I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately – I receive a lot of criticism for my “underpants rule” policy, especially when it comes to people’s right to make different choices about their bodies and health than I would make. I think that my right to choose Health at Every Size is dependent upon someone else’s right to choose weight loss. The most important thing to me is that people know that HAES and Size Acceptance are options that they can choose and that they have access to true information.
One thing I see sometimes is an attitude that “If they’re not with us, they are against us, so screw ’em.” In this scenario, “with us” typically means that they are already where we are on their size acceptance journey, that they aren’t asking questions that we’ve heard a thousand times, that they aren’t still thinking that they might want to change their size and shape, or that you have to be thin to be healthy etc.
I sometimes see fat activists get frustrated with people who are at the beginning of their journey, asking questions that we’ve answered a thousand times. I can absolutely understand the frustration, but I wonder if perhaps we’re forgetting that the first time we heard many of those questions was when we first asked them. I think sometimes in our zeal we can forget that this is a process – that the world is constantly inundating people with the opposite message and that everyone may not have whatever confluence of events, circumstances and personality quirks allowed us to get to this place.
My philosophy for my activism and this blog (which is certainly not the only valid philosophy) is that “If they aren’t actively against me, maybe they’re with me.” Based on where we are as a civil rights movement I do not think that Fat Activism has to be about everyone choosing the same things that I do. for their bodies. I think it’s more about everyone believing in choice and respect. So if someone believes that people of every size should be treated with respect, should be allowed to prioritize their health however they want and choose their own path to health; if they believe in ending size stigma, oppression and weight bullying then I think there’s a place for them in size acceptance. Even if they make different choices about their bodies than I would not make.
Rather than telling people who are curious about HAES and SA but still want to try to change the size and shape of their body to go to hell, what if we provided access to information, patiently answered their respectful questions, modeled options, respected their choices, and in turn demanded respect for ours. If people are interested in helping to dismantle size stigma and bullying, then I think that there is space for them, even if they don’t choose to accept their own size at this time, and I think that being involved in the movement gives them plenty of opportunities to consider their options.
That does not mean that people who choose weight loss have to be given an opportunity to talk about weight loss in every forum. It is absolutely ok for there to be spaces that are weight neutral, Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance based etc. The Fit Fatties Forum, for example (which the amazing Jeanette DePatie and I founded with the help of Jayne Williams), has very specific rules against pro-diet or pro weight loss talk and I don’t apologize for that – there are plenty of places to talk about those things and it is absolutely possible to respect people’s personal choices about weight loss and still create boundaries for your space/forum/blog etc.
I think it’s important to remember that we are up against a massive and devastatingly effective propaganda campaign perpetuated by big businesses with big profit motives for maintaining the status quo. Many of the people who find the fatosphere and contact us with questions are still attempting to lose weight because they truly believe that it is likely to work and will improve their health. They are following the orders of their doctor – a medical professional who they assume they can trust to give them good information. There are people who hate themselves because they literally don’t know that there is another choice. People face astronomical pressure to lose weight from nearly every facet of society and they receive a tremendous social reward for whatever time they are able to maintain their weight loss.
I know that health and weight are two different things, I know that you can pursue health and happiness in the body you have now because many things and people came together in my life to allow that to happen. I want to pass that along and try to help people who are where I used to be. Yes indeedy, I wasn’t always the body loving, size positive woman who is writing this today – I took part in Biggest Loser contests – taking pictures of myself in bike shorts and a sports bra, I did every diet you’ve ever heard of and probably some that you haven’t. Even when I learned to love my body I still believed that I could never be healthy until I was thin.
I’ve been where these people are and so when they come to me at the start of the journey – confused, questioning and in disbelief about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, I work hard to summon the same compassion that people gave me (or more compassion than many were able to muster…). It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifteen millionth time I’ve heard the question – it’s the first time that they’ve mustered the courage to ask it and that’s a big deal. If they are asking questions respectfully then they aren’t against me so maybe they are with me and, from my experience, how I handle that will be part of determining whether they become an ally, an activist, or an enemy.
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This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!
I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or you can support my work with a one-time contribution. The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen