I’m Not Asking for Fat Civil Rights

Nothing to proveI was thinking about how the fight for same-sex marriage rights is being characterized as asking for civil rights, when I got this e-mail:

If you spent less time asking for fat civil rights and more time dieting and exercising you wouldn’t need to ask for fat civil rights.

Ok, let’s do this.  First of all I spent over 10 years of my life focusing on dieting and exercise above all else so I’m pretty clear on what that looks like and why I don’t do it anymore. But really I think that I know everything I need to know about the person who wrote the e-mail based on their assumption that if I didn’t need fat civil rights I would be fine to wallow around in my rights, not caring that others don’t have them. Gross.

Still, there is a bigger inaccuracy here, and that is the idea that I am asking for fat civil rights.  That is a gross mischaracterization of the situation. Civil rights are not others to confer, they should never be subject to a show of hands vote.  It is particularly problematic and inappropriate to suggest that the “right” way to get civil rights is to ask others for them.

The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable. For me, this includes the right to exist in my fat body without being an unwilling combatant in a war waged against me by the government because of how I look.  It means not hearing the repeated suggestion that the eradication of me and everyone who looks like me is a worthy goal to which I should agree and submit, whether or not I want to be eradicated.

I think that people get confused because often those who work for civil rights use the strategy of politely asking people to stop oppressing us.  It’s a technique that I use often, it’s effective, and I don’t apologize for it.  But please don’t be misled.

Whether it’s the right to exist in a fat body, the right to marry, or another civil rights issue, from my perspective we are never actually asking that people confer civil rights upon us.  Rather, we are demanding that people stop keeping  our rights from us through an inappropriate use of power and privilege.  If we ask nicely it’s a courtesy, because this is not really a request.

Speaking of requests, by request the Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance FAQs are now a permanent page on the site.  Check it out and feel free to ask your own questions in the comments:  https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/faqs/

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Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 10:42 am  Comments (17)  

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like to think of it the other way around. Now that I have stopped wasting a significant proportion of my entire existence doing things that are ineffective and harmful to my health, I actually have the time to take care of myself, plus a bit extra to spend to make sure that another generation of women does not waste their existence on the wrong end of fat hatred and oppression.

    • I am so working on that “take care of myself” thing. It’s harder than I thought because I didn’t know for a long time that I wasn’t doing that. But now I know.

  2. True enough, that works. I spent enormous amounts of time starving myself, calculating out calories and eating nothing but fruit and low fat popcorn. I spent hours surfing for “thinspiration” and hunting for tips on how to avoid eating. Hours went by at the gym every day while I exercised until I hurt myself. And you know what? I never had to ask anyone for civil rights. I did get lack of respect from the men that hit on me, and I had zero respect for myself, but you can’t win ’em all. Ragen, why can’t you just be as miserable as I was? Sheesh.

  3. Woo! great post!

  4. Thank you for being able to put my thoughts into words so pithily. You are just right and so well-thought. Thank you, Ragen, for showing us all that there is another way. *hugs*

  5. I think about claiming my rights for myself and no longer denying that I am deserving of said rights.

  6. Wow, what a breathtakingly stupid letter. Why a fat person who’s exercising or dieting (they won’t necessarily lose a lot of weight from these activities) wouldn’t need civil rights as much as anyone else makes no sense. Also, the writer assumes that you are as selfish as (s)he appears to be, and once you got your civil rights, who cares about anyone else? What the hell is wrong with these people?

  7. They sound like the people I’ve been contending with in a online community, and I’ve learned about. They are those who believe their opinions should always come first, and if it hurts anyone else’s feelings it’s their fault for having their feelings hurt. Known for statements such as, “You need to get thicker skin.” or accusing you of being passive-aggressive by challenging what they perceive to be their right, to be ignorant and hurtful. They feel their right to free speech matters more than people’s feelings, period.

    I’m learning right now that there is no talking to those who believe their opinions should always come first. If you show that you are easily upset, they will make a target of you, and then blame you for entering their conversations constructed around a target they want to hurt to feel better about themselves. They will do anything they can to oust the person who is moral out of a community so they can have their twisted idea of “fun”. They are in simple terms, toxic people.

