Little Acts, Big Fat Revolution

DefendI got an e-mail from a reader today saying “I want a world without weight stigma.  But I’m not the kind of person who will strip in my town square, or do a professional photoshoot in my underwear. Is there any place for me in fat activism?”

It’s a question I get a lot.  Many of the activism projects that get attention (including some that I’ve created) are large scale and that’s cool, and there are lots of good things that come from that.

But I believe that the majority of the acts of a successful revolution are tiny things done by a lot of individual people.  I’ve heard this called “everyday activism” or “armchair activism” or even, by those who don’t understand the importance of it “slacktivism”.  Whatever we want to call it, I think it’s important to realize that there are things people of every size can do every day to make the world a more size accepting place. Here are some ideas, I absolutely encourage you to add your ideas in the comments!

Positive Body Talk

In this culture, no matter what your size, not hating your body is absolutely an act of revolution.  There are lots of ways to do this depending on where you are on your personal journey.  Choosing not to engage in negative body talk or body snarking of any kind is a really good place to start. Choosing to say positive things about other people’s bodies and your own body. When you overhear others engaging in negative body talk, you can interject positive talk, or say something like “I wish we lived in a world where we can see beauty in every body.”

Purchasing Decisions

The diet and beauty machine that oppresses us runs on our time, energy, and money.  We can take the fuel away and shut the machine down. There are lots of ways to do that. Cancel your subscriptions and/or don’t buy beauty magazines (including those that disguise themselves as health magazines).  Stop clicking on articles about the “best and worst bikini bodies” or worst Oscar dresses, or how to hide figure “flaws”, or any article that shames people for how they look in any way.  Don’t buy things that sell using a diet/weight loss message.  Don’t buy anything that tries to sell you something by making you feel bad about yourself.  Don’t buy products whose marketing suggests that you’ll never be happy, find love, be desirable etc. unless you buy it.  Send them an e-mail and let them know why they aren’t getting your money. Do buy products that you notice use positive advertising.  Do buy from business that are specifically size inclusive.  Send them some customer feedback letting them know how much you appreciate what they do.  If your favorite product puts out a commercial or ad that lets you down, or isn’t size inclusive shoot them an e-mail and let them know how you feel.

Do the Thing

You know the thing you’re not doing because you’re scared that you’re too fat, too old, too short, too tall, too whatever?   Whatever it is, consider doing it.  Maybe people will say or think negative things but I suggest it’s not about them – while it’s kind of you to do people the courtesy of giving them the opportunity to reconsider their stereotypes, I think it’s about the person who also thinks that they are too fat, old, short or whatever, then when they see you try it gives them the courage to try.  They give someone else the courage and then someone else and soon the haters are outnumbered by the people who refuse to make their choices based on the bigotry and hatred of others.  Then it’s a party.

Sometimes people suggest that a single individual can’t make a difference, but when I look at it, it seems like one person is the only thing that can make a difference.  A massive protest doesn’t work unless each individual gets up and goes to the protest, a corporation-crippling boycott doesn’t work unless individuals choose to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to participate in the boycott, and a revolution doesn’t happen without tons of everyday acts of revolution from tons of individual revolutionaries.  Viva la everyday revolution!!!

If your’e interested in being part of the revolution, check out the Fat Activism Conference. This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Click here to get all the info and register!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 29, 2015 at 6:53 am  Comments (4)  

Tony Posnanski Should Stop Lying About Fat People

Reality and PerceptionAfter that ridiculous fat bigot posted that ridiculous bigoted rant on YouTube, which included ferociously bullying and belittling a fat child, I started to see a reply floating around the internet from the child she bullied.  And I immediately thought, Tony Posnanski’s at it again.

Tony is a formerly fat, currently thin person who now occupies his time by pretending to be fat people who have been publicly fat-shamed.  It started with an letter chock full ‘o fat phobia, written by someone who claimed to have sat next to a fat man on a plane. A response started making its way around the internet from the fat man himself. In it he took the point of view that some people should have to pay twice as much as others for the same service (a point of view with which I vehemently disagree).  He also explained that he had lost weight, posting before and after pictures of himself.

