Yesterday we talked about working with the moveable middle, today we’re going to talk about dealing with the other side of the spectrum – the Meme Roths. [Trigger warning for diet and eating disorder talk.] What’s a Meme Roth you ask? Well, the original Meme Roth is a person who calls herself an “Anti-obesity advocate” and delights in spewing hate speech about fat people, splashing around like a joyful baby in a pool of unsupported assumptions, ignored evidence, and just making stuff up. Her core belief seems to be that fat people need to be constantly reminded to hate themselves, that they are ugly and, although she has admitted that dieting has a 95% failure rate, she believes that our lives should be consumed with becoming thin until we get there or die trying, and that somehow we all have an obligation to live like she thinks we should. Or she may not believe any of it, but she’s found it lucrative – it’s hard to say.
Meme is coming from an interesting place – she talks a lot about how she restricts calories (claiming, on various occasions, to eat 1600, 1300 and 1100 calories a day) while making sure that she runs 4 miles a day and “earns” any extra food. About her wedding day she said “Most women I know commit fraud on their wedding days — they weigh-in for the walk down the aisle with no expectation of maintaining that weight year after year.” Now, it’s Mimi’s right to heavily restrict calories while exercising a lot, and to believe that true love means never having to buy bigger pants.
But news outlets giving her a platform from which to talk to other people about health (suggesting, for example, that each person should eat 10 times their goal weight in calories as if there is a magical mathematical connection between the two) as if she is coming from a healthy place and has a firm grasp on reality with great advice to give is highly problematic.
Until yesterday Meme was really nothing to me – just another example of the idea that if you can’t be a good example, you can be a horrible warning – a cautionary tale about the dangers of living a life of hatred. But today she became real very quickly when I found out that two of my friends were going to be on television with her. Having seen her on TV I know that her debate style is to spew vitriol and just to keep talking and not let anyone else talk. I tend to view that as cowardly – I think if you are sure of yourself you can have a rational debate where everyone gets to talk, but that’s just me.
Meme has become a caricature of the kind of haters who, unfortunately as a Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size practitioner and activist, you are likely to run into. Here are some ways that we can deal with it:
- Remember that every activist group has to deal with this. It doesn’t make it ok, but it’s sometimes nice to know that we are not alone
- Celebrate the benefits of people like this- play your cards right and this person will highlight the rationality of Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size approaches
- Resist, with conviction the urge to sink to their level or you lose the benefit we just discussed and then you just have two people screaming
- Call it what it is – hate speech. When you say that we need to say that fat people are ugly and that saying anything else is “dangerous” that’s hate speech. Hate is not healthcare, humiliation is not healthcare. It doesn’t matter what their intentions might be, people don’t get a pass on spewing hatred because they claim good intentions
- Recognize the danger – what Meme and the Meme-ettes are recommending: severe caloric restriction, “earning” food through exercise, considering yourself ugly until you are thin enough, placing your value (as a bride for example) on your weight, are all red flags of disordered eating. I have no opinion about Meme’s eating, but as someone who has recovered from an eating disorder and done a lot of work with people dealing with eating disorders, I have a strong opinion about suggesting that the path to health is to encourage these behaviors
- Remember that they who scream the loudest and the most incessantly probably don’t have evidence on their side
- Seek support – if you have a run in with a weight bigot you can always reach out to the SA/HAES community and we will support you.
I have to be honest and say that at the end of the day I just don’t get Meme and the Meme-ettes- I can’t imagine devoting my life to being an Anti-anything advocate. I can’t even wrap my head around spending my life telling people that they should hate themselves unless they change their bodies. I would rather create than destroy, I would rather be for than against. I believe that whatever you want to do in life, it will be easier if you like yourself first. Your body, at whatever size you are, is amazing – the breathing, the blinking, the heartbeat, not to mention smiling, hugging, and a million other things – anybody who tries to tell you any different is trying to pass their issues off onto you, and you can always return that shit to sender.
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