Not All Thin People Are Like That

SupportLet’s start with something that happened on my Facebook page today, and then we’ll talk about it. I posted my blog from yesterday including the phrase “One of the most frustrating things to me as a fat person is that we are constantly told that we are not the best witnesses to our experience and that thin people -who are all experts on weight and better than us by virtue of their thinness – should be allowed to speak for us.”

Kayla posted:

Not all thin people are like that. This person who stole the photo probably has quite the ego and needs to learn some compassion and acceptance. I am thin and I think everyone is beautiful no matter what their size is. Society keeps forgetting that being happy is the most important thing in the world, and if you are happy with your body, fucking rock it sista. I’ll be cheering you on.

Courtney responded:

You know what I hear when someone insists on going “not all ___ are like that!” ? I hear “but but I need to be validated that I’m a good person! Stop insulting people I identify with and validate me!”

This is not about you, thin people who are not like that. Keep up the good work – do you want a freaking cookie for treating us like human beings?

Before Kayla could reply, 10 more posts went up educating her about how the posts’ authors found her comment inappropriate/derailing/privileged etc. and comparing her comment to unintentional racism and misogyny.  (Several posts did go up suggesting that people were being too hard on Kayla.)

Kayla apologized:

I apologize that my support has caused a stir and I’ll remove myself from the conversation. I didn’t mean to cause such a problem.

Two more educational posts went up.

I want to talk about this but before we get into it I want to be clear that I am not in the business of telling oppressed people how to respond to oppression, and I’m not suggesting that the way I do it is better or worse than anyone else,  everyone who commented had every right to their comments and the beliefs and reactions that fueled them.

I see the situation differently.  My original phrase, though meant to point out that our society elevates the voices of thin people and silences those of fat people, wasn’t clearly stated and could easily have been read as a sweeping generalization of thin people, which is even more problematic since stereotyping is what I was railing against.

I see Kayla’s post as saying “You seem to have a belief about all thin people.  There are thin people who aren’t like that, there are thin people who support you, here is an example of that, I stand with you.”

Still, even if she did a poor job of being an ally based on the theories of oppression (and I don’t necessarily agree that she did), I choose to contextualize that within the reality that she tried while there are people who are epically not trying, on a global scale.  There are people who are stealing our photos, slapping stereotypes on them and using them to sell diet products.  There are people e-mailing me saying “Kill yourself you useless fucking fat fuck,” so when someone says “I think everyone is beautiful no matter what their size is…I’ll be cheering you on” I personally have a difficult time mustering a lot of offense, and I want to be careful not to take my frustration out on “imperfect” allies  because they are around, and the people I’m really angry with aren’t.

I am a very outcome-based activist so even if I am well within my rights to call someone out on the imperfection of their attempt to be an ally, my question is always “will that get me closer to my goals?”  The diversity work that I was trained on taught me that “calling people out” is likely to cause them to become defensive, more sure of the beliefs I am trying to challenge, and less likely to come to the work.  That has been my experience (though that doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s experience, or anyone else’s experience.)

Just to restate – my way is not the right way, not the only way, and not better or worse than any other way, my goals are mine and don’t have to be anyone else’s. After a lot of thought here is what I believe for me and my work at this point in my life:

I choose to believe that if someone isn’t completely against me, maybe they could be with me.  In a world where I get death threats for suggesting that fat people are human and should be treated as such, I choose to look for any glimmer of an ally and treat it like a precious spark which, if nurtured, could turn into a huge flame.  So if a thin person says “I know how you feel because sometimes I feel fat” I consider that an invitation to activism, so I’m likely to say “yes, see how this oppression that I’m fighting hurts us all? Here’s how you can help!”  There’s plenty of time to explain the difference between feeling fat and being fat, I don’t need to jump on their first overture as an ally to tell them how they’re doing it wrong and insist that they acknowledge their privilege.

I 100% agree that members of an oppressed group have absolutely no obligation to educate their oppressors ever.  I’m personally not super excited about groups of would-be allies trying to figure out how best to support me without my voice at the table, so let me be clear that I’m offering to help.  I can only give you my opinion which, obviously, is only one of many, but I’m here – ask me anything.

