I resolve nothing.

I was almost going to do some New Year's Resolutions this year until I remembered that I defiantly rejected the concept last year. Which was a good point, so I'm resolving nothing this year again. I may use the New Year as a reason to start doing some things I want to start doing, but screw "resolutions" and their self-guilt inducing BS. Our culture still regards it as little more than an excuse for a month-long diet commercial, so screw that.

Just like last year, this year I resolve nothing.


Yes means Yes: New Book

This may be tangentally related to Fat Acceptance, but I was reminded this evening of the forthcoming book activist Jaclyn Friedman co-edited, "Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape". Edited with Feministing's Jessica Valenti, the book is an anthology of contemporary feminist commentary on female sexuality and ending rape. I've been hearing nothing but good things about the collection and am sure its going a must-read and I wanted to let people know about it.

I was actually reminded because I was at Jaclyn's birthday party, so I suppose you can count me as a biased source. Jaclyn is friends with my girlfriend through Big Moves, where I've been fortunate enough to be exposed to some of Jaclyn's amazing poetry in recent years. I know she and Jessica Valenti have been very hard at work on this volume. In addition to a foreword by Margaret Cho, the book features contributions from feminists such as Jill Filipovic from Feministe, Lisa Jervis of Bitch Magazine, and, well, lots of others. Of particular interest to the fat-o-sphere, though, is an on-point contribution from Kate Harding entitled "How Do You Fuck a Fat Woman?"

The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com right now. You know what's more awesome than ordering it from Amazon, though? Going to your local book store and asking if they have it. And if they don't, asking them why not and to order you a copy.


Political Fa(c)t

So long as I'm railing against my usual targets, with election season upon us I'm especially puzzled by those who try to paint fat acceptance as some kind of suppressive force. That some FA is suppressing an anti-FA message. Seriously, I keep seeing people go after FA on such terms.

One group are the people deeply removed from things and have just imagined FA as some kind of fat promoting bogeyman to blame the epidemic of having to see fat people on. This would include stuff like John McCain's bizarre assertion that political correctness is hamstringing nutrition education, presumably in support of fat people. This group has never come close to FA so they at least have an excuse for being so badly misinformed, though its still their own fault for being so off the mark.

But you see the same line from people at fat blogs. There always seems to be someone at the ready to whine about how Fat Acceptance is keeping them down. I'm sorry, but what world are these people living in and how do I move there? I'd like the problems of fat acceptance to be too MUCH power. Here in the real world, though, this isn't remotely true. Fat Acceptance remains a profoundly marginalized political viewpoint and its simply not suppressing any oppositional views. Its hard for me not to see those complaints as really just railing against the fact that someone, somewhere is speaking differently than our weight loss culture. That their ideal is a world with no opposition to weight loss, so any differing viewpoint is thus farcically characterized as suppressing the unanimity they seek.

Because FA isn't keeping anyone's voice quiet in opposition to FA. Opposition to Fat Acceptance needs no support or leg-up from within FA. It is the status quo. It is indeed the extend of acceptable beliefs in our culture. Just look at the political facts on display in this election. There is no candidate for fat acceptance. Both candidates, both political parties have aggressively pandered to fat hatred in their platforms. As a fat activist, I have no luxury of considering the candidate who best represents my views, because neither do.

Fat acceptance is not marginalizing anyone. If you think for a second they are, you aren't seeing the forrest through the trees.


Totally fat positive weight loss!

I'm eternally puzzled at the drive to carve out some kind of fat positive weight loss niche. The explicitly contradictory nature of that never seems to really dissuade people from trying to insist on its possibility. I think it says a lot about how fat acceptance has not exactly been suppressed in our culture, so much as co-opted. Years of diet companies and professional fat baiters mimicking fat acceptance in an effort to disenfranchise it has evidently convinced a lot of people that weight-loss culture and fat acceptance aren't mutually exclusive.

Well, they are. Get used to it.

At which point we always here the righteous cries of inclusivity. Its always a curiously one-sided inclusivity, though. "Weight Loss Culture compromised by redefining FA to be fat negative, so the least FA can do is compromise by redefining fat acceptance to be fat negative."

Or some othr Weight Loss Culture talking point will take sway. "I don't hate my fat! I'm totally accepting of my body. Its just that the way it is right now is unacceptable so I need to change it. In a totally accepting way, though."

Nope, sorry. Doesn't work that way. If you're trying to lose weight, you're not being fat accepting. End of story.

Now, I'm not talking about having moments where you wished you weighed less. Given how overwhelming weight loss culture is, its impossible to avoid having moments of doubt, self-loathing, etc. Believe me, no one is that perfect. Myself included. The key point though is that perfection is only the goal in so far as its the theoretically ideal to progress towards. We don't have to expect to get there to not try to get there. Yet, that remains a top point raised to encourage people to give up fat acceptance. This notion that FA will not tolerate any lapses in positivity. Its just not the case.

Fat Acceptance will continue to be about, ya know, accepting fat. And that which is not accepting of fat will continue not being Fat Acceptance. Efforts to reconcile mutually exclusive ideals not withstanding, since, well, they won't withstand the fact that you can't reconcile mutually exclusive ideals.


A helpful reminder to politicians.

Just a helpful little reminder to any politicians looking to score points off fat bodies this election season. The world still really, really hates fat people. Tells them so every day. Reminds us in magazines, TV, newspapers. Reminds in ads and "news" alike. Reminds in fiction, too. Also has been known to seek us out on the street and in our home and even on our blogs. This world is not friendly to fat people. It is not even hands-off with fat people. Its decidedly hands-on in expressing its condemnation and intolerance for our bodies and expressing how we are a representation about countless things that are wrong in this world.

I say this, because John McCain, my friends, seems to not realize this. In discussing health care in an editorial this month, he explained how parent's need to teach their children "a sense of personal responsibility for their health, nutrition, and exercise" because such information has been "expelled from our schools". By what, you might ask? Political correctness, of course. Oh, political correctness. Is there nothing you can't be blamed for.

Evidently, fat acceptance (which I remind you, is still largely loathed and hated by progressives and conservatives alike) has been so successful it has now cowed our educators into supporting our point of view. Schools are not havens of fat tolerance and our childrens are suffering. Gone are the days of fat kids being berated by teaches and classmates alike. Gone are the gym class humiliations and public weighings. Gone are the days when children would be fat baited on their report cards. Except, of course, not.

This is a common theme among fat haters. So frustrated that the drum beat of their fat hatred has not made everyone skinny, that they decide the problem is that they aren't yelling loud enough. So they each think they are the first person telling us to hate our fat bodies. They must be, after all. If we had heard it before, we wouldn't be fat. Why haven't we heard it before? Well, obvious fat acceptance has come to dominant our life and society to such an insidious degree that we're keeping this information from the public to advance our political will.

So, just a reminder, fat acceptance does not control our educational system or anything else. Fat acceptance struggles at even holding sway in the FAT ACCEPTANCE. The suggestion that we are some sort of monolith of a political advocacy, imposing fatness on the American public is not a reality-based viewpoint. Its just an effort by fat hatred to disclaim responsibility for the fact that after decades of advancing their fat prejudice in every corner of our society, it simply has no productive results to show for it. Rather than acknowledge that their purpose has failed, they'd rather claim a loosely unorganized band of a few hundred activists are actually the most powerful force in matters of health in the nation.

So, just as a helpful reminder, we're not. You guys are still controlling the show. Fat people are still hated.


Princess Bashing

So, let's see. A week ago, I posted my apprehension about the newly announced "Fat Princess" video game. Then a few days later, Feminst Gamers (great site) picks up on the story as well its propeitor Mighty Ponygirl posts critically. A day later, it shows up on Big Fat Blog, where Paul McAleer also posts negatively about the game. And yesterday, Melissa McEwen of Shakesville discusses the game.

Now a predictable backlash has been brewing from defensive gamers. All very classy stuff I'm not going to bother quoting to save your sanity. Rest assured that a whole lot of fat hatred and woman hatred got spewed which justified the collective apprehension. Here's the thing, though. While Melissa and Mighty Ponygirl have gotten targeted by all this gamer backlash, Paul and I have not. Yeah, I know I don't have comments, but trust me I haven't seen a single email about the subject nor do Paul or I show up in any of the "ATTACK!" calls at gamer sites. Just Melissa and Mighty Ponygirl.

Now, I'd recognize that Shakesville is miles above in popularity and Feminist Gamers is at least a mile above. But Big Fat Blog is a fairly recognized site. So what else separates the blogs that have gotten backlash and those whose complaints have been ignored. See if you can figure it out and then ponder what this might tell us about those making the attacks.


Fat Princess? WTF?

