Study Shows You Can’t Hate Fatties for Our Own Good

ShamelessI’ve received literally hundreds of e-mails and Facebook message about a new study.  The study looked at questionnaires given four years apart and found that fat people who reported that they had experienced weight-based discrimination were more  likely to be obese than those who didn’t report such discrimination. Other types of discrimination showed no effect on weight.

Some people are using this to forward the message that people shouldn’t shame fat people because it will make us fatter.  Some are saying that the self-reporting used by the study is too weak to support any conclusions – so, I guess, shame away is their message?

As my regular readers know, I’m a very outcome-based activist, and so if this study leads to some people stop shaming fat people because they don’t want us to get fatter, then I’m glad they’ve stopped shaming fat people.  Obviously those who hate fat people for fun, profit, or self-esteem will be unlikely to be swayed by this at all.

But at the end of the day, the fact that shaming us might make us fatter doesn’t matter at all. Shaming fat people is wrong.  It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  It’s not wrong because it will make us fatter, it would not be right if it made us thinner.  it’s wrong because it’s wrong.  WRONG!.

There is no outcome that justifies shaming fat people.  Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies regardless of how we got fat, what being fat means, or if we could be thin through some means – however easy or difficult. There are no other valid opinions on this – we have the right to exist without shaming, bullying or stigmatization, period.

If I am being fat shamed then – well intentioned or not – someone is fucking up and I let them know  – well intentioned or not – that they need to stop right the hell now, not because it might make me fatter but because they’re not meeting the level of respect that I require.  You must be this respectful to ride this ride.

How about you don’t worry about whether your shaming us will make us fatter – stop shaming fat people because our bodies aren’t your business. Stop shaming fat people because it’s a shitty thing to do.  How about you take a second from wondering if your fat shaming will affect us – and think about how if affects you.  Is that who you want to be in the world – someone who tries to make someone else hate the body that they live in all the time?  Someone who tries to defend the practice of shaming people “for their own good?”  Someone who puts other people down to make themselves feel better?  Are you proud of yourself?   If not, then stop doing it.  If so, then maybe it’s better if you’re just not around people – at any rate, I’m going to need you to stay away from me.

As fat people we are not obligated to buy into the idea that we owe the world something – weight loss attempts, exercise, wearing dark clothes, lemon juice as salad dressing, hiding our bodies, dating only other fat people etc. – in order to deserve basic human respect.  It’s just not true – that belief is rooted entirely in bigotry and nothing else.  If people are shaming us I think the most important thing is to remember that there is nothing wrong with us and something very wrong with those people.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

My Big Fat Marathon

Picture by Substantia Jones for Adipositivity.com

I have been going back and forth deciding if I should even post about this here but I’ve figured it was worth talking about at least once, I’ll be back to my normal blog topics tomorrow!

I mentioned on the blog that I had a freak accident that resulted in a very serious neck injury – I lost the use of my right arm for over two months and am still not back to where I was with strength and flexibility.  The neck is better but while it was healing I had almost three months of seriously restricted movement and I felt like I needed a goal – and preferably something at which I have no natural talent.

Then one day I got bored and restless which lead to me Googling terms like 300 pound marathon.  What I found were a bunch of blogs where people had done marathons to lose weight and were devastated to have accomplished neither, and then a blog from a doctor who said that you should never attempt a marathon unless you are within 20% of your “ideal weight”  Thirty minutes later I was committed to the Seattle Marathon, 31 minutes later my best friend, Kel, responded to me e-mail with “I’m in”  and we were off to the races.

The question that people ask most is “You seriously want to do a marathon?!” My answer is that no, I really in no way want to do a marathon, but I want to be someone who has done a marathon and I’m not willing to buy a medal in a thrift store and lie my ass off, so let’s get to training for this bad boy. I’ve given up most of my plyometrics, HIIT, and normal workout routine for a program designed to allow me to walk a marathon in 20 weeks.  I decided to walk it because my first commitment is to More Cabaret and so it is more important to do everything I can to avoid injury than to run a marathon – so I decided to walk.  I’ve posted some things on Facebook and I’m already getting some questions and some crap so I thought I would use this opportunity to clear some things up:

What I am doing:

Attempting to walk 26.2 miles, cross a finish line, receive a medal and a shirt that doesn’t fit, and be able to say that I completed a marathon.  This is really pretty simple.

What I’m not doing:

Trying to prove something to my haters –  there is no point to this, these people are aggressively poor at reading comprehension, and have shown repeatedly that no matter what I write they’ll just make up whatever they want. I would not cross the street for my haters, I definitely wouldn’t walk 26.2 miles for them.

