Store Deletes Employee’s Instagram Pictures Because She’s Not a Size Small

Bullshit FairyThe store Dainty Hooligan sells clothes up to a size large, so employee Sherene Zarrabi was shocked when Jessica Issler, the founder and CEO of the company sent her store manager an e-mail about the pictures, including those of Sherene, that appeared on the store’s Instagram account:

Something I want to make sure you keep in mind: I want size small, the stereotypical ‘model’ type to model our clothes. Please use our pictures of our models if Stillwater store can’t find someone who would be considered ‘model material.’ This is not to put anyone down but to communicate the expectations of presenting our brand.

According to a piece on Refinery29 “[Issler] added that the employee shouldn’t “take it personal,” but any images that don’t comply with that “really good representation” of its clothing should be removed from Instagram.”

So, if you’re not a size small the CEO will be happy to take your money, but she thinks that the way you look is a poor representation of their brand.  Why would anyone feel put down by that?  (I so very much need there to be a sarcasm font.)

Oh but it gets better so much worse. Sherene talked about what happened, and people called Jessica on her sizeist bullshit.  I imagine Jessica was pretty surprised since bullies like this tend to expect that their victims will feel ashamed and keep silent. So Jessica went on the attack:

My No. 1 priority is the safety of my staff, so the evil and lack of positivity is terrifying. This girl has now created a hostile work environment because she has a sad body image of herself….She’s not mentally healthy.

I’ve seen my share of blame-the-victim bullshit when it comes to fatphobia but this one might take the cake.  Sherene Zarrabi posted pictures of herself in the clothes her employer sells on her employer’s Instagram account.  Her employer, Jessica Issler, told her that she is a poor representation of the brand because she doesn’t look like an almost impossible to attain stereotype of beauty, and insisted that the pictures be taken down.

And Jessica thinks that Sherene is the one with body image problems?  She thinks that Sherene is the one who created a hostile work environment? And then she decides to add healthism and ableism to the sizeism in which she’s already engaged? Pro-tip – if your plan for “positivity” in the workplace depends upon your employees remaining silent about your mistreatment of them, then you probably shouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t work out for you.

Jessica then realized that talking complete nonsense wasn’t working out, and so she went took a swing at an apology and missed for strike three of this fiasco.

I can definitely see where feelings got hurt and negativity from there festered from something I take full responsibility for…I wish you the best of luck and honestly I don’t have any ill or hard feelings toward you and I want to thank you for a very humbling experience.

Ok, that first sentence is like poorly completed apology madlibs. Also, obviously this experience was not humbling enough if she thinks it’s important whether or not she has ill or hard feelings toward an employee whom she treated atrociously. Jessica, I think the words you were looking for are: “I fucked up.  I am sorry.  Is there anything I can do to rectify the harm I’ve done?”

Sadly, on the About Us page of the store’s website, Jessica says she started her first store because  “If I could just get girls & women in my shop, I could make them feel like a million bucks with my merchandise.” Apparently “feeling like a million bucks” should not include thinking that it’s ok for you to appear in the store’s clothing on Instagram if you don’t look like a model.

Happily Sherene quit, leaving the job behind, but  not her positive body image:

My advice for others who face body discrimination is just to simply love yourself. Sometimes it isn’t easy. You reach a certain point where you realize that you have nothing to prove to anybody. Your body is your only body, so love it. Be proud of who you are and what you look like. If anybody tries to bring down a person based on their size, there’s something that person is struggling with themselves.

Jessica Issler has said that she doesn’t expect this to affect sales because “I think the typical standard customer knows what we’re about and knows this topic is irrelevant.” Do you think it’s irrelevant?  Want to let Dainty Hooligan know what you think?

E-mail them:  CustomerCare@DaintyHooligan.com

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/ShopDaintyHooligan/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Dainty-Hooligan-Boutique-213533918673901/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/_DaintyHooligan

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Published in: on February 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm  Comments (19)  

Fabulous Fat Comic Book Hero

I was being interviewed for a podcast yesterday, talking about being a fat athlete, and the host asked me to define fat as it applies to me.  I said “I’m fat. I’m not ‘I ate big burrito for lunch’ fat, or ‘Hollywood’ fat. I’m 5’4 and 300 pounds, I’m everybody’s definition of fat.”

That was in my head when I read a piece by Amy Diegelman for panels.net about fat comic book hero Faith “Zephyr” Herbert.

Faith is fat. Not the average, or just slightly bigger than, size usually called “fat” in media. Not the curvy best friend or the athletically stout team member. This is a fat beyond that, a fat that means someone has to shop in special stores and can’t ride roller coasters and spends a lot of time trying to convince their doctors they really aren’t interested in weight loss surgery.

Fat like me.
Fat like Faith.

Positive representation of people who are fat by any definition is thin on the ground (see what I did there?) But positive representation of people who are fat like me, like Amy, like Faith is almost non-existent, what with the mythical threat of promoting obesity and the baseless hand-wringing about healthy role-models.

