negative because I feel like a lot of feminists out there are telling me that I cannot be a feminist because I’m ana. And I can’t speak for all people with ana/mia/ednos etc, but actually, telling someone who hates their body that their body is awful and horrid and they’re not a real woman makes it worse, because I have my idea of how I could look perfect, which means starving basically, so I starve some more. So, really, it’s counter-productive, and besides I don’t think these feminists care anyway (don’t get me started on the notion that I’m a victim of the patriarchy!).

    And it’s ironic, because the size positive stuff I really could have done with when I was overweight kind of hurts me now I’m underweight. But that’s another long story and I don’t want to hi-jack your thread.

    But, again, thank you for your post. I feel that with this blog and with your links I am finally beginning to learn about size-acceptance.

  27. Hello Ragen,

    My name is Allen Steadham and I’m the Founder and Director of ISAA, and I apologize for what has obviously been some serious confusion on this issue. I hope I can address your concerns and outrage and demonstrate that we are indeed on the same page, despite this misunderstanding.

    ISAA’s Mission Statement (found at http://www.size-acceptance.org/mission.html) makes it clear that “The MISSION of the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) is to promote SIZE ACCEPTANCE and fight SIZE DISCRIMINATION throughout the world by means of advocacy and visible, lawful actions.

    ISAA’s primary purpose is to end the most common form of size discrimination and bigotry–that against fat children and adults; ISAA will strive to defend the human rights of members affected by other forms of size discrimination as well.

    ISAA defines SIZE DISCRIMINATION as any action which places people at a disadvantage simply because of their size. ISAA defines SIZE ACCEPTANCE as acceptance of self and others without regard to weight or body size.”

    As of 2006, ISAA has chosen to no longer be a membership organization, but the principle of ISAA striving to defend the human rights of anyone affected by size discrimination is still firmly in place. I apologize that this was not made 100% clear in the ISAA UK/MENA Facebook post and subsequent replies.

    Fatima Parker works tirelessly in the UK and Middle East/North Africa regions as well as on the internet on ISAA’s behalf, but misunderstandings are always possible. If you wish to discuss this with me further, please feel free to email me at [edited out for privacy].

    Thank you for your time.

    All the best,
    Allen Steadham

    • Hi Allen,

      Thank you so much for addressing this. I’ve known about and been a fan of ISAA’s work for quite some time and I definitely believe that we are on the same page. For the most part I’ve admired Fatima’s work as well. I fully expected that when I pointed this issue out on facebook she would just retract the statement but once it had been defended a couple of times in the ways that it was, I felt the need to address it (although of course I wanted to do that on my forum rather than hijacking yours). I know that there are many ways to practice Health at Every Size, Size Acceptance, Fat Acceptance etc. and I think that a lot of that diversity is good in that it gives people a chance to practice in the way that makes the most sense to them. This just happens to be an area where I think that we can’t compromise. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to address it here and I appreciate the work that you and your organization are doing around the world. Thank you!

      ~Ragen Chastain

  28. Ragen, you should know by now that I’m probably one of your biggest skinny fans, but I really have to say that I love you for this post.

    I can’t defend myself when it comes to comments like these. They’re completely dehumanizing. I’m being told that I have no worth as a woman because I don’t fulfill someone’s sexual preferences; at the same time, I can’t identify with men because I’m so slight. So basically the message is that women hate me, men don’t see me, and my existence is trivial at best – at worst, it’s leading to the downfall of all womankind.

    Why would anyone want to reduce femininity to a breast or hip measurement? You can’t claim to be fighting body image issues if your qualifications are based on male fetishism. You’ll still end up with a ridiculous amount of disordered eating and cosmetic surgeries. It’ll just be rampant overeating rather than undereating and augmentation rather than reduction (and the former is popular enough without any help).

    I would actually love to meet these women. I want them to tell me to my face that I am not a woman. And then I want them to tell a breast cancer survivor that she is not a woman. I want them to tell an eating disorder patient that she has lost her femininity. I want them to say that Caster Semenya, an incredible athlete who people refused to accept, is not a woman. I wonder how many of them have had hysterectomies or know someone who has. Are they not still women? What about women who are infertile? I should hope that they are not also excluded from these apparently hallowed and exclusive halls of womanhood.

    • Wow. What a beautifully eloquent response! All I can say is: Ditto!! ;)

    • Hi Ellie,

      First off all, I love the phrase “biggest skinny fan” and I sort of want you to have a sash or button or something. Seriously though it breaks my heart that you have been put through this at the hands of people who claim that they are speaking for a movement designed to help me.

