Exclusion in Size Acceptance

My blog received a comment on Facebook that addressed something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while – whether or not Size Acceptance is exclusionary or unfriendly to thin people and whether or not it should be.  The original question said:

She has deals for “Size Positive Businesses” if you join her membership. If she is truly an advocate of health at EVERY size why do only the bigger girls get price breaks? That right there made it feel like an exclusionary movement. Maybe I don’t get it. Isn’t this a movement to get society to change their views AND to get ALL women to concentrate more on their health than their weight? Does she only expect large women to read her blog? If so…FAIL.

First, to me the Size Acceptance movement is about creating a world where people of all sizes are respected and live lives free from stigma, shame, bullying and oppression, and the Health at Every Size movement is about recognizing that health an be pursued through healthy habits by people of every size without pursuing a specific body size or shape.

Second, I’m confused that to this person “Size Positive” means only “bigger girls”.  The deals to which she is referring include clothing that is specific to plus-sized women but also things that would work for people of all sizes and genders.  And that’s where I think some of the confusion about “exclusion” comes in:

There are some ways in which exclusion is really not ok to me.  Saying that we are for size acceptance and then putting down thin women or saying that fat bodies are better than thin ones is, in my opinion, never, ever ok for any reason.  Sayings like “Real women have curves” “Skinny bitch,” “Eat a sandwich” “Nobody wants a bone when they can have the meat” etc. are not okay to me. First because size acceptance means all sizes.  Second because the path to civil rights and self esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to others the exact thing that you want them to stop doing to you doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.

However, there are some things that could be considered exclusionary that I think are totally ok:

Businesses, for example plus size clothing companies, that produce products strictly for fat people are, in my opinion, ok and do not make the size acceptance community exclusionary.  The entire world is set up for people who are not fat. Seats, public transportation, hallways, aisles in stores, clothes etc – almost everything is set up for people who are not fat. One of the benefits that “straight sized” women have is that if the airport loses their luggage they can go into any store that sells women’s clothing and find clothes in their size. That’s not the experience of fat people.  I have been in massive malls where there is not a single piece of clothing would fit me.  Businesses that cater to fat people are targeting to an under-served market where there is a need and less competition and that’s a completely legitimate business choice. Every business does not have to cater to every person.

I also think it’s totally ok for there to be spaces where there is no pro diet talk or weight loss talk allowed.  I think that people are allowed to choose weight loss just like I’m allowed to choose Health at Every Size, but just like it’s not ok for me to go to an Atkins Diet support group with a piece of cake and a soda, it’s not ok for people to talk about their weight loss practice in a Health at Every Size Space. We each get to make our personal choices and every discussion that exists does not have to accommodate each of us and our beliefs.  The fact that every discussion doesn’t involve the beliefs of every person does not make the Size Acceptance community exclusive, it makes some discussions exclusive and that’s ok.

Fat people are an oppressed group of people who are fighting for our civil rights which means that, while we need and truly appreciate allies, we also need the ability to create spaces that are safe for us, creates products that serve us, and advocate for ourselves; and doing that means that not everyone is included in everything and I think that our true allies understand that and support it.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month and giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or who just want to  support the work that I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them and your contact info always stays completely private.  (If you are a size positive merchant who wants to do a member deal just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll get it set up)

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

36 thoughts on “Exclusion in Size Acceptance

  1. It sounds like someone was looking for something to criticise and that was all they could find. Interesting that instead of using a comment that would encourage dialogue they instead left one that was specifically designed to try to elicit an angry response.

    It’s appears to be a passive aggressive comment designed to provoke an aggressive response, presumably so the commenter can write the person off as being just another angry fat person. I could be wrong, but you may have spoiled the commenter’s entire day if you did not give the response they expected which would let them shove you in a convenient box for their ignore shelf. This means they might actually have to deal with the unfamiliarity of an original idea penetrating their brain!

    Thank you for showing me how you can deal with this sort of thing in a polite manner as it gives me more choices in how I respond to people who try to pick a fight over size acceptance.

    (If this sounds odd or is hard to understand it’s ’cause I didn’t get much sleep last night)

    1. Apparently “not much sleep” agrees with you! You made perfect sense to me! And I agree.

      And Regan – right on the money as usual!

