I found some old CDs and among them were several by Ani Difranco that I hadn’t listened to in years. I thought about doing an entire blog of her lyrics that apply to size diversity activism but instead I decided to focus on just one for now:
Tell me who’s your bogey man
And that’s who I will be
You don’t have to like me for who I am
But we’ll see what you’re made of
By what you make of me
Fat people have been made into a bogey man of society. People attempt to group us by how we look and calculate our cost on society as a way to figure out what they can blame us for. Exercise classes full of people are told that they should work out for the sole purpose of not looking like us. The media colludes to keep positive representations of us hidden under the ridiculous guise of not “promoting obesity” and in doing so constantly reinforces to us and everyone who interacts with us that we are walking, talking stereotypes who deserve to be ridiculed, judged and treated badly because of how we look. People even try to suggest that our fat is actually contagious so that not only do people not want to look like us, they don’t want to be around us either. Absolutely everyone is being told that looking like me is the worst thing.
I am well aware that I’m the bogey man – that people dedicate many hours and even more money trying to keep from looking like me, that writers are proud to write articles about how glad they are that their kids don’t look like me. I know that regardless of who I am or what I accomplish almost everyone I meet has been heavily encouraged by the media – and even the government – to stereotype me, make assumptions about me, and judge me based on those assumptions before they ever meet me.
I think it’s important to be clear that the way people react to a fat person says nothing about the fat person, and everything about the person doing the reacting. Are they willing to accept us as the best witness to our own experiences or will they insist upon trying to replace our actual experiences with their stereotypes and fabricated ideas of what it’s like to be us? Are they able to see the pattern of fat bigotry in our society? Are they able to rise above them? Are they willing to challenge them?
Fat people can choose to educate and/or do activism around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, but if we do it’s a courtesy – we aren’t obligated to do it. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size, health, or healthy habit dependent, and they come with no obligation of activism – they are inalienable, not contingent. When a fat person chooses to do something, and that thing happens to challenge someone else’s stereotypes, preconceived notions, or bigotry, we are not asking for their approval, we are doing them a favor. We are giving them the opportunity to question their stereotypes. Their choice to stick to those stereotypes and prejudices, or to challenge them, is entirely on them.
We didn’t make ourselves the bogey man – factions of society did. This is not our fault but it does become our problem, and each of us gets to choose how to deal with that and every person’s choice is valid. If you choose to become involved in activism and education around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size it can be helpful to remember that we can control the message that we give, but we can’t control how that message is received. We can make being the bogey man about providing an opportunity for people to break out of a cycle of shaming, stigmatizing and bullying us and perhaps even become allies and activists in their own right. We can reclaim the bogey man identity – be the bogey man on our own terms – and see what people are made of by what they make of us. But it’s always our choice.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
The Dance Class DVDs: Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint: Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)! Click here for the details
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so 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 To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat 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.
Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year. If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.