      Everything in your comment is beautifully stated and I couldn’t agree more. We will never get anywhere with a strategy of making our body right by trying to make someone else’s body wrong.Curing your hurt by hurting someone else just leaves everyone in pain. I am shocked that there are still people in the movement who either just don’t get it, or don’t think it’s “that bad”. I could seriously shake people by the shoulders over this. Thank you for working within a movement that can fail you so horribly, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. I’m one of your biggest fat fans!

      ~Ragen

      • Hi Elli

        Great Post!!

        Fat/Size Acceptance both have the word Acceptance in their name. There are Fat People in these communities who do not feel accepted because they are either too big, not big enough, not shaped in the right way or possess other attributes. Maybe we should change the names to “Acceptance of Fat/Size” or something.

      • You can add me to the biggest skinny fan as well.

      • I think we may have to have an arm-wrestling match for who’s your biggest skinny fan. If not arm-wrestling, competitive Twister? Horseshoes? Whatever — point is, there is much skinny love for you and the ideas you express so eloquently. :-)

        • I’m loving all of the skinny love :) Thank you so much! Really, there’s no need to fight over me – there is seriously plenty of Ragen to go around!

          ~Ragen

  29. I’m 6’7″ and 175 pounds soaking wet. I actually get quite a lot out of this blog. I once had a girlfriend break up with me partially because, and I am not kidding, she was tired of feeling sad about my diminished figure. “I wish you’d eat a goddamn sandwich.” Sorry, I eat plenty and I just look like this. I’m not muscled. I don’t have a gut. My body wants to look like this, so it does.

    Gah.

    Anyway. I just want you to know that I think you’re doing great work here and I’m following along regularly.

  30. I come from a family of three girls. I am “curvy” with some great T&A: 5’8”, 155 pounds, size 10 pants, 32I (!) bra. I used to have a “perfect” hourglass figure but honestly I haven’t measured myself (except for a bra) since I had my daughter two years ago. My middle sister is the same height, nearly 40 pounds light than I, and recently graduated from a AA to an A cup. Our oldest sister is somewhere in the middle, though much more straight-bodied than curvy (B cup at most). True, they eat more carefully and exercise more than I do, and I am the only one with a child, but even before that, and even when I used to be a dancer, I was curvier than they both were. They also have much longer legs than I do, and most of my height is due to freakishly long torso. Who is to say one of us is a “proper” woman and the other isn’t? If women who share 50% of their DNA can look so different naturally, then why should all women in the world have the same shape?

    Does my husband love my natural endowments? You betcha. But his last two girlfriends before me were small-chested and he didn’t see them as any less womanly. He just says my boobs are a bonus! It saddens me that women are so mean to other women. If we can’t love our own gender why do we expect men to love us as well? I’m not sure where I”m going with this now…

  31. “Also, did I miss the e-mail where you were put in charge of who deserves rights and who doesn’t, because the gays would like to have a word with you.”

    This literally made me LOL! You rock Regan!

  32. Just throwing in my echo here. The “real women have curves” sentiment is utter bullshit and I am saddened that it has gained popularity from being used by Dove. No one is going to gain a foothold in the body acceptance arena by thinking this way, or by promoting this thought. The fact that people can try to justify this because someone who is straight sized may not have it “that bad” is just pathetic. “Oh, you’re not too marginalized(or as marginalized as my group), you can take it!” Ah, no.

  33. So what if a woman looks straight up and down like a boy, anyway? Why does their body size concern anyone? I’ve seen shapely thin women, and thin women with no shape at all but they are just as hot and sexy as the shapely. Sticks are sexy too, damn it! All women are beautiful! Women are meant to come in all shapes and in no shape at all. Yes many women are just born that way, deal with it!

    • Oh and great post btw

  34. Once, in my 20s–after spending my teenage years unhappy about being the “fat girl,” though I am much heavier now and when I look back at photos of myself then, I see what I think is a very cute hourglass figure–a man told me at a dance (in a very admiring and sweet, non-creepy way) “You’re shaped just like a woman should be shaped.” I have boobs, hips and booty, and apparently he liked that. I felt giddy with the admiration and ran over to two of my friends to tell them what had happened.

    As I did, I could see one of them, who was very lean and muscular with almost no boobs or hips, looking crestfallen. I wished I could take back the words that had just spilled from my mouth. Right then, I had the first spark of realization that no one is shaped “the way a woman *should* be shaped.” We are all different and while I am concerned about those who starve themselves to be thin, I actually got that some women are naturally thin and that they may be struggling with their body image also.

    Thank you again, Ragen, for getting right to the heart of the matter in such an eloquent and thoughtul (and sassy!) way. You rock. Hard.

