OK, I’ll Be The One To Say It…

Published July 29, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

This morning I reached a boiling point.  I saw some more posts on Tumblr and Twitter talking about the subject of dieting fatties demanding to be included/acknowledged by several fat activists.  I opened my inbox and there were several asks in my Tumblr account demanding I do the same.  I deleted several comments from this earlier post because they just kept going on and on and on about how I personally had to “be inclusive” of people who are dieting, or are “not that fat”, as if every single person must have my direct and personal validation or “the movement” is ruined.

I don’t speak for any “movement”.  I speak for me and my fight for fat liberation.  Yes, I am proud of the community that has formed around fat activism and I love feeling part of that community, but it doesn’t define me, nor do I speak for it.  We are not a monolith, we are a group of people who find connections with each other.  Sometimes we have the same aims, but we don’t connect with one another for whatever reason, and that’s ok too.

But back to the topic at hand – this constant demand that people who are dieting, or engaging in some form of weight loss, or those who are “not that fat” are acknowledged.  It’s exhausting and it’s bullshit.

I’m sick of it.  I’m sick of everyone tiptoeing around the subject.  I understand why people do, and I’m not asking anyone to be as bolshy as I am in saying it, but it is a constant derailment of the actual core aims of fat activism (whatever way you identify it).  So I had one of my now famous Twitter rants, which this evening has grown into this piece below.

I hope this is enough to make it clear, but let me make it VERY clear that I am not opening up the floor for a discussion of why we should be validating people who are dieting/trying to lose weight/”not that fat”.  Any attempts to do so will be removed, and if you want to call that silencing, censorship, exclusionary, bullying, too hardline, or whatever else you can think of that tells me I am doing it wrong, then you’re doing EXACTLY what I’m fed up with.  I’m not here to create a warm fuzzy club for all, I’m here to radically push the agenda on how fat people are treated, and one of those radical shifts I need to see is that we have to stop feeling that people who are dieting/engaging in weight loss or are “not that fat” need some kind of cookie or permission slip.

So without any further ado….

Dear People Who Are Dieting/Trying to Lose Weight,

Shut the fuck up.

Stop trying to force everyone to give you a medal.

You have the whole damn world, you DON’T get/need fat activism to validate you.

Stop trying to establish that you’re “one of the good fatties” on the backs of the rest of us because you’re “doing it for your health”.  This is not a competition.  There are no prizes given out for who does it better, or who is “healthier”, or who lives longer.

You are not superior/harder working/healthier/better than those of us who don’t diet.   The same goes for those who say “I’m not really that fat, but I hate my body too, where is MY space?!”  Stop demanding those of us who you have privilege over validate you.  Stop using people to prove to yourself “at least I’m not that fat/unhealthy/gross/lazy”.

Do whatever the fuck you like with your own body/life, but stop forcing fat activists/acceptance/positivity/liberation to validate you.

Whatever way people identify it, fat activism is not some exclusive club for you to demand your “right to be a member”, nor is it for you to demand “acknowledgement” from.

Fat liberation is about learning to find your own value and being free from needing anyone else to validate you.  If you want to feel like you’re changing something in your life, that’s what you need to find, not demand that the rest of us acknowledge you as if we’re admitting you to some kind of clique.  It is NOT a club/clique.  It is walking away from the need for others to validate you, to approve of you, and finding your own self worth and being your own validation.  It’s about learning what really matters, where you want to improve yourself and where you need to push back against societal pressure to conform to arbitrary standards.  It’s by measuring yourself against YOURSELF, and your own standards and core beliefs, not other people or their standards and beliefs.

Stop demanding other people validate you and start learning that the only validation worth anything comes from within yourself.  If you’re happy dieting and buying into the weight loss schtick – then you don’t need the rest of us to validate you, to acknowledge you.

We’ve got better things to do than constantly appease your “But I must be acknowledged!!” bullshit.

Like fighting for the rights of fat people to live in this world without being bullied, vilified, demeaned, or treated like pests to be eradicated.

