I don’t typically rant two days in a row, but…I was lucky enough to be part of a panel yesterday on Alberta Primetime. The panel included obesity researcher Dr. Arya Sharma, and reality show personal trainer Paul Plakas. You can see the entire segment here [trigger warning for fat bashing and headless fatties]. They were asking questions about whether it’s ok to be fat. Let me answer that right now: Yes, it’s ok to be fat.
Dr. Sharma spoke out strongly against stereotyping and stigmatizing of people of size and was honest that we don’t have interventions that are shown to change body size long term. And then there was Paul.
Paul started out by saying [Note that the block quotes may be triggering, you can skip them and this blog will still make sense]:
When you’re like sort of class 2 class 3 morbidly obese there’s really no advantage to being that overweight and nobody is comfortable moving around on this planet at this weight cause they have to move against gravity and moving that size of body against gravity is very difficult. You are limited in the freedom of what you’re able to do and you lose basic function – life activities like having sex, tying your shoes, walking around the block or walking up one flight of stairs becomes vigorous…The people who are 100 pounds 200 pounds overweight it’s not so much just a health concern it’s also a quality of life concern they’re missing out on a number of things they be doing in this world.
I interrupted and said “What Paul is saying does not apply to me”
Then he interrupted me and said “I beg to differ.”
No, seriously. Paul disagreed WITH ME about what I SAID does and does not apply TO ME. Note I wasn’t trying to speak for everyone else, just for myself. Paul actually thinks that he is a better witness to my experience than I am, and he thinks it out loud. Kindly note that he has never even met me. He went on to tell me more about me that I, apparently, don’t know:
There’s a lot of things you can’t do because of your weight. [I mention that I’m a three-time National Dance Champion] You’re a three time national champion dancer at this weight? There’s no way. I’ve seen your videos on YouTube and I think you’re an average dancer at best. [Note: A search to find Paul’s accreditation as a ballroom dance judge yielded no results] I’m just saying that you’re missing out on a lot of things because of you’re weight and that surely there’s a lot of things you’ve encountered that you can’t do because of your weight.
So I thought that it would be nice to offer Paul some evidence that refutes his claim, speaking just for myself of course. (If you’re up for a little size diversity activism you are welcome to help me give Paul a chance to rethink his stereotypes and bigotry by e-mailing your fatty living life pictures to email@example.com or post them in the comments here.)
Let’s start with the three things that he claims I can’t do:
I guess I’ll have to choose a shoe-tying method:
Stairs. I live up two flights of them so there’s that. Also, remember that time I climbed 180 stairs completely cold in a skirt and dress shoes? Except that couldn’t have happened because Paul Plakas, celebrity personal trainer, says that just one flight of stairs is an effort for me and, of course, Paul knows me best. Of course if I could not climb stairs I would still be a good and worthy person and could still live a full life even though some idiot might think it’s ok to shame me for being disabled.
Sex. Not for nothing, but I can do the splits – just sayin’.
But what about all these “a lot of things” that Paul insists I’m missing out on. I got to thinking if I was thin maybe I could (Warning – ego run amok to make a point for the rest of this paragraph) play Carnegie Hall, consult for a Fortune 100 company, win 3 National Dance Championships, be the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporate conglomerate, rehabilitate and re-home aggressive dogs, be hired to speak at Ivy League Universities, at Google, start my own dance company, start three successful businesses, attend the New York and LA premieres of a movie in which I am featured, publish three books, be featured in National Magazines as a role model, be in a wonderful loving relationship, be part of a photo shoot where I do the splits on Wallstreet, write a blog that results in getting fan mail every day, go to the beach in a bikini, go to Disney World for a week with my Best Friend, help start a Fit Fatties Forum that almost 1,000 people have joined, be one of the 2 in 10 women who actually like their bodies.
Then I realized – hey, I did/do all of those things already. Wait – I think Paul Plakas is full of crap. Then I remembered he is also the person who suggested that we take away mobilities aids that allow people of all sizes with disabilities to navigate the world, to make the world less easy for fat people.
So if people are missing out on life experiences maybe it’s because when they try to experience life some jackass shames them and tries to take away their mobility aid, or their shoe-tying aid, or whatever they need to navigate the word. But I realize that Paul’s income depends on fat people hating their bodies and paying him for a solution that every study says will fail the majority of time in the long term, so I can see how he’s in a tough spot. Still that doesn’t mean that Paul gets to make shit up and replace my actual experiences with his made up ones.
As fat people there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there about us. And many of them are perpetuated by people, like Paul, who profit from them. We can do something about this. We can go do the things we want to do, we can insist on being accommodated, we can love our bodies and our lives and we can talk about that and refuse to allow others to speak for us. And we can e-mail Paul pictures of fatties experiencing life at firstname.lastname@example.org
We can also get support:
If you’re looking for support about fitness from a weight-neutral perspective, check out the fit fatties forum (it’s totally free)
If you’re struggling with the message that you aren’t worthy of love until you are thin, check out this video.
If you want support in spreading body positivity around the internet, check out the Rolls Not Trolls community.
If you are looking for a personal trainer or book and video about fitness from someone who is knowledgeable and not a jackass, checkout Jeanette DePatie of TheFatChick.com
Let’s support each other and if they want a war on obesity, let’s give them one.
Like the blog? Here’s more of my stuff:
Interviews with Amazing Activists!! Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words. Support In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History Project!
Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
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167 thoughts on “My Big Fat Shoe Tying, Stair Climbing, Sex Having Life”
How is this guy for real? It’s just completely and utterly baffling. How can people claim these things when there is evidence right in front of their faces? Like, how can someone have that strong a cognitive bias going on? baffling.
Alas, I am reminded of a time when doing my shoelaces barre style (because corsets are not constructive for bending over) against a wall with a friend chatting to me led to a very amusing moment of someone else walking in and thinking there was fat sex happening right at the moment. Too bad there’s no photo of that incident to send on.
Hehe, that’s awesome!
I see this post is old but I was channel surfing and came across one of Plakas’ shows and it reminded me of what an ass he is. On top of what he says about people and their bodies, he throws out perfectly good food that is not actually fattening or harmful, and works for peoples’ budgets and lifestyle. You know, reality? I was thinking, yeah this show is kinda old now and ideas about food have changed so maybe he’s not a total ass…and then I went to his website where he blathers on about his stupid life. None of what he states says to me that he knows anything about fitness or nutrition, just that he’s fat phobic and likes to talk about himself ad nauseam, poor grammar and all. And then I came across your blog. Good for you, standing up to this complete uninformed ass masquerading as a fitness guru.
I wish you all the best.
Wow. I’m at a loss for words.
For once, so am I.
I’m fairly unfit and reasonably lazy at times and I managed to climb 21 floors to my flat (with a couple of shopping bags) when the power was out. I also used to walk a 3 mile round trip 5 days for 6 months while on a training course all while super obese.
I have also completed an outdoor course with Princes Trust Volunteers which included a nice hike in the hills and abseiling (I don’t like heights so I only did that once). The outdoor course was residential and isolated so I ate the same as anyone else, but of course I must have imagined doing the hike and been sneaking snacks from the magical chocolate shop that follows fat people so they never have to wait to stuff their faces. >.<
Gotta love how people are willing to tell complete strangers that they know better how everybody's body works just by looking at them.
I love the magical chocolate shop! 😀
This was an amazing read!!!! I cannot believe how someone can completely deny another persons experience in their own body!!! Thank-you for being willing to stand up and challenge the discrimination that the health/fitness industry continues to perpetuate against people of size 🙂
I just emailed Mr. Plakas with a politely worded note and a photo of myself at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass – the highest point of the Inca Trail which is a hike that the internet tells me contains 10982 stairs.
It was either that or send him a pic of me having sex, but I don’t think he deserves to see this fine booty in all it’s glory.
Apparently this guy is one of those “experts” that claim themselves all powerful and other people believe him. Shame on the people who allow him to even speak this drivel. That’s the real problem…no one has any ideas on what a real “expert” is any longer. SMH
For the record, I tied my shoes this morning. That’s what we need; pictures of fat people with tied shoes.
At least he admits that he’s not promoting health (“not so much a health thing,” definitely something I want to hear from a trainer who’s giving me health advice). The question becomes what is he promoting instead. Because if it’s quality of life he’d be *for* adaptive devices. He’d be *accepting* of people no matter what their size. He’d be *in favor of* fat people building and keeping their self-respect. He wouldn’t *reach automatically for the shame trigger* when he tries to get his point across. Saying fat people can’t have sex; really? Really, Captain Sensitivity? *Really?*
The truly perplexing thing is that he brushed off your credentials as a dancer. As a trainer he ought to be aware of the level of conditioning required to do that. I know, I know; the obvious answer is that he’s aware and just doesn’t care. He’s taken the a priorii position that fat people are immobile and miserable and won’t change his mind no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary. He’s clergy in the church of Fat Is Bad and one does not admit error when one is trying to convert others to one’s faith.
“Clergy in the Church of Fat Is Bad”… wow. I need to remember that one!
Exactly. Thanks so much for expressing what I feel.
Best way to prove asshats like Paul Plakas wrong? Just keep living life out and fat and proud. So I think I’ll go teach a few more dance classes this week, tie my own shoes, climb the stairs to my office and have wonderful sex with my husband.
I am fat — about 100 pounds over my best weight — and I am significantly disabled.
But I am fat *because* I am significantly disabled. The only place my weight is a disability is at the clothing store.
Ugggh. This is ridiculous, although sadly not surprising. I’m definitely going to send Paul some pictures of myself doing all sorts of things (with tied shoes!)
Just emailed him!
Wait. What? You mean I didn’t tie my shoes and come down that flight of stairs that’s the only way to get from the upper story of my house (where the bedroom where I sleep… and other things… with my fat husband) lives?
Good thing people like Paul are around to inform me of that! Hey, Paul? Did I put my own pants on? I’d really like to know.
And wow! Shoe tying and stairs equal quality of life? Seriously? Because I’ve known and loved several people over the years who couldn’t do either, but were still kick-ass human beings who did and thought awesome things. Their lives were neither pathetic nor pointless just because they needed mechanical aids to get around and someone to help dress them.
Yes, curse that useless lard bucket Stephen Hawking. He can’t tie his shoes or climb stairs. He should just kill himself now.
I tried to include a “sarcasm” tag, but it didn’t take. So for those who don’t recognize it, the above is sarcasm.
this one really needs to be forwarded to paul…hope thats okay with you!
I know you have a thick skin, but even so I just want to let you know that I am so so sorry he insulted your dancing. And you probably already know this, but he is wrong. He clearly either has no idea what good dancing is, or else he can’t see past the blinders of his fat hate. Thanks so much for putting up with guys like him and being an inspiration to the rest of us!
Ditto from me, Ragen! Well said, Melissa 🙂
Dittos from me too. Sent him an email saying you are a great dancer. etc.
The doofus probably gets his notion of good dancing from “Dancing with the Stars”, so of course he knows exactly what good dancing is.
This was hard to watch because of so much hatred and rudeness. Ragen, you continue to amaze in so many ways, and today I am blown away by how calm and reasonable and polite you remained in the face of so much crap. I could not have successfully kept my composure after the eleventyith time he interrupted and talked over you.
The hatefulness that the “fitness expert” was spewing, even after all these many years, even though I am happy, even though I know he is wrong, even though I find pleasure living in my body, his words still hurt. Yes, his hate-filled words still hurt, me, personally, even though we will never meet.
How can people be so cruel?
What an ass clown this man is. I don’t have anyone to take pictures of me, and I have always been shy about having pictures taken of myself at any weight. But I do work in a rather large retirement community and have to walk around the thing all the time. I do water workouts in the therapy pool where I work. I also hike. I’m not as fit as you, but I’m in at least as good of shape as the average person of my age (regardless of size) and possibly in better shape than some.
I have lost about 30 pounds since the doctor upped my dose of thyroid medicine. Does this make me a better person? In no way, shape, or form. Also, while I have greater ease of movement now than I did six months ago when I started doing the water workouts again, I attribute this to greater flexibility, not to weight loss.
If you work out for the sake of weight loss, you are doomed to failure. I know, because every time the weight loss stopped in the past I quit working out. I won’t make that mistake this time, because it’s about how I feel, not about how I look.
As to the thyroid issue, so much for the idea that weight loss always equals blood pressure decrease. My blood pressure has INCREASED. Why? Because higher levels of thyroid hormone DRIVE UP THE BLOOD PRESSURE.
I would not have started working out again if it weren’t for size acceptance. People like Paul the Wonder Trainer made me feel discouraged all these years. So, thank you Ragen, and thank you to the rest of the size acceptance community.
It is absolutely okay to be whatever size you are.
I’m just starting thyroid medication therapy. I am finding that it is making me more flexible as my tendons are becoming more supple. I joke that the pills are like freeze dried water from The Fountain of Youth.
I think in my case it was the workouts rather than the thyroid meds. I have fibromyalgia, so me and “flexible” have been at odds for some time. I used to take Synthroid but had to stop that because it put my blood pressure so high, and I was having panic attacks. I was afraid to take any kind of medicine for a while but then gave Armour a go. I think it works better because it’s a natural derivative, but it wouldn’t be good for vegetarians because it comes from pig thyroid.
ZOMG… There is finally proof for immaculate conception!!! Because I’m morbidly obese and I’ve had 3 children while morbidly obese… But obviously I can’t be making the beast with two backs with my (handsome, well educated, successful and all around wonderful) husband, not at MY size. PRAISE THE LORD! Oh wait… It’s all coming back to me now…
this too needs to be sent to the asshat.
