The Problem With Body Positivity

defendAfter performing her ass off at the half-time show of Super Bowl LI, Lady Gaga was body shamed by the kind of people who think their opinions about women’s bodies matter, and who want to attract other sexist misogynist assholes by taking to the internet to show off their bigotry. Though they are a plague worth ending, I’m not focusing on them today. What I want to talk about are the “Body Positive” responses, because the Body Positive community has some serious problems, and those problems tend to perpetuate exactly what we want to be fighting.

The Body Positive (BoPo) movement as it often appears today is a watered-down version of the much more radical Fat Acceptance movement. BoPo inherited problems that Fat Acceptance had and still has, including a lack of inclusion and centering of the voices of People of Color, disabled people/people with disabilities, and Trans and Non-Binary people. And in seeking to apply the concepts of Fat Acceptance to people of all sizes, BoPo created new problems as well as exacerbating old ones which tend to exclude those who are most oppressed because of their bodies.

You can read my full piece about it here!

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Published in: on February 14, 2017 at 10:16 am  Comments (6)  

Hero Burlesque Dancer Names and Shames Her Trolls

trollsJessica Davey-Quantick, a Burlesque dancer, posted videos of a performance along with pictures of herself in costume to her social media.  A troll started leaving inappropriate comments. By the following morning more trolls had joined in.  According to Davey-Quantick the most prolific troll told her that she should “slit my own wrists and eat my own blubber.”

This is often the time when people chime in to tell the person being bullied that they should “turn the other cheek,” or to “just be positive,” or that they should not “feed the trolls” by talking about what’s happening to them. Each person who deals with trolls and bullies gets to choose how they want to deal with them, and these are completely valid choices.  But they’re not the only choices.

In my experience (which includes everything from the lazy “fatties gonna fat” style trolling, to having entire forums and websites dedicated to trolling me personally, to having people show up where I’m at to video and photograph me and my family, edit: and, in response to this piece, a threat to doxx and harass my partner and her family,) ignoring bullies allows them to bully in peace with no push-back. I’m pretty sure that the person who started telling people that “ignoring the bullies will make them go away” was, at best, never bullied and, at worst, a bully trying to pull one over on us.

Jessica took a different approach. She said “I am over the idea that we have to somehow protect the individuals [involved],” And to prove it, she found the first troll’s father and headmaster, and she let them know what was going on.  The dad started off apologetic and then later claimed his son wasn’t involved, chided Jessica for calling him out, and said that if she didn’t want to be abused she should lock her Instagram account. Sooooo, lying and victim blaming…I guess the troll doesn’t fall far from the tree.

She found greater success with the Headmaster.  It turns out that, as is so often the case, the trolls were children – which doesn’t make their behavior any less harmful, but does help to explain the mentality of doing it in the first place.  Several of them attend Westminster School, an exclusive private school that was “appalled” to find out that their students behaved this way.  So appalled that they suspended the three boys and they’ll be reviewing the boys hand-written apology notes before they are sent to Jessica.

The main troll had already reached out to let Jessica know that they had been suspended, and lost their phone privileges. According to Jessica:

“More importantly, he was so apologetic. And I got this email from him basically telling me he is so ashamed of himself. He is so ashamed that he has done this to his parents, to his friends, that he doesn’t do this normally, and that he’s learned his lesson.”

This is the best possible outcome.  Unfortunately we can’t force internet trolls to grow a conscience, or behave with basic human respect.  One thing we can do, if we choose, is to help them experience the consequences of their actions, thus giving them the opportunity to make better choices moving forward.

For her part, Jessica is committed to helping trolls experience “the army of feminist flying monkeys who descended upon him like a glittery wave of retribution.” She says:

We have to start opening up, because these people who do it generally have private pages and you can’t imagine them sitting down at dinner with their parents and their spouses or their girlfriends and saying, ‘Well, what did you do today honey?’ ‘Well, today I told someone to kill themselves on the internet. Pass the peas, please.’ So we need to take it to their world. We need to make it something they have to own. Not just us.

