The Arrogance of Size Acceptance

Ragen Chastain 5'4, 284 pounds.  Photo by Richard Sabel.
Ragen Chastain 5’4, 284 pounds. Photo by Richard Sabel.

EDIT:  It has been pointed out by several commenters that my post here could be taken as an attack at the original commenter. That was not my intention.  While I tried to use the comments to frame a general discussion, leaving room for the commenter to be correct while also demonstrating another option, and speaking to a general audience rather than the commenter herself, it seems that I have failed by some readings and for that I deeply apologize.  I’ve sent the commenter an e-mail apologizing.

In a comment on a recent post a reader expressed some thoughts about self-esteem and arrogance in Size Acceptance that I wanted to address here.  While I don’t think it’s intentional, her quotes may be triggering to some so they are in italics, you can skip the italic parts and still understand the blog:

I find a lot of what you say upsetting because I can’t say I’m intelligent, amazing, beautiful, or that I have a great personality, because if I did that I would be shot down for being arrogant… I think in many ways it’s become acceptable for people who aren’t ‘typically’ accepted by society to proclaim that they’re awesome and beautiful all the time, but as a kind of standard person I’d just sound like a t*** if I said that.

First, I have not found that it’s acceptable for me to claim that I’m awesome and beautiful.  I’ve found that when I do so people suggest that I am everything from arrogant, to in denial, to literally mentally ill.  I think the difference is that I refuse to  choose my thoughts based on what other people think of me or say about me.  I believe that my body is amazing and that I’m beautiful and I do not care if other people agree, or what they think of me thinking that. Size Acceptance is about my acceptance, affirmation and love of my body, not about whether or not someone else accepts it – that’s not anybody else’s job.

I also have a sense that the kind of self-esteem your promoting is stupid, since it seems totally unconditional.

Yes!!!!  It is totally unconditional.  I choose to love myself and my body unconditionally.  Even when I make mistakes, even when I get sick, even if I can never do the side splits, no matter what.  It’s self-esteem, it’s not what-other-people-think-of-me-esteem.  We are each the only person who can choose how we feel about ourselves.  We can choose to take the opinions of others into account but that’s still our choice. Thanks to the Underpants Rule, some people can choose to love themselves unconditionally, and others are perfectly within their rights to make their self-esteem conditional and that’s ok.  People can make different choices and in no way invalidate each other – so if someone thinks that loving yourself unconditionally is stupid, they don’t have to do it, but nobody else has to care that they think that, or take that into account while making decisions about their own self-esteem.

Beauty generally is something reserved for the people who are the most attractive to the most people. Not everyone can be beautiful. I think it’s because ‘beautiful’ has come to mean ‘a worthwhile person’ in so many contexts that it’s the natural way for people to affirm their worth as a person, but it lessens the term if you’re going to say everyone is beautiful.

I think that definition of beauty is constructed by society to make us buy expensive wrinkle creams and weight loss pills and any number of things that create billion dollar profits for the beauty and diet industries.  I also think that it’s highly problematic since what “most people” find attractive is often deeply rooted in a society’s bigotry, oppression and injustice.  I think that the ability to perceive beauty is something that we develop, and some people never develop past looking for a superficial, arbitrary social construct either because they don’t think it’s possible, don’t know it’s possible, or simply don’t want to.  That doesn’t make anyone else not beautiful, it just means that most people haven’t developed a strong ability to perceive beauty in different forms.   I believe everyone is beautiful, and I think that the only way that “lessens” the term is if someone is trying to use the idea of beauty to make them feel better than, or superior to, others.

What are the legitimate sources of self esteem?… What gives all of you the confidence to say you’re amazing and beautiful… Half of me feels like it’s a really hollow chant, since it just isn’t really the case that everyone is equally awesome, or that everyone is awesome at all, but the other half of me is just really jealous that everyone on here gets to talk about how great they are all the time while most people don’t get that kind of self esteem despite having a ton of real, objective things they can say are great about themselves….Though I also think this is slightly skewed by the fact that I’m in England, where saying out loud that you have self-esteem is taboo in a lot of circles.

