No Justification

DefendOne of the interesting responses that I see when people discuss Health at Every Size are rants about how it’s all about justifying fatness and whatever stereotypical behavior the ranter ascribes to fat people. I want to talk about how to deal with this practically, because the more we put ourselves out there and challenge people’s prejudices, the more this is going to happen.  But before I get to the practical responses, I hope you’ll allow me a quick rant of my own.

As a pre-rant, let me remind everyone that Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are two different things, and nobody is obligated to participate in HAES – people get to choose how highly they prioritize their health and the path they take to get there and those choices are nobody else’s business.  Now, without further adieu…

How over-exaggerated must these people’s sense of self-importance be to think that we are living our lives as a way to justify ourselves to them? That is some ego run amok right there.  We aren’t seeking the approval of anyone  – we are giving them the opportunity to see that they are operating under prejudice, bigotry and stereotypes, and to make the choice to stop doing that. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, let me break it down:  We are saying “I Stand for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”.  Where you got the idea that anybody needs to justify anything to you I don’t know, but you’re dead wrong.

So what do we do about it?  There are several options that I use to handle this type of thing (if you have others it would be awesome if you would drop them in a comment below.)

Ignore it completely. Often I don’t care enough about the person making the assertion to react in any way. I typically choose this if it’s from some fat hate forum and/or if it’s sent to me privately. From my perspective these people have chosen the path away from intelligent dialog and I’m not interested in trying to be the one to bring them back.  I know that other people do choose to engage them and that’s awesome, it’s just usually not for me.

Appeal to humanity:  One of the reasons I think there is so much horrible treatment of us on the internet is the double anonymity – they don’t think of us as actual people, and they are hiding behind anonymity to behave in a way that they never would in person.  Add to that a world that encourages people to treat fat people as less than human (Biggest Loser, I’m looking at you) and you have a recipe for bullying.  Whether or not it changes the mind of the person who made the post, it can help to remind other people who read it that fat people are, in fact, people.  I sometimes leave a comment that says something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture (or the person who wrote the article or whatever)… and then respond in whatever way seems appropriate.

Education: I use this if someone has confused their opinions with facts.  I say something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture. It’s ok if we disagree but I wanted to point out that Health at Every Size is an evidence based health practice.  Some places to start are http://www.haescommunity.org/ (created by Dr. Linda Bacon, a Ph.d with three post graduate degrees), http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/55.full (an article written by five experts).  Again, I completely respect if you don’t choose HAES for yourself but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid choice for anyone else.

Gather Reinforcements:  If you see this kind of thing online another option is to let the Rolls not Trolls Facebook group know about it.  We are a group who make fat positive comments on fat negative articles and comment threads.  The goal isn’t necessarily to change the mind of the person who wrote the article or left the negative comments, but for the people who are reading through and might be affected by seeing another point of view. You are welcome to join the group or you can send the link to me and I’ll post it.

Most of all remember that it’s not you, you are amazing and beautiful and worthy of respect and love – I know that for sure.  Whatever their intentions might be, these people are living from prejudice and stereotypes and bigotry that is causing them to be misguided in their actions, but you don’t have to buy into that, and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

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Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 7:51 am  Comments (13)  

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ragen,

    These are all great observations, and great ideas on how to handle trolls. But what do you do when these attitudes are coming at you from say, a healthcare provider? Doctor, nurse, etcetera? Especially if you are in the situation where you have gone to them for medical help, you’re already in an appointment with them, and thus, already committed to paying them, and then the abuse starts? I’ve had this happen so many times, as I’m sure almost all of the people reading this list have. Any more ideas how to best handle THAT kind of attack?

  2. Thanks for this, Ragen! I often find myself facing an even more insidious attacker – myself. I tell myself that if I say anything out of line, people will tell me that I am justifying my “fat lifestyle.” (And I’ve seen it happen enough to warrant those fears.) It takes courage to speak out for ourselves, after a lifetime of hiding, and it’s SO helpful and wonderful to have an outspoken advocate like you to point out how unreasonable people are being, not to mention bullying and bigoted. Thank you for being there for me!

    • Jean, you are not alone. I battle this same demon on a regular basis. My personal method of combating it is to come up with some loving statements toward myself, or a few reasons why I’m fabulous.

      Plus, of course, I come here and get loved on.🙂

      • I got suckerpunched by my own brain this weekend: friend had taken a picture of something he was doing, but I was walking away in the background in my I Feel Fabulous dress. The pic was blurred, and my ass looked less than wonderful. *I* looked really bad. I could feel the overwhelming sadness and frustration and anger burning right up through my cheeks, and tears came to my eyes. Ruined me for a few hours…but better than ruining me for a full weeks, like it would’ve done a few months ago.

        • Oh, Yorkie!😦 To have that happen in your I Feel Fabulous dress is such an insult to your heart. I’m so sorry, but I’m also glad that it didn’t get past a short time with you. I hope you will keep wearing that dress and feeling fabulous in it, because the fabulous part is YOU, not the dress.❤ *hugs*

  3. Back in the day, Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short stories about a dinner club that solved mysteries. One member always brought a stranger to be interrogated, and somebody would always start off the grilling with: “And how do you justify your existence?” I always wanted one of the guests to turn to the smug asshats and reply: “I wasn’t aware that my existence required justification.” That’s still my answer today.

    • A man said to the Universe, “Sir, I exist!”
      “However,” replied the Universe, “that fact has not created in me
      A sense of obligation.”

      • I LOVE THIS.

        • Everyone who is alive on this Earth has a right to be here. What the universe owes us and what we owe each other has been argued for at least 5000 years and hasn’t been agreed on.

          • Well, we could ask Stephen Crane, but he’s rather dead at the moment…

  4. I love your blog.


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