When a person of color, like Tara just did in her post at Fatshionista.com, goes through the trouble of telling me something I am doing – even, or perhaps especially, unthinkingly – does not make them feel welcome, my proper response is to find out what I can do to make them feel more welcome. The proper response is not to write the whole issue off as divisiveness and, while it might FEEL better, it isn’t to get defensive.
I was actually just talking about this with someone else – I know I tend to shy away from speaking about race issues because I assume everyone is on the same page with me. That’s not a good assumption to make because the world is made up of more than the people around me.
Just as there is no monolithic experience of race/feminism/sexuality/etc, there is no monolithic experience of fat. There are a huge multitude of factors that go into defining that experience and other issues of social justice are tops on that list.
I think we, as a fat blogging community, are just getting into the discussion about how different sizes of fat experience fat (and, obviously, this has been discussed in other spheres), but we do need to be making the time to talk about other things that influence the way a fat experience is shaped. That means race, sexuality (which comes up every now and then), class (which comes up a lot more often), and whatever else has informed people’s experiences.
Let me interject something else here: the idea that while I may not GET IT, if a person of color tells me they have experienced an oppression, they probably know better than I do what they are talking about. For example, appropriation. I don’t have strong feelings on this matter. I don’t have a culture to steal. But people who do have expressed their anger and frustration over this issue over and over and over again and it doesn’t hurt me to listen to them.
I mean, it does not have a seriously negative impact on my life to show some consideration when it comes to appropriation. If I have to give up a smidge of the comfort I enjoy as a member of the dominant culture (because mainstream culture is white), then I will gladly give it up to help even up the comfort scale.
And let’s also talk about the “last acceptable prejudice.” I think it can, occasionally, be useful to discuss the commonalities between oppressions but not as a shorthand – not because we are being lazy about defining oppression. But I don’t think creating a hierarchy of oppression is EVER useful and I don’t think trying to give fat hate a sort of rarified status as The Last is useful either.
You may not experience institutionalized racism and sexism where you live. That is awesome and I am jealous. But I live in a country where a black defendant is four times as likely to receive the death penalty as a white defendant. And while you can say that racism isn’t something of which anyone approves, but obviously they do or we wouldn’t still be dealing with statistics like that.
If you google “last acceptable prejudice” you get a lot of different results (thanks, Sheila, for mentioning this – I did it and you were SO right). Catholics, gays, people of color, short people, differently abled people, people of all sorts are being discriminated against and while we may be more comfortable believing that sort of thing isn’t approved of anymore, if that were the case, it wouldn’t exist.
And if you really think fat is the last acceptable prejudice, talk to some trans folks.
Fatties have it rough. But we aren’t the only ones. And if we want to build any sort of cohesive community that isn’t just about white people, listening and responding with respect to people of color when they tell us what we can do to include them is a pretty fundamental requirement.
This feels like such a DUH thing for me.
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