And to my fellow fat activists who are constantly plagued by comments, asks and emails and the like of this nature (as I am myself), my suggestion is that every time we get these messages we hit the delete button.  These people get far too much of our time and attention.  They have derailed the conversation long enough.

Yours vehemently

Fat Heffalump

32 comments on “OK, I’ll Be The One To Say It…

  • Amen! Excellent post, Kath. The whole world validates & support dieters, they do not need fat acceptance to do so as well. And I personally am also tired of fat activists going out of their way to repeatedly assert that they do not mean to offend dieters or thin people & that it is really okay if you want to diet, yadda, yadda. I come to fat positive spaces for fat community, to help & be helped in the fight for rights & access for those of us who are excluded, abused, ostracized, not to be told that dieting is okay for some people, that maybe some need to do it ‘for their health’ or whatever other bullshit people can come up with. I will flat out state that dieting is bad for your health, it is likely to exacerbate whatever problems you have & very likely to shorten your life, & also that most people don’t do it to improve their health, but to gain thin privilege, to be seen as much acceptable. No, there is no place in fat liberation for those who believe that it is perfectly alright to try to deliberately manipulate the size of your body, because that belief is not only counter to wanting to be ‘healthy’, it by its very nature asserts that fat is bad, that there is only one way to be in this world which is acceptable & that is just reaffirming the old status quo. If I want to hear/see diet talk, I will go to one of the weight loss websites or stop changing the channel or hitting the mute button on diet commercials.

    • Thanks Patsy. One only has to access any mainstream media if one wants validation for dieting and weight loss. It’s plastered everywhere online, television, movies, news print, magazines, radio, everywhere. I think so often we give too much to people trying to force us to validate their dieting and weight loss efforts. We try to give them the benefit of the doubt, because we were once there ourselves. But I want to thank the people who went before me and created spaces that were diet/weight loss free and who kicked my butt out of that space if I breached those conditions. I wouldn’t have reached the place I am today if I hadn’t got those messages somewhere.

      No more excuses!

  • I’ve heard so much ‘but I, as a thin person, experience body shaming too!!!’ in the past few weeks that I REALLY needed to read this post. Bravo!

  • Preach, Sister!
    I too get tired of the “but I’m a good fatty because I’m dieting” song and dance. I sometimes fall into the trap of hating my body and not eating because I hate my body. But then I remind myself that I stopped dieting because a) I was sick of being hungry and grouchy all the time and b) So I wouldn’t get any fatter. Because every time I dieted, I ended up gaining the weight back and then some.
    Yeah, it’s other people’s business what they do with their own bodies. But that does not mean that you or anyone else is obliged to praise them for it and open up your world to them. This ain’t a damn democracy, it’s your space.

    • The Real Cie – lots of us fall into that trap. Even after about 4 years of activism, I still get my head in that space. And that’s ok – we all get to fall over and get back up again. We spend less time down every time, the more we immerse ourselves in environments that give us the tools and information to support us when we opt out.

  • Took the words right out of my mouth 🙂 I hate this idea that fat people have to let others into their spaces – that people feel owed their time and space and they have a right to be here. Fat people shouldn’t be asked to “let them in”. These are *their* spaces. More specifically this is *your* space. They wouldn’t demand to be let into your home so why should they feel it is acceptable to demand to have a part of this place you have made for yourself? *rage*

    And this whole “I’m not that fat” bullshit. That is clearly from those who don’t own their privilege. I know my privilege here. I come here with respect and love as an ally to the fat liberation movement. Whatever relationship I have with my body is nothing compared to the shit people of size get every day just turning on the TV or reading a newspaper. No not-that-fat person can jump on that bandwagon and try to be a victim – people my size have no idea, can’t even begin to appreciate, what it must be like to be told from every single corner of life the things fat people hear from dickheads who know as much about living as an obese person as a cat knows how to perform brain surgery (I am very fortunate that my fat partner chooses to share his experiences with me and so I don’t go through life with a blindfold on like so many not-so-fat people do). Dear other fat liberation not-that-fat allies: OWN YOUR PRIVILEGE OR YOU ARE JUST AS BAD AND HARMFUL AS THE FAT-HATING SYSTEM ITSELF.