Oddly enough I was figuring on sending in photos of myself and my two children and asking if he considered immaculate conception to be the cause of them…
You know what? The man is an asshat of the first water. How dare he discount you and your achievements when he doesn’t even know you. His response about your dancing was clearly a knee jerk reaction that revealed how much contempt he has for fat people and how completely he buys into the stereotypes.
This is why I hate when people use tv “personal trainers” they have the ego the size of Alberta it’s self. (How do I know? I live in Alberta.)
And also I am calling this out right now Alberta isn’t very tolerant depending on the area. Calgary and south (where I am) I have had people tease, bully, torment, ect me because of my size, now there are the people who don’t care but you do get looks and snide remarks, yet when I lived in a small town north of Edmonton, no one (and I do mean no one) said anything about my weight and I was much happier.
Now living back on in the south my snark has come back.
Also thank you so much Ragan for doing something so important in my home land/province! I give you major props and am clapping. Also when I get a chance I am gonna show that video to a few fatphobes I know.
Thank you so much! 🙂
I’m an Albertan too, nice to meet you Amara!
Nice to meet you!
Hello from another Albertan. 🙂
Most of the time no one comments on my weight her. I have no idea what I am on that degree scale, but last I checked my BMI was over 40. I have had a couple incidents of young, possibly teen, males yelling rude things from cars while I was walking in both Edmonton & Red Deer.
My horribly fat self has had 4 children, 3 naturally at home. I thought I got pregnant from sex, but apparently they were immaculate conceptions? My poor husband will be really upset to hear I’m to fat to have sex or go up & down the stairs in our house.
I said around the same thing to my boyfriend and he looked at me like “WTF! What are you talking about?” showed him the video and he laughed and called the guy crazy.
I walk pretty much everywhere in my city and I have gotten remarks, snide comments and all that other fun stuff, was bulled in school, as well and I have lived in the south for 99% of my life. I was actually happy when I was living in Barrhead. Alberta may have some tolerance but it isn’t as much as people would like to believe.
Just a few days ago my city’s leader of the day was quoted saying on the local news “I know there are many different sized people in this world and I support them all!” I facepalmed. Dude I went to school with both your kids, only one of them didn’t say a word about my weight/size and that is because I out did him in gym class.
you are doing GREAT work. You show us how it’s done, and I feel proud for you.
Wow, uh, if I wasn’t having great sex all this time with my hubby, what the heck have we been doing? Don’t tell me that at my age, education level, and EXPERIENCE that I don’t know what sex is.
Oh wait – maybe he means I don’t know what great sex is, because maybe fat people struggle or something with great sex? PLEASE. I’ve had great, I’ve had good, and I’ve had bad to horrible. And you know what? In all of these experiences it had NOTHING to do with my size. It had everything to do with the love, care, and respect that the other person and I had for each other. I’m pretty sure that the qualities of love, care and respect matter whether you are fat or thin.
AWESOME post! Thanks so much for what you do!
Wow, so sorry you had to deal with that. Gotta love when someone you don’t know tells you what your life experience is *rolls eyes*.
Keep on with your awesome self!!
Also, it’s frustrating that he does consider that his job depends on body hatred – as I’m sure your analysis is dead on – because it so doesn’t have to. A good personal trainer helps, encourages and teaches so that people can do awesome things with their body.
What kind of screwed up world do we live in where telling people they suck is somehow supposed to be encouragement?
If I wasn’t so busy hiking, swimming, and walking around the hilly town of Bled, Slovenia at the moment, I’d start a posse to kick that so called “trainer”‘s ass. Oh, and this is with a pulled muscle in my back. Imagine how much more awesome my trip here would be if I didn’t have the injury. Wouldn’t be having sex cause I didn’t bring the husband, but the hiking and swimming would have been even more vigorous.
Is there a support group or forum for individuals with health issues, disabilities, inability (or unwillingness) to exercise? I guess I feel a bit intimidated by all of the athletes…. I have serious joint issues that limit my ability to get in great shape, although I’m way more energetic than most 55-year-old women — sort of a busy beaver trapped in a achy cage. It’s difficult going through life with everyone assuming I’m making excuses, that my inherited spine problems would go away if I would put down the fork or at least go to the gym (I build a lot of movement into my day, but of course that doesn’t count if someone is looking for a way to make it All Your Own Fault). I realize no one here is judging me, even if I just didn’t feel like moving…but can someone recommend a website for folks like me?
I don’t know of any off the top of my head, but Feminists with Disabilities (http://disabledfeminists.com/), though it’s no longer active, may be a good place to start looking, between their blogroll and various posts and comments.
All I can say is that I feel your pain. Literally. I have arthritis. I do my best, but although I would be thrilled to do so, hard-core exercising is not for me. It would just make things worse.
What a fucking idiot.
He dismisses you as merely an ‘average’ ballroom dancer after he’s just said that you cannot possibly even tie your shoes or walk up a flight of stairs? I think one needs to be fit enough to do those things to be a dancer at all!
Besides being rude, he fails at logic.
I hated that man with a grande passion before reading about your experience with him. Now I’m pissed off and hate him with a grande passion. He’s going to be getting a whole lot of active fat photos from me. That is if I can calm down enough so I don’t say something I’ll come to regret;) Can I say it here? What a fucking tool.
I’m horrified that I Iive in the same province as him but hey…all the closer to protest against!
Thank you for this post and all the work you do! I’m still laughing my ass off at the shoe tying part, weee!
Thanks for the shout out, and good job tying your shoes. Next, you should teach Paul how to tie his.
It might be difficult to teach Paul that, considering how far down his throat he’s shoved his foot…
Love how he keeps mentioning that obese people struggle with self esteem so they “all” want to lose, etc. and then flips the coin and makes comments about quality of life, escalators, etc. Well, of course I’d have shitty self esteem if I listened to people like him. At the very least it wouldn’t improve how I felt about myself unless…unless I followed the herd and believed that beauty and a good quality of life is directly associated with being thin. Because people like him say so? (really, laughing out loud at that thought).
That beauty = thin?
That quality of life = thin?
Wow, amazing how others try to supplant what should be our own, unique viewpoint on beauty and related. Not the store bought version that holds no useful value for humanity other than the lining of pockets with gold. Wait, the US $$ is no longer backed by gold…
I watched the episode and found it awfully amusing that he was so angry and felt the need to consistently interrupt. Apparently to “prove his point”? I’ve noted that people who realize their view point is flawed are often the ones that argue loudest and most vehemently. Or those who stand to lose. Or those who cannot grasp the fact that their words, in truth, are meaningless and so they just talk in order to hear themselves. I wonder what is the cause of his root of self absorption? In all honesty everything he said was combative, unsupported and really, he sounded like a petulant child that should be sent to their room for behaving badly. And people pay him $$ to be treated like this? I would hope he treats his clientele better than what was indicated by his rude commentary.
He strikes me as being very poorly educated overall and definitely doesn’t understand that it’s not his job to judge others, no matter the circumstances. People suffer in many ways, shapes and forms. And some do not. It is the right of the individual to determine what their life holds for them. Not to be humiliated en masse because of stereotypes, false information, bigotry, hatred, anger, jealously, money, etc.
On another note, I was quite impressed with Dr. Arya Sharma and his ability to articulate and explain, with compassion, his point of view.
Ya’ know, I’m trying to figure out now what things I’ve missed out in life because I’ve ranged in the type II or type III realm. Can’t think of any right now unless underwater basket weaving counts…
Oh god. 🙂
Thank you, Ragen! I needed to have those grinning, shoe-tying photos and the grinning cuddly photo and the memory of your dance video choreography to JoCo’s Baby Got Back… my day is better now.
Mood redirect in progress…
I’m 6’0″, 165 lbs, and I’m nowhere near flexible enough to tie my shoes in four different ways like that. Gotta say, I’m a little jealous.
Ragen, you are an incredible speaker. Very articulate. Paul is an asshat. He even sits like one. Even his body language was disrespectful. I was just shaking my head the entire time.
I watched the video. He seems so irrational, and has no facts to back up what he’s saying. He just says the same thing over and over again and different tempos and volumes.
Dr. Sharma speaks very respectfully though, and Paul could learn a few things.
To be fair, I tie my tennis shoes once and then just slip them on my feet with them already tied from then on, but they’re still the shoes I use to go on 4 mile hilly walks with my boyfriend, or go use the elliptical for an hour, so who cares how I put them on?
This is the reason why I am so glad that I have expanded my vocabulary to deconstruct what I am REALLY feeling when I want to say “ugh I feel faaaaaat.”. I don’t feel fat, I feel awkward. I don’t feel fat, I feel fatigued. Etc. This helps me to feel more in tune with my body and figure out my needs. Do I need a nap? A snack to energize me? A cuddle with a loved one? It focuses my brain on caring for myself instead of egging on the internal Peanut Gallery of Well Of Course You Are Not Good Enough Now Let Me Count The Ways.
I think that this is the ugly, barely disguised messages of people like this Paul guy. They di not want us to care for ourselves, to constantly seek validation from people who hate and feel superior to us by acting abusively, and to generally feel uncomfortable in our own bodies.
I have found that even losing weight to a “normal” single digit size did not fix any of my insecurities. And upon achieving said body reduction, my mom said to me “well, now you just need to lose x more pounds and…”. I realised that my weight had nothing to do with it. I am more comfortable in my body than I have ever been, and so far I have finally achieved weight homeostasis (which is my personal goal-not weight loss or gain, just a comfortable and natural weight that is best for me).
I am also adamant about my exercise. I love bicycling and would be crushed if I had to stop doing it. That is what I feel exercise should be for me- something that I love, that my life would be less fun without. I do not have to “stick with it”- I actively seek it out because, fancy that, I like doing fun enriching things!
Sometimes I think that when someone says “you cannot do x” when that is exactly what I want to do, it only makes me resolve to do it even more.
OHNOES what will happen if fat people loke thenselves and lead fulfilling lives? ……they will enjoy life? I fail to see the downside here, unless the downside is that bigoted pricks wont be able to determine the majority of their self worth by abusing and shaming people they think are inferior. Oh boo hoo assholes, do cry me a river.
I still haven’t brought myself to watch the panel. I know Paul Plakas’ beliefs too well. I’ve seen X-Weighted for multiple seasons and his rampant dehumanizing, fat-phobic, presumptuousness leaves me feeling so angry that I want to bash things, and I can’t afford to replace bashed things. It’s a shame that you even had to write this post and part of me thinks it’s best to just leave him alone cuz he’s unlikely to change his beliefs and consider the HAES approach to be valid, since he’s gifted by magically knowing other people’s experiences just by virtue of knowing their weight! But doing nothing and leaving him to remain smugly pompous in his fat hate isn’t the answer either. I suppose you’re right – living well is the best “revenge” but oooh, do I wanna teach him a lesson about how it feels to be anything other than a hard bodied fitness trainer.
As soon as my daughter comes home from school I’m going to have her take a picture of me tying my shoes, of me climbing the two flights of stairs to my apartment. Maybe we’ll send him videos! He doesn’t get a picture of me and my hot and handsome husband having sex; we don’t do porn for free!
Wow…to tell you to your face, “I beg to differ…” is the same thing as saying, “My reality is more valid than yours.” He sounds like someone who cannot admit he is wrong, in any area. Or that maybe the legions of fat women he has mentally twisted under his control TO LOSE WEIGHT OR DIE will suddenly lift their heads and say, “Hang on a sec…this guy’s kind of a wanker…” and march out of his fiefdom taking their money with them.
Guy needs a long walk off a short pier.
No, let’s keep him around for a while. He should continue to be used as the anti-fat guy whenever there is a program about fat stigma, because he so transparently demonstrates that people who are biased against fat people are jerks. I mean, he didn’t try to sugar-coat his opinions at all. Kind of like Todd Akin…he gives you a real idea of what his “party” is all about.
Ack – he’s so right! My life TOTALLY sux as a fattie. Let’s see now – starting as a young overweight person… was a regionally ranked swimmer in the US and nationally ranked overseas – where I swam for Kenya’s national team and held a butterfly record for 7 yrs. Not just for my age and gender group but for the age group ahead of me and also the boys age group. Competed against olympians – and sometimes even won =). Am a kick ass sailor and weight lifter and competed in those as well. In fact I was the only western woman who was strong enough to train at “Mr Taiwan’s” gym when I lived there. Competed in triathalons in college. Took up gymnastics at the age of 30. Climbed Table Mountain in RSA and part of Mt Kenya.
Professional life – lived, worked and was schooled on 4 continents in three languages. Been around the world 9 times. Worked for fortune 500 companies as an IT consultant. Owned several businesses. Am a locally known and respected landscape designer and permaculturist.
I’ve had sexual partners of both genders and transgenders. I’m a fan of body piercing for “my pleasure” and am here to give a shout out to Elayne and Buck Angle (miss you and “Rings of Desire” in New Orleans).
You can see where being a fattie has held me back. Most recently, my immense body totally stopped me from endless hours of walking on the awesome beaches of New Zealand, hiking the rainforests and hanging out with several world renown pacific island surfers at Raglan (surfer town).
All this when I have never been less than “obese” and have mostly been categorized as “OMGdeathfat”. Oh – and for the past 8 yrs, I have been legally blind.
So to sum up – FAT, BLIND and A W E S O M E!!!
Yeah, this guy is a total jerk, and I’m so sorry you had to deal with him. I have to say, though, that he triggered my shame and body image crap cuz, you know what, it IS really difficult for me to walk up a flight of stairs, it IS a bit of a challenge for me to find a position where I can easily tie my shoes, and, well, no one has demonstrated any interest in having sex with me in years, so I can’t answer that one. I am super fat and I also have foot/leg pain after surgeries over the last few years, so part of my deficits are due to pain, but honestly for me, a lot is due to my size. However – this does not mean I’m going to (unsuccessfully, again) try to lose weight. It does mean I’m going to keep swimming, scuba diving, finding things I can do that I enjoy, eating healthy (ok, working on that one), and doing my best to ignore asshats like this guy. I can’t even imagine having an ego like his!!