Eventually it came out that this letter wasn’t written by the actual person but by Tony Posnanski. Tony apologized and said that he “wasn’t trying confuse” anyone when he posted a long letter in the first person, including pictures, pretending to be someone else (which begs the question – if he was trying to confuse people what would he have done? Perhaps a subject for another post.)

Next came the “Fatty on the Westview Track” letter.  Another direct response by the fat person in question who talked about how they were losing weight, another “reveal” that the response was written by Tony.  Then it was the woman shamed at a baseball game. Another response by the woman (with pictures!) explaining how she had lost weight, another “reveal” that it was Tony, borrowing the pictures of a friend.  Now it’s a fat child being belittled, and another response by the fat person in question talking about how they lost weight. Another “reveal” that it was actually Tony pretending to be this person.  I am Ragen’s complete lack of surprise.

This is fucked up and it needs to stop right now.

First of all, fat people are not interchangeable. Doing fat activism well, means acknowledging that each of us can only ever speak for ourselves – people can agree with us, but it’s not ok for anyone to suggest that they represent all fat people (and that goes double for thin people pretending to be fat people, and those trying to eradicate us for profit.)

You may have noted above that each and every story that Tony Posnanski has made up while pretending to be someone he is most certainly not, involves the use of weight loss and “good fatty” behaviors to create sympathy. The argument that people shouldn’t bully and harass fat people because we might be losing weight is more harmful than helpful since it suggests that it would be somehow ok to bully and harass a fat person who hadn’t lost weight, or wasn’t trying to lose weight (a popular view among weight bigots and internet trolls already) and one of the BS reasons not to not bully fat people.

In truth, you simply shouldn’t bully and harass fat people – it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin – fat people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression, period. I think that the minute we (or someone pretending to be one of us) start trying to justify ourselves as a way to negotiate with our bullies, we’ve already started losing the fight.

Finally, these people have already been the victims of harassment – often in person and then again online – so they don’t also need to be the victims of identity theft. Let’s be very clear about what is happening here – Tony is pretending to be a real person who is in the public eye, then – having no idea about their actual story – is making up a story about them and fooling as many people as possible into believing the he is them and that his made up story is their actual story, and posting it to his website to generate traffic.  This is not ok.

If these people want to tell their actual stories (and remember we have no idea what those are, even though many, many people think they do because of Tony’s successful lying) they deserve the space to do so and they don’t need to be crowded out or shouted over by someone pretending to be them.  They should never be put in the position of having to decide if they want to let this egregious theft of their own experience go by, or if they want to have to speak out, now not only against shaming, stigma, bullying and harassment by weight bigots, but also by some thin dude who thought it was ok to steal their experiences and their voices and remake them for his own purpose and design – including facing more ridicule if their story is seen by a fat-phobic society as less “sympathetic” than the story that Tony has made up.

Perhaps Tony has the best of intentions, but that doesn’t really matter.  Having once been fat does not qualify him to speak to any experience but his own.  As the old saying goes (with perhaps a few liberties taken): Fool us once, you didn’t mean to do it and had the best of intentions. Fool us twice, shame on you.  Try to fool us four times, the captain has turned on the sit down and shut up light.  If Tony wants to write honest responses to fat shaming from his own perspective, he has every right to do that, but it’s time for him to sign his own name to what he writes and stop pretending to be fat people.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back 

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Click here to get all the info and register!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm  Comments (4)  

Just Hanging Out, Glorifying Obesity

Photo by Doug Spearman

Photo by Doug Spearman  Dress by http://www.igigi.com

In that super questionable video I posted about, one of the “I’m fat but” statements was “I’m fat but I’m not glorifying obesity.”  No shit.  Because “glorifying obesity” is not really a thing.  Fat people being happy, doing stuff, living our lives, achieving things, being in the spotlight etc. are just being happy, doing stuff, living our lives, achieving things, and being in the spotlight.