Trying to show that if I can do it, anybody can!  This is never true.  First of all, we don’t yet have proof that I can do it, and when I cross the finish line we will have proof that I can do it once under specific circumstances.  I’m not trying to inspire anyone to do a marathon, or suggesting that I should be an example of anything – I bitch constantly about the training to anyone who will listen, and I once postponed a 6 mile training walk for two days because my ipod stopped working and I was completely unwilling to go that far without music.  (So what I’m saying here is that you may want to pick a different role model.)

Trying to challenge stereotypes.  I am not responsible for people’s stereotypes, bigotry or if they choose to question them in the face of evidence to the contrary.  This is about crossing the finish line, getting the medal and ill-fitting t-shirt and that’s all, if someone chooses to dismantle some of their bigotry along the way it’s a bonus.

Trying to be a good fatty.  The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy is bullshit, we must stop perpetuating it.  I like doing athletic stuff so that’s what I do – I get to do it and I get to talk about it, but it certainly doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else.  If I liked to crochet or write fiction (instead of being abhorrently bad at them, as I am in reality) I’d do that and write about it and it would be no more or less deserving of praise than finishing a marathon.

Telling everyone so that they can hold me accountable.  I keep seeing this as a recommendation “tell everyone you know that you are running a marathon, tell them to ask you if you are making your training goals.” Maybe it works great for some people but it sounds like a great way to make me want to punch my friends in the face.   I’m fine, I’m not looking for anyone to “hold me accountable.”

A final note – a number of people have suggested that choosing 20 weeks of hell followed by a single day of consolidated hell just to get a medal and too-small shirt is not in keeping with my message that those who are interested in movement should consider doing things that they love.  I want to be super extra crystal transparently clear that NOBODY is ever obligated to do any exercise, and certainly not exercise that they hate, and certainly not this much exercise.  This goes way beyond what I need to do to be healthy – it’s about accomplishing something that I used to think was impossible for me:  finish line, medal, shirt, bragging rights, the end. Wish me luck!

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

A Long Line of Losers

galileoI got an e-mail from a blog reader today who was really upset at how often she sees rude, mean, and even abusive behavior used against someone who is arguing for fat acceptance or Health at Every Size.

I certainly get tired of people who’ve, somewhat inexplicably, chosen to spend their time online trying to make sure that no fat person stops hating themselves for even a moment. How did this become their lives?  Did these people wake up one day and say “Oh my god, my Spidey sense is tingling, it must mean fat people are considering not putting up with my bullshit – I must take to the comments section and abuse them before they get all uppity and think they deserve to be treated with basic human respect!”  I’m tired of people who call me profanity laced strings of names and made up animals “Kill yourself you fucking stupid lazy cunt landwhale!”  In the words of DancesWithFat celebrity commenter Yorkie “Hello”? Who the f*ck raised them to speak like that, Andrew Dice Clay?”

I get tired of people who answer my citing of research by calling me names, who substitute ALL CAPS for reasoned logical thought, who act like “everybody knows’ is the same as “scientifically proven”, and who are trying to build themselves up by stepping on me.  I get tired of the people who will argue to the death against the idea that fat people have a right to exist in a fat body, be treated with basic human respect, or make our own choices about our health and well being.  The concern trolls, the regular trolls, the haters, etc.

It helps me to remember that these people are just the latest in a long line of losers.  For example when someone argues vehemently for the idea that you can tell someone’s health by their body size, I remind myself that people used to argue just as vehemently for the idea that the size and shape of someone’s skull could predict personality and character.  We laugh at phrenology now but it sure as hell wasn’t funny to the people being accused being criminals because of their skull shape.

Don’t forget that at various times in history people argued just as voraciously that the sun revolves around the Earth, that heroin was a non-addictive substitute for morphine, that Lysol is a fantastic douche, and being gay was a mental illness and that gay kids shouldn’t be allowed in boy scouts.  Some people are STILL arguing for those things – there are always people who plant their roots deep and wide on the wrong side of history and push as hard as they can against progress.  But progress marches on – past them, over them, or dragging them along.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes in great leaps, but forward nonetheless.