I had been planning a post on video games and fat character creation, but then Sony goes and makes me post on a different video game subject. They've just announced a new game for the Playstation Network (essentially, you buy it online to download to a PS3 gaming console) called "Fat Princess". Which sounds like an awesome name, but you just know there is going to be a catch.

Yep, there is a catch.

Essentially, its a game of "Capture the Flag" where two teams fight to infiltrate the other's base, take their flag and bring it back to their own home base. Only instead of a flag, its a fat woman. Only, its not a fat woman so much as a feederist fantasy turned into a video game. See, the princess has been kept in a dungeon and has been fed until she is extremely fat. Ya know, to make it harder to rescue her and return her to her castle.


The artwork of the game is weird in the first place. The characters are all designed in a very cutesy Nintendo-esque style, but there seems to be copious amounts of blood resulting from their battles to rescue their respective fat princesses. I'm sure the notion of "Capture the Fat Lady" was just another way to be quirky like that.

I'm trying to figure out a way to make this subversively positive, but I'm not seeing it. You could look at it as a game where the teams are fighting to protect a fat female ruler. I mean, that sorta sounds good. But, since this is team versus team, you are also a kidnapper and feeder. I could ignore the kidnapping thing since its riffing on fantasy archetypes, but the whole feederist thing is disturbing. And much like feederism tends to be, the purpose is really the degradation of fat people as the real consequence of this variation on capture the flag is that the flag is difficult to carry back to your home base. Cuz she's fat and stuff.

Sadly, the game seems to be actually executed well in terms of its game play so it might be popular. Well, as popular as a Playstation Network game can be, anyway. Maybe it won't be as bad as it seems like it might, but I'm definitely uneasy with what I'm seeing.


Rationalizing Wall-E

Fat hatred actually isn't a deal-breaker for me in pop entertainment. Oh, its a problem, absolutely. But this is a bigotry so wide-spread that I don't feel like I can fairly single out instances to condemn when they seep into popular culture. They merit criticism, certainly, but condemnation seems trickier. This a bigotry that virtually everyone simply takes for granted, after all. To be fair, I'd need to really condemn just about everyone. So, sometimes, I just note the fat hatred and consider an entertainment on its other merits.

What I hope I don't do is rationalize fat hatred. Its a temptation I know I've had in the past and fallen into. Al Franken is a good example. I love his writing and find him very funny. So I used to really try to rationalize his fat jokes at the expense of Rush Limbaugh. Its just parody, I'd say. He is mocking the mean-spirited (and indeed, often appearance based) insults of Limbaugh himself. Its just satire. Which it is. That was clearly Franken's intent with the fat jokes he told. But that didn't mean he wasn't also fat bigoted, and there was a point where I had to acknowledge that. He really is uncomfortable with fat people. Doesn't really set him apart, but I shouldn't be excuse him from it, either. But I can still find his writing enjoyable without defending, justifying, or rationalizing the fat hatred. I just have to be careful not to defend, justify, or rationalize that fat hatred. I should be aware of it, and critical of it if I really want to continue reading his work.

The surprisingly few emails I've gotten in response to my commentary on "Wall-E" have been falling into the very trap. They rationalize "Wall-E" because they liked the movie or like Pixar. I would say that I liked the movie and I certainly like Pixar. You can do that while still acknowledging the ways the film trades off fat hatred's cultural position. I do want to respond to a few specific rationalizations I've heard, though.

So? That doesn't mean they are positively portrayed. Indeed, I'd say a big problem is how they are crafted to be sympathetic, in that they are established as victims of fatness. That's not a positive representation of fat people. The movie very clearly depicts fat as a horrifying consequence, and that troubles me even if that fat characters aren't expressly blamed for it. Ultimately, this is condesending. I don't appreciate my body being used as a metaphor for the wrongs of the world. I don't care if an individual effort to do so doesn't blame me for being fat. If it still blames someone or something for my being fat, it is just perpetuating a culture of fat hatred. I'm sorry, but there is no needle to thread here. You cannot stigmatize "obesity" and not stigmatize "obese people". Even if you don't blame people for being fat, the stigmatization of fat will still effect fat individuals. You don't get to have it both ways. The prejudice will still harm people's lives.

I gather the filmmakers themselves have been pushing this one. I'll cheritably call this naive, because irregardless of what sci-fi talk about bone density was snuck into the film, audiences took the characters to be fat and ultimately the audience interpration matters more culturally than the filmmakers intent. Intent is nice, but if that intent was not effectively communicated to the audience, it doesn't matter. Just look through what the reviews say. From professionals to amateurs, people talking about the film have consistantly identified the future humans as "obese". And of course they do, because that is the visual language the film is using, complete with cues about the characters' gluttony and inactivity. The notion that this would be taken by audiences as not a connection to fat people, but some ill-defined techno-babble result of space travel is naive at best, willfully ignorant at worst. The filmmakers have little reason not to know perfectly well how audiences will respond to the visuals. They are too good not to be aware. Irregardless, the take-away most people are taking away is that the movie's depiction of fatness does recall contemporary fat people. That's the reality of the movie's impact.

"Of course they humans would be fat" is a rationalization that bases itself entirely on the internal logic of the film. The humans are sedentary, eat a high-caloric diet, have had centuries to evolve this way. Why, they have to be fat. This ignores a key point, though. The movie is fiction. Its internal logic is internal. Someone wrote the set of scenarios that make this result so "obvious". The question is not, "how could they not be fat". The question is why THIS scenario was written at all. One which plays into all cultural bigotries about fat people (further diminishing the, "they aren't fat" defense). The writer can and should be held accountable for the scenarios they construct. None of this had to be the way it was. A writer wrote it, and it is far to be critical of the decisions of the writers. This isn't a documentary or a true story. A writer created THIS future and the specific conditions that warranted the inclusion of the fat characters. And we also need to remember that while science fiction depicts a future, it is watched in the present. The internal rules of sci-fi should not shield it from contemporary criticism because that is where the movie is being seen. In OUR society and upon the reflection of our cultural bigotries. That is the world the film is being considered through. It is the world that produced the film, and the world that is watching the film. Science fiction is and will always be very much a product of the present, and we can't lose sight of that when assessing science fiction.

All of the messages of the film could have been made without the visual shorthand of fat humanity. The social disconnection, the polluting of our planet, the passive consumerism. You don't have to use fat people to represent the threat of these things to talk about them. Doing so just trades of contemporary bigotries about fat people and the expectations of a population which takes fat hatred for granted. Now, you can like everything else the movie did. Fat hatred is so taken for granted that being fat positive often leaves us unable to reconcile our beliefs with a popular culture that has no room for us. But we should let ourselves be unable to reconcile things some times. Its okay for entertainment we like to sometimes disappoint us. We have to let it disappoint us, though. Because I look around at all the people who felt head patted for their fat bigotry after seeing Wall-E, and it really concerns me.


Wall-E: Yeah, its as a bad as I suspected

So, I saw Wall-E last night and it was frustratingly bad. Frustrating, because it was SO unnecessary. The fat baiting was completely unnecessary and I do think it will be taken however the many different shades of fat bigotry choose to see it. Nevertheless, it is betraying one particular shade of fat of bigotry. That which views fat as a consequence.

See, fat people don't cause the problems in the film. They are the RESULT of the problems in the film. I tend to view this as "enlightened" fat bigotry. Enlightened only because those who harbor it feel quite confident that this is a polite, even fat friendly belief. It's not.

These are the people who saw Super Size Me and thought it made a great point. To them, fat people aren't bad, per se. We're just victims. Poor souls who've been subjected to being fat by evil corporations. That's definitely what they are getting at in Wall-E. That fat characters are sympathetic, but only in the sense that we are given to believe that their fatness is the result of the evil machinations of the films true villains.

Yeah, spare me the pity. Its not kind to a fat person to view their bodies as a horrible state for which you must pity and mourn. That's not fat positive. That's just an effort to justify your disgust with fat people without having to blame fat people for it. The core message is STILL that our bodies are disgusting and wrong, and that's just not something I will accept. This kind of "enlightened" fat bigotry is just a sham. A more "progressive" facade placed over the same old, "Ew, fatties". I'm not going to pat these "enlightened" fat bigots on the head just because they want to blame someone else for my fatness instead of blaming me. They still see my fat as something that needs to have blame assigned for it. That is unacceptable.

There are good and valid points to be made about the overconsumption of our natural resources. While not explicitly linked, its hard not to see the fat humanity as still a shorthand for that. There are also valid points to be made about the ways corporations are influencing our everyday lives or how technology can make us lose sight of simple pleasures. The film DOES make those points without using "OMG, FATNESS!" as a crutch. But yet, it still uses the crutch and I find that terribly disappointing. Because its otherwise a good film.

