I Want to Break Free

Published June 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I came to a realisation last night.  Thanks to discussions on Twitter and Facebook, I realised that I no longer consider myself aligned to either fat acceptance or body acceptance.

Don’t be too alarmed, I’m still the same rad fat feminist I was before yesterday, I’m not about to start pushing diets and fat hate at you and change the direction of this blog.  I’m still a fat activist, and a proud one at that.  I just no longer wish to be aligned with the concepts of fat acceptance or body acceptance.

The epiphany was twofold.  Firstly, I came to the realisation that I have a problem with the concept of mere acceptance of fat people.  I think we deserve more than to be merely accepted into society.  We should be valued members of society, not merely accepted ones.  In the discussion we had on Twitter, someone mentioned that in some queer communities, the word “tolerance” is considered the weakest form of homophobia, and suggested that in fat communities, perhaps “acceptance” is the weakest form of fat phobia.

I tend to agree.  I think acceptance implies a begrudging kind of acknowledgement that we exist.  It says to me “Yes, ok, fat people exist, I accept that.” and no more.  I think as activists for fat rights, we need to demand more than that.  We need to realise that just being acknowledged as existing is not meeting our rights as human beings.

It is my belief that we more than simply exist on this planet.  We have value.  We contribute.  We are as worthy of our place on the planet as any other human being.  Fat people are as precious and worthy as any other human being.  We are not damaged goods that need repair.  Nor are we “too big” and need to be made smaller to “fit in”.  The world is big enough for all of us, from the very largest person down to the tiniest.  We are not vermin to be eradicated, diseases to be cured or crimes to be prevented.  We are people who hold as much value as any other human being on the planet.

The word “acceptance” makes me feel like I have to compromise my value, because as a fat person I am devalued.  And I want no part of that.

The second reason I realised that I no longer identify with fat/body acceptance are the constant calls for us to accommodate reductionism.  By reductionism, I mean the practice of forcing ones body to lose weight.  I’m not referring to the incidental weight loss that comes due to illness, environmental change or through the changes ones body goes through with age.  I’m referring to reductive weight loss – diets (including diet products, diet foods, diet camps or clubs, diet books or any other tools of dieting), “lifestyle changes”, medications, appetite suppressants, weight loss gadgets, weight loss companies, “medical interventions” and surgical procedures.  This also includes eating and exercise disorders.

Every time I speak out against any of these damaging practices (many of which I partook in myself in my past), someone crops up and says “But what if people choose/chose to do these things, is there space for them in fat acceptance?”  My answer is usually “yes”, with the caveat that they not promote or advocate these practices in FA spaces.  Of course, then comes the argument that I am somehow “excluding” or “silencing” them because they’re fat people too and they deserve to be heard.

However, this to me, is a derailment – in that the whole world is a space for diet promotion and weight loss advocacy.  Reductionism is the dominant paradigm – and FA should not have to “make space” for something that already takes up ALL of the space.  I had believed fat/body acceptance to be about breaking down dominant paradigms and being a space where fat people could have some respite from that constant harassment to lose weight, but more and more often I feel that I’m being pushed into being accommodating to a world that has refused to accommodate me.  I want no part of that either.

Some will call this absolutist, some will label it “militant”.  Others will suggest that “it’s not black and white, there are shades of grey”.  No.  Not in my fight there is not.  Perhaps there is in your fight, perhaps there is in fat/body acceptance.  There is no grey of “acceptable” weight reductionism for me.  You get the rest of the world to celebrate/promote/advocate/have pride in your weight loss agenda.  I get this tiny space to say no, and to make clear my stance on forced weight loss.  One only has to look at just how vast the chasm is between the amount of Google mentions/information on the terms “weight loss” and “fat acceptance” to see how loud the voice is for weight loss, and how fat acceptance is a mere whisper against that tide.  Try doing the same for “weight loss” and terms like fat liberation, anti-diet, fat pride – the latter terms don’t even register.  How dare anyone suggest we have to “make room” for weight loss talk?

I know we talk a lot about body autonomy in fat/body acceptance, but I feel that there is rarely a voice that declares that they are against reductionism that isn’t shouted down by how we “must be accommodating” to the dominant paradigm, which in doing so immediately removes my body autonomy.  To me, if Fat/Body Acceptance must be a space that includes the dominant paradigm, then now is the time for me to distance myself from it.  I want more than to have to be accommodating to people who already have the lion’s share of the space in the world.  I want to be able to completely and utterly reject reductionism from my life.  If I cannot do that within Fat Acceptance, then I am happy to walk away from it.

Part of me felt bereft at this realisation.   I felt a sense of loss in discovering that there is yet another space that I cannot find respite from the dominant paradigm around fatness.  But then I remembered the Fat Liberation Manifesto, authored almost 40 years ago by Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran as part of The Fat Underground, and I found solace.  This manifesto sums up exactly how I feel about my fat activism and what I want from the world with regard to how fat people are treated.

I want liberation from the dominant paradigm, not to “make room” for it.  Somewhere I heard the saying “We don’t want a piece of the pie, we want a new pie.” which is a brilliant way to express it.

So I share the Fat Liberation Manifesto with you all here, and I honour the foremothers/sisters of The Fat Underground for paving the way for me to claim my own liberation.

FAT LIBERATION MANIFESTO

1. WE believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect and recognition.

2. WE are angry at mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.

3. WE see our struggle as allied with the struggles of other oppressed groups against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, financial exploitation, imperialism and the like.

