The wonderful Deb Lemire, President of ASDAH, let me know that some people have missed the point of Marilyn Wann’s beautiful I Stand Campaign People have put these brave, beautiful people on their websites (like Tumblr and Pinterest) and written rants about how Health at Every Size doesn’t work, talking about how it’s all about justifying fatness and bad behavior, and saying all manner of ugly things about them. I want to talk about how to deal with this practically because the more we put ourselves out there and challenge people’s prejudices, the more this is going to happen. But before I get to the practical responses, I hope you’ll allow me a paragraph to rant.
How over-exaggerated must these people’s sense of self-importance be to think that we are putting our pictures on posters as a way to justify ourselves to them? Bitch please. That is some ego run amok right there. We aren’t seeking the approval of anyone – we are giving them the opportunity to see that they are operating under prejudice, bigotry and stereotypes and to stop doing that. They have so thoroughly missed the point that I’m worried about their reasoning abilities. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, let me break it down: We are saying “I Stand for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”. Where you got the idea that anybody needs to justify anything to you I don’t know, but you’re dead wrong.
So what do we do about it? I can speak from my experience because unfortunately this happens to me all the time – I’ve had my face photo shopped onto whales and elephants, I’ve had someone diagram my body with all of their perceived “flaws”, I’ve had my image captioned to say a bunch of really unfortunate things. It’s not something that I’ve gotten used to, it hurts my feelings every time. It doesn’t make me feel bad about my body, but it does make me feel sad to live in a world where this is how people spend their time. There are several options that I use to handle this type of thing (if you have others it would be awesome if you would drop them in a comment below.)
Ignore it completely. I often choose this if it’s in one of the forums that exists for the purpose of fat hate, where a core belief is that fat people aren’t human. These people have chosen the path away from intelligent dialog and I have no interest in engaging them. I know that other people do choose to engage them and that’s awesome, it’s just not for me.
Appeal to humanity: I often do this if someone is talking about me as if I don’t deserve basic human respect. Often I’ll send an e-mail or leave a comment that says something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture. You may not know that I’ve recovered from an eating disorder, or that I chose Health at Every Size as the best path to health for my situation based on extensive research. While I’m always happy to share my research and answer questions, I would never tell anyone else what they should do for their health. I think it’s fine that we disagree, but I’m still human. I think sometimes the internet makes us forget that there is a real person on the other end and that’s how I felt you treated me. That’s all I wanted to say, best of luck to you.”
Education: I use this if someone is giving their opinions as if they are facts. I say something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture. It’s ok if we disagree but I wanted to point out that there are definitely two sides to this story. Many highly educated people think that Health at Every Size is a valid and successful lifestyle choice. Some places to start are http://www.haescommunity.org/ (created by Dr. Linda Bacon, a Ph.d with three post graduate degrees), http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/55.full (an article written by five experts). Again, I completely respect if you don’t choose HAES for yourself but I wanted to let you know that it is based on solid research.”
Rant: See above. I typically confine this type of ranting to my blog – If I don’t feel like I can open some kind of decent dialog I typically don’t bother giving fat bashers my time or energy.
Get Help: If you see this kind of thing online another option is to let the Rolls not Trolls Facebook group know about it. We are a group who make fat positive comments on fat negative articles and comment threads (with an emphasis on ninja commenting – get in, don’t read the comments, leave your comments, get out, never go back). The goal isn’t necessarily to change the mind of the person who wrote the article or left the negative comments, but for the person who is reading through and might be affected by seeing another point of view. You are welcome to join the group or you can send the link to me and I’ll post it.
Most of all remember that it’s not you, you are amazing and beautiful and worthy of respect and love – I know that for sure. Whatever their intentions might be, these people are living from prejudice and stereotypes and bigotry that is causing them to be misguided in their action, but you don’t have to buy into that, and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
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