The Rotund

Still Here. Still Fat.

Intersectional Fat Acceptance, Building Community, And Not Being Part Of The Mainstream

| Posted in Uncategorized

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It’s been more than a year since I last posted here — I’ve mostly been over at xoJane.com, writing about fat bodies and nail polish and lots of other things.

But I’m back, in part because I recently ran a panel at Wiscon on intersectionality in fat acceptance. At this panel, there was a (self-identified as) trans man in the audience who asked if there was a place in fat acceptance for him or if it was a woman-only space.

Obviously fat acceptance has failed here. So I wanted to explicitly and clearly say: yes, fat acceptance is for trans men, too.

My goal here was originally to create a resource for fat people who were engaged with the really hard work of accepting their fat bodies, who were searching for an alternative to self-hate and the cultural imperative of the compulsory diet mandate. Over the years, I’ve gotten involved in the fight to convince other people that fatties are worthy of basic human dignity — but these days I am more and more convinced that if we are not making a deliberate effort to build and support our diverse community of fat people then fat acceptance is failing the very people it is meant to help.

Fat acceptance fails the very people it is meant to help if it is not explicitly intersectional — because people are not only “fat people”. Identity is far more complex than a single designator for most of us. If you don’t want to call it intersectionality because you think it’s too hard a word, call it what it is — acknowledging that people come from a lot of different places and have different experiences.

There is no universal fat experience.

Beyond that, why would we even want there to be one?

Trans men, you are explicitly welcome in the fat acceptance movement I have helped shape. People of any gender, you are explicitly welcome. People of color, you are explicitly welcome. Poor and working class people, you are explicitly welcome. Disabled folks, whether you are visibly or invisibly disabled, you are explicitly welcome. Old people and young people and whatever fucking age people, you are explicitly welcome. And so on thusly.

To paraphrase Flavia Dzodan, my fat acceptance will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. Deal with fat is a complex issue, even for fat people! And if we are not here for each other, if we are not backing each other up when we need it, then our community fails.

That’s not to say there won’t be disagreements and arguments within the community — in fact, I would be surprised if there were not. These disagreements and arguments are not fracturing the fat acceptance movement unless you think the fat acceptance movement is just meant to be a network of friends who all agree all the time ever.

In which case I am already probably not part of your fat acceptance movement.

I believe in a fat acceptance movement that actively builds supportive, generous community. That will, inevitably, mean fucking things up from time to time. But it will also mean learning how not to fuck things up the same way again in the future. That’s a good goal right there.

And it’s a goal I’m more comfortable with than aspiring to mainstream acceptance. Because I believe in blowing the paradigm up, not just expanding it to include a certain kind of fat person. I do not believe that it is admirable or advisable to replicate systems of oppression when opposing oppression. We have to find a new way to be.

This isn’t for them, for the people who hate us for being fat. Fuck those people. This is for us. And it is for all of us.

6 Comments


Dear White Fat People

| Posted in Action Plan, Discussion, Fatty Politics, Intersectionality, Letters

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When I started this blog, I wrote imaginary letters. It was an amusing rhetorical device, kept me entertained – and, more importantly, it preserved the idea I had that, really, I’m just sitting here, talking to you as an individual. That was, and is, important to me because I believe activism in this format is most effective when we have a connection, when we see each other as human beings living unique experiences.

I’ve been so proud, over the years, to be part of the fat acceptance movement, to be part of the fatosphere. Some amazing things have been accomplished. Every email I get or person who tells me they have decided to stop hating themselves because there are other options, better options… That is transformative.

But from the beginning, the fatosphere has struggled with intersectionality. Specifically, the fatosphere has struggled with racism. There’s enough overlap between the worlds of fatness and disability (though I do not support the conflation of the two) that people seem to be good about acknowledging the intersections there. But fat acceptance has proven remarkably awful – I’d say almost as awful as mainstream feminism – at being sensitive to issues of race.

This is unacceptable to me. I have worked, here at the Rotund, to be as inclusive as possible – and I’ve also fucked up plenty of times. I’ve not done as much as I could to make this space inclusive. That is totally on me.

But what I have tried to do, as much as possible, is at least not let racist shit slide.

And, y’all, my supposed allies in fat acceptance, I have to say very honestly and with sincerest regret that this letter is necessary, some of y’all are fucking this up.

A lot.

If fat acceptance is a safe haven for racism in the name of solidarity and keeping the movement together, then I gotta tell you the truth: we’re doing it wrong. And not just a little wrong. If we are building a fat acceptance that supports racism then we are doing social justice fundamentally wrong on so many levels I cannot even.

I am debating with myself whether or not to link the post that has me all up in arms – I’ve long believed that we trade in pageviews on the internet. I don’t want to be cryptic by any means, but I also don’t want to drive traffic to sites that flat out don’t deserve it based on their own words and actions.