4. WE demand equal rights for fat people in all aspects of life, as promised in the Constitution of the United States. We demand equal access to goods and services in the public domain, and an end to discrimination against us in the areas of employment, education, public facilities and health services.

5. WE single out as our special enemies the so-called “reducing” industries. These include diet clubs, reducing salons, fat farms, diet doctors, diet books, diet foods and food supplements, surgical procedures, appetite suppressants, drugs and gadgetry such as wraps and “reducing machines”.

WE demand that they take responsibility for their false claims, acknowledge that their products are harmful to the public health, and publish long-term studies proving any statistical efficacy of their products. We make this demand knowing that over 99% of all weight loss programs, when evaluated over a five-year period, fail utterly, and also knowing the extreme proven harmfulness of frequent large changes in weight.

6. WE repudiate the mystified “science” which falsely claims that we are unfit. It has both caused and upheld discrimination against us, in collusion with the financial interests of insurance companies, the fashion and garment industries, reducing industries, the food and drug industries, and the medical and psychiatric establishment.

7. WE refuse to be subjugated to the interests of our enemies. We fully intend to reclaim power over our bodies and our lives. We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together.

FAT PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE ….

By Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran
November, 1973
Copyright The Fat Underground

(Unfortunately I was unable to find anywhere I could link back to for The Fat Liberation Manifesto, but if someone knows of one please let me know and I will amend this post.)
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77 comments on “I Want to Break Free

  • I think you have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

    I’ve never been one to like boxes or categories and never understood why I couldn’t eat lunch with whoever I chose. Probably because I didn’t understand and didn’t care to, I went and ate lunch with whoever I wanted when I wanted.

    This is the kind of world I want to live in. Where we can just be and enjoy each others company. And it’s not my place to tell you or anyone else who they can and can’t hang out with.

  • Hi there,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time. Usually I find myself pumping my fist in the air, shouting “you go girl!” at the screen, and generally loving everything to do with you. This is one of the first times I find myself disagreeing strongly. First, let me praise your rejectance of “acceptance” as a term. If you hadn’t brought it up, I would have brought up the ‘tolerance” issue within the LGBT community. I used to do a fair bit of outreach around LGBT violence/bullying issues in schools, and this was certainly an issue of contention. Tolerance is the bare minimum. To tolerate is to withstand, but not to accept, appreciate, or love. So power to you for rejecting so base a level of compassion.

    My beef is your refusal to accept reductionism. I can appreciate that you disagree with diets, surgeries, lifestyle changes, etc. That’s fine. As someone who has attempted weight loss in the past, (as from reading your blog I know you have as well), we both know that it’s not an easy feat and that yes, it’s largely driven by a cultural construct that tells us thin is beautiful. That doesn’t mean millions of people aren’t doing it. I’m doing it, right now. Why? Well sure, it would be nicer to have more of a figure and feel more comfortable in my own skin, but I’m also an asthmatic, hoping it will relieve some strain on my breathing, and would like to avoid other weight-related effects. (Yes, I know the comfortable-in-my-own-skin thing is my own mental issue stemming from an unhealthy cultural demand, but hey, I’m working on it.) My problem now, is that I feel like this blog is no longer accepting of ME. And believe me, I am still a fatty. I would urge you to question your own notion that “You get the rest of the world to celebrate/promote/advocate/have pride in your weight loss agenda.” I think you’re wrong. When you were dieting, did you really feel supported by the rest of the world? I don’t. At best, it feels like the world is giving me a cursory pat on the back, while snickering and knowing that I will likely fail AGAIN. The world still sees me first and foremost as a fatty. I don’t think it’s fair to reject anyone who has stood alongside you and stood alongside fat-postive beliefs, and may also be trying to slim down for whatever their reason. It seems like this blog may no longer have room for me.

    But keep on fighting the good fight, because all people deserve MORE than acceptance.

    ———-
    If anyone is curious, my so-called “diet” — it’s not really, I would rather call it a “lifestyle-change”, though both are reductionist, so differentiating is useless — has involved keeping a food journal to maintain a calorie defecit (most days), and making sure I have 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week at a bare minimum. My “diet” does not involve any sacrifice. If I want it, I will have it. But all things in moderation, and then I appreciate them more.

    • Rachel (and anyone else who wants to completely ignore what I’ve just said about my claiming this space as a reductionsim free space) – let me reiterate – if you are pro-reductionism, then this space is not for you. You have the rest of the world. Go forth and share your diet/lifestyle change/weight loss guff there. I will not have it here. No matter by what name you call it.

      I don’t care WHO disagrees with me, I am claiming this space, and my activism as anti-reductivism. No-one will force me to “make space” for them when they have the rest of the world already available to them.

      This tiny space is a reductionism-free-zone. I will actively ban anyone who advocates it here. Any further comments advocating reductionist weight loss will be deleted and blocked.

      Can I make that any clearer?

      • hi there. i am a fat woman who has an painful and chronic autoimmune disease (polyarticular jrheumatoid arthritis). because of this condition i am in less pain if i weighed less. i am still significantly fat. i have been part of the movement since i was a teenager. thanks to the support i have seen and still see, i have learned to love myself as a fat person and a fat activist. i don’t have the rest of the world. am i not welcome here? i am genuinely curious and am asking for a clarification.

        • You ARE welcome here on the condition that you do not promote, evangelise or advocate forced weight loss in this space. What you do with your own body is your choice, but this is a reductivism free zone.

          I am not sure how much clearer I can be.

