Dear Wendy Harmer, the Hoopla Team,
I am writing to you here, in an open letter on my blog, because I have to have control over the environment that this is published in, and what kind of content is posted in the comments. I don’t do this to prevent anyone from having their say, they can already do that in their own space. I do it because I am a human being, and I need to have SOME space in the world that I am protected and feel safe.
I am deeply, deeply offended at your decision to publish the piece today by Philip Barker*. Not simply because he chooses to further stigmatise fat people by repeatedly implying that we are sedentry, gluttonous, unwilling to take personal responsibility and out of control – people say that all the time about fat people, we’re used to it. I am deeply offended because you allowed him to use me, to comment on me and my life, in a way that connects anti-fat rhetoric to me personally.
If Philip Barker had simply written an op-ed piece about how he believes weight stigma is wrong, but continued stigmatising fat people, I would have been annoyed, but not personally offended. It’s ridiculous that he would, because he is not a fat person, nor does he have any expertise on weight or health, so why is he having his opinion on the matter published by a major online magazine such as yourself? Why is some guy who works in marketing given space to give his opinion on obesity? What relevance is obesity to Philip Barker?
To be honest, I could care less about Philip Barker – he is no authority on anything to do with weight or health, he is just a marketing man who thinks he has the right to define which bodies are “ok” socially and which bodies are not. I am sure Philip Barker could find better ways to use his life… or maybe he can’t, I don’t know.
But you published, and included my name and photographs, a piece that does absolutely nothing but minimise the vitriolic anti-fat rhetoric aimed at myself and people like me, which will directly affect me. Already, just in the comments of the piece alone, people are making assumptions about my health, how my body feels and works, and who I am.
You are not just “encouraging a conversation” when you publish pieces like this. You are making the lives of myself, and people like me even more difficult than they already are. You are putting already vulnerable people right in the line of fire of some horrible, horrible hatred. You are contributing to an environment where people think it is perfectly acceptable to tell me to kill myself, to tell me I am revolting, to publicly harass me, to send me death and rape threats, to contact my employer to make vexatious claims, to send me anonymous messages of hate and to harass me in my spaces online.
And because of your allowing a piece that directly names and stigmatises me personally, you directly cause these things to happen to ME.
You have a duty of care as high profile media professionals to ensure that your publication does not cause anyone direct harm. You have power that I do not have to match you with. You are a media organisation, headed by a high profile media personality. I am an IT librarian from Brisbane who has a blog.
The thing is, this fat activism business is not a hobby I do just to fill my time. It is my fight to live. It is my fight to keep my self esteem and not be completely crushed by the hatred that is spewed in my direction for simply living in a fat body. It is my fight claim the space I need to live my life to the fullest with whatever cards I am dealt in life. I don’t do this because I need to fill time and enjoy it – I do this to keep myself strong, healthy, happy and alive. The alternative to my being a fat activist was crippling depression and absolutely no self esteem, which led to my attempting to end my life on more than one occasion. It’s only that I found fat activism that I am alive today. It’s only because of fat activism that I continue to thrive and live my life to the fullest – mostly because of my community of fellow fatties who understand what it is like to be hated for your body, and who are always there to listen and offer support. They are my family.
It is my life we’re dealing with here. Not conversation, not debate, not public interest. My own life. And my life is representative of many other people who live in fat bodies just like mine.
It is my greatest wish to be able to hang up my fat activist hat and never have to write or lobby about this subject again. It is my greatest wish that there would be nothing for me ever to write about on the subject of fatness. Because for that to happen, it would mean that I, and people like me, would be treated as human beings. That we would never open a magazine or newspaper or turn on the news and see an article vilifying us. That I could go through my life without being publicly scrutinised, judged and abused. That I could find everything I needed without it being suggested that I am “promoting obesity” by wanting clothes that fit, equal access to public transport without being bullied for “taking up too much space” or by just living my life comfortably and happily.
By publishing that piece today, you took that away from me for even longer. You made the fight all that much harder. You made my life that much more of a fight for dignity and respect.
I think I deserve an apology. I certainly deserve to be acknowledged as a human being whose life today was impacted negatively by your publication of that article.