I’ve been accused of “glorifying obesity” many times. Oddly, I am also short with curly hair and yet I have never been accused of glorifying shortness, or glorifying refusal to straighten my hair. That’s because this is about fat-phobia.  It doesn’t matter if it’s perpetuated by people because it’s their goal to create a fat phobic society, or if it’s their sincerely held personal belief that fat people should never be (or see any fat person be) anything but miserable and desperate to be thin – because if we’re not constantly full of state-sanctioned, community perpetuated self-loathing, we’ll never look “right” or be “healthy” (depending on whether or not they are trying to make some bullshit “it’s for your health” justification.

It doesn’t matter which, because the only outcome of such a culture is that fat people aren’t allowed to do anything with our lives except try to lose weight, and that’s unacceptable.  Not just because almost nobody loses weight long term, but because people shouldn’t be required to look a certain way or have a certain level of health as a prerequisite to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

If you see a fat person being happy, achieving something, being talented in public or on television and that makes you uncomfortable/angry/disgusted etc. then you know that you are dealing with size bigotry. If you believe that your feelings of discomfort/anger/disgust are due to this person’s health status, then you know that you are dealing with size bigotry as well as healthism.  The good news is there’s hope.

The first step is to realize that the problem lies with you, and not the fat person.  Resist the urge to accuse the fat person of having done something “wrong”, like “glorifying obesity”  Not only will this make you sound embarrassingly foolish, but it will never help you overcome your prejudice.  Remember, the fat person is simply existing, and going about their lives. Absent your size bigotry and/or healthism there is no actual problem here.

You can choose to change – you can start looking at where your ideas and attitudes about fat people come from, you can become conscious of your thoughts about fat people, interrupt them and change them.  You can decide that you no longer want to be part of perpetuating stigma, shame, bullying, harassment, and oppression of people based on how they look or how healthy you think you are. You can stop making that utterly ridiculous Muh tax dollarz!” argument.

But whether you do or don’t, please understand that your opinion of fat people doesn’t matter and that your perpetuation of oppression – regardless of your reason for it – is wrong.  Fat people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should never be contingent upon whether or not weight bigots think that we are ugly, unhealthy, or glorifying obesity. What I am doing is loving and appreciating the body that I have, rejecting bullshit diet culture, and pursuing my dreams in this big fat amazing body.  If that seems like “glorifying obesity: to you, then count me in, and If you’re looking for me you’ll find me somewhere hanging out, glorifying obesity.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 21, 2015 at 12:22 am  Comments (9)  

When Challenging Stereotypes Becomes Oppression

What Will you DefendThere is a video making the rounds that people keep sending me enthusiastically. It’s a video of people saying “I’m fat but…”  and “I’m fat and….”

I think that the people who made it were well intentions, and some of the things are very cool – like reminding people (because sadly some people need to be reminded) the we are fat and human.  Or reminding people that saying we love our fat bodies doesn’t mean that we are putting down bodies of other sizes (like saying “I love Salmon Nigiri” is not the same thing as saying “Fuck all the sushi except Salmon Nigiri.”)

But a lot of the video, and particularly the beginning, has some real issues (which is why I’m not linking to it). It’s a lot of Good Fatty/Bad Fatty dichotomy stuff – I’m fat but I’m not lazy, I’m fat but I actually like going to the gym etc. Speaking out against stereotypes can be an important part of activism, but I think we must take care to do so in a way that doesn’t throw those who happen to embody the stereotype under the bus, because at the end of the day, the issue isn’t whether or not we happen to embody a stereotype, it’s the fact that stereotypes exist that’s the problem.

That’s why I think it’s important to separate Fat Activism/Size Acceptance from Health at Every Size/health in general.  When we are talking about why we deserve to be treated with basic human respect and we start talking about what we eat and whether we go to the gym, we are going down a bad road, because we are suggesting that only fat people who “eat healthy” by whatever definition, or exercise, or have a certain health status deserve to be treated well and that’s totally bullshit.

Pointing out that stereotyping fat people is crappy behavior is important, but that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy to get it done. When we’re talking about fat people deserving to be treated with basic human respect, the only reason we need is because we’re human.  It doesn’t matter what someone’s stereotypes of us are, nor do our health, or eating or exercise habits come into play.

Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without bullying, stigma, and oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could be thin.