    • First, let me praise your rejectance of “acceptance” as a term. If you hadn’t brought it up, I would have brought up the ‘tolerance” issue within the LGBT community. I used to do a fair bit of outreach around LGBT violence/bullying issues in schools, and this was certainly an issue of contention. Tolerance is the bare minimum. To tolerate is to withstand, but not to accept, appreciate, or love.

      Emphasis mine.

      I don’t have any problems with the use of the term “fat acceptance”. Trying to change your weight is not accepting your weight. I mean, I guess you could say, “I’m accepting my weight FOR NOW,” but to say that you’re accepting your weight and also trying to change it seems to contradict the meaning of “acceptance”. Or for that matter, look at the Serenity Prayer: it’s about accepting the things you cannot change. (Like your weight!)

      Of course all this doesn’t matter much if Fat Acceptance is seen as endorsing dieting. It does seem to me like the pendulum has swung too far lately towards, “Can’t say anything that might hurt the dieters’ feelings!” and putting a bunch of disclaimers up. The dieters get all sorts of encouragement (at least when it comes to the loss part of the yo-yo cycle); I think it’s more important to be able to talk freely and frankly in FA spaces than to worry about not being welcoming enough to dieters all the time. I’m personally OK with people who feel like “fat acceptance is great–but not for me” being part of the movement and/or commenting on my blog, but I think there’s also a place for blogs that take a harder line or a softer line than mine. And I think Rachel’s description of her diet above is exactly the kind of thing that doesn’t belong on a FA blog.

  • I wonder how many people are like me and think of Fat Acceptance as only working to help Fat People accept themselves? I read a lot of things from people that I consider Fat Activists, but most people in Fat Acceptance that I talk to are more into supporting other Fat People.

    • Agreed! Although I absolutely see how there could be a different interpretation, and this post is definitely making me question what words I should use to describe what it is I believe in.

    • It’s interesting, but I do this for fat people, not for non-fat people. I blog, and participate in activism to benefit my fellow fatties, not try to “convince” the rest of the world that fat people are of value. I do this to open the world fat people, to show them that there is an alternative to hating themselves, forcing their bodies to do something they are not made to do (or be) and tolerating bullying and stigma from general society.

      I’m not here to educate thin people, I’m not here to justify fatness to the world (it does not need justification) and I’m not here to placate thin people.

      I’m here for my fellow fatties. The hardest thing is when the reductionism comes from fellow fatties – I want to help, but not at the expense of my own body autonomy and personal boundaries.

  • Thank for this strong statement, which is what I & some of my friends have been saying for years. Yes, ‘acceptance’ sounds too damn much like mere tolerance, it is & it should be liberation. I especially appreciate you posting the Fat Liberation Manifesto. I am older myself, & have been part of fat rights/liberation for 32 years myself, & it seems as if we make damn little progress & as if most people are far too grateful for crumbs & much too anxious to avoid stepping on toes. No one in modern culture hesitates to not only step on the toes of fat people but crush our feet & our heads as well, if they can, in expressing their hatred of us & their desire to wipe us off the face of the earth. You are so right; the whole damn world belongs to those who worship thinness & believe in doing whatever is necessary to become or remain thin. We do not have to ‘make nice’ & bend over backwards to accommodate these beliefs; this already the cultural paradigm. We have to create safe spaces for ourselves, spaces where being fat is not just accepted, but celebrated, where we have full rights & full participation in the world. Fat rights is a HUMAN RIGHTS movement, or at least it should be, not some cutesy little club. We do not need to apologize to those who abuse us for existing & continually reassure them that we mean them no harm & don’t want to ‘offend’ them. They never mind hurting & offending us one damn bit.

    I have especially been offended by the way so many fat activists seem to behave as if the Fat Underground never existed or as if the idea of fat acceptance/fat rights only came into being in the past few years, since the Internet became popularly used. People have been organizing for the rights of fat people in some way, to some extent, for at least 43 years & it has been amply demonstrated that asking nicely, being polite, & worrying about the sensitive feeling of the poor, misunderstood dieters & diet pushers is not getting us anywhere. The hatred, stigmatization, & abuse of fat people is more intense than it has ever been. No, ‘acceptance’ is not going to cut it, accommodation of the mainstream view of fat is not going to cut it. Being fat is not a bad or shameful thing, it is not an unnatural thing, it is not even, as the world loves to portray it, an unhealthy thing. Fat people do not need to be tolerated. We need & deserve full rights, full citizenship, full participation in the world.

    • Do you have any recommendations for every-day things a person could do that more fully support liberation? Or perhaps any specific resources you would suggest I check out? I would definitely love to help get things going! Thankyou!

    • You speak so many truths Patsy. Especially the idea of so many people being “grateful for crumbs”. We deserve more than just a fringe of acceptance. We deserve to be as valued as any other human being.

      I’m not interested in fat activism being this warm fuzzy thing of “loving your body” with no consequence to those who want to force us to change our bodies. I want to demand our space in the world, our right to be as we are and our value as human beings.

  • This makes perfect sense to me. How is dieting related to self-acceptance? How is cherishing and celebrating the same as tolerance?

    The Fat Liberation Manifesto is wonderful, but also sad. We have not gotten very far since 1973.

    What do you think of Health At Every Size? It seems like after “you’re gross” the #2 complaint is “you are using up MY money by being an unhealthy burden to society” – unlike all those skinny meth heads, heroin addicts, cigarette smokers, drunk drivers, etc. /sarcasm

    • I have said before that if someone sees a fat person drinking a soda pop or even a juice, they will feel it is their right to chastize said fat person to no end. But if someone sees a skinny person drinking Mountain Dew straight from the liter bottle while mainlining heroin and scarfing down a pile of Big Macs, the only thing they might tell the skinny person is that heroin is bad for them. Just by existing we are “asking for it,” and that is bogus.