The imagery is striking in the first part of the film. Heart-breaking, even. The robot characters, without much speech at all, are some of the most richly developed characters I've ever seen on film. It is a testament to the skills of the Pixar crew that they can communicate so much about the inner lives of these robots with no substantive dialogue. They are absolutely wonderful characters who will have you on the edge of your seat anticipating their next move.

They just didn't need the fat baiting. Which was used more than symbolism of the fat as consequences but was also used for a series of dumb "ha, ha, fatty" sight gags. Which is what will really infuriate me in the long run. Because while the purpose of the fat characters was the promotion of "enlightened" fat bigotry, those sight gags will appeal just fine to the "unenlightened" fat bigots who will take away from this films that fat people are the cause of or at least symbolic of the world's problems. Even if that was definitely not the point the film was making, they still absolutely delivered for that kind of prejudice and it will just reinforce it. Which is really the whole deal with "enlightened" fat bigotry. They feel just the same horror and disgust at fat people as the rest. They just try to justify it. But its just a lame justification. In the end, they're still pointing and laughing. They just want to pretend that's not what they are doing.

I do have to say one thing in favor of the film, but its a bit spoilerish so stop reading if you're really concerned. During the credits, there is an epilogue of sorts that follows-up the happy ending of the movie. We see the humans through these vignettes and for the most part, they don't magically become thin as a result of the happy ending. THAT, I appreciated but its a small thing in the movie's favor in the context of the previous fat baiting. Still, it was a trick Comcast of all people couldn't keep themselves from doing in a recent PSA, so I'll give them credit for that. If you haven't seen it, Comcast as a cartoon ad touting their community rebuilding efforts where we see a downtrodden stoop transformed into a thriving community center. A black female character is also transformed in this sequence from fat to thin. It was powerful but also subtly fat negative and when the artistically rendered epilogue came on, I expected a reprise of Comcast's magical weight loss, but it didn't really come. The humans were all still fat in the happy ending. I don't think fat haters would notice that, but I did anyway. A spoilerish note against them, though, is the inexplicably, video of humanity in the past using actual live action. Both in scenes of "Hello, Dolly" that Wall-E watches and images of humans at the time when the Earth was become uninhabitable. This is a very odd choice that makes the cartoonish image of the fat humans that much more dehumanizing.

UPDATE: Check out my responses to Wall-E apologists in my follow-up post.


Pixar and the shorthand of Fat

So, the latest Pixar movie comes out today, Wall-E. I've been dreading this for a while as some plot points leaked out which sounded very fat negative. As we've gotten closer to release, those plot points have been increasingly confirmed and very disappointing. Because its not necessary. Its not a movie that needed fat hatred. They are just using fat as shorthand for something bad.

I first mentioned the phenomenon of shorthand fat in one of my first posts back in 2003. There, a movie uses a characters past fat self as a representation of his emotional problems at this time. When we see him in the present, he is thin, which is how we know he's better. I blasted this for being lazy film-making, and I'll blast Pixar for the same thing. It's lazy. Its playing into cultural prejudices to make a point.

Indeed, it seems like Pixar is actually being quite subtle and I suspect their use of fat shorthand will appeal to a variety of different fat prejudices. Essentially, fat is cautionary in the film. A sign of humanity's downfall in the future. But that's all it is. A sign, a symbol to represent something else. That can be useful sometimes, but here the effect is far more crass. Rather than making a complex point about consumerism or over-consumpsion of resources, they just rely on people's fear and disgust of fat. Forget all the valid complaints about those things. They'll make you FAT! That fear can be so base for people, that it doesn't matter if someone thinks of fat as a consequences of personal irresponsibility or corporate neglect. Both will feel the fear of fat and attach their own nuanced prejudices onto that.

The sad thing is, from the reviews, it sounds like the movie DID make its point before scaring us with the fatness. They really didn't need to fall back on using fat as shorthand for the dangers of modern society. But they did anyway, because for people who feel that way, its almost irresistible to draw that connection. Its such an obvious part of their fat prejudice that they feel they must make the point.

The thing to remember though is that there are a LOT of people who feel this way. Indeed, one of my disappoints with Pixar over this is that its so cliché to frightfully warn of the fattening of humanity. Its gotten boring even if you don't find it offensive. But still, its a message a lot of people will eat up because its what they want to hear and what the expect to hear. It really just serves to pat these people on the head for their fat hatred, justifying it to them with a horrifying view of fatness triumphant. It will inspire them to smug satisfaction in the face of the scary fatness. But again, the reality is that this is the culturally dominant position. Its a culturally coddled position. Pixar isn't unique in believing this ore suggesting it or promoting it. So I have trouble singling them out for shame for something that is a social problem. The sad reality is, they shouldn't know better. Not in this society, anyway. Not yet. Fat hatred enjoys such tremendous privilege in our culture that it simply is a non-issue for those who practice it. We need to change this, but if I hated everyone who thought that way, I'd hate darn near everyone and that doesn't feel very constructive to me.

So, I'll probably go see the movie anyway and try to ignore the point they are making. I made this point before, too. Its a frustration, but I feel its unfair to blame the person who says something everyone else is thinking. I have friends I know think the same things it sounds like Pixar is communicating in this movie. Heck, I have friends who consider themselves fat positive who'd probably agree with it. Its a very culturally dominant message and I don't feel like I can single out people for blame for something our society takes for granted. While we can change society one person at a time, its not going to be condemning society's views one individual at a time.

Its frustrating. I want a world where I don't have to deal with this. But we don't have that world yet. So I'll try to ignore the "OMG! Fatness!" side of Wall-E and hope the movie holds up without it. I suspect it will. Which is, again, why I really wish it wasn't there to begin with.


Actual atypical results

I saw this on a diet ad today. "Actual atypical results". We all know of the diet industry's Orwellian word play and their legally mandated "Results not typical" that gets attached to any suggestion that their product will do what they claim it will. Still, somehow this seems like a new low.

Its like they are dressing up a pig in a top hat and tails and hoping know one notices that its a pig. They are trying to get the "Actual results" in there, but decided that rather than just say that with the "Product doesn't work" fine print, they'd just do it all at once. Its a real live example of "Genuine Artificial". Its very slick, really. Trying to hide the "results not typical" in the middle of a boast of your snake oil's supposed effectiveness.

"Results actually atypical" might be a bit more of an honest construction, though. Just another bit of wordplay to add to the fat-hatred industry's repertoire of "Product doesn't work" disclaimers. Someone please show me another product which has to insert a disclaimer insisting it won't work as advertised. Please show me another product whose marketers are allowed to get away with this kind of slimy behavior. In the real world, this would never be allowed. Sadly, when the product being peddled is fat hatred, these are actually typical results.


For what its worth

A diet blog interviewing another diet blogger who wrote a diet book and which talks all about how dieting is awesome, fat is awful, and fat acceptance just as awful if not worse... well, that shouldn't be surprising. I get how some people were surprised, but there is really very little out of the ordinary about that. For what its worth.



So, my girlfriend owns a Wii. And its pretty fun. I never expected to like it, but the Wiimote controls are actually very easy to use and a lot of fun. One thing that's bothered me, though, is the way the Wii is often promoted as an "anti-obesity" tool. Ya know, cuz kids have to move and stuff and because video games had already been on the long list of things that are making kids teh fat.

Nintendo hasn't exactly stopped this talk and they are about the release the "Wii Fit" to really push their point. A more expressly fitness oriented accessory, its essentially just a balance board. Oh, but it doubles as a scale. With a weight limit, of course. In Japan it was around 300lbs, but I'm told its up to 330lbs for the American and European releases. This is actually a little higher than I thought, but obviously is still going to prevent a lot of fat people from using the product. The one being marketed as a weight loss tool.

Probably just as well. This story from Kotaku tells of a user in Japan who had the game tell her 10 year old daughter that she was fat. She was 4'9" and 92lbs at 10 years old. Which, for the record, is a "healthy" weight. Naturally, you've got no shortage of commentators taking the software's side and calling this unknown girl fat, so read the comments at your peril. The parent in the story told of how they had to reassure the girl who was devastated by the video games judgment of her. That's screwed up. We don't need video games expanding the threshold of who gets to hate their bodies. We don't need video games teaching children to hate their bodies. We already have too much of that as it is. Shame on Nintendo. For all their talk emphasizing "fitness" its seems clear that this is yet another effort to define fitness by fatness and nothing else.


