Yes, I know Fat Talk Free week is problematic. Yes I know that it’s really aimed at and practiced by thin, affluent, young, white women and that it’s likely that it often leads to the suppression of real talk about fatness, fat acceptance and body positivity. But I still promote it amongst my general circle.
Why? Because not everyone is on the same page of the body acceptance book. It would be fan-bloody-tastic if everyone was well entrenched and able to recognise that while it has useful elements, it also has problematic ones, and we need to keep those in check and question them as we go along. But people are not like that, generally speaking. Every day, I hear, read and see people around me who loathe their own bodies or those of others, are afraid of bodies that are different to theirs, who indulge in diet talk and fat talk, that are so deeply entrenched in the cultural norm of body loathing and fear that the concepts of acceptance and positivity that are so important to me, sound so radical, so unheard of, so “out there” to them.
I want them to leave that place of body loathing and fear, but as much as I push, and push, and push, they have to want to move to that way of thinking. I can’t force other people to change, but I can encourage them to think.
Just as an example, I have a much beloved friend, who, no matter how many times I tell him that it is perfectly acceptable to refer to me as fat, can’t, or won’t, do so without following it through with “blow softening” superlatives. Fat is just such a dirty word in our culture that so many people are deeply, deeply resistant to ever seeing it as anything other than a vicious insult. It would be fantastic to wave a magic wand and change that, but it doesn’t work like that.
So while I do endeavour to introduce the people around me to as many clear messages about fat acceptance and body positivity, sometimes it’s just not getting through at full blast, and instead, I have to think of other ways to present the message.
Since I started practicing fat acceptance, I’ve watched the people around me slowly change their thinking around the word fat. I’ve seen people who were very judgemental about other people’s bodies, their taste or dress sense, and their looks re-think their attitudes towards the judgement of others. Admittedly, not everyone around me is doing so, some are absolutely resistant to the idea, but most of the people who care about me truly are listening to what I have to say and thinking about how their attitudes, words and deeds affect others.
Fat Talk Free week isn’t what I would recommend to most people who are open to learning about fat acceptance. But to those people who are outside of the fatosphere, even that is a radical concept. If I can get them thinking twice about that comment about the size of their butt, or calling some fat person on the telly “gross”, or judging others about what they wear, then I’ve achieved something. If I can get folks changing the subject away from diet talk at the work lunch table, or think twice about a comment that they might pass on someone’s body in front of their children, then there has been some value to making them aware of Fat Talk Free week.
I consider it a stepping stone on the journey to body positivity. Never the destination, but a step closer to where we need to go.