    • Nellie, it is frustrating to see how we are still fighting for the same things that the Fat Underground were fighting for 40 years ago (when I was born!), isn’t it?

      I am a supporter of HAES, and I practice it myself, but I do not believe it is obligatory of any fat person to do so. Health is a highly personal thing, and no matter how someone chooses to address their health (or chooses to not do so) they are still a valid human being.

  • Kath, what you’re promoting isn’t militant or exclusive. It’s *fat acceptance.* FA is a political movement with a mindset, goals and values. FA is meaningless without those things, and I applaud you for not caving to the incessant call that we gut FA to be more inclusive.

    • Eh. I don’t think there’s a need to “gut” FA to be more inclusive. I think there are people who want to feel a little more “accepting” while still hating all that icky fat. (That’s what akismet is for ;)

      • I think it’s both to be honest. I think it is two different factions – those who want to gut FA down to what they feel is acceptable, and those who want to excuse their hatred of icky fat by labelling themselves “accepting”.

        Both are unwelcome in my space.

  • The thing about reductionism is that it has cost me many years where I might have been able to start thinking I was an okay person. I started forcing myself to throw up when I was twelve years old and weighed a gargantuan 110 pounds because I didn’t think I was skinny enough. I’m now almost fifty. I have yo-yo dieted many times, and always ended up fatter. It doesn’t matter what I weigh now, enough is enough. I’m not going to spend however many years I have on the planet trying to become someone else’s idea of beautiful.

    • I feel the same way The Real Cie. Over 25 years of my life, wasted on trying to be something I wasn’t, and doing very real damage to myself in the process. The first time I stopped gaining weight was when I stopped engaging in reductionism.

  • *applause*

    There’s no reason not to go for all-out “fat liberation.” One practice in particular that I believe must be stopped is weight loss surgery. These surgeries and the butchers who perform them are a menace and ruin lives.

    • I heartily agree Allison. It is absolute mutilation. I have lost two beloved friends to that butchery. I fully believe that in the future, we will look back on weight loss surgery as a culture and equate it to practices like lobotomies and bleeding out disease.

      • As someone that had this surgery when young, not informed of anything and feels pain everyday because of it I couldn’t agree more. Weight loss surgery shouldn’t be used. I feel sorry for those that have them and hate those doctors that do it.

  • Yeah, I totally agree with this. I’m of the opinion that the haters don’t have to “accept” me, they have to respect me, they have to give me the rights that are due me by the simple fact that I’m a human being, the same as they are (although their humanity can be debatable at times). I’m all for liberation and demanding our rights (and I totally agree with the no reductionism stance).

  • Thank you for taking this stand, and for not compromising on the issue of weight-loss talk. Reading your blog, and others, has brought me from a reductionist mindset (fat acceptance is hunky-dory for everyone else, and I’ll accept myself too, as soon as I lose ___ kilos) to the point where I realized that radical self-acceptance is not “giving up;” rather, it is the first step to reclaiming my life from those who would tell me I am less of a human being right now, at my current weight, age, etc… That being said, I hope that you will still encourage people to read your blog, even if they’re not at the point of self-acceptance yet. Your words have the power to help them get there!
    Big fat love,
    Theresa
    P.S.: I loved the photo of you riding your bike. It helped me to get my own bike out of mothballs and I LOVE riding it now.

    • Theresa I went through a similar process myself. I used to think that fat acceptance was a great idea… for everyone except myself. I still had to lose the weight, and make myself “acceptable” for the world. Screw that, I am already more than acceptable!

      However I have to clarify, I’m FULLY at the point of self acceptance now though, in fact I am beyond that. I value myself. I honour myself. I like myself. It’s not me that has work to do – it’s the people who still push weight loss on us and try to force us into “accepting” them when they are already accepted by the dominant paradigm.

      I just want no part of fat acceptance if it is a paradigm that has to accept reductionism.

      And I’m glad you’ve got your bike out – biking is heaps of fun!

  • I love the terms “fat pride” and “fat liberation,” and that is what I am really working towards. Acceptance is the bare minimum.

    At the same time, I’m not sure I would have gotten involved with the movement if it were named either of those things. When I first started my fat liberation journey, the idea of accepting my fat was beyond me — being proud of my fat seemed impossible. I had to reach acceptance first, before I could even conceive of pride.

    I think each individual has the right to claim their own term, be it acceptance, pride or liberation, the right to claim where they are at. I think those who have reached the point that pride and liberation feel right to them should say so, because that gives those who are struggling with acceptance hope that they might reach pride one day.

    As for our community, our movement, in a perfect world, fat pride is the right name. In our world, does it really work? Maybe when we make some ground, when less fat people think they deserve to be treated so badly, maybe then we can start calling ourselves the fat pride movement. Maybe we should call ourselves the fat acceptance-pride-liberation movement. Maybe we should just claim Fat Pride, and let the cards fall as they may.

    I don’t have an answer, but I’m glad to see those who can claim pride do so!!

    • I don’t connect with the term Fat Pride as much as I do Fat Liberation, but that’s me personally. I want liberation from the dominant paradigm. I want the freedom to live my life without having to change my body to be “acceptable”.