Moderate Fat Acceptance

So, after grousing about the ways radical fat acceptance is marginalized, I find myself actually reigniting my dissatisfaction with radical fat acceptance. There are problems on both extremes and a lot of it comes down to how one extreme deals with the other. Essentially, both are trying to define the other out of the movement. And while I sympathize with the radical end more, that doesn't mean I think its ultimately been very productive.

The issue with radical fat activists is that they want fat acceptance to mean something. So do I, and I know I've hit that point over the head with a shovel about a hundred times. The difference for me is that I've tried to focus on talking about that rather than trying to enforce it. I want there to be a sense of a line more than I want to be responsible for actually drawing that line and enforcing those boundaries. Radicals, in my experience, have been more eager to clarify that identity. I get that, but I know its ultimately a counterproductive strategy. Inevitably, they fall into personalizing the debate, and that is something that the radicals will never win on. I know from experience that even talking in broad terms that one is bound to be confronted as making personal attacks. Actually making personal attacks isn't going to serve anything. This is tough, because one of the go-to strategies of anti-fat acceptance is to personalize the issue. Individualize it so it seems that fat acceptance is personally attacking each individual dieter. But I think its important to recognize that this is done because it advantages fat hatred. It isn't even something that's always consciously done because we're talking about a huge cultural force. Which is why I think broad themes need to be stressed. Personalizing it is done because it serves the purpose of fat hatred. Its a no-win for fat acceptance most of the time and we need to be very careful about picking our fights.

Which is hard. Restraint on issues of deep personal import isn't easy. I'd say it isn't even natural. But I think its something that has to be done to some degree. As cathartic as a full-frontal assault is, its something we're often manipulated into. I've fought this long enough to know that are times when we will need to speak out, but we undermine ourselves by being too quick to pull that trigger. At its worst, this frustration just keeps building, and radical activists become prone to attacking people who are allies and this ends up being just the reverse of those who try to push radical activists (or those who agree with them too much) out of the movement.

So, I shouldn't be mistaken from thinking there are problems on both ends. There are. I pulled back because I really wasn't happy with either. We need more "moderate" voices, but often those moderate voices want to shut out radical ones. And vice versa. Its important to remember that on the spectrum of fat acceptance, "moderate" isn't the center and it can't act like the center in the movement. And likewise, the radical end could stand to use a lot more strategy in advocating for a more progressive fat acceptance. I don't know how to solve it, obviously, since all I've managed getting in the middle of it is to have both sides attacking me, but it is a problem.

Radical Fat Acceptance

Radical fat acceptance exists. It isn't me.

Which ultimately is why I get pissed off when people brand me radical. Its not that I hate the label, but I'm profoundly troubled by what the label accomplishes. Its a step towards marginalizing fat acceptance. Of defining what is acceptable. Its not about defining me, but defining the limits of fat acceptance. Even if I'm a "limit", I don't think that's a good thing for fat acceptance because it acts to exclude those who are more radical than I am. It pulls fat acceptance in the opposite direction it needs to go, and that's a problem. While I don't think this is her motive, Rachel branding me as a radical benefits fat hatred, because it acts to move the debate back into fat hatred's direction.

What I suspect Rachel is doing is just trying to define herself as the center of the debate. Which is admittedly something everyone does to some degree, but the problem here is that Rachel is an opposite extreme in the fat acceptance spectrum and that's something that needs to be respected. The "all on the same team" point she tries to make in this post is undermined by the ways she tries to set the rules for that team. Where I am an extreme on one hand and the Rudd Center an extreme on the other.

No. The Rudd Center does do some useful research on fat stigmatization, but for fat acceptance they are at most a useful fool and we would do well to recognize that. Moreover, the Rudd Center has no interest in being in the fat acceptance spectrum. Read their blog. They routinely attack fat acceptance for ignoring the fat-hating truths that the Rudd Center holds so dear. They don't respect us. To them, we are at most useful fools. Frankly, we need to return the favor.

There can be room for a spectrum of beliefs in fat acceptance, but the problem has always been that different points on that spectrum keep trying to recenter the debate. That's where this spectrum breaks down. Mind you, I've no claim to representing centrist fat acceptance, either. I'm not. I'm just not willing to play the role of the outer limits of fat acceptance, either, because it excludes too many meaningful voices that already have found little to interest them in the fatosphere. That's a problem this community needs to deal with and the hostility towards confronting it is a reason I've largely been disillusioned with this segment of fat acceptance. Because its repeating a pattern of throwing radicals under the bus that has plagued fat acceptance for years.

This all came to a head with Kell Brigan last year. The result being both sides (centrists and radicals) branding me as the enemy and blaming me for that, too. I feel naive, trying to play peacemaker, because it just got me attacked from both sides. I adopted a nuanced position because I felt it was appropriate, but nuance gets you no where. Kell was angry that I publicly disagreed with her. Folks at Shapely Prose were angry that I didn't publicly disagree with her more forcefully. To Kell, I was a tool of the SP crew. At SP, I was just a stooge of Kell. The only thing everyone agreed with was that it was all my fault. But the fallout is what continues to trouble me the most, because Kell's blog went silent. She was a radical voice that this community lost and that profoundly imbalances the debate in ways I'm not sure a lot of people respect. And talking with other radical fat activists, its the kind of thing that just reinforces a disillusionment that has gripped a lot of them for quite a while. This is a pattern in NAAFA's dealings, too. Pretty much from the start. Radical activists had to scratch and claw their way into NAAFA. Eventually they did and they and profoundly improved the organization and its direction about 30 or so years ago. But there hasn't been much movement since then. The radicals who made those changes fell off as things stagnated. A few good people stepped up, but not enough to effect change. Indeed, it often compartmentalized radicalism which is what I fear the fatosphere is eager to do. With NAAFA, it was okay for Marilyn Wann to be radical, but anyone else had to deal with the establishment who didn't welcome it. I don't want to fit that role for the fatosphere. Not just because I don't think I'm radical, but because that role just marginalizes fat acceptance. I was on the other side, so I'm not willing to accept these dispensations. Because I know it just works to exclude people and ideas from the discussion that fat acceptance needs.

That's why I'm offended when we suffer trolls in the name of giving them a chance. Because it moves the limits of the discussion in the wrong direction. Its why I tried in my own way to mend the bridge to people like Kell Brigan, because we needed someone like HER to balance out someone like Rachel who are more comfortable limiting discussions to bias and stigma. That's fine, but we need to do more and we need people pulling us in that direction. We need both, and this community doesn't have that right now. And there is some degree to which this community needs to recognize that it isn't creating a safe harbor for radical fat acceptance. Certainly, I wish more radical activists would speak up and speak out here. I wish they would take those risks and bring their voices to the table. Still, like the discussion on the involvement of persons of color in the feminist movement, I think the solution will require both groups to step steps forward. It can't just be one group educating the other. This fat acceptance community needs to address the reasons radical fat activists feel disenfranchised here just as those radicals need to step up and talk out, themselves. And labeling me a radical extreme isn't going to be part of that solution. Trust me, the people out there that do represent radical fat activism will see as proof of the problem.


Fat unicorns on t-shirts (again)

No, not the rhino chasing a false sense of beauty on treadmill (how perfect was that?). Woot's one-day shirt today is a fat unicorn eating a rainbow designed by Robbie Lee. I doubt it was meant positively (this is woot, after all), but I actually think the design ends up being fairly cute in spite of itself.

Sadly, the shirt is already sold out at woot, but I guess they do a second chance sale that will start tomorrow for $15 with free shipping. Sizes go up to 3X (men's) so at least some fatties can pick this up if the are interested. Tomorrow at midnight (so tonight, I think) it should be available here.


Fatties in Philly! Big Moves presents "Big Top"

Photo by David J. Anderson

I had the great pleasure of attending the Boston premiere this weekend of Big Moves' spring revue, "Big Top" and was absolutely wowed. Its certainly Big Moves' most ambitious revue show ever and it did not disappoint.

As the title suggests, the show is circus themed, but defies expectations on that count. No clowns and no sideshows. Rather, it draws upon a 1920's aesthetic, hearkening back to when circuses were an exploration of the exotic. It seems a fitting backdrop for presenting a show for fat dancers, something as exotic today as the animal menageries and foreign cultures would have been in the 1920's. Big Moves went all-out with this theme with elaborate costumes and set direction creative a vibrant entertainment.

Unlike past Big Moves' revue shows, there is actually a story here, though it is told entirely through pantomime segments that are wonderful portrayed by the cast. Some of the pieces were clearly very challenging to choreograph but the result was a very rewarding artistic expression. The characters introduced in the pantomime segments given the show a base that lends the dance elements more power as pieces of a larger whole. Though there are some leads (a pair of young lovers; seasoned chorus girls) all of the dancers lend some personality to their characters creating a very fully realized show. In addition to a full compliment of jazz dance numbers performed by the circus' chorus girls, Big Top also boasts aerial dance sequences using fabric trapeze of sorts, a choreographed animal exhibition, and several appearances by Big Moves' stable of belly dancers.