Let me explain – no, there is too much, let me sum up.

The Strong4Life campaign in Georgia is pretty much a bunch of gross fat hate. As so many of these initiatives prove, the path to hell really is paved with good intentions about saving the children. There was a response from the fat activist community – which I was really glad to see, even though I did not have the time or energy to participate myself. That’s the great thing about community – we don’t all have to fight every single fight.

I tell you that I didn’t have the time or energy straight up because I am not ashamed of that. We all have to balance our lives and our activism. And I also tell you because Shannon Atchka emailed me one day and basically threatened to “out” me in some fashion for being unwilling to help him. I’ve had my minor run ins with him before but I tried to have a fairly reasonable email conversation about how I wasn’t avoiding the campaign because of him – but my life was in a little bit of psychological shambles at the moment and I needed to focus on that. That didn’t go so well.

My plan was to just write it off as another difficult conversation with someone who essentially means well.

But now Shannon Atchka has decided to have a pity party and, frankly, some people have joined him in comments on his post about the matter.

Some of the comments on his post make me actively ashamed to be associated with fat acceptance as a racist movement – and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit quietly with that. Because fat acceptance belongs to me, too, just as much as it belongs to people making racist comments about how tired they are of being called out on their white privilege.

Listen, if you’re tired of being called on your privilege, consider that the people of color around you are probably EVEN MORE TIRED of having to deal with it. Plus they have to deal with living in an inherently racist society!

Yes, it absolutely sucks, my fellow fat white people, to be told that you have certain advantages. White privilege is a difficult concept for a lot of people.

But here is a basic fact of life: the people who most need to hear about something are the people who most protest hearing about it.

That means if you are kicking and screaming because someone called you out for doing or saying something racist… you might want to consider that the reason it feels so very awful is because YOU DID OR SAID SOMETHING RACIST.

Being called out is a favor, an act of kindness – someone is letting you know that your internalized racism is showing and getting all messy all over everything. It doesn’t feel very good at the time, but being corrected NEVER does. The key, the most important thing for you to do when you are called out, is to not freak out on the internet where you will only make things worse.

That’s what Shannon Atchka is doing. Atchka is calling out Julia Starkey because she dared to say something critical about Stand4Kids – the fat acceptance response to the Georgia campaign.

Now, I think Stand4Kids is a pretty cool concept. But I also accept and acknowledge that Julia was correct in her questions – and doing the people involved a favor by giving them a chance to explain what was going on.

It’s totally understandable to me, as a busy person, that the people involved in Stand4Kids were volunteers. And I definitely understand when people lack knowledge. But google exists for a damn reason. And creating a project or atmosphere of any kind that is welcoming to people of color involves more than an invitation to participate. That’s the tiniest step you can take in getting people of color involved. What you actually have to do – and if you don’t know how, that’s again why google is so very useful – is make your project or atmosphere actually welcoming. You have to create a space that invites diverse people to participate without fear of ridicule or hatred.

That is hard damned work. And I don’t think anyone is perfect at it.

The really great thing though is that no one is really expecting perfection. A genuine effort and a willingness to listen when we screw up is half the battle that we as fat white people trying to create diverse spaces have to fight. Screwing up is not the end of the world! It’s uncomfortable – we’re embarrassed and our feelings get hurt and we kind of flail around a little wishing no one had scolded us – but discomfort isn’t going to kill us. In fact, discomfort is a really great teacher, if we pay attention to it.

I see a lot of objection to the idea that people of color are not responsible for educating the people they call out. I get it, I do. It’s easy to think that if someone is going to call you out, they should put in the effort to tell you what you did that was so wrong and why it was so wrong. The problem with that is the obligation it places on the person who was offended or injured in the first place. The problem with that is that we as fat white people can, as I mentioned earlier, use google. Or we can talk to other fat white people! We are resources for each other in so many other things; we can help each other with this as well.

In fact, I’m going to volunteer to field racism 101 questions here – if you’ve been called out and you don’t understand why, you can ask me about it instead of the person of color who called you out. How about that?

There is a difference between saying a person of color is welcome to participate (and solve the diversity problem their own damn selves) and saying that it’s something that will be addressed. One is a deflection of responsibility – the other is an acknowledgement that it hasn’t happened yet but we want it to, we’re trying to make it happen.

I don’t beef on the internet. I have too many other things to do (fat things! and clown school!) to spend my time stirring up online drama. I love y’all and I want our time here together to be productive. I want us to feel empowered and amazing. I very very rarely post angry – mostly because I always feel bad for being all pissed off after the fact. But this is worth it, this is worth posting and waking up to dissenting opinions in the morning. Because I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that claims it is divisive to point out racism. I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that defaults to a white perspective, a white experience. A white face.