I think it would be fabulous if everyone understood thin privilege, how feeling fat and being fat are different, how the suggestion that fat people need thin people’s validation is problematic etc.,  but those concepts can be really dense and can take time to understand, so if someone can get to “everyone of every size should be treated with respect, free to enjoy their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and what can I do to help?” then I think we’re at a pretty good starting place and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt (and possibly a cookie because they had to overcome a lot of societal shit and programming to get to the point and it may well be cookie-worthy) and gentle education in due time as we work toward larger goals.

In the end maybe Kayla will really appreciate all of the education that she received today and become an even stronger fat activist. Maybe she will feel attacked and be put off of fat activism all together.  There’s no way to know what will happen until it’s over and we can’t be responsible for other people’s reactions, so all any of us can do is respond to our oppression and our would-be allies in the way that makes the most sense and feels the most authentic to us.

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Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 10:48 am  Comments (54)  

54 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    Ugh. I get so tired of people from privileged classes derailing points made by people from oppressed classes. I’m white, thus I have white privilege. I used to do the “but I’m not like that” argument when I’d hear about the crap that people who aren’t white go through. No, I’m not like that. The group of privileged whites as a whole is, however, like that. Just as not all men believe in oppressing women, but the patriarchy certainly wants to keep women oppressed.
    As Otep Shamaya so boldly says, we must smash the control machine. This means dismantling this system of privilege that exists in our society. White privilege, thin privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, it all needs to go. This does not mean becoming “color blind” or what have you and turning us all into borgs. It means acknowledging that there is no one group that is superior to any other.
    If you are a member of a privileged group and it stings when someone points out the ways in which that group is privileged, no-one is talking about you as an individual. Calm down and do what you can to dismantle said privilege. It will be a lot more effective in the long run than getting in a tiff and hating on every member of group X because someone from group X said that group Y had privilege.

    • VERY well said!!

    • I completely agree. Being called out on our privilege hurts our ego but if we really want to work towards greater equality, it needs to be done so we can take the next step forward. And whether people intend to oppress or not, too many people ARE silent on so many issues, and so we do end up oppressing others as a result.

      • Very well said, Cie. We need as individuals not to feel attacked when someone talks about the privilege of a group to which we belong, and we need to not attack people as individuals who are struggling to be aware and empathetic. I see a huge difference between people trying to be sympathetic and sometimes ending up being awkward, and people who have no desire to understand others’ experiences.

    • I’m curious, though. You say “If you are a member of a privileged group and it stings when someone points out the ways in which that group is privileged, no-one is talking about you as an individual. Calm down and do what you can to dismantle said privilege.”

      What if we substitute “stigmatized” for “privilege”? I’ve had people tell me that when they make fat jokes, they’re not making fun of me, and I shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. So I shouldn’t get upset that people make jokes about people who look like me?

      I guess I’m not sure why we’re down on thin or privileged people who want to stand up with us. I figure, the more people we have with us, the better.

      • Very good point. Attacking members of a privileged group under the guise of “educating” them isn’t right, no matter how articulately it’s done. In the past week, I’ve seen more than one conversation about racism get derailed by literate wolves eager to savage would-be allies who didn’t post Just Right. The same thing happens during discussions about size prejudice. Effectively teaching people about their privileges is a stand-alone conversation, not something that needs to be done off the cuff when someone has perhaps posted with too little coffee or sleep.

        One of my professors gets the chance to teach diversity to businesses and government officials, and he treats confrontation of privileges as a lesson in and of itself. When someone makes a statement or asks a question that shows privilege in the course of other discussions, he asks that person to flip the script on what they just said, and then asks them why they felt that it was appropriate to say “__________.” They answer, and the lesson goes on. No rant attaches. It makes them think, and no one feels like they’re not wanted.

  2. Of course I’m privileged, i don’t deny that. But if someone speaks about my social group (thin people) as an entity with specific intents, thoughts etc then i don’t see the problem in providing a “view from within”. There’s something very problematic with arguing against an analysis via personal anecdotes but if all you have is your personal story then, no matter whether you belong to the privileged or the oppressed party, your story is just as valid as mine. Yes, there’s a systemic problem when the privileged story is the only one that’s “allowed” but that’s a whole other issue. As long as it’s personal vs personal it can either foster understanding or hatred but there is no “right”. Everyone’s perception is flawed. I know that I’m not fat, i never was and i would never assume that i know how this feels. But i can read up on the discrimination that comes with it. I can try to understand. I have a brain. Not because i want a cookie (how insulting is that?) but because although of the stereotyping that i do all the time (i know that most of what i do is done in auto-mode and I am educated enough to be aware that subconscious auto-mode is most likely prejudiced as fuck) but because i have a genuine wish to be kind.