  2. Perhaps it is because as more time goes by I have become more jaded and cynical, or perhaps it is because I have returned to commenting while on pain killers (which I have discovered make me paranoid), but this just seems to me that she may have willingly lost the point.

    I simply don’t understand the leap of logic that causes someone to say, “Oh, it’s a ‘size positive’ business, therefore, it must discriminate against non-fat people.” And since when does ‘size POSITIVE” mean “big girls only!”? Also, it seems to me, that she is being exclusionary when she tries to make HAES and Fat Acceptance about women only and not about men as well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the first time someone reads something that is so different from what has been shoved down our throats all our lives, that our initial instinct isn’t to jump up and down and get all excited and happy. We initially go through a period of fighting against this new, radical idea. Even when that new way of thinking benefits us greatly. So, knowing this, it is highly likely that she is going through this initial fight against the new way of thinking, and I don’t want to attack her, but I do want her to examine why her first reaction was one of push back.

  3. I love, love, love people whose reaction to discovering that there’s a group fighting oppression is to immediately accuse them of being oppressive. (/sarcasm)

    Just because the conversation is not about the majority does not mean the majority is not welcome to listen, to learn, and to consider whether they think the current status quo is right or wrong. It also doesn’t mean we can’t have things for ourselves that may not be as useful to the majority.

    I live my life in a world where thin, right-handed, and male are the default. I am none of these things. I live in a world where white and heterosexual are default. I am these things. But just as I don’t expect a store for left-handed people to offer a lot of special things (like scissors, can openers, sports equipment, and furniture) designed for right-handed people, I don’t expect a gay-based business to carry a lot of ‘his ‘n’ hers’ stuff and novels that celebrate het love. Why should they? They are catering to a niche market that is underserved.

    Size acceptance is an underserved market. Every day every place we go we are surrounded by messages that we are wrong for having the bodies we were born in. Every day we get hundreds of messages telling us that if we don’t radically change our bodies, then we don’t deserve to live, let alone have nice clothes, find sports and exercise equipment we can use comfortably, or chairs that are strong enough to hold us firmly.

    So yeah, if there’s one damn store that offers things that fit us rather than expecting us to fit what everyone else offers, then that’s the store where I want a discount. That’s the store where I want to shop. I don’t want a discount to a clothing store where the only thing I could ever dream of buying is a scarf. I can walk into fifteen stores just like that in my local mall. I can walk into three where I might – just might – be able to find a single piece of clothing that will fit me and that I don’t consider beyond hideous. And you know what? Compared to a lot of fat women and men, I’m damn lucky because I’ve got three stores to look at. Some don’t have a single place where they can shop in the flesh near their homes.

    That whole comment reminds me of a time I was working in a day care situation and there was a little boy called AJ. He was three, but he was big enough that he looked like he was five or six. Big, tall, with better developed muscles than the average toddler. He’d been taught by his mother and much, much older sister that the sun rose and set on his shoulders.

    AJ had a particular thing he liked to do. When he thought nobody else was looking, he would go up to a smaller child, shove him/her down, then sit down and start crying. When asked what was wrong, he would tell us that the smaller, far more dazed looking child had pushed him down and hurt him.

    Please, everyone, don’t be the AJ of a social justice movement. Any social justice movement.

    1. I love this entire comment! Your point is extremely well-made, and the AJ story is hilarious . . . both because I’ve worked with kids a lot too, and can totally see a three-year-old doing that, and because that so perfectly describes the way people like the commenter Ragen posted about are behaving.

      I wonder if this person also thinks that vegan restaurants and bakeries are “excluding” non-vegans, or that stores that specialize in clothes for infants and children are practicing age discrimination. Because really, if you extend his or her reasoning to basically any other example, that’s about where you end up.

  4. Hi, tech question–I bought the ebook and am eager to read it, but it downloaded as a PDF, which I can’t make readable on my kindle–is it possible to download it in a different format and I just missed that somehow? I can read the PDF on my laptop but I much prefer kindle reading. (First-world problems, I know! 🙂 )

    1. I use a program called hamstersoft and convert them to mobi format. It has an easy drag and drop format. You can find it on Google.

  5. Clearly the commenter in question did absolutely no research on what the deals actually have been. As evidence, here were the deals for July:

    1. A pinup portrait artist offered a 30% discount on hourly rates.

    2. A nutritionist offered a special, discounted group session for interested members.

    3. A discounted 3-week class on healing from emotional eating.

    4. $5 off a particular fitness book and video.

