Our Place at the Table

First they ignore youI’ve had a couple interesting interactions with people who are fans of the blog and believe in size acceptance and who are also thin.  In the first instance the person had an opportunity to see first hand how I am treated by dissenters.  In the second the person related to me their realization that “When I read horrible internet comments about fat people on the internet I can just think ‘wow, these commenters are out of control’ but fat people might think ‘oh my god this is about me.’  That must be awful.”

I think it’s important to remember that we aren’t speaking in theory about fat stigma, shame, bullying and oppression – they are ubiquitous and they are happening now, in real time, to fat people.

The way to learn about this is to ask fat people about their experiences, and then believe them – consider fat people the best witnesses to their own experiences.  We can each only speak from our own experiences and they are definitely varied, but I do believe that, though it may be enlightening to the individual doing it, we don’t need anyone to dress up in a fat suit to explain what it’s like to be fat. We just need to listen to fat people. Too often people, especially those who profit from selling “weight loss,” succeed at replacing fat people’s witness to our own experience with their completely fabricated ideas of everything from what it’s like to be fat, to how we feel, what we do, and how we think.   The idea seems to be that our body size is proof that we are somehow not competent to speak about our experiences.

For example, when I point out that I am a combatant in a war waged upon me by the government because I don’t look the way they think I should, people try to tell me that the war isn’t against me -it’s against my fat. The problem, I’m told,  isn’t that the government has a stated goal of eradicating everyone who looks like me, the problem is that I won’t join the party.  I should not consider myself fat, they tell me, I’m should consider myself a thin woman covered in fat and go to war against the body I live in everyday.

In what I consider to be a horrifying example, the America Psychological Association recently put together a panel to discuss the guidelines for the treatment of obesity.  The many, and massive issues with treating a body size as a psychological issue are the subject for another blog – for today’s purposes I’d like to point out that this panel doesn’t have a single person from the fat community.

There is a phrase I first heard used by members of the disability community: “Nothing about us without us.” I absolutely think that should become a battle cry for the fat side in the war on obesity.

Podcast:  So sorry, the service that I use for podcasts is doing a big change-over.  I’ll be back with the podcasts as soon as I can.

Holiday Sale – January or Bust!

I do Size Acceptance activism full time, and part of how I support myself is book and DVD sales. 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.  Click here to check it out.

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!

Published in: on December 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This morning during the first mile of my work-day workout (one mile before work, one mile after), some man was INCAPABLE of passing me without chewing me out for “TAKING UP THE WHOLE SIDEWALK”, as if he owned it and I was relieving myself on it, instead of just walking just like him.

    My friends of various sizes are certainly not immune to being accosted on the street for spurious reasons, but sometimes it feels as if I’m not occupying the same planet as other people.

    Damn right there’s a war on…

  2. I’ve been very thin or thin-ish for most of my life. Currently, I’m the largest I’ve ever been, at a size 16, and when I started college 10 years ago, I was a size four. My younger sister, who I love like crazy, has always been a fat girl.

    I came to SA and HAES as I dealt with my own body image issues as my body became less thin, and I struggled with serious health issues which were resolved in part by making significant changes to my perception of nutrition and learning how to eat intuitively

    In doing so, I realized how much of what I thought about weight had been misguided — and how many years of my life I had spent “concern-trolling” my younger sister. In part, reading SA blogs and experiencing empathy as I attend to the lived experiences of fat girls has helped me become a better sister, and makes me want to be a model for women because I realize how much this kind of concern-trolling can hurt people we love.

  3. I’ve been thinking about how I react to fat bias and how I internalize comments made around me about fat people. It seems really frustrating to me that if I’m in the company of someone who is insulting or bashing fat people in general, they ‘excuse’ me from the bashing with a ‘present company excluded’ or some other lame saying.

    The hardest for me is to listen to someone insulting themselves and generalizing about how bad life is when they gain weight.. how they aren’t pretty anymore, aren’t sexy, are happy and don’t deserve any of those things… When I point out that they must feel that way about me, too, then the real battle begins. “how can you think that, Susan? You know I love you… This is my opinion about me.. not you…” I’ve had to weed my friendship garden of these types of people for my own sanity. They’ll not watch me living happy as a fat person and change their behavior… they think I’m the exception to the rule.

  4. I realize my first post was way out in left field… but needed to come out. On a more direct line with the topic, Reagan, I agree with you that no panel discussing fat people and obesity should be without individuals who are living as a fat person/obese.

    • I thought your first post was right smack in the center of the field. I have experienced this with people I am very close to and I was very happy to see someone articulate it so well.

  5. Thank you for this. As a person relatively new to SA, it has been incredibly helpful to me to hear all of your stories. (I do realize that’s not why you’re telling them, but I benefit, & I appreciate it.) It continually shocks me to hear the degree of abuse fat people put up with on a regular basis, and I thought I was pretty aware.

    It’s also a little excruciating to realize I, internally, have been downplaying the fat experience of others. I mean, I’m not fat, but I’m quite tall (5’ 10”), and have been hassled about my height (and weight, on occasion) throughout my life. That’s practically the same thing, right? I understand this, right?

    No. I can relate to the emotions, I may have gotten a taste of size discrimination, but I realize it is not the same thing as experiencing the abuse you describe on a regular basis. A webcomic writer (Tarol Hunt of Goblins) wrote an excellent analogy for this experience the other day (regarding sexism), and I’m going to steal it right here. It’s like I have a cut on my finger (body shaming), that really, really hurts! It’s real pain, & it sucks. But I’m complaining about the pain to people who are walking around bloody & beaten & stabbed through the gut. I can do better. My sad efforts to say “but that’s not ME shaming you, I’m one of you” is just insulting. I’m not.

    So instead of comparing my pain to yours (& unintentionally diminishing yours), I’m going to try to listen better. My body shaming experiences SUCKED. But maybe they can teach me compassion for those who have gone through/are going through much more than I have. I need to listen & understand what is happening, & what I can do to help.

    Thanks for your patience.

  6. How do you respond when someone dismisses your contribution to a conversation or debate (abotu politics or parenting or anything) with the response you need to shut up bc you are fat? Like, the fat or my body size has nothing to do with the topic, but it is used as a synonym for “stupid” or something. Or this – yesterday someone walking on the train hit me in the back of the head with her bag as she walked by and when I exclaimed “OW!” the much thinner woman glared at me and said she wouldn’t have hit me if half of me was not hanging into the aisle. I mean, really, what do I say to stuff like that? I am at a loss.

    • This is a great question Meadow68, thanks. If you can be a little patient I’ll make the answer into a blog post.

      ~Ragen

  7. Ha! The war on obesity is not about fat people but their fat. That’s as much bullshit as religion going after homosexuals — Love the sinner, hate the sin.

    Some things can’t (and shouldn’t be) separated to make other people feel okay about their prejudices.

    • Love this response. :) You summed up the issue perfectly!

    • Marie! Brilliant!

  8. “People try to tell me that the war isn’t against me -it’s against my fat.”

    Reagan, your blog has been so influential to and supportive of my current mental/emotional/spiritual journey. This concept here is just one example. My body IS ME. It’s not an abstract thing to discuss or criticize as a separate entity, it’s not something to be on display, it’s not an incubator, it’s not a tool to be used by others or even by me. If it is criticized, *I* am criticized. If you want to change my body, you are trying to change *ME*. If it is hurt, *I* am hurt. If it is abused…well, you get the idea.

    You’d think this is a basic concept that everyone should know, and yet we’re told that a war on a part of our body is not actually directed at us. And most of us believe it.


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