    But yes, i can see why Kayla got so much backlash. She turned a general statement into an attack on her as a person and thereby (involuntarily i assume) missed the point completely. But that could have been handled differently.

    • Even then, Kayla’s intent was not to be rude or mean. She was not speaking harsh words or saying anything which was deliberately hurtful to anybody. She just got a little defensive – which, I might add – all of us do, sometimes. And yes, it could definitely have been handled better – the cookie thing was incredibly insulting.

      I can understand about wanting to defend yourself if people are making generalizations about a group that you fall into. While that wasn’t intended to be the case here, it does happen a lot, and I can see why someone would be defensive. I really think it was just one of many misunderstandings on the internet, though I still feel the cookie comment was unwarranted and rude.

    • I read that whole exchange, and didn’t see where Kayla turned a general statement into an attack on her.

      Frankly, I think she would be well justified in just checking out of the entire issue and conversation entirely. This would be a shame.

      I have seen time and time again, from many perspectives, how we humans who are in different groups end up “ganging up” on allies because we don’t think they are doing it right. Men who try to “get” feminism — for example. Kayla in the exchange cited.

      For some, the rebukes she received count as “education”. I simply do not see it that way. If someone “educated” me that way, I would simply choose no longer to be an ally of whatever it is I’m being educated about – they obviously don’t need my allegiance nor my outstretched hand. As a fat woman, I did not feel insulted or devalued in any way by what she said. I felt that she was attempting to reach out and explain (in not the most academically perfect way), that she supported us. What I heard was “please don’t generalize” being answered with “STFU”. Is this REALLY what we mean to say? Is this educational? Is this an appropriate response policy in every case?

      I think the whole thing was just a shame. There was an opportunity to welcome someone and not just “school” them. The opportunity is gone and will likely not return.

  3. This reminds me of the heated discussions that came up during the second wave feminism of the 90s when I was at uni. Men who showed support were often scorned for their clunky and usually patronising attempts to show solidarity. It wasn’t up to us as feminists to roll out the red carpet for men who wanted a slice of the new exciting political action, and it was deeply frustrating and offensive that they expected it, but as one of them once said to me: I have no place to stand. I am either an oppressor or an idiot.

    Some of the most astounding social changes have happened because men did come on board and change their own attitudes, even if the same men still let fly with something offensive now and then. They never became perfect feminists and they probably never will, not for generations, but I am amazed when I see how their willingness to embrace a new idea helped benefit everybody, including themselves.

  4. Thank you for this well thought-out response, Ragen. We all need to “be careful not to take my frustration out on “imperfect” allies because they are around, and the people I’m really angry with aren’t.”

  5. Damn son
    Please never ever ever stop!! I know that this isn’t a thoughtful reply to the above discussion but I just need to tell you (yet again!!) that what you do is just so so far above and beyond what I could ever ask from a blogger. if you are ever in Perth, Western Australia, there is always room for you at my gaf! Love and sushi trains – Chelle

  6. I think there is something arrogant in assuming an ally has to be a perfect ally. Most people have a hard enough time being empathetic towards the challenges that someone in a different demographic faces. Rather than berating a well-meaning person who is supporting me, I prefer to accept their words in the spirit they are offered. Of such humble beginnings, lines of communication are opened, as are minds.

    • I agree with this. Thanks for stating what I was thinking.

  7. I get pretty sick of being grateful for crumbs of acceptance from people. I think it is more a matter of being optimistic/pessimistic than anything else. This post is really good because it reminds us all that being practical is an important consideration too.

  8. I agree with you, Ragen. I didn’t see the original interchange, but it sounds to me like Kayla was expressing support for fat acceptance, which is difficult for anyone to do in our current society. We (as fat activists) run the risk of losing allies in the struggle for equality and respect if we don’t respect others’ reasoned, politely expressed viewpoints.

    • I agree.

