The Horror of “Obesity Autopsy”

Bad DoctorYes, the BBC is airing the autopsy of a fat person. No, it’s not ok. I can see the meeting now, someone stands up and says “how can we create programming that plays on and sensationalizes the social stigma against fat people, makes no medical sense, helps no one, and does tremendous harm?”  And thus “Obesity Autopsy” was born, eclipsing “Sharknado” as possibly the most ridiculous idea to get produced and aired but, of course, far more harmful.

Let’s start with the basics. They have flown the body of a “nearly” 238 pound woman, who died in her sixties of heart disease and donated her body to science, from Long Beach, California 5,000 miles to London so that Mike Osborn, a consultant for the Royal College of Pathologists, and Carla Valentine, an assistant pathology technician can perform an autopsy which will first be aired as part of a one hour program on BBC Three, an online service focused on the youth demographic, and then on a late-night slot on either BBC One or Two. The program will also include a panel of “obese young contributors,” who will explore the causes of obesity, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.

Before I get into this, let’s remember that fat people have the right to live and thrive in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what the consequences of being fat may or may not be, and if we could – or even want to- become less fat or not fat. Any suggestion otherwise will be some combination of sizeist, ableist, and/or healthist. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size (or health) dependent.

Now that we’ve got that crystal clear, let’s start with the many ways that this is medically unsound:

I can’t imagine why they would fly a body 5,000 miles unless the UK has laws that require greater respect for the dead than this debacle, or that they want to make a spectacle of the transport as well as the autopsy.

The idea that one can extrapolate information about all fat people from the autopsy of one fat person is patently ridiculous.  This is taking what I’ll call the “Dr. Oz Fallacy” (wherein he tried to claim that all fat people have bad hearts based on the fact that the fat people who had come to him for heart surgery had bad hearts – as if the thin people who came to him for heart surgery were actually fine…) to whole new lows.

The autopsy can’t even tell us everything about this woman’s body (let alone everything about all fat people’s bodies, let alone how they do or don’t relate to thin people’s bodies.) For example:

It can’t tell us about her genetics in terms of body size or cardiac issues. It cannot tell us if her autopsy results are due to her body size, or something else entirely.  The  entire premise is completely bereft logic and I absolutely question the ethics of the pathologist and the assistant pathology technician participating.

It can’t tell us how she was affected by the culture of fat hate (Peter Muennig’s studies have found that the diseases that are correlated with “obesity” are also correlated with the stress of constant stigma, and that women who feel they are too heavy have more physical and mental illnesses than women who are fine with their size, regardless of their size.)

It can’t tell us if she was affected by the chronic dieting (and subsequent weight cycling) that is almost never successful and yet is prescribed throughout our lives to fat people by our healthcare providers.

It can’t tell us if she was affected by taking extremely dangerous drugs that doctors suggest fat people should take for a very tiny chance to get thin, despite the risk of death (often from heart problems,) or if she was affected by the tendency to prescribe to fat people what we diagnose in thin people.

It can’t tell us if her actual health problems were ignored by doctors who prescribed manipulation of body size instead of the evidence-based interventions that a thin person with the same symptoms would have received. It also can’t tell us if she avoided the doctor  or delayed seeking treatment because of their tendency to substitute shame and diets for actual evidence-based care.

It can’t tell us if her healthcare was compromised by the epidemic of fat bias among doctors.  It can’t tell us if doctors would have worked harder to save her if she was a thin person on the table.

What it can tell us is that instead of using this woman’s donation of her body to science to advance the care that fat people receive (for example giving future surgeons a chance to work on a fat cadaver rather than seeing their first fat body when they are working on it) they are exploiting her life and death. I can’t imagine how I, or my loved ones, would feel if I donated my body to science and instead it was used in a mockery of science for television ratings.  It is inexcusable, it is unjustifiable, it is disrespectful, it is wrong.

And for everything this autopsy won’t tell us about this woman, it tells us exponentially less about every other fat person. And the people behind this are so utterly ignorant about that, that it’s embarrassing.  According to the Telegraph (not linking because of headless fatty picture) “Damian Kavanagh, the controller of BBC Three, said young people needed to be shown the impact of unhealthy eating.”