Of course there’s no shortage of that in the reactions, as the usual suspects lose their shit in comment sections all over the web, somehow wanting us to believe that a single example of a fat person as happy, successful and not miserable and self-loathing will start a rash of people desperately attempting to become fat so that maybe, just maybe, they can be the second. Because what would happen to our sizeist culture, and its diet-and-beauty-industry-fueled obsession with becoming thin, if our media was actually representative of the diversity of body sizes that exist? Everybody freak out!

Whatever, let them lose it in the comments section, we’ve got the whole comic book!

I love that Faith gives us a comic book hero who is fat, and I love how visual it is. As Amy talked about in her piece, because of the comic book format Faith’s size cannot be denied, or imagined away, as it might be in other written formats.  I love it because it gives fat people a hero who looks like us.  I love it because it gives other people a hero who looks like us. Certainly there will be conversations to have about everything from her wardrobe to her plot lines, but for now I’ll take a moment to bask in the awesomeness that is a fabulous fat comic book hero.

Speaking of podcasts, I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on the fabulous Summer Innanen’s Fearless Rebelle Radio and it was a total blast.  You can check it out here!

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

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Published in: on February 5, 2016 at 9:39 am  Comments (11)  

10 Reasons I Ditched Dieting

Success and DietsA friend of mine was added to a Facebook group about dieting without her permission. She responded to the person who added her with this post, and in her honor I’m reposting it today.

I wasted many, many years dieting and now that I’m off that roller coaster, I’m never getting back on.  Here are 1o reasons why I’ll never try to manipulate my body size again:

1.  I refuse to manipulate my body size to try to conform to a social stereotype of beauty.

2.  I refuse to attempt to manipulate my body size to try to solve social stigma, bullying or oppression.  The cure for bullying, social stigma and oppression is not weight loss, it’s ending bullying, social stigma, and oppression.  The problem is not my body, it’s people who bully, stigmatize and oppress me because of my body size.

3.  Of course health is not a guarantee, an obligation or a barometer of worthiness – we each get to choose how highly we prioritize our health and the path that we want to take to get there.  For me it’s important to know that research suggests that habits are a much better indicator of future health than body size.

4. There is not a single study of any method of intentional weight loss (whether you call it dieting, lifestyle change or something else)  has shown it to be successful for more than a tiny fraction of people long term.  Even the diet companies’ own studies show that they don’t work.

5.  Even if I managed to be part of the tiny percentage of people who succeed at long term weight loss, there is not a single study that shows that it would make me healthier, in fact, the little research that exists suggests that it wouldn’t.

6.  During the time that I was attempting intentional weight loss my body size would decrease in the short term, then increase over time no matter how strictly I kept to my diet/exercise habits (which, it turned out, is exactly what the research said would happen.)  I wasn’t able to stabilize my body size until I started practicing Health at Every Size.

7.  During the time that I was attempting intentional weight loss I had unhealthy relationships with food, exercise and my body.  A focus on appreciating my body and supporting it through healthy habits has lead to my having healthy relationships with food, exercise, and my body.

8.  Three words:  Uncontrolled Anal Seepage.  And a whole bunch of things that I was told were “healthy” as a dieter, often by doctors, that don’t make any damn sense

9.  I don’t want my money to be part of the over 60 billion dollars that we spend every year on the diet industry – an industry that has lost so many deceptive trade practice lawsuits that they are actually required to remind us that their product doesn’t actually work every time they advertise it.  I think that there are a lot better things we could buy for 60 billion dollars.

10.  Diets don’t work – I definitely gave dieting the old college try and it didn’t make me thinner, healthier, happier, or anything other than miserable.  I think I’m right about the science, but even if I’m wrong I choose Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.

Of course we each get to choose what we want to do with our bodies (Underpants Rule FTW!) I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

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

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Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 10:00 am  Comments (4)  

Val Chmerkovskiy Sued for Fat Shaming a Little Girl

You Forgot Your BullshitVal Chmerkovskiy is one of the pros on the US television show Dancing with the Stars. His fame on the show has garnered him 365,000 Facebook followers.  That’s a big platform. So it’s too bad that he decided to use it to fat-shame a 9 year old girl with Down syndrome.

He posted a picture of the girl drinking a soda at a baseball game with the caption “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.” When people pointed out how absolutely inappropriate this was, he responded with the “I have fat friends” defense, saying that his “mother is heavy set” and he thinks she is “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Then he pivoted to some concern trolling:

I have no desire to discriminate or shame, I just think people should have a little more knowledge and take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet. That’s all. It’s not about what I find beautiful or not, it’s about what’s healthy or not. Anyway, thank you.

