It’s Not a Civil Debate

I got a series of comments today from someone who was suggesting that fat people should be forced to lose weight for the good of society. After I didn’t approve any of their 7 comments, they left this: “You need to approve my comments.  Why won’t you engage in a civil debate?”

Besides the absolutely ridiculous idea that I’m obligated to give anybody else an audience my blog, there is a deeper issue here:

There is no way to have a civil debate about whether or not a group of people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a civil debate about whether I have the right to exist.  Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.

There’s a ton of weight stigma, bullying and oppression that happens, talk about the “War on Obesity” is encouraged by the government and rampant, and public health seems to be largely about making fat people’s health the public’s business. If we’re not careful we can start to think that those things are ok – that it’s civil to debate whether or not a group of people, whose commonality is a single physical trait, should be eradicated.  Or, having decided that they should be eradicated, debating about the best way to get it done. We can start to think that fat people should be required to engage in these debates and do things that justify our right to exist by proving that we are healthy, or worthy, or trying to be thin or whatever.  We can start to believe that fat people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are contingent on our ability to successfully debate for them.

Let me offer my opinion:

Bullshit.  THIS IS NOT OK.  People, including the media, the government, our friends and families, and perfect strangers, have no right to treat fat people the way that we are treated.  Fat people have the right to exist, in the bodies we have now, without outside intervention that we didn’t request.  The government has no right to wage war on us for how we look, and a war on obesity is 100% a war on obese people – these people do not get to try to eradicate actual me while cowering behind the excuse that they don’t want to eradicate potential thin me.  When I do choose to debate about these topics, it’s a courtesy – not an obligation.  The systematic stigma, bullying, and oppression of fat people including war on obesity IS WRONG.  Completely and totally wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong. Wrong.  It is absolutely unjustifiable whether it’s couched in terms of health, costs, social responsibility or anything else.  It is an affront to our civil rights – it is pure shaming, bullying, and oppression, and it is most assuredly wrong. In what I hope is the not too distant future, history students will shake their heads and wonder how society could treat fat people so poorly.

So why won’t I engage in a civil debate?  Perhaps it’s because, as the unwilling combatant in a war waged on me by my government – assisted by the media, the diet industry with their $60 billion a year in profits, and a volunteer army of total strangers – all of whom purport to be trying to eradicate me for my own good, I am not feeling civil.  I will not “civilly” beg for my right to exist from people who are actively trying to eradicate me, but I will damn sure fight for my right to exist against anyone who threatens it. They want a war on obesity?  I’ll give them a war, and civility will not be my first priority.

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Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 9:05 am  Comments (28)  

28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I do believe this person (along with most popular media outlets, the vast majority of the medical and scientific community, the federal government, and everyone’s Aunt Fanny) is deeply and profoundly confused as to the meaning of a ‘civil debate.’

    In a civil debate, one does not suggest that other people be forced to do the impossible in hopes of achieving the implausible for the good of one’s own aesthetic preference.

    Even if every piece of available scientific evidence produced over the past sixty years didn’t prove the likelihood of permanent, major weight loss less likely than being struck by lightening whilst dancing a Charleston, the fact remains that it would still be up to the individual whether or not to do do.

    Every day people with a wide variety of ailments refuse proven treatments for their illnesses and conditions for many different reasons. Christian Scientists believe their appendicitis can be cured by prayer. Many people with severe clinical depression or schizophrenia describe side effects to their medication that make them prefer to tough out their symptoms without medical intervention. Plenty of people faced with little or no chance of a cure forego chemotherapy for their cancers, and others with better prognoses still prefer to seek alternative treatments for personal reasons.

    Every single one of these people is allowed to make this decision for themselves, even if it can be proven likely to cause harm to themselves.

    So even if my life consisted of gorging on Twinkies in front of the television all day long every day and I never contributed anything to the world at all… it would still be my decision, whether or not I wound up fat doing it.

    That isn’t how I live my life. I’m still fat. The civil thing to do is to fucking deal with it.

    • I always look forward to your comments, Twistie!! Well said!

    • “the likelihood of permanent, major weight loss less likely than being struck by lightening whilst dancing a Charleston,”

      I…LOVE…YOU! Bonus points for use of “whilst.”

    • Awesome! this is just what I was hoping to hear! I’ve been struggling with some “bad fatty” feelings lately! Thanks to this article and your thoughtful comment, I can shore up my slowly-growing feelings that I have a right to exist while fat, even while gorging on twinkies ;)

  2. BRAVA, Ragen!!!

  3. Thank you. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been attacked and or treated like a subhuman because of my weight. I feel like this so called war on obesity just gives hateful people camouflage for their hate. Instead of them just being jerks for saying shit about your body, they preen with faux concern and spew venom under the guise of tough love because being obese is just so ubhealthy. Yeah? So is being a virulent scumbag.

  4. You are so right on the ‘civil debate’ thing Ragen. It reminds me of people misunderstanding what freedom of speech means. It seems like so many people think that ‘freedom of speech’ = ‘not refuting/challenging what others say’, which is not at all what freedom of speech is or means. It’s frustrating to see how much people will fight to hold on to hatred and bigotry.

    • You are so right. That’s exactly what people think. Well said.

