We’re Fat People, Not Metaphors

Actual SizeOne of the ways that weight-based bigotry is perpetuated is the use of fat people and being fat as metaphor.  Recently reader Jen commented about a situation where this was happening to her and gave me permission to blog about it.

I am the only fat person, in a group of 14 people, for whom issues like alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic partner violence seem to play third chair to the issue of: “at least I don’t look like her.” And no, I can’t prove this, but when half of the examples from the books that the groups’ facilitators use have to be examples of how “not to eat too much”, “because that is a short time reward vs a long time goal” (ie a cookie vs weight loss), I get sort of…paranoid. Like one can BE paranoid about an issue that seems to run 24 7 in every element, aspect and goal of modern American Society.
Seriously, have they NO other examples?

As they say – it’s not paranoia if they’re actually after you.  Fat bodies, being fat, and stereotypes about being  fat are used to represent everything from  greed to laziness to capitalism and more.  Our bodies are freely used for whatever the negative metaphor, comparison, or representation of the day is.  As if we have no feelings about seeing people who look like us constantly used to represent everything bad in the world, or as if those feelings aren’t important.

Our bodies are not yours to photograph and throw all over the internet as a metaphor for anything (or as some bullshit People of Walmart nonsense.)  We are PEOPLE, these are our BODIES, and EVERY BODY deserves respect.

Of course we each get to choose how to deal with the oppression we face. For me, when this happens in person I’ve found that one of the most effective tools is to use confusion, acting like I don’t understand the comparison and making the person explain until the problem is obvious and they get too uncomfortable to continue.

When it happens online, I propose a little bit of simple at-home activism.  Every time you see fat people or being fat used to represent something negative, leave a comment like “Fat people aren’t yours for the metaphor-ing. Every body deserves respect!” If you want to take it one step further send an e-mail to the source of the story – tell them your personal story, send them this blog whatever, but let’s teach people that this behavior isn’t ok.  Also, I’ve found that this kind of activism can reframe this issue for me – now instead of feeling angry or hurt or ashamed when I see this happen, I can look at it as a chance to educate, and advocate for myself.

I am super excited to announce the 2017 Body Love Obstacle Course!

Last year 30 people participated in the first ever Body Love Obstacle Course. Some joined on the live calls, and some used the recordings on their own time. Based on their feedback, we’ve created two separate options – the BLOC Power Circle – an intense course that includes a series of live calls and is limited to only 10 people, and the BLOC e-Course which is self-paced and utilizes recordings. Both include the same curriculum and are coached by me, Jeanette DePatie, and amazing guest coaches.

Both are a step-by-step program that gives people the tools, coaching, and community to create a rock solid foundation of self-esteem and body love, and teaches the strategies and skills to leverage that to create the life you’ve always wanted.

Super Early Bird pricing is available during the pre-sale until December 15 so
get the details and register here! 

Note:  if you are a Danceswithfat member be sure to check your e-mail and/or the member page to get your $50 and $30 discount.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 December 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm  Comments (3)  

Fatphobia Claims Another Life

Bully Free ZoneToday’s blog is pretty intense – content warning for discussion of bullying, harassment, and suicide.

Brandy Vela sent her sister Jackie a text that said “”I love you so much, please remember that, and I’m sorry for everything.” Then she took her own life.

Brandy was the victim of cyberbullying.  According to Jackie:

“People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn’t respond and they would still come at her…They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”
Jackie says her sister changed her phone number and reported the bullying to police, but was told they couldn’t help her.
“They couldn’t do anything because [the suspects] used an app and it wasn’t traceable and they couldn’t do something until something happened, like they fight,” Jackie said.
This is a story that far too many fat people on the internet know far too well.  Anonymous cowards who use the tools that the internet provides, and the fact that laws haven’t caught up with technology, to do things online that would be illegal if they did them in person, or even using traditional mail.
 –
If you’re one of these bullies and you’re reading this, know that you killed Brandy Vela.  You have blood on your hands and it will never, ever wash off.  Walk away from this now, find someplace to hang out other than online hate forums, find something to do that isn’t mistreating fat people. You can walk away, and you should.
 –
If you are the victim of these people, please know that you are not the problem – they are. You are fine, your body is fine, you do not deserve this – you never did, and you never will.
 –
Friends and family are honoring Brandy’s life: Post-it Notes filled with loving words cover her bedroom, and blue hearts are tapes all over the hallways in her school.
 –
I’d like to suggest another way to honor all of those who have been victims of cyberbullying. When you see trolls online putting fat people down, trying to keep us from living the lives we want, trying to keep us from telling our stories and creating community, trying to make sure that we can’t even exist in the world for a moment without constant shame, stigma, bullying and harassment, remember that while it’s easy to write them off as sad and pathetic (and they certainly are both) they are also something else – they are murderers. Brandy is sadly not the first or last to fall prey to them, and we should hold them accountable.
 –
Stories like Brandy Vela’s break my heart. Casualties of the horribly conceived and horrifyingly conducted “war on obesity” and the cyberbullies who all too eagerly enlist themselves in the  army of hate.
 –

