A great blog came out today by a great fat activist. Yes, I know her IRL (which is to say we’ve met) and I’ve even had the opportunity to be offended by her. It happens. Real people say shit.
What’s interesting is what happens next when it’s brought to their attention. What happened in the case below is it got Stacy thinking. What she thought became the article/blog “Not Fat Enough For Fat Activism.” Which got me thinking.
There are a couple of things interesting to me about this. One is that the comment above drove enough traffic to Ms. Bias’ site that she followed it back. I admit to being Reddit-illiterate. But the internet is a very public place where often private things are said. Unfortunately as you can tell from the screenshot, the original author deleted her identity and so the blanket apology Bias’ blog offers cannot be tailored to fit her specifically. Bias says:
I often see this misconception in conversations about fat activism happening outside of fat activist circles. Smaller fatties or thin folks who are tentatively reaching out to fat activism hit up against something that pokes them in a tender spot and finds them feeling left out or unwelcome. The space I can imagine that happening in most frequently is the space of checking privilege.
So first, I’d like to clear up the initial misconception. As the fabulous Glenn Marla says, “There is no wrong way to have a body.”
As I can only speak for myself here, I want to state that I believe this fervently. There is no kind of embodiment that is superior to another. Any belief to the contrary would collapse the very foundations of my ethic. The point of social justice movements like fat activism, disability rights activism, anti-racism, feminism, queer rights, etc is to create all bodies as equal, independent of difference. I, personally, want a world in which all bodies exist in spaces of equal accessibility that are free of stigma and oppression. To that end, holding or projecting negative beliefs about bodies that aren’t like mine is exactly counter to that goal. So let me state clearly: I do not believe that fat bodies are superior. What I do believe is that fat bodies are not inferior. And there’s a world of difference.
So there’s Stacy’s opinion/apology. I agree. Mostly.
I will admit that I often find and preach the superiority of fat bodies. There’s nothing particularly useful in shaming bodies for being bodies of any size but I still love it when the guy in the movie tells the neurotic supermodel “Eat something.” In a world obsessed with thinness and a culture obsession with thin superiority to simple say “Hey that’s not nice. Every body is equal.” is insufficient. Give me an anthem with some heft, okay?
The fact is that all things are not equal. Not in balance. Sometimes when the scale tips in our favor, we shout “Hurray for curves and belly rolls and big, beautiful babes.” Gay Pride is not about hating straight people. Fat Pride is not about hating skinny people. Feminism is not about hating men. You are welcome to march in my parade, Baby. However I’m not going to stop the parade to make you the exception to any rule.
You will hear some mockery of heterosexuality in Queer spaces; distrust of (and rage at) straight, white cis men in Feminist conversations; etc. If you stay at the party long enough, you’ll hear straight, white, cis, feminist men raging at the same. The point is that in a culture that privileges and elevates one classification of people over another, it is ridiculous to ask the more oppressed party to always be worried about the feelings of the less oppressed party.
This doesn’t make your feelings invalid. It’s a question of whose responsibility is it to deal with them. Accusations of reverse “fat-shaming” are like accusations of “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism”. There is nothing in melanin or estrogen or fat cells makes someone nice or even right. Fat, feminist, POC can and will piss you off. This isn’t an -ism.
Basic privilege 101: oppression is not a feeling.
There is a cultural machine that chews up fat or brown or ___ bodies. It creates commerce on self-hatred. It polarizes us against each other. Fight the machine.
Often what you may be experiencing when you feel unwelcome in a group is “Other”-ing. This can be particularly unpleasant for whom the experience of being Other is unfamiliar. Your feelings of alienation and/or entitlement keep you from being an effective ally or an active participant. Deal with it. Work through it. Like a fat girl wearing a bikini to the beach. The first time may be a little daunting. Each time you do it, it’s easier. Until the day when the guy who makes some snotty remark doesn’t even warrant wrinkling your brow. You look great and you know it. The feeling of it and the truth of it will sync up.
Just keep showing up.