Small but Mighty Activism Thanks to Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy is a professional baseball player who reminded me of the power of a small but mighty type of activism – calling out oppressive behavior when you see it.

After two men were put on the stadium “kiss cam” as a joke McCarthy tweeted “They put two guys on the ‘Kiss Cam’ tonight. What hilarity!! (by hilarity I mean offensive homophobia). Enough with this stupid trend.”  When interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle he further said “If there are gay people who are coming to a game and seeing something like that, you can’t assume they’re comfortable with it.  If you’re even making a small group of people … feel like outcasts, then you’re going against what makes your model successful.”

A-freaking-men Brandon (can I call you Brandon?).  Thank you.

Look, I know that a lot of the points of Size Acceptance Activism can be really hard for people to grasp – the idea that long term significant weight loss is not possible for most people, the idea that I take up more space than others and that’s ok because people come in different sizes, the idea that it’s possible that illness in fat people may be caused by the stress of constant stigma and not their fat, these are things that can take some time for someone to wrap their head around.  So let’s start here:

People have the right to live their lives without being shamed and stigmatized for the size and shape of their bodies.

That curb that is two inches high.  We all need to be able to step up onto that curb.  And that’s where the root of this small but mighty act of activism lies.  Brandon didn’t get into an argument about nature or nurture or what any religion believes about homosexuality.  He kept it simple “If there are gay people who are coming to a game and seeing something like that, you can’t assume they’re comfortable with it.”  Gay people should be able to go to a baseball game without humiliated or shamed. Duh.  Two inch curb, let’s all step up.

So if you are trying to figure out ways to fight the tremendous amount of body stigma and shame in this culture, take a note from Brandon.  Call it when you see it and keep it simple. Here are some suggestions for what you can say when you hear body shaming of any kind:

People have the right to live their lives without body shame and stigma.

I look forward to living in a world where nobody would try to shame someone else for their body.

I refuse to participate in body shaming or be friends with people who engage in it.

I think that we are all stronger when we’re not trying to pull anybody else down.

Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.  This is a small but mighty bit of activism that can help people take the first step to becoming fierce size acceptance warriors.

World Tour Update

The World Tour is taking an Ivy turn.  I’ll be at Dartmouth College May 9-11th.  More details as soon as they are available.  I’ll be in Atlanta May4-5.   I’m teaching a dance workshop on May 12th with Theresa Woodsong in Austin.  I’ll also be involved in panels for screenings of Strong!  A documentary about three-time Olympian Cheryl Haworth in Houston on May 15 and Austin on May 17.  More details to come.

Join the Club – Support the Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club where you get extras, discounts on stuff, free subscriber meet-ups etc.) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 6:14 am  Comments (24)  

24 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I LOVE when jocks come to the defense of the underdog! I don’t follow sports at all but I’ll be sure to look up Mr. McCarthy.

    In other news, a couple weeks ago I had to drop a Twitter follower because he wouldn’t stop making fat jokes about Christina Aguilera (I think the poor girl just has a terrible stylist is all…but that’s another Bravo show). I had politely asked him to consider how it makes a person like me feel to read things like that and he should consider that it probably feels similar when he’s bashed for being gay. He said he got my point, but didn’t apologize. He was better for a bit, but then started in again. Well, I won’t have it, so I dropped him. I then tweeted something like, “I will instantly unfollow anyone who participates in body shaming, no matter how much I love you. I am worthy of respect and so are people who look like me. Class up or take a hike.” That update got ALOT of re-tweets. I also put something similar on my Facebook. LOTS of likes. I just won’t have it around me anymore. That’s it.

    • Regarding two statements you made…

      1 “I think the poor girl just has a terrible stylist is all… “

      2 “I will instantly unfollow anyone who participates in body shaming… “

      Aren’t you guilty yourself of the body-shaming of Christina Aguilera? First you mention her to be a ‘poor girl’, then you say she has a ‘terrible stylist’. Can you not see that you did the very thing you complain of?

      I would ask you the exact same question you asked your Twitter follower, the one you dropped – the question being “ Can you consider how it feels for Christina Aguilera to read things like that?

      Regards, Liz C.

