Who’s Justifying Anything?

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.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

30 thoughts on “Who’s Justifying Anything?

  1. “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.”

    Wait… there are actually forums dedicated to hating fat people? I just… what the hell is wrong with people???

  2. I still wish there were a Rolls Not Trolls group somewhere other than FB. I’m not on FB for privacy reasons, but I’d love to join. Would anybody be interested in joining if I started a community on LiveJournal or Dreamwidth?

    1. You actually don’t really NEED to use your real name — as long as it isn’t blatantly obvious (or really, even if it IS a lot of the time) it’s not like they’re going to track you down.

      Make an account with some name that sounds vaguely real that you like, using a common surname like Smith, Jones, Clark, etc. For a city, just pick one at random… again, can go for something common like Aurora (state of choice) since nearly every state seems to have an Aurora LOL.

      Lots of people use pictures of their pets and cartoon characters for their profile picture – or none at all. And you totally don’t need to fill out personal information like your address etc… just leave those lines blank. It can’t “leak” if it isn’t there to begin with!

      Not that anyone HAS to join Facebook, just saying that there are ways to avoid the privacy concerns if you want to participate in communities that have sprung up there. Just don’t rely on “locking” or “hiding” posts/information — Facebook has a poor track record with regard to privacy, so just assume everything you post is or will be visible to everyone and don’t post it if there is anyone on the planet you don’t want seeing it.

    2. By the way you can change the privacy settings on FB so that you are not searchable by anyone and so that only your friends can see any pictures, comments, etc. And you don’t have to fill it all out even if you’re worried about your friends! Just a thought.

  3. Thank you for this post and for providing a range of ways for dealing with and/or approaching others…these methods will work for any number of scenarios!

    One thing I have found to be effective, although it’s not much different than “ignoring” is to “be the change”…when we live our ideals no “handling” is necessary. Simple, but not easy.

  4. I maintain a Fat Acceptance/ HAES board on Pinterest, and the amount of hateful and terrible things people comment on my pins amazes me.
    In this case, I delete them as soon as I see them, because luckily I can control it. I used to try and engage with the commenters, but it’s clear they a) aren’t reading any of the information or quotes I pin, just seeing pictures of fat people and b) have no interest in learning about HAES.
    I agree, people’s reading comprehension skills are very, very poor.
    It’s really sad, seeing these Pinterest mommies (holding their children in their profile pictures!) telling me that I’m an angry fat bitch that hates thin people, all because I post pictures of fat bodies. Would they want someone to talk to their children like that? Craziness!

    1. Mommies are some of the biggest bullies out there, sadly, and the amount of self-hate especially is absolutely insane at times. I see it all the time on the one parenting board I frequent because many women really have a hard time loving and accepting their pregnancy and post pregnancy bodies.

      1. I’ve noticed that, too. It’s always, “OMG mybodyisdestroyed!” I feel bad for them; not because their bodies are wrong, but because they feel that way. “You’re not destroyed, you’ve just performed an incredible act of creation!” I try to send them here:

        http://theshapeofamother.com/

        They don’t often go, but I imagine some of them do, and maybe feel a little bit better about having a normal body.

      2. This reminds me of a Cathy cartoon that I wish I had the source for. Cathy says that her body was perfect for one afternoon. I don’t remember the details (probably just as well), but it was breasts on one trajectory, ass (?) on another, and they were briefly good enough at the same time. And then you get pregnant.

        It hit me that not only is body hatred cruel and stupid, it’s also completely anti-biological.

      3. Or they spend all their time bragging about how fast they got their pre-baby body back… someone on my contacts list on Facebook actually started posting pictures and bragging about “making her pre-baby weight” in only 11 days.