  9. Just to clarify, I am so far out of the normal demographic it isn’t even funny. I am a fat, Pagan, bisexual, single mother, ex-foster child, daughter of a transgendered individual, feminist… the list goes on. About the only way I am not a minority is my skin color. if I wanted to walk around offended because someone wasn’t digging my personal experience, I could have a lot of opportunity. Do I sometimes feel oppressed? Hell yes! However, there is a lot of kindness in the world, even if it isn’t being offered in quite the way I want it to be. It takes effort to see it sometimes. I choose not to alienate the few people who may not truly understand my experience but are making an effort, because there are a whole lot more that don’t give a shit.

    • You and I should be friends. Fat, bi, religiously confused with pagan leanings and catholic upbringing, grew up in and out of foster care, my stepmom is transgendered, feminist, disabled, and so much more. :-/ You’re not alone. And with all of these… the two things that have caused me the most trouble are the 1) fat 2) coming out of foster care without the support young adults get from family and perhaps closely a 3) disability.

      • Oh my goodness! You and I have do have a lot in common. I am also disabled, and it is probably my biggest challenge. Fat non-acceptance doesn’t bother me nearly as much as some of the other challenges I face. However, I also became fat later in life because of the disability, so I didn’t grow up with that stigma. I understand why that would be especially devastating. Instead, I was busy dealing with all the other stuff, which was enough. Probably the only time it really bothered me was when I got into belly dancing. I didn’t let it stop me though!

        I was lucky to end up with a foster mom who is amazing. She and I are still very close. Her bio son never had children, so my sons are her only grandsons and they love each other very much. I am extraordinarily blessed in that regard, and she totally makes up for the 16 years of craziness I went through before I went to live with her. She was extraordinarily supportive even after I aged out, and in fact she still is.

        I agree with you about foster care. I look at my own sons, 23 and 21, and they are just getting ready to leave home. The maturing process doesn’t magically happen at 18. For foster children this is especially hard because they often don’t have basic life skills that most kids in growing up stable homes automatically learn. Yet as soon as they are old enough, they are tossed out of the system to fend for themselves.

  10. I have been thinking about this a lot because I have encountered a lot of people who I believe fall into the “just don’t know any better” middle road. They don’t hate fat; they have been told by the media that fat is bad and they have not been given any reason to think otherwise or any contradicting opinion. Fat haters will keep hating. It is a waste of time and resources to try and get them to see the light. The best people to encourage towards our cause are those people who have a general idea of equality and social justice, but haven’t considered that fat hate or fat discrimination is a “thing.” People who are drawn towards Self Acceptance but don’t realize that there is a sub-group of Fat Acceptance or that self-acceptance by definition would usually also incorporate fat acceptance. People who have been unfortunately (and through no fault or action of their own) sheltered by thin privilege. People who don’t think about whether a chair can take their weight or whether they can fit in it if it has arms. People who have never had to deal with whether or not a business can accommodate them.
    People who heard the jeers of their classmates on the playground towards a fat peer and felt vaguely uncomfortable but didn’t know what to say or do.
    These are not the people we should be reproaching. We want them at our table. Yes, they do not ‘get’ it – and they won’t unless we explain it to them! If I believe in a cause I accept the responsibility of educating people about my cause – I do not agree that it is the job of the ignorant to enlighten themselves; and snapping at them to do it themselves and check their privilege is needlessly hostile and rude. We are so used to fighting trolls that we seem to be unable to distinguish friend from foe. Yes concern trolls are devious and can masquerade as ignorant allies, but they don’t have the patience to maintain the illusion of empathy and curiosity for long. We do ourselves a disservice by a) assuming every question or comment from a non-fat person is trolling and b) refusing to see the situation from the askers perspective while simultaneously berating them for either daring to presume to understand us or conversely for making no effort to put themselves in out shoes!
    Showing patience and understanding does not make us weak. Taking time to educate does not invalidate our arguments. Our long battle against trolls and fat haters has left us wounded and trigger-prone – like battle-weary soldiers we twitch at every shadow and see every word as an attack. We have fought ignorance and prejudice for so long that we seem to see it everywhere, and have taken to battling it with a “scorched earth” approach.
    I believe support for FA from non-fat people is important because it counters the argument that “well you *would* say that because you’re fat.” No, not just fat people believe in fat acceptance – anyone who believes in equality and social justice and is against discrimination should understand the need for fat acceptance. And yet there are fat-hating feminists, fat-hating gays, etc.
    IMVHO, we do not have to cater to thinner FA allies or indulge their misconceptions, but nor should we alienate them with our anger or refuse them their voice for perceived ignorance when we could be educating them and helping them be better allies.
    If we are the best witnesses to our own experience, then it behooves us to share that experience with those who are open to learning about it!