The strength we have is in our diversity, is in the uniqueness of our experiences. Our strength is in the summation of our identities, as varied as they are. Intersectionality is vital because it keeps us invigorated, strengthens us, teaches us.

I know that white people get tired of talking about racism. And sometimes it feels like we can’t get anything right. When that’s the case, we need to sit down and shut our mouths and listen. It’s difficult – but it’s worth the effort because we have so much to learn, so far to go. Because it is complete and utter bullshit that our social justice movement can be derailed by the racism of white fat activists.

This is the link I want you to follow:

a response to white fat activism

from People of Color in the fat justice movement

Please, my fellow fat white people. Let’s stop fucking this up.

Love,

The Rotund

133 Comments


I’m Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack (Still Fat)

| Posted in Uncategorized

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So, that was a MUCH longer hiatus than I anticipated! I am so sorry – and I am so thankful to the people who wrote to check on me. It’s been an eventful couple of months on the in-person life front.

Nothing too heinous. But a whole lot of stress, which hit me right in the old depreshuns. And when I’m depressed… writing is hard.

I’ve been easing back into it though, including a gig over at xojane.com – I’m proud to be involved over there, y’all.

And I especially wanted to link here to my newest post there – because I’m talking about the time I posed naked for cancer. Which is, if any one thing can be the genesis of something, the real and true origin of this blog.

I am so glad to see you again. And I hope you’ll come chatter with us on this post:

http://www.xojane.com/healthy/time-i-got-naked-cancer

29 Comments


A Fatty At 34; Happy Birthday To Me!

| Posted in Uncategorized

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Thank you all for being here with me for another year. It’s been amazing – all this practice at living is paying off, I think.

This is what 34 years old looks like, y’all!

Love!

Me, in a vintage dress, making a silly happy face

ETA: This dress is vintage 60s (I think – it might be 70s, I can’t remember) Lane Bryant. It is the first thing I ever bought from Re/Dress – before there was a Re/Dress. I totally bought this from Deb at the Brooklyn Flea Market. Dead stock, what’s not to love?

27 Comments


Food, Glorious Food; Talking About Food From A HAES Perspective In FA Spaces

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Food – we need it to live.

In the comments to this post, there was a lot of conversation about how we can talk about food in a HAES-centric way. That’s an important discussion to have!

As I see it, here’s some facets of the conversation as it has happened so far:

People want to talk about the food they eat as they pursue their own individual health.

This is awesome. Food is such a loaded topic – and any conversation that acknowledges, hey, this is my personal food choice and this is how my body responds to it, without making any sort of moralizing or universalist claims, is brilliant.

People want to talk about what foods are “healthiest” or “more healthy than other foods”.

All sorts of dangerous alarm bells go off in my head when this sort of thing crops up. Not because all foods are, in fact, created equal, but because it is edging dangerously close to implying that there are “universally” healthful foods. While it may seem like common sense to say an apple is healthier than a candy bar, that’s attaching a lot of food judgment to the people who, for whatever reason, choose the candy bar instead of the apple. Not to mention the people who don’t have access to the apple in the first place!

HAES is about individual health and choices. That means the idea of health isn’t going to look the same from person to person. Which means you can’t do a strict nutrition analysis of any given food, plunk it down next to another food, and then make some sort of generalized judgment – the idea of “health” is far too variable.

The key is that, from a HAES perspective, you are concerned with your own body and how it feels.

We live in a really damn judgemental society – I’m sure you’ve noticed. And the idea of body autonomy, from a fat acceptance view point, is really about getting away from that judgment – it’s about standing up and really enforcing the idea that bodies aren’t public property. And so, for me, to think about HAES and FA while I contemplate food is to think about food in terms of ME, without making generalizing statements. It’s kind of a radical shift in thought. We’re conditioned, in large part by the diet industry and food science in general, to think about food in terms of its components – its vitamins and minerals and all that.

That’s one of the arguments against processed foods – the natural food versions of processed foods have things going on in them that food science still doesn’t understand, as much as we might try to duplicate the nutrient content in something.

It’s tempting, based on that, to make some sort of absolute statement about how natural foods are better than processed foods.

But, uh, people can be practicing HAES and still eating processed foods. For a whole LOT of reasons.

We need to be less judgy. We need to make sure our language reflects that. It’s easy to say “I’m not judging other people’s choices” but when you follow that up with “processed foods are poison”, well… You ARE actually judging other people’s choices. You just told them they’re eating poison!

Another issue we have to keep in mind is that food discussion can be really triggering for people who have trauma regarding food. That can mean people with active eating disorders, people in recovery, people with an abusive history of dieting, people who have all sorts of experiences. When we use judgmental food language, we bar people from the conversation. The diet industry and the way our cultures encourage dysfunctional relationships with food have a lot to answer for; a lot of damage has been done to a lot of people.