      • There isn’t a comment about Christina Aguilera here….?

    • Eh? You’ve replied with “there isn’t a comment about Christina Aguilera here” I don’t understand that? Here is what I replied to, and is what you wrote, and is visible right this minute before my eyes, on this very page…… you wrote…

      QUOTE.
      On April 26, 2012 at 9:42 am Darci said:

      I LOVE when jocks come to the defense of the underdog! I don’t follow sports at all but I’ll be sure to look up Mr. McCarthy.

      In other news, a couple weeks ago I had to drop a Twitter follower because he wouldn’t stop making fat jokes about Christina Aguilera (I think the poor girl just has a terrible stylist is all…but that’s another Bravo show). I had politely asked him to consider how it makes a person like me feel to read things like that and he should consider that it probably feels similar when he’s bashed for being gay. He said he got my point, but didn’t apologize. He was better for a bit, but then started in again. Well, I won’t have it, so I dropped him. I then tweeted something like, “I will instantly unfollow anyone who participates in body shaming, no matter how much I love you. I am worthy of respect and so are people who look like me. Class up or take a hike.” That update got ALOT of re-tweets. I also put something similar on my Facebook. LOTS of likes. I just won’t have it around me anymore. That’s it.
      UNQUOTE.

      I was responding to the bit you wrote in brackets, in your second paragraph. To me that is a comment you made about Christine A.

      Liz C.

      • Darci didn’t ask the question – I did. I misread. I thought you were saying that to Ragen, not responding to a comment. Apologies!

  2. Any chance of a dance workshop while you are in hanover? Welcome to my alma mater!

    • Hi Tina,

      We are doing one at the school, I’ll see if it’s open to the public!

      ~Ragen

  3. I’m struck by the Fat Acceptance movement’s need for a word that would be parallel to ‘racist,’ ‘sexist,’ or ‘homophobic.’ It’s such a concise way to call people on their prejudice – “what you just said was homophobic, and that is unacceptable.”

    What do you think? Size-ist? Fat-phobic? Obesiphobic?

    • I tend to just go with “rude” or “unkind” because it simpler for people to grasp and hard for them to deny.

    • Hi Mali,

      I have definitely heard the words size-ist and fatphobic used. I agree with the need to have a word to identify the behavior, and I have some mixed feelings about using that word to call people out. My work with prejudice is grounded in my experience working with, and being a facilitator for, the National Coalition Building Institute (www.ncbi.org) starting in the mid-nineties. One of their key principles is:

      Diversity training programs that are based on guilt, moralizing, or condemnation often rigidify prejudicial attitudes.

      A great challenge in doing anti-racism [and any anti-prejudice] work is avoiding two extremes: if people are targeted and required to label themselves as racists, sexists, etc. they can quickly become defensive and thereby lost to the work; if the programs are too comfortable, the hard issues never get raised and the unaware racism goes unchallenged. NCBI’s diversity training workshop model strives for a proper balance by assisting participants to take risks and to raise tough issues without violating their own sense of integrity and self-worth.

      I am a very outcome-based person- so to me, while is is fair and absolutely within an oppressed person’s right to call people on their prejudice, my understanding of the research, and personal experience of the work, is that calling out is not the most efficient or effective technique if the goal is to create an environment in which people can safely recognize and work through their prejudice to become allies of the movement. As always, that’s just my activism and I completely respect those who take a different approach (and I may just be overthinking it :)

      ~Ragen

      • I’m not sure which comment to reply to; this isn’t aimed at anyone specifically, just an addition to the conversation for anyone reading it and thinking about the question.

        Keep in mind that using -phobia constructions to refer to bigotry makes many people with phobias feel unwelcome or ashamed (including me). Phobias are a real mental condition that can be serious and life-altering, and are commonly not taken seriously. I’ve almost stopped commenting about it because every time I comment I get a response saying it’s not a big deal. This post made me feel like I should do it, but let me tell you, I’m afraid of the response, even on an activist site like this one!

        Here in the fat acceptance community, we believe that no one has an obligation to be healthy. Fear is an unhealthy response, but fear alone doesn’t hurt anyone. In fact, people who are afraid of getting fat are the ones we most want to reach out to. Phobias are about running and hiding, not attacking and hate.