    • I agree wholeheartedly – your opinion is very insightful!!

  11. I don’t expect allies to be perfect. I’m certainly not a perfect ally in the areas where I have privilege. I get what you are saying about not wanting to turn away someone who is attempting to show support. I think that it is really easy to have a knee jerk reaction when someone opens with “Not all X people are like that.” This phrase is commonly the opening to a statement that is meant to silence or derail a discussion about oppression. I see this all the time on feminist blogs–a man posts “But not all men are like that!” and then goes on to rail that because all men aren’t like that, we shouldn’t be talking about the issue at all or that we should stop the discussion and rephrase to accommodate their feelings.

    I don’t think Kayla was trying to do that. I think she was trying to show support and accidentally used a highly problematic phrase.

    • I agree. Maybe she didn’t know that what usually follows the “Not all X are like that” phrase is a bunch of dismissive derailing stuff. I don’t think what she wrote was either dismissive or derailing. But that phrase! It raises the hackles.

  12. I am so appreciative of this post! Even though I am fat myself and so understand the anger that can come with living a fat hating society, I often have to unfollow fat activists who use an angry tone, because of mental health reasons. I am also in recovery from severe mental illness and my mental health comes way before the fat acceptance cause. Loud, angry dialogue is one of my top triggers, because of past trauma and I can’t be in its presence, even if it is meant to help and defend me. It really doesn’t matter if the tone is directed at me or at people who may hate me-I get a panicky feeling almost every time. I know that the “tone argument” is like an untouchable topic and this is the first time I’ve ever dared to write about it. I would never dare to tell someone that they do not have a right to be angry or to censor themselves, but I do wish that there was more awareness on how these talking in an aggressive manner can potentially trigger people who have had trauma and can drive away the very people that they are trying to defend. I often feel alienated in the fat acceptance world, because of the way I have to tightly protect my mental health and the lack of discussion there is on how to be inclusive of all the kinds of fat people there are out there. I feel like because my top concern is and always will be mental health, then there is not much room in the fat acceptance world for my input, which is a such a shame, because mental health and fatness intersect in so many ways.

    • There is room in my world for your input, because I think you bring up some important points. I really believe its better for everyone to hear a variety of different voices and opinions. How else are we going to expand our views and our world?

      That said, I don’t give as much credence to a view that is expressed rudely or dismissively. But I’m happy to have a discussion or debate with someone with whom I vehemently disagree, as long as it remains civil.

      • Agree. I have also quit following some blogs because the tone made me uncomfortable. I get anger, and it’s ok to be angry, just not for me, not all the time.

  13. The issue is that “we’re all not like that” centers the privileged persons feelings and interpretations in a discussion. The fact is her whole comment came as pretty gross. She told us all how to act towards the bully (feel compassion!) and then wanted to center herslef in the discussion.

    I don’t expect allies to be perfect, but I do expect them to respect spaces and not make them all about themselves. And at the end of the day allies acting well=allies treating me well. You can’t separate that. The whole argument of allowing clumsy allies or whatever is an argument of how much abuse we are willing to take for someone to not fully hate us. Yea, I’m not into it so much,

  14. I think this touches on something all of us who come from a place of privilege — whether it is white, thin, American, Christian, etc. — need to remember when entering conversations like this.

    A friend of mine often brings up this quote: “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk.” That is especially important for outsiders, like thin people are in our conversations. That may sound cold, calling them outsiders. But the privileged control enough of the conversations out there. Our Facebook pages and our websites like this are our space, not theirs. They need to step back, be quiet and listen, before trying to engage and remember, as Courtney said to Kayla, this is not about you.

    And, on our part, we can give them a chance. This is an opportunity to engage and educate. If they are truly allies, they will be open to conversation and will be respectful. But if all they continue to do is make the conversation all about them and reply variants on “I’M NOT LIKE THAT SO YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID,” then it is time to disengage and let them know why their behavior is disrespectful.