That’s kind of the issue for me – you can’t ever “just” talk about food because we aren’t a society of people who can look at food in a metaphorical vacuum. (We can totally look at it in an ACTUAL vacuum, though – home vacuum sealing is kind of ace.) Food, including food in a HAES context, must be examined intersectionally – we have to talk about class and we have to talk about disordered eating, and we have to talk about the emotional response people have to it. We have to talk about the value of food as a community binder – humans have been sharing feast days as long as we’ve been able to find something worth celebrating, after all.

As much as we might want food to be as simple as “this food is healthier”, well… that reeks a little too much of “calories in, calories out” for me to be really comfortable with it as a HAES and/or FA way of running a discussion. I’m not saying people need to put a disclaimer on every sentence; I’m saying people need to consider the way they talk about food (this totally includes me) because we all have a lot of unexamined stuff going on with it. Why let the diet industry – or a health industry that barely seems to think of fatties as human beings some times – dictate the framework and language of our discussion? Screw that.

It’s also vital to remember that HAES is for EVERYONE. That includes people with things traditionally labeled as health issues. That means fat people who have diabetes. That means people with high cholesterol. We don’t want to replace fat hate with healthism – and a lot of food conversations that focus on “this is good for everyone” does just that.

We need food to live – while there are eating disorders that get labeled as food addiction, even people with those eating disorders need to eat to live. You can’t go cold turkey (ha!) and just never eat again.

Food – yes, let’s talk about it! Let’s just talk about it in ways that are as radical and paradigm busting as fat acceptance is when it comes to bodies. Let’s talk about food with the full awareness – or as much awareness as we can manage at last – of all the issues surrounding it. All of that stuff influences our health, too, after all.

97 Comments


Fat Ladies In Spaaaaaaaaace; A Body Positive Coloring Book

| Posted in Uncategorized

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When I was a little girl, definitely in the 10 and under range, I was kind of obsessed with Barbie coloring books. I had a gajillion Barbie things, but I really loved the coloring books because there was so much potential for Things To Color. Sure, the Barbies themselves had to be some variety of skin colored, whatever shade of skin that happened to be. BUT THEIR CLOTHES. I could color that whatever I wanted – including patterns. Polka dots everywhere, y’all.

The Barbie coloring books were great – there were a lot of fun fashions in there. But they were also really just page after page of really thin women. Obviously there’s a lot shaping our world view when we’re kids but I was a fat kid and I can’t say those coloring books didn’t contribute to my body hate, you know?

SO.

A couple of Wiscons ago, I was on a panel that asked, essentially, where are all the fat butches in space?

Nicole Lorenz drew me one.

A framed drawing of a fat butch in a space suit with a ray gun

It pretty much blew my mind and made me incredibly happy.

And then she kept drawing fat ladies in space! And it was AWESOME!

That’s the short version of how Nicole Lorenz created the Fat Ladies in Spaaaaaaaaace coloring book, which features 16 fatty space farers doing what they do – trekking across the universe in whatever style suits them best.

I’ve been so incredibly excited about this. And there is, in fact, a giveaway in the works!

But if you’re an overeager beaver like me, you can also buy a copy for your very very own.

Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace
a body-positive coloring book
Authored by Nicole Lorenz

That’s on createspace. Here’s the amazon link – it’s just not active yet.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to show y’all – but I am in the coloring book! Basically, it’s the best picture of me in my entire life. *laugh* Because there is a unicorn!!! And a questing tiara!

SO. I’m linking to this and hoping to spread the excite – because how exciting! Fat ladies who present in a variety of ways! The original fat butch is in there and I can’t wait to color her some more (maybe I might have made some photo copies of the original drawing and done some color at the time, heh). I can’t wait to color in fat femmes and fat butches and fat bodies doing all sorts of awesome space-faring things.

How cool does this look?

Cover of the coloring book

The answer is: SO FREAKING COOL.

That’s about how cool Nicole is as well. Just saying.

Stay tuned for the giveaway information!

38 Comments


Fatness Casual; Any Time I Wear These Shoes, It’s All About The Shoes

| Posted in Uncategorized

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Note the first: I think we could all use a change of subject, at least for a minute, right? Then we’ll talk about food in fat acceptance, the ethics of food, and how to have a conversation about food that doesn’t wind up sounding like policing.

Note the second:
Y’all, the more I take pictures, the more I want some other style representation here, too. If you are a butch (oh, dandy butches, I love you) of any variety (other butches, I love you, too) who works in an office and therefore has to conform to some sort of dress code, and you feel you have done so in a way that preserves your personality, would you please consider submitting some outfit photos? I’d LOVE to showcase some other fatshuns. Please send your photos and outfit information (any info you would like to share!) to the rotund at the rotund dot com!