Body size is not the same thing as “unhealthy eating.” Fat people have behaviors around eating (and everything else) as varied as any other group of people. Speaking of questionably drawn conclusions,  I’m concerned about a panel of “obese young contributors  exploring the causes of obesity, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.”

First I’m concerned with the effect on these panelists. Even if one believes that “determining the causes of obesity” is a noble pursuit, it should follow that the pursuit should be undertaken with scientific rigor, not by asking fat people (who live in a fatphobic society and get messages like the one from Damian Kavanagh that suggest that “obesity” is the same as “unhealthy eating”) to speculate wildly – even if they weren’t handpicked to agree with the stigmatizing premise of this show.

I’m also concerned that they are asking about the effects of obesity on these kids’ lives, when it’s so common to try to convince us to blame on body size what is actually the effect of fat stigma.

Not to mention that even if this autopsy could draw medically sound conclusions about fat people (and let’s be super clear that it cannot) that wouldn’t change the fact that fat people should be able to live without sizeist, healthist, ableist stigma, nor would it change the fact that there is not a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have maintained significant long term weight loss, so if the suggestion is that being smaller would make us healthier than it’s as useful as telling us that being taller would make us healthier.

This show is an abomination that can only serve to disrespect the dead and stereotype and stigmatize fat people, and it has no place on the air.

If you want to give feedback you can Send them your thoughts using their online form

Edit:  I wanted to share with you this response from Daniel Goldberg, a bioethicist at the Center for Bioethics & Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus:

Having just taught several sessions on the “Cadaver as First Patient” to medical students, I can suggest that there are enormous power issues that are involved in dissection. The learners generally feel this, and it can be overwhelming — to their infinite credit, most students I’ve encountered intuitively get this and apply a huge amount of respect and even reverence for the cadaver that marks the beginning of their entry into medicine.

Moreover, many learners, albeit not all, humanize their cadaver by giving them a name and even a narrative backstory — to symbolize their belief that the cadaver on the table is more than just a thing. This was a person, with hands that held and eyes that cried. The abomination described here countermands all of these ideals — it encourages seeing the body as an object, and as one that exists purely to explore pathology, disease, and dysfunction. A more offensive, stigmatizing, and structurally harmful display would be difficult to divine. FWIW, this bioethicist finds it utterly transgressive and reprehensible.

If you want to get more information and community support around making sure that stuff like this stops happening, join us at the Fat Activism Conference:

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 8:31 am  Comments (12)  

Our Spaces, Our Rules

This week there has been a rush of people on my social media who have been shocked , shocked I tell you, shocked and appalled, that I wouldn’t allow them to post anti-fat beliefs and diet talk, and that I deleted their comments. I’m surprised that they are surprised – I am responsible for the spaces that I create and I’m not going to allow people to turn them into a cesspool of anti-fat sentiments, concern trolling, and weight loss talk.

 

After I delete something something like “I’m allowed to diet if I want to, because [I want to fit into different clothes, I want to stop being treated poorly, I think it will make me healthier etc]!”is a common refrain, and an accurate one – people are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, whatever their reasons. “I’m allowed to [talk about my diet/express my disagreement and concern for your choices/say whatever I want] on your Facebook wall” is an inaccurate statement as it’s my wall and I get to decide what goes there.

As I’ve been deleting and, when necessary, blocking people I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people who say that they are grateful that they know I moderate my space, and that they never realized that they could delete things they don’t want from their own social media and they are finding it really empowering. So I decided to repost this today as a reminder:

No matter how much we love our bodies, fat people face a lot of stigma for our size, and thinness confers tremendous benefit. I can understand the desire to try to solve social stigma through weight  loss, or to try to lose weight to solve the issues with getting clothing in our sizes, or buying into the idea that manipulation of body size is the path to health. People are allowed to do all of these things.

For my part I think it’s important for people to have access to information not paid for by the diet industry, including information regarding their odds of failure so that if their attempts fail it softens the self-esteem blow.  People are allowed to believe that manipulating their body size is the key to being healthy and feel that they need to lose weight for health reasons. I think they should have access to true and correct data about health and weight.  I don’t think that they are required to do any research or justify their choices in any way, I just think that they should have easy access to the information.