    So, the letter writer, essentially with these people you have to pat them on the head, tell them their opinion is important, and let them go off on their way just as ignorant as they were the way they came. Since they will resist all attempts to learn about the lives of others, or how their words have an affect on others. It’s all about them, and either you sacrifice your ethics and join in with them, or let them tear you apart. They want you to reaffirm that their selfish way of living is okay, if you don’t then you will become their enemy. It’s best just to avoid such people, and focus on those who want to help. Those who aren’t kindness shamers.

    • There’s a one-word description for the kind of people you’re talking about here. They’re trolls.

      • Actually a troll is someone who take a position or makes a statement solely to generate controversy. In this case the person actually believes their right to be a dick is greater than your right to be left alone/have opinions/live your life the way you want.

        A troll is a pain in the ass but might actually be a decentish person underneath (well buried in most cases) and they generally don’t believe the crap they are spouting, eg. a troll might actually agree with HAES and size acceptance but will argue to stir things up.

  8. You know what, violetyoshi? Sometimes, I actually enjoy a little verbal sparring with these people. I love to make fun of them and show them up for the utter fools they are. I realize this is not everyone’s style, but if more people responded this way, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry so much about sanity points and such things.
    As for becoming their enemy, aren’t I already their enemy, simply by being a fat acceptor?

    • Oh, there’s no shortage of responses to these people. The problem is that the responses have no effect on them, because they just don’t listen to reason. They’ve already made up their minds and nothing is going to change them. I’ve found that responses to trolls tend to lead to a never-ending stream of arguments and counter-arguments laced with insults, and more trolls join in with more insults, and sometimes it gets so out of hand that the moderator has to step in and close the comments completely. It’s the most pointless thing on earth.

      So if arguing with trolls makes you feel better, good for you, but I’ve discovered that it just makes me feel worse. If that makes me a weakling, then I guess I’m a weakling.

      • I don’t think it means you’re a weakling, it means you have better control of your anger than most people do.

      • Of course they don’t listen to reason. If you actually expect to convince them of something, forget it. That is not the point. Flaming them doesn’t help, and neither does arguing with them. The point is to make fun of them, leaving them angry and confused, and you having a good laugh. Check out Ragen’s troll hate page for some good examples. Benefits? You develop a thicker skin, and use your creativity to come up with a few zingers that you can use in real life. You either cause them pain by making them come up with an original reply, or shut them up for a while.

  9. I’m not sure if this is an appropriate post to make this comment on, and it’s not really a question (although there might end up being some questions mixed in there)…

    I haven’t really participated much in the diet culture in my life, mostly because I am selectively lazy in the best ways possible. Dieting didn’t make me feel stronger, freer or healthier. So I just didn’t care about my weight. I have never actually owned my own scale. I am not actually a lazy person, I just notice what isn’t working for me on a ‘does this feed my soul’ kinda level.

    I ride a bicycle to work because I love riding, it’s good exercise, I save buttloads of money no owning a car and it takes almost the SAME amount of time (and I always get the best parking). I wouldn’t say I am in GREAT shape but I really wanna get into this HAES stuff.

    Some how I managed to avoid the diet weight cycling bullshit, while my mother on the other hand thinks she can stop weight cycling by punishing her body into being thin. It makes me really sad, especially right now, because there is a pretty awesome sounding man that she is into right now that likes her exactly the way she is. And she said, and I roughly quote ‘when one person is not the same shape as the other it shows the two people are incompatible’. Um. WHAT?!?! That doesn’t even make sense! and I ragequit the conversation. i am not a terribly good ally when it comes to the polite bit. I mean, it’s not like I am defending myself here. I am of a pretty socially accepted body size, although according to the BMI I am morbidly obese (I lift weights for fun fyi). I just wanted to chalk this up to another negative side affect to thin people. Fucking up a perfectly good relationship because you don’t look like a carbon copy of the person you want to date.

    Anyway, she has had major health problems most of her life. Just goes to show you, you can’t hate yourself healthy any more than you can hate yourself thin.

    BTW I love your blog, and when I get my check deposited I am going to buy your book and donate. Payin it forward! Thank you for the work you do, I could not do it myself if I wanted to!

    • just realized the words “Great” and “SHape shouldn’t be together like that… What I mean is I am not terribly healthy in my eating habits, nothing to do with my shape. >.<

  10. How stupid. This makes me sad for so many reasons. I am quite aware that there are people who are so full of hate towards fat people that they truly believe they know what’s best and that if you only did a b and c you would be acceptable aka thin.


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