Thank you?  I’m thinking of a two word phrase, “you” is the second word, but “thank” is most definitely not the first.  This is such bullshit I feel like I need boots to break it down but here goes:

  • Having “no desire to discriminate or shame” doesn’t matter if you are, in fact discriminating and shaming. If you aren’t sure whether posting a picture of a child with a caption fat shaming her is discrimination or shaming, you should probably not post things to social media.
  • If his goal was to give people more knowledge about kid’s health, then his post should have been information about kid’s health.
  • In addition to cheap fat shaming, it’s also cheap stereotyping, for all he knows it could have been iced tea or water in that cup, and even if it wasn’t I’m sure there were plenty of thin kids drinking soda that day who were not photographed for the express purpose of shaming them and making wild accusations about their parents. When you apply an appearance-based double standard you’re discriminating.  Since he has “no desire to discriminate” that should have been a great reason not to post this.
  • You cannot tell how healthy someone is based on their body size. You cannot tell the quality of someone’s parents based on their size.  You cannot tell the quality of a parent by their size.  The only things you can tell about someone based on their size, as Marilyn Wann has very famously said, is what size they are, and what your personal prejudices are about people that size are.

This is what happens in a society where fatphobia is not just accepted but actually encouraged, often by the government. When people are encouraged to join the “war on obesity,” we get people who think it’s actually ok to fat-shame children. Kids come in lots of sizes for lots of reasons and stigmatizing the kids and accusing their parents of child abuse is a stunningly terrible idea. Just ask the parents of Anamarie Regino who was torn from her home at 3 years old.  When she failed to lose weight in foster care it was determined that a genetic disorder caused the weight gain and she was returned to her family. Oddly, parents seem to find “We’re sorry, our bad” to be cold comfort for the pain and loss caused by having their kids ripped out of their home because of the way they look.

The girl’s sister saw the picture that Val posted and was justifiably shocked. It seems that, like so many pictures of fat people, this picture was taken without the girl’s (or her parents’) knowledge or permission, with the express purpose of mocking her. Val took the photographer’s dream of fat-shaming a little girl and gave it the wings of his 365,000 followers. The girl, now 16, and her family are suing the photographer, Val, and CBS (the picture appeared on cbsnews.com) to the tune of $6 million.

Maybe that’s what it will take to make this trend of fat shaming memes based on pictures taken without permission to stop. Maybe if stigmatizing, stereotyping, fat shaming, and making baseless accusations about fat people becomes expensive, it will help those who lack the capacity to treat other people with basic human respect to, if not locate their humanity, at least not visit their issues on the rest of us.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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 February 2, 2016 at 9:44 am  Comments (24)  

Study: Fat, Stigma, and Missing the Point

Talking NonsenseOne of the things that helps perpetuate stigma and hold oppression in place is peoples’ tendency, when told about someone else’s experience of stigma and oppression, to immediately engage in an attempt to try to explain it away or justify it.

A comment on an article published by MinnPost about a recent study on stigma and “obesity” (which I’ll call “fat” from here on out because this is my blog and I prefer a term that describes my body without pathologizing it) shows us exactly how this works. First, let’s talk about what the article said:

Women who are obese experience many more incidents of stigmatization because of their weight — an average of three incidents a day — than previous research has reported, according to a study published in the Feb. issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.

I am Ragen’s complete lack of surprise.

Past research has tended to suggest that people who are overweight or obese experience negative weight-related stigmatization only a few times during their entire lives.

BWA HA HA HA HA HA  OMG HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! SO FUNNY I FORGOT TO LAUGH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.  I’M CRYING OVER HERE!  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! No, seriously, I’m crying that anyone would suggest that this is true.

The 50 women cited a total of 1,077 stigmatizing experiences during that single week — an average of three a day for each woman. The most common experiences involved “physical barriers” (84%), “nasty comments from others” (74%), “being stared at” (72%) and “others making negative assumptions” (72%). Experiences least frequently reported included “job discrimination” (22%), “comments from doctors” (16%) and “being physically attacked”(12%).

Yeah, I’m going to have a heart attack and die from not surprised. (Not to get all mathlete on you, but that’s an average of 1,123 experiences a year for each woman!)

The article gave some examples:

“With friends at a baby shower. Went to McDonald’s first so people wouldn’t look at me eating more than I should.”

“Teenagers made animal sounds [moo] outside of a store I was in.”

“I was told what a bad mother I am because I can’t set limits as to what my son or his friends eat during sleepovers, because I can’t even control myself.”

“Boyfriend’s mother denied me access to food, also stated that I was so fat because I was lazy.”

(Sadly) I exhibit no surprise.

The study authors drew the conclusion:

“It is therefore important that researchers continue investigating all aspects of this important phenomenon. Future interventions to reduce stigma and better equip overweight/obese individuals for their encounters with stigmatization should be based upon solid empirical and ecologically valid research.”

Yes!  Thank you.  And let’s be clear that equipping fat people to deal with bullshit should be nothing more than a stop-gap measure as we insist that fat people should be able to exist in fat bodies without shame, bullying, stigma, or oppression. Remember that – no matter what someone thinks about why we’re fat, or what being fat means – there is absolutely no reason to believe that oppressing us will improve our lives, or society, in any way.

But then I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments, and that’s where I was reminded of how all of this stigma is held in place:

Not to quibble, but the term “social stigma” seems incorrect.

I understand the term “stigma” to refer to a posture of being disgraced in the eyes of others. The most frequently cited “social stigma” in the study is “physical barriers.” The fact that the typical chair in a public place is not designed comfortably to accommodate the obese doesn’t implicate “stigma.” It reflects that because of material costs and space considerations, typical chairs are designed for those of typical size.