“I’m probably going to keep getting [abusive messages], and I’m probably going to keep posting and I’m probably going to keep finding their mothers.

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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!

Published in: on February 11, 2017 at 11:49 am  Comments (29)  

Dr. Platkin of Hunter College Issues Embarrassing Media Alert

diet-companiesWhen I got an e-mail with the subject line “Media Alert: “Super Bowl” Calorie Costs—in Exercise” I rolled my eyes so hard that I saw my brain. It did not get better in the introductory paragraph (content warning for discussion of trading activity for food, and also terrible staff work.)

Dr. Charles Platkin, executive director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and editor of [ridiculous website I’m not publicizing] demonstrates how much you would need to do to burn off typical “Big Game” snacks. For instance, you would have to run 49 football fields to burn off just two handfuls of potato chips or do “the wave” 6480 times to burn off 6 Buffalo Wild Wings Dipped In Ranch Dressing. Please see below news release.

Later on it uses the reflux-causing phrase “Is it splurge-worthy?” I don’t know why they would spam a fat activism blogger who has written several posts about the ridiculous things that diet companies say in media alerts just like this, but as long as they asked me to write about it, I decided I would.

I’m going to go into the snake oil salesman that I think Charles Platkin is in a moment, but let’s be clear that his credibility was shot the moment he started listing generalities about calories burned.  In truth age, gender, body size, and body composition are a few of the things that effect how many calories one burns during exercise. So if Kacy Catanzaro, Meb Keflezighi, and Shaq all ran 49 football fields, the calories they burned would be quite different. (Not to mention “two handfuls of potato chips?”  Whose hands – The Rock’s or mine?) Charles’ devil-may-care attitude toward accuracy is just the tip of the BS iceburg.

Just so we’re clear, Chuck is NOT a medical doctor.  He received a Ph.D. in Public Health from Florida International University.  He’s also an ACE certified personal trainer, so it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t understand the basics of how calories work. but I’m forced to assume that either he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s betting that we don’t. Regardless, it is unacceptable for him to spread misinformation for profit, though it seems like that may be his specialty.

His website is chock full of cheesy fad diet books (and, oddly, two screenplays) with absolutely no evidence to suggest that they have any better success than any other body size manipulation technique (which is to say, basically none.)

The tips from the media alert are equally ridiculous but this one is far and away my favorite:

FOUR SAMUEL ADAMS BOSTON LAGER BEERS = 68 MINUTES OF PLAYING PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL
The only problem is that, according to The Wall Street Journal, there are only about 11 minutes of actual ball playing in a football game.  That means you need to play more than six games of professional football to burn off 4 Samuel Adams Boston Lager beers at 180 calories per 12 ounces.

Fit Tip: There are some great light beers out there. Do a taste test before the game and see if you can make the event more special with some fancy low calorie beers. Miller 64: 64 calories; Bud Select 55: 55 calories; Michelob Ultra: 95 calories; Natural Light: 95 calories; Miller Lite: 96 calories.

I mean – what the hell? The media alert says “the idea is to use exercise equivalents to provide a frame of reference that is familiar and meaningful… ” Playing professional football is what he considers “familiar and meaningful?”

Even if playing professional football was an option for more than .08% of people who played in high school, there are still problems here. Is he talking about “playing professional football” as a running back? A kicker?  A long snapper? (As a band geek I feel compelled to mention that another tip includes “Performing in a marching band” with no suggestion as to whether he means playing in the pit, or marching with a piccolo – or a sousaphone.  Familiar and meaningful?)

Apparently he knows as much about how calories work as he does about beer since he considers Bud Select, Michelob Ultra, Natty Light, and Miller Lite to be “fancy low calorie beers?” Really? I’ll bet the folks at Stella Artois Light are pretty pissed.