    NOT ONE of these deals was based on size, so her argument fails spectacularly.

  6. I totally understand the confusing “size positive” as meaning “bigger girls” as my mother has taken to now using “size positive” as a euphemism for “super icky fat.”
    As in, “There was a woman looking at the house for sale next door and she certainly was…. size positive…”
    Ah, way to go mom. Glad you could take something empowering and stomp all over it.

    “Oh, do you mean she was fat, mom? Or could you tell her politics from looking at the size of her ass?”

    This is why we can’t have nice things.
    (Yes, I sound bitter. I am. Sorry. Venting over NOW!)

    1. O…M….G! J, I feel for you!

      And…now I want a pair of pants that says “Read My Ass” across the back.

  7. Dear Regan.

    I wasn’t sure where to ask this so here seems as good as any. Today I got a text from a friend and he was saying his doctor was pushing BMI and sending him to all these other doctors including and not limited to a dietitian. The reason? All because he is 206lbs with a bit of a chub and in otherwise perfect health, and like me is active every day for at least 30 mins a day and we eat right.

    Now let’s take me, I am 222lbs and in otherwise perfect health (the fact my blood pressure is so close to perfect scares my doctor but it isn’t because I am fat it is because he has never seen it before lol) and never once has he or the surgeon I have had 3 times now (gallbladder, hernia related to gallbladder removal and now a wisdom tooth) has said one thing about my weight. Only that I have my age and my health in my favor.

    I was wondering if there is anyway I can find out or even report my friend’s doctor for lack of evidence based health care?

    I have looked at the goverment websites (Alberta Health Services in Canada) and it has malpractice on it but nothing about lack of evidence based health care, and I am not sure to call my doctor and ask since he is a HAES practicer.

    Thanks very much if you can help me.

    Keep up the great work

    1. I can’t tell you about in Canada, but if you were in the US, your doctors would actually be the ones in trouble for NOT referring you to a nutritionist. For any state, or government funded health insurance we are supposed to make dietary and exercise advise and consider referral to a nutritionist for ANYONE who is overweight according to the (stupid) BMI chart, regardless of their actual health status. It’s dumb and it’s illogical. But those are the rules right now that we are supposed to follow. I am a family doc who tries to practice HAES in my personal and professional life, but it’s hard.

        1. Thank you, it is starting to sound like his doctor practiced in the States. I know doctors are to do no harm and every time I talk to him, he is telling me his doctor is perscribing him more medication for non issues (like class 2 narcotics for a sprained wrist) and pushing all these other things on him. I was thinking of calling my doctor (he is all for HAES) and asking if there is anything that can be done. But for now I have convinced my friend to at least see another doctor and see what they say.

          Ps. His doctor isn’t sending him to an actual dietitian, he is sending my friend to a weight loss and weight loss surgery clinic which will be very bias.

      1. Agreed. My primary care provider is a nurse practitioner who’s pretty on board the HAES train. Her yearly conversation with me goes something like this:

        “This is the part where I’m supposed to let you know you’re clinically obese.”

        “Shock and awe, just like last year.”

        “Still eating well and exercising regularly?”

        “Running even farther than before.”

        “Sounds good. I have fulfilled my obligation, then, and your BP looks good. If your labs turn up anything that needs following up on, I’ll be in touch.”

        “Yay. I’ll see you again soon but not too soon!”

        She still has to — and does — address it. But I definitely get the impression from her that the weight-in-isolation conversation is really one she’d rather not have.

        1. Ok this made my day brighter it really did! Thank you for that. The thing is my doctor nor my surgen and I see then way too often as of late for this tooth have never once said anything about my weight. Only that my age and health (<- I would bold, red highlight and make that word flash if I could) in my favor for my surgeries. As well as other then genetic borderline low blood sugar I am fine.

          meanwhile my friend (whom has finally agreed to see another doctor and get a second opinion on it) has this doctor who just doesn't listen and seems to not even care if he is doing damage or not. Because you really gotta wonder about someone who perscibes class two narcotics for a sprained wrist and my friend never touched them because they weren't needed.

          So that is why I was wondering because it doesn't seem like he is getting the best healthcare and I would rather not see someone who is healthy be put through something that isn't needed.