Building off the exotic adventure of the 1920's circus, each belly dance routine had a different cultural basis. The first was an elaborate fan dance of sorts where the dance is portrayed as an Egyptian goddess with a cape of giant gold wings. Later, we see a French theme as the dancer melds the traditions of belly dancing and mime in a surprisingly cohesive manner. This all culminates in a Bollywood style mash-up where the belly dancers share the stage with hip-hop dancers in one of the highlights of the production.

The show is kid-friendly and less overtly political than Big Moves' scripted shows like Lard which will be featured at this year's Montreal Fringe Festival. Big Top is a great way to introduce people to the idea of fat dance and I can't recommend it enough. Its finished its Boston run, but will be putting on two shows in Philadelphia this coming Saturday, April 26. There is a 2pm matinée and an 8pm evening show at the Rotunda in Philly. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Kids 12 and under can get $5 tickets. I cannot recommend this enough and if you can get to Philadelphia for one (or both!) of the shows, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that my wonderful girlfriend Cristin is one of the chorus girls. She and all of the dancers have been working very hard putting this show together and its really a great success. My thanks to all of them and their director Marina Wolf Ahmed for a great production. I hope you'll have a chance to see it, too.


We all agree that fat people are bad

They do this all the time. When the issue of fat is to be debated in the media, they game the system by having the debate take part among people who all agree that fat is bad. Fat acceptance is left to be championed by someone who simply isn't outrageously bigoted about promoting weight loss. Whee.

This isn't something to feel happy about. This is how we get shut out of the discussion of OUR issues. Me!Me! Roth is succeeding at doing what so many right wingers have tried to do to political discussion, and we're happy about this? Bull. Like a lot of conservative idealogues, she has staked out an extremist position, not so much to advance it, but to pull the overall discussion in her direction. She is setting the rules for what is acceptable. As such, she gets balanced out with people who still believes her essential argument that fat is bad. Instead of being part of HER side, now they are the other side. Who does this benefit? Me!Me!, not us. Because now she is balanced not with someone who believes in fat acceptance or who challenges fat oppression. Rather, she is balanced by someone who simply wants to redefine weight loss "success".

This serves to marginalize fat people and fat liberation. It serves to further entrench and reinforce fat hatred. I'm sick of people arguing amongst themselves about how best to stigmatize fat people. I'm sick of agreeing that fat people are bad being the price of admission to discussing fat issues. This is not good enough. Not by a long shot. This is further letting the likes of Me!Me! Roth set the limits of fat acceptability and there is nothing to celebrate about that.

"We don't hate you enough"

The idiotic article from New University has been dealt with. Ironically enough, there is nothing especially new about it. Its the standard foolish attack from a fat bigot crazed by fantasies of an all-powerful "fat mob" or "flob" (the "l" stands for... well it stands for rhyming with slob, don't ask this kid to make sense). I briefly thought fat oppression might be unique for the way its oppressors imagine that WE are the ones with all the power. It took me about two seconds to realize that's not at all unheard of, but still its somewhat unique the way several dozen unfunded and geographically disparate activists are imagined to be akin to Big Tobacco or Big Feminism or whatever Big Evil supports the existing ideology of the person making this stuff up. All this perverted reality leads to this stunning statement by the author summing up his position.

"The truth is that if you are fat, you must be told that you are fat so that you will do something to change it."

He says this like its a revelation. Like this is some divine truth he's benevolently passing onto the unwashed masses. Like no one thought of this before.

Which really illustrates the fundamental problem fat acceptance faces when it tries to engage fat bigotry and reason with it. Fat bigotry really does think the answer is that we just need to try being mean to fatties. They really don't get that this is been standard opperating procedure for decades. Our fatness is so simple to them, that they can't see the truth. I'm not sure how we get them too, but we need to recognize the depths of unreality that we're dealing with here. Many fat bigots genuinely think that fat people have it easy, and that this is why there are so many fat people. That it really is as simple as just telling us to stop being fat, even though we've been told that on a daily basis for years upon years.

They are convinced that the problem is not that their hatred isn't producing anything. Is that they aren't hating us enough. We can't bargain with that. We can't reason with it. Because it will keep coming back to us and suggesting, "well, what if we hate you some more" and think that's a compromise. We need to change the rules here, because we're dealing with critics who won't even let the rules of reality hold them back.


Obesely Obese Obesity

So, evidently Wired Magazine has decided to define "fatosphere" thusly:

Fatosphere n. A blogosphere of the obese, by the obese, for the obese. Often designated "no-diet zones," fatosphere blogs seek to counter medical claims that obesity is a health epidemic.

Never minding the limiting of the definition to just fat bloggings criticism of the "obesity" epidemic, I'm stunned that when defining the FATosphere, they refuse to call us fat. Nope, must use the socially approved slur of "obese" and use it as much as humanly possible. I'm stunned they didn't invent new forms of the word like an adverb "obesely".

Look, among the things fat blogs should be trying to accomplish is to get ignorant people to STOP calling use "obese". Its a loaded word. I've gone over this, before.

"Obese" medicalizes our bodies. It reduces us to being seen as diseased. Far more than "fat", it used to define us. And not even by our bodies, but by the state of failure and disease those are bodies are supposed to represent. Its like insisting on calling a gay person "homosexual", using the Latin to dehumanize people. Its not a nice way of calling us fat. Its an offensive way of calling us fat. And its worse than "homosexual" because the Latin origin of "obesity" is an accusation of gluttony. The word roughly means "on account of eating". Using the word makes a judgment against us. It reinforces cultural stereotypes and one thing fat blogs should darn well do is reject it and demand others do the same.

If you call me obese, you are not being respectful of me. I'll grant that a lot of people don't know any better, but that's not a free pass. Its a word of scorn and derision and it is disrespectful to call me or any other fat person "obese" or to talk about a state of "obesity". If you didn't know that before, fine. You do know, and I hope you'll act accordingly. I'm not "obese". I'm not "overweight". I'm fat.


The alternative to fat suits

No, not fat actors. God forbid. Making thin actors gain weight is the sign of true authenticity.

Did you really need to make Jared Leto so upset having him gain weight for a movie about John Lennon's murder? Is it that hard to find a fat actor who looks like Mark David Chapman? Hell, I'm a fat actor who looks like Mark David Chapman. There must be thousands of Was the awe-inspiring star power of Jared frickin' Leto that important? He's Jared Leto. One of those names you recognize, but ultimately can't place in the pantheon of boring and unsuccessful and increasingly not even young actors. Unless you were REALLY into Jordan Catalano, he's already interchangable.

Leto is now going on a media tour complaining about how hard it was to be fat. Poor little Jared was too fat to walk. I'm serious. He gained 60 pounds and suddenly he needs a wheelchair. Well, I must just be Jesus walking on water to get around then because I'm fatter than poor little Jared was. Of course, it might have been that he had gout. Yeah, the idiot gave himself gout, either by rapidly gaining or rapidly losing this weight. Many stories don't even point this out, acting like becoming disabled by gaining 60lbs is just obvious.

Poor little Jared also complains about he'll never be the same again after getting fat, like he's damaged goods. Yeah, because rapidly and intentionally forcing your body to gain weight is such a normal experience. Lets be clear here. You forced your body to gain weight rapidly and then starved yourself to lose 62lbs in time for your next movie role. I don't doubt that you screwed up your body, but it had nothing to do with being fat.

Lets save the next poor little Jared from himself, Hollywood. If a role is for a fat character, try hiring a fat person.


Invisible prejudices

There is been discussion lately on the "last acceptable prejudice" moniker often used for fat bigotry. There is more truth to that motto then is being let on, but it is ultimately far too imprecise. It requires too many qualifications and clarifications to usefully communicate the intention of identifying what makes fat prejudice unique. This is often how we are called up to look at our experience because all too often, looking at ways fat prejudice is alike to other forms of bigotry brings cries that this is an inappropriate line of discussion. We can't talk about how fat prejudice and gay prejudice or racial prejudice intersect because we are told that this would devalue some other prejudice. Likewise, I don't doubt that there are those who profess to believe in FA who do the reverse. Fat prejudice is a problem, but homophobia isn't. This is something that has hampered a greater discussion of how fat prejudices interacts and intersects with other forms of social and cultural oppression.