Another fault of the study, it seems, is that incidents of “social stigma” are based on the subjects’ perceptions. It seems likely that a person who is obese, who is self-conscious about her obesity, and who is participating in a study about how others respond to her in light of her obesity, is going to be somewhat more inclined to perceive “false positives” in the eye contact, comments, etc of others than “false negatives.”

What the study seems more to be measuring is the self-stigmatization of those who are obese – i.e., how often, and in what respects, someone who is obese is negatively self-aware of that fact when in public.

Oh Charlie – can I call you Charlie? What a mess you’ve made. Let’s clean it up:

I understand the term “stigma” to refer to a posture of being disgraced in the eyes of others. The most frequently cited “social stigma” in the study is “physical barriers.” The fact that the typical chair in a public place is not designed comfortably to accommodate the obese doesn’t implicate “stigma.” It reflects that because of material costs and space considerations, typical chairs are designed for those of typical size.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll go ahead and use Charlie’s definition: First of all, does he honestly think that not being able to fit in a chair isn’t being disgraced in the eyes of others? Does he imagine fat people to be like “No, it’s cool, I’m not embarrassed at all. I mean obviously it’s just way too difficult to have some arm-less chairs in this restaurant, so I’ll just stand through this business lunch, it won’t be weird at all, it won’t feel stigmatizing in any way, it’s really my fault for existing.”?  The fact that he thinks that his (weak) justification for the stigmatizing experience erases the nature of the stigmatizing experience, tells me that Charlie’s not really working this out logically, but let’s move on:

Another fault of the study, it seems, is that incidents of “social stigma” are based on the subjects’ perceptions. It seems likely that a person who is obese, who is self-conscious about her obesity, and who is participating in a study about how others respond to her in light of her obesity, is going to be somewhat more inclined to perceive “false positives” in the eye contact, comments, etc of others than “false negatives.”

Nope nope nope, swing and a miss Charlie. In a world where the diversity of body sizes was respected and there was no stigmatizing of fat bodies, there would be no self-consciousness about body size. That the self-consciousness exists (and as Charlie illustrated is expected of fat people) is a pretty good indicator that fat people are living in a world where fat people are stigmatized (possibly to the tune of over 1,000 incidents a year and that doesn’t include all of the constant messages we get that “thin = good/fat=bad” from the media.)

Telling people who are experiencing stigma that you know better than they do what their experiences are isn’t new, and as long as it’s been around, it’s been a way to hold oppression in place – this is what happens when people think that “No I’m not.” is a complete and acceptable answer to “You’re hurting me.”

What the study seems more to be measuring is the self-stigmatization of those who are obese – i.e., how often, and in what respects, someone who is obese is negatively self-aware of that fact when in public.

Let’s examine the situation:

“Teenagers made animal sounds [moo] outside of a store I was in.”

“I was told what a bad mother I am because I can’t set limits as to what my son or his friends eat during sleepovers, because I can’t even control myself.”

“Boyfriend’s mother denied me access to food, also stated that I was so fat because I was lazy.”

Oh sure, Charlie, these are all just examples of people being negatively-self aware, I totally see it now!  (Why isn’t there a font to indicate sarcasm?  Can someone get on that please? I need it more than Oprah needs bread.)

But what about “With friends at a baby shower. Went to McDonald’s first so people wouldn’t look at me eating more than I should.”  Surely that’s just in the fat person’s head right?  Wrong.  First of all, this person knows their friends and family better than we do, so if they tell us that their experience of stigma led them to avoid eating in public at an event where food was served, we should take their word for it.  In general, ask yourself this –  if this person hadn’t experienced stigma around eating in public as a fat person, where would they have gotten the idea to avoid eating in public?

Again – one of the things that helps perpetuate stigma and hold oppression in place is peoples’s tendency, when told about someone else’s experience of stigma, to immediately engage in an attempt to try to explain it away or justify it. We do more to work against oppression and stigma when our first thought upon being told that something is stigmatizing is “tell me more” (assuming the person is interested in doing so, nobody has an obligation to educate,) or “wow, let me think about that” rather than “no it’s not, and let me tell you why.”

Charlie (and so many like him) are missing the point here (perhaps aggressively, purposefully missing the point.)  Fat people don’t just wake up and “self-stigmatize” out of the blue. Internalized oppression happens when fat people believe all of the stigmatizing messages that we get (from teenagers who moo at us, people who question our parenting, and boyfriend’s mothers who deny us food, the US Government which is waging war on us etc., all because of a physical characteristic that is easily identifiable by sight and thus easily stigmatized. ) The suggestion that the existence of internalized oppression somehow invalidates a fat person’s experience of stigma is truly awful.

It’s also an excellent example of oppression – If I’m able to convince some fat people of the idea that being fat makes them bad/ugly/unhealthy/immoral etc., then I can declare that fat people aren’t competent witnesses to their experience of stigma, because they “self-stigmatize.”

