Can We Really Change Things?

I get a lot of e-mails and comments from people who are discouraged by the amount of fat hate that exists, and how intense it has become.  People sometimes ask if really I think that we can change anything. I also get lots of e-mails and comments from people asking what we can do to help create that change.  Today I want to talk about both questions:

I do believe we can change things, because I’ve seen it happen.  If you read this blog you know I rarely compare oppressed communities because I prefer to avoid playing the Oppression Olympics.  I’m not trying to say that the Queer community and the Size Acceptance community are the same, but hear me out on this one:

In the summer of 1969 GLBT people had a mountain of prejudice in front of them. They were kicked out of public places in sweeps made by the police. Homosexuality was listed in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical manual as a sociopathic personality disturbance. Lists of “known homosexuals” and their friends were kept by the FBI.  Those who went to gay bars risked arrest and those who were arrested had their identities published in the newspaper.  The Post Office tracked addresses to which queer-themed publications were sent.  GLBT people were publicly humiliated, physically harassed, fired, jailed, or institutionalized.  Until June 28th of 1969, GLBT civil rights groups had been using a non-confrontational educational approach.

Then, on June 28th, 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a group of the most disenfranchised members of the GLBT community decided that they had had enough.  They picked up beer bottles and bricks and spiked heel shoes and rioted. For the first time in history, GLBT people fought back.

Forty three years later Will and Grace was a hit. We have openly gay politicians, actors, singers, comedians. People from Jay Zee to the actor who plays Captain America have come out in favor of gay marriage.  As a member of the queer community I understand that we’re not there yet, but the Queer community has made tremendous strides in a relatively short time.

They didn’t give up using education and non-confrontational approaches, but they stopped pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t, or that it was ok for people to “compassionately” put them into mental institutions.  They stood up, they fought back. That’s how we make change. Nobody is required to be an activist, but if you want to work for change the good news is that there are lots of ways to fight, and it doesn’t have to be complicated:

The first thing we can do is just live.  By doing what we want to do (shop, go to the gym, eat, take a pottery class whatever) in our fat bodies we help to normalize the fact that bodies come in a variety of sizes for a variety of reasons.

Be vocal about loving your body.  Be vocal about choosing Health at Every Size.  I think that talking about my SA and HAES is important and I don’t feel bad about it because I have to hear about weight-loss and diet constantly. We deserve a voice and at least equal airtime.  They may not give it to us, but we can take it for ourselves.  For tips on talking about these things check here, here, and here!

Speak out against weight bullying, body shaming and stigma whenever you hear or see them. If your employer sends out a weight loss e-mail, send an e-mail asking them to provide evidence, or telling them how it affects you negatively.  When you see fat hate on the internet leave a reply – even if it seems like you are the only one or that you’ll never change the mind of the poster or other commenters, you’re not necessarily posting for them.  You’re posting to put another tangible piece of HAES/SA into the world and for the person like you who is reading the comments and will now have another point of view.  (Then you can post it to the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook and we’ll ninja fat bomb it with positive comments!) If you hear a fat shaming comment speak up, if you’re feeling non-confrontational you might try something like “I wish we lived in a world where people saw the beauty in bodies of every size” or something similar.

Be a big fat role model for whatever you love to do – it gives other fat people the idea that they can be a big fat role model.  Tell anyone who says you’re “promoting obesity” to fuck right the hell off.

But it starts with just you, by yourself somewhere, deciding that you have had enough, that’s it’s time to pick up a rock and throw it – not because you’re sure it will change the world, but because you’ve had enough and it’s time to  fight back and that if they want a war, you will give them one. As for me, I refuse to become collateral damage in the war on obesity – I will be a Size Acceptance warrior and together we will change the world.

There’s still time to Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   A book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My 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, you can  become a member (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with 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 May 25, 2012 at 6:02 am  Comments (13)  

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I actually just got into a semi-heated discussion about this yesterday with the group of (generally thin) guys with whom I eat lunch. It was really interesting (and deeply irritating) because the group was 3 very thin guys, one moderately-sized person who is an immigrant, and one fat man, who I will call Joe. When I mentioned that fat people are treated differently, everyone except Joe said immediately, “It’s just not true.”

