After that ridiculous fat bigot posted that ridiculous bigoted rant on YouTube, which included ferociously bullying and belittling a fat child, I started to see a reply floating around the internet from the child she bullied. And I immediately thought, Tony Posnanski’s at it again.
Tony is a formerly fat, currently thin person who now occupies his time by pretending to be fat people who have been publicly fat-shamed. It started with an letter chock full ‘o fat phobia, written by someone who claimed to have sat next to a fat man on a plane. A response started making its way around the internet from the fat man himself. In it he took the point of view that some people should have to pay twice as much as others for the same service (a point of view with which I vehemently disagree). He also explained that he had lost weight, posting before and after pictures of himself.
Eventually it came out that this letter wasn’t written by the actual person but by Tony Posnanski. Tony apologized and said that he “wasn’t trying confuse” anyone when he posted a long letter in the first person, including pictures, pretending to be someone else (which begs the question – if he was trying to confuse people what would he have done? Perhaps a subject for another post.)
Next came the “Fatty on the Westview Track” letter. Another direct response by the fat person in question who talked about how they were losing weight, another “reveal” that the response was written by Tony. Then it was the woman shamed at a baseball game. Another response by the woman (with pictures!) explaining how she had lost weight, another “reveal” that it was Tony, borrowing the pictures of a friend. Now it’s a fat child being belittled, and another response by the fat person in question talking about how they lost weight. Another “reveal” that it was actually Tony pretending to be this person. I am Ragen’s complete lack of surprise.
This is fucked up and it needs to stop right now.
First of all, fat people are not interchangeable. Doing fat activism well, means acknowledging that each of us can only ever speak for ourselves – people can agree with us, but it’s not ok for anyone to suggest that they represent all fat people (and that goes double for thin people pretending to be fat people, and those trying to eradicate us for profit.)
You may have noted above that each and every story that Tony Posnanski has made up while pretending to be someone he is most certainly not, involves the use of weight loss and “good fatty” behaviors to create sympathy. The argument that people shouldn’t bully and harass fat people because we might be losing weight is more harmful than helpful since it suggests that it would be somehow ok to bully and harass a fat person who hadn’t lost weight, or wasn’t trying to lose weight (a popular view among weight bigots and internet trolls already) and one of the BS reasons not to not bully fat people.
In truth, you simply shouldn’t bully and harass fat people – it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin – fat people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression, period. I think that the minute we (or someone pretending to be one of us) start trying to justify ourselves as a way to negotiate with our bullies, we’ve already started losing the fight.
Finally, these people have already been the victims of harassment – often in person and then again online – so they don’t also need to be the victims of identity theft. Let’s be very clear about what is happening here – Tony is pretending to be a real person who is in the public eye, then – having no idea about their actual story – is making up a story about them and fooling as many people as possible into believing the he is them and that his made up story is their actual story, and posting it to his website to generate traffic. This is not ok.
If these people want to tell their actual stories (and remember we have no idea what those are, even though many, many people think they do because of Tony’s successful lying) they deserve the space to do so and they don’t need to be crowded out or shouted over by someone pretending to be them. They should never be put in the position of having to decide if they want to let this egregious theft of their own experience go by, or if they want to have to speak out, now not only against shaming, stigma, bullying and harassment by weight bigots, but also by some thin dude who thought it was ok to steal their experiences and their voices and remake them for his own purpose and design – including facing more ridicule if their story is seen by a fat-phobic society as less “sympathetic” than the story that Tony has made up.
Perhaps Tony has the best of intentions, but that doesn’t really matter. Having once been fat does not qualify him to speak to any experience but his own. As the old saying goes (with perhaps a few liberties taken): Fool us once, you didn’t mean to do it and had the best of intentions. Fool us twice, shame on you. Try to fool us four times, the captain has turned on the sit down and shut up light. If Tony wants to write honest responses to fat shaming from his own perspective, he has every right to do that, but it’s time for him to sign his own name to what he writes and stop pretending to be fat people.
The Fat Activism Conference Is Back
This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Click here to get all the info and register!
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