    • I’ve been in similar conversations (being the lean friend) many times and either my discomfort isn’t very apparent or the other person isn’t as observant as you are, but it made me inexplicably happy that you actually noticed your friend’s expression and, more importantly, understood the reason behind it. Most people would assume she was just jealous or brooding because he didn’t hit on her.

  35. Another stellar blog, Ragen!

    I just wrote a few weeks ago about larger women who call skinny women bitches and the prevalence of the phrases “skinny bitch” and “she’s so tiny; I hate her.”

    Not only does this undermine size acceptance, as you so eloquently outlined, but calling thin people names because of their thinness also continues to promote the idea that the thin bodies ARE actually better. They are not worthy of *us* accepting because society thinks they’re better anyway, so let’s be jealous and call them names. If we truly accept and love all bodies, including our own, there’s no room for jealousy.

    I know that the Facebook discussion wasn’t exactly centered on throwing mean names at people who fit society’s definition of an ideal body, but it’s not a huge leap to that, when you think about it. If you reject the acceptance of their bodies, what message does that send?

  36. I understand that a lot of fat, curvy women say things like that out of hurt and anger. After all, fat women are completely desexualized or outright treated as repulsive, so it makes sense that they want to claim “curves are sexy”.
    But yeah, it’s no excuse. Just like skinny people shouldn’t ASSUME fat people are all lazy slobs, fat people shouldn’t ASSUME skinny people are all bulimic fat-shamers. And even if they are, your body is no one else’s business.

    As a fat, NON curvy woman, I get the worst of both worlds, and am effectively erased. Ha,

    • I am a very skinny person (underweight actually, according to BMI), and I’d like to say that the phrase “lazy slob” has seriously NEVER entered my mind about anyone, and it never will. People are just different sizes, and I never attribute it to any particular factor (lifestyle, etc.), the same way I don’t wonder why any given tree has red leaves rather than green.

      I am also non-curvy, by the way. What a fun trip that is, huh? :-)

      • Not all skinny people fat-shame, just like not all fat people skinny-shame. I was just talking about the ones that do. :)

  37. “The idea that thin people are not harmed by our culture of body hate, so it’s ok to say nasty things about thin bodies, is not just a lie it’s also a trap.”

    I just wanted to say I love you.

    • Thank you! I love you right back :)

      ~Ragen

  38. A professor once explained this to me. Society is all in a bucket and as people reach the top the others drag them down and climb over them to get to the top. How wonderful would it be if we helped people get to the top and then they reached down and helped us?
    Thank you Ragen, for always helping all of us.

    • I’ve heard that called “crabs in a bucket syndrome”.

  39. Thank you for this post. My daughter is genetically skinny — it’s just how her metabolism is, it’s how her appetite is. And she’s very self-conscious about it. I’ve tried to raise her so that she won’t think that weight means anything about moral goodness/badness, but it’s like she’s only absorbed that for everyone else, and she gets upset if someone tries to compliment her on her slenderness — not because she’s against weight-related compliments (though I suspect she is), but because _she doesn’t think she’s pretty._

    (So anyone out there talking about how “skinny girls aren’t pretty”? You and your ilk made an 11-year-old cry. An kid who would never knowingly say a harmful thing about anyone else’s body-shape, and who would seek out ways to compliment _anyone._ That’s what _all_ size-hating does; it makes kids grow up thinking that they aren’t attractive. It makes kids grow up thinking that physical appearance is all-important, and they try to figure out who’s got it “right” and everyone else who isn’t “right” gets to be miserable instead.)

    • Thank you so much for telling this story. It is so important that people understand the harm that body shaming does. I’m so sorry that your daughter is going through this, but I’m really glad that she has you to support her.

      ~Ragen

    • I was stick thin at 11 years old too (also genetics, my sisters never grew out of it!), and now I’m VERY curvy. It took years to change but eventually my metabolism slowed down, all on it’s own. Eleven is still childhood. Eleven hasn’t started adding curves that may be there yet. Eleven should still be blissfully ignorant about what the real world demands of you. Eleven should be more worried about playing with her friends and giggling over pre-pubescent boys than about what the scale or her clothing size says to the world.

      I am so. freaking. glad that I grew up when I did. I am also so terribly sad that my daughter will be growing up into today’s firestorm of body image issues. Give your daughter a hug and tell her a random internet stranger said she’s beautiful. :)

  40. Wow, Ragen–I’m so excited I found your blog. This is the first post I’ve read and I am so On. The. Damn. Bus. with you. It still boggles my mind when I encounter yet another intelligent, educated, progressive person who speaks and believes size hatred. Sometimes it feels like a full-time job explaining the basic principle that you articulated so well above: “…it’s not about political correctness or protecting anyone else’s rights, it’s about not doing to others precisely what we don’t want done to ourselves.” I also particularly appreciated the line, “It’s not about political correctness but about living in integrity.” While most of my nudgings are toward men who hate on fat women, I do get sick of the “real women have curves” bullshit as well.