In separate conversations we can point out that fat people are as diverse as any group of individuals who share only a single physical characteristic.  We can point out that there are people all sizes who engage in the behaviors stereotypically associated with fat people and that everybody deserves to be treated with respect, including thin people who don’t exercise or “eat healthy”

Fat people who are interested in fitness face tons of ill treatment, but when speaking out against that, it’s important to do so without throwing fat people who aren’t interested in fitness/sports/movement under the bus. So, for example, when I talk about being involved in fitness, I try to always point out that nobody is ever obligated to participate in fitness, and participating in movement/sport/fitness doesn’t make someone better than those who don’t, but everybody of every size should be able to engage in the fitness world without shame, stigma, bullying or harassment. When I speak out against lies that celebrity trainers tell about me, I try to make it clear that even if those lies were true I would still be a complete and worthy person deserving accommodation and being treated with respect, and, still, it is not ok to use a position of celebrity to tell lies about me, or all fat people.

When someone shames a fat person, we can insist that what they did was wrong, without some ridiculous made up narrative about how they used to be fatter.  We can speak out against stereotyping without oppressing others in the process, and I think we should!

In a few hours I’ll be on a plane to Iceland.  There’s still time to register and see me and a bunch of amazing speakers (Is there a group noun for amazing speakers?  There should be…) at the Weight Stigma Conference on Friday, and/or to join me in London on September 23rd with the amazing Lucy Aphramor, Havva Mustafa, and Amy Godfrey. And speaking of conferences:

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back 

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Click here to get all the info and register!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 16, 2015 at 8:49 am  Comments (4)  

Fat People and Faulty Assumptions

facepalmThe war on obesity is built on a bunch of faulty assumptions:

The assumption that fat people who are able to suppress their weight will have the same health outcomes of people who have never been fat.  That has never been proven (partially because weight loss almost never works long term, so there haven’t been enough fat people who have maintained weight loss to even test the hypothesis).

The assumption that anyone who tries hard enough can lose weight.  There is not a single study where more than a very small fraction of people are able to maintain weight loss for 5 years.  There is absolutely no reason for us to believe that long-term weight loss is possible for the vast majority of people.

The assumption that all thin people are healthy and part of the “solution”, and all fat people are unhealthy and part of the “problem”.  There are plenty of thin people who have the kind of lifestyle that is stereotypically assumed of fat people, and there are plenty of fat people who eat and exercise in a way that is stereotypically assumed of thin people. But that’s not the worst thing here, the worst thing is the idea that it’s ok to wage war on people because they are, or are perceived to be, unhealthy – that’s messed up. In truth, there are healthy and unhealthy people of every size, and everyone has the right to eat as they choose, move as they choose (or not), and everyone has the right to exist in their body regardless of size or health, without anyone waging war on them – whether they eat “unhealthy foods,” or risking their health with things like mountain climbing, or playing professional sports, or not getting “enough” sleep.

Then there’s the assumption that waging a war of constant shame and stigma on people will make those people healthier, and that having a war waged against them that creates a world where they are encouraged to internalize shame, stigma, bullying, and blame themselves for their oppression will have no negative health ramifications on a population.  This is obviously ridiculous. People don’t take care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies.  There is, unsurprisingly, no evidence to suggest that people are are the subjects constant stigma, shame, and public humiliation become thinner or healthier as a result. There is research that constant shame and stigma are correlated with many of the same diseases to which obesity is correlated, and that women who are concerned about their weight have more mental and physical illness than women who are fine with their size, regardless of their weight.

The problem with the war on obesity is that there is a war on obesity.  It’s a war built on baseless assumptions, fought with faulty ammunition, and constructed so that the only “winners” are those who profit from it, and where fat people end up as casualties.

Meanwhile there are people without access to the foods they would choose to eat, without safe movement options they would like to try, and without access to evidence-based healthcare.  But the government would rather spend it’s time fighting the ridiculous war on fat people.  What a tremendous misapplication of time, energy and money.

So we will fight this war, we will win, and then we will do our damndest to make sure that kind of unconscionable abuse of power, people and waste of resources never happens again.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back – Super Early Bird Rates End September 15!