I’m not going to go through all of the “tips”, but suffice it to say that nowhere does he take into account that people actually need food and that the food they eat on Superbowl Sunday might maybe, just maybe, be part of that need. Which leads us to the far more serious point:

On the surface it’s funny that a snake oil selling PhD (and would-be screenwriter?) had this media alert sent to a fat activist blogger. But below the surface it’s less about hilarity and more about gross incompetence.  This guy is the Executive Director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and he is selling books that are no better than a bag of magic weight loss beans, and issuing media alerts that are based on inaccurate information, for which there is no evidence to suggest that they will create health or thinness (which are two separate things.)

Worse – this idea of “trading exercise for food”, or the belief that one must “earn” food, can trigger and perpetuate disordered eating and eating disorders. You can read a heartbreaking first person thread out it here, a piece by an expert from PsychCentral  and another first person piece here. (trigger warning for eating disorder talk.) His website claims : “This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information.”

Let’s just say, I’m far less convinced.

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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!

 

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 10:59 am  Comments (19)  

Super Bowl LI, Fat People, and Hypocrisy

super-bowl-dwfWhen fat people insist that we deserve to be represented by the media in positive ways, one of the ridiculous reasons given for refusing to represent fat people in the media as happy or successful at anything other than weight loss, is that fat people aren’t “prioritizing our health” and are therefore bad examples who must be kept out of the media.

For today I’m setting aside the fact that this is both completely untrue and that it even if it was true it would still be extremely messed up, to discuss the almost unbelievable hypocrisy that is committed anytime this argument is made and, specifically, on Super Bowl Sunday, as I try to explain in this annual DWF post.

Today was Super Bowl LI (for those not into sportsball, it’s the annual championship game of American Football.) It had an anticipated audience over 100 million people. Advertisers paid $5 Millon for a 3o second spot on FOX.  And the event is entirely comprised of men – many of them meeting the (totally bullshit) definition of “obese” – putting their health on the line and risking serious injury in the service of sportsballing better than other men, and winning jewelry.

If we really believe that the media should not give positive representation to people who don’t “prioritize their health” by whatever definition of “health” and “prioritize” that someone is using, then I’m pretty confused here:

First is this incredibly long list of injuries for the past month.

And what about the massive impact of concussions on players future lives (and the NFL cover-up thereof.)

Or the fact that the rate of bankruptcy means that taxpayers will likely pick up the cost of most of the future healthcare they’ll need.

Football players are given massive media exposure despite the fact that they are clearly not prioritizing their own health.  The NFL makes more money than any other sport and its commissioner has predicted that they will achieve $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027.  (That will still be less than half the current revenue of the diet industry but that’s a whole other blog post.)

So if we think that people who don’t “prioritize their health” are poor role models and shouldn’t be represented positively in the media, what was that whole Superbowl thing about?  Where is the hand-wringing that football players aren’t good role models because they aren’t prioritizing their health.  Where are the calculations about how expensive football players (from Pop Warner to Pro) will be – not just with sports injuries while they play, but with the fallout from concussions, and the constant pounding their joints take? Where is the WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THEIR KNEES hand-wringing?

Where are the calculations of how much money could be saved if instead of playing football those who participate just walked 30 minutes a day 5 days a week?  Where’s the government-sponsored “War on Football Playing”? And all of that despite the fact that body size is complicated and not entirely within our control and we don’t have a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people were able to change their body size, but playing (or not quitting) football is absolutely a choice.

The truth is that this whole “It’s because of fat people’s health” thing is just a crappy justification for size-based discrimination, and it’s long past time to stop using healthism and ableism to justify sizeism, and to end all of them instead.

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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!

Published in: on February 6, 2017 at 12:26 pm  Comments (13)  

Damn Right I’m Still Doing Body Positive Activism

fundamentalI received an e-mail from reader Lynnette saying:

With everything that is going on in American right now, and your obvious gifts at politics (your Facebook posts are keeping me going right now) does it still make sense for you to focus on Body Positive activism?

First of all, thank you for the kind words about my Facebook posts. And I definitely understand the question – with everything that’s going on right now it can be hard to focus on anything but trying to keep up with what’s happening, calling elected officials, and keeping our heads above water.

