My blog about ending body bashing got re-posted by one of my Facebook friends. One of her friends, Diane, responded “I’m sorry..that woman on that blog pisses me the hell off. I know she’s trying to bolster the self-esteem of fat people/women, but to say that if you are fat, you are also healthy is LUDICROUS! I just want to slap her.”
This is not an uncommon reaction to my work, though sometimes people replace “I just want to slap her” with “punch her in her fat stomach” or “I’m going to be at your talk at the Reitz Union at 6:30pm and I’m going to shoot you in the head.” Diane is but a small example of what you can find it all over the internet – people talking about how the very idea that fat people could like themselves or claim health makes them want to commit physical violence against fat people – especially involved in Size Acceptance or Health at Every Size, and it often comes with a gross mischaracterization of the work. If you do activism around Size Acceptance and/or HAES it’s possible that you’ll deal with it, so let’s look a little deeper.
When it comes to people who claim to want to hurt me in some way (credible or not) I’m generally equally upset at the threats as I am at the fact that people don’t understand my work despite my best efforts to explain things clearly. Obviously I never said that if you are fat you are also healthy, just like I would never say that if you are thin you are also healthy. I have said many, many times that weight and health are two different things, that there are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes. Of course there are those who truly disagree, those who truly misunderstand, and those who misunderstand for profit, but that’s not all that is at work here.
I think there are people who are so absolutely steeped in our culture of “everybody knows that being fat is the same as being unhealthy, that they simply cannot look at the situation objectively. I imagine this is how lots of people felt when they first came across the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun – they were so certain of what they believed that they just couldn’t conceptualize any other option. There are some people who can be upset enough about that to become angry.
In my experience, though, the greatest anger reaction comes from those who have put all their self-esteem eggs in the thin-is-better basket. People whose identity is based on the idea that they are healthier/more attractive/better than those who are larger than they are. So when fat people refuse to be complicit in our own stigmatization, stereotyping and bullying – when we stand up for ourselves – these people’s self-esteem hangs in a precarious balance. So they lash out.
While I think it’s important to realize that these things drive part of the conversation around weight and health, I am in no way suggesting that they apply to everyone, or that any of us can guess someone else’s reasons for the way they act or react. It’s not our fault but it becomes our problem, so I think it’s worth it to have some strategies to deal with it.
When I’m dealing with this it helps me to remember that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable, not contingent. They are not based on size, health, habits, or the approval of others. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody in order to claim these rights for myself. They are absolutely mine and nobody has the right to take them away. Those rights include the right to live in the body I have now without shame, stigma, bullying, oppression or people threatening to do violence against me because I claim them. The fight for fat civil rights is not about asking someone to confer them upon us – they aren’t anyone else’s to confer - it’s about demanding that people stop trying to keep these rights from us through an inappropriate use of power.
It also helps that when it comes to the science, health, and medicine aspects I’m basing my case on evidence, which doesn’t automatically make me right, but does allow me to shrug off ALL CAPS FREAKING OUT EVERYBODY KNOWS arguments, whether or not the person making them wants to slap me.
Holiday Sale – January or Bust!
I do Size Acceptance activism full time, and at this time of year I get the most requests for help and support, and the least paid talks, book signings, business consulting etc. So I’m having a January or Bust Sale. You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US. Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.
Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)
I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private. Join Now!