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Click here to register!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 14, 2015 at 9:23 am  Comments (11)  

Activism is Not a Dirty Word

DefendMy blog post yesterday and my talk about the upcoming Fat Activism Conference have drawn some responses from fellow fat people around the idea that “activism” is somehow a bad thing.  I received the following e-mail, republished with permission, that echoed sentiments I saw in several conversations online:

You keep talking about “activism” but isn’t it enough just to embrace our own bodies?  Why does it always have to be political?

In addition to this sentiment, people confused me talking about activism with me telling them that they have to be involved in activism, others confused the general concept of activism with specific types of activism that they don’t like, and, perhaps most bizarrely, some confused fat activism with feederism.  Let’s get some clarity.

First of all, fat activism is an incredibly broad term and can involve everything from posting something body positive to your Facebook page, to signing a petition or writing a letter to a company that isn’t accommodating fat people, to standing in the middle of your town square and getting naked.  Regardless of what definition we’re using for fat activism, or what specific type of activism we’re talking about, nobody is ever obligated to participate in activism, or to identify as an activist even if they could be classified as such.

In answer to those asking “isn’t it enough just to embrace our own bodies,” loving our bodies is no small thing and it can absolutely be “enough.”  For me personally, I think that in a world where we are inundated with messages that we should hate our bodies, loving them isn’t just activism, it’s an act of revolution.

Loving my own body has been life-changing and it helps me navigate a fatphobic world.  But it doesn’t help with other types of oppression that I and other fat people face – fat people are hired less and paid less than our thin counterparts, fat people are mistreated in healthcare settings, governments feel comfortable literally waging war against fat people and encouraging our families, friends, and employers to get involved, clothing companies refuse to accommodate us and then use that as a selling point to prove that they are “cool”, huge online communities have been created with the sole purpose of hating/harassing fat people etc.  So fatphobia isn’t just personal, it’s most definitely political. What we choose to do about that is up to each of us.

Fat Activism is about the option, but never the obligation, to embrace our fat bodies AND actively work to change a culture that oppresses people based on our body size, which includes everything from daily aggressions – people commenting on our food/health/bodies – to discrimination in hiring, healthcare etc.  There are very real risks and costs to being involved in activism. Many of us face staggering amounts of online bullying and harassment. Many, academics and healthcare professionals in particular, face limitations placed on their careers because they are speaking out against the status quo. Many of us have had to end relationships with family and friends because they refused to treat us with the respect that we deserve, or refused to stop participating in and perpetuating fat oppression.  

Nobody is obligated to choose to participate in activism, and nobody should be judged on their choice to participate or not. Those of us who do choose the not-always-easy, sometimes gut-wrenchingly difficult, path of fat activism are part of a proud tradition of people who take public and private action against oppression and discrimination. That’s why I participate in and write about fat activism, provide activism opportunities on this blog, and co-founded the Fat Activism Conference with Jeanette DePatie.

So if you’re interested in learning more about the various types of activism – whether you are looking for help in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, the Fat Activism Conference was created to give you tools and perspectives to support you and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive so that nobody gets left behind. It is a virtual conference so that you can listen in by phone or computer from wherever you are, and we offer a pay-what-you-can-afford option so that it is accessible to as many people as possible. You can find all the details here.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 11, 2015 at 11:04 am  Comments (3)  

Disturbing Responses to that Fat Hate Video

Stand up speak up fight backBy now you’ve probably seen or heard about that ridiculous fat shaming video by that ridiculous fat shaming bigot.  If not, consider yourself lucky.  Regardless I’m not going to talk about it that much – bigot engages in bigoted troll behavior for attention, not news. What concerns me are some of the responses that I’m seeing to it by people who, in theory, disagree with the ridiculous bigot but, in practice are (inadvertently) adding to the oppression of fat people.

From my perspective the response to this could not be more simple: Fat people deserve to be treated with basic human respect because we are human.  Weight-based bigotry and oppression are wrong because bigotry and oppression are wrong. Fat people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which includes living in a world where we do not face harassment, bullying, stigma and oppression, and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin by some means however easy or difficult. Period.