  • Anyone who thinks that fat activism/FA/body acceptance spaces should be open to people who are actively dieting… yeah, these are the same people who invade feminist spaces with ‘but my penis/choice to be subservient to those who have penises means I should be here, too.’ They invade queer spaces with ‘but you need to include me because I’m straight and I take shit, too.’ They aren’t there to be allies. They’re there to derail, water down, and hack at the roots of our spaces.

    We do need spaces that help coax along those just starting to Get It. But there’s a big difference between someone trying to understand what we’re all about and someone who’s there to make sure the conversation turns to their diet struggles, like they don’t have EVERY OTHER PLACE IN THE DAMN WORLD to do that.

    And just because we do need one sort of space that acts as a door to questioning newbies does not obligate it to be your space. You get to decide just how much you want to deal with getting wobbly first timers started… including the decision not to have that kind of space.

    Your house, your rules.

    Demanding that you open your house to people you don’t want inside it and who are there to trash your furniture? Is not okay.

    • You know Twistie, I don’t see many wobbly first timers doing the demanding that we allow diet/weight loss talk. It is always the same people over and over, who have been around for ages, permanently demanding that we acknowledge them. I find the wobbly first timers are usually those too shy to say anything!

  • I love you, I love you, I love you!

    I am over 120 lbs overweight, which isn’t a lot as compared to some – but I get SO SICK of my friends who are 5-10 lbs overweight saying that they understand what it’s like for me. No, you don’t. I’ve *been* 5-10 lbs overweight and it’s NOTHING like being this heavy. People do treat you radically differently. Yes, it’s frustrating to be slightly overweight, but it’s still an entirely different experience.

    • I know. I had this one “friend” (she turned out to be a frenemy in other ways too) who was always talking about how “fat” she was at 135 pounds. Granted, she had been a ballet dancer and that is a very fat-hating line of work to be in. But to be talking about her “disgusting fatness” at 135 pounds when I weigh around 300 was stunning to me. She even suggested that she and I should try to go on the Biggest Loser together. I mean, WTF? I eventually told her that I would not accept any more fat talk because it was very triggering to me. I do have an eating disorder, so I really don’t need that shyt.

      • This might sound dumb, but I feel like everyone has had that completely normal sized friend who likes to talk about how very fat they are in front of a group of fatty mcfattersons. I had a friend who was about 135 pounds and a size 6 US (sooo fat!!! she claimed to me) and I noticed that she would only eat “bad” foods if she was with me, as long as no one thinner than her was in her presence.

        Also she would complain about her “obesity” and then look at me pointedly waiting for me to exclaim “Oh my god!!! You are not fat! If you’re fat what am I?!!!!1111!!!!” When I didn’t oblige her she got very cranky. Not surprisingly we are not really good friends anymore.

        • Those types of “friends” are manipulative and toxic. I don’t know how they can live with themselves.

    • Shalora hon, you are the weight you are. Forget the concept of being any measure “overweight”. Over what weight? Over some health insurance chart that says what weight you should be? Over the weight that society tells you you should be?

      Overweight as a word implies that there is some “correct” weight that people should be. There isn’t. Some people are light, some people are heavy, and many are in between. You’re not over any weight.