If you are a fat person, know that you are amazing. In the face of a crushing amount of bullying and stigma, in the face of the government recruiting our friends, families, and employers to fight a war against us, in spite of the intense oppression that tries its best to crush us, that we keep living our lives is a testament to our incredible strength.

And yes, it’s ok to be fat.  And if they want a “war on obesity” then we will damn well give them one. And know that you can’t be strong all the time so if you are feeling low – if you fear that you may become a casualty of this war – reach out around the fatosphere, and let’s be here for each other.

In a world where waking up as a fat person and not hating ourselves is considered an act of rebellion, I’m proud to be a rebel. In a world where refusing to spend all of my time , money and energy trying to manipulate my body size is considered a crime against society, I’m proud to be a criminal. In a world where loving my body is an act of revolution, I’m proud to be a revolutionary.

Fuck the trolls, fuck the cyberbullies, and fuck the “war on obesity.” Live loud and proud my fellow fat people, because we are nothing short of extraordinary.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 December 2, 2016 at 10:33 am  Comments (13)  

Underpants Rule

Underpants RuleThis is one of those annual tradition posts – it’s the Underpants Rule and it is pretty simple: when it comes to personal choices, everyone is the boss of their own underpants. So, when it comes to personal choices, you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do and it’s not their job to tell you what to do. To illustrate, if someone is considering saying something about personal choices that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that they are about to break The Underpants Rule. Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

I chose a Health at Every Size practice (knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control)  because I am a fan of research, logic and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice gives me a much better shot at supporting my health with way less downside risk than a weight loss- based health practice.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so – they say that I should make a different choice.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live when it comes to their personal choices, and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live when it comes to my personal choices.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and quote research as to why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe them) when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women need to become larger to be attractive.  Besides the fact that I don’t believe it, those are not my underpants. (Not to mention that the path to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to someone else exactly what I don’t want done to me seems ill-advised.)

The “War on Obesity” is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political motivations) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody. (And another year has gone by and I’ve still not received my official fat person pony.)

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government, or the diet industry into my underpants.

Over the years, there have been some misunderstandings about the Underpants Rule – mostly confusion about what is and is not covered, I wrote about the limitations of the UR here.

Now, I’m not telling what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then maybe take a pass on trying to be the boss of someone else’s.  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the brick rule or the pile of crap rule or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.

Underpants. Underpants. Underpants.

Underpants.

Under…

…pants.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 30, 2016 at 12:30 pm  Comments (11)  

My New Favorite Fat TV Character

Actual SizeMy sadness over the fact that Chrissie Metz’ character in This Is Us has decided to have stomach amputation (announced in an episode that I think they should have named “An Ode to the Stomach Amputation Industry”) has lifted a bit because I discovered maybe my favorite fat character ever on a TV Show.

The show is called Scorpion and it’s about a group of geniuses who work with the US Government to solve crimes (why did nobody tell me about this show before now?) The character I’m talking about is Sylvester Dodd, played spectacularly by Ari Stidham. (Note – I don’t know how Ari identifies size-wise, I think of him as a fat, he might not agree.)

What I love about the character is that he is a very multi-dimensional main character, the character is very physical and often given very physical tasks to do that are literally life and death and, with the exception of him being called “Big Fella” in a good-natured, non-judgmental way, his weight is never an issue (at least as far as I’ve seen.  Fingers crossed since we’re basically binge-watching this show right now.) The show isn’t perfect, it can play on stereotypes and there could definitely be more diversity in casting,  I enjoy the show and it makes me so happy to see a fat character portrayed as something other than a self-loathing side kick.