  15. Great replies and thoughtfulness here. Sometimes what I see is a sensitivity — rightly so, as experiences can be our teachers — to possible offenses coming from everywhere. My own personal experience is that it doesn’t serve me and my own wellbeing to assume the worst of people or for their opinions and perceptions hold me back or define me. For me, the goal is not creating a world where everyone loves and accepts me. My concern is to love and accept myself. When I do that, I start to see that some of the “problems” from others become irrelevant. Something I’m still working on. I have been overweight since adolescence and have gone through every configuration of self-loathing and self-love it seems, and at this point in my life I feel that if someone makes an ugly comment, then it reflects on them, not me. And if someone makes a well-meaning comment, but perhaps a bit naive or not seeing the whole picture, then I am glad they have started the dialogue and I can share my feelings without attacking them. The important hurdle for me is to accept myself, and then it doesn’t matter what anyone else wants to think about me. “To a worm in horseradish — the whole world is horseradish” — if I expect or believe that there is oppression and hate coming at me from everywhere — then I see it. If I expect that people do the best they can until the know better — then that gives me and them so much more to work with.

    • Actually, I agree with this whole great big bunches. I love me. If no one else can see my pure awesomeness, it’s their loss, not mine. I expect people to be kind to me, and for the most part, they are. I am sure if I wanted to look for unkindness, I could find it, but why subject myself to that level of unhappiness? It hurts me, not them.

  16. How about we all chill & try treating the people who *try* to be supportive &/or friendly as human? Or at least as we ourselves would like to be treated. After all, according to medical charts pretty much anyone over a size 2 is considered clinically fat nowadays!

  17. It sounds to me like Kayla is an ally who’s had little direct interaction with the FA community. She’s read blogs, and she’s sick of the diet industry machine, but she hasn’t had enough opportunity to really discuss the issue. IME, discussion is key when it comes to recognizing privilege and learning to control it. It’s also critical in learning to distance oneself in order to see the bigger picture.

    Would it be possible to invite her over here via private message? We don’t get the FB clusterfuck, and it would be a better forum in which to learn the ins and outs of FA culture. I agree that education is key, and this strikes me as a good chance to teach a potential great ally. She’s mannerly, willing to speak up, and just needs a nudge towards the bigger picture.

    • I think inviting her here is a great idea. Hopefully she’s not now so gun shy she would be willing to check it out.

  18. Y’know, I personally don’t think there is such as thing as a ‘Perfect Ally’. I think there is a pretty fundamental gap/difference in the privilige divide that can’t be crossed. *But* I don’t think this means we should give up on the concept of allies… just that we have to be more practical about where they can come from. I love Ragen’s point about not raving at the imperfect approaches because we can’t ‘reach’ the haters and trolls.

    Meeting in the middle has to come from both sides, and I think that’s a message that sometimes the oppressed group doesn’t want to hear. We have righteous anger and that’s fine and good and I’m not saying we shouldn’t. But at the same time if we reject all ‘inexpert’ approaches we are being as exclusionary and discriminatory as the practice we are fighting against. That doesn’t mean we have to welcome everyone with open arms but we do need to keep our own hurts and egos in check once in a while and that there are no perfect allies. We need to remember those areas where we as individuals *do* have privilige and understand what it’s like on the other side of the fence, wanting to be kind, wanting to help, wanting to be an ally.

    JMHO but I think if we nurture our hurts so strongly that we reject imperfect allies we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

  19. Honestly, I don’t see that what Kayla said was so bad. She was trying to express support and because she didn’t express it the “right” way or how others thought she should, she gets attacked. WTH? Because of the way she worded her response, it’s “all about her” and “she needs to shut up and listen.” Really?!? I can think of no faster way to make someone want to turn their backs on fat activism and fat acceptance.

    I often see commenters on this blog misspell the words lose and loser. I could reply and “educate” them about their error, but it would be a dickish thing to do. Why not focus on what they are saying, rather than how they are saying it?

    I get that people have spent a lifetime being hurt and dismissed and ignored and I’m sure that some who use phrases like ‘Not all ____ people’ do use it to try and silence others. But it’s a mighty big leap that everyone who uses such a common phrase has malice in their hearts. Can we not treat each other with kindness and give those who are offering support the benefit of the doubt?