    Thank you, thank you, for your overwhelming awesome. You’re a fine writer and thinker and I’m really excited to step into your blogoverse.

    • Hi Morgan!

      Welcome to the blog, I’m glad that we are on the same bus. Thank you so much for your very kind words and support and I certainly hope to “see” you around here :)

      ~Ragen

  41. I think people are swinging way far over on the pendulum. For so long, thin has been the only thing to aim for if you’re a woman. Except for possibly big boobs, which are always glorified in our culture. You can have a big ass if you’re famous like Beyonce or J Lo, but everyone else must. be. thin. (Funny though, this is a recent thing, since around the 1960s. Look at the movie stars prior to that, most were not exactly thin and most were mighty curvy.)

    So, you have the backlash of “real women are curvy” and “fat acceptance”, because the awareness just isn’t there of the Other in our thin-centric culture. We’re not quite at the point where we embrace the Other into ourselves, and so the pendulum still swings all over the place. It’s like gay activists or equal opportunity activists: they are fighting against being negatively judged and oppressed because there just hasn’t been a middle ground.

    You’re already in the middle ground, Ragen. So people just don’t get you.

    • Beautifully stated. I think you’re exactly right and while I can understand it, I just can’t allow it to happen without saying something :)

      ~Ragen

    • I have to say, though, that stating “big boobs are always glorified in our culture” could be seen as another dangerous swing of the pendulum. There are a lot of people, myself included, that have gone through a lot of misery from people re: big boobs. I don’t feel like it’s part of size acceptance to deny realities, so we should probably be extra careful with these comments as well.

    • I wouldn’t say big boobs are always glorified in our culture. I was flipping through the Target ad one day and my husband looked at the bathing suit page and said “so when did totally flat-chested become the “in” thing? I like boobs, damnit!”. Now I realize that that’s his personal opinion (and probably the result of 8 years with my chesty self), but he has a point…most models (runway AND magazine) nowadays do not have large breasts. There’s a subset of our society who get implants to have larger breasts while those of us who have them naturally are given a hard time about it.

  42. I just wanted to say thanks, as a naturally thin person, who spent quite a few years being ashamed of my previously boyish figure, for really meaning size acceptance when you say it. I do too.

  43. I just found out today that my boyfriend in high school told people he hated my body because it was too skinny. I am 41 now, and still am totally annoyed to find this out. From what I heard today, his complaint was that I “went straight down into a big belt buckle”. Nice. Very nice. Yeah, the non-curved do not like hearing that they “should” have curves. Thanks for defending all of us. We all deserve to be accepted.

  44. It does us no good in our fight for acceptance to be hypocritical and hateful of the bodies of others. In many ways very slender people have a similar fight. If there is one way to make ourselves look like the “jealous cows” that fat haters want to make us out to be, it is to shame slender folk.
    By the way, amestress, I say you are well rid of that boyfriend. What a tool!
    I got shamed in junior high and high school for having big hips and a very modest endowment in the chest department. I thought about having a breast enhancement but realized that even my not particularly large chest had a tendency to get in my way so I said to hell with that. From what I understand about implants, I’m pretty glad I did.

  45. In my not at all humble opinion… real women have real bodies. Not someone else’s photoshopped ideals. All shapes and sies, with or without lumps and bumps and bits and pieces.

  46. I just wanted to say a great big thank you. I’ve been looking into/researching/interested in size acceptance for about a year and a half now and as a naturally skinny (underweight) person, this is the first time that I’ve felt like I might have a right to be involved in the discussion instead of just hiding on the edges. I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my size, and explaining to people that it’s genetic and based on a metabolic disorder instead of being able to just accept myself for who I am. It’s that self loathing that got me interested in size acceptance in the first place since I never want ANYONE,of any size or shape, to feel the way that I have for so long.

    • A lady who is known for making BBW Cheesecake photos of her large chest recently did a article where she shared that she is harassed or insulted daily because of her breast size.

  47. Hooray and Hoorah for this post! My family is naturally thin and my THIRTEEN YEAR OLD sister has been told more than once that she looks ‘anorexic’.
    The fuck??? Not only does that trivialise anorexia (it’s not always just about being thin, dickheads!), it also dangerously conflates a normal, healthy body type (in her case) with someone who is dangerously ill.