If you have favorite fat and fat positive TV characters (ie: multi-dimensional, no diet talk, no weight loss talk, accepting/affirming of their size etc.) please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm  Comments (30)  

Handling The Friends and Family Food Police

Guilt Free EatingThis post is a danceswithfat tradition, offered for those who may have to deal with inappropriate friend and family behavior during this “holiday season” (whether they are celebrating any holidays or not.)

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.

I think that we need to remember that fat hate and body shaming is modeled for people all over our culture, fear of being fat is a driver of a lot of behaviors.

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.

As an example, I’ll use that age old shaming question “Do you need to eat that?”

This is such a loaded question. What do they mean by “need”? Are they asking if my glycogen stores are depleted? If I am near starvation?  If my body at this moment requires the precise nutrients that are delivered by cornbread stuffing and gravy? Or do they feel that fostering a relationship with food that is based on guilt and shame is in my best interest?

This question is custom-made to make someone feel ashamed.  I think it’s asked for one of about three reasons:

Judgment

The person asking the question has decided that it is their job to pass judgment on your activities.  Being too cowardly to directly state their opinion, they use this question as a mode of passive aggression to “make you admit it to yourself”.  This is one of those situations where they would probably claim to be mistreating you for your own good, also known around this blog as “Pulling a Jillian“.

If the person asking this question truly cared about you and your health (however misguided they might be), they would talk to you about it in person, alone, at an appropriate time, and they would ask a question that invited dialog, not try to embarrass you in front of people while you’re eating what is supposed to be a celebratory meal. That right there is some bullshit.

Power/Superiority

Remember that some people never psychologically got past Junior High and nothing makes them feel so powerful as judging someone else and then making them feel like crap. Maybe because they are drowning in…

Insecurity

The person asking the question perhaps struggles with weight stigma, their guilt about eating etc. and since they feel guilty for enjoying the food, they think that you should feel guilty about it too, or they want to deflect attention from their behavior to yours.

The degree of difficulty on discerning someone’s intent in this sort of thing can range from “of course” to “who the hell knows”. Here’s the thing though, from my perspective it doesn’t matter why they are asking it:  I am not ok with being asked, and I get to make that decision.

So you’re at a holiday meal, you take seconds on mashed potatoes 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?

If it’s me, first I quell my rage and resist the urge to put them down (Yes, I do need these mashed potatoes.  Did you need to be a total freaking jerk?)

Second, as with so many situations where people lash out at you, remember that this is about their issues and has nothing to do with you.   If emotions well up, consider that you may be feeling embarrassed and/or sorry for them, and not ashamed of your own actions.

Finally 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
  • Thanks for trying to give me your insecurities, but I was really hoping to get a Wii this year
  • 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.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 23, 2016 at 11:08 am  Comments (15)  

Q&A About Chrissy Metz and Contractually Required Weight Loss

know fat chicks

Design by Kris Owen

Chrissy Metz is one of the stars of the television show This Is Us.  As is all too often the case, she plays a fat character who is “struggling with her weight”  As is less common, the contract she signed to play the character includes a requirement for weight loss.  She says:

In our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself. That was a win-win for me. Because it’s one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it’s an ego thing: We’re more likely to do something for someone else.

I just have to be very clear. Whether or not I lose weight or stay the same, it’s purely a choice of mine for health. Not because I think that plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, big bodies aren’t attractive — because I think they’re awesome and sexy.

So I’ll just have to make sure that’s known, because I’m not selling out the big girls. I don’t do that. That’s not me.

As this has been posted to social media by frustrated fat activists I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about why this is a problem, so I thought I would give my thoughts as to the answers:

Lots of fat people do want to lose weight, why are you complaining that her character is one of those fat people?

It’s a problem because almost every fat character who we see on television and in movies is fully invested in fat-hating diet culture. Representation matters, and the fact that almost all media representation of fat people is based on negative stereotypes and diet culture is a problem.  It means that we don’t have role models who look like us (and like looking like us,) and that nearly every time that fat-positive fat people find out that we are actually going to represented (which is, in and of itself, pretty rare in television and movies) it’s not long before we find out that the we aren’t going to be represented at all – the only fat people who are represented are fat people who don’t want to be fat any more.