When I get frustrated I remind myself that history is on my side, that civil rights activists are a long line of winners, and that the only thing that I see for me to do is keep pushing forward and never give up.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Super Important Project!!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

The Fat Fight is Far from Over

DefendA while ago I discussed NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance)’s discussion about changing their name to eliminate the word fat.  I recently came across an interview about this with NAAFA’s board chair in which he said something that I found to be highly problematic:

The reason the word ‘fat’ was kept in the structure of our communications was it was an attempt to reclaim the word so it wasn’t seen as a bad word. Unfortunately, that part of the media war has been lost.
I think that this is a big deal because it’s someone representing himself as a leader of our community saying in national media that his organization is giving up identifying as “fat” because the “media war is lost” for the entire movement.  I understand that NAAFA is a struggling organization looking for a new direction, I know that they’ve done a lot of great work in the past and that they can do a lot of great work in the future.  Things change and that’s ok –  when the NAAFA constitution was written it included the passage
We choose to use the word fat to describe ourselves in order to remove the negative connotations normally associated with larger-than-average body size.
I understand if they no longer feel that they can lead that fight, I don’t disagree.  But I don’t think the fact that they haven’t gotten it done yet and no longer want to keep trying means that “the media war has been lost.”  I think it’s just time for others to pick up the mantle, thank NAAFA for the great work they’ve done, and start moving it forward from here.
I think that there is actually a lot of momentum in this area.  This year alone Time, CNN, NPR, and Yahoo Shine, among others, have published articles using fat as a neutral descriptor.  A piece I wrote for the Ms. Fit magazine called “Hail the Fathletes” has received almost 18,000 hits in four days – the most in the history of the magazine. Awesome writers like Marilyn Wann, Leslie Kinzel, Nudemuse and Virgie Tovar (and plenty who I’m forgetting at 4am) write using fat as a neutral/positive descriptor.  Almost all of my work for NBC’s iVillage uses the word fat in this way and my editor never bats an eye.  Golda Poretsky was invited to do a fabulous TEDx talk called Why It’s Ok to be Fat.
NAAFA’s past work deserves part of the credit for this progress and I really appreciate them for that.  It sounds like they don’t think it’s their path anymore and that is ok.  There is plenty of work to do and there is no shame in backing down from one fight and picking another one, I’m just not ok with their leader taking to the media to say that the “war is over” because the NAAFA board doesn’t want to fight it anymore.
I think that reclaiming terms are important.  My personal use of the word fat is one of the ways that I tell the bullies of my past that they can’t have my lunch money anymore, and that I get to choose the words that describe me – so for me this is a big deal.
The media war around the word fat is far from over. In fact, I would suggest that – however slowly, however painfully –  we are winning.  I wish NAAFA’s board the best of luck with whatever name and direction they choose.  Nobody is required to self-identify as fat and it’s totally ok if organizations or individuals don’t want to take up the “fat fight” for any reason. But let’s be clear that lots of people are still fighting it, I’m one of them, and if this is important to you then I hope to see you on the battlefield!

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Super Important Project!!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

FAAAAAAAAAT! WTF?

WTFI was out for a walk tonight and two  guys were walking toward me conversing about, of all things, the weather.  I smiled and said “hey,” as is my custom, and one of the guys stepped in really close to me blocking my path, stopped, opened his mouth really wide, looked me in the eye and said

FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!

So I stepped toward him, maintained eye contact and said

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE!

Fair warning – today is a serious swearing day on this blog. If you want to skip it you are totally welcome to come back for tomorrow’s post and we’ll see how that one goes.  Otherwise, read the fuck on…

So anyway, the guy’s friend who had stepped well back, never said a word and we walked our separate ways, them picking up their conversation where it left off, me walking alone which gave me the chance to contemplate the situation. The best I could come up with was – What the fucking fuck was that about?

Was he one of those people who insist that fat people need to exercise but that we must, somehow, not look fat while we do it?

Was he just a run-of-the-mill fat bigot?

What could I have done to make it into a teachable moment?

Then I remembered something that I sometimes forget – It is not my job to make every awful fat bashing moment into a teachable moment.  That person’s behavior was just messed up and my reaction was totally reasonable.  In retrospect I wish I would have said DUUUUUUUUH! Oh well, hindsight being 20/20 and all that.

If you are fat in this fatphobic, war on obesity, body shaming, body hating, weight bullying world, there is an excellent chance that something fucked up (or many fucked up things) will happen to you.  Maybe you’ll come up with a snappy retort, maybe you’ll make it into a teachable moment, maybe you’ll stumble over your words or stand there not able to think of anything to say.  All of those are perfectly valid responses to total bullshit, and let’s be clear that these incidences – whether it’s some stranger yelling FAAAAAT! or your Aunt Gertie telling you that you don’t need that second helping of mashed potatoes – are  total, complete and utter bullshit.

It is absolutely not your fault, you do not deserve it, you should not have to experience it ever.  Make no mistake – the fact that something happens all the time, that it has become normalized in our society, does not mean that it isn’t some completely fucked up bullshit.  Seriously.