    The problem is that patriarchial views of what a woman ‘should’ look like means that there are no winners in the size debate (for want of a better word) – there are always some standards that we should be meeting, and are not. As many others have said, it took me a while to realise that ‘too thin’ is just as offensive as ‘too fat’. (Unless, PERHAPS, they are coming from concern about health, but ofc no specific body type denotes ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ and even then it’s pretty dangerous ground).

  48. Thank you so much for this!

  49. thank you for supporting actual size acceptance. i’m fit and athletic but i’ve been extremely skinny and devoid of curves all my life. complete strangers have no problem telling me that i “look anorexic” and need to “eat a cheeseburger.” it’s even more infuriating when the folks making these comments are fat people because i would think they’d be able to relate to the pain of hearing hurtful comments about one’s body.

    what do you even say to people when they make comments like this? the other day, i got fed up after yet another guy told me to go eat a sandwich that i responded by saying that i would try my best, but metastatic pancreatic cancer was zapping my appetite. he was horribly ashamed and apologized so i think my response was effective but obviously inappropriate and just perpetuated the myth that skinny can’t possibly be healthy. ugh.

    sorry to vent, just got worked up as i was writing.

    back to the point though…i’m really glad i found your blog and i appreciate everything that you’re doing. thank you.

    • Hi Monica,

      Thank you so much for talking about this. I think that the phrase “it’s even more infuriating when the folks making these comments are fat people because i would think they’d be able to relate to the pain of hearing hurtful comments about one’s body.” really sums up what I was trying to say.

      As to what to say, I really prefer to either ask questions or set boundaries based on what I’m going to do rather than trying to control the behavior of others. So I either go with:

      What makes you think you have the right to comment on my body?
      Or
      I’m not accepted unsolicited opinions about my health. I’m going to remove myself from the conversation.

      Hope that helps, good luck!

      ~Ragen

  50. Thanks, Ragen!

  51. There is so much I love about this post and the comments and so much more I’d love to delve into when looking at the idea of “real women have curves”, but what prompted me to comment is the idea that someone who does not have curves is not a “real woman”.
    This is problematic to me not only because it calls into question the gender identities of non-curvy cisgender women (whether fat, thin or somewhere in between) but also, more personally, because my wife is a trans woman.
    She has spent her whole life having her gender policed from head to toe, first as man who didn’t stand up to the rigors of masculinity (as if anyone really does) and then as a woman whose gender, to some, will always be open to question.
    Although I’m sure people who say “real women have curves” aren’t thinking of her, their words apply to her just as much as they apply to any thin cis woman and they question her gender as much, if not more.
    I understand the desire to deflect the hurt we feel onto others, but do those others really deserve to be hurt like that? And who will be the collateral damage to those words?

    • I forgot to add that that is coming from a fat, very curvy, hourglass-shaped woman, and if I were to place myself somewhere in the muddle mess that is gender identity, she is much more a woman than I (though only through our own identities, not because someone can be a “better” woman than someone else).

    • It is ironic that Fat Acceptance, a community/sanctuary for Fat Support and Activism should itself create beauty standards that not all of its members can meet. We have replaced Society’s inhuman beauty standards with our own unfair standards.

      Pattie Thomas wrote something that applies to both Society and Fat Acceptance:

      …………….”Instead of saying “we are beautiful” — we need to say “stop creating such narrow standards of beauty that most people feel ugly.””………..

  52. This post is so great! I found it scrolling through comments on old Jezebel posts (someone linked to it), and I can’t agree with you more. To me, talking about how “real women” (as if the others are cardboard or something, ugh) should have curves is as much about public control and shaming of someone’s body as saying that all women should be incredibly thin. It’s no one’s (and no man’s) job to say “all women should have a super curvy hourglass figure (complete with a tiny waist, naturally!)” because bodies are for so much more than just fitting into an arbitrary cultural beauty standard.

    I’ve blogged about this with regard to the ridiculous coverage of Christina Hendricks’ body – it drives me crazy to see people writing about how she is what all women should look like. Every magazine article I’ve read on her isn’t about her – it’s about drooling over her figure, which is just as creepy as telling a woman she should lose weight. She looks the way she looks, and other women will look the way they look; bodies aren’t public domain, and they’re not there for the sole purpose of being aesthetically pleasing to that public.

    I’m going off on a bit of a tangent, but just had to tell you how much I liked this post! I’m definitely going to keep perusing your blog :)

    • Hi Caroline,

      I’m glad that you like the blog and I absolutely agree with you about Christina Hendricks and in general focusing on a person’s body size instead of looking at the whole person. Anyway, welcome to the blog :)

      ~Ragen


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