Good for you. Love your attitude.
Yay! Happy birthday to me! I don’t exist either. When our daughter was born, we lived in a third floor walk-up apartment. We lived there for about three years, and I was fat the whole time. I weighed about 290 (I’m 5’1ish) when I got pregnant (the traditional way with just me and my husband present), walked up the stairs to our apartment the whole time. Though I’ll admit I did get slower as I got more pregnant, and by the time I was 8 months pregnant I’d go grocery shopping and leave everything that wasn’t cold in the car for my husband to bring up when he got home. My daughter was born by c-section on a Thursday, and I made it back up the stairs to our apartment on Sunday. It took about 10 – 15 minutes and I sat on the couch for 45 minutes refusing to move afterwards, but my fat recovering from abdominal surgery butt made it up. And I’m nowhere near as fit/flexible as you are. I wish I had photographic proof since he probably wouldn’t believe the three adult witnesses, though my dad’s fat too so obviously he wasn’t with my step-mom walking behind me to make sure I didn’t kill myself. In Paul’s defense, I don’t remember the last time I tied my shoes, but that probably has more to do with usually wearing sandals because I wear skirts almost exclusively and can’t stand that tennis shoes with skirts look, combined with it being hot as blue blazes this time of year in Alabama and less to do with my capability of doing so.
“we don’t have interventions that are shown to change body size long term”
Sure we do. Antidepressants. At 5’8″ I weighed 140 pounds at age 27, and then I was put on antidepressants. Two years later I weighed 260 pounds. We’ve got an almost foolproof way to change body size – if we want to increase it! Yeah, I’m bitter. I don’t feel like I’m wearing my own body anymore, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to get it back.
This is a huuuuge dichotomy in the medical community. Put people on drugs that are likely to cause them to gain weight, and then shake the finger at them when they do gain weight. Really helpful there. Particularly when the person is coming in for treatment of a psych condition.
I just wanted to say that guy is a complete and utter douche. His argument of knowing because ‘he’s been around people who…’ made me want to wring his neck. I’m sorry, as an audio technician, that would be the equivalent of me saying I know how to voice act because I’m around voice actors. Or I know how to play the piano because I recorded a piano piece for someone. I may get the result of years of practice, but that doesn’t put me there learning right next to them. I don’t know their pitfalls or their moments of enlightenment – I get what they have at that moment. That’s it.
It’s in the same vein as Dr. Oz. Of course he’s going to be getting fat people who complain about them being fat – he’s a personal trainer! I wouldn’t expect him to see a healthy, happy, fat person signing up to be fat bashed and ridiculed!
Such a closed-minded person. It’s a shame.
the woman who loves herself acts with poise and graced while the boy who hates himself spews verbal diarhea and disgraces himself. the camera certainly hides nothing.
Ah Paul Plakas. You know, the way he looks is not his fault. Poor guy, when you look up the word “smirk” in the dictionary, there’s just a picture of Paul Plakas. Yes, and when you look up “smug”, wouldn’t you know it, there he is again!
Call me a masochist, but I used to watch his TV show from time to time while exercising. If you want to avoid it at all costs (and I wouldn’t blame you for doing so), it’s called “X-Weighted” (ha, ha, great joke–sarcasm, alert).
Of course, every week the show featured junk-food eating, lazy, fat slobs who only saw the light after being severely brow-beaten both physically and mentally by Plakas for SIX months.
Ragen, despite Plakas’s constant interruptions, eye-rolling, smirking and general mugging for the camera, you were nevertheless able to express yourself cogently and forcefully without stooping to his level or responding in (justifiable) anger to his insults.
Dr. Sharma, I must say, was quite good but he just couldn’t stand up to Plakas.
Actually, I would love to hear a debate between you and Sharma. Now THAT would be interesting.
Speaking of folks who can’t dance, I think I would pay real money to watch Paul try to “start that barre work early” and tie *his* shoes in a grande battement position.
So would I. Should we take up a collection?
I’d chip in!
Just went to Plakas’s Facebook page: mostly it’s full of haters congratulating him on being so wonderful. One person even said she was upset at how Sharma and Ragen kept….hold on to your hats…interrupting him!
Makes me sick.
I saw that. Made me want to put a gun to my head, to be honest.
The people who are congratulating him are probably already fans of his. I would guess that the vast majority of people who watched that interview would conclude that Plakas has no idea what he is talking about, and would also be impressed with Dr. Sharma and Ragen. But maybe I’m overly hopeful and naive.
Nah, put the gun to his head. Better yet, put it to his butt. That’s where he keeps his brain.
Sad he is so negative.
I wanna know more about you and “Julianne”! Is that the same Julianne who is prez of NAAFA and went on that show with The Fat Chick? A blog post about queer fat romance, please!
I agree! You two are just about the cutest couple in the world! I think we need to hear and see more about sexy queer love among fat pride royalty. Mwah!
Should I send him a copy of the video of me, age 41, 330 pounds, giving birth to a live baby that was not conceived through artificial insemination?? What an idiot!
I was a fat chick who couldn’t walk up a couple of flight of stairs without getting out of breath. I was also coughing heaps.
So my new GP sent me to a breathing specialist (after the old one told me I was snacking too much and that was why my cholesterol was high! The new GP sent me to another specialist too – I had adrenal fatigue and it was my kidneys in distress!!!). The breathing specialist ran a few tests, and diagnosed a reflux condition that was sending stomach acid into my lungs! He put me on something to calm that, and a different asthma medication as well. Bingo, without losing any weight, I could walk up a couple of flights of stairs without any issues at all, and as many flights of stairs as I needed to and have my legs give out before my lungs 🙂
Wow. What an ass! I am also Type 3 obese, but have run 3 triathlons in the last year. That’s right – 1/2 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. I will send him a picture of me crossing the finish line. What a douche.
Ragen, this post was brilliant. You are brilliant. Paul…is a douchecanoe.
I think I might send him an email. And say that not only can I tie my own shoes (what does he think we are?! Five years old?!), climb stairs and have (amazing) sex with my hubby…but I have also been accepted into one of the top journalism schools in the country, have been published in two major newspapers (as a student), have written a short story that is being turned into a short film (I’m also associate screenwriter for the project), planned one kick ass wedding, organised a charity knitting drive after the Christchurch earthquake, won awards for my stage plays and short stories and was Salutorian of my graduating high school class. All of this while I was (am) overweight.
Screw you, Paul. We are fat, here us roar.
Great post, and super comments everyone. Not much to add, since I totally agree especially with the last line of the post just above this one, but…
Am fat. Just went for a 20km bike ride, in shoes with laces ‘n’ all. And had awesome sex this morning. Just sayin’.
Thank You! I love it. There are NOT enough voices and there is NOT enough support for women loving their bodies at every size. What a powerful way to tear down some stereotypes. This fat girl approves.
I think overall, that was a very successful interview! Paul Plakas made himself look like a dumb loudmouth in that interview, while you and Dr. Sharma looked so eloquent and intelligent. I hope lots of people see it!
It did frustrate me how at the end, when Paul Plakas said that lots of fat people feel bad about themselves and want to change, both you and Dr. Sharma were trying to point out that fat people feel bad about themselves because of SOCIAL STIGMA, not because there is something inherently wrong with being fat, but Plakas wouldn’t let either of you talk. I think in instances like that, the host should step in, but of course that seldom happens.
Ragen, I know you’re really concerned about the effectiveness of how you fight for fat acceptance, so I want to see if I can’t help you understand the problems I see with the tack you’re taking here. Please understand, I’m not talking about your personal opinions or attitudes, I’m talking about the effect your words have, specifically because I think they are at odds with what you want to accomplish.
Politicians talk about rejecting or accepting the premise of a question. It’s about whether or not you let your opponents determine the framing on the topic, because when you let them frame it, you’re ceding ground to them. To use a really blunt example, if an anti-abortion protestor says to me, “Why would you want to kill your baby?” and I reply, “Because I didn’t want it!” then I have accepted the premise. If, instead, I say, “I didn’t kill any baby. I chose not to continue a pregnancy that was harming my body and my life, and the product of which I could not care for,” I am rejecting the premise.
You accepted the premise. When you chose to primarily defend yourself against claims that you couldn’t dance or have sex or climb stairs because you were fat, you accepted the premise that there is something wrong with people who can’t do those things. Of course the falsehood that fatties can’t do those things must be addressed, just as the falsehood that Pagans are all devil worshippers must be addressed. But making that the thing you address first and foremost puts the focus in the wrong place and doesn’t address the true issue: People deserve rights as people, fat or thin, able-bodied or not, Pagan or Christian, devil-worshipper or atheist.
Far more effective is to say, “So, you’re saying that people who can’t climb stairs, dance, or have sex don’t deserve to be treated with respect? You’re saying they’re less than other people? Wow. Not only are you saying things that are obviously untrue about fat people, you’re now insulting a great many people who aren’t fat, but who are disabled or have other health issues. You’re saying that not everyone deserves to be able to live a full life.” If you start by objecting to the smaller wrong thing — the lie that fat people can’t do things — then you are sending the unspoken message to others that there is something wrong with people who can’t do those things.
I know, you don’t want to let him get away with speaking those lies against you and other fat people who can do those things, and you don’t have to let him. But focusing primarily on that leaves people who can’t do those things hanging out to dry.
You have a tendency in general to do this, not always, but in many of your posts here and talks elsewhere, to focus first on the fact that fat people CAN be healthy, CAN be fit, CAN be athletes, and then, seemingly as an afterthought, to say, “But nobody HAS to be healthy!” Sometimes you say it only when someone reminds you. It generates the impression that being healthy is more important to you, and that people who aren’t healthy are not as important, not as worth talking about. I generates the impression, frankly, that disabled people are not worthy of your defense or attention, because so much of the time, you don’t defend them or give them your attention.
Your underpants rule, while great, tends to be an abstract thing, and your posts on it tend not to directly talk about people who have health problems, who are disabled, or who just have no interest in being fit. You sometimes talk about us in the abstract, but you don’t spend the kind of time and attention on us personally and concretely as you do on fat athletes and fit fatties. Again, you give your attention and your space to one kind of fat person, far and away above other kinds.
If you want to be a truly effective advocate for all fat people, those of us who are unfit and/or disabled as well as the athletes and the people who can and do work out and eat well and who enjoy good health, then perhaps this is something you should work on. Because right now, your advocacy is unbalanced.
You have a really good point, but I think you may be expecting too much – not from Ragen but from her “opponents”. I think many people who think being fat is bad are either offended by it aesthetically, or associate it with the stereotypical negative character traits like sloth and gluttony. If they rant against fat as being bad, they cannot say they think it’s ugly because that makes them shallow – so they say “it’s unhealthy” and can mask their bias under concern trolling. The idea that you cannot be fat and healthy is really the only card anti-fat people have to play – so it is what FA advocates like Ragen find themselves defending against the most often. I appreciate that Ragen talks about fit fatties because, as she mentioned in one blog post, they are treated like the mythical unicorn. I am one of those fatties who used to be unhealthy because I didn’t believe I could be fat and healthy – Ragen showed me it was possible.
As her experience with Paul the Asshat shoes, the life that Ragen is living is actually *in direct opposition* to the expectations of anti-fat individuals. I feel that since these kind of people expect fatties to be unfit and/or disabled, confronting them with exactly what they expect only reinforces their bias. Yes, you should face them and say “I am a fat disabled person who is worthy of respect, and my health is none of your business.” And most likely they will simply smirk and go on their way, pitying the poor fatty who obviously brought their bad health on themselves, etc. etc. It is the Catch-22 of dealing with people who believe that respect has to be “earned,” and that some individuals “deserve” to be treated badly because of who they are – you find yourself trying to “earn” respect because they won’t automatically give into your demand for it…or they put you on the defensive by accusing you of not deserving it.
Challenging someone’s bias is very difficult, but it is how you shake things up. When fat advocates try and advocate for all fat people, the most common push back they get is all the health/quality-of-life crap the Paul Plakas of the world are trying to cling to. It would be awesome if we said “All fat people deserve respect” and everyone said “Okay.” But the conversation usually goes as follows:
FA: “Fat people deserve respect.”
Antifatty: “Fat people are (insert stereotype about laziness and gluttony here).”
FA (could say lazy gluttons deserve respect but doesn’t know how to defend that): “Not all fat people are (stereotype).”
AF: “Really? Huh.” (Unless they are more entrenched in which case they just call FA a liar and it degenerates from there).
Of course you want to stay on topic – fat people deserve respect. But how do you get that respect? What is the argument – and yes there will be an argument. We may wish it wasn’t an issue up for debate but obviously not everyone thinks fat people deserve respect; hence the advocacy!
When we try and advocate for ourselves, the only defense our opponents have against it is to accuse us of not being worthy of advocacy – we aren’t productive members of society so we aren’t worth defending. Yes it would be better not to sink to their level and say “yes we are too and here’s why” – but if they are arguing from a flawed premise, we feel the need to point out the flaw.
I really agree that what Paul said was an insult to everyone and not just fat people, but it was directed at fat people during a discussion of the same, so I can see why Ragen would respond in the same fat/health context. I doubt someone as myopic as Paul was willing or able to hear any larger truths, since even the small ones were whistling over his pointed head.
The belief that all people deserve respect and to not be discriminated against because of who they are is a huge, wonderful idea that seems both impossible yet painfully simple. Why *can’t* everyone be treated with respect? And yet it continues to happen. Why? I believe it is in part because people justify their poor treatment of others by assigning them a lower value to suggest they are deserving of the mistreatment. They find a trait (race, gender, sexuality, weight), label it “bad” and then everyone with that trait becomes “bad” and therefore deserving of disrespect and discrimination. How do you fight the “bad” labeling?