          Bah I am rambling again, sorry ^^;

      1. Sorry for the second post, I wanted to add that I believe that it’s better to address the physician directly before complaining to the College. After all, he’s probably not a bad guy: he’s doing what he’s learned in medical school, what he learns at conferences, what’s published in journals, and what his colleagues do! He doesn’t have a clue that there’s another option out there. I believe we should give our physicians a chance to correct their behaviour and be open to other opinions before we complain to the authorities!

        1. Thank you for that. I will give him the link you provided and we will see what the second doctor says and then go from there. Thank you so much though.

  8. First of all I need to apologize to Ragen. In my original facebook post – keep in mind this was a private facebook post between myself and a friend – I started the post with… “Once again this blogger made me…well…mad.” Well, it turns out that I made more than one mistake this day. It was another blogger that had rubbed me the wrong way previously. I’m sorry Ragen for not being more conscientious of who was writing what.

    At little about me. I’m “normal” sized. Size 10 jeans. 5′ 7″, which means that regular pants are usually a smidge too short and tall pants are 3 inches too long. Designer clothes are not made for me. Hobbies: working out, gardening, painting (admittedly poorly), role playing, drinking coffee, currently canning many peaches. In the past year I’ve been made to feel bad about my weight 4 times – all by women heavier than me.

    To pyctsi – It was not at all a passive aggressive post. I stated quite clearly that my dander was up. Ragen and I had a very nice chat from there on out about HAES vs Size acceptance that was unclear and muddy in her blog post that got me riled. Now lets go to this line in your comment, “…you may have spoiled the commenter’s entire day if you did not give the response they expected which would let them shove you in a convenient box for their ignore shelf.” I wasn’t expecting any response except from my friend. The fact that the blogger herself responded was awesome. It started a dialogue where instead of typing past each other so to speak, we were typing to each other.

    To Karen – This is not the first time I’ve heard about HAES or Size Acceptance. Here is the line from Ragen’s blog that I originally was upset with: “Health is a very personal thing – each person gets to choose how highly they want to prioritize their health and the path that they take to get there.” I was thinking, incorrectly, that she was speaking toward HAES, in which context I would think that health (it’s in the name) would be a very high priority. Instead Ragen was talking about the Size Acceptance movement. Which is totally cool and correct. Your health is your business. Misunderstanding cleared up.

    To Twistie – “Size acceptance is an underserved market.” I disagree. Size acceptance isn’t a market. It is a movement that includes everyone getting out of everyone else’s pants size and looking for the beauty that exists in all of us. I think you meant plus size women and men are an under served market. I totally agree. There are rows and rows of clothes at Kohls that are my “size”, and a small section of “womens” clothes. I can barely find pants that fit my body shape (big hips, smaller waist) even among those rows and rows. My beautiful sister has struggled to find clothes for many years. Thank goodness for stores like Lane Bryant that don’t mind using a bit more fabric. That’s all there used to be around here, but with the internet there are so many more exciting choices – for every body size. (Can’t say good enough things about Modcloth.com – love them!)

    To Helena Handbasket – You are right. Clearly I hadn’t done proper research!

    To Ragen – “…because size acceptance means all sizes.” Yes indeed it does. And let’s face it, size 10 is a positive number. Count me in. 🙂

  9. I’m smiling ear to ear and metaphorically clapping my hands wildly! This is why I love Ragen and this blog. Dialogue, intelligent thinking and challenging people to open their minds. As a thin person, I benefit from “thin privilege”, yet i still feel very strongly about HAES and FA. As Linda Bacon wrote, “weight bias harms everyone”. We are all in this together and i just LOVE when this blog demonstrates, time and again, that we CAN all come to the same party.

  10. “Second because the path to civil rights and self esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to others the exact thing that you want them to stop doing to you doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.”

    It’s not about size acceptance, but I seriously wish I could bash this into the head of a ridiculously large number of pagan people.

    Honestly, I benefit from “thin privilege” which I sometimes find hilarious because according to the ridiculous BMI, I’m still firmly overweight. (If I tell people I weigh 160, they do a double-take, every time…it was even funnier when I was 200!) I find it odd that your reader was even commenting on getting discounts on plus-size clothing…but then, I’ve gone shopping for my friend Vicki who wears 3x. *I* buy nearly my entire wardrobe at thrift stores. I find awesome clothes for $2, $3, at most $10. I own a pair of leather pants that I bought for $22, and a London Fog trenchcoat that I got for $25. Vicki doesn’t have that option. I’ve found *two* things for her in my regular thrift store. Two. And those were shocking (it’s a great thrift store – I can even find shoes for my big size 10 feet there!) She’s *never* been able to find anything in thrift stores that fit her. And if you want to find decent looking, professional clothing, that doesn’t look like a flowered gunny sack? You’re frequently talking hundreds of dollars. She *loves* finding discounts on clothing. She *needs* discounts on clothing!