To me social change is more important than social approval.  I think that the cure for social stigma is to end stigma, not to insist that members of the stigmatized group change themselves.  In my experience when you try to change yourself to change the behavior of others or gain their approval, you soon find it’s never enough -there’s always something else that somebody wants you to change. If I was offered a pill that would make me into the perfect stereotypical beauty I wouldn’t take it. That doesn’t make me worse or better than those who make different choices. Our bodies – our choices.

People are allowed to want to, and try to, lose weight. However, where people get tripped up is in the belief that they should be allowed to talk about that in Fat Activist, Size Acceptance, and Health at Every Size spaces.  Nope nope nope. It is ok to have spaces that don’t allow diet or weight loss talk, it is ok to have 100% body positive spaces, it’s ok to have a policy of “absolutely no diet talk” or “absolutely no negative body talk.”  The spaces that we create – be they our homes, blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media – are ours.  They exist because we created them and we have every right in the world to moderate them.

I notice that often bullies are still using every schoolyard bullying technique that exists to try to question our right to moderate our own spaces.  From calling us “chicken,” to creating some twisted logic, to trying to make us believe that allowing them to bully us is somehow our obligation.  We get bombarded by negative messages about our bodies every single day, and we have every right to create spaces that support us and our choices, even if that means excluding people who want to be in those spaces but refuse to respect the rules of the space, regardless of their reasons or even if they have “good intentions.”  Our bodies, our choices.  Our spaces, our rules.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 29, 2016 at 7:44 am  Comments (9)  

Gym Fat Shames, Activists Shut It Down

WTF are you doingUsing the corporate logo, a Gold’s Gym franchise in Egypt posted a picture of a pear with the caption “This is no shape for a girl” to their Facebook page. There was an immediate backlash, which led to a bizarre non-apology apology that looks like it was written by Donald Trump’s full time “Apologizing for Stunningly Offensive Stuff” Team.

In my article for Ravishly I talk about the entire situation, including the franchises awful apology and corporate’s much better apology (thanks to the work of activists,) and the culture that created this and will keep creating situations like it until we fix it. You can check it out here:

http://www.ravishly.com/2016/08/18/golds-gym-posts-stunningly-misogynistic-ad-activists-shut-it-down

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 22, 2016 at 10:39 am  Comments (2)  

Those Trump Statues

Trump Statue ResponseAn organization called Indecline installed nude Trump statues in cities around the country, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Seattle. The statues show Trump as fatter than he is, with a “very small” penis, and no testicles.

There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not it’s ok, since Trump is so terrible, to revel in the shaming of him that these statutes are intended to create. I’ve received hundreds of requests asking what I think about it. I have very strong feelings about this, and I want to be clear that, as always, I can only speak for myself.

Let’s start with the fact that I am adamantly against fat shaming, body shaming (including genital shaming,) and transphobia. It therefore follows, for me, that I don’t want to participate in fat shaming, body shaming (including genital shaming) or transphobia.

That being the case, no matter how much I hate Trump’s behaviors and beliefs, no matter how much I’d like to take every opportunity to hate him, I have to be honest with myself that these statues (from premise, to installation, to much of the behavior around them) are fat shaming, body shaming (including genital shaming,) and transphobic as hell.

But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at what the artist has to say about them (and the criteria he was given) for this piece called “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

The criteria was he had to be naked, they wanted it to be pretty life-like, they wanted him to be chubbier than he is in real life, not that we were fat shaming him in anyway, you know he’s not that fat, and I’m not a skinny guy. He had to be in a regal, presidential stance. He had to have absolutely no testicles, and he had to have a very small manhood. There were a couple little things I personally put my artistic twist into and that was the saggy man bum, I was very proud of that ass, and the mason ring.

Explain to me why, if you’re not fat shaming him in any way, making him “chubbier than he is in real life” was part of the criteria? If you’re not fat shaming him in any way, why is this guy so proud of making his ass “saggy”?

Let’s move on to the blatant transphobia and cissexism: Not all men have testicles or penises. The existence and/or size of testicles and penises don’t define men or manhood, and the size of them should never be used to shame anyone – not outright, and not as a metaphor, not in any way. Not ever.

And how about misogyny? Not all emperors are, or should be, men, and sex organs should have absolutely nothing to do with who is qualified to be a political leader.