I am really curious what you think the most powerful and effective inclusive form of advocacy would be. What is the message and how would you communicate it?
I suppose you can advocate for all people some of the time, and for some people all of the time, but I don’t think you can advocate for all people all the time – if you believe it is possible I would be eager to hear how because it would be of huge value to the FA movement.
You can actually say BOTH “People with health problems and disabilities are still worthy of respect and a high quality of life” AND “Fat people can be fit, too.” I’m not saying Ragen should stop saying the latter. I’m saying that the emphasis she’s placing on the latter is disproportionate, and makes it sound less like she’s advocating for the former.
There are actually a lot of techniques for doing this kind of thing. One of them is to study and talk about intersectionality, the concept that different forms of disadvantage have bearing on one another. Being fat intersects with being disabled, and makes the social effects of both worse. Being fat AND disabled AND a woman AND queer has effects, too. So you can talk about how being fat and being disabled are not the same and many fat people are fit, and then say, “But then, there are definitely disabled fat people, and when people like Paul say shit like this, they are being bigoted against both fat people and disabled people, and those two things affect one another, and make it extra hard to be fat and disabled.” If you really want to know more about how to talk about how multiple oppressions affect one another, and how people who are part of one disadvantaged group can be supportive of people from other disadvantaged groups — something which is very important, and something which Fat Acceptance, like many movements, has had a lot of problems with — go do some reading on intersectionality. There’s a lot out there about it.
You can also say, “Well, actually, Paul, that’s a baldfaced lie. There are millions of fit fatties out there, and a whole stack of studies showing that fat people can be healthy, too, and I’d be happy to point you to some of those. But that’s secondary. The entire idea that a person has to be healthy to be a worthy human being is complete bullshit. If that’s your standard of who gets to have a nice life, then what happens to someone who gets cancer? Do they not deserve a nice life anymore? Someone who loses a leg? Someone who has depression? Someone who has chronic pain? Where do you draw the line? At what point are you really saying, ‘Only people like me deserve to be happy’?”
And convincing haters like Paul isn’t the reason to challenge him. Nothing is ever going to change his opinion, in all likelihood. No amount of proof or argument is going to budge him. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool bigot, and that’s that. But we don’t know who all was listening to that panel. Maybe there was a disabled fatty in the audience who didn’t hear any support in Ragen’s words and now doesn’t feel welcome in FA. Or a disabled thin person who walked away with the idea that fat abled people aren’t allies to him. Or someone who was already persuaded that being fat was ok as long as you’re healthy, but who really needed to hear that being fat and having health problems was ok, too, because they hadn’t gotten it yet. We don’t know. We can’t. When we speak in public, we have to remember that, and be as supportive as we can of people who aren’t just like us.
There have been a lot of criticisms of Fat Acceptance in disability activist communities for precisely these reasons: In far too many FA spaces, there’s no room for being fat and unhealthy. There’s a false dichotomy of “good fatty” and “bad fatty” — it’s ok to be fat if you work out and eat a certain way and all your numbers are good, but if not, well, then you’re doing it wrong and you’re not ok, and you need to fix yourself, fatty! Given this pattern of problems, it behooves fat activists who do support disabled people and people with health problems to voice that support, often and loudly. These problems overlap and intersect, and we need to be aware of it.
The entire concept of “health” that was have in the US, and in many other “first world” nations, is problematic from the ground up, actually. It’s popularly considered to be a binary between healthy and unhealthy, that health is an absolute state, which of course isn’t true at all. And the way we define “health” has problems not only around fat, but around race, class, and other issues. I don’t want to derail too much talking about this, but again, there’s a lot of information out there. I’d really prefer to see FA as a whole get away from words like “health” and “fit” entirely. It’s really not that difficult to talk about activity, athleticism, metabolic functions, and food choices without ever using those words. All you have to do is break it down and talk about each thing independently — which really isn’t hard, since all of them are different things.
Thank you SO much for explaining this the way you did. This has really helped me to think more about how to change the argument/discussion from the get-go, rather than participate in an exchange that I would believe, is flawed from the start. I’m going to save this post so I can refer back to it, as assistance for future debates/discussions.
There’s a false assumption in the argument above that I’d like to address, namely:
Fatties proving that we can be fat and fit = changing the bigots’ minds.
The evidence that fat people can be fit or that yes, we might be at higher risk of diabetes than thin people but the numbers still teensy (just 11 out of a 1000 fat people with diabetes as opposed to 2 out of a 1000 ‘normal’ weight people with diabetes) is out there already. The evidence that diets don’t work is not only out there but is being proved in front of the eyes of these scientists every day.
If the kind of research these TV doctors and researchers were trained to read and understand isn’t convincing them, why would one fat person’s anecdotal story?
In fact, those kinds of “but I can be fit, too!” anecdotes just reinforce that it’s okay to judge people for their health. That it’s okay to use health as this arbitrary weapon to justify discriminating against some groups of people. That an individual’s health is someone else’s business. That is the philosophy that gave birth to and has been propping up fat hate and discrimination for years.
I understand the urge to health mythbust. That used to be what 90% of fat activism was about. And I think mythbusting has a big place in any sort of activism, because it’s important to pull apart the web of lies that holds us in fatphobic thrall.
But just as, “You have such a pretty smile!” often comes with the silent subtext for fat people: “…but the rest of you disgusts me,” arguing that “You’re wrong to discriminate against fat people for being unhealthy, because fat people can be healthy too,” comes with the silent subtext: “…but you’d be right if we weren’t healthy, and further, you’re justified in your disgust of lazy unfit fat people.”
Moral panics against certain groups of people have been going on for a very long time. It’s amazing how similar the language is that’s used to demonize each group:
“Group X is lazy, slothful, burdens, genetically inferior, not to be trusted.”
You don’t ultimately disassemble the moral panic by arguing that Group X is in fact productive, genetically the same, and trustworthy. Because that’s ceding the bigots their premise: that they have the right to demonize Group X in the first place.
Moral panics are very difficult to root out. The base moral panic underlying the obesity epipanic is Healthism. That people who ‘aren’t healthy’ aren’t full citizens. That people who don’t pay proper penance by eating the right foods and doing the right exercise are undue ‘burdens’ on the rest of us. Fat people are merely the scapegoats of this underlying moral panic, and the so-called obesity epidemic is its expression.
If you need no other evidence at all, realize that obesity rates haven’t measurably increased in several years, and these TV doctors, researchers, even TED speakers are still going on and on and on about how we’re “in an obesity epidemic.”
This isn’t about facts. The evidence that they’re wrong and we’re right is already out there. This is about propaganda, demonization, and scapegoating. We need a new argument, not to throw fat people who aren’t paragons of Healthist virtue under the bus. The latter will only ultimately divest our cause of its full power.
“If the kind of research these TV doctors and researchers were trained to read and understand isn’t convincing them, why would one fat person’s anecdotal story? ”
Perhaps it isn’t about convincing the TV doctors (Ragen isn’t the jackass whisperer, afterall) – perhaps it is about offering those watching the interview information about an option other than hating themselves and buying into the lies that Paul (and much of society) was spewing?? In addition, there is a comment below by Leslie Owen with references for studies that show that this method IS more effective – even on jackasses, perhaps!
Oh, and perhaps the interview was cutoff halfway through for you, because I heard Ragen talk about social stigma and I am pretty sute that can apply to all fat people, not just fat athletes or fat able bodied people.
Seriously, “jackass whisperer” is the best phrase I’ve heard in awhile. I will be stealing it and using it often!
And it is precisely for those watching that we need to be careful to be supportive of all kinds of fatties when we make public appearances as fatties.
And no, the social stigma of fat is not the same for all fatties. There’s a huge amount of intersectionalism around that stigma. Men and women experience it differently, able-bodied and disabled experience it differently, white and people of color experience it differently.
Apologies if this comes across all convoluted and higgledy-piggledy, as I’ve got a bit of a cold and haven’t had my coffee yet!
To be honest, I don’t believe at all that Ragen is an ineffective advocate for all fat people. For example- I am no athlete and my physical fitness certainly could be better. I certainly can’t do the splits and I very much doubt you’ll see me win any dance champs! I could certainly practice much healthier habits than I do.
But yet, this blog has changed my life. It has shown me that I do not need to rabbit-food myself down to a Size Zero in order to be healthy. It’s shown me that physical movement is something that can be enjoyed, and it doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s shown me that diets really do not work, and I don’t have to put myself through that hell anymore. And, it’s showing me that loving my body as it is really is possible, despite what the world at large thinks. Yet- I’m not athletic and have no desire to be.
I personally don’t find that Ragen puts fat athletes ahead of other types of fat people. And, I have seen plenty of posts of hers which do support fat people with disabilities (though maybe there does need to be more focus on this) and posts arguing that it *is* OK to be unfit, because your personal health is no-one’s goddamn business. And that we, as fat people, do not owe anyone fitness or health.
As for Ragen’s exchange with Paul the Douchecanoe…I, as an unfit fatty, loved what she said, because I love to see her fighting stereotypes. Not just the stereotype that fat people can’t be fit and athletic, but the stereotype that we can’t do basic things, such as tie our shoes and have sex (which, as a married woman, I find extremely offensive). Me, I apply this to other areas of my life, and I consider that in everything I do- kicking ass at university, getting my work published, walking up the aisle at my wedding, having coffee with my mates- is fighting the stereotype that fat people are lazy, slovenly, unattractive, untalented, friendless etc etc. And Ragen has given me the confidence to do all of that, and more.
I definitely see what you’re saying, and I think that, yes, there does need to be more focus on disabilities in the FA space…but I just thought I’d offer my personal experience as an unfit fatty, whose life has been changed by this blog. All just my $0.02. 🙂
To be honest, I don’t believe at all that Ragen is an ineffective advocate for all fat people.
And yet, many fat people, both currently able-bodied and currently disabled, do actually feel, and say, that she is not a good or effective advocate for them. I am not saying she does not do good things or have a positive effect. I am saying she could do even better, if she chose to do so.
I personally don’t find that Ragen puts fat athletes ahead of other types of fat people.
I, and others, do, both personally and conceptually. That is, I feel excluded by some of her posts personally, and there’s a lot of activist theory and experience that shows that what she’s doing actually and concretely has the effect of excluding people. Your feeling that she doesn’t exclude you doesn’t negate that. Your feeling that she doesn’t exclude others presumes that you know more about other people’s lives and experiences than they do. If people feel excluded by Ragen’s behavior, then they are in fact being excluded.
As for Ragen’s exchange with Paul the Douchecanoe…I, as an unfit fatty, loved what she said, because I love to see her fighting stereotypes.
And, again, this does not negate other people’s reactions to it.
I know perfectly well that many people loved what Ragen said, whether they’re fit or not. I’ve read this thread. I know that Ragen has a lot of fans. I know that she does some very good work. None of which means that she can’t do better, and none of which makes the problem here less problematic.
There is, actually, an awful lot of discussion of precisely this problem — about this particular post, about this tendency of Ragen’s in general, and about this pattern as shown in a lot of FA people’s behavior and attitudes in general — going on out there, whether or not you’re aware of it. This is not a new problem or a new criticism of Ragen. I’m the one who chose to address it first here in this comment thread, and honestly I did so in much gentler terms than other people did so elsewhere about this post. I very much doubt that I am the first person to directly address this criticism to Ragen, though. I wish that Ragen would respond to and engage with those of us who criticize this behavior. I wish even more that she would work on modifying her behavior. I think it’s entirely inappropriate for an activist not to admit to some accountability for their actions when their actions are problematic.
“Your feeling that she doesn’t exclude you doesn’t negate that. Your feeling that she doesn’t exclude others presumes that you know more about other people’s lives and experiences than they do.”
My apologies if you feel as though I’m trying to negate the experiences of other people. Believe me, that’s not what I was trying to get across. I was just trying to explain what the situation was for me personally, and how I, as someone who is not an athlete feels about the situation. I was not trying to offend or exclude anyone. But clearly I did.
Have you tried emailing Ragen personally?
The thing is, when you respond to “This has the effect of not advocating for everyone,” with, “But I feel like she does advocate for everyone,” that very much does sound like you’re saying that your feeling that she does is more important.
And really, no one who reads this blog regularly — and if you read through the comments, you’ll see that I do, I think, although I certainly don’t comment on everything I read here — can be unaware that Ragen has had a big effect on many people’s lives. And that’s terrific. It really and truly is.
When you respond to criticism of her, though, with, “But she’s done these awesome things!” it comes across as through you think that means the criticism is not valid.
Other awesome things Ragen has done don’t actually have bearing on this criticism.
I have not contacted her privately, and I don’t intend to. It is my considered opinion, based on my own experience and many years’ worth of other people’s experiences, that these matters need to be discussed openly within activist communities. Other people need to see that the discussion is happening, and how it’s working out. It educates other people within the activist community on the issues involved, and it lets the people (here, disabled people) most affected by the issues see that they are actively being worked on, and that those people are valued, both by the person offering criticism and the person receiving it.
I absolutely agree we should discuss these things publicly. However, I don’t see the harm in contacting Ragen privately to get your opinion across. I can understand some of these comments will get missed, given how many people do comment here.
Again, I am sorry you feel invalidated by me, and I hope you and Ragen can have a constructive discussion. I, however, stand by my opinons on this issue.
Not invalidated by you, but by your words. I suggest to you, as I did to Ragen, that you simply choose your words with more care and more consideration as to their effect.
No harm, perhaps, but it is not what I do. Also, Ragen makes a habit of declining to respond to criticism of her behavior, including in threads where she is still actively commenting. History suggests that this is a choice, not her happening to miss the comments. Particularly as the sub-thread starting from my particular criticism has become rather substantial now.