    While I was talking about the way doctors respond to fat people, everyone was just shaking their head, despite the fact that we were talking about PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. Joe mentioned that he stopped going to the doctor because his doctor just sighed and said, “Joe, we’ve talked about this” every time he came into his office. My boss replied that Joe just needed to switch doctors. Joe mentioned the looks he gets in the gym, and everyone assured him they were “all in his head.”

    My boss was also determined that while diets didn’t work, “lifestyle changes” would. Where you eat healthier, workout more, and change the way you see the world. It was so incredibly frustrating.

    Afterwards, Joe made a comment to me about how it was really incredible that I would stick up for him, because no one ever does. I told him I was sticking up for me, really. I’m not that heavy, but I have spent my entire adult life feeling like I have to reduce to some ideal weight, to the point where I got excited after stomach flus. Part of giving myself permission to be what I am and accept that I am healthy involves getting in everyone’s face about it. If I can’t accept me, I will force everyone else to accept me, and maybe the message will sink in for me, too.

  2. Thank you for posting this blog. I see there is a lot we can all do in our own way. I understand how the gay community was forced into defending itself. I feel we are approaching the same thing. I cant tell you how many times I wanted to throw a shoe. I guess I feared the backlash. Im not afraid of it any more and I am at the “Im not going to take it anymore” stage. They want war, Im ready for them. I appreciate your ideas. In educating ourselves, we are able to stand up to those who declare war on us. Thanks again for the great blog.

  3. As badly as I want to put on my superhero cape and fight for fatty rights everywhere, my biggest obstacle is my own self-confidence. I have back problems and am borderline diabetic and my blood pressure isn’t always normal. I always feel like I can’t be a good example of a “healthy” fatty and therefore can’t speak up. It’s my own issue and I accept that. It’s very difficult to fight 30+ years of negative messages from people you admire, people in authority, as well as the harsh criticism from myself.

    I so admire the people that can unapologetically stand up for themselves and others. I strive to be like them and maybe one day I will.

    So from me to all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you for the work you do!

    • It doesnt matter what size or the condition of your health. You are a superhero. You have the right to be treated with respect no matter size or health. I have 60+ years of negative messages. It is a process. You can do it. Marla

    • Pange, we need people like you to fight just as hard as people like Ragen! It’s not about being a ‘healthy’ fatty. You don’t need to justify your body to ANYONE. Not your friends, not your family, not strangers, not even your doctor. It doesn’t matter if you’re in shape, if you sit on your couch eating donuts all day, whether you can run a marathon or whether you’re disease-ridden. Ignore the good-fatty bad-fatty dichotomy. Even if you fulfill EVERY stereotype of what people think a fat person is, it doesn’t matter.

      What matters is that whatever your body looks like, whatever your genetic makeup is, whatever choices you make, you deserve basic human respect. You deserve dignity. You deserve not to be bullied or shamed. You deserve to live your life in your body as you choose. Don’t forget that. It’s easy to get disenfranchised and caught up in the ‘healthy fatty’ game, but that’s not what the goal of Size Acceptance is.

      Your voice matters, please don’t forget that!!

    • Pange, you are a person.

      You deserve basic human dignity.

      Your health doesn’t negate either of those facts any more than your weight does.

      When you’re ready to throw a shoe, there will be a lot of other fierce, fabulous fatties of every possible gradient of physical and mental health who will be happy to see it thwack someone in the head, and to offer you another shoe.

      Hell, I’ll hand you one of mine right now! You’ve earned the right by being a person who is being mistreated by society at large.

      So take the steps in whatever order you can, in whatever size (baby or giant) you’re up to. If you’re not ready to believe that you have the right to raise a ruckus, please do your best to believe that everyone reading this blog believes you do.

      Your voice counts as much as anyone else’s. The more voices we have, the louder our call for justice, and the better the chance that someone will damn well hear us.