  • I really like your post here and I understand your leaving fat acceptance for something bigger and better! (no pun intended heh). I have always been frustrated by how the concept of bodily autonomy is largely used in fat acceptance – I have often seen it used as an excuse to let weight reductionism talk creep into FA spaces. I get especially confused because I don’t think anyone in FA from the most militant to the most moderate, are advocating any sort of totalitarian regime of fatness, of course people get to do what they want to do with their bodies, of course none of us want to control others – I find the constant defense of dieting implicit in bodily autonomy talk in FA spaces extremely off putting. I mean what about our bodily autonomy? Why are we always forced to defend dieting? Just today I saw a popular FA blogger (two actually) talk about the importance of bodily autonomy in regards to dieting – why are these people put in a position again, to tacitly approve of other people’s diets? Cause that’s whats happening when we are constantly asked to assuage the dieters that we aren’t in fact not trying to pry their diets away? outlaw dieting? I don’t know. The way bodily autonomy is often framed in FA is in assuaging the fears of the dieters and it is one of the most frustrating aspects of FA to me. Tip toeing around “people’s right to diet” is how the concept of bodily autonomy is often wielded in FA and it’s frustrating to my. My beef is not with the concept of bodily autonomy itself, it’s just how often I see that concept framed in FA that’s what i don’t like.

  • If I could bring a blanket, and curl up in your shadow, I would completely do this. I am so relieved that you wrote this post, because I was starting to feel worn out and alone. A few months back, I actually left all of the FA/Body Acceptance blogs and communities I belonged to because I realized that it was doing some severe damage to my mental & physical health. I was in pain every day, when I woke up and read my blogs, and got sucked into the rabbit hole of online debate. I am exhausted by the lack of progress in online FA/Body Acceptance communities. I am severely tired of the healthism and the constant pressure to justify my self as an “acceptable” fatty because I “do” healthy things. I’m over it.

    I’ve done some blogging over at Fat & Not Afraid about this very topic, but I plan on revisiting it and linking back to your post.

    Thank you, for providing a space, where I can get a body liberation “fix”, and be part of a supportive community, without killing myself from the stress of being a fat person in this culture.

    • I did exactly the same thing about a month ago – I was so sick of the diet talk enabling attitudes in supposedly fat-friendly spaces and of people urging me to not question their motives or whatever. I left lots of groups and ended my subscription to lots of blogs because I was sick of the consensus that dieters need to have their feelings protected. If we get to have HAES, they get to have weightloss. But I seriously believe that if you bring your diet or your internalised fat hating methods into to fat space you should expect to be confronted/shown your lack of acceptance with your current body. Reductionists, for “health” reasons or otherwise, in a fat space have to be confronted with their slavery to the paradigm that fat is unhealthy or bad. End of.

    • ((Hugs)) Fat Fox. I know that burnout. I know that frustration and despair. It’s EXHAUSTING.

      I have learnt that I have to choose what online spaces I inhabit very carefully, and walk away from the same old bullshit that we keep being force fed, the same old wearing away of our identities by having constant demands that we be someone we are not because our very existence offends or threatens someone.

      Here’s to building a network of safe spaces that strengthen and support us.

  • I think this post is wonderful, in disability rights blogs I found several posts against acceptance and tolerance, people are not supposed to be accepted and tolerated because they are different, they should be valued, they should be equal. Difference is beautiful.

    It’s not about the same thing but I never liked the name body acceptance because it doesn’t accept all bodies, it says nothing about ugly bodies, bodies considered deformed, weird, sick, wounded, with scars, etc. Body acceptance made me feel not accepted. I read that it’s okay to respect fat people because they are not sick or have abnormal bodies but what about the people that are sick or “abnormal”. Maybe I was to literal because of the name body acceptance and saying all bodies should be accepted but I always found nothing about bodies that are considered bad except when talking about fat, normaly good looking fat people.
    Fat pride, fat respect or anything like that sounds better and a body pride that remembers of all bodies would be great.

  • I think – and I hope this is encouraging – that accusing a human rights group of abusing/not accepting/oppressing the dominant culture is what happens when the dominant culture realizes the strength of the fighters. Women were accused of being “man-haters;” blacks were accused of “reverse racism”…. and now you, and me and all of us, are accused of not being accepting of thin or reducing people.

    So, in a way… it’s a compliment… they can’t think of a better way to beat us!

  • This makes me feel really good. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which body acceptance is too complicit with health instead of examinating the medical industrial complex. The term fat liberation feels more appropriate with the amount of shit I want to fuck up.

  • I applaud your willingness to take principled stands on the issues of “fat acceptance” and artificial weight reduction. You articulated them well, and I get exactly where you are coming from. However, I urge you to take a small step back and reconsider the utility (and possibly the lack of compassion) of deliberately excluding individuals who engage in practices/thoughts that are misguided or destructive.

    Reading your post, I was reminded of a discussion I had with a friend regarding vegetarianism/veganism. She believes that if you *ever* use an animal product, for any reason whatsoever, you are simply not a vegan. In her view, people who are even willing to sample a fancy cheese at a party are just not vegan, even if they believe strongly in animal rights and refrain from consuming animal products 99% of the time. Rather than reaching out and forming alliances based on commonalities, she has become frustrated and has decided to draw lines based on differences. This is a principled stand, but one that requires creating a very exclusive club. This, too, has its costs.