Fat people face real stigma, and it needs to stop right the hell now, and a great place to start would be to stop pretending that it doesn’t happen.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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 January 30, 2016 at 10:53 am  Comments (22)  

How Fat People Deserve To Be Treated

Bullshit Deja MooI talk a lot about how poorly fat people are treated (with shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression) and how that is at odds with how we deserve to be treated.  I say things like “we have the right to be treated with basic human respect” and “the rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t size, health, or healthy habit dependent” and “Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could – or want to – become thin.”  In short, I tell fat people that, regardless of what bullshit treatment we are experiencing in a fatphobic society, we deserve better.

Every time I do this (so, basically, daily) people leave comments or send me e-mails to tell me that I’m wrong.  Most of them read like these that arrived today:

You talk about how fat people deserve to be treated with respect -You dumb bitch, you can’t make people treat you with respect.  How entitled can you be?

and

Show me in the Constitution where it says that you have a right to be treated with respect you fat fucking cunt.

How entitled can I be? I can tell you that I can be significantly more entitled than to suggest that I deserve to be treated like a human being.  And, bless your heart, I really feel like “fat fucking cunt” needs some punctuation – I mean, am I a fucking cunt who is fat, am I a cunt that fucks fat? A little clarity is all I’m asking – it’s bad enough that you’ve devolved into being an internet troll, at least take a little pride in your work.

But I digress.

As for the second comment, I would hope that it is obvious that I’m asserting that being treated with basic human respect is a basic human right – covering even those people not under the jurisdiction of the United States Constitution. But, I imagine that wouldn’t be obvious to anyone whose response to “people have the right to be treated with basic human respect” is to insist that it’s not guaranteed by the organizing documents of their country. (I’m going to take a wild guess that these are the same “Constitutional scholars” who think that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” somehow obligates me to publish their ridiculous comments on my blog or Facebook wall.)

As I’ve said before, the idea that our right to live in fat bodies and be treated with basic human respect is debatable is a pretty clear indication of the problem.   The truth is that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shaming, stigma, bullying or oppression regardless of why we are fat, what it means to be fat, or if we could become thin.  There are no other valid opinions about that, it should never be up for debate.

For the record, I’m not suggesting that I can force people to treat fat people with basic human respect.  What I am saying is that it’s important to know that we deserve to be treated with basic human respect.  We deserve to live in fat bodies without shame, stigma, or bullying, and we are entitled to live without the crushing weight of fat phobia and oppression. What each of us does with that information is up to us – but it’s critical for us to know that these things aren’t our fault, though they become our problem, and they shouldn’t be happening to us.

I choose to do activism, and part of that activism is reminding fat people that regardless of what bullshit treatment we are experiencing in a fatphobic society, we deserve better and if you think I need the Constitution, or any other document, to back me up, then you have massively missed the point.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

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

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

 

Published in: on January 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm  Comments (13)  

Model Fat Bashes, Then Claims To Be The Victim

WTFAlysse Dalessandro, a fashion and beauty writer, and designer for the brand Ready To Stare, posted an excellent article from Everyday Feminism called “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone” on her personal Facebook page. Then a plus sized model and self-described “body Activist” named Ali Tate Cutler took it upon herself to demonstrate why the article from EF was necessary, and illustrate the cycle of fat phobia – fatbash (using “the science!”), non-apology/demand education/tone police, claim to be a victim.

It’s also an example of casual fat elimination. which is when people suggest, during the course of normal conversation, that it would be cool to eradicate fat people because the world would be better in some way if we didn’t exist.

Step 1 –  Make an argument that sounds all “science-y” but is actually based on stereotypes, prejudices, and …rectal pull.  Ali has this step down pat

Sorry but I don’t care about people’s health who are fat, that’s their own prerogative and their own life to lead. They are free to make their own choices. I am a staunch feminist, followed by a close second environmentalist. While some people are genetically obese and are vegetarian, and eating relatively low carbon foot print foods, most obese people are not. I do care about the excessive amounts of carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane gases it takes to produce a large person; the amount of animals that have been killed; the amount of exploitation that is going on to create fat. That’s not even being mentioned. Being obese is simply bad for the environment, and in this day and age, we cannot afford that lack of empathy anymore.

First let’s clarify – if you missed her point (and it would be easy to do since it is a poor argument, very poorly made) she is suggesting that people whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is greater than 30 (aka obese people) shouldn’t be allowed to exist because of her assumptions about the amount of meat that we eat and its impact on the environment.

Ali is a plus sized model and self-described “body activist”, but she appears to be one of those people whose “body positivity” only expands far enough to include herself.  Just as her “body activism” is questionable, so is her “environmentalism” since it seems to include lashing out irrationally on other people’s Facebook pages using numbers that she makes up. Suggesting that size = amount of meat eaten is patently ridiculous, especially considering the popularity of the paleo diet.  Ali seems to know that there are fat vegetarians and fat vegans (and thus that you can’t tell how much meat someone eats based on their size)  but she’s not one to let facts get in the way of a good fat bashing.

Regardless of what you believe about fat people and our carbon footprint, any time someone like Ali suggests that it’s ok to take a group of people who are identifiable by sight, calculate (or, in Ali’s case, make completely random guesses about) their cost on society, and then suggest that they shouldn’t exist, they are going down a bad, bad road.