To the end, while the consequences of fat bigotry can be very serious, they are also inconsistent. I recognized this when last week when David Paterson was sworn in as Governor of New York. Paterson is only the 4th African-American governor in the history of the United States. Even more uniquely, though, he is the thought to be the first legally blind governor in American history. Which illustrates a key difference in the structure of fat bigotry. We don't have to fight for our first fat mayor, first fat senator, first fat governor, or first fat President. Its already happened and no one thought to notice.

Nor should they have, really. While fat prejudice can be strong, for certain people it can be overcome. Indeed, for some, its not much of an obstacle at all. Which ultimately contributes to it being a prejudice no one needs to think about having. Indeed, for most who harbor fat bigotry the power structure has become completely inverted. Instead of recognizing the ways fat people are disenfranchised, they instead presume us to actually be the party in power. That the problem is that we are not attacked enough.

So, why do some people have no problem getting ahead while fat, while others don't? This is clearly a place where the intersections of other prejudices has a significant impact. Not all fat people are treated equally. For some, people genuinely don't see it as a problem, while for others it is all people see. Gender, race, class, all these things play a part and there are no easy ways to identify it, much less respond to it. Very often, all these prejudices blur together and all become invisible.

Which isn't a reason not to respond. But this ultimately needs to be a two way discussion. While it is healthy for fat acceptance to be challenged to think about these intersections, those who make that challenge need to understand that they need to be part of the process of identifying them. You cannot just say, "you don't represent me". There needs to be a willingness to share your perspective for other people to really learn from it.

That doesn't mean that sharing that perspective should be polite, mind you. I'm reminded of growing up in a lower middle-class, racially diverse community. My understanding of the privileges I experienced as a white male was informed vividly by black classmates and female classmates who talked about them without pulling punches. I saw how some responded to this with hostility, but it did help me to really focus on the advantages I had gotten without every asking for. I learned to respect that I was privileged by our culture, and that I needed to recognize this if I wanted to be part of a solution to this problem.

When I got to college, this all turned around and I got a lesson in class privilege from the side of the lower-middle class. I went from an environment where I thought my family was pretty well off, to one where I was the poor kid. Instead of a thriving and diverse community, my private university was overwhelmingly white. Looking back, I have to say that I'm not happy with how I responded. Because I didn't talk about it. Didn't even like thinking about it, really. Slowly I recognized the divide and how alienated I felt by it. My classmates spoke of summer internships and spring break vacations. I went home to work during the summer. My first two years at college, I spent spring break in my dorm room. I only ever went on trips my last two years as part of a scholarship from the school's choir. A scholarship I didn't really ask for and which no one talked about. I saw they way economic class advantages people, but I never tried to instigate a discussion about it. I should have. I think it would have been a healthy thing for my classmates to be exposed to, but I held back because I didn't want to be seen as attacking them. But we need to share our experiences, so others can learn to recognize and respect these differences. I did my classmates a disservice by withholding my own experiences from them. It was a learning opportunity for them that they didn't get.

They couldn't start that dialogue, though. Which is the challenge. I think sometimes, the concern that people will be defensive, ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can't hop into a room, say "fix it", and not expect a possible honest response to be "fix what?" from people genuinely interested in social justice. Especially when you're not even talking about the macro issues of privilege, but the micro issues of the intersections of different privileged groups.

We also need to recognize that we have all these different civil rights fights for a reason. Feminism cannot be racial equality which cannot be gay rights which cannot be fat rights. Each of these groups should have a unique and distinct voice, because collectively we will be more powerful. Which again, isn't a reason not to foster dialogue and understanding nor to hold back from challenging other progressives causes when they trample upon our own. But there are also a lot of reasons why there needs to be a focus on what differentiates us, too. It is part of the process of identifying what is fat prejudice, what fuels it, what will defeat it. We need to own that fight, so that we can, ourselves, be advocates of understanding to others. The final result of a pan-humanity movement of togetherness and distinctiveness might one day come, but until then our separate "fiefdoms" can actually serve a meaningful purpose. They are the means to that end. No one group can be everything to everybody. Right now, no one group can be everything to everybody who believes in that one group. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to be better. Try to advance our positions and commitments. We need to own that process so we can lead it where we want it to go. We cannot change society but just sitting back and telling it to change. We need to act. Waiting for things to come around to a marginalized point of view isn't good enough.

This is, of course, why we also need to be willing to listen when others engage us about things we may not fully understand or appreciate. We need to welcome that input and foster a constructive atmosphere. No one gets to abdicate responsibility. Just as we cannot sit back and wait for the world to change, it is not okay for the world to sit back and wait for us to change it. Both sides need to be engaged for an understanding to come out of it. That's the hard part. Like so much, there isn't a simple answer. Both sides need to find a common ground of good faith. The world cannot sit back and dictate the terms of its willingness to change, either. That is unacceptable, and no one should feel pressured to find a false common ground. That just falls back onto reductivist approaches that make a civil rights struggle into the least it can be so the most can agree. If someone doesn't want to accept that, good. They should challenge attitudes and press for change. They shouldn't hold their punches. Change won't always feel good for those in a hegemony, but that's how its always going to be. While defensiveness can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy, it sometimes is just defensiveness. I'm not saying its easy to distinguish, but its worth trying and pushing. Holding back because someone might be defensive isn't acceptable, either. Quite the opposite, I'd say. That's why we all need to be agents of the change we desire.


Normalcy isn't perfection

Usually when looking at parallels between fat acceptance and gay rights, one is apt to strike upon the genetic arguments both groups make. And indeed, there is a lot to learn there. But with all the talk of "good" and "bad" fatties, I'm actually more reminded of the Gay Marriage issue.

While marriage equality is something that I'd say a vast majority of gay rights activists are fighting for, its not something every gay person agrees with. There have been vocal concerns among some gays that this fight will lead to a social obligation to marry for gay people that they are opposed to. Not every gay person wants to get married, they say, so why fight for it? Isn't this only going to make it acceptable to be a married gay person in a society?

While I understand the reasoning behind that concern, I've always found it to be self-defeating. Its like stopping a field trip because one child decides he doesn't want to go to the state capital. And ultimately, I think the concerns are proving unfounded.

Its not that marriage equality activists are saying every gay person must get married. They just want the right to do so, if they wish. And gaining this right, in turn, will actually benefit those gay people who don't want anything to do with marriage for any number of reasons. Maybe they think its sexists or inherently straight-centric. Maybe they don't believe in monogamy at all. The movement, though, hasn't tried to suggest that all gay people are the same, and the risk that opponents would try to force that compromise hasn't come to be. Just like people are not becoming tolerant only towards genetic gays, they also aren't becoming tolerant only towards married gays. Its about achieving normalcy. Normalcy isn't perfection and it isn't uniformity. Not all straight people believe in marriage, and that's fine. Sure, there is some social pressure, but its not outright bigotry. Not all straight people believe in monogamy, either. All of these perspectives exist in the straight community, they just aren't used to define the straight community. That's what gay rights activists are looking for. Normalcy. Gay marriage isn't about conforming to a heterosexual ideal. Its about recognizing that gay people and straight people aren't that different. Married gays aren't "good" gays, but they are gays. They can be a unique and vibrant community, but there is also so much that brings us together, too.

That's what fat acceptance is going for, too. Its not about confirming to an ideal of the "good fatty". Its about achieving a normalcy where fatties aren't judged to begin with. Its not about achieving a segregated tolerance where the only acceptable fat person plays by the "rules". Its about getting the same opportunities as thin people. Thin people eat "healthy", or don't. The exercise, or not. But none of that defines their existence. Not all social pressure will get wiped off the map, but the way bigotry is tied to body size will. Talking about "good" fatties isn't about enforcing a aspirational conformity, but about achieving normalcy by showing that we're just like everyone else. That's the attitude we're combating. Where any "bad" behavior becomes a moral failing on a magnitude unlike anything a thin person would every experience for the same actions. This normalcy will undo those notions of good or bad, and we can all just be. Its not about being perfect. Its about being normal.


Defining Healthy (the end of good and bad)

I thought of an illustration of my last post a little bit late, but I think its apt to show why defining ourselves as good or bad by the dictates of a fat hating society is a futile effort. Let me offer you two descriptions of a fat individual.

Person A is a classic "bad" fatty. They eat tons of cheese, never enough veggies, and always load up on dessert. They drink at least 24 oz of soda daily and often snack on candy or salted treats. They never go to the gym and haven't done organized exercise since high school. They've gained more than 100lbs in the last 10 years.

Person B is a classic "good" fatty. A vegetarian, they also enjoy healthy seafood like steamed white fish and salmon. They drink plenty of water all day. They don't own a car and walk to the subway. During the spring and summer, they try to go hiking as much as possible, often on challenging rock hiking trails. Though fat, their weight has remained mostly steady since college.