        While I’m at it, the curb metaphor makes a completely different point for me: no one should be stopped by a two-inch curb, but in practice people are. What can we do to make sure everyone can get up? The suggestions in the post are a great start. I’ll add “What do you mean by that?” or “Why is that a problem?”

  4. Yay Regan. We love you. Tell us more about your Atlanta stop.

  5. I like to use “My body is beautiful and so is yours, whether you believe me or not”

  6. I have to listen to clients (I am a hairdresser) say shaming comments on fat people or shame their own bodies. It happened yesterday. I just got quiet and tried to respectfully speak the truth. It is a tough call for me because I could lowe business if I seem righteous. I have passionately spoken up when I felt I would be received well (like when a client mentions a anorexia as a problem

  7. A friend and I stopped at a Pizza Hut the other night and there were two men working behind the counter. One was “average” sized, and one was significantly larger. My friend made the comment that the larger man had no business working at a pizza place (presumably as a joke) to me, as a fat girl. It hurt, but I politely asked him why he would say that. He just kind of laughed. I told him he was not being very nice, that he could make no assumptions about the large man’s health or his eating habits based on his size or where he happened to work. Reading this blog gave me the courage to say that and to try to educate him through my hurt. It also kept me from becoming a blubbering heap when my grandmother (who has Alzheimer’s disease) didn’t recognize me as an adult, but said that I had grown wider. Thank you for that Ragen! (Incidentally, Regan is my cat’s name!)

  8. I feel like I’m missing something here. Were the two men kissing made fun of in some way? Or were they treated the same way a straight couple put on the Kiss Cam were? Was this is a particularly conservative city, where they might be worried about being made targets of? They’re in public kissing, they aren’t all that likely to be way closeted.

    I mean, it’s great the guy stood up for them, but I’m queer, and I’m failing to see the homophobia here.

    • They weren’t kissing. Apparently the kiss cam searches the crowd for people and puts them up on the screen and expects them to kiss. They searched the crowd and put up two men who were likely not gay.

      • What I would like to know is what the heck kiss cams are doing existing at all. It seems to me that pointing that cam at a man and a woman is wrong, too. Chances are nobody running the camera knows whether that couple is straight, either, or even if they might be related to one another.

        I say it’s time for the kiss cams to go the way of the dodo.

      • Twistie, I totally thought that too. I go to sporting events with my brother all the time or maybe my gay best friend (who is a guy.)

      • Fair enough. But I still don’t see the homophobia.

        • I think it’s not so much homophobia as it is a sort of harassment. It’s deliberately placing two people into what could be an awkward situation that could end up creating a painful or embarrassing situation just for the amusement of the camera operator. What if the cam outed a gay couple? What if it was two best friends who were really uncomfortable with that kind of humor? What if the two guys got bashed on the way back to their car? They’re deliberately looking to embarrass people and that is just NOT acceptable. It’s fourth grade at best – like when you used to see two kids kissing and go, “ooooooooh!” and laugh and point. It’s no different.

          If they pointed it at me, I’d be way tempted to flip off the camera. I wouldn’t, of course, but I’d be tempted!

        • It’s that it’s supposed to be funny – the camera seeks out straight people who look like they are obviously couples (holding hands, kissing, snuggling etc.) – they set up the joke with three or four of those, then they find two (typically rugged, stereotypically straight looking guys) as the punchline with the idea that people are supposed to laugh/be grossed out etc. at the idea that these guys would kiss. I’ve had gay friends go to supporting events with me and talk about how much it sucks that they do it and how uncomfortable everyone would be if the two guys started kissing.

          ________________________________

      • Aha. Missed this before. Both the comment and the fact.
        Yeah, ok, that’s totally different, and really nasty.

  9. I’m finding that asking ‘why would you say that?’ or even ‘why would you say that in front of me when I’m fat, too?’ may not cause an immediate retraction, but after a couple repetitions it does seem to lower the number of ugly things I hear from people I love.

    Mind you, I don’t know if they stop saying rotten things, or they just stop saying them in my presence, but anything that gives someone a chance to stop and think about what they’re doing/saying is a step in the right direction.


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