***

Me, in a cinnamon-toned image so you can see the details of my all-black outfit

I’ve filtered this so you can see more of the details of my outfit. The problem with wearing all black is that, well, it’s hard to take a photo of it in the bathroom mirror. *laugh* I wore this to work on a day I knew I’d be staying hella late – I had, in fact, stayed hella late the night before.

Sometimes, knowing I am going to wear something I find awesome is the thing that gets me motivated to get out of bed and get dressed.

You know, I realize I have the exact same pose in almost every single picture. I should work on that. It’s just such a comfortable posture!

This is a comfy black ponte knit pencil skirt. It’s from Avenue, size 22/24, that I got on clearance AGES ago. I have the same one in plum. They are total staples. I’m wearing a totally simple camisole, also from Avenue (probably also on clearance). And that’s a satin bolero from Torrid – a size 3 – from ages and ages ago. They almost always have something similar in stock. I have the satin ruched pencil skirt that goes with this particular bolero and I love it to bits. I’m wearing some of the colorsplash tights from We Love Colors because even though it’s August, it’s in the low 70s in my office. A coworker had mentioned those particular tights the night before, so I dug them out of the tights box. I’m also wearing my Fluevog Vermeer ankle boots.

Me, in color

You can see how bright the tights are here. I know it’s not a look for everyone, but it worked for me – I felt sassy and myself. And I wore those boots all day and all night – I was at work for 14 hours and they were still comfortable.

My hair was kind of frazzled.

Headshot!

I wore a much darker lipstick than I’d usually wear to work – Night Violet, which is a mattene lipstick from MAC. I actually didn’t wear any eyeshadow because I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination I would have needed to put any one. *laugh* It was a long week.

That necklace is actually a much longer one – I doubled it over so I could wear it more as a short piece. I do that a lot with necklaces.

My Vermeers and my tights

Y’all, these boots. I cannot even tell you how much I love them. They are super comfortable. The heel is this amazing piece of architecture – it’s octagonal. I wear, when measured, a 7.5 EEE – I have a wide little duck foot with short toes. Fluevogs are all cut on different lasts, so you really do have to try them on – there are some styles that are way too narrow for me. But the ones that are wide enough? Worth every penny.

A commenter on Flickr said, basically, that the tights looked like impressionist skies – which is one of the coolest comments I’ve ever gotten. I’ve started to look at this outfit as a little bit of a Baroque and Impressionism mashup, and that just makes me happy.

There are always going to be days we just aren’t feeling it. I think dressing up a little bit helps – at least when I have the energy for it. Some days are comfy pants days and that is okay, too.

19 Comments


Response To A Specific Comment; In Which I Continue To Be Ranty

| Posted in Uncategorized

145

It’s interesting but I have an opposite impression. I have only recently discovered FA and I love, love, love HAES – it was almost like I finally got a permission to focus on my health and not worry about my weight so much. But the more I’ve been reading blogs on the fatosphere, the more I felt that fat acceptance is about the right to eat whatever you want pretty much without regard for your health. No food is bad is the new mantra. People take issues with writers such as Michael Pollan who advocates eating whole, local foods. Any studies that even broach the subject of weight are automatically attacked. The Fat Nutritionist tells you to each what and how much you want (and what if I want to eat a tub of lard every morning?). I’ve become increasingly dissapointed in the message being portrayed and I’m not surprised that Ms. Weiner had the same (maybe wrong) impression, that fat acceptance is not so much about health but about defending the right to eat junk. I know that’s a simplistic portrayal of the whole movement, but that’s just my impression after reading some of the blogs. I’m all for intuitive eating and HAES and taking care of your body and your right to do with it what you want, but let’s not pretend that all food is equal and its quality has no impact on your health. I’m not surprised that her perception of the FA movement is so unfair to it, I’ve been having a similar reaction to some of the posts. And I thought that some of the bloggers have not read Linda Bacon’s book either. And let’s not forget how fatties who do take care of their health are mockingly called “good fatties”. It seems that unless you want to eat whatever you are not part of FA.

I want to use Agnes’s comment here as a jumping off point. Because, obvs, there are people who do get this impression. I’m glad Agnes left her comment.

Here’s the thing: Fat Acceptance is not about prescriptive health. Whether or not you are healthy by some arbitrary standard has nothing to do with your worth as a person and your right to be treated like a human being. You CAN eat whatever you want, because you are an adult and you get to make your own decisions. Fat acceptance is NOT about health – it’s about accepting fat as just another body that is capable of doing many different things. It is about how bodies are not public property. It is about how doctors who see only a weight on a data sheet are actively harming their patients through lack of quality care. It’s about not being able to access clothes.