    Reading your post, it almost seemed that this was the point for you–creating an exclusive platform where there is only one point of view, and any deviance from that point of view, at any time, is heresy. (The rest of the world, as you mentioned, is a platform for different views–why not have one that is just for yours?). If this is not the case, my bad. But if this is the case, think carefully about the fact that there is a difference between ideals and people–one can always be perfect, the latter never well be. Be open to the possibility that the positions that you realized, and the ones that give you joy now, will also evolve.

    • Um no. I am not willing to take “a small step back” from a place already 10 steps back from everyone else.

      This IS an exclusive platform. It’s MY platform. It’s MY space. I have stated my beliefs and what is important to me more than clearly, yet still you, and others like you, are pushing back against that.

      I am not the one who is not “being open to possibilities”. I’m not the one denying anyone their own space, as you are denying me mine. Other people can say whatever they like in their space, believe whatever they like, promote/push/advocate/evangelise all they like in any other space but this one. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY gets to determine my space, my activism and my fat feminism except for ME.

      How is that so difficult to understand that in this space, and this space alone, I am taking a ZERO TOLERANCE stance on reductivism, and it is fully within my right to do so?

  • I applaud your decision on this and completely understand. While I think that it’s great for people to voice their opinions and want more voices to be heard, there are so few spaces for true body acceptance, and it gets frustrating when they try to invade those spaces and shove their diets and ‘fixes’ at us. It gets even more frustrating when they assume they are being bold in their claims and stating something that has never been said before. When the rest of society holds the same view, that isn’t bold, and you are in no need to find a ‘safe space’ to talk about your views. So rock on!

    • Beth I think you’re right. Out of fat acceptance, fat positive, body positive, plus-size and any other name you want to call communities of fat bloggers, writers, fashionistas, activists, etc, I would say 99% of them still have reductivism in their community spaces. Those of us who flatly refuse to engage in it, or allow it in our spaces are very, very rare.

      It’s funny how often people frame weight loss, diet and general fat = bad talk as “unpopular opinions” when the truth is they are the most popular opinions of all. So common that my zero tolerance stand seems positively radical.

  • I must be using a different dictionary from y’all. For me, “acceptance” means so much more than mere tolerance. The term I dislike is “size acceptance”, which to me is more of an umbrella term for different kinds of body acceptance.
    I must also be reading different fatosphere blogs, because I almost never encounter posts on dieting, or posts that suggest ableism is the way to go. What did I miss? I don’t even understand why dieting and the discussion thereof is so addictive to some people. As I see it (probably too simplistically), the world causes you enough pain; why do you feel a need to cause yourself even more? No, there’s no need to discuss that here, consider it a rhetorical remark. I am happy to leave it for elsewhere.
    That fat people have great value – totally with you on that, however it’s expressed.
    No diet talk – also a good idea, and one I’ve seen everywhere on the fatosphere.

    • Well Mulberry, I’d like to know where you’re going because almost every blog I see (with a few noteable acceptions) make so many concessions to reductivisim, so many tiptoeing around “dieters rights” and arguing that we should accept weight loss talk in our community.

      I actually deleted a LOT of comments on this piece that called me hateful, prejudiced and accused me of silencing/censoring people for claiming this one small place as anti-reductivism.

  • Hey Kat, I just wanted to say awesome post! I don’t usually comment but I had a couple of thoughts. My interpretation of what you are saying here is that this is not a 101 space. Not that you need my approval/understanding but that is totally legitimate. Not all Fat Acceptance (or Liberation) spaces need to be the same and it is important that people who are not at the 101 level have their own space. There are plenty of spaces where 101 discussion happens and that level of discussion is necessary but it does not have to happen in *every* FA space!

    • Sometimes it is a 101 space. Sometimes it is about that basic message that fat people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, which is about as 101 as you can get. But this is a space that has zero tolerance of weight reduction promotion or evangelism.

  • This is another very interesting post, and one that I’ve had to think about for a while. On the one hand, you have fat activists who very firmly espouse people’s right to body autonomy and body fat reduction. And then on the other hand, you have fat activists like Kath who say that there are no shades of gray; weight reduction is diametrically opposed to fat liberation. Why are some FA activists so violently opposed to weight reduction, while others are tolerant of it?

    I think there are two different ways activists approach weight reduction. Some approach the issue philosophically; they might extend their stances on analogous issues to weight reduction. Others approach the issue viscerally, and their stance is very strongly colored by their emotions.

    When people decide to lose weight, they do so after performing their own cost-benefit analysis. Notice that what the Fat Liberation Manifesto objects to is not weight reduction itself, but the reducing industries’ “false claims” which are “harmful to the public health.” In other words, this industry deliberately (I think) misinforms people, and so the average individual’s weight reduction cost-benefit analysis is grossly inaccurate. Of course, even if someone is aware that weight loss techniques are generally ineffective and harmful, they might still choose to lose weight, because they feel that fat stigma is so damaging to their quality of life that they try to escape it. It is logically consistent for fat activists to disapprove of weight reduction for the purpose of escaping fat stigma, so long as they also disapprove of other analogous stigma-avoiding techniques (e.g., the use of skin lightening creams). However, when one declares that weight reduction is ALWAYS objectionable, one runs the risk of logical inconsistencies.

    Is it objectionable for someone with cancer to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, if their chance of remission is very slim, since those treatments are so harmful to the body? Should we object when an elderly person with debilitating osteoarthritis decides to get a hip replacement, putting himself at risk of a life-threatening MRSA infection, even though there is no guarantee that the replacement will restore function and reduce pain? Generally, we support the idea of body autonomy in these types of situations. Similarly, someone with an arbitrary fat-contributing syndrome (“Syndrome Chi”*) might suffer so much from the effects of the syndrome, that they decide that purposefully losing and maintaining weight—even if it results in chronic hunger and obsession with food—would cause less misery than Syndrome Chi, or the alternative treatments which are available. To be logically consistent, if we are to support body autonomy in the terminal cancer and hip replacement cases, then we should support body autonomy in the Syndrome Chi case.