There were some responses to the video that I personally found almost more offensive than the original video. People talking about the experience of being fat as if their experience is everyone’s experience. People confusing and conflating fat bodies with behavior, illness, and a traumatic past, and suggesting that fat people shouldn’t be bullied because their size might not be their fault.  I saw fat people saying that nobody ever wanted to become fat, that nobody would stay fat if they had a choice, and that being fat is an outward sign of transgressions committed. by fat people.

Fuck that.  Fuck a bunch of that.   There are definitely people who are fat for those reasons, people are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons, that’s not the issue.  The issue is suggesting that fat people must have some “approved justification” for being fat, and must buy into the idea that we don’t want to be fat and would be thin if we could, in order to be treated with basic human respect, which is bullshit.

If people want to insist on an end to weight-based oppression on the basis that their fat is not their fault (whatever the reason,) or that don’t want to be fat, they would be thin if they could, they are trying to be thin, or whatever, they can do that,, but it contributes to oppression of other fat people and they should  definitely not talk about these things as if they speak for all fat people, because they do not.

I’m all for not bullying fat people.  But when we suggest that some fat people don’t deserve to be bullied because they meet certain criteria, we are also (intentionally or not) suggesting that fat people who don’t meet those criteria do deserve bullying. And that’s crap.

When we say  “Bullying and oppressing fat people is wrong” we are making a statement of fact that does not require any qualifiers.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Get the info and register here!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 7:02 am  Comments (11)  

The Loving Our Body Lie

Angry FrustratedOne of the most common and most damaging lies perpetuated by those justifying fat shaming/fat hate, selling diets, and perpetuating a sizeist culture was sent to me in a comment today:

If we allow women to love their bodies regardless of their size then they will never take good care of them!

So many wrong things, let’s break it down:

If we allow?  Allow?  ALLOW?  The idea that women need to be treated like toddlers, told what we are and are not allowed to do “for our own good”, and that fat women should be treated like toddlers in time-out for not obeying is so incredibly fucked there aren’t sufficient words to describe it.  Women don’t need anyone’s permission to love our bodies (or to not love them.) Anyone who thinks that it’s their job to be telling women, who haven’t asked them, what those women are and are not allowed to do can immediately and completely turn their attention to their own lives and the lives of people who care what they think.

But the most insidious part of this lie is that if women love our bodies we won’t take good care of them. If you think that sounds ridiculous, consider it phrased this way “if we don’t keep women in a constant state of self-loathing, they’ll never be healthy.” Obviously that makes no sense, people are not including to take care of things that we hate and that includes our bodies.  But the way that it’s implemented is even worse. Fat women (and, in many ways, children of all sizes) are bombarded with the message “Your body is ugly, disgusting, and a sign of your inferior beauty, intellect, and moral character.  Now, take really good care of it!”  And society insists that this is a reasonable public health message.

Not only that, but often the idea of “taking care of” our bodies is freely substituted with the concept of “making our bodies thin.”  While this message is incredibly profitable (the weight loss industry is making over $60 Billion and that number goes up every year, in no small part because dieting doesn’t work), it’s simply not true and it leads to people doing really unhealthy things  – partially under the mistaken belief that if those unhealthy things make them thin, then they will somehow also make them healthy – and partially so that they’ll finally be “allowed” to stop hating themselves.  Again, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s the backbone of diet culture.

Scratching the surface we find that the deeper we go, the worse this idea is. The concept of “taking care of ourselves” is tossed around like it’s simple, and the same for everyone. Let’s be clear that “taking care of ourselves” by any definition is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Beyond that, the idea of  “taking care of ourselves” is very complex and multi-faceted, and not entirely within our control.

Access is a major issue – not everyone can afford/obtain the foods that they want to eat or the movement options that they might like to try. In the United States where I live, access to medical care is predicated upon having enough money to afford it, being able to get time off of work to get to the doctor, and finding a doctor who doesn’t operate from a place of stereotyping, prejudice, and shame and subsequent victim-blaming and it’s not easy.

If we want to take care of ourselves by living in an environment where we are not constantly told to hate ourselves or subjected to prejudice, shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment, many of us are out of luck since racism, sizeism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ageism, ableism and more run rampant and are largely ignored by public health (and in some cases, as in the argument that we must make sure that women hate themselves “for their health” it actually exacerbates it.)