I’m not pretending when I say food has no moral value. And, really, that’s a simplified statement because I don’t think we should be mean to our food – that’s the morality by which *I* judge food. More accurate perhaps, would be: Food has no universal moral value. Cupcakes are not evil. Full-fat salad dressing is not inspired by whatever devil one might believe in. Jowl bacon is not personally out to get you and your family. Food has no inherent moral value of that nature.

ALL FOOD provides some form of nutrition to your body. So, you know what? If the option is no food or that tub of lard in the morning? I am going to support your choice to eat a tub of lard. I’m also going to suggest not twisting yourself up into knots over the tub of lard because food guilt about what we ate is such a waste of emotion and energy. It’s food. You need it to live. We need not be ascetics – self-denial is not a universal virtue.

I think it’s preposterous to claim that anyone is pretending some foods are not more healthful – but it’s also a) dependent on your notion of health and b) none of anyone else’s goddamn business what a person chooses to eat. So my notion of health, as I practice HAES, involves a hell of a lot of mental health because that’s come closer to killing me than anything else ever. If my mental health is improved by intuitive eating, which is it, I’m going to go that route. No one, including the fattest of fat people in the world, is required to eat only healthful foods. What I put in my mouth is not your business to judge.

Fat Acceptance isn’t pretending all foods have the same nutitive values. It’s saying you are allowed to eat, you are allowed to eat whatever you want, and that eating is better than starving yourself.

The whole good fatties/bad fatties… maybe I’m reading the wrong blogs but I have NEVER heard an actual fat acceptance blogger make any sort of claim in that direction even though it’s a straw fatty constantly raised by those who are “concerned” about how “unhealthy” fat acceptance is. I practice HAES and I love movement and I am just a plain old fatty. I try to constantly remind readers here that there is no imperative to do any of this stuff – you practice HAES because it makes you feel better, not because it makes you better than anyone else. And the reasons people choose not to practice HAES are infinite – just like the reasons people are fat in the first place.

My issue with Michael Pollan – which is something he himself raises in his books – is that his is an INCREDIBLY privileged way of eating that isn’t possible for everyone. That doesn’t change the value of his work. But he’s also beating that “cure for fat” drum a little harder with each publication and it’s disappointing. I think it’s totally valid to take issue with that since fat isn’t a disease. It need not be a swoon – one can critique his framework and still value his work. Just saying.

The message of fat acceptance is that fat bodies deserve just as much respect as any other body. It’s a surprisingly radical notion. Our diet culture has sunk its teeth into us so thoroughly that “you can eat whatever you want” is taken to be a BAD THING. Oh no! A philosophy that tells us to make our own choices and be responsible for them! Oh terrible! How dangerous to be in charge of our own bodies it must be!

Agnes, I’ve addressed the issue at large (heh) but let me comment specifically on something you said in your comment; that is: I know that’s a simplistic portrayal of the whole movement, but that’s just my impression after reading some of the blogs.

If you KNOW it is a simplistic portrayal, then I’d wager you already know that’s not what Fat Acceptance is about. If it’s what you’ve got from “some” of the blogs, then it certainly isn’t enough info to say anything about what fat acceptance as a whole is about anyway. It sounds like you are cherry picking and, yes, reading things too simplistically.

Yes, people can eat whatever they want. It’s way more radical than I realized when I first got involved in fat acceptance. Yes, fat people can be healthy – and thin people can be unhealthy – and all of them deserve to be treated well by doctors and not mocked on cheap sitcoms. We’re all people. We all deserve to be treated as such – regardless of health.

145 Comments


I Wore My Ranty Pants Today; Meet The New Body Hate, Same As The Old Body Hate

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It is pretty much always Lesley’s fault when I respond to something going on in popular culture.

Here’s the breaks, y’all: I do not like Jess Weiner, find her inspirational, or consider her to be a good writer. I’ve had minor beef with her online but generally I find myself apathetic about her because I do not consider her a fat-positive advocate or activist. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but that has not been my experience. I had zero inclination, when left to my own devices, to read her insipid tale of how fat acceptance almost killed her – I have more and better things to do.

AND YET. And yet Lesley was all “have you read it” and I found myself looking it up. It’s like staring at a multi-car pileup, against all my better instincts and urges toward self-preservation. And, as with that car wreck, it’ll be a while before I can scrub this one from my brain.

First of all, if you’re looking for a really wonderful response, read Deb’s entry the HAES files: loving your body won’t kill you, but being targeted for a curse might. I completely agree with Deb that Jess Weiner has the right to do whatever she wants to with her body – her weight loss is a non-issue. The issue here is that she says body acceptance almost killed her. Which is, in and of itself, one of the most alarmist statements I’ve heard all damn day.

Well, a shared horror is a lessened one, right? Let’s discuss.