Fair enough. It was just a suggestion. I’ll leave you alone now.
Please, ezzekazhall, do not feel bad about your comments about Ragen. You have done nothing wrong but speak out about how Ragen has influenced your life. You are being The Boss of Your Own Underpants.
“that very much does sound like you’re saying that your feeling that she does is more important.”
It very much sounds like you are trying to say that YOUR feelings are more important than ezzakazhall’s. I thought you’d like my opinion on that, seeing as though you clearly believe everyone wants yours.
Isn’t refusing to contact Ragen directly rather cowardly? Bringing the “fight” to the blog comments makes those of us who know nothing about this civil war within the fat acceptance movement uncomfortable. If you have issue, you take it up with Ragen personally or accept that others will and have disagreed with you.
You can call it whatever you want, because I don’t care. But making the rest of you aware of it is part of the point of talking about it here where you can see it. Maybe your discomfort will encourage you to educate yourself about it.
As for the idea that any activist should just “accept that others will and have disagreed with you,” as if that will shut us up, it is to laugh. Believe me, we know it well.
Again, I offer my apologies. I dunno, maybe I’m a little defensive of Ragen because her work has immeasurably changed my life. I was just trying to point out how positive it’s been from the point of view of someone who is not an athlete. I meant nothing more, nothing less. Invalidating the experiences of others was not my intention.
It’s understandable to be defensive of someone who’s had a significant positive effect on your life, but it’s important to understand that people who do things we love still have flaws and can do really problematic things, and to accept that.
I love the work of Anne McCaffrey. Her Harper Hall books were a huge influence on me when I was a teen. But she has said some frankly horrifying things about homosexuality — that people are imprinted, or indeed Impressed, with it, and that a young boy raped with a tent stake will be imprinted by the experience and turn out gay — and her work has many problems from a feminist perspective. I can acknowledge these problems, and continue to enjoy her work anyway, simply by accepting that people make mistakes and do things that hurt others, and sometimes they will never realize it or apologize, and that’s part of the human condition. Defending people whose work we love from legitimate criticism does them no favors, and can do significant harm.
“frankly horrifying” ??? You are comparing that to your issues with Ragen not saying the words YOU would choose to say should someone invite you on a TV interview?
No, I was trying to use a more extreme example of someone whose work I love saying and doing unpleasant things, and how you can handle it well even in much worse situations than this one.
Seriously, I criticize Ragen’s activism, and her fans start coming out in droves to treat me like I have done something horrible, like I have attacked her personally. All I’m saying is that there is a flaw in the way she presents these things that leaves out the concerns of disabled fatties and fatties with chronic health problems. If it is truly Ragen’s wish to be supportive of their concerns, then she, and her fans, ought to want to be aware of this, so it can be fixed.
” If people feel excluded by Ragen’s behavior, then they are in fact being excluded.”
Actually, they are ‘in fact’ *feeling* excluded. Feelings, while very valid and worthy of recognition, are not fact – they are reactions to personal experience/reality. Feelings are only factual to the person feeling them. If one person feels ‘included’ by Ragen’s writing and another feels ‘excluded’ – they are both right within their own experience. Saying someone is *being* excluded projects responsibility onto Ragen, and she shouldn’t be responsible for anyone else’s feelings. Lamenting what you perceive to be her shortcomings as an advocate is you sharing your opinion, not stating a fact.
Perfectly and beautifully said! Ragen’s blog has changed my life in all the same ways. Although, I am convinced that an athlete does exist somewhere in my psyche! I just haven’t found her yet. 😉
The premise was set by the interviewer. It was an interview on whether or not fat people can be fit. The premise was a QUESTION – and it sure wasn’t “that there is something wrong with people who can’t [tie their shoes, etc.].” Ragen was called as an expert on fat atheticism and HAES. For her to not answer the question posed would be ridiculous and ineffective. She answered the questions asked and then responded to a jackass who kept interupting her. Had Ragen been given uninterupted time to speak (or given a chance to have even one of her sentences not be interupted for that matter) perhaps she could have spoken more broadly. She fiercly and eloquently shared a strong HAES and SA message. Then, on her blog where she wasn’t being interupted by a jackass, she wrote:
“Of course if I could not climb stairs I would still be a good and worthy person and could still live a full life even though some idiot might think it’s ok to shame me for being disabled.”
“I will not allow others to make me feel ashamed and I will stand up for my friends of any size who use mobility assistance of any kind for any reason.”
“if you use a scooter to get around Disney World there should be exactly zero asshats who would say anything or even look at you sideways.”
“So if people are missing out on life experiences maybe it’s because when they try to experience life some jackass shames them and tries to take away their mobility aid.”
plus, during the interview AND on her blog, Ragen is very clear that she is speaking from HER OWN experience and perspective. She never claimed to speak for you or any other person.
Just to fatcarriesflavour- I do admit some of my words were ill chosen (like I said last time, I am sick and extremely tired from university, so my brain will have been a bit foggy)- but please be assured I was merely trying to challenge, not to invalidate. I was trying to offer my perspective as an “unfit fattie” who cannot do all the amazing things Ragen can do. You said that Ragen does not speak for people like us, but I was trying to say that I still find her work inspiring. I did also admit there probably is room for improvement, as there is any advocacy movement.
I also should have provided some links to her posts where she DOES speak on behalf of fat people with disabilities- as Rachel has already mentioned. Many times I have seen her say that people who are unfit and unhealthy deserve respect and dignity.
Again, I am not invalidating you. But…this is a public forum, and I have just as much right to speak on this issue as you do.
I am so tired of seeing Size Acceptance activists who do amazing work being bullied for “never doing enough” by a few people – often people whose only “contribution” to fat activism seems to be complaining that nobody does it in a way that satisfies them. Blogs are not meant to be everything to everybody. It seems like you would complain that a blog about fat fashion doesn’t talk enough about fat pet ownership because you happen to have a poodle. Ragen is a fat athlete, her blog is called Dances With Fat. If you are surprised that she talks a lot about fat athleticism then you aren’t paying enough attention. She also says REPEATEDLY, almost daily, that everyone of every size deserves respect, that health is personal and everyone gets to choose how to prioritize health and that it’s nobody else’s business, and that nobody owes health to anybody else. She does speak out about ableism (including a couple blogs ago and in this blog.) She also says IN THIS POST that she is speaking only for herself so again, if you’re surprised that everyone isn’t represented then I question your reading comprehension skills.
Ragen was asked, as a fat athlete, to go on a show to answer the question Can You be Fit and Fat and she stood beautifully and countered someone who tried to take away her voice, only to be bullied and criticized by someone else because her voice didn’t represent every fatty who ever lived. Every person does not need to be represented in every 15 minute television interview or every blog. Ragen chose to use her limited time to counter stereotypes, and fight for her right – and the right of each of us – to be considered the best witness to our experiences, to let fat people know that being an athlete might be an option for them if they are interested, and to assert that we do not solve social stigma through weight loss and she did it all while a bully tried to shout her down. That’s a completely legitimate use of that time, even if it isn’t what you would have said. (I imagine it’s also nice to sit behind your computer and have as much time as you want to compose your answers rather than having to give answers while someone yells at you.)
You said “Maybe there was a disabled fatty in the audience who didn’t hear any support in Ragen’s words and now doesn’t feel welcome in FA.” If that person thought that all of Fat Acceptance was encompassed by one person who was part of a three person panel that lasted 15 minutes, then that person is an idiot. Moreover, what if a person who doesn’t identify as fat but is affected by sizeism read your comment, saw that you used FA (Fat Acceptance) instead of SA (Size Acceptance) and thought that there was no place in Size Acceptance for them?
I used to get triggered every time someone else talked about their diet – I thought that it was a slight at me because I chose not to diet. Then I realized that the person was making a commentary on their own behavior and my taking it as a personal affront was a sign that I had not dealt with my own issues around food and food shame. Perhaps that’s what is happening here – Fat athletes get to tell their stories too, Ragen does a great job of speaking for herself and being clear that other people’s choices and experiences can be different and that’s fine. I think if you hear that and your reaction is “she told her story and not mine” then you might want to see if you have some internalized ableism and healthism because it’s not all about you all the time, and it doesn’t have to be. If indeed “Ragen makes a habit of declining to respond to criticism of her behavior” perhaps it’s because she’s busy making a difference and this type of BS isn’t worth her time, honestly I hope she doesn’t spend time on this because I can’t wait to read her next blog. Also, this IS her blog and if she’s seen this thread then she’s left it up and continues to allow you to spend what seems like a good chunk of your day trying to bully her into doing what you want her to do, in a forum that she created and in front of an audience she attracted, so if I were you I would consider myself lucky. If it was my blog I would delete this nonsense.
I don’t know who these mysterious “other people” in “other places” that you mention are (and I find I quickly lose respect for those who try to validate their opinions through reference to anonymous “others”) but if you have that much time and energy to complain to each other about how Ragen isn’t able to be all things to all people, maybe instead you should do something yourselves to help fill the gap. In the meantime, here is something to consider:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
If Ragen came out and said that her blog is geared towards the fat and fit, I would agree with this comment. However, Ragen very explicitly represents herself as an advocate for all fat people and yet does not deliver and, by not responding to criticism, is actively refusing to deliver.
Blogs about fat Goth fashion openly advertise that fat Goths are the subject. No one goes there expecting to find scene or prep fashion. Ragen tries to be all things to all people, and it’s increasingly apparent that she’s partial to the fat and fit.
Right, so making the point that the moral value system of Healthism, which has been used to bully fat people for the past few decades, is the real problem and that going on shows to prove that fat people can adhere to this system as well as thin people is problematic doesn’t make fatcarriesflavor or myself bullies. In our replies we said myth-busting was important. We also said it can be deeply problematic in that it sets up the expectation that fat people who choose not to adhere to Healthistic principles, or who cannot, are still open season for the fatphobes.
Every day we hear from the Healthists, “Explain yourself, fatty!” and when we explain they respond, “La la la I can’t hear you, liar!”
Why should we have to explain ourselves? And don’t we realize by now that it’s a futile act, and ‘health’ as a concept is bullshit, and that ‘health’ is being used as an acceptable vehicle of bigotry against people who don’t conform to some arbitrary and ever-changing notion, and that as long as we play the game of health we’re just spinning our activist wheels? (as well as throwing fat activists who don’t/can’t perform ‘health’ under the bus…yeah, lots of roadway metaphors, sorry)
What I see when Ragen goes on a health show like this: That fatphobic bullies have the right to demand we explain ourselves for not conforming to their bullshit notion of acceptability, and that they don’t believe us when we say we can/do anyway, and that the show is really about pitting a fat activist against a fatphobe to get ratings. Maybe a few viewers had their stereotypes busted, and I agree that that is a good thing. But that’s a whole lot a lot of collateral damage in winning over a few people for the cause.
Also: I don’t know who these mysterious “other people” in “other places” that you mention are
You do know there’s a whole other fat activist community out there, right? I mean, the blog posts here usually only link within this blog or to campaigns started by the blog author, but there’s a lot of fat activists doing great work that has nothing to do with this blog or its author. And if they don’t feel comfortable naming themselves in this space, then that’s not a reason to disbelieve their existence (or fatcarriesflavor’s credibility).
So the main gist of the size acceptance civil war is that Ragen actively promotes health and speaks about her health while other people just want her to say “be fat and it’s ok”? Except Ragen IS healthy and happy to be fat and healthy. I don’t get it…is she to perfect a fatty to be beneficial to The Movement?
Wow, you’re just determined to make this huge, aren’t you?
No, this isn’t anything like a Fat Civil War. But fat activists do, absolutely, talk about fat activism and other fat activists together. Including how to be more effective activists, and how to better serve the needs of the people we want to help (including ourselves). One of the ways to do that is to recognize that not everyone in the movement or everyone who is fat is the same — not all “fit”, not all white, not all cisgendered, not all straight, not all women or men, etc — and then to make sure that we are inclusive of as many of those people as we possibly can be. Or, alternately, make sure that we are specifically talking about a narrow subsection of fatties only — today I’m going to talk about queer fat women of color, cis and trans, or whatever. But leaving people out because you can’t be bothered to do a little extra work to make sure your language is inclusive shows, I think, that you don’t value those people very highly. If I’m going to leave people out, I’d rather do it intentionally.
But you go right ahead and blow that up into a war, with poor Ragen as the attacked nation. It’s not an attack, it’s a critique, which activists give to each other all the time. It’s as gently-worded as I could make it, because I’m usually pretty much the opposite of gently-worded. But still you take it as an attack . . . and still people have the gall to tell me that if I just said these things nicely, people would listen. HA!
My apologies. I do read several fat acceptance blogs and have seen different posts on problems with some of the activists. I transposed those blogs into my thinking as I read your comments. I assumed Ragen was one of the maligned activists from your comments. Apparently I was wrong and Ragen is not being attacked.
Anne, I find using the contributions that someone has made to the movement and the way that they partake in activism a form of derailing. You are not only assuming that the commenters do not have any contributions to speak of and that there is a level at which someone is allowed to be critical of the kind of activism someone partakes in. Being able to do activism offline comes with a huge amount of privilege, not only class privilege but also able privilege. Activism or being part of this community is valid no matter how someone partakes in it. There is a valid fear in any argument made from a place of marginalization when a person tries to explain how they are able to transcend the stereotypes that are assigned to their person. The issue is the people who lives within those stereotypes are often left behind and not given a voice. When someone says that they speak for all fat people but continue to reinforce problematic hierarchies they are not speaking for all fat people. I see not only ableism a continuing narratives within fat positive spaces but also sexual oppression common as well.