      • Still working on that one. I’m lucky to have finally found a phenomenal doctor who focuses on health over weight to begin with AND knows that I have a history of eating disorders (having treated me during my last round of anorexia), so she never says word one about it. But of course all of my previous doctors have harped on how I “should” weigh 160 at the MOST, given that I’m 5’8″… And yeah, nowhere near that. And it doesn’t help that roughly 85% of the women I work with are SKINNY, and outside of work the primary thing I do is dance – which means I’m in leotards and leggings for ballet (at least I get to wear loose tank tops for jazz), looking at myself next to the athletic 14-16 year olds in my classes in solid walls of mirrors… I’m hardwired for dance (was begging for lessons at the age of 2, and my depression and anxiety both quiet down when I’m there), and nobody there cares about my weight either (the girls are BAFFLED when I ask if they think it’s weird for me to be in class with them, at age 34 and this size), but it’s still hard for me to stare at every day…

  • Maybe it’s just me, but when I go to a space and feel unacknowledged or feel like the advocacy or subject matter doesn’t necessarily include me or “fit” me and my unique space/experience in this world, I go to a different space that DOES acknowledge me rather than beating my fists on the floor and demanding attention. I’ll put it this way – I don’t go to blogs documenting the struggles for acceptance and respect that black women undergo and demand acknowledgement for my experiences as a white girl because that would be dickish and inappropriate. There is nothing wrong with realizing that a blog space I’m currently in isn’t the right blog space for me, and I remain baffled as to the mindset of someone who would demand inclusion rather than go find a different space.

    Seriously, it’s a great big World Wide Web. People need to stop acting like little kids who have been deliberately excluded from a game of tag.

    I would like to clarify that this just applies to blog spaces, etc. I’m not meaning this to include experiences of institutionalized fat discrimination – that shit’s just wrong. But like a lot of other people, I’m really, really, REALLY tired of going to spaces where I’m supposed to feel safe and accepted and supposed to be able to vent to like-minded chubbies like myself and hearing, “But I’m a size 6 when I wanna be a size 4 and waaaaa, it’s just so hard, why is everyone being so mean and not acknowledging me?”

    I’m a plus-size chick. Am I careful with what I eat? Sometimes. Do I come here to bitch about how hard that is? Hell no. I come here when I’m half in tears because I live in a ridiculously small town where I have great difficulty finding clothing for someone young and chubby. I come here when I feel low because I’ve heard someone yell fat-negative insults out their car window at me. I come here when my asshole sister decided to needle me about my weight for the hundredth time. I come here when I see yet another advertisement for yet another clothing store who has told me in a hundred different ways that I’m not good enough for them to make clothing for. I come here when I feel like no one in the world wants me around for a physical attribute that I didn’t ask for, nor could I change without hurting myself, and I read an entry, and for a minute or two, I feel okay. I feel accepted. I feel…normal(ish) for once, instead of like some kind of fucking mistake. I cherish the fact that I can come here (and similar blog spaces) and get that, because I went decades with no support whatsoever, and as a lot of us know, holding ourselves up when it feels like everyone wants to knock us down is fucking HARD.

    So no, size 6 girl, I’m sorry, find your own clubhouse. You may have pain, but (and I’ve gotten to where I don’t even feel bad for thinking this) go find someone else who cares because for you, there are a LOT of other places you can go. Leave me and my sisters/brothers in chub in peace.

    • RizBiz, I nodded all the way through that. I agree, and Kath I think you’re right too. This is your website and it’s your rules. If someone doesn’t like it, they can jog on.

      It’s free to set up a blog: Wdorpress.com and Blogger being the main two, so if anyone out there feels their voice isn’t being heard then they can set up their own blog, set their own comment policy and (to use a cliche) everyone’s a winner. Sadly for some, it’s easier to criticise what’s already out there than start something of their own.

      There are plenty of webites/blogs out there that don’t speak to or for me. That’s fine. I can ignore them. There are plenty where I feel they aren’t “right” (in my eyes) but unless they are specifically asking for debate I leave alone.

      I call it respecting people’s boundaries. Kath I’m sorry you’re having yours encroached upon, that sucks.

      Take care all (and for the record I’m a big girl and I refuse to diet or try to change my body shape or size. I like to look after my health, hence I stopped smoking. But I don’t go to smokers boards and lecture them to quit.)

    • Well said RizBiz.