For the reasons below, I’ll continue to focus on Body Positive Activism (and when I say “Body Positive” I mean radically intersectional activism, I mean including and especially fat people, People of Color, Queer, Trans, Nonbinary people, disabled people/people with disabilities, and all of those who live outside the current stereotypes of beauty and/or have not been, and are still not being, appropriately included and represented in body positivity/size diversity activism/fat activism.) Of course I can only speak for myself, I’m not suggesting that anyone else should/has to see it this way, this is just how I see it:

I believe that I have to pay attention to what’s happening, and that we have to organize and advocate for ourselves and use our privilege to advocate for others.  I’m also clear that, while there are differences in the ways and intensities that each of us can be activists, there’s no such thing as “not being political” if you are someone who needs, for example, clean air, drinkable water, healthcare, bodily autonomy, and a planet to live on. Finally I’m clear that those of us who are afforded more privilege in a culture rife with systemic oppressions need to understand and wield that privilege.

That said, I’m absolutely going to keep doing the work I’ve been doing, because our relationships with our bodies are FUNDAMENTAL to our desire and ability to pay attention to what’s happening, organize, and advocate for ourselves and others. We don’t take care of things that we hate, and that includes our bodies.

The more we believe that we (and our bodies) are worthy and deserving – of clean air; drinkable water; space to exist; bodily autonomy; a life without shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression, the more we will be willing to fight for those things and to resist anyone who tries to steal them from us.

If any group or government wanted to take away my right/ability to do this work, they would have to do it over my beaten, bloodied, dead body. So if I stop doing this work voluntarily, I’m just doing their job for them. I’m allowing them to try to convince us that we aren’t worthy, that our bodies aren’t worth defending or protecting. And I KNOW that’s not true.

And I have the platform and skills to get the word out that fatphobia, negative body image, poor self-esteem, and eating disorders (and their intersections with oppressions like racism, ableism, healthism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and more) will continue to ruin lives and kill people – and if some have their way, the victims will believe that we got what we deserved. The work that I and so many amazing people do provides an alternative to that – an alternative that could literally be life or death.

It’s always been important work. It’s always been work worth doing. And it still is, maybe now more than ever.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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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

Published in: on February 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm  Comments (10)  

The Fat Shaming of Miss Universe Canada

no-fine-printSiera Bearchell represented Canada in the Miss Universe Pageant.  A reporter at a media event recent asked her “How does it feel to be so much… larger than the other delegates?”

She has been publicizing the fat shaming that she receives, and recently posted “I have a vision to redefine beauty. I have a vision in which women around the world will recognize that true beauty, validation and self-worth start from within.”

I applaud her for what she’s saying and doing (and for not going with the extremely damaging “I’m not fat” defense.) And I encourage her to really mean it by including every body in her work. Too often when people talk about body positivity or redefining beauty, they have limitations and exclusions in the fine print – only certain skin colors, only certain shapes, only certain sizes.  If we are redefining beauty then our redefinition has to include and center the voices of:

  • People of Color
  • Fat people (with absolutely no limits or caveats about size or “health”)
  • Trans and non-binary people
  • Disabled people/people with disabilities
  • Non “hourglass” bodies
  • People who don’t meet current cultural stereotypes of attractiveness
  • People who don’t care about (or can’t afford) clothes that are “in fashion”
  • People who don’t want to (or can’t afford to) wear makeup
  • People who live at the intersections of these identities

We need to be done with concepts about “body positivity” and “beauty” that come with a bunch of exclusions and limitations (based on things like racism, healthism, ableism,  sizeism, and classism.) I hope that Siera Bearchell will be part of the no-fine-print movement that we need to be.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

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

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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

Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 11:42 am  Comments (9)  

We Are Not Too Much

the-questionThe phrase “You are too much!” is usually used when someone goes out of their way to help you, or says something really funny, or does something out of the ordinary.  “You are too much!” is typically a good thing, a compliment.