    • So much this!

  20. I got your point (and hell yeah I agree). I got Kayla’s point and I think ppl came down a little too hard on Kayla, but I understand their point. I’m starting to feel as everyone is being policed in how they try to express a thought (nit-picked on minute points in a greater concept) to the point that we are creating greater divisions among ourselves (and I’m not just referring to the FA movement). Did the all the white kids who went into the south to work side by side with the black kids, risking their lives for votes during the civil rights movement get called on it every time they said something white-privilegey or did people just get on with working together for the common cause? Is it more important that everyone agree/know/conform on every single point, lock-step? And yet, if you read Patton Oswald’s blog post about Thieves, Hecklers and Rape Culture on his webpage (also in Slate.com)… he has great post about how he dismissed “rape culture” cause “he’s not like that” until he finally “got it.” With leaves me with the thought that no one’s really right or wrong in this and I hope Kayla’s still with us.

    • “Did the all the white kids who went into the south to work side by side with the black kids, risking their lives for votes during the civil rights movement get called on it every time they said something white-privilegey…”

      I sure hope so! And I hope they took the correction without getting defensive about it, as though they should get a pass on “white-privilegey” language because of their activism.

      • There is a difference, though, between being called on it and attacked over it. When someone points out where I’m wrong, I listen more than when someone jumps down my throat. You’re welcome to respond in whatever way you want, but you also have to evaluate how effective it is.

    • I’m from a northern US farming community. I cannot tell you how happy I am that one of my best friends (from one of the 2 black families in town) schooled me in my white priviledge.

      I can only hope to treat others who have priviledges over me half as well.

  21. Something else that bugs me about all this- Not every person of a particular demographic wants to be treated the same way. No one person should speak for everyone’s experience, or decide how someone wants to be treated or should be treated. How is an ally supposed to automatically know what the correct thing to say is? I have run into this issue myself with friends who are a different ethnicity or color from me. The only way I can try to figure out how someone wants to be treated is by asking them and by listening. But if someone were to jump down my throat, I sure am not going to make the effort twice. Fortunately, almost every time my friends have figured out that I mean well, even if I am not always graceful. I would hope I am that forgiving when the shoe is on the other foot!

    • Agreed. Agreed So much.

  22. I love your work. I mean LOVE love.

    I try to use the “so you see oppression hurts us all” when explaining why men should be feminist… lol but it applies so many places.

    You know that scene in when harry met sally were she’s faking an orgasm? that’s what I sounded like while reading this post.

    yes
    Yes!
    YEEESS!!!!

  23. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. As a person who’s a minority in other ways (Bisexual, non-Christian Woman of Color here), I actually find it a whole lot easier to work with the imperfect allies than it is to work with either someone who’s totally hostile, or as I more often experience, people who claim to be perfect allies already. At least from what I’ve learned so far, anyone claiming to be a perfect ally almost never is.

  24. So out of the entire “In Our Own Damn Words” post the one thing Kayla felt the need to comment on was to let everyone know that “not all thin people are like that”. Give me a fucking break. Cookies indeed. Although I’m thankful for the responses to her. Reponses explaining how her comment is derailing, dismissive and actually silencing because it shifts the conversation away from the actual topic—about fat peoples lived experiences, and changes it to be all about “what about the thinz”. That’s some thin-privilege that needs checking. Then instead of taking information and thanking people for taking the time to educate her, she back-peddles saying sorry I’ll just leave. She doesn’t sound any different from those endless “what about the menz” derails every time there is a conversation focusing on women’s rights or any other marginalized group. It’s always, “I believe women should have rights but…..”, “not all men are like that”, “not all white people are like that” …. All those people say they’re supportive too, they just have a non-supportive way of showing it, like changing the conversation to be all about them. With allies like these…..

  25. Thank you for addressing this and opening up this discussion, Ragen. Even when we thin folk become aware of privilege, we may not yet have enough knowledge/understanding to properly parse every thought/opinion and still fuck up until we’ve had more practice. It’s a fine line to walk when we want so much to speak out against body shaming and to support our fat friends and yet have so much more to learn by shutting up and just listening. I know I don’t take rebukes well, but have made it my life goal to learn to accept criticisms gracefully and will try to keep at it. Thank you all for understanding and for pointing out the specific problems with a message that can be fixed rather than attacking the person.