But it gets more hypocritical. Having spent some time looking at Ali’s social media she is very proud of the time that she spends flying around the world, apparently the expanded carbon footprint that requires is justified in her case because of the importance of Ali wearing clothes in many locations.  To be clear, I have no problem with Ali being a model traveling around the world to do it, I do have a problem with her throwing carbon stones from her carbon house.

Finally, in the “adding insult to injury” and “horrible irony” categories, the winner is…Ali’s use of the phrase “lack of empathy.”

Step 2 – Issue a Non-Apology, demand education, and tone police

Like so many before her, Ali seems to suffer from NAS (Non-Apology Syndrome.) So, after seeming to be super surprised that people didn’t jump on her “stereotype the fatties for the environment” bandwagon and instead insisted that she stop saying ignorant shit and educate herself, she issued the kind of non-apology that  far  too  often follows this kind of fat shaming. This is better than some, but still fails at the core goal of apologizing  for doing something wrong:

I wrote a comment on @readytostare instagram about obesity and its relationship to over consumption. I was coming at this from an environmental viewpoint. After reading some of the viewpoints and comments on the thread, I can totally understand how my comments came off rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And definitely not the truth for many people. I didn’t want to offend ANYONE and I’m so sorry that I did. I hope you can forgive my poorly written comments.

Except the problem isn’t that what she said “came off” rude, coarse, and inappropriate it’s that they, in fact, WERE rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And the problem isn’t that people were offended, it’s that she stereotyped fat people and suggested that our existence is a “lack of empathy”. And the problem isn’t that the comments were “poorly written” it’s that they were inaccurate, bigoted, and suggested that fat people shouldn’t exist.

At this point Alysse said on Facebook

From the emails she has continued to send me, I’m clear that she’s not open to understanding how what she said was wrong, she just doesn’t want people to be mad at her.

Ali doubled down with a note telling Alysse how she should have responded:

This is Ali Tate. Thought I should write you about our interaction on Facebook. I’m really, I didn’t meant to offend you! I’m a body positive activist as well, and am passionate about talking and learning about these things.

But I don’t think I warranted a “fuck you” on Facebook. If I am wrong and wrote a false claim please, by all means, tell me why it is wrong and engage in rational discussion? The last thing I meant was to offend, just a good conversation. Anyways, hope you could unblock me and we can Converse about it.

Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that in the second sentence she actually meant to say “I’m sorry.” This is still not ok.  First of all, bigots don’t get to control both sides of the conversation. This (all too common) technique of fat shaming and then telling fat people how they should respond to your bullshit, is bullshit.

Also, you have to come from a particular combination of privilege, bigotry, and ignorance to think that you can suggest that people shouldn’t exist, and call it “just a good conversation.”  There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether or not fat people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether fat people have the right to exist.  Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.

Step 3 – Claim to be the Victim

At this point Ali posted to her own Facebook

Wow. Now I really know what it feels like to be cyber bullied. It’s rough guys. Hope no one has to go through this.

Sorry Ali, my tiny violin is in the shop. This is another common tactic of bullies – engage in bullying behavior and then accuse those who stand up to them of being the bullies, using claiming victim status as their exit strategy from the situation. This also makes it clear that Ali has never actually been the victim of cyber bullying and I hope that continues for her, because it is horrible.

Let’s examine the situation:  Ali, a plus size model and “body activist,” voluntarily went onto the Facebook page of a fat activist, on a thread about why concern trolling fat people is not ok, and hijacked the space and the thread to concern troll fat people – stereotyping us and calling us a “lack of empathy” that the world “cannot afford.”  Ali is the problem here, and so is the idea that people who stand up to oppression are bullies.  Many people have offered to educate her so I’m not going to spend my time and energy on it, but I sincerely hope that she educates herself, or at the very least keeps her stereotyping and fat bashing to herself.

In the words of Alysse (who was kind enough to give me permission to write about this and answer my questions)

I initially had blocked Ali from seeing the post because I didn’t want to cause any trauma to her because I knew I couldn’t control how people would respond but then I decided then that blocking her wouldn’t give her a chance to respond either. It was a difficult situation for both me and her. I believed that she should be held accountable for what she said about the community that both employs her and that she claims to advocate for. I hoped that the experience would educate and multiple people who I consider to be strong body advocates have come forth and offered to educate her. I hope she takes them up on that.

Here is the story in pictures:

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on January 27, 2016 at 10:17 am  Comments (14)  

The Worst Reason to Lose Weight

Concern Troll Venn DiagramToday I’m not talking about people’s individual reasons to attempt to manipulate their body size.  People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies including trying to shrink them and it’s not my business.  What I’m talking about is the worst reason that we are told to lose weight.

“For our health” is a pretty terrible reason – what with there being absolutely no evidence that would suggest that attempts at weight loss will leave us any thinner or healthier (two different things, by the way.)

“To be more beautiful” is a pretty terrible reason since it presupposes that we want to buy into the current social constructs and stereotypes of beauty and try to manipulate our bodies to meet them.