No one is doubting that the dude who Ragen is responding to is a tool but a person who says all fat people cannot do X is not someone who is actually going to listen to reason. That person is trying to rationalize their fat phobia. Through my own work I have been in these conversations before and the reality is that those kinds of arguments are meant to create a divide between acceptable and unacceptable forms of fatness. They are not interested in owning up to their phobia. Responding to these people is not going to change their mind because their next form of retaliation is going to be to go after the people who are unable (or don’t) to do the things they list. They will try to say that they are not talking about Ragen and also try to make it so that because they are not talking about her specifically any argument she has to try and advocate for them is invalid. This is how to argue like a fat-phobe 101.
Also, trying to discredit the valid criticism that we have discussed is ignoring that there is a huge chuck of people who do not identify with the movement because of the things we have brought up. HAES is a framework that can be used to deconstruct and break through the way health as a concept is constructed in society if it is used to disprove fat phobic beliefs about the body and other intersecting forms of oppression. It can also be used as tool of oppression if we continue to use it within the larger framework of healthism and ignore people with disabilities as well as how race, class status and other issues intersect with it. As a fat activist I make it my priority to speak out for those of us who feel silenced because this movement has silenced my voice many times during the last 9 years I have been part of it. I don’t want my own struggles to find my place in this movement where I finally had to carve that space out for myself to be what everyone must do. Expecting people to make their own space reeks of unacknowledged privilege because everyone does not have the tools to do it themselves.
“When someone says that they speak for all fat people but continue to reinforce problematic hierarchies they are not speaking for all fat people.”
How is it that people are missing the point that Ragen continually and repeatedly states that she does NOT speak for all fat people????? This is really, really clear and hard to miss if you actually read the blog at all.
Rachel, she wrote a book called “Fat: The Owner’s Manual.” If that’s not speaking for all fat people, then a new title is in order.
I think there is some confusion here. In calling out the “effectiveness” of Ragen’s fat-acceptance, you seem to be under the impression that a single person, with a single point of view, has the ability to represent all members of an oppressed group, to everyone’s satisfaction. If this is the case, you are wrong. I see below that some people have given you some excellent advice to use your energies to fill gaps where you find them instead of meta-analysis of the effectiveness of other people’s approaches. I think that is an excellent idea.
I would like to offer another perspective for you. First, you are not the judge of “effective” activism. I, like Lesleigh, am an academic with letters after my name. We can have a debate about what “effective” activism looks like, but we’ll need actual DATA to have this discussion. I don’t yet understand why you think your approach would be more effective than hers (especially given the fact that her approach has led to conversations about fat oppression on national and international levels, time and time again). She has had audiences of millions of people. Something she is doing is working.
Second, there is no such thing as *maximally* effective activism. The best activism is many forms of activism, all having a cumulative effect on the oppression at hand. It takes many voices, and many approaches. Ragen’s is one. If you are worried about being “effective,” you will develop your own approach to activism, and it will no doubt compliment her approach, as hers will compliment yours.
Third, you seem to be under the impression that Ragen has an obligation to be “effective” in the way you want her to be. This is not the case. You yourself acknowledge that she does not say exclusionary things; you just charge that she is “unbalanced” in her approach. It is not your right to judge what “balanced” looks like. If she does not speak for you, wonderful. She explicitly does not TRY to speak for you. Do not hold her to a task she did not take on, a task that is impossible for anyone to accomplish.
Fourth, I am of the belief that Ragen’s voice, exactly as it is, fills an enormous gap in the fat-acceptance movement. One of the primary ways we as fat people are oppressed is through the medicalization of our bodies. We are told we are diseased. We are denied access to medical insurance because of our weight, given sub-standard medical care (or none at all), and coerced into dangerous butchery in the name of our health. In this blog, Ragen talks about MANY aspects of fat oppression and fat acceptance, and yes, she does explicitly challenge the connection between fat and disease. This serves all fatties, even and especially unhealthy ones, because our very lives are at stake. If you think this is not a foundational project in fat activism, well, you are wrong. It is not the only fight that needs fighting, but it is a big one.
So now the choice is yours. Feel free to use your energy in productive ways, or to police others who are using theirs. Your call.
You don’t like me criticizing her “effectiveness”? You don’t like that word choice? Fine. Failing to call out the ableism inherent in claims that fat people are unworthy because they are disabled and/or unfit supports ableism. It supports bigotry to respond to those statements as if it the most important thing about them is that fat people are not all disabled or unfit. It lets pass the idea that it’s disability that’s the problem. That’s what I’m criticizing here. Happy? I tried so hard to be polite, to use the nicest possible words to bring up the problems I see here.
I suppose you think that women of color and their allies shouldn’t call out racism in feminism, or point out that ignoring issues of race where they intersect with sexism isn’t effective in advocating for women of color, either. Or that trans people and their allies shouldn’t call out transphobia in gay rights activism, or point out that ignoring issues of gender identity where they intersect with homophobia isn’t effective in advocating for trans people. We shouldn’t ever point out problematic behavior by activists, is that it?
My, you seem to enjoy frenzied rhetoric. It is a logical fallacy to assume that because I am calling YOU out on your approach, I do not believe that POC (and not just women, thanks) should not call out racism, or other problematic behavior by activists.
I am asserting that you are wrong about the presence of problematic behavior on Ragen’s part. You are entitled to the feelings you have, but that does not mean those feelings are based on fact. If you have a phobia towards clowns, I will support you in finding ways to avoid clowns. But clowns are not objectively dangerous. And whipping discussions into a frenzy about the dangers of clowns, telling people they should stop dressing up as clowns, and trying to prohibit others from enjoying clowns is not your right.
I am asserting that you are factually wrong by saying that Ragen displays/condones/participates in Healthism. Full stop. You are more than welcome to disagree with me, but you and I both know you can’t find ANY quotes of hers to support these views, especially since she goes out of her way to argue against Healthism. In fact, I assign a blog post of hers to my students to illustrate the difference between HAES (an approach to health and wellness) and fat-acceptance (a human rights position). She does not confuse the two, no matter how much you claim she does.
So, let me put this as clearly as I can. I believe you are wrong. I am a person with disabilities (though I hate this word), and you do not speak for me. Your feelings are you own, and you are entitled to them, but your expression of those feelings is silencing to others like me. You do not own the right to dictate who speaks for me. You have said your piece. Some agree, most disagree. We do not disagree about calling out problematic activism. We disagree that Ragen’s activism is problematic. Ragen, exactly as she is, speaks for me.
Beautifully stated, Tiffany. I, too am a person with disabilities and I find that Ragen eloquently speaks for me as well. I cannot send enough love and support her way.
Thank you, Tiffany, and others for your comments supporting the idea that Ragen’s approach is anti-healthism and anti-ableism. I could not have possibly said it so well, but I whole heartedly agree! I am not someone that shares a lot of identities in common with Ragen. I am a cisgendered male who is black, heterosexual, physically disabled, and over 50. But I am also fat. Ragen does an excellent job of speaking up for fat folks of all identities – though she is always careful to clarify that she is speaking from her own experience only. I am immesaurably grateful for her and to her.
As we say in New Zealand…too bloody right, mate.
Interesting how you are offering a critique, but we are “attacking” you for disagreeing. Can we not also be offering a critique and challenge of your perceptions? Also, a lot of us have tried very hard to be polite as well.
I understand that it’s important for you to speak out and offer your perspective. But this is a public forum, and we are merely doing the same.
In calling out the “effectiveness” of Ragen’s fat-acceptance, you seem to be under the impression that a single person, with a single point of view, has the ability to represent all members of an oppressed group, to everyone’s satisfaction.
Nope. in fact, we’re arguing just that: that Ragen is putting herself out there as a voice for all fat people but clearly isn’t. That still doesn’t mean that, even if you have a single point of view, it’s above criticism for being: 1) ableist, 2) exclusive, 3) hurting the movement by going on TV medical shows to argue that fat people can be healthy, when ‘health’ is just the vehicle of the oppression of fat people, not its root. And it legitimizes other people’s right to question a fat person’s right to exist based on her health status.
Second, there is no such thing as *maximally* effective activism.
Agreed. Which is why it’s both presumptuous and dangerous to put oneself out there as a voice for all fat people. And Ragen, being one of the only full-time size activists I know (the rest of us tend to have other daily occupations), with a book called “Fat: The Owner’s Manual,” and a blog she has the privilege to update daily hence growing her platform, is a paid speaker about size activism (and hence has a much louder voice than your work-a-day fat activist), and is a paid consultant for businesses regarding size issues and maybe other ventures I don’t know about — represents size activism to a whole heck of a lot of people. With that kind of ‘volume,’ so to speak, comes responsibility. And if she wants to put herself out there as someone who speaks for fit fatties exclusively, then that’s her perogative. But I’m also a regular reader of her blog, and that is clearly not what she’s been doing. Heck, I don’t know how this can be unclear: her book is called “Fat: The Owner’s Manual,” not, “You can be both fit and fat!” or “How to get in shape and love your fat body,” or “Sizism isn’t healthy,” and so on, you get the point.
Third, you seem to be under the impression that Ragen has an obligation to be “effective” in the way you want her to be.
Neither I nor any of the other dissenters on this blog have the power to obligate Ragen to do anything (nor would we want it). But we’re as much a part of this movement as she is, and when we see her taking this movement far older than her activism in a direction that we think will do it damage, we’re going to speak up. It might be different if this blog was all Ragen did. But she’s getting a very loud voice. When you’re on a panel with Arya Sharma, you have a loud damn voice. When you’re speaking at major universities and to major corporations, you have a loud damn voice. When you’re in a documentary with a well-known documentarian and have done a ‘world tour,’ you have a loud damn voice. When you get more and more speaking engagements because of your book, whose title is obviously directed at all fat people, you have a loud damn voice. What Ragen’s doing has a very real impact on not only how the movement is viewed, but how fat people in general are viewed, and in what direction the movement is going. And this movement needs to be about all fat people, not just the ones that comply with the healthist’s definition of ‘healthy.’ And you saw what they did to her: they knowingly booked a fat hater to basically call her a liar on national television, then had a follow up article by Sharma whose title planted the question/possibility that fat people were delusional. How is that helping? So a few people might have heard the health myth-busting spiel for the first time. Is that really worth the extensive collateral damage?
Fourth, I am of the belief that Ragen’s voice, exactly as it is, fills an enormous gap in the fat-acceptance movement.
What gap? We have actual medical professionals and researchers like Linda Bacon and Sandy Szwarc and the well-meaning dolts at Rudd who do the heavy lifting on this. Gina Kolata, a health journalistic for the NYTimes, had a fantastic book on the subject. Paul Campos’s book was also good, though it got panned because he’s a lawyer (though lawyers can do their damn research, let me tell you). There’s no gap. The information is out there. We’ve known people can be fat and fit for decades. That fat people don’t eat more than thin people for more than decades. That metabolisms vary, for centuries. That fat is genetic, for likely much longer. That the diseases associated with fat are predominantly diseases of aging and/or are genetic. That conditions like thyroid and insulin issues can have a drastic effect on weight, not the other way around.
The fatphobes aren’t listening. This isn’t actually about health. It never was. Health is just the vehicle of fat oppression. Health mythbusting begs the question of why fatphobes have a right to demand fat people be healthy anyway. Of whether this whole healthist movement is just a big fucking bullshit joke, the fevered mass delusion of an aging Western world terrified of death. This doesn’t actually have to do with health. This is a moral panic. And you saw with that personal trainer Paul, fatphobes don’t actually care what the truth is. Not even a doctor like Sharma actually cares. He profits off fanning the flames of the moral panic. Paul profits off people believing people like him are superior.
“Feel free to use your energy in productive ways, or to police others who are using theirs.”
Nice passive-aggressive ending, there.
One day I overheard a man go on and on about how wonderful his 50 lb weight loss made his life, because now he could do things like tie his shoes! I was in another room and happened to exit and heard his voice and walked up to him (a very slender man) and said “Are you the one who lost all that weight?” I knew he would be happy to carry on to this then 350 lb woman. He said “Oh, yes!” and so I promptly bent over and touched my toes. His companion burst out laughing and I then said “It wasn’t those 50 lbs that kept from tying your shoes.” and walked away. Of course, since I live in 3 story walk up now as someone in the 500 lb range, I must be lying….
I haven’t read Rebecca Weinstein’s book yet, but I really liked “Big Big Love” by Hanne Blank. I can’t speak for myself (wish I could brag on this point) but from what I hear fat people are developing a rep for being awesome in bed.
Climbing stairs used to suck for me, but that was just because I have underdeveloped lungs and my stamina needed to be built up. Now I can do stairs, not to mention miles on the treadmill, and I’m heavier than I was when stairs were hard – explain that Paul! It’s about strength and stamina…you know, HEALTH, not size.
There is no hope for this Paul loser…when he started talking about the earth’s gravitational pull I knew this to be true. Actually, if fatties have to fight gravity because of excess weight, then by his logic we’re weight training by just existing…so shouldn’t we be the fittest freaking people on the planet? Wouldn’t the heaviest person in the world be the strongest by default? Can Paul lift 300 lbs? That would be impressive, right? I lift that much every day when I get out of bed. Is anyone else getting a headache from all the crap ‘science’ and ‘logic’ at play here??