Anyone who tells us that hating our body is part of the practice of taking care of ourselves is grossly uninformed, a liar, trying to sell us something, or some combination thereof. Regardless, we do not have to buy into this.  You have the right, but no obligation, to decide what “taking care of your body” means for you, and how highly you want to prioritize it, and whose opinion about it you want to hear.  You may not have access to all of the things that you need/want to take care of yourself and, though that may become your problem, you don’t have to buy into the idea that it’s your fault.

You have every right to make these decisions for yourself, you don’t need anyone to “allow” you.  You have every right to love your body and you have every right to consider loving your body,part of taking good care of it.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Get the info and register here!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 8, 2015 at 7:05 am  Comments (14)  

When Your Holiday BBQ becomes a Fat-Shaming Roast

What a Load of CrapHere in the US we are celebrating Labor Day weekend.  For many people that means time with family, with a BBQ being a very traditional way to spend that time.  I’ve already heard from a number of readers whose families are behaving badly – setting out a feast and then using the opportunity to food police, fat shame, and generally make their fat family members miserable.  I offer the following support, both to help if you are being food-policed and/or fat-shamed, and to help if you see someone being food-policed and/or fat-shamed and want to support them.

If you’re being food policed or fat-shamed:

Ah, is there anything more fun than being under surveillance by the Friends and Family Food Police?  There are only a couple of things that I can think of – root canal, shaving my head with a cheese grater, a fish hook in the eye…

This happens to almost all of my fat friends, but to be clear it happens to thin people too – food judgment and shaming happens to people of all sizes and it’s never ok.

First, I always suggest that you be prepared for boundary setting when you go into this type of situation.  Think about what your boundaries are, and what consequences you are willing to enforce.   So think about what you would be willing to do – Leave the event?  Stay at a hotel?  Cease conversation until the person can treat you appropriately?  Be sure that you know what you want and that you can follow through. Then follow a three step process:

  1. state your boundary clearly (ie:  it’s not ok to talk to me about my weight)
  2. state the consequences if your boundary is violated (if you continue to talk to me about my weight I’ll go home and we can try again next year.)
  3. follow through with the consequences if it comes to that

It can also help to have some responses ready.  So you’re at a holiday BBQ, you take seconds on Aunt Agnes’s potato salad and someone asks the dreaded question:  “Do you need to eat that?” It seems like the table falls silent, waiting for your reply.  What do you say?

I suggest you find your happy (or at least your non-homicidal) place, and try one of these:

Quick and Simple (said with finality)

  • Yes (and then eat it)
  • No (and then eat it)

Answer with a Question (I find it really effective to ask these without malice, with a tone of pure curiosity.  If you’re not in the mood to have a dialog about this, maybe skip these.)

  • Why do you think that’s your business?
  • What led you to believe that I want you to police my food intake?
  • I thought that you were an accountant, are you also a dietitian?

Pointed Response (be ready with a consequence if the behavior continues)

  • I find that inappropriate and offensive, please don’t comment on my food choices
  • What I eat is none of your business, and your commenting on it is not ok
  • I have absolutely no interest in discussing my food intake with you
  • I’m not soliciting opinions about my food choices.

Cathartic (but probably not that useful if you want to create an opportunity for honest dialog)

  • Yes, because dealing with your rudeness is depleting my glycogen stores at an alarming rate
  • If I want to talk to the food police, I’ll call Pie-1-1
  • I’m sure you’re not proud of the completely inappropriate behavior you just exhibited, I’m willing to forget this ever happened
  • No, but using my fork to eat helps to keep me from stabbing you with it

I don’t believe that guilt is good for my health and I’m definitely resisting arrest by the Family and Friends Food Police.

What do you do if you witness food policing/fat shaming?

There are several options and which option you choose depends on how you feel on any given day, your relationship with the people involved, and what you are comfortable with:

Immediate and Direct

Say something immediately in the situation – you can be serious or try a little humor.