  11. This is the article I’ve been wanting to write for some time now. To be honest, I turned away from size acceptance for a while for this very reason. I got sick of the hypocrisy. All of the “accept us for who we are but if you want to lose weight then we pity you”. This really got to me because, while I will never be considered thin, I am not really fate either. I am probably more of an “in-betweenie”. I have changed my diet (noun not verb) and started exercising and even lost some weight – but that is not my goal in life. My goal is to be healthy at the size my body wants to be – which will no doubt always be bigger than society thinks it should. Falling where I do on the size scale I sometimes feel accepted by no one. It’s like I’m too fat for some people and not fat enough for others. All I really want is for my body to be healthy and strong so that I don’t suffer again from the debilitating back problems that I had prior to surgery.

    I have two sisters and we range in size and looks just enough that people don’t always know we’re related. One of my sisters has always been thin but – you know what – she is the most accepting person I know. She recently told me how I have to make sure not to diet. Eating healthier is good but she worries that I will harm my body and my health if I try to diet. Fortunately, that is not the case with me but I found it so sweet that she is so accepting and more worried about my health than the size of my jeans.

    Anyway, I want you to know that it was this blog that brought me back to the concept of size acceptance. I think you have the right idea, Regan. Thank you for being an awesome, beautiful and accepting person! With you helping to lead the charge, I think we could make a lot of headway helping end discrimination.

    1. Panda I understand fully. I gave up on alot of it for the same reason. I am not a small girl and never have been but I have a place where I am comfortable. Yes to the rest of the world it is fat, but I want to get back there. So what? That makes the “enlgihtened” fatties hate me cause I want to lose some weight to make myself more comfortable? It is such hypocracy. My body is mine and I can lose or gain weight as I choose. I am trying to focus on making better choices for what works for me. And I am trying not to hate myself into weight loss like I did before. Raegan has given me back some hope that it is ok to love myself and want to improve myself at the same time both physically and mentally. In the end it is far more healthy this way than it ever has been. I am eating nourishing food and moving my body. None of that is bad.

      Hooray for your sister and her unbiased support. That is wonderful.
      I am back too and in no small part due to Raegan.

  12. And, while allies are important and appreciated, I believe it is tremendously important to have some spaces that are JUST for fat people. I recall taking part in a “Yoga for Round Bodies” class where someone asked if it was okay for their thin friend to join the class. The instructor said yes, and I found that quite upsetting. That class is the ONLY place in the city where I can have the experience of having an ‘average’ body. And that experience has changed my life; don’t take it away from me based on a theoretical complaint that it is not inclusive!

  13. I am so happy to read Ragen’s essay on this topic–she wrote brilliantly about it in her book, too. I am referring to those misguided souls in size acceptance who feel that it somehow is size-positive to laud fatness while putting down thinness.

    Beauty comes in all sizes. To say otherwise is to be no better than our oppressors. I do not laugh if a fellow size activist (or just a fellow traveler in the movement) tells a joke at the expense of thin people.

  14. RE: Clothing – I am slightly above “normal” (size 14-16 US), but I find “plus” sized clothing all the time that I like, but not only is it larger than Misses or Women’s clothing, the bust is also enormous! It’s super-frustrating because I don’t have giant boobs, but they aren’t small either (C cup) and while I like how many of those clothes look on me, the bust area is always way too big.

    Of course, my mom has the opposite problem – regular women’s clothes fit her everywhere but in the bust, and plus-sized clothes are too big everywhere else (neckline, shoulders, etc). She said back in the day there used to be half sizes (12, 12 1/2, 14, 14 1/2), which were basically the regular size, but with a bigger bust. Why can’t we go back to that?

    At some point, I’m going to finally replace my broken sewing machine and just make my own clothes! Then I don’t have to try on 8 million pieces of clothing someone else made for their idea of “size 14.”

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