The shoe-tying thing is stupid because (as Ragen’s awesome pics showed) it’s about flexibility not weight. I can touch my toes, but my friend who is half my weight can’t. Any trouble I ever had tying my shoes was a) getting it right when I first learned as a kid, b) having laces that were too short or c) having laces that were too long. I’ve never had trouble tying my shoes…the whole “fat people can’t even reach their toes” is a myth. Actually you know who else is stereotyped as unable to touch their toes? Skinny Out-of-Shape Nerds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fP4nJabiGqs (50 seconds in). Maybe Sheldon Cooper should hire Paul to train him to touch his toes…
This is so wrong but when I read the line about tying your shoes, I thought “What if you didn’t have feet? Or arms? Or what if you are too poor to afford shoes?” Paul doesn’t allow for things like that and that makes him an asshat. Also, the next time I see a skinny person wearing slip-ons or velcro, I’m going to totally call them on it! >:)
Honestly, the only time my size is an issue in my life is when I run up against unaccommodating man-made objects – like theater seats whose arms are too close together, folding chairs that haven’t been reinforced or weight-tested, seat belts that don’t reach far enough, or just about every piece of women’s clothing ever made. I put the responsibility for those things not working for me on the manufacturer, not myself and my fat body. I’m not suffering or unhappy because of my size – I’m suffering from discrimination by others based on my size, and I’m unhappy because ignorant pea brains like Paul Plakas stigmatize me and try to reduce my self-worth and rights as a human being to numbers on a scale.
I appreciate that you identified the difference between size and health by mentioning stamina which is something that I am affected by. As I became a larger woman carrying over 500 lbs on my frame sitting has become a habit. The reality in my life is that there are activities that I am not able to do, but as you mentioned it’s not because of my size, it’s because of being seditary. Now that being said I claim full responsibility as I “know” that there are many gentle (and difficult) ways to increase my stamina. Am I achey… yeah… do I huff and puff… yeah… but am I able to dance, walk and swim even if only for short periods of time. Is this reason to feel sorry for myself… well I have in the past and it didn’t serve me at all, in fact it only increased this lifestyle because I was not loving me, not loving my abilities and loving my choices. Is this still challenging for me as are all new habits… YES… changing habits is a life learned process not one that is imposed on others because of their beliefs.
So I guess my point is for those readers that can relate to some of the stamina related comments that “jock trainer” made. Acknowledge your body where you’re at right now in an empowering way… not in the way that was expressed by this unprofessional. There is nothing to feel sorry for or about… life is about our experiences and evolution comes in many forms. The size of our bodies has nothing to do with it.
And what was with the dancing thing? If he doesn’t think you’re a good dancer, that’s one thing (not necessarily true, but…). But how do you argue with the fact that you have WON DANCE AWARDS? That’s a fact, not an opinion.
The rest of it’s just stupid, in my opinion. As for the sex part…well, as someone (who is a fat person and) who has a fat appreciation kink, i can tell Paul that there are MANY people (some skinny and even conventionally “attractive”) who would like very much to have sex with fat people. All he has to do is go on some deviantart.com profiles, or just look for fat sex stuff. It probably would take him all of 5 seconds. The idea that no one wants me because i’m fat is well on its way to not even registering as an insult/insecurity anymore, that’s how dumb it is.
The frustrating thing is, no one is going to fact-check him on this stuff who isn’t already familiar with size acceptance on some level. or not. i hate to spread curmudgeon energy, so forget i said anything.
Wow. Paul Plakas is a first class grade A douchebag.
Ragan, I think this article about Taylor Townsend might interest you.
The girl is the WORLD Junior Tennis Champion, yet they won’t pay for her travel and wish to deny her access to tennis matches because she does not appear svelte enough.
She’s currently Number 1, the World Champion! What kind of asshattery is this???
After a lot of negative reporting on the issue (and VERY angry reactions from a couple former tennis champs), the USTA said that there was a “miscommunication” and will reimburse Taylor’s mom for her US Open expenses: http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2012/09/07/usta-to-pay-townsends-tennis-expenses/
The USTA also claims it wasn’t about weight, which I don’t believe:
“This has nothing to do with weight,” [McEnroe] said. “We never
talked about that. We talked about her being in shape, working
on her fitness. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how fit
Shelia Townsend said she was never told specifically why her
daughter’s fitness was deemed lacking or what she would have
to do to be considered fit.
“I asked a lot of questions about what they meant by fitness, if
they had a standard or a measurement,” she said. “If there are
numbers to go by, then you can’t argue with numbers, I
understand that. I never got any definitive answers.”
Oops…all of that stuff after the last colon is supposed to be an indented paragraph. It’s from the linked article. The formatting tanked.
Wow. She plays tennis better than anyone else in the world her age, and she’s not “fit”???? Who do they think they’re fooling with that excuse? Snobs.
What. Is this.
Oh Mister Fitness Man, I’m sorry, but seriously, you wish you had HALF the action my fat ass has seen. Just sayin. I don’t know which “class” of obese I am, because I don’t weigh myself, but I am certainly fat enough that buttheads like this would probably talk trash about all the things they think I can’t or don’t do.
But yes, fat action. Plenty of fellas (and I’m sure lots of lovely ladies too, for those so inclined) are into sharing time with fabulous people and possibly getting their hands on said fabulous person’s unclothed curves later.
AHEM AND ANYWAY I can also tie my shoes just fine, in fact I can not only touch my toes when I bend down but have very nearly worked my way to being able to lay my hands flat on the floor (I do have to bend my knees slightly though). And I can climb the stairs all the way to the top of Penshaw Monument, which are a good deal more challenging than like, stairs in an apartment complex. So, woops, everything Paul thinks is true is actually a filthy lie.
I can also do THIS complex maneuver! *does a little shoulder shimmy that spins into a double middle finger salute!*
THANKS PAUL LUV U 2 HUN.
Sorry everyone, some days I just can’t rise above and be classy about it. SO MUCH STUPID. *facepalm*
Gosh darn that immaculate conception!
This would be all 125kg’s / 275pounds of me, pregnant with baby number two. I also have an absolutely GORGEOUS little two year old who is also happy, healthy, and who adores every little bit of his fat mummy.
I can’t bend down to tie my shoes right now. I can’t climb stairs. I haven’t been able to have sex for a few weeks…
But that’s not because I’m a fat chick, it’s because I’m, oh, you know, in my third trimester of PREGNANCY with severe pregnancy complications – and even now I somehow manage to chase a two year old around all day.
I guess I’m must be a unicorn or something though, because happy, active, healthy fat people don’t exist – right?
But, wait. Yes, they do, and yes, they must. Because I am here. All of these people who have shared before me in these comments are here. People like you, Ragen, are here.
My amazing, voluptuous, flexible, fit, shoe-tying, stair-climbing, hanky-pankying, FAT body has created and sustained life, not once but twice now. It has fought through illness, it has traveled all around my home country of Australia. It has battled and BEATEN anorexia and bulimia, it has beaten juvenile epilepsy, it has found a way to cope with bi-polar disorder. It has found it’s other half in the form of an incredibly handsome, loving, caring, nurturing, supportive husband. It has been intimate with many lovers of many ages, genders, races and sizes before him. It loves, it cares, it nurtures, it guides, it encourages – it sees the beauty in all of the people in this world, and it sure as hell does not discriminate.
Please, accept my sincerest apologies at the bad language to follow, but –
Fuck you, Paul. Fuck everyone like you, who told me my entire childhood and adolescence that the ONLY way I could ever be happy, the ONLY way I could be healthy, the ONLY way that I could ever be worthy of love was if I was thin.
Fuck you for all of the beautiful, amazing, incredible, fantastic men and women in my life who battle every day with what they see in the mirror, who are blinded by the hatred of themselves that you and all you believe in has bestowed upon them until they can’t see the PERSON they are INSIDE the fat.
I’ve been many weights and sizes and let me be yet another voice that pipes up and tells you that you are WRONG.
At my ‘ideal weight’ according to an idiot doctor and the BMI – I was anorexic, surviving on two cups of unsweetened tea and 40-50 cigarettes per day, I suffered from a range of illnesses, I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoes, I couldn’t walk up stairs, and I sure as hell couldn’t have sex – I didn’t have the energy to do so. I hated my body and everything about me, I lost the love and support of many friends and family, and above all else, I was absolutely miserable. During this time, I attempted suicide multiple times.
I was one of the lucky ones. I won that battle, and have since moved forward and been able to not just accept my body, but to love and absolutely cherish it.
I have never been happier, or healthier, or more comfortable in my own skin than I am now, so you can kiss my AMAZING fat ass.
I am a personal trainer and I want to apologize on behalf of this person. It really makes me sad to hear how he behaved in such a horribly disrespectful way. Part of being a good personal trainer is being a (shocker!) good human being. It is a helping, caring profession and it breaks my heart to hear he treated you this way. My fattest client happens to be my fittest client, and I’m not just saying that, it’s completely true. She’s also my most dedicated and consistent client, and she can lift WAY more than me. I am so sorry this person was so incredibly disrespectful to you, it goes against EVERYTHING a personal trainer should be- positive, affirming, caring, supportive. He is a great reason for me to keep at it as a HAES fitness professional!
I would like to thank you for answering the charge of “fat cannot be fit” over and over again (actually, in this instance, you responded to the charge of “fat cannot engage in basic activities of daily living.”) While you may never change the narrow minds of those you publicly debate, your words do impact the viewers; I am living testimony to that.
It seems that this blog post has created some dissenting views, both in comments and elsewhere on the internet. While everyone has a right to his/her opinion, and I do not want to engage in debate (as per the underpants rule), I do want to tell you why I appreciate your tireless efforts.
The large body, particularly the large female body, is stereotyped as unhealthy, and, as an extension, lazy, incapable, etc. History shows that stereotypes endure even after (long after) a society accepts basic civil rights for an oppressed group. I don’t consider this a good thing. (WARNING: direct mention of egregious stereotypes follows) The greedy Jew, the Irish drunk, and the southern redneck are just a few of the many enduring stereotypes. I certainly understand that many people would not utilize these demeaning labels, but plenty of people — who would not otherwise discriminate against such groups — have no problem utilizing these tasteless expressions in a moment of anger or to make a joke. Indeed, invocations of stereotypes do not need to be malicious; whenever a lazy author cannot be bothered to develop a character, the Irish bartender will do just fine (to give just one example.)
I believe comments such as “[obese people] are limited in the freedom of what you’re able to do and you lose basic function…” MUST be directly refuted because they reinforce the fat-person stereotype; to ignore the charge is to allow it to stand. Thus, I do not think this charge should be ignored.
I wholeheartedly agree that the fat acceptance/size acceptance movement should not be dependent upon the premise that fat people are healthy/can be healthy/choose to be healthy; as you have clearly stated, no one owes anyone health/a healthy lifestyle. However, the clichéd tying of fat to laziness/unhealthiness/lack of fitness is a stereotype that damages all fat people. Imagine how quality of life would improve for every disabled fat person IF it wasn’t automatically assumed that s/he “made himself/herself” disabled by his/her weight.
I want to make clear that I do not want this stereotype dispelled because I believe there is something inherently wrong with the fat, disabled body or fat, unhealthy body. There are plenty of stereotypes that are dependent upon very neutral imagery. (WARNING: more stupid stereotype follow) I find watermelon and fried chicken to be very neutral images; I do not want them used as African American stereotypes. I find naps to be downright delightful; I do not want the afternoon siesta to be a “lazy Mexican” stereotype. I want the fat stereotype dispelled because there is something intrinsically wrong with stereotyping.
Again, I thank you for your diligent efforts in this fight.
This. One thousand times THIS.
First of all, Ragen, I want to thank you for the amazing pics and words you’ve showcased here. How transgressive is it to see pictures of dancing, gorgeous, and satiated (woohoo!) fatties? Heck, just seeing pics of happy fatties at all is a revolutionary act. 🙂
Secondly, I’d like to take a second or two to address some of the claims above about Ragen being ableist and healthist. The first thing I want to point out is, ahem, Ragen’s last post. It kinda deals with the ableism people heap on fatties and how thin people’s dis/abilities aren’t scrutinized and judged in the same ways. Ragen’s entire post deals with her disgust over the ableist BS piled onto fatties of varying abilities . Just sayin’ that might warrant a gander or two. 🙂 But that’s kinda beside my point…
Thirdly, I’m going to say something I don’t enjoy but that’s unfortunately true: Busting stereotypes WORKS. It pisses me off that it’s true, but several social psychological studies have been done that prove one of the fastest ways to get folks off fatties’ backs is to convince them: 1. It’s not fatties’ faults, and 2. We’re not all the bad things people say we are. A couple of references — even done around the topic of fatness! — are below for peeps who want to read more up on this. So, while my politics (and Ragen’s, too, I imagine) balk at having to address head-on people’s ignorance and prove them wrong rather than just telling them all fatties of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and abilities deserve respect (WOOHOO!), research shows pandering to prejudice is effective. Slimy, maybe, but effective. So if we’re debating the effectiveness of changing peeps’ minds, yes, posts like this work beautifully. As distasteful as this may be to some (I know it is to me!), seeing Ragen dancing like a dream will do a helluva lot more to convince peeps of fatties’ legitimacy than telling them we’re people, too, and have the same rights thin peeps do.
The most important part of my argument, IMO, starts by giving Ragen a round of applause for trying to reach out to fatties of all kinds. As an able-bodied, athletic dancer, is she a privileged fatty in various ways? Indeed. But, ya know, she doesn’t rest on that and refuse to acknowledge all the other types of fatties. She *does* talk about ableism, she *does* discuss health as a social construct, she *does* (occasionally) address fatness and how it intersects with some other identities. And right on. Some of us may want to see more of something in this blog, but you know what? Ragen is one single person. She does a brilliant job. She may not address *every single* source of discrimination, but she tries to cover as many bases as she can. As an academic with lotsa letters behind my name, I know we in academic culture enjoy smacking peeps down because they don’t cover every -ism as completely as we’d like. I’m sorry, but Ragen can’t speak for every single fatty with every single marginalized identity. She tries and does pretty well, esp for a person with a number of cultural privileges, but she’s one person. If folks don’t think her attempts go far enough, then I encourage them to start their own blog and fill in that cultural gap, because Ragen Cannot. Do. It. All. Heck, I’m thrilled she tackles as much as she does.