Forget about whether one is more deserving of fat rights over the other. Both are completely fair descriptions of myself. For all we are told about how "their" definitions of health are absolutes, they are still extremely subjective. I can be a "healthy" person and an "unhealthy" person all at once. In our culture, though, fat people are coached to magnify and concentrate at how we are unhealthy. For us, that's the only stuff that matters. Because this is such a powerful message, we've come to do it to ourselves.

We need to push past this. Look, there is no guilt that should be had for falling into these mindsets, but that doesn't mean we should justify or affirm them. It is a powerful message, and we'll fall into traps. We can't be perfect. We can only try. Its the trying that is important. It is what will allow us to look past our set-backs rather then letting them define the limits of our possibilities.

When we feel like we are being a bad fatty, we should remind ourselves to question the standards we are holding ourselves to. These are standards set out by a culture that despises us. We must not let them define us. This is not something that Fat Acceptance is causing. Its part of the culture of fat hatred. Accept that we will all have moments where fall prey to these dictates. Don't beat yourself up over that. But define yourself not by the moment of doubts, but the goal we are reaching towards. You can accept that you will have moments of self-negativity without accepting those moments of self-negativity.

We need to come with a new definition of healthy. One that lets everyone be as healthy as they can be in the bodies they have, instead of defining them by their failure to have a body they do not have. "Good" fatties are not offered as aspirations, but as refutations of a culture that says that this cannot be. We show this to be false not to move the fence of what is acceptably fat, but to tear down these suffocating barriers entirely.

There is NO good or bad

The whole idea of "good" or "bad" fat people that's going around right now feeds right into the culture of fat hatred. That is the culture which defines good or bad and that is what we need to confront, instead of trying to reduce our message to fit into their standards.

In our fat hating society, ALL fatties are bad. Not only bad, but far worse than the most "bad" fatty you'll ever find. Our self-inflicted notions of what makes a "bad" fatty are still miles away from the prejudiced assumptions made about all of us. We made label ourselves "bad" if we don't excersise daily or eat more than 2,000 calories, but that's not the "bad" we're dealing with. We are dealing with a culture which is convinced that our bodies are proof that we eat thousands of calories a sitting, that we are virtually housebound by our sedentary lifestyles. They really do think we are sitting on our couches all day shoveling candy into gaping maws. That we sometimes watch TV and that we allow ourselves to eat isn't the "bad" they are talking about.

We can't play under their rules. The so-called "good" fatties aren't the end, but rather a means to an end. Its not about showing that we can be good by their rules. Remember, THEIR rules don't allow us to be good at all. That we can eat little, excercise plenty, and still be fat shows that THEIR rules are complete garbage. It shows that the way they define good and bad is dangerously misguided. It shows that their definition of health is a farce. "Healthy by their rules" fat people don't defend these rules. They tear them down completely.

That is where FA must step in to provide an alternative. Not an alternative which retains the restrictive dictates of health, but one which is properly expansive and inclusive. We tear down their system, and then call for a new one which is not simply a slightly adapted version of what exists now, but which is better for all people.

We need to stop seeing things the way a fat hating culture wants us to. We must stop labeling ourselves "bad" because we don't follow their rules. We must not reduce fat acceptance so as to not disturb their rules of what is good and bad. What we must demand is change. Genuine and radical change. "Good" fatties are part of that in that they show that the emperor of fat hatred has no clothes, but that doesn't force us to accept that their definitions of bad are bad. It doesn't force us to preserve their prejudices and exclusions. We're not talking about tweaking fat hatred, we're talking about overthrowing it.

In that fight, we cannot afford to give up our most powerful weapons against fat bigotry. We will not change a culture of fat hatred by saying "So what if all the reasons you hate us are right?" They already think they are right and they've concluded that this culture of fat hatred is a just response. We cannot change it by saying, "So what if we choose to be fat," because they already believe we have a choice and that this is the proper reaction to that choice. Those are not arguments for change, and they aren't arguments we need to make.

So you are a "bad" fatty. What makes you think that has any impact on your size? There are "bad" thin people out there. Why should you think your body is the result a "choice" when they made the same choices and have a different body? So you have diabetes. Does that mean you aren't healthy? No less so than anyone with diseases commonly associated with thinness. There have been diabetic fat activists for decades. There have been fat activists with PCOS for decades. There has never been any contradiction there, because that's not what fat acceptance is advocating. Its never said that only some fat people should be accepted. Its shown why all the reasons we are not accepted are false, unreliable, and unproductive.

Should it matter if being fat is a choice? No. But it does matter to the culture of fat hatred, and playing "but it shouldn't" won't change a thing. It shouldn't matter if being gay is genetic to advance gay rights, but gay activists recognized the ways homophobia perpetuates itself. Sure, there are some who will hate gay people anyway, but by educating people on how there is no choice for most gay people, they've torn down the intolerance. And when someone becomes accepting on these grounds, it doesn't matter if a gay person choose to be gay or not. Once you tear down the intolerance, those issues really don't matter anymore. I don't doubt that we'll be offered conditional acceptance, but we have no obligation to take that. We have no obligation to say, "good enough". We can reject it for the false compromise that it is and keep pressing our case to undo fat hatred's notions of good and bad.

We shouldn't be identifying ourselves as "bad" fatties. That's playing by "their" rules. We're going beyond that. That's the destination of fat acceptance. That is where "fat is not unhealthy" and "fat is not a choice" is taking us. We'll never get anywhere if we try to reason within a fat-hating system. We need to confront THEIR standards for hating us and show them to be false. We need to take this fight head-on.



I'm not sure what's sadder. That this happened, or that its so expected in the entertainment industry that its so unsurprising.

I've gotten roped into watching some of American Idol this year, which at least allows me to read the snarky reviews of the show at Television Without Pity. Especially fun is all of the rumors they hint at in their recaps that usually send me googling to get the in-jokes about gay strippers, wigs, and unspeakable acts by Santa Claus.

One bit of snark led me to the story behind one of this year's contestants Carly Smithson. Seems just 7 years ago, Carly had her first chance at stardom which also led to her being a famous "cautionary tale". At 18, the Irish singer was tapped to be the next big thing. Her record company spent more than $2 million promoting her, including setting her up with an apartment for 2 years while she worked on her very carefully and corporately crafted first album. It was a spectacular failure, though, selling fewer than 400 copies and earning write-ups in papers like the Wall Street Journal for the debacle.

It was that write-up that caught my attention thanks to a throw-away tidbit the author makes in her introduction. Referring to that bankrolled apartment, the author mentions something the then teen singer had scrawled on her fridge in marker.


As you can see in the promo picture above, this was an exceptionally thin young woman. Indeed, she'd spent years in modeling and performing up to that point, too. This is still how she saw herself, though. As not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not thin enough.

While these pressures are so insidious as to not require outside influence, I still suspect there was an executive somewhere that cautioned the thin teenager that she needed to bring her weight down to be a hit. I'm reminded of the horrifyingly funny bit in the movie "Knocked Up" when E! network heads urge the obviously thin Katherine Heigl to drop 20lbs in her on-air role. This is just how the entertainment industry works and no one is supposed to be surprised.

To some degree, we need to reclaim the shock and horror that this sort of thing should elicit. The way women's bodies are turned into commodities and products under tight control and specifications. We need to be stunned at a story like this because it simply is not acceptable.


Vote for Boston's Big Moves

Boston's alternative weekly, The Phoenix, is having a poll for their upcoming BEST issue. One of the categories is Best Dance Performers and one of the options happens to be the plus-size dance troupe Big Moves. Head on over to show your support for this great organization. The poll does require that you submit an email address to include your vote, so be sure click "Skip to Finish" after you submit your vote for Big Moves.

Big Moves has one this poll before in 2006, so it'd be great to see a repeat win for the fatties. If you'd like to donate to Big Moves, you can do it online through the Boston Dance Alliance.


Fat is Contagious: The Book

Old news to some, but since its getting some attention on NPR and The Today Show, I thought it was worth linking to Kim Brittingham's essay about her mass transit stunt, "Fat is Contagious". I probably shouldn't call it a stunt, since its really more performance art if you ask me. Frustrated at the way people refuse to sit next to fat people on buses and subways, Brittingham created a fake book cover titled "Fat is Contagious: How Sitting Next to a Fat Person can make you Fat".

Its a terrific essay and something most fat people will be readily familiar with. I know I got this treatment all the time riding the Orange Line in Boston. For all the constant fussing about how us fatties are squishing people on mass transit, the reality is scarcely recognizable. First off, most of us will stand even if there is a seat we can easily fit into just because we don't want to deal with the hassle of people getting upset at our presence. I know I do, and frankly I've never seen a fat person force themselves into a seat they couldn't comfortable fit into. I'm sure its happened once or twice, but its the classic straw-man. This just doesn't happen with the frequency necessary to justify the whining. Most people are actually upset that fat people were sitting there first.