Let’s discuss how Weiner’s premise is flawed from the get-go. That is to say: fat acceptance (or the more gently phrased: body acceptance) is no barrier to going to the goddamn doctor. And if Jess Weiner wants to pin the blame for her avoidance of fat-hating physicians on fat acceptance, well, I’m going to suggest she think about things like logic and reason. And, you know, Health At Every Size, which actively demands that people pay attention to their own personal, individual health.

Weiner says: My body wasn’t anyone else’s business, but had I done everything I could to make it my business?

The answer, it would seem, is most emphatically no. But then Weiner displaces all blame – it isn’t that SHE failed to make it her business. It’s that body acceptance told her not to go to the doctor! Body acceptance made her believe she didn’t have to pay any attention to her health!

First, this is a deeply ridiculous argument. Second, it’s a demonstration that Weiner never really did grasp the central tenet of body acceptance, which is that it is YOUR body; you as an individual are actively responsible for caring for that body.

One of the primary struggles of fat acceptance is with the medical community. Doctors (and nurses and other practitioners) view fat patients as noncompliant and in some cases even refuse treatment – or offer weight loss advice instead of treating the current ill. It’s a far cry from Do No Harm. When you approach HAES as a concept, one of the things you have to learn to deal with is this toxic atmosphere of health care. Some of us are fortunate to find amazing doctors – some of us are not.

In this case, it is not body acceptance that failed Jess Weiner – it’s Jess Weiner who failed herself.

And yet, the blame, oh, the profitable blame game. There’s been a rash of HAES-positive stories lately. Weren’t we expecting this kind of backlash:

Oh, noes! Self-acceptance is actually bad and dangerous and kicks puppies! News at eleven!

Yes, y’all, that’s hyperbole. Sometimes it happens.

Weiner’s article goes on to relate some actual factual health stats – and how, 18 months later, she got her actual factual health stats into a healthier zone! (Note, please, that her numbers were never actually signalling poor health – rather, she was pre-pre-diabetic.) But, she lamented, she’d only lost X number of pounds! Her doctor gives her the most valuable feedback to be found in the whole four pages of this “inspirational” article.

“Jess, you’re focusing on the wrong number,” Dr. Verma said. “Health is more than just your weight.”

THAT sounds like a little bit of HAES right there. Weiner lost a small amount of weight but she changed her behaviors in a way that had a significant impact on her actual health. The weight is incidental.

Who gives a shit about the weight she lost?

Apparently, Weiner, who has a new weight loss goal – because, hey, what does genuine health improvement have to offer in the face of pounds lost – gives a shit; she conflates health and weight while at the same time castigating those who struggle to accept and love their bodies.

Love yourself, she seems to say, but only if you are healthy according to society’s mandate. Love your, she seems to say, but not too much.

She states that she was surprised other fat women were confessing to her that they also wanted to lose weight to be healthy. Status quo is the new status quo!

The truth is that HAES is about focusing on what is right for your individual body and paying attention to your actual health. Weight is not any sort of reliable indicator of health (though rapid weight loss or gain can signal that something is going on with your system). If you make a bunch of sustainable changes that make you happy and healthy and you lose some weight? That’s incidental. If you make those same changes and you gain some weight? That’s incidental. If nothing at all changes regarding your weight? That is also incidental. What’s important is that you feel good and that you manage your health – both physical and mental – in a way that is right for you. And if something happens and you cannot sustain those changes? That is okay, too.

Health is not a moral imperative. Being unhealthy by the current societal standard does not mean you are any less worthy of being treated well, especially by medical professionals. It doesn’t mean anyone is entitled to think they are better than you based on body size.

And that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Finding a new way to feel superior to other people? Health prescriptivism is bullshit. The people who say they are “just concerned” about your health are not really concerned about your health – if they were, they’d actually listen instead of trying to force their so-called solution down our throats. I’m just going to say it: I’m sure Jess Weiner means well but I don’t believe for one hot minute that she actually cares about my health. I think she cares about her book sales and her reputation and her own mixed up priorities. I think she cares about people, but in that kind of gross “I know better than you” paternalistic way that skeeves people out when they’re observing it. Jess Weiner wants you to take care of yourself – but not in the way that seems right to you as the inhabitant and owner of your body and identity.

When she’s ignoring the most sensible thing a doctor can say – especially given how many fatties would do actual mayhem to have access to a doctor who cared about their health more than their weight – Jess Weiner is being a role model. Of a really terrible kind. Because she’s encouraging people to, despite her assurances to the contrary, believe that there is something wrong, something desperately wrong with them if they are fat – she’s just shifting the focus. Fuckability is still the scale – but now it’s labeled “healthy”.

The weight Weiner lost is insignificant to the greater thing that she lost – her freedom from body hate.