In our culture fat people hear that we’re too much all the time, but absent the complimentary nature. It’s not just those who describe our bodies as fleshy castles or whatever ridiculous fat bashing BS they’re saying.  It’s ingrained in the language – overweight, extra space, plus size.  The (massively mistaken) idea being that there are people who deserve to live in a world in which they fit, but at some point (a point which is pretty arbitrarily assigned and different based on who you talk to, or what plane you’re on) we lose that right.

I’ve talked about this phenomenon, including the fact that it’s acceptable for hospitals – which were built and stocked by people who knew full well that fat people exist – are allowed to simply shrug and tell me that they don’t have beds, or blood pressure cuffs, or equipment, or chairs, or crutches, or wheelchairs, or whatever, that fit me. In a fat hate forum someone said that my saying that fat people should have beds that fit us in hospitals shows that we want the world to “bend over backwards for us.”

I’m here to suggest that we do not have to buy into, or feel bad about, this bullshit argument.  The question shouldn’t be “why does that fatty have the audacity to suggest that those who provide medical care to the community should have equipment to treat her?”  The question should be “How come I can go into any hospital and expect that they’ll have equipment to treat me, but fat people can’t?”  A nice follow up question would be “How can I help correct that?”

We are not too much.  The world is not yet enough.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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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

Published in: on January 30, 2017 at 9:26 am  Comments (15)  

Justice for Debbie Johnson – City Council Woman and Upskirt Photo Victim

debbie-johnsonDebbie Johnson is a City Council member in Port Wentworth, Georgia.  She is also a Black, plus size, woman – in fact, she is the first Black woman in the council of all white men. In 2015, during a closed session meeting Ernie Stanhope, another member of the city council, took an upskirt picture of her and shared it around with men including the city attorney and the mayor (who is aptly nicknamed “Pig.”) Then Eric Steely, a political opponent of Ms. Johnson, upped the ante by posting it to Facebook complete with lies and derogatory statements about her. None of the men told her that the picture was being circulated.

The picture went viral and ended up on the front page of the local paper, and on the evening news. That led to a police investigation in which the mayor (who, seriously y’all, goes by “Pig”) chose to obstruct the investigation by refusing to reveal who took the picture. He finally gave up Ernie Stanhope in a follow-up interview. He said “If this does get out, I ain’t gonna be the one that’s gonna be held responsible for it.” Well said, Pig.

Ernie Stanhope sat with his legs wide open and tried to suggest that it was her fault that he took the picture because she was sitting with her legs wide open.

City Attorney Eric Gotwalt brought his own attorney to the proceedings and when asked about the picture requested to take a break. Then it appears he tried to claim that his looking at the picture was an act protected by attorney client privilege.  When asked if we was representing the mayor or the city he responded “I think we represent both.”  He thinks…I’m sure that’s confidence inspiring for both the mayor and the city.

Eric Steely lied about the picture’s origin and then tried to suggest that it was Ms. Johnson’s fault that the picture existed saying: “I could constitute that as a deliberate attempt at public indecency.” Though it’s not clear by what authority he might “constitute” that.

The investigator then asked “What purpose would it serve for her to do that?”

Eric went with the “she was asking for it” defense, claiming “I could sit here and say she has some kind of perverted sexual fantasy and that satisfied it.” Of course that means that Eric’s response to finding out about what he considers to be a sexual predator out there exposing herself is to post an upskirt picture of her to Facebook, captioned with lies and derogatory statements. What a fine upstanding citizen he is.

Ms. Johnson wants to pursue the matter but District Attorney Meg Heap refused to press charges. Ms. Johnson describes it as being repeatedly violated, at every Council meeting. In discussing Meg’s refusal to press charges Ms. Johnson points out:

I’m a black woman that was violated by all white men. What if it had happened to her and it was Black men?  If Black men were violating her? They would be underneath the jail.

I appreciate her pointing out how systemic racism and privilege are at work here. As a Fat Activist I wonder, too, how this might have played out had she not been plus size?