  5. The person who fueled this post also needs to understand that you are, in no uncertain terms, required to debate anyone–civilly or uncivilly–because they want to. Your blog, Your rules. It’s not like this is your first post. You’ve made your feelings quite clear many different times.

  6. When I read things like this I flash back to Princess Bride…

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Applicable in so many situations.

    Also how come we’re the ones who have to be civil when a large percentage of the other side wouldn’t know civil if it challenged them to a duel?

  7. Still stuck on “fat people should be forced to lose weight for the good of society.” Yep, because forcing people to give up their bodily autonomy for the nebulous future “good of society” HAS NEVER EVER GONE HORRIBLY WRONG.
    OH WAIT…

  8. Ugh. I know just what you mean. I get some commenters who seem legitimately confused about why I won’t publish their bigoted, harmful, hateful comments even on a post that’s ABOUT what kind of comments I don’t want to hear. The steady stream of comments and emails from people who hate me is trying at times, but one of the things I can do is NOT engage with them, NOT publish them, and NOT pretend that the things they’re saying are reasonable.

    • I think I’m going to start editing mine (the ones I receive on my blog; to date, I don’t think I’ve made any hateful comments) to remove the text and include pictures of fuzzy kittens or something.

      Or maybe puppies. I like puppies.

  9. Above and beyond your excellent analysis above, how exactly does zie propose “all fat people lose weight”?!? Every . Single . Time I try to lose weight, guess what happens? I GAIN weight. The only way I can maintain a constant weight is to Not Diet.

    That’s just me, but study after study demonstrates that there is no known way to make a fat person permanently thin, any more than there is a way to make a thin person permanently fat (without consuming enormous amounts of calories daily).

    So tell me – how exactly do you think this magical weight loss is going to happen? Unicorn dust?

    • Well, you can make many a thin person fatter by making them yo-yo diet a lot. I’ve heard it works even better than just making them eat a lot. Weight-loss dieting also helps train the body to get along on fewer calories. You’ve even noticed that effect yourself when you say you gain weight every time you try to lose it.

    • But, but, BUT!!! Killing unicorns for the dust in their horn is illegal! So there is no way that would work!

      Now on a more serious note, I get the “Lose weight” all the time, my punch face, eye roll, shoot in the face with a coconut reflex comes in, and I have to hold back of all of it.

      I actually got asked if I wanted to join a weight loss challenge. I said this word for word “No, I myself am against weight loss, since it has a 95% failure rate and also more common leads to weight yo-yoing which is pretty rough on your health.” she just blinked and looked at me then said “Well are you going to join you could stand to lose some pounds” I gave her the nasty woman look of death and said “No”

      • Yeah, my HR department occasionally sends out company weight loss/maintenance challenges. I keep replying to them with, “Please consider before sending again — Any number of your employees could currently have or be recovering from an eating disorder. As such, these challenges — and mandatory notification of them — could be triggering for these employees.”

        Never any response.

      • Amara, talk about falling on deaf ears!! Oy. I would have been sorely tempted to say, “Well, you could stand to get some hearing aids because it’s clear you didn’t hear a word I just said. Also, you might invest in some manners because that’s the rudest thing anyone’s said to me in a long while.”

        • Oh how close I was to saying something like that Helena. She was after all making my bad mood worse, nothing like having some say that to you right after you had your thumb looked at for stabbing yourself with a needle in fashion class lol.

          I have found that with people (Aka my college) they never listen to anyone, because the pre med/RN’s know EVERYTHING!!!!! I have gotten pretty used to putting people politely in their places. The last time a RN student came up to me and said I was going to get all these illnesses and die because I was fat I looked at her and said “You my dear are talking about correlation not causation. Meaning, being fat doesn’t mean I will get these things. It is like this. In aug the most ice cream is sold and the most murders happen. If we take away the ice cream with the murders stop? No, they are actually more likely to increase because it is the heat driving everyone nuts… Also don’t believe everything you read in an outdated and missing a lot of information textbook. Have a wonderful day!” *Smiles and goes about my day*

          But I am going to yoink your manners one, I like it a lot!

      • You remind me of the time I was washing my SS Camaro and a guy came up to me and asked me to sign a petition that was touted as a “clean air” petition. Making cars with larger than 2 Liter engines illegal in my state. He said “cool car!” And I said, “Which you wish to make illegal!” I got a confused look. “Dude, 5.7 liter engine.” “Oh, so, are you going to sign?” “No!”

    • I have a response planned for when someone I don;t know tells me to lose weight, I plan to open my eyes very wide, look slightly sorrowful and tell them I started my diet two days ago and I’m not a size 2 yet, what am I doing wrong, I’ll award myself bonus points if I can make my voice tremble at the end without giggling.

      For reference that would be a UK 2 and I’d need to starve and have my bust amputated to get down to a UK16 – that should give anyone with half a brain the impression of what I think of them…

  10. I love reading your posts… this makes my day so much better… love you ALL!

  11. It’s unfortunate that some people like to argue. Sometimes the subject doesn’t even matter. This fellow has it out for people of size, it could have been any minority actually. There are plenty of places on the internet for them to ramble on, they have no right to sully your corner of the world. You did the right thing.

  12. This is outrageous! Look at this lovely woman – headlines say she is ‘unapologetic’ about her figure. This has to stop!


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