You can blame body acceptance, Jess Weiner. Go on. Body acceptance will still be here if you ever want an alternative to shame and body hate and, hell, not finding clothes. HAES will be here, encouraging people to take ownership of their health, to know what’s going on with their bodies, to seek real and meaningful data points about their own status. Fat acceptance will still be here, providing a radical space for those who have tired of the roller coaster the multi-billion dollar diet industry has everyone queued up to ride.

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Fatness Casual; The Legitimacy Of Fashion Interest And Grey Is The New Grey

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There’s an article floating around Google+ that I haven’t had a chance to read yet – but the headline frames an interesting dilemma. It’s asking if young girls and young women are encouraged to follow fashion rather than focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classes.

On the surface, I think this is a completely valid question. The lack of women in the sciences is pretty telling about the ways boys are encouraged toward those career paths. I think it’s also interesting, though, because, when we frame the discussion that way, we’re perpetuating the idea that self-representation, presentation, and self-expression are frivolous and distracting. Which… strikes me as a very second-wave notion in a lot of ways.

Presentation and the negotiation of that IS important. It seems counterproductive to rank the soft sciences like psychology and anthropology against hard sciences like robotics, and that’s not quite what we’re doing when we devalue attention to fashion – but it still feels a bit like that to me, as though squishy human things, especially “girly” things, just aren’t as important.

I kind of cringe when “feminine” gets tossed around in conversations because I think it conflates gender and gender stereotype. It’s used when we talk about assigned gender traits – like the way women are supposed to be mothering so nurturing is considered a feminine trait – as though men can’t nurture. But the specific paradoxical fascination with and loathing of paying attention to fashion seems not only anti-woman (of any variety) but specifically anti-FEMME.

Anti-femme culture (and feminists aren’t immune to this) thinks the effort put into femme presentation is a waste of time and energy – or, at the very least, time and energy that could have been spent doing something more important. Anti-femme culture thinks “pretty” probably means “dumb” even when struggling against a culture obsessed with an impossibly narrow beauty standard. Anti-femme culture thinks you can’t do math AND do your nails.

We are humans! We contain multitudes! I do not think it is a problem that teenaged girls are interested in experimenting with presentation via fashion; I think it’s ridiculous and misogynist that they are ONLY encouraged to do that – and that boys don’t have the same freedom of expression.

When I do these photo type projects, like this one where I’m documenting my work clothes and talking about business casual, I am keenly aware that I’m just not butch, y’all. But I am so hungry for butch representation in fat fashion circles. Even as I reluctantly identify as femme, I can’t deny my style, whatever it is, tends towards the performative and girly.

I can do that, magically enough, and still work in an industry that focuses on emerging technology. Other women (of all varieties) can do that! Men (of all varieties) can also do that! People who identify as any other gender can also do that! Because fashion is not just some frivolous way of frittering away time. The more time I spend thinking about it, the more political it becomes (and the more invested I wind up in being able to dress the way I want to dress).

Instead of belittling an interest in fashion, wouldn’t we be better off encouraging young women to start thinking critically about it? And that’s while we figure out ways to encourage them in STEM classes, too.

Life isn’t a zero sum game. You don’t have to trade an interest in clothes for a degree in computer science.

My eyeshadow

I ordered an eyeshadow from MAC’s recent Blogger’s Obsession collection – Jealousy Wakes by Christine from Temptalia.com. This is a lousy picture. It’s a glorious teal with subtle gold shimmer, which makes it different from the nine other teals I own. *grin* I’m also wearing a grey (Swell, Baby) from the recent Surf Baby collection. That’s it – it was uber simple.

Me, making a face

I spent the weekend at the beach – my hair was still big and curly and beach hairish. And my streaks have gotten VERY BLOND. Which freaks me out a little bit! They are supposed to be blue!

Me, smiling

I went into Torrid to look for boots – they didn’t have them in stock and I wound up buying a new dress instead. I’m kind of madly in love with it.

Me, in grey Torrid dress

This is a size 22, which is actually kind of odd. I’ve been wearing a 3 in their dresses, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does. I tried it on mostly to get a sense of what size I should order… and then it worked perfectly.

Me, in Torrid dress

I’m wearing this with fishnets from Avenue. I stockpiled these all winter when they were available and it’s paying off now – because I can’t find them to fit me anywhere. I’m also wearing slouchy grey boots from Target.

Me, from the side

Sometimes we get very used to seeing ourselves from certain angles so I wanted to include this shot from the side. While I often seem very hourglassy from the front, my belly sticks out and I have a rolly little back because my ass sits up high. All of that is okay. It’s just my body and it’s what it does.

This dress is currently at Torrid! The tights and the shoes are not available but this dress, y’all. I really want a million people to buy it so Torrid gets the hint and styles more things like this.

What are you wearing today?

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