There are people who look very much like that statue.  If I shame the statues, I shame those people as well and I model to other people that they should do the same.

The cyber bullies and harassers who attack me and others often use the excuse that we deserve it because they disagree with us.  If I suggest that it’s ok to shame Trump for his appearance because I disagree with his views, I am making the same argument as internet trolls (certainly not the kind of company I want to be in) and I am lending legitimacy to that totally bullshit argument.

I cannot credibly make an argument that fat shaming, appearance shaming, misogyny, and transphobia are wrong…unless it’s in the service of ridiculing someone I don’t like, and then it’s totally fine and should be encouraged.

From my perspective there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that Trump could do that would make it ok for me to shame him for his size, his appearance, or his genitals.

Maybe his privilege protects him from the worst of it, but it doesn’t protect the people who I hurt by taking part in this, nor does it protect me from the reality of being a hypocrite, and that’s exactly what I feel I would be if I participated in this – I can only imagine my complete outrage if someone did something similar to Hillary Clinton.

To be perfectly clear, I’ve definitely taken part in this kind of snarky shaming behavior in the past, it’s entirely possible that I’ll make those mistakes again.  I can only realize and admit my mistakes, and try to do better moving forward.

There are so many things to criticize about Donald Trump – he is a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, misogynist, anti-queer, anti-trans liar who actively incites violence and hatred in an attempt to gain attention and power. How is that not enough to criticize?  What the hell does it matter how big his dick is?  Who cares how he looks?

Even if it wasn’t hurtful to others (and I know that it is, because people are saying so,) why would I want to cheapen my arguments against him by participating in body shaming? Why would I want to distract from the actual horror of a human being that he is, and the nightmare that his Presidency would be, to engage in the very behavior that I speak out against every day. Why would I want to take the chance of making him into a sympathetic figure?

It’s Say Something Sunday, so I’m taking this opportunity to say, as clearly as I know how, that I am against fat shaming, body shaming, and transphobia. No fat shaming.  No body shaming. No transphobia.  Not even once.  Not even Trump.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 5:21 am  Comments (28)  

Fat Shaming Shouldn’t Be An Olympic Sport

What a Load of CrapAlexa Moreno recently found herself the subject of a whole lot of fat-shaming on social media. Normally, that would be no surprise since, sadly, there’s tons of fat-shaming on social media every day (ask any fat activist), but this was a bit different, in that Alexa weighs 99 pounds — and is a gymnast who had just finished competing in the freaking Olympics.

In my piece for Ravishly I talk about how fatphobia can affect people of all sizes (though, of course, thin privilege is a real thing,) how it’s often rooted in misogyny, the issues with some of the well-meaning but messed responses as to why she shouldn’t have been fat shamed, and how instances like this show just how flimsy the excuses cyberbullies use to try to justify their bullying and bad behavior really are.  You can check it out here:

http://www.ravishly.com/2016/08/17/fat-shaming-should-not-be-olympic-sport?

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 7:14 am  Comments (4)  

What Fat Olympians Prove (And What They Don’t)

Nothing to proveAs the Olympics happen, we’re seeing athletes of lots of different sizes compete and win, which is super cool! What follows is a lot of people trying to interpret what that “proves” which is often super not-cool. While almost all are well-meaning, some of these interpretations end up being healthist and problematic for lots of reasons. So I wanted to look at some of the claims that I’ve been seeing and break them down.  I’ll also point out that a lot of the mistakes that are being made are mistakes that I’ve made in the past, and my pointing them out are the ways of honoring the people who were kind enough to educate me.

 

This proves there’s no excuse not to be fit at any size

Nope, nope, nope.  Nobody of any size is obligated to “be fit” by any definition.  Nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that don’t include fitness, just like nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that do include fitness.  This whole “no excuses” fitness culture is a steaming heap of bullshit. Everyone should have the opportunity and access to participate in fitness if they want to, nobody has an obligation. People who participate in fitness are no better or more “moral” than people who do other things with their time.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an Olympian

Slow down there sparky.  Becoming an Olympian requires a combination of physiology, opportunity, privilege, and hard work. There are many, many people who have the  work ethic but don’t have the combination of physiology, opportunity and privilege required. When we gloss over this we ignore the fact that these opportunities are not accessible to everyone who is interested in them (and how that is often expressed in ways that are racist, classist, sizeist, ableist and more.)