Finally, I’d like to cordially invite those who don’t wish to read Ragen’s blog to, well, not. And please don’t bash her for not being Super Liberal(c) (kinda like Super Fatty(c) (AKA: “good fatty”), who can do everything good and healthy no matter her/his size). Just as Super Fatty’s deviation from body ideals deserves respect, so, too, does Ragen. She’s never, ever said she speaks for all fatties. She’s never promised to cover every topic and every identity intersection so everyone is satisfied. She is doing her best, papering popular culture with as many fat-positive messages as she can. If you think she’s doing an inadequate job in ANY way, I suggest you stop complaining and start plugging some of the holes you think she’s left.
And really, let’s be kind to one another, okay? Instead of censure, let’s offer our public faces some thanks for what they do. They may not speak the exact same words we do, but why is that bad? That means we have a multitude of opportunities to speak our own versions of truth. Instead of condemning peeps, let’s approach this topic from multiple perspectives and get our diverse voices heard. Shall we get to it?
Hugs to all.
* Crandall, C. 1994. Prejudice against fat people: Ideology and self-interest. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 66: 882-894.
* Crandall, C., & R. Martinez. 1996. Culture, ideology, and antifat attitudes. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 22: 1165-1176.
If this were Facebook, I would like this. Very well said.
Very well said.
No one said that Ragen didn’t address ableism and healthism. We are saying that her advocacy is unbalanced and that her advoacy of the fat and disabled/unfit isn’t as effective as it could be. And yes, busting stereotypes works, but it is the first and least important part of a movement. At some point, activists need to get past the “But but but!” stage where we justify ourselves all the time. FA has been stuck at the “But but but!” stage pretty much since its inception, and we need to move on.
YES YES YES. To all of this.
To be honest, I very much agree with Big Liberty and Fat Carries Flavor, and I’m glad that so many people had the courage to say it.
Whether she intends this or not, Ragen’s posts come off as very deeply healthist and I rarely read anymore because I don’t feel I can relate to most of it. This does not negate the good that she does, but none of us is perfect and we need to be honest with ourselves and each other about the areas in which we need improvement.
Yes, Ragen does say that no one has to be healthy, but like others have said, it is mostly an afterthought and very little time is spent specifically on the “bad fatties” among us. Furthermore, she falsely believes that health is about behaviors, when it is mostly about aging, genetics, and dumb luck. By insisting that health is about behaviors, while PARTIALLY true, very much places the blame on those with health problems. It insinuates that they brought their illnesses on themselves, which is healthist in itself.
Ragen, I hope you take note of the comments being made here and that they are educational to you.
Why is it up to Ragen alone to encompass all facets of fat activism, though? I don’t disagree that it’s good to take periodic stock of one’s approach when one plans and executes dedicated activist efforts, and to do one’s best to ensure a path toward reaching whatever their goal is (in this case, changing approach if necessary to reach a wider audience if it is decided a wider audience would serve better, that kind of thing). And I agree that it’s a good idea for anyone to listen to the feelings and constructive feedback of their audience. I’d also definitely welcome seeing her write about other aspects of the movement if that is what she chooses to do.
However, Ragen comes to this from the perspective of a fat person who IS very active, and to me it makes sense that she would want to focus on that angle, especially because there is so very little available out there in terms of fat positive fitness literature. I’ve always thought of this as specifically more of a HAES-centered blog than other labels I could think to call it. I’m more of a “bad fatty” myself (active in fits and spurts, never really regular about it, eat what we can afford, etc.) but I’ve found this space pretty invaluable, and very much the opposite of unwelcoming. That is my personal experience of course, and I concede that not every blog fits everyone either… there were others that haven’t jived with me. For example, there are a few that have to do with being a fat mother, and I’m dedicated to not ever being a mother, so I steer clear of those spaces, not because they’re negative spaces but because they don’t cater to my particular needs. I wouldn’t think to demand they add articles for people who choose not to have children, or to tell them they’re misogynist and expecting women to be babymakers. That’s absurd, they clearly just have their niche and they run with it, and more power to them, as mothers (in general, but fat mothers in particular because there’s so little out there for them) deserve plenty of support in nurturing our next generation! I just think “that doesn’t apply to me” and read elsewhere, where there are people who DO cater to the kinds of things I’m looking for. That’s why movements in general work better when a lot of people are on board– everyone brings their unique perspective and skills to the table and we all work together, complement each other, and where one person can’t step up someone else fills the gap. Farmers don’t need to be carpenters, and carpenters don’t need to sew.
As to health being behavior-based, I do see Ragen say frequently that INCREASING certain indicators of health is something one can do with behavior, regardless of size (and the evidence seems to support her in this), but I have never seen her claim that health is solely or even primarily down to behavior, or that everyone ought to be working out. There seems in every post to be at least a few sentences reminding people that they get to choose how they view, prioritize, and pursue health, and one size doesn’t fit all so to speak.
I guess the TL;DR here is that I wonder why it is that Ragen in particular should be obligated to do anything other than pursue the fitness angle of FA from, you know, her blog, which as far as I can tell is primarily about being fat and fit (if you want/choose to be).
OKAY, woops, Reading Is Fundamental. Looks like I missed part of the conversation, which I just caught up on. I guess I sort of always assumed this was specifically a Mainly About Fat Fitness blog. I see some good points on both sides of the argument. I still feel like niche/specific activist spaces are as important as more general ones, but if that’s not where Ragen wants to be, then it’s good she’s got people willing to point out where she could expand her repertoire.
Errrr… which I guess invalidates about half of what I just said. Sorry.
Thanks for the reply. I just wanted to reiterate that I’m not saying Ragen is a bad person or that she has not helped countless people immensely. I also see nothing wrong with having a niche, like fat fitness, fat fashion, etc. We all have specialties that we shine in, and fitness is hers. But like you’ve just read, she has repeatedly made forays out of her specialty and often represents herself as being a fat activist for all fat people. That’s all right and good, but other people, the people for whom she is trying to speak, are commenting on it. I really don’t think this is personal against her, but something you see in a lot of people in many different social justice communities. How to turn good intentions into good actions. How to expand the way people think about things.
Furthermore, she falsely believes that health is about behaviors, when it is mostly about aging, genetics, and dumb luck.
Uhh….what blog are you reading? Ragen has said over and over again that health is determined by many factors, including genetics and environment, and that behavior is only one of many things that affect it.
I came across Dr. Sharma’s take on the interview. I found it interesting as I had never read anything by him before. I tend to avoid weight loss pundits, even those who are less vitriolic. Forgive me if I missed this link if it has already been provided in the discussions above.
Wow, what a cowardly article. It’s just airing all the sides to let the commenters have a go-at-it; Sharma isn’t expressing any view at all, and either he or his editors are further baiting the commenters with the inflammatory title: “Are Happy Fat People Delusional?” So, yeah. Great response, that.
In Dr. Sharma’s defense, he is a medical researcher, not an activist, so his approach to presenting information is purposefully neutral. He uses his blog primarily to discuss his work, so he’s also assuming that most of his readers are quite familiar with his position on matters like bigotry against the overweight and obese (it needs to stop, and the medical profession in particular needs to stop contributing), whether it’s possible to be fat and healthy (yes), and whether telling people to “eat less and move more” is effective (it’s not – as Ragen said above, he’s honest about the fact that there are no effective ways to change body size over the long term. He knows this because that is what his research has shown.)
I’m greatly oversimplifying here, but Dr Sharma’s basic position, based on the work he’s done, is that simply telling everyone to lose weight is a failed approach and should be abandoned. A major part of his work is devoted to developing tools for primary care doctors to help assess and treat their overweight and obese patients more effectively.
Now you need not agree with anything Dr. Sharma says, and many of his regular readers don’t, but he still allows them to post critiques and often engages with commenters when he has the time (there’s a great example here: http://www.drsharma.ca/10-game-changing-rules-for-obesity-management.html)
So while I’m not interested in getting into a debate about the merits of Dr. Sharma’s work here, I feel it’s unfair to call him cowardly. I’ve learned a lot from his blog and I appreciate his willingness to make his work accessible to non-specialists.
(I’m going to attempt to insert a picture here, hopefully it works) This is a picture of my fat self climbing 329 stairs in the middle of a 4 mile hike to the 2,305 foot above sea level summit of Stone Mountain, NC. Paul Plakas can kiss the fattest part of my stair climbing, nature loving ass.
I would like to say that I agree with the comment of fatcarriesflavor, bigliberty, & joannadw. As an older disabled fat woman, I am feeling left out of fat acceptance more & more & I see fewer & fewer things online which speak to me or seem to represent me. To me, fat acceptance is not some damn “I am as good as you are & I can prove it because I can do this” contest, it is SUPPOSED to be a human rights movement. We deserve full access, rights, respect, & an end to stigmatization because we are HUMAN BEINGS…period. It is none of anyone else’s business what our health is, our lifestyle, what or how much we eat, exercise, or anything else. We do not have to apologize for our size, which I seem to recall Marilyn Wann saying some years ago. We do not have to prove anything to anyone, we have worth because we are people & it is unfair & just plain wrong for anyone to treat us as less than human or feel that he or she has any right to tell us how to live or pass judgment on us.
I was born with cerebral palsy & have been active all my life, much of my life to the point of exercise bulimia, & I wasted a lot of years trying to be a ‘good fatty’ & earn acceptance & respect, most likely speeding up the breakdown of my joints & the progression of my balance issues. I am 63 years old now, fat, plain, & obviously disabled; I have progressed to using a cane to now much of the time using a rollator walker when I am out walking. I am invisible to most of the world, but I am still a human being & I have as much worth as anyone else. I have developed a fair amount of self-esteem & I am comfortable in my body & my identity these days, but I do often pick up on these implicit messages which come even from other fat activists that I am somehow ‘not enough’ & not a good representative for our cause. I never could, at any age or weight, do most of the things Ragen can do, & these days I am replacing my shoelaces with the stretchy ones you tie once, then are able to just pull your shoes on, because much of the time, I DO have trouble tying my shoes. The combination of cerebral palsy, arthritis, sciatica, & short arms can complicate dressing. I fall very easily, but that is my CP, not my weight. I can’t dance or play sports, but that is also my CP. And I have lived long enough & seen enough & had enough very long-lived fat relatives who did not have what now is being called ‘healthy lifestyles’ that so much of what is being preached does not resonate with me. What does resonate with me is the need for fat acceptance to be about liberation, about human rights, not about pandering to those who hate & discredit us or always trying to ‘prove’ ourselves. After all, no matter how well someone like ‘Ragen’ PROVES herself, most of those who hate us will continue to hate us & just consider her to be indeed a unicorn, the exception which proves the rule.
I’ve been watching the back and forth criticism about whether this blog is more healthist/ableist or not. I did want to add my 2 cents to this. I think Ragen does try to be a good advocate, but she is a fat athlete. The experiences that she has and many questions that get tossed her way are going to be in regards to this, which she then writes about on her blog. She does not have the health issues or disabilities that many others (of all sizes) do have. So, it’s going to be harder for her to write about something she doesn’t have the same level of experience with, unlike being a fat athlete (which she has loads of experience with). I don’t think it’s a case of her being intentionally exclusionary, it’s just that she doesn’t have the life experience of these things. Now I’ve heard many say that things like that should be no excuse, but I think that we need to keep in mind it’s difficult to truly capture what others experience if we have no experience in it ourselves. If you don’t have health problems or disabilities you can only imagine what it is like, and imagination can differ greatly from reality.
Regardless of the whole ableist argument, whether a person gets treated with respect and dignity shouldn’t hinge on their size, health, race, gender, age, or anything of the sort. We’re all people and we shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ anything to anyone, we’re all worthy of dignity, respect, and love from others.
Ragen, thanks for being an advocate on that show.
As for those who are trying to push for perfect fat advocacy, I suspect it’s a lost cause. Personalities differ, both among fat advocates and those they are trying to convince. There’s probably a lot to be said for a mixed strategy.
I think that show was a clear sign of progress. Two acceptance advocates, with the host on their side vs. one “no one should be thin” guy. I don’t think the balance used to be like that.
The video clips of fat people were interesting– all of them were people who were walking easily. Also I’ve noticed that the visual “bad” examples which accompany discussions of fat (having so many of them is *not* a sign of progress) aren’t as fat as they used to be. I’m not sure what’s going on with that.
I’m annoyed that they didn’t have video of Ragen dancing.
You are awesome. NEVER STOP.
I really have nothing more to add beyond that.
I wanted to cry when Paul kept interrupting Ragen, especially when she talked about being a national champion ballroom dancer. And then he asks at the end, “Who’s shaming you?” You, you asshole, you did about 5 minutes ago saying she was an average dancer at best.
I’m 215lbs. I’m “supposed” to be 130lbs. But even at 215 I can do Downward Dog and Sun Salutations. I took a yoga class and the instructor thought I was a newbie. She was really impressed that I could correct my posture before she told me to do it. I was impressed that she didn’t say, “Wow you did great for being a fatty!” She saw my experience. It was a wonderful class. I had another yoga instructor who decided I should be shamed. He pressured me to do things I wasn’t ready for. I explained to him that his class wasn’t my first rodeo and that I knew the limits of my body, that what he was asking me was dangerous and could potentially hurt me. He told me I was being silly and actually touched me, pressed me past my point of flexibility. I ended up straining muscles in my stomach and abdomen. I was furious.
Paul reminds me of that guy. Both of these men have deep rooted insecurities that make them the bullies they are. Notice in the video that he rarely cut off Dr. Sharma, but he constantly interrupted Ragen.