  • Wow, that’s seriously messed up.  We all like you better as an uncle than a self-appointed food policeman.
  • If we want the food police we’ll call 911.  Let’s keep our attention on our own plates.

Talk About It Later

When you say something in the moment there is the risk of further embarrassing/drawing attention to the victim of the shaming, or giving them support that they don’t want. I suggest that you not use that tactic unless you are very sure that the person will be comfortable with you standing up for them. If not, then addressing it later might be a better choice.  For this you wait until later and then approach the two people separately.

You might share with the person who got shamed that you saw what happened and that you are sorry that they were treated so pooerly  You can share your own story of how you realized that the problem wasn’t you but the people who think that their beeswax is located on your plate (or body.)  You  might share some tools that you use to deal with it.

Then you might talk to the shamer, let them know that what they did was dangerous, that talking like that can lead to kids having disordered relationships with food and their bodies that can cause them to develop eating disorders, or see their bodies as bad and unworthy of care. Maybe tell them that even though you know they meant well, that you are really uncomfortable with them commenting on other people’s food choices.

Global Statement

In this option you follow up a shaming statement with a non-specific global statement, it can be a little more immediate but without putting any more focus on the victim of shaming.

  • I wish we lived in a world where people didn’t make comments about other people’s food choices.
  • I wish we lived in a world where bodies of all sizes were celebrated.

Distract/Change the Subject

If you are going to go with the “Talk about it later” option, or if you aren’t planning to address it for whatever reason (a totally valid option) you can try to give the person being shamed some relief by distracting the shamer/changing the topic:

  • How about that recent/upcoming sportsball game and the local sportsballing team?
  • How are your bowel movements? (and if they look surprised you can say “I’m sorry, I thought we are asking each other inappropriate personal questions.”)
  • I need to get this recipe from you – who knew that you could get this much stuff to float in jello! (This may only work in the South…)

To me the most important thing about understanding shaming is that the problem is the shamer’s bad behavior and not whatever their victim is doing. I’ve found it to be helpful to suggest that if someone who is being shamed is feeling embarrassment, they consider that they aren’t embarrassed for themselves, but for the shamer who is making a complete and total ass of themselves.

Have other ideas?  Please feel free to leave them in the comments!

 

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 7, 2015 at 7:00 am  Comments (12)  

Alton Brown is Fat Shaming Again

WTF are you doingI don’t know if Alton Brown is in the George Takei Club, or if George Takei is in the Alton Brown Club, or maybe they’re both in the Ariana Grande Club.  Regardless, just in case anyone wasn’t clear that Alton Brown is a weight bigot, he’s done his best to prove it in a recent article in The New York Times. Despite his commitment to understanding the science and food of cooking  – his show “Good Eats” was a fabulous show on which he not only showed how to cook something, but why and he often took time to do some myth busting – when it comes to fat people he can’t seem to get beyond cheap stereotypes and misinformation:

Obesity is not a disease…the second that our society starts thinking that shoveling Big Macs into our face is a disease then we’re done, we’re done as a culture.

Holy hyperbole Batman – even if every fat person did eat tons of Big Macs (spoiler alert – they don’t) and even if obesity was a disease (spoiler alert – it’s not) I feel like our culture would somehow manage to go on.

What the hell dude? Did he get confused and think that the Emmys were being voted on by Reddit this year?  How can I put this politely…STFU you bigoted, stereotyping, ridiculous asshole.  Yeah, that’ll do it.

I agree that being fat is not a disease diagnosis, but that’s because I know that having a weight in pounds times 703 divided by one’s height in inches squared that is over 30 is not a health diagnosis of any kind. It’s not because I like to engage in stereotyping and shaming of people who meet that definition.

Let’s go over it one more time Alton, and I’ll type slowly.   Body size is not behavior – it’s certainly not eating a single food.  There are plenty of thin people who shovel Big Macs into their faces.   Neither being fat nor eating a lot of Big Macs is a disease or, just to be clear, any business of yours when we’re talking about other people’s bodies and Big Macs.

If Alton really wants a better society, he could help by not engaging in bigotry and stereotypes.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind.

Get all the details here!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 4, 2015 at 8:58 am  Comments (17)