There are plenty of fat people who aren’t interested in weight loss and we would like to see ourselves represented as well. It’s not just important for fat people, but also for everyone we interact with, whose beliefs and opinions about us are shaped by our media representations as self-loathing stereotypes.

She said that this is about her health, don’t you want her to be healthy?

She is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body for whatever her reasons are, and she is allowed to believe whatever she wants about health.  She is allowed to try to manipulate her body size even though the evidence suggests that the most likely outcome of her weight loss attempts is weight gain. But let’s be clear that she didn’t say that she was losing weight for her health. First she said she had to lose weight per the contract that she signed to be on a television show.  Then, later, she said that it was about her health.

Also when she says “That was a win-win for me. Because it’s one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it’s an ego thing: We’re more likely to do something for someone else. ” it makes it seem like that’s some kind of factual statement when, in fact, there is no reason to believe that being forced to lose weight for a contract or for “someone else” will have any more chance of long-term weight loss than any other motivation (which is to say, almost no chance at all.)

What will happen if she doesn’t lose weight?

This is a damn good question. She says it’s about her health but what will she be doing to lose the weight – especially if it’s a contractual obligation?  It’s bad enough to eat less than you need to survive in the hopes that you body will consume itself and become smaller, but we also know that over and over again doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been completely fine with killing fat people in attempts to make us smaller so I can only hope that this doesn’t spiral into something horrific just so that television can create yest another shitty “before and after” weight loss as self-discovery fatty story. And even if she is able to lose weight short term, if she’s like the vast majority of people who regain the weight, what will happen then?

She said that big bodies are awesome and sexy, why isn’t that enough for you?

It’s nice if she thinks that, but my fight isn’t just to be seen as beautiful or sexy, it’s to be seen as a human being and not a walking “before” picture. It’s about having the chance to get actual health care based on evidence-based interventions rather than being prescribed a bag of not-so-magical weight loss beans. It’s about fat people no longer being hired less and paid less than thin people with the same qualifications.  Being seen as sexy is nice, but what I’m talking about here is seeing people who look like me represented in media as fully actualized, non self-loathing human beings, rejecting diet culture and leading amazing lives.

But she says that she’s not selling out big people! She says it right there!

She may well believe that, and that’s great, but I don’t think her actions are necessarily in line with her goals here. If she really doesn’t want to sell out fat people she could say something like “I signed up to play a character with a weight loss trajectory and I agreed to be contractually obligated to manipulate my body size to portray that character.  I want to be clear that weight is not the same thing as health, and that neither weight loss nor health are an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.  While I may choose to attempt weight loss, I understand that weight loss doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, and I also want to celebrate fat people who reject diet culture and live amazing lives in fat bodies.”

Once again, Chrissie Metz – like everyone – is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body for whatever reason she chooses, but that doesn’t mean that those choices don’t add to the diet culture that oppresses fat people. I wish her all the best and I hope that she will work hard to fully support fat people and to reject anti-fat culture even as she tries to manipulate her body size to fulfill her television contract.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Comments (15)  

Fashion for Good and Evil

Biscuit doesn't care about flatteringAlysse Dalessandro is the designer, entrepreneur, and general badass behind Ready To Starea body positive clothing company that sells clothes from small to 5xl all at the same price, using diverse models.  In short Alysse uses fashion for good – for empowerment and size diversity activism, and encouraging people to find and rock their own personal style, which is awesome.  She posted the following picture to Facebook, highlighting some wide-calf thigh high boots she found that her readers had been requesting.

Alysse 1.png

Because she looks so damn fierce, this post got shared around Facebook.  And that’s when it ran into people who use fashion for evil. When I say evil, I mean people who use fashion to put other people down,  judge other people, and try to enforce body-negative, anti-fat stereotypes of beauty, including and especially using the coded concept of “flattering.”

We tend to see these comments, well, basically anytime a fat person posts a picture of themselves wearing an outfit that isn’t all black and designed to be “slimming.” There are lots of ways that people make this mistake – and it’s a mistake that’s encouraged by a fatphobic culture – so I thought I would take some time today and dissect one of the comments that managed to commit all of the mistakes at once.