Mayor Pig said ““When I started thinking, I said well again, Miss Johnson being a big woman can’t cross her legs and the picture says it all. ”

This is an example of what we talk about when we talk about intersectionality as coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Ms. Johnson is being violated and oppressed by white men at the intersections of being Black, plus-size, and a woman.

She is being represented by The Claiborne Firm, which takes on civil rights cases including, according to their website “cases under the federal civil rights statute after excessive use of force by law enforcement officers and denial of medical care by corrections officers and private contractors.”

Her attorneys are asking for our help:

Call City Hall: 912-964-4379

  • Demand the removal of City Attorney Eric Gotwalt and his firm
  • Demand the resignation of  (seriously can’t believe I’m typing this) Mayor Pig Jones

Contact District Attorney Meg Heap: 912-652-7328 mdheap@chathamcounty.org 

Share this information with your community.

You can find more information about the case here and in this video:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fclaibornefirm%2Fvideos%2F401358736863358%2F&show_text=0&width=560

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

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

Published in: on January 27, 2017 at 12:55 pm  Comments (22)  

When We Talk About Weight Loss Research

credible hulkOne of the reasons that I’m no longer interested in attempting weight loss is that my review of the literature informs me that it simply has no basis in evidence as being an effective way to either lose weight or become more healthy (which are two separate things).  When I say that, people often object insisting that there are studies where people have lost weight.

The problem is that any old research where a couple of people lost weight won’t do (go ahead, review the literature.  I think you’ll be shocked to find how often the average participant lost a few pounds, gained back half of it before they stopped tracking, and then the authors declare the study a success.)

The research we would need for weight loss to meet the criteria of an evidence-based medical intervention is twofold.  First, we would need a study where the majority of the participants lost the amount of weight that we are told we need to lose to change our health and maintain that weight loss long term (over 5 years).  If we had those studies – and we don’t –  we would then need some proof that weight loss actually caused health improvements – and this study already brings that into question.

This rules out the National Weight Control Registry because they’ve chosen to study 10,000 people who experienced weight loss while completely ignoring the up to 800,000,000 failed attempts that happened in the same time frame.  Then they just look for things that the 10,000 have in common. So when they say things like “eating breakfast contributes to weight loss” what they actually mean is that they asked the 10,000 people who succeeded what they did, and a majority of them said that they ate breakfast.  Note that they didn’t ask how many of the up to 800,000,000 people who did not lose weight also ate breakfast – that would be important information to have since if a majority of the people who didn’t lose weight also ate breakfast then breakfast may have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Imagine if I got together everyone who had survived a skydiving accident when their parachute didn’t open and started looking for things they have in common.  Even if every single one of them wore a green shirt and had oatmeal for breakfast, I cannot say that wearing a green shirt and eating oatmeal will allow you to survive a skydiving accident, nor can I ethically start Ragen’s School of No Parachute Skydiving “free green shirt and oatmeal with every jump!”  When your entire sample is a statistical anomaly, your research is useless. When all you’re looking for is random coincidence among a select group of outliers, you’d be better off using your research money on lottery tickets.

Other times, people bring up studies where phase 1 was weight loss and phase 2 was maintenance, the study lost between 40% and 70%  of participants during or after phase one, and then the researchers continued on as if the remaining people were the complete study group.  Not ok. Why did all of those people quit?  How will their experience be accounted for? Often the remaining subjects start gaining back the weight they lost so that at the end of phase 2 the average participant has gained back half of their weight with a net loss of less than 10 pounds.  Or they only follow up for a year or two when we know that most people gain their weight back by year 5.

People list study after study and all of them have one or more of the above problems, which I or someone else in the discussion points out.  At that point, the person listing the studies often gets frustrated and says something like “Why don’t you like my studies?” or “You just don’t want to believe.”   If they examined it, I think they’d find that their frustration isn’t with me, it’s with the fact that they’ve been sold a lie and they bought it at full retail price.