        One would think they would have more important things to worry about. Of course, I make it a point to refer to children as “groin fruit”, “fruit of the loins”, “spawnlings” etc — the ones who take baby making way too seriously tend to implode and unfriend me for “hating children” pretty quick — I add people I don’t know for games… which carries with it the inherent risk of getting people whose personalities, interests, and political viewpoint don’t match well with my own. But that’s what the unfriend button was made for hehe

      4. He he he, yeah, I’ll just bet you rile some people up. I’ve had two pregnancies. In both, I lost weight at first but with the first one I ended up gaining about 25 pounds total but lost all of it only to regain it and then some which I then lost while I was in Korea only to get pregnant rather um unexpectedly and during that pregnancy, gained some (because I was in the US for the first time in almost a year and actually ATE especially since it was around Thanksgiving) then lost weight because I had issues eating (food totally turned me off over there and actually, we ALL struggled with eating in Korea), came back to the US, went a little nuts, then moved in with a friend of mine who can’t have gluten and because she also had a young daughter who couldn’t, there was no gluten in the house so that shaped up my diet the last seven weeks of the pregnancy so I ended up with no weight gained. Lost some weight (not that the OB noticed, to him I still needed to lose weight or get bariatric surgery if I couldn’t do it with diet and exercise) and unfortunately, my weight went up and I weigh more than I did when I had my older daughter. *bang head*

        But I’ve been overweight/obese for more than half of my life so I don’t have the expectations of my body that some moms do. Still, kind of riles me up to see threads on losing weight DURING pregnancy or threads where moms do not want to gain any weight or they want to continue on their severe exercise routine because they’re so afraid of gaining weight even when it’s to NOURISH their babies! I think the repercussions of doing this are going to be known eventually but there’s a lot of stuff out there that really pushes some of these insane weight ideas (like not gaining weight during a pregnancy even if you’re a so-called healthy weight). I had massive self-esteem issues during my last pregnancy because of all the crap I was seeing online on heavier moms. I had to read The Plus Sized Pregnancy website a lot just to get me through my last pregnancy. Sad thing is, I’m sure my mom didn’t have to put up with half of this garbage during her last two pregnancies but it seems to be the norm now.

        Yikes, that was a rant in and of itself there…

      5. I wish I could find it again, but I saw a fantastic photo of a woman’s torso with stretch marks. The caption read “your body isn’t ruined – you’re a goddamn tiger who earned her stripes”.

        I have stretch marks from rapid regain after my eating disorder, and that puts me in a much healthier frame of mind. 🙂

  5. It seems you can’t say A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G so much as neutral about fat without that being “justification” for being fat. If you’re not constantly beating the drum against fat people that’s “obesity promotion.”

    What I don’t get is where’s the incentive? Who in their right mind thinks that being fat is so celebrated in this culture that we look for excuses to stay fat? That’s way past delusional.

    1. In my experience they literally think that being lazy and eating as much junk food we can stuff in our mouths (hence the only reason why people are fat and why no lazy people are thin, of course) is our main incentive. We just love the donuts so much we feel the need to justify it by pretending we’re healthy and acceptable. Or something.

  6. So far, I have not had any trolls visit my blog. I guess it doesn’t have much reach (lol)! However, a number of people in my small readership are die-hard dieters though I have evolved into a strong supporter of HAES. Talking to dieters about HAES is like talking to a brick wall. The only response they give (in a nutshell) is “what about the knees and the blood pressure?”

    I’m still talking about HAES despite how many brick walls I come up against.

  7. Agree so much. I love the “I stand” campaign and i hate how viciously people have attacked the photos.

    I see a lot of trolling on the FA tags on tumblr and the method for dealing with hate depends on my mood. Sometime I’ll try to explain to them the flaws in their reasoning or give them information, other times a “GTFO” suffices. I don’t feel the need to be polite to anyone who invades a safe space for me, that’s for sure.

  8. Great post and great strategies for responding (or not)! I’m glad to know about the Rolls not Trolls group.

    I sometimes choose to point out that the person’s intense bigotry is precisely the reason why I find it necessary to be a fat activist and to post the very thing they found so impossible to understand or respect.