But the worst, the absolute worst, as far as I’m concerned is something I saw in marketing literature for a weight loss product (that I will not be linking to for what I hope are obvious reasons:)

Heavier people are often teased and taunted starting in childhood and continuing for the rest of their lives.  These insults can cause early emotional wounds that get ripped back open with every new jab and joke. [Insert Product Name] can give you a life free from this emotional baggage!

The first two statements (everything up to [insert product name]) are completely accurate, and as far as I am concerned form the most inappropriate and despicable way to try to sell weight loss to people.

The message that those who are the victims of poor treatment should change themselves to suit their bullies is horrifying. As anyone who tried to appease a bully in junior high school learned, once you give them your lunch money, they are going to want something else.  One day it’s your lunch money, the next it’s your lunch money and your pencil, then you’re skipping lunch, borrowing someone else’s pencil and letting the bully copy off your homework.  Soon you find your head – and your self-esteem- in the toilet while the bully makes off with your entire backpack.

It’s the same with losing weight as a way to stop being treated poorly.  As if the kind of people who would treat you poorly because of your weight won’t pick something else if you become thin. Not to mention that research shows that even if you manage to be in the tiny fraction of people who become thin, if people know you were previously fat you may still face discrimination:

“We were surprised to find that currently thin women were viewed differently depending on their weight history,” said Dr Janet Latner, study lead at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, US. “Those who had been obese in the past were perceived as less attractive than those who had always been thin, despite having identical height and weight.”

Again, people are allowed to attempt weight loss for this or any other reason, but for weight loss companies and other organizations that actually contribute to a climate of fat hate to suggest weight loss as a cure for fat hate is completely ridiculous – they are helping to create a problem that they then suggest we buy their product to solve.  And that is borderline criminal.

The problem is never that fat people exist. The problem is always the mistreatment of fat people. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could (or want to) become thin.

It’s true that heavier people are often teased and taunted starting in childhood and continuing for the rest of our lives.  It’s true that these insults can cause early emotional wounds that get ripped back open with every new jab and joke.

But I don’t need a company to come along and offer to change my body, because the problem here is the perpetrators of the oppressive behavior, not the victims of it. The only people in this situation who need to change are those who engage in appearance-based teasing and oppression.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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 January 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm  Comments (12)  

Dillard’s Body-Shames Teen Girl

NO Negative Body TalkOver 100 people told me about a Facebook post in which a mom talks about how a salesperson at Dillard’s showed us exactly how not to sell dresses to teenage girls (or really, anybody) Let’s look at it bit by bit:

Dear sales lady at Dillard’s Towne East Mall,

The phone number for this Dillard’s is (316) 685-0341, that may become important to you later on in this blog post. 

This is my teenage daughter who wanted to try on dresses for an upcoming formal.  I found this dress and asked her to try it on.  She told me this was not her style, but tried it on for me.  I told her how grown up it made her look and she smiled, and told me this made her look too old but still, she let me take a picture.

Adorable mother daughter moment right? I’ll show you the picture in a minute, but not yet, because I want to highlight that what I’m about to say would be true regardless of what the girl looks like in the dress.

Right after that, you entered and told my daughter she needed to wear SPANX if she wanted to wear this dress.

What the eff? What the ACTUAL eff? What the EFFING EFF? No. Just no. World of no, Galaxy of no, Universe of no. No. How freaking DARE this woman tell a teenage girl – part of a population who are most at risk for low self-esteem and eating disorders – that there is something wrong with her body that requires giant spandex underpants to fix?

(To be clear, I’ve discussed my feelings about SPANX before, but they are just my feelings. If you want to wear SPANX that is perfectly fine – this is a literal example of The Underpants Rule. However, if you want to tell a teenage girl that she needs to wear SPANX, you are a monster and you shouldn’t be around, or talk to, teenage girls, let alone be paid to sell them dresses.)

I told my daughter to go change. I told you that she was just fine without SPANX.  You continued to argue with me.  We left soon after.

Continued to argue. Continued to argue. CONTINUED TO ARGUE. CONTINUED TO ARGUE.

What kind of person says something that can be seriously damaging to the self-esteem and body image of a teenage girl, and when she gets called on it, instead of saying “Oh dear god, I can’t believe I did that, I’m so sorry, how can I make it right?” doubles down and argues that teen girls need to hear that their bodies aren’t good enough to wear a dress unless they are stuffed like sausages into expensive spandex casings?

Ok, seriously, retail work is extremely difficult, and typically under-appreciated and underpaid and that’s a problem that needs to be solved.  But that does not make it ok to body-shame teenagers. So while I will stand with the salesperson for better treatment, better scheduling, and better wages, I can’t stand behind her body shaming teenagers.

I wish I had told you how many girls suffer from poor self image and telling them they need something to make them perfect can be very damaging.  Girls of all ages, shapes and sizes are perfect because that is how God made them.  If they feel good in a dress that is all that should matter

Let’s talk about eating disorders and adolescents:

  • The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 2.7% of teens, ages 13-18 years old, struggle with an eating disorder.
  • 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight.
  • Over 50% of teenage girls and 33% of teenage boys are using restrictive measures to lose weight at any given time.
  • 35% of normal dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.