I certainly know that frustration, when I did my first literature review of weight loss research I expected to find that all diets worked – I was just looking for the “best” one, the one that had the most solid success.  I was so shocked at what I found that I read through all of the literature again.  I simply couldn’t believe that this thing – weight loss – that had been marketed to me more aggressively than anything else in my life had no basis in evidence.  I couldn’t believe that doctors had been giving me an intervention which had been shown repeatedly to almost always end in failure, and the majority of time had the exact opposite of the intended result.  When I found out that there weren’t even any studies that showed that weight loss caused changes in health I was just stunned.

It took me a lot of time and a lot of work to accept the truth.  It was hard to find out that I’d been lied to (on purpose and inadvertently), it was hard to find out that the thing that I’d been promised would solve all of my problems was never going to happen.  In many ways, at least for me, Health at Every Size was about giving up, but that’s what I do when I find out that I’ve been harboring a mistaken belief.  That’s what scientists (well, good scientists) do when their research does not support their hypothesis (however strongly held or widely believed it might be.)  They don’t suspend the rules or research and logic and argue for a belief that they can’t support with evidence.

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Published in: on January 24, 2017 at 9:52 am  Comments (8)  

Cheap Fat Jokes Are Not Political Commentary

Talking NonsenseOn Saturday millions of people around the world marched in solidarity for progressive, feminist goals*. Enter Mike from Mike’s corner who decided that the best thing that he could contribute was a crappy fat joke:

march-meme

Facebook post from “Mike’s Corner” It’s a picture of a protest march that says “IN ONE DAY, TRUMP GOT MORE FAT WOMEN OUT WALKING, THAN MICHELLE OBAMA DID IN 8 YEARS

This is obviously crap, and I’ve been asked to talk about why so that we can decide how best to respond.  There are several things happening here.

First it’s an attempt at humor based on stereotypes “ha ha fat women don’t usually walk ha ha” Just like people of all sizes, there are fat women who walk (and roll) and fat women who don’t but people who would make this joke are not likely to let the facts get in the way of their bigoted humor. There’s not much to unpack here other than to say that if someone thinks this is funny, they could maybe try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

There’s the issue of this being factually incorrect. Michelle Obama focused on kids (sometimes in ways that were horribly ill-advised) and didn’t have any programs about women walking.  I guess Mike is a fan of “alternative facts?”

The most dangerous takeaway that I’ve seen size bigots suggest is the idea that fat women delegitimize a protest simply by being there – as if the marches would have somehow been more legitimate had all the participants met Mike’s definition of “thin.” This isn’t original, the brain trust who created this meme was beaten to the punch by Ann Coulter (which is to say that this dude is getting his ass kicked by women from every direction.)

The size of the women (or people of any gender) who participated in the marches has nothing to do with anything, and yet fat phobia is so powerful in our culture that the first thing this guy decided to do was try to make a fat joke.  (I will say that I couldn’t find a single march whose platform included anything about size discrimination and so perhaps this will help us explain to organizers of future events why that’s important.)

When we respond to things like this, the most important thing is that we not reinforce the prejudices upon which they are built, or create more bigotry in the process. For this reason we want to avoid the mistake of responding about how fat the attendees were or weren’t, or using comebacks that are healthist and/or ableist.

If this appears in a space that you manage, I would suggest either simply deleting it or pointing out the issues as I have here. (If you’re interested in a discussion of moderating comments in personal online spaces as well as groups we manage online, I  recently wrote a piece for Ravishly about just that!)

If you see it in another space, you might leave a comment pointing out how widespread sizeism is, how messed up it is that women’s worth is judged by how closely we are able to approximate a stereotype of beauty, and how this meme proves the need for such marches.  You could also suggest that the person who posted it try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also, you may notice that the meme above was shared by Jack E. Sandlin.  What you might not know is that he is a Republican state senator. His office number is 317-232-9414 or 317-232-9400.

*They are many things to talk about when it comes to these marches and how we can do better moving forward including how they could have been more inclusive of groups like People of Color, Trans and Non-Binary people, Fat Acceptance as a platform and more. These are important discussions that are worth having – cheap fat jokes parading as political commentary are not.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

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 January 23, 2017 at 11:28 am  Comments (15)