This proves that everyone of every size can be healthy

This one is a problem for a lot of reasons.  First, don’t confuse athletically successful with healthy.  Many athletes push far beyond what would most support their bodies’ health – risking  and getting expensive sports-related injuries that they wouldn’t otherwise be at risk for – in order to be successful at their sport.  They are absolutely allowed to do that – their bodies, their choice (though that doesn’t meant that we shouldn’t be asking questions about the way that sports are managed/judged and what is really “required.”)  Moreover, health is difficult to define, multi-faceted, not an obligation, not a barometer of worthiness, and not entirely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an athlete

This should be true, and it would be true in a world where people had the same levels of access to the athletic endeavors that they are interested in, and didn’t deal with sizeism as an excluding factor (along with racism, classism, ableism, ageism and more.) Unfortunately that’s not the world that we live in.  Fat people regularly have terrible experiences within the fitness world, from people abusing them, to coaches refusing to work with them unless and until they become thin, to people insisting that no matter what they achieve they can’t be an athlete until they are thin.

This proves that we shouldn’t make assumptions about athletic ability based on body size

This one I can get behind, though I’d point out that we shouldn’t make assumptions about anything based on size.

In general, I think that if you want to celebrate fat athletes, that’s awesome, but be careful not to celebrate in ways that end up hurting others, and consider not letting your celebration get in the way of asking critical questions about how people are oppressed in the world of athletics, and how athletics are used to oppress people.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in: on August 15, 2016 at 8:08 am  Comments (4)  

How To Be A Thin Ally On A Plane

Share the SpaceI received an e-mail with a great question about how to be an ally to fat people on planes. Before I get too far into it, here’s some background reading:

If you feel like fat people getting a seat that fits us is “unfair special treatment” this post is for you.

If you feel like “it’s not fat shaming, it’s just economics” to not accommodate fat people,  head over here.

If you’re wondering “Why don’t we just charge everyone by weight?” this is why.

If you’re wondering “how can this situation get any worse?”  Zodiac Seats France has you covered

Now for today’s question:

If I was in a flight that was not full, and was seated next to a fat person who did not have enough space, then I would want to find another seat so that we are both comfortable. I don’t want to spend the duration of the flight squishing myself so that my fat seat mate has more space, and I KNOW that fat people ALWAYS try to squish themselves and make themselves smaller in order to take up less space..so why would I stay in my seat and make them suffer? Of course if it was a full flight then I will not ask to change my seat. What is the proper way to fix the seat situation so that both parties are happy and comfortable? Also, what do you advise me to do if it is a full flight and I am seated next to a fat person? I don’t want them to feel obligated to squish themselves and make themselves smaller..but at the same time it’s kind of rude to assume that from a stranger, right? I kind of want to tell them that it’s ok to lift the arm rest between us and to not get scared of me throwing a fit or whatever if our bodies touched. Please help.

First of all, thanks for caring about this I really appreciate that you are asking these questions.  As always I can only speak for myself, and other fat people may disagree with the advice I’m about to give you. This situation sucks, and the emotions and reactions of fat people to situations like this can, and likely will, be affected by living in society that oppresses us and tells us things like we don’t deserve the sames things that thin people get (in this case, a seat that accommodates us) so no matter what you say, a positive outcome is not guaranteed, which is one of the challenges of doing ally work.

I would start out by smiling at your seatmate and then saying something welcoming. Fat people are used to getting the eyeball trifecta – eye rolling, side eye, and evil eye – accompanied by dramatic sighing, so having someone smile and say something nice (“Hi, welcome to row 22, I’m Annie, it’s nice to meet you!”) can help get the interaction off to a good start (and has the added benefit of modeling how to act for passengers of the eye-and-sigh variety.)

Next, consider making it clear that you realize that the airline, not the fat person, is the problem.  Perhaps by saying something like “I don’t understand why they make these seats so small, they know people come in lots of sizes, they should make seats that accommodate everyone!” or “I’m so frustrated with the airlines, if you’re going to sell travel that should include more than a tiny seat that doesn’t work for half your customers!)