    I appreciate your story, NewMe, about the reaction of people who are invested in their weight-loss goals. I imagine that such people see me (and you?) as taking the hard, unrewarding path. They imagine that losing weight is easier than ending weight prejudice, and that it is also better for their health. In my worldview, the reverse is true. People who invest in weight-loss goals are choosing a damaging approach that will likely never produce lasting weight loss or improved health. In the process, they are repeating the prejudice of the world themselves…internalized oppression. It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy. (I’d rather not have enemies based on the fact of weight diversity!) While people who invest in weight-loss goals have whatever reaction of horror and disgust and disagreement upon encountering me, I feel mostly pity for them. (And, admittedly, a desire not to be around their weight negativity and rampant bigotry.)

  9. As usual I feel great after reading one of your rants. Next time some bigot says to me, “How DARE you love and accept your body as it is?” (or words to that effect, because that is what it boils down to), my first thought will be “Bitch, please,” and I will smile inside. Thank you for that.

  10. My I STAND photo was reposted by an Australian eating disorder clinic on Facebook, and got really widely circulated. I was amazed that the comments were overwhelmingly positive.

    There were a couple of “but that’s not healthy!” comments, but no “ew gross fat people!!!” comments, and the vast majority were positive. (Then again, the pool was probably biased, given the source.)

    What I found interesting were the positive-but-not-completely-positive comments:

    – Body snarking about thin women
    (in the “real women have curves” vein, especially among the belly dancers)

    – I like the message, but if it’s about health at *every* size, why don’t they ever show thin people in posters like this?

    – I like the message, but why don’t they ever show fat people in posters like this?

    The latter two make me laugh because:

    a- they are completely missing that my photo is one among hundreds

    b- they are essentially saying that I’d only be qualified to promote this message if I were simultaneously thinner and fatter. 🙂
    (I’m on the larger end of the inbetweenie range, for reference.)

    1. “they are essentially saying that I’d only be qualified to promote this message if I were simultaneously thinner and fatter.”

      Further proof that you just can’t win! :p

  11. I know I’m late in commenting on this, but I chose the ‘ignore it’ method when it came to some girl I go to school with saying things like ‘you just know she’s a stupid because she wants to have a career in design’ and ‘you just know she’s stopped eating and that’s how she loses weight/ stays at the same weight’ or ‘god, she’s so ugly, why does anyone want to be around her?’ Not only are these all extremely illogical, they’re also very untrue (if I’m so stupid, then how is my GPA 4.41? If I don’t eat, why do I always have lunch everyday? If I’m so ugly why do I beat men off with a stick?) I know this girl is very bitter, as I have been classmates with her for quite a while and she is spiteful about everything (the type of girl, that if you give her lunch money because she forgot hers, she gets mad because it wasn’t enough for the extra cookie) and she is also insecure about herself because she has lost quite a few friends because she is spiteful. So I had a ‘what will be will be’ moment with it and ignored her, as I always have, due to the fact that I go to a peaceable school who prides itself on a family-like student body.

    The next day I had to turn to the ‘rant’ response, as her sister tried to start a fist-fight with me because I ‘was talking shit about her sister’ and ‘I need to back the f*ck off because she can totally take me’ and I’m ‘the reason her life is so fucked up’. I just looked at her and said “Believe it or not, I have better things to do than mess with your little liar of a sister. Maybe if you weren’t so terrible to her she would know how to be kind to another person rather than talking crap and then suddenly have you become miss super sister just two days after saying to her face ‘I can’t wait until you kill yourself’ in front of the entire class. Why don’t you crawl back into your little hypocrite hole with your crazy sister and leave the rest of us, who have all managed to be friends, alone?”

    She now refuses to be within 20 feet of me.

  12. I know this is kinda random but the doggie there got me thinking- does HAES work for cats? The vet wanted Baxter to lose weight, and it has worked, though he does eat too much, does that change things or is it just different for cats?

    (We didn’t change the amount of food, just fed smaller portions more often, and he lost weight.)

    I want to know because the vet was proud and wanted before and after pics to display.

    Baxter wasn’t naturally that fat, he ate too much (because he ate the other cats’ leftovers) and I’m not sure if that affects the diets working or not.

    I’m rambling, aren’t I…

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