Perhaps this mantra can help, trying saying it a few times (modified in any way that works for you of course):  The world is fucked up, I am fine.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Super Important Project!!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

Elevators and Executive Orders

Healthcare reformMayor Bloomberg is at it again.  This time he issued an executive order requiring city agencies to promote the use of stairways instead of elevators because “exercise is good for you.”

It may seem completely innocuous, but I don’t think it is.  First of all, this can quickly become ableist – there are people who can’t climb the stairs and if we make stair climbing “good” and elevator riding “bad” we can end up stigmatizing people living with disabilities.  This can be magnified for those whose disabilities are invisible or not immediately apparent.  It can be extra horrible for fat people, especially those with invisible disabilities, since there is added social stigma heaped on fat people who are seen as being “lazy” in public.

Everybody has the right to choose how highly they prioritize their health and the path they take to get there.  Though there are a number of studies that show that physical activity is one of the things that people might choose to help improve the odds of health (though health is never guaranteed and not entirely within our control), there are no studies that say that the movement has to be, or even should be, stairs.

Stairs can actually be a pretty difficult way to get movement in – they can be hard on the knees, hard on the back, hard on the hips, and you can fall down them so there are plenty of people who are interested in doing movement who would be well within reason and common sense to choose some other kind of movement.

I am certain that people should have free access to true information about things that can affect their health.  I am certain that providing a wide variety of movement options that are safe (both physically and psychologically safe) is a positive thing.

After that I think it becomes, at best, a grey area and I believe that “encouraging” movement – in particular a specific kind of movement, or movement that can be observed and judged by others – can end up doing more harm than good, especially among populations who have been shamed for not doing movement, or not being good at movement, in the past. This is exactly why “take the stairs” has no business being an executive order.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Help Fat Activists tell our movement’s history and their stories in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

I’ll Have What She’s Having

ChairsFar too often the world is not built to accommodate fat people. And asking for accommodations can bring up a lot of emotions – stress, embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, guilt. I think that one massive problem is that we’ve been told that asking for accommodations is asking for some kind of favor or special treatment above and beyond what everyone else gets

So often those being asked to accommodate us, and sometimes even those asking for accommodations, feel like this is a request for something “special.”  So when someone needs an armless chair, or extra room on a plane, or clothes in a size that fits them, or whatever, there can be a thought that the person is asking for some kind of special treatment.

That’s just not true.  When a fat person asks for furniture that accommodates us or enough room to sit on a plane or plus sizes (or, as I like to call them, sizes) this is not asking for something special – it’s asking for what others already have.  If the other patients at your doctor’s office walk into the office and sit down, but you can’t because the chairs all have arms and don’t work for you, then when you ask for an armless chair you’re not asking for something special – you’re asking for what the other patients already have.

The problem isn’t that you are asking for a chair that works for you, the problem is that your doctor’s office didn’t think to order some armless chairs in the first place.  I believe that people who are designing spaces – especially spaces like public transportation and healthcare – should constantly ask themselves “How can I accommodate everyone who might want this service?”  That includes people with disabilities,people of all sizes/heights, people with cultural and language differences, people who are left handed, everyone they can possibly think of.

Let’s be clear that we aren’t saying “hey, I need this special thing” we’re saying “I’m going to do you the courtesy of asking you for something that you should have already provided but didn’t.” How about instead of saying “damn these people and their ‘special requests’ to be provided with what we’ve already given to the people it’s cheapest and easiest for us to accommodate”  people start asking “How can we become radically hospitable? Who can we better accommodate?”

As a queer woman I’ve often heard people try to recast gay civil rights activism as a request for “special rights.”  For example the argument (if you can call something this irrational and clearly bigoted an argument) goes that straight couples getting married is a regular right, but gay couples getting married is a “special right” because it’s a right that has been successfully stolen and kept from us thus far by an inappropriate use of power and privilege. As if being successful at bigotry justifies its continuation. Having a chair that I can fit into if I’m thin is a regular request, having a chair that I can fit into if I’m a fat person is a special request because the people who bought the chairs did so while pretending that fat people don’t exist, or while being so bigoted against us that they decided we shouldn’t have a place to sit down.

When a fat person says “I need a seat on the plane that I can fit into” or “I need a chair that works for me” or “I want some clothes that fit” they aren’t saying “I need something special” they’re pointing to the person beside them who can walk onto the plane and fit into a seat, sit easily in the chairs provided, and shop at more than 3 online stores, and saying “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Help Fat Activists tell our movement’s history and their stories in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details