Next, make the offer.  “You seem awesome, so I’ll be sad not to hang out with you, but I think I see an empty seat, would it be cool with you if I switched seats so you can be more comfortable?” or “I think I can fix the airline’s mistake here – I see an empty seat, is it cool if I switch so that you don’t have to feel squished?”

If there isn’t an empty seat then I would say something like “looks like the airline decided that we should be close for this flight!  Would you prefer the seat divider up or down?” Depending on how the fat person is shaped, it also may not be possible for us to use our tray so when the drinks come around if you notice that we are not able to use the tray you might say something like “We can both just share my tray if it’s easier.”

That’s my advice, again your mileage may vary and of course if people have other suggestions please leave them in the comments!

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 13, 2016 at 11:56 am  Comments (7)  

Fat Bodies Are Not Public Property

What a Load of CrapI was running and he was riding his bike.  We were coming up on a narrow passage between a light post and a bus stop.  I stopped and motioned for him to come through. Instead he stopped, blocking my path, and started talking. I took off one of my headphones, and this happened:

Him: Do me a favor, don’t lose too much weight.

Me:  Well I’m not interested in losing weight at all, but it’s not really any of your business.

Him (getting frustrated): It was actually a compliment.

Me (not willing to offer bonus points for mansplaining our interaction to me): No, it was an attempt to suggest that I should form my body based on your preferences.

Him:  You know what, fuck you, have a good night.

Me:  Back at you sir.

One of the side effects of this ridiculously horrific “war on obesity” is the totally bullshit message that a fat body is a sign that someone should be told that their body is wrong, and given anyone and everyone’s advice on what we should, or shouldn’t, be doing to “fix” that.

So when fat people go out in public, people often confuse us for public property presented for their judgments and comments.  If we aren’t exercising they tell us what we should be, if we are exercising, they say that we’re doing it wrong (or they just moo from their car, or throw eggs,) if we’re eating a salad they congratulate us, if we are’t eating a salad they chide us as if our food is any of their damn business.

In our culture there is also a deeply mistaken notion that all women should care about whether men find us attractive, as expressed by men telling us that we should lose weight (but not too much,) gain weight (but not too much,) smile, dress sexier, dress less sexy etc. Plenty of the hatemail I get is just some dude saying “I’d never fuck you.”  (To which my response is – You are so very right about that.)

The fact that a body is fat doesn’t make it public property, or open for public comment. If a fat person wants to hear your thoughts about their body, clothes, fitness, or food, just assume that you’ll be among the very first to know. And until you know, it would be just peachy keen if you would keep your judgments, preferences,or advice to yourself.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in: on August 4, 2016 at 10:56 am  Comments (46)  

An Insult Comic and a Fat Activist Walk Into a Bar

Lisa Lampanelli and Ragen Chastain

No makeup selfie!

I am sitting in the bar of a lovely, understated hotel in Los Angeles, two minutes into a meeting with famous comic Lisa Lampanelli.  I’ve decided to break the ice by coughing for five minutes (it could have been less or more, it felt like an hour so I’m rounding down.)  I’ve gotten over a nasty cold, but I can’t stop my lungs from freaking out. I had not planned on broaching  the subject ( because “nice to meet you, I swear I’m not contagious” isn’t the smoothest of greetings) but this is happening in real time, so that cat’s out of the bag. Lisa is being incredibly kind, which will become a theme of our meeting.

When I saw the tweet from Lisa asking me to message her, my first thought was “are my trolls effing with me?” But I checked it out and it turns out it was the real Lisa Lampanelli.  She was going to be in town for a few days so we arranged to meet to discuss “Stuffed,” a play she is debuting around women’s relationships with food and body image. I’ve been hearing about this play for a while and I was super excited to meet with her – obviously this topic is really important to me, she has a big platform to talk about it, and I was glad that she was talking to fat acceptance folks.