So obviously it’s in every teenage girl’s best interest to be body-shamed as often as possible.  Or…wait…no…the exact opposite of that.

My daughter is tall, she swims, run, dances, and does yoga. She’s fit, she’s beautiful She did not need you telling her that she is not perfect.

It’s nice that this girl has hobbies that she likes, but let’s be clear that regardless of their height, weight, hobbies, or level of fitness, no teenage girl (or person of any age) should be body-shamed, and no teenage girl (or person of any age) is obligated to smush their body into some other shape to be able to wear a dress.  Again, if you want, or think you need, to wear shapewear then that is your right, but it begins and ends with you – if you suggest that other people need to wear shapewear you’ve crossed the line and you need to take your spanx-wearing ass back over it.

I hope this is shared and gets back to you so that you should not say something like that to a girl ever again. You never know what negative or positive thoughts they are thinking about themselves.

I hope it gets shared too, and I hope that this encourages not just this Dillard’s, but every store that sells clothing to teenage girls, to find ways to sell clothes and support high self-esteem at the same time. (Remember if you wanted to contact that Dillard’s and, say, ask that they apologize and create training about the difference between upselling and body-shaming, the phone number for this Dillard’s is (316) 685-0341)  Especially since this isn’t Dillard’s first foray into fat-shaming.

Sincerely,

Mother of a beautiful girl

Thank you for standing up for your daughter and against body shaming.  We may not be able to stop people from trying to poison our girls with body hate, but we can do our best to stand up for them and inoculate them (and here are some simple steps to do just that.)

Here are the pictures (with the girl’s face replaced with what I thought was an appropriate expression.)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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 January 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm  Comments (19)  

Things “Fat” Doesn’t Mean

Reader Kele sent me this question (and gave me permission to blog about it!)

A friend of mine, who is herself fattish, shared a screenshot on Facebook today. I commented that in a way I understood where the poster was coming from, but I didn’t like the fat shaming aspect at all. My friend responded that she “didn’t mean to body shame, but when she hears the phrase ‘fat ass,’ her mind automatically translates it to ‘lazy.'” I told her equating fat with lazy is exactly body shaming, and she asked me to explain why! I did my best, but I have to say it’s so obvious to me and I was so confounded that a smart woman would pose the question that I’m not sure I did a great job.

Kele FB Meme

“How dare you say “what happened” to an aging actor while your fat ass is covered in butter and sour patch kids in a reclining theater seat.”

I have found that this is a common problem.  One of the ways that marginalization of fat people is kept in place is through this kind of “stereotype and substitute” situation. Instead of stereotyping all fat people as lazy (which is bad enough), people just start to use the terms interchangeably.

A good example of this was that ridiculous “fattest thing you’ve ever done” things which was actually just story after story of people who ate a lot one time.  That’s not “being fat” that’s eating a lot one time, and if there’s anything that meme proved it’s that people of all sizes do that.

Stereotyping like this creates issues in a number of ways:

First, it creates situations where behaviors are considered fine for people who look one way, but not for people who look another way.  For example, consider the likely reaction to a sitcom scene where a thin girl who has just broken up with a significant other is wearing sweats and no make-up, eating a gallon of mint chocolate chip from the container and squirting whipped cream into her mouth. Now imagine if it was a fat girl doing the same thing.  This type of stereotyping creates appearance-based double standards, and that’s bullshit.

It can create intersectional oppression for fat people who also deal with issues of racism/healthism/ableism that may come with stereotypes/preconceptions of laziness. Also it leads to “lazy” (by whatever definition) fat people being treated dramatically worse than “lazy” thin people, when neither is really anybody’s business.

This meme is particularly irritating to me because speaking out against celebrity shaming is important, and this totally botches it by employing the terrible strategy of fighting celebrity body shaming with fat body shaming. Based on this meme I might get the idea that it’s ok to shame celebrities as long as you are thin and eating kale chips in an uncomfortable chair.  That’s not how we make things better.

This kind of stereotype/substitute also creates a situation that encourages people to project their shame about behaviors in which they engage onto fat people to try to make themselves feel better.  If they feel like they eat too much or don’t get to the gym enough they can lash out at fat people, and then feel better about themselves. But fat people don’t exist to be punching bags for thin people with self-esteem issues, and using us that way is unacceptable.

Finally it takes an adjective that accurately describes people’s bodies, and turns it into an epithet used to shame and bully.  That, in turn, contributes to a climate of bullying and oppression in which people, like Kele’s friend, actually forget why it’s not ok to stereotype type people or substitute a behavior for an appearance.

Here are three easy steps to prevent this:

  1. Don’t confuse body size or appearance with behavior
  2. Don’t use an adjective that describes a group of people as an insult
  3. Think before you meme

Speaking of memes let’s see if we can’t make some improvements:

Aging Actor Meme

Same meme, but now with everything but “How dare you say “what happened” to an aging actor” crossed out.

There, fixed it!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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 January 23, 2016 at 3:30 pm  Comments (12)