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17 November 2014 @ 08:30 pm
Fat politics: You can't talk about just yourself.  
One step in integrating fat politics into your life is refraining from imposing fatphobia on others, which means (among other things) refraining from urging weight loss on anyone. Much urging of weight loss hides behind the guise of concern for health when really it’s an insidious mix of aesthetic, moral, and cultural discomfort at fat people existing—and especially at fat people existing without trying to lose weight. Refraining from saying or hinting that fat people in general or a certain fat person should strive to be less fat—that’s big. Once folks are on board with fatpol, they pick up this important step pretty quickly.

Something that’s harder for folks learning fatpol to absorb is that making a statement about oneself is actually making a statement about other people. When a person talks about their own weight-loss diet—or some exercise that they hope will lead to weight loss or prevent weight gain, or the notion of calories being burned, or a diet food they purchased or ate—that’s feeding into cultural fatphobia. There’s no way to say those things without reinscribing the status quo fatphobia. Simply saying that you are trying to lose weight—or wish you could lose weight, or bought a Lean Cuisine, or burned some calories doing whatever—taps into the current of fatphobia. Fatphobia is a fierce and unforgiving current that never stops flowing. There’s no still pool into which your simple comment can go. When you mention weight loss stuff—unless you’re questioning or undermining the assumption that weight loss is good—you are invoking cultural fatphobia. You’re giving fatphobic oppression a tiny boost.

If you say that kind of thing near a fat person—if you mention joy at weight loss, wish for weight loss, sadness about weight gain, purchase of a diet food, the burning of calories—you are talking about that fat person. Even if you mean to be talking only about yourself, you’re not. You can’t. You don’t have that power. It’s not your fault that you don’t, but you don’t. Cultural fatphobia is that strong.

I don’t mean that it’s anti-fatpol to mention activities that happen to burn calories. But it is anti-fatpol to mention the calories. If you mention calories, you’re referring to weight loss and weight control. There are plenty of ways to talk about the jumping, dancing, running, swimming, sex that you just did or are about to do without tying it to weight control. Don’t mention the calories.

Or, you know, do. It’s your right to mention whatever you want. Maybe you are trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Maybe your cousin is, and you just toss that fact into the conversation. You and your cousin have the right to do whatever you want with your own bodies. But know that when you talk about it—even the quickest mention of calories or Slimfast—you’re not talking only about yourself. You’re talking about the fat person near you and all the fat people who aren’t near you. You can’t help but. There is no neutral. Cultural fatphobia is just that big.

It’s like individual book characters. A fat bully character in a book implies that fatness is connected to bullying—because our culture already has that stereotype entrenched. A fat bully character in an individual book invokes the culture in which it exists, and brings all that to bear. Can’t help but.

You know how I said there’s no neutral? There’s a good side to that. If you seem to be actually achieving neutral, you’re probably actively helping. If you refer to yourself or a book character as “fat” and you say it neutrally, without denigration and without symbolism? That’s helping. That’s activism. If you write a fat character whose fatness isn’t symbolic of anything? That’s helping. If you go through the world—no matter what your body size—as if fatness is a neutral trait, that’s helping. That’s magnificent.
Casey the Gnomeandrogenie on November 18th, 2014 03:58 am (UTC)
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Hotter Than a Hot Dogdiceytillerman on November 18th, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)
Hollygrrlpup on November 18th, 2014 03:59 am (UTC)
I really love this post.
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Bea and Mr. Jonesdiceytillerman on November 18th, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much.
Frankenmonstrous Cyborg Creatureetana on November 18th, 2014 04:13 am (UTC)
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Hotter Than a Hot Dogdiceytillerman on November 18th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks! (Also, your icon!)
deborah.dreamwidth.org on November 22nd, 2014 05:29 pm (UTC)
I sense thoughts related to that conversation we recently had...
Rebecca Rabinowitzdiceytillerman on November 22nd, 2014 05:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, related, but this post has been brewing in my mind for many months.
Tuonen Haukiplasticsturgeon on March 8th, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
A big FAT yes!
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Hotter Than a Hot Dogdiceytillerman on March 8th, 2015 02:59 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D