I also wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  Lisa is famous for being an insult comic. As a feminist and total stand up comedy nerd I have tremendous admiration for her because I’m aware of how difficult it is for women to get traction in the stand up world.  And I know the history and artistry of insult comedy, how it can actually be considered a form social justice comedy because it shows stereotypes and prejudices for how ridiculous they are.  In my pre-meeting research I found a review of her by BET.com that explained:

Lisa is known for her vicious comedy, but seeing a full show versus a Comedy Central Roast, Lampanelli is not as offensive as she is portrayed by her critics. She is obviously commentating on the absurdities of race, sexuality, gender and class. The comedian creatively unravels stereotypes, pulls back the creepy layers, turns the mirror on the audience and rages, “Now do you how see how stupid these stereotypes are?

I get that, I get that there are people who don’t agree with that, and either way I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  I was hoping that was where she was coming from, because if not I was worried that I was going to be in a situation where I had to say “I admire many things about you, but I can’t support what you’re doing.” I’ve been there before, and it sucks a lot. And I was equally, if not more, worried that after hearing more about my work, she would say the same thing to me.  I’ve been there before too, and it also sucks a lot.

I needn’t have worried.  We’re now over an hour into the meeting and she is warm, and kind, and hilarious, and she is asking me serious questions about Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size and she is listening, really listening, to my answers (I talk when I’m nervous so it’s a borderline babblefest and she’s just taking it in stride.) She’s also being honest and vulnerable – sharing her personal journey with food and body image, weight loss surgery that didn’t solve those issues, and the ways that she wants to evolve her work and use her fame to change the conversation around food, weight, and health to make a serious difference in the world.  She gets it, and it’s always super cool when someone famous turns out to be awesome in real life.

Three and a half hours after we started I’m leaving the hotel, and I’m smiling. We talked about Fat Acceptance, Health at Every Size, the “reality” in reality TV, racism, ableism, dealing with body hatred, and more.  I’m super excited about the play and even more excited about the possibilities for an insult comic/playwright and a fat activist to do some very cool things together.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 10:14 am  Comments (7)  

Pokémon Go and Fat People

Landon

Landon the Landwhale is not an official Pokemon, but I think he should be! Thanks to the always awesome Jeanette DePatie  who had him made for me.

If you are not familiar, the basic concept of Pokémon is that there are monsters everywhere, and they can be caught, trained, and then engage in battle with other Pokémon.  Its incarnations including a television show, card game, and video games.  Now, there is an augmented reality game called Pokémon Go. Basically the app allows players to use their phone’s GPS to find and capture monsters as they travel around. They can also go to designated Pokestops to get items and interact, and take their monsters to locations designated as “gyms” to train and battle other people’s Pokémon. (Correct me if I’m wrong Pokémon playing peeps!)

 

There is much talk about how the game encourages people to get out of the house and walk around (there are also concerns about accessibility and ableism related to this.) Of course we can’t have anything without dragging the whole “war on obesity” thing into it (this is why we can’t have nice things…)  which has led to countless memes about how Pokemon Go will “end obesity” or “prevent obesity.”  This is bad for a bunch of reasons.

First of all, it contributes to the stereotype that you can tell how active someone is by their size. Some fat people aren’t active, some are very active, and some are in between the extremes – just like thin people. Nobody is obligated to be “active” by any definition, and being “active” by any definition is not even close to a guarantee of having a thin body, and making wild guesses about people based on how they look is a shitty thing to do.

Using “preventing obesity” language creates a situation where you are trying to motivate some participants by telling them that they should participate so that they don’t become like other (larger bodied) participants which can be stigmatizing to larger bodied participants and make them them less likely to want to be involved. Not to mention that there’s no reason to believe that people who play the game won’t become fat.

Using “eradicating obesity” language suggests that other people playing the game should see fat players as problems that have not yet been solved, or as people who must not be playing the game “right” or “enough” since they are still fat.  This creates an environment that is less than welcoming.

Even if people do choose to play the game as a way to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances) the research shows that activity can have health benefits for people of all sizes.  If we mislead people to believe that it’s only improving their health if it makes them thinner, and they are only playing the game for health, then people will quit when they don’t lose weight, and they’ll lose the actual health benefits they might have gained.

Finally, if you hope that people will participate in a game, it may be helpful to note that people are less likely to participate in activities if they see them as punishment for their body size, rather than as something fun to do. So why don’t we cut the fatphobic bullshit and just invite people of all sizes to have fun playing the game.

REGISTER FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in: on August 1, 2016 at 11:35 am  Comments (30)