    Of course, what complicates the matter immensely is that there is not as much stigma surrounding cancer or bad hips, as there is for fatness. Many fat activists have attempted to lose weight, and their primary motive was to become more “acceptable.” After exposure to FA, HAES, etc., they realize that their cost-benefit analyses were flawed, and they are angry that the reducing industry/culture so harmfully misinformed them. This outrage can lead one to be skeptical of ALL weight reduction, just as racism outrage in the US has led us to be very skeptical of ALL skin lightening (for example, many people didn’t believe Michael Jackson when he said that he had his skin lightened because he had vitiligo).

    I think some fat activists push past their natural skepticism toward weight reduction in order to be logically consistent, or perhaps even to prove that their arguments aren’t tainted by their bias. However, we have to remember that these FA spaces are more than just about politics and social change. They are about healing—recovering from shame and self-harm. Would you pop into a suicide prevention forum and say, “But what about euthanasia?” If not, then please don’t pop into a space where people are recovering from the harm inflicted by the weight loss industry/culture, and say, “But what about weight loss for Syndrome Chi?” In other words, please be consistent with your tact and compassion, as well as your logic! I’m not saying that every FA space has to be reduction-talk-free, but it’s fantastic that at least one is. Kath is not being hateful/prejudiced/etc. by declaring this a “reductivism-free space.” She’s providing a safe forum for those who are trying to heal.

    *Greek analog of “X”. It seems that the medical profession has already used many of the letters of the Latin/English alphabet to name different syndromes.

    • A Elizabeth I see what you’re trying to say, but I do think you’re missing the very crux of my point. And that is, that I actually don’t care what people do to their own bodies at all. I’m all for body autonomy, go ahead folks, do whatever you like.

      Yes, this space is a place for me to heal the damage done to me in the name of fat hatred. And anyone else who likes to come along and join me, under the conditions I place on this space which is mine.

      But that’s not all I’m talking about. Just claiming this little patch isn’t quite enough.

      What I’m opposed to is the evangelisation of weight loss (reductionism). I’m opposed to people demanding that their weight loss is “celebrated” by all and sundry because they believe that it is an “achievement” (as though those of us who have not lost weight are failures). I’m opposed to the all pervasive culture of reductionism that encroaches every corner of women’s lives. I’m outraged that fat women cannot live their lives without weight loss being pushed on them from every single aspect of their lives. I’m opposed to the promotion and advocation of weight loss as being “healthful” or even “moral”. And most of all I’m opposed to the wholesale fraud that the weight reduction industries are committing in the name of earning money off of people’s misery… while they butcher those people to do so with surgeries, drugs, starvation, shame and any other method of attempted weight reduction.

      These very things go against what I believe fat activism, fat liberation actually is. I believe there is no difference between those who push forced weight reduction and those who believe homosexuality can be “cured”. The belief that people have to essentially change who they are to be “acceptable” to society.

      So yes, I will speak out against these things not only here, but in the spaces that it is relevant. I won’t encroach on someone else’s blog or other personal space to tell them what they can and can’t do with their bodies, but I will fight until my last breath against weight reduction ever being classed/sold/advocated as a good/healthy/moral thing to do.

      • Wow, I did misunderstand your point, I think because I thought that all of Fat Acceptance was ALREADY about fighting the reduction industry/culture. I thought you were advocating something more radical–that body autonomy does not extend to weight reduction, or something like that.

        I reread your original post, with more understanding. I guess I haven’t read enough stuff from the fatosphere to witness an accommodation of the reduction industry/culture. In fact, I thought most FA spaces were “diet talk free.”

        • Sadly, very little of what I see of Fat Acceptance is about fighting the reduction industry/culture. So much of it is about tiptoeing around dieters sensibilities, and proving that one can be “fat and healthy too”. Yes, one can be fat and healthy too. But one shouldn’t have to be. We should not have to be justifying our existence. We should not have to be demanding mere acceptance.

          I see an awful lot of blogs and opinions out there about tiptoeing around the diet privileged, and that’s not what I want my fat activism to be.

          • I agree that no one should have to be healthy. However, I think it’s important to get the word out that fat and good health are not mutually exclusive, in order to fight the misinformation that is spread by the reducing industry. In fact, contrary to what the reducing industry would have everyone believe, they are not even inversely correlated–“normal weight” people have higher all-cause mortality rates than so-called “overweight” people! Of course, you probably already know this…but I think it needs to be repeated often, especially in response to people who say, “I want to accept my body, but I need to lose weight because of Syndrome Chi.”

            I think we can also fight the reducing industry by getting the word out that body fat levels and appetite are regulated by unconscious processes, and weight is 70% heritable (in comparison, intelligence is 75% heritable, and height is 80% heritable). We should emphasize that research has shown that weight cycling is more harmful than maintaining a higher weight.

            I can’t think of any better way to fight the reducing industry, than to correct the misinformation that it puts out. Do you have any specific methods or ideas?

            • A Elizabeth – no. Not in this space. Nobody has to justify their bodies, nobody has to justify their health, nobody has to prove that they break a stereotype, not here.