I’m a big girl myself and I think those boots are horrible and way too tight, I understand embracing plus size etc but them boots and the whole style makes me feel uncomfortable. It looks so unattractive. But I suppose as long as she’s comfortable and happy that is all that matters.

Let’s break this down:

I’m a big girl myself

Internalized fatphobia is real.  It happens when fat people live in a fatphobic society and accept the opinions and messages of their stigmatizers, bullies, and oppressors as valid. They take this to the next level when they choose to become a stigmatizer, bully, and oppressor by engaging in anti-fat sentiment, like this comment. Often they aren’t even fully aware of what they are doing or how it hurts people because fatphobia is modeled so ubiquitously in our culture as normal.

Consequently,there may be plenty of fat people who are willing to participate in fatphobia, but that doesn’t make fatphobia any more valid, or any less oppressive and wrong.

I think those boots are horrible and way too tight, I understand embracing plus size etc but them boots and the whole style makes me feel uncomfortable.

At this point I want to remind you that Alysse captioned her picture “Since everyone always asks where I got these boots – I found some similar ones!”  and did not caption it “Please take this opportunity to direct your fatphobia (internalized or otherwise) at me.”

Sounds like maybe this person doesn’t “understand embracing plus size etc.” It’s ok to choose to wear clothes based on whatever your reasons might be.  It’s ok to dislike someone’s outfit, but there’s really no need to say (or write) it out loud, unless you feel that it’s important for you to vocally police other fat people who refuse to bow to the strictures of diet culture and/or choose to dress differently than you.

If someone’s outfit makes us feel uncomfortable, that might be a good indicator that it’s time for some self-work, not a Facebook comment. Either way, if someone doesn’t ask for our negative opinion about their outfit, there is literally no good reason in the world for us to give it.

It looks so unattractive.

Again, if we don’t like it, we should feel free not to wear it, but let’s not pretend that we are the arbiters of what is and is not attractive.  And let’s not forget that “attractive” is another coded word that, when used about fat people, all-too-often means  “slimming” or “making one look as tall and thin as possible.”  What is and is not attractive is subjective, so unless there is a ceremony appointing us the judge of attractiveness (and if there is, I would hold out for a glittery gavel) our opinion of what is attractive is a great way for us to decide what to wear, and has nothing to do with what other people wear.

But I suppose as long as she’s comfortable and happy that is all that matters.

Note that the person feels free to criticize the outfit and call it “unattractive” as if that is fact,  but couches this – the only factual statement in the bunch – with “I suppose…”

If the commenter understands this – and I sincerely hope they do –  then they should also understand that there was no point to voicing the rest of the comment, other than to put another fat person down in the service of fatphobia, which is the last thing that we need.

It’s difficult to live in a fatphobic society, and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of fatphobia (including internalized fatphobia.) So here’s one concrete action we can take:  if we see a fat person wearing an outfit we don’t like, it’s perfectly fine to decide that it’s not to our taste, it’s perfectly fine to take a pass on wearing it, but we can also choose to keep our negative thoughts to ourselves, thereby making sure that we don’t add to the epic load of fatphobic BS that we have to deal with already.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 18, 2016 at 9:33 am  Comments (6)  

Khloé Kardashian Urges Bullied People to Hand Over Their Lunch Money

Nothing to proveKhloé Kardashian has a new show called “Revenge Body.”  The premise is “Let’s make our haters our biggest motivators” and to that end people who have been bullied are given a team of trainers and “beauty experts” to help them go to drastic measures to look like people they assume their bullies would not have bullied which, for Khloé, passes for “revenge.”

While people are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies for whatever their reasons, this, to me, is no kind of revenge.  This is spending a ton of time, energy, and money to give the bullies exactly what they wanted, and then asking for their approval.  It’s like saying “give the bullies your lunch money, that’ll show ’em!”

We don’t owe our bullies anything, least of all manipulation of our body size, eyebrow waxing, or uncomfortable shoes – however “fashionable” they might be.  Oppression takes a lot of different forms, and oppression against people who are believed to be able to move out of an oppressed group often leads to people feeling vindicated in their suggestion that the best way to solve social stigma is for stigmatized people to change ourselves.