      • Thank you ladies for your awesome, kind, and uplifting words! {{{big squishy hugs}}}

        I do try to take part in the movement, even if it’s in tiny ways. And I absolutely believe that I’m worthy just as I am, disease, fat, and all. I guess it’s more that I have a hard time believing that I’m an EFFECTIVE voice because of those things. Which is strange, because I don’t think that other activists that deal with diabetes and/or high blood pressure are somehow less effective, just me.

        And I really didn’t mean that to sound as pity-party as it came out. LOL

    • I have type 2 diabetes, gout and high blood pressure. So I am everything that the fat haters say happens because of fat.

      But every single thing about my health has gotten better since I turned my attention away from the scale and to my moving, eating, sleeping.

      You are exactly the right person to put that cape on and leap buildings in a single bound. You and I can crash down all that bullshit about how weight loss is the only answer to the health problems faced by fat people. Together. With our fat fists. 🙂

  4. I’ve seen a lot of things changed in my lifetime because someone had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say change was necessary. It isn’t easy to be the one to change things, but sometimes you honestly do need to yell, to throw things, and even to have a few folks get to know the legal system up close and personal.

    Working together, we put up billboards in Georgia. Working together we can do a lot more to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

    I’m fat. Deal with it, world.

    Nobody’s putting this baby in a corner again.

  5. I want you to know, that even if you don’t change how people feel about fatties, you are changing how we view ourselves, and I consider that to be just as if not more important.

  6. I am new to this battle. Very new. I have a friend who recommended your blog and that is how I came across your awesomeness. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but in the last couple of weeks, you have really changed my perspective on my own life. I can actually look at photos of myself without becoming depressed. I’m not counting calories or choosing food based on whether its in my calorie counter’s database. My partner, who absolutely loves my curves, is so pleased that I no longer hide from the camera or get obsessive about staying under 1700 calories a day.

    Some days are easier than others, it’s true. Being confronted with a campus full of thinspiration spouting folks is not easy. Hearing everyone plan their summer wardrobes and knowing that even if I could afford new clothes, I’d be limited to a very few stores and styles is disheartening. Seeing other women look longingly at perfectly healthy food and deny themselves because they’re on diets makes me sad.

    You are so right about this process of normalizing body size and shape diversity. Of course we wish it would happen with the flick of a wand, but it won’t. I just wanted to applaud you on being a Size Acceptance Warrior, and if you still have moments where you need encouragement and validation, (heck, even the greatest Generals in history have) I assure you that with each blog, book, and article you write, person by person, you are constantly adding to an army that will one day win the respect and acceptance that all of us deserve.

    Many, many thanks.

  7. I actually had a conversation with one of my friend’s mother and brother’s girlfriend about body shaming, and accepting everyone despite the size of their body.

    We were out to lunch (with my friend and his brother) and our server who was obese (who was very nice as well and that is all I care about) had just taken out drink orders, and wasn’t even out of ear shot before the other two ladies at the table started body shaming her with “well she shouldn’t be wearing something so reveling since she is that fat!” and worse that I will not repet. I cleared my throat and said “excuse me, I do not like nor take part in body shaming like you are doing to that lady. I would like it of you would stop.” they did for about 5 minutes and now my friend and his brother are starting to get pissed off so I said I would handle it. So this time I said “ladies not only myself but the gentlemen at the table would like it if you would stop acting like children and start acting your age. I know for a fact you wouldn’t like it if someone is doing it to you, so you shouldn’t do it it her. Besides the fact that you do not know her genetic history, medical history, or diet. For all you know she is a lot stronger then you and could knock your teeth out. And in reality people come in all shapes, and sizes, so it is time to put on the big girl panties and apologize to this wonderfully nice lady whom is doing her job very well I may add.”

    In the end myself, my friend and his brother gave her $20 tips for her friendly service and my friend’s mom and his brother’s girlfriend said sorry to her.

    I have been finding if no one speaks up, then no one knows any better.

  8. Just a couple of weeks before the Stonewall riots you wrote about, in 1969, NAAFA was formed to fight fat discrimination. True, we didn’t have a police confrontation, but we eventually made the news, and the rest is history. Only problem is, you have politicians like Barney Frank who are openly gay, but most fat politicians, like the governor of NJ, feel that they are temporarily fat.

    Thanks for your usual great column!

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