      One thing I have to acknowledge though – it’s not Size 6 girls who are the problem mostly. It’s size 14, 16. The inbetweenies who refuse to own their privilege over people like myself. The inbetweenies who exclaim “I’m not really fat, I’m just bigger than some others.” in MY space and then expect me to congratulate them, when they’re half my weight. It’s those that “have a few pounds to lose” that demand we include them.

      The truly thin privileged sometimes do it, but in my experience it’s those that yes, are outside of that margin of “normal” that society presents, but refuse to acknowledge that their experiences are vastly different than someone like mine.

  • Your experiences reminded me of a time I was on a LGTBQ board and I saw a person post something like: “I am slowly coming around to gay rights BUT you have to admit that it’s gross to see two guys kiss or hold hands in public in a way it wouldn’t be if it was a guy and a girl. It’s kind of like, “I’ll give you SOMETHING but you can’t have EVERYTHING because you’re not doing enough to be “normal.”

    It’s obnoxious that people feel they have the right to barge in here and demand you respect their opinion – even if it’s offensive or harmful to you and other activists. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but thank you for doing it. Your blog is wonderful!

    • Oh, also I hope I didn’t come off as trying to diminish your experience by citing another (LGTBQ) experience. I was more gaffing at the audacity of some people. I hope I didn’t come off as trying to silence you, as that certainly wasn’t my intention!

  • I really like this sentiment. I think that it’s important for thin people, or fat people dieting to be a part of the fat acceptance community, or at least have access to the information and books and everything. But it gets to a point of ridiculousness when they need to inject themselves into the tenets of fat acceptance, and say that their experiences are valid too. Sure they can be valid, but not in this setting. That’s not what fat acceptance is about. Great post!

    • Thanks Auralfixations. I think there are loads of resources out there that fill just that need – what there are very few of are spaces that are exclusively anti-diet/weight loss. And that’s why I created this one.

  • As someone who is both ‘not that fat’ (I can still sometimes wear clothes off the rack, don’t worry about seatbelt extenders, don’t experience outright fat hate/discrimination when I go out) but as someone who definitely IS fat according to societal and beauty standards, I can deeply relate to this post. When I first got reading about fat acceptance years ago that’s all I did; read. Read and read and read. I didn’t comment. I didn’t feel like I had anything valuable to add, and I was still learning. I was listening and coming to understand the experiences of others and the information put out. Then I slowly began, now and then, to comment on things I was reading. Finally, when I was ready and felt like I had something to share of relevance, I began to write my own story as an ‘average sized’ fat Canadian woman. I realized early on that I was deeply privileged by being ‘not that fat’, and that has coloured all of my experiences and writing within the fat community.

    I’m always grateful to writers like you who keep it ‘real’ for the rest of us. Thank you!

    • You know, that’s the best thing anyone can do. Make their own blog, work through their own thoughts and questions there in their own space as they learn what is acceptable and what is not. That’s why I started this blog. I screwed up sometimes, but at least I did it in my own turf without invading anyone else’s. I still use this blog to process stuff and work through things. Because it’s mine and I’m creating MY space.

  • Thank you again for making this point. And I totally feel your frustration, dieting is essentially EVERYWHERE!! You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a diet product, ad, or someone spouting off about their diet. And as for those who don’t ‘feel acknowledged’ I wonder what is going on in their head. I am one of those ‘not that fat’, and therefore more privileged people and I have never felt ‘unwelcome’ at fat activist, HAES, body positive, etc. blogs or websites. This is your space and I love to come here and read about your experiences because society tries to silence bigger people. Seems like the fatter you get, especially as a woman, the more they try to quiet you down or if that doesn’t work they try to make you more palatable to mainstream type of thought, which is this case is patting all the dieters on the head and tell them what a good job they are doing. Sorry if this seems like a huge rant. I’ll end on a positive note and say a huge thanks for not giving in to this. We need more ‘diet-free’ spaces in this world, not fewer.

  • Yes! Thank you for saying it, Kath!

    Seriously, if they want even more fucking spaces where they can be praised for their dieting, then they can go start their own. Just like we did.

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