              I don’t care if someone is “unhealthy” or “lazy” or they eat a lot – they are still a human being and they deserve to be treated as a human being and do not have to prove they are worthy of that status by denying that they fit stereotypes of fat people.

              I will not engage in healthism and pandering to fat haters by “proving” that it is possible for fat people to be healthy/fit. Health and fitness is nobody’s business but the body it belongs to. I am not going to fight the weight loss industry by demanding fat people prove they are healthy. Even if HAES turned out to be completely wrong and fat people did have shorter life spans and more health issues (which I highly doubt it will turn out that way), it doesn’t mean that the weight loss industry is right nor does it mean that fat people are second class citizens.

              For a more detailed explanation of this, I highly recommend Michelle aka The Fat Nutritionist’s latest post:

              http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/a-little-101-i-get-to-exist/

              • I definitely agree that ALL people should be treated with respect, regardless of health, size, ethnicity, ability, etc. But should we really bite our tongues when the reducing industry says something that just isn’t true?

                I’m not suggesting that we engage in healthism or pandering, so much as we point when the reducing industry is not telling the truth. But maybe the line between those two things is too delicate…

                • I think that without the sciency part of it, I wouldn’t have moved beyond, “Fat people should be respected and should be able to choose ‘unhealthy’ lifestyles if that’s what they really want, but society should encourage them to lose weight.” I wouldn’t have moved beyond feeling like the only reason for me not to lose weight was that I just didn’t think I could do it. That’s 101-level stuff, sure, and there’s no reason that any particular blog has to talk about it, but I think that there is a place for it in the movement. That’s a lot of what my blog deals with, actually, and it’s primarily to encourage myself and people like me that I focus on it.

    • However, we have to remember that these FA spaces are more than just about politics and social change. They are about healing—recovering from shame and self-harm. Would you pop into a suicide prevention forum and say, “But what about euthanasia?” If not, then please don’t pop into a space where people are recovering from the harm inflicted by the weight loss industry/culture, and say, “But what about weight loss for Syndrome Chi?” In other words, please be consistent with your tact and compassion, as well as your logic! I’m not saying that every FA space has to be reduction-talk-free, but it’s fantastic that at least one is.

      This is a great point.

  • As always I am in support of your viewpoints and opinions and read your blog with admiration and respect. However, in my own recent musings of body acceptance (which is a difficult concept for all body sizes) I have found myself feeling lost and disconnected. I am not a model size, neither am I classified as curvy or “plus-sized”. Rather, I am large boned and somewhat athletically built. I have struggled between my desire to be delicate and waif-like, (feeling like I might finally find self-acceptance and confidence if I achieved the elusive size 0-like belonging to an elite club) and my contentment with my natural weight tendencies (which exclude me from the physical qualification of being a “legit” fat activist). I know, this sounds totally weird, and I have probably not adequately explained my feelings, but it is a constant struggle to just be me and happy with myself whatever my shape or size- like there is no special place in the world for women who neither fit the ideal beauty standard (models and moviestars) or the big is beautiful movement.

    • I’m absolutely gobsmacked that you would suggest that people who are further stigmatised than you would have to be the ones to create space for you. If you’re not living in a very fat body, then you have privilege over me and people like me. And it’s not my job to create that safe space for you. Take your privilege and create your own space.

      This is not about creating “special places”, or clubs or groups to join. This is about creating a safe space for people who’s bodies do not fit the cultural norm. That does not mean that bodies smaller than mine don’t belong here, but it DOES mean that those of you with privilege have to acknowledge that and stop treating those of us who don’t have it as if we owe you something.

      WE OWE YOU NOTHING.

      • it DOES mean that those of you with privilege have to acknowledge that and stop treating those of us who don’t have it as if we owe you something.

        Well that sums it up nicely!! That is very much the crux of this issue, and I hope to FSM that people get that through their knee-jerk reactions and let it settle into their brains.

  • Thank you for refusing to support healthism and ableism. No one, no matter hir size, needs to demonstrate “health” in order to be a worthwhile human being. As a fat person who is losing mobility due to hip dysplasia and arthritis, I struggle with internalized sterotypes about bad fatties who eat until they can’t walk anymore. Bloggers like you and Ragen Chastain give me strength to resist such thoughts.

  • YOU ARE SO AWESOME!! I have been following your blog for awhile and I have to say you always give me something to think about. I too have struggled wtih the whole fat “acceptance” issue. Many times I feel like the fat community is begging for something society will never give. Society at large dosen’t want fat people to feel good about themselves, why do you think diet products are a billion dollar industry. At this point in my life I am not looking for anyones accepatance of my body. What I want is for people to leave my body and my life to me, and to “concern” themselves with thier own lives. Basiclly, I don’t care if people accept the way my body is, I just want them to keep it to themselves. Also, I don’t want to be denied basic human rights because they are disgusted with my body. My health and body is my business, If someone dosen’t accept it that is thier problem. However, I will continue to protest discriminatroy actions that happen in result of fat prejudice. Thank you again for being awesome!

  • Hi Kath! I’ve never commented, but I’m a regular reader and I always have a lot of respect for what you have to say. Although I’m not fat I started reading more about the FA community because I think the way fat people are treated in our society is crazy and wrong. Although I realize I have privilege because I am not fat at this time, I know that someday I will probably become fat as I age, have babies, go through menopause, etc…and I’m okay with that. The fight for fat “acceptance” should really be every person’s fight. For this reason I hope that you can welcome allies of all sizes into the fight for size equality…while still maintaining your own space :)

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