As a queer woman I’ve been told that if I don’t like being the victim of homophobia I should date a dude. As a fat woman I’ve been told that if I don’t like being the victim of fatphobia I should become thin.  In both cases it doesn’t actually matter if it’s possible to change myself, because the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma – not for stigmatized people to try to squeeze ourselves in a mold someone else created for us.

I will not try to manipulate my body size for some kind of twisted victim-blaming concept of “revenge.” I will wield my beautiful fat body like a weapon.  I will love it, I will care for it, I will move it, I will show it in public, I will viciously defend my body against anyone who seeks to classify it as anything but amazing. The problem here isn’t how we look, it’s that people bully us for how we look. I don’t care about revenge, but I do demand social change.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 17, 2016 at 8:19 am  Comments (7)  

It’s Not Logic, It’s Fatphobia

facepalmThe Toronto Transit Commission created a campaign about public transportation that juxtaposed public transportation backgrounds with dancers from the National Ballet of Canada.  Fat activist Jill Andrew pointed out that the campaign falls short on inclusivity and representation when it comes to who uses the TTC. She explained:

We can’t deny that there is a lot of body-based discrimination that happens … within our moves around the city…My experience as a racialized woman, as a fat woman, I’ve been called an f-ing fat black b—- on the TTC, is this video really moving me? Is this video at all depicting me on the move?  The body types of most ballet dancers do not adequately represent those of most Canadians and, I dare say, most TTC users. This is simply an opportunity to reflect on who is being left out by an ad campaign such as this.

Predictably someone wrote an article to whine that Jill is being “too sensitive” (with thanks to the always amazing Tigress Osborn for making me aware of this.)  That someone is Erin Davis who wrote about this for Notable.com in a piece in which she prefaces an attempt to discredit the words of a fat activist by saying “I am all for the ever-important body positivity movement.” Right. Out of curiosity Erin, what would this piece have looked like if you weren’t “all for the ever-important body positivity movement?” You know what, never mind.

When requests for inclusivity and representation are met with shouts of “oversensitive” and “too-PC” it’s a pretty good bet that it’s being done by someone who is not thinking critically. As if to make it crystal clear that she just doesn’t get it, Erin makes the common mistake of confusing logic for fatphobia when she “explains” the lack body diversity of the ballet dancers in the ads saying: “Dancers look the way they do because they’re dancers.”

Except that’s not actually true at all. The truth is that dancers look the way they do because if they don’t look that way they have almost no chance of being employed regardless of how talented they are because of the rampant fatphobia that exists in the dance world.

So Erin has actually been duped by the very lack of representation that Jill Andrew is pointing out and that Erin is trying to shout down as being “over-sensitive.”  Priceless.

Representation is important, and it’s important to think about who creates the images that we see in the media, what their own prejudices and/or profit motives might be, and it’s important to question that lack of representation not just of fat bodies, but also of People of Color, disabled people/people with disabilities, and other under-represented groups and those with multiple marginalized identities.

So while I don’t love Erin’s article, I do appreciate the great job that she did of proving my (and, as far as I’m concerned, Jill Andrew’s) point: Representation Matters.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm  Comments (7)  

So Your Friend is Suddenly a Weight Loss Genius

WTF are you doingI got this question from a blog reader:

How do you cope with people who have lost significant amounts of weight, and who suddenly seem to think that they have all the answers? I have seen this recently with a few acquaintances, one of whom has lost a massive amount of weight and now seems to spend most of her time criticising others for being unable to do the same. I’ve expressed my concerns to her- firstly that she’s using [a commercial weight loss program], which means she may well put all the weight back on again- but also that her manner has become incredibly toxic and fat phobic. She is not the only one, though.

I suppose what I’m saying is, how can people who know what its like to be the subject of fat-shaming and discrimination suddenly forget all that and perpetrate it against it others once their circumstances change?

This is something that has happened to every fat person I know.  We have a friend who experiences short term weight loss and suddenly they are a Weight Loss genius and expert on why everyone should be thin.  Often it doesn’t matter if they themselves struggled for a long time, or even if this isn’t their first ride on the diet roller coaster.  Of course, people are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, but that doesn’t make it ok for them to add to the oppression of fat people by diet culture.