  26. I remember a few weeks back, I reached out to try to comfort a suffering mother who couldn’t make her daughter’s graduation because of chronic illness. I tried to cheer her up, I guess – my mom was in the same situation when I graduated high school, and I know it sucks; I’ve been in the shoes of the graduating daughter. But that mom had gotten past her disabilities enough to get her young lady through school, and that is tough, worthy of congrats for a job well done. I got my throat ripped out for posting that, as it’s apparently bad form to try to cheer up someone who’s chronically ill. It made me feel unwelcome here, and I took the hint and left for a few days. *Might be slightly triggering* That made me cry, which made me run to the gym to get an endorphin rush. Repeat the next stressful day or two, and the next thing I knew I was logging my calories on my new phone, gleeful when I came in under the 1200 mark with exercise putting me in the mid-triple digits. *possible trigger end*
    I started lurking back here, then occasionally posting, and got some sanity points back. No one’s come after me on this blog since.

  27. The kind of responses that Kayla got, and the initial statement, come from pain – the pain of being rejected, in this case for being fat. I’ve been fat all my life, so I know that pain well. I’m also a straight ally and am involved in a couple of LGBT rights groups, so I see the other side of the coin there, where I’m the member of the privileged class. I frequently hear sentences that say “Straight people do this” or “Straight people do that” and I know that they’re things that I don’t do, but I also know that the people saying them are doing so because some straight person has done whatever it is to them. Sometimes, I’ll gently point out that not all straight people do that, and sometimes I’ll let it go – depends on the circumstances. And I’ve caught myself saying or doing something thoughtless simply because I DIDN’T think – it’s easy to do, despite the absolute best intentions and years of experience.

    A little compassion and understanding in both directions goes a long way. Making an attempt to understand the “other” regardless of which side of the divide you stand on, helps too. And giving people the benefit of the doubt when you think they’re probably on your side is maybe the best thing.

    We all have tender places that get hurt easily. Not putting them out in the front yard where people can get to them easily is a good idea, and asking people their intentions and working with them when they’ve been a little clumsy is another.

  28. This isn’t a perfect place to ask, but as someone who (hopefully *cringe*) doesn’t pull a Kayla on a regular basis:

    I run across a lot of posting (particularly on personal FB pages) where someone makes a point like: “REAL WOMEN ” or put two pictures up beside each other and prompt discussion about how disgusting the thin model is (especially, ya know, without the airbrushing), relative to the “plus” model (often someone I recognize as being totally fucking normal or normal-thin sized, hence the quotes).

    I think I may have at least partially answered my own question by having to state it, but:
    How do I point out that: unless your point is to make me aware of how often the default for “real woman” doesn’t look anything like you, and exactly what that FEELS like? You’re only picking a new ideal, not undermining the demand that we all need to live up to one. And you are, each and every time, telling me that I’m NOT a “real” enough woman. (And if that IS your point, can you say that because I’d repost the hell outta that!)

    Maybe better: how can I respond to those posts and point out that, whichever side you see yourself on, we’re in this shit together? And do so without saying ‘oh it’s just as bad to be thin’, because no, I’m just getting the whiplash from the tail end of society’s BS about unacceptable bodies (and more specifically, women’s bodies)?

    Sorta like, hey, there ARE some things that show up as ‘female privilege’, like when society pretends that men are total morons about housework or that fathers aren’t important, but that’s not remotely misandry. If anything it’s just back-handed misogyny, and the best way men can combat that is to fight against ALL misogyny and not just the shit that doesn’t make them comfy.

  29. I guess the question is whether collective punishment gets a pass on a member of a privileged target. Those who are aware of privilege can feel subject to guilt until proven innocent. I agree, there are still many cases in which I should shut up and listen, and failure to do that has not ended well. But at some point I want to take what is imparted and give it voice in the field, if I happen to be the one in a situation with the ability to make the case with what I have absorbed. I will never be without the privilege others may assign to me. What I do with it is the question, and making ally an invisible non-identity doesn’t seem much more appetizing than doing some disembodied outsider’s take on things.


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