Or they are just idiots. See, I got plenty of annoyed glances when someone saw me on the Orange Line, but I also knew darn well that I fit into the seat. I knew because I repeatedly checked everytime someone acted like I was invading their personal space. No, my fat ass fit just fine with room to spare. Which is when I started to realize the actual problem. Its not my fat ass, but their broad shoulders. These jerks were too self-absorbed to realize THEY were actually jutting into my seat by refusing the cross their arms in front of them. Instead, they spread them out to their sides while reading a newspaper. Guess what? No one can fit into a subway seat doing that. I don't care how thin you are, if you spread our your arms to read a newspaper, you've spread out your arms into someone else's seat. Yet everyone one of these people felt entitled to blame me for their inability to fit into their own seat. Because I was fat, after all.

Worst time was when I boarded the train and saw a seat open on an aisle. Though the aisle seats actual press against short wall, they are a bit roomier so I pick them to give me a little more room to deal with thin seat hogs. A person was sitting in the seat next to it, but there was plenty of room for me in the open seat. Well, not according to him. He had spread himself out while it was empty and refused to adjust when I went to sit down. So, while he was actually well into my seat, he huffed and puffed at me for squashing him. Eventually he stormed off to stand further into the train rather than just try to fit into his own seat and probably wrote some angry missive on Craigslist about the indignity of it all.

Brittingham does a very good job revealing the absurdity of this hostility towards fat people on mass transit and the book cover is brilliantly subversive. She has a very good story of a confrontation she had on the bus without even pulling out the fake book and the insane way people use "health" as a smokescreen for their bitterness towards fat people. A woman was blatantly angry at her for taking up space and having to endure sitting next to her could be heard justifying this with the tired "for her health". None of her concern was remotely related to health, but that's where fat bigotry always comes back to. The ultimate justification. When all else fails, you're just concerned for their health.

Anyway, go read it. The essay's a bit of old news, but if its new to you its well worth a read.


Changing the Conversation

The most vital thing for fat acceptance to strive for is a change in the conversation about fatness. Indeed, this is far more important than advocating or supporting individual conversion to fat acceptance because a change in the conversation ultimately needs to happen first or there will always be a glass ceiling on what fat acceptance can accomplish. It been up against that ceiling for decades and sadly shows no signs of breaking through any time soon. For all the occasional press and gradual conversions, little ground has really been won in the war on us because too much time and energy has been spent trying to reassure people that we're not really trying to change the conversation too much. Its no wonder we've done so little when so much effort has been given to promising that we'll do little.

Fat acceptance needs to embrace its radical nature. Its not that our goals really are radical, mind you. Indeed, embracing the radicalism of fat acceptance should not be seen as granting the efforts by fat acceptance's critics to marginalize it. All civil rights efforts begin as radical though they have all merely demanded equality and tolerance. Fat acceptance is no different, but we need to recognize that in the face of an oppressive society, such small requests will be seen as extraordinary and cumbersome. We need to push back against this attitude in order to progress. We need to challenge cultural dogma about fatness and dieting in order to change the way we talk about fatness and fat people as a society. That change doesn't happen by sitting around and waiting. It doesn't happen by making compromises and concessions. It happens by allowing ourselves to be seen as radical when we are anything but.

Radical is all too often a dirty word. I've bought into this myself, sometimes, as I've bristled at how the word is used to demean and subjugate moderate views in defiance of a cultural mandate. But I am beginning to recognize its value. Do I think fat acceptance is radical? No. But society does. So, the only useful fat acceptance will be a "radical" fat acceptance. If society isn't threatened by fat acceptance, it would never label it as radical. We need to threaten society as it now is constructed. We need to threaten a culture of fat hatred and bigotry. We need for them to see us as radical.

Feminism didn't get anywhere by playing nice and reassuring men that women we're going to ask for too much. It took a stand and demanded equality and its a struggle that's far from over but which has made enormous strides. Civil rights for blacks was not advanced by playing by the rules of cultural oppressors. It was advanced by taking a clear and firm stand. Always, the leaders who were viewed as dangerous radicals in their time have been come to be seen as forward thinking heroes by history. To the concern trolls, this is not saying that the struggle for fat rights is exactly like the struggles seen by women and blacks in our society. No struggle is every exactly like another, but we can learn from each other all the same. I see much for fat liberation to learn from other civil rights movement and I long for those lessons to be put to use. While we mustn't allow fat hatred to define our defiance as extremist, we must allow it to be seen as radical. We must challenge fat hatred. We must make it uncomfortable. And we must recognize that this isn't just theory. People will be uncomfortable will us. Individuals. We must allow that. We cannot do what is expected of us. We cannot bow to thin privilege, to dieting privilege. We need to stand up for something else and be willing to let people be uncomfortable with us. We need to know that its them. Not us.

Only by doing this, can we begin to change the conversation about fatness. That we can take the way fat oppression is advanced and turn it around on itself.


More Reactions to Responses

Or was it responses to reactions? Either way, I'm still peaking in on what people are saying about the concept of fat acceptance. Surprise, surprise, some people still hate us.

One "doctor" suggests that we are "enablers". That's the "fiendish conspiracy" theory of fat acceptance. That we're all just wringing our hands and cackling at the people we're making fat. We're lying to the "weak-willed" victims of our insane plan, you know. He also proceeded to go through what he assumes are our points and agreeing and disagreeing. His agreements are pretty much a template for the Weight Watchers approach: "Oh, sure FAD diets are bad. Not mine, though!" His disagreements frequently just make stuff up that he assumes we must be saying. Like we're saying that exercise is bad and people should eat as much as possible. Um, no. This is the thing with proto-trolls. Not everyone disrespects us by screaming "fatty, fatty, 2x4!" Some do it by misrepresenting what we are saying. And misrepresentation is still lying. Humoring someone like this isn't going to get us anywhere. If he has the capacity to let go of his fat hatred, then he'll do it if we challenge him directly. Not if we praise him for just speaking to us, even if its just to misrepresent us as a means to insult us. There are no ribbons for "participation" in fat acceptance, no prize for mere "attendance".

A few sites (including the "doctor") think we just don't get it. See, they agree that the pursuit of extreme thinness is wrong, but only in its final goal. I guess they assume we all think we must be a size 0 and failing that have decided to be fat. Why don't we try to just be "less fat"? Yeah, few dieters expect to be as thin as they want to be. Every dieter I have ever known has eventually changed the goals into an effort to be "less fat". Still doesn't work. Again, this is a crucial disconnect for people who respond to FA with hostility. They keep coming up with excuses for why we don't "get it" but none of them are ever right. Its not really about understanding us, but rather about fashioning justifications for their initial assumption that we're just looking for an excuse to eat ourselves huge. This ultimately isn't part of the way to fat acceptance. Lots of people think extreme thinness is wrong, but these people generally think fat acceptance is just as wrong. In practice, they think we are more wrong because they'd never actually judge someone for being thin or trying to pursue such thinness. They sure do judge us, though. That's not half-way there. Its faux moderation, which really just serves to define the limits of acceptable opinions to shut us out. It wants the extreme view to be "LOSE WEIGHT" and the moderate view to be "lose weight" so that anything less gets defined as extremist insanity. Its not a bargain we should dignify.

To be sure, there are more clearly trollish responses, but I just don't see a lot of distinctions between the various misrepresentations of fat acceptance. Condemning fat people isn't "listening". I almost prefer the idiot who invents a reality where the fatosphere is a mirror image of the pursuit of thinness or who fantasizes about our chocolate smeared faces. Because you know what he's saying. The "moderate" voices tend to just say the same thing, but without all the insults. They still think we're all just looking for excuses to stuff ourselves. They still think Fat Acceptance is about "Fat Promotion". They just don't sound so hostile about it so they make it all seem so much more reasonable.

Make no mistake, the reasonable trolls enable to hostile ones. By ensuring that fat hatred is a moderate and reasonable position, they enable to bigoted to advance their hostility. Most fat trolls aren't sexist or racist. They don't hate as part of their daily lives. But the "moderate" face of fat hatred has made hating us okay. Socially acceptable. At worst, they'd just be seen as a rascal. No one will ever see their awful bigotry for what it is so long as there are people who dress up fat hatred in a suit and a smile. As easy as it is to identify the hostile trolls, they will never be the real problem. That will always be those who sound measured and reasonable while essentially saying the same thing. They are the doctors who have appointed themselves