Let’s start with some of the reasons this happens (of course your mileage – and everyone else’s – may vary so these things may or may not be true for your newly minted weight loss genius friend.) I think it’s a confluence of things having to do with our culture’s obsession with weight loss and thinness:

They have, for the moment anyway, moved themselves out of a stigmatized social class. They are like the kids who suddenly became popular in high school and then join their new “cool” friends in teasing the kids who used to be their friends in junior high.  They are enjoying their new-found privilege and acceptance and they feel like they need to use the language of the people who used to oppress them to keep it, so they now sound like a walking, talking weight loss add complete with before and after pictures and weight and measurement changes that they tell anyone who will listen.

This often comes with a double dose of anything from advice to scorn for the people in their lives who are fat, and especially those of us who aren’t engaged in weight loss. This is because the “cool” kids are only powerful if everyone else wants to be them, so if they are resting their self-esteem on thin being more valuable than fat, but we don’t buy into that and we don’t think that thin is any more valuable, that challenges everything for them from their self-esteem to their social status.

The second issue is the way that we are taught to credit everything good to thinness/weight loss and everything bad to fatness.  There is a more complete explanation here, but the basic issue happens when people make behavior changes and they experience health changes and weight loss (at least for the short term) as a result.  Instead of seeing both the health changes and the weight loss changes as side effects of the behavior changes, they give all the credit to the weight loss.

Often people will credit weight loss with better treatment socially, when the fact is that they have, at least in the short term, solved social stigma by changing themselves to appease their oppressors. Basically they’ve given the bullies their lunch money and, at least for the moment, the bullies have stopped beating them up. It’s important to make the distinction because otherwise they are oppressing fat people by blaming our bodies when the actual problem is the stigma, bullying, and oppression we face because of weigh bias.

And then, sometimes, it’s just blatantly done for profit.

As far as how to handle it:

I suggest that you resist, with conviction, the urge to tell them how good they look now – it sounds like you are saying that they looked bad before.  If we want to opt out of a world where some bodies are seen as better than others, then not suggesting that somebody’s body is better because it’s a different size is probably a decent place to start.

Often when this happens people are really excited and expecting a compliment. I know that there is an extremely high chance that they are going to gain the weight back.  For that reason I try to comment in a way that will lessen the self-esteem hit if they end up in the vast majority.

By the way, if they don’t bring up the weight loss I don’t bring it up. Weight loss isn’t always welcome – it can be from medical issues, medication, stress, grieving etc. and I don’t want to bring up something painful. Plus this conversation is awkward enough, I’m not going to go through it if I don’t have to. (If you’re dealing with unwanted weight loss compliments, or want some suggestions for talking about your weight loss without hurting fat people in the process, I have some suggestions for you here!)

If they bring up weight loss what I tend to say is something like “I’m glad that you are happy” or “You were beautiful before and you still are” or something that is as neutral as possible.  While it’s important to me that people be allowed to make choices for themselves including the choice to attempt weight loss, it’s also important to me that I not perpetuate and praise diet culture or make it seem as if I think a body is more valuable or in some way better if it is currently smaller than it was before. Other people feel differently about this, choosing to celebrate other people’s weight loss and of course that’s their right.

If you are uncomfortable with the amount/frequency of diet talk and weight loss talk, you have several choices. You can decide to just live with it (in this case having a mantra that you say in your head like can be helpful – I use “hey, that’s bullshit!”)

You can try responding to diet and weight loss talk with Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size talk (ie: Them: “I ate super clean today and I’ve lost however many pounds this week” you: “I just feel so much freer, happier, and healthier not moralizing food or talking about my weight!”).

You can change the subject. My friend Jeanette (aka The Fat Chick) told me about a friend of hers who memorized a bunch of facts about monkeys and every time someone brings up diet or weight loss talk, she uses one of her random facts to change the subject to monkeys.

It’s also perfectly ok to set boundaries. Something like “I respect the choices you make and how you feel about your body, but I’m not interested in diet or weight loss talk so if we’re going to hang out we need to find other things to talk about.”

However you decide to handle it, it’s also totally reasonable and ok to be disappointed and hurt by your friend’s actions, and remember that however you choose to deal with it on any given day is totally valid, as are your choices to not be part of diet and weight loss culture.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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 November 15, 2016 at 11:56 am  Comments (16)