All sources of self-esteem are legitimate if we decide they are – again, it’s called self-esteem –  and I give me the confidence to say that I’m amazing and beautiful, and it’s totally ok if someone else feels that it’s a hollow chant or if they disagree because that has nothing to do with me – that’s their deal.  I won’t speak for everyone here but, for me, it’s not that I “get” to talk positively about myself and my body – as if I’ve received permission…it’s that I choose to celebrate my body despite that fact that I often don’t have the permission or approval of others to do so.

There seems to be a belief that there is only so much self-esteem to go around, and that in order for some people to love themselves, others have to hate themselves.  As if some people should be pushed down to prop up others who can’t develop their self-esteem independently.  I absolutely reject the premise – we can choose to stop competing and we can stop trying to develop love for ourselves by hating others and putting them down.  We  can encourage each other to see how beautiful and amazing and awesome we are, rather than trying to tear down anyone who dares to love themselves without the permission of society.

I spent years self-loathing and self-deprecating and it sucked – I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t healthy.  I spent years hating my body because no matter how much I abused it, including being hospitalized with an eating disorder, it just wouldn’t became what “most people” in my culture find beautiful.  I spent years looking to others to tell me that I was worthy or beautiful.  Then it hit me: For me, all of that self-hatred and self-deprecating was cowardice – I was choosing what to think about myself based on what I thought everybody else wanted to hear. I was miserable just so I wouldn’t upset or offend anyone because the fact that I loved myself might upset them in some way.

No more. In a country where the government encourages the eradication of people who look like me, where little girls say that they would rather lose a parent that look like me, where people spend billions of dollars and millions of hours trying not to look like me,  I stand for my beauty and my inherent amazingness. And anyone who feels that I should give up that painstakingly hard won ground because it upsets them should prepare themselves to learn to live with disappointment. My body, my self-esteem, my life, my rules

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107 thoughts on “The Arrogance of Size Acceptance

  1. Wow, I didn’t realize that only a certain number of people on Earth at one time can be considered beautiful. I was totally unaware that beauty is universal across cultures. Oh, wait, it isn’t. Whether we are talking about neck rings, scars, skin darkening or lightening, hair dyeing, etc. beauty change not just across cultures, but across time as well (don’t see many flapper dresses these days, after all). Where do people get these ideas?

    1. Actually the beauty thing is totally true. Limited amount of beauty. Like coal. Thanks for screwing everyone over, butterflies! /s

      Word on your whole comment.

    2. The idea of what’s beautiful definitely differs from culture to culture. However, there are some things that are universally considered to be sexually attractive. Across all cultures, traits that are considered to be sexually attractive in women are symmetry; clear, smooth skin; clear eyes; dilated pupils (indicates sociability); full scalp hair; toned limbs; soft curves; and a waist-to-hip ratio that is small enough to suggest that the woman is not pregnant. These traits are indicative of health and fertility. Notice that weight or overall fatness is not listed. The preferred level of fatness depends on the culture.

      With regard to facial attractiveness, averageness (plus a slight exaggeration of feminine features in both women and men, except for when women are ovulating, and then they prefer faces that are slightly more masculine than average) and symmetry are what is considered to be beautiful in a face. Scientist believe that our brains average all of the faces that we see throughout our lifetime, and that average becomes what we expect or hope to see in a face. If we see something that differs too much from the average, it can cause us to feel uncomfortable or frightened. Our brains are naturally xenophobic. It helped ensure our survival (and in fact, there is a genetic condition called Williams Syndrome which results in a lack of fear of strangers in those who are affected…the parents of these children have to be vigilant, because over-familiarity with strangers is obviously dangerous).

      I end this comment by stressing that biology isn’t destiny. The professor in the human evolution class who talked about sexual attractiveness urged the women in the class not to run home and measure their waist-to-hip ratios. There are always individuals who will have preferences that are different from the average, and also, the cultural aspects of attractiveness will also affect someone’s perceived attractiveness; not to mention that other things matter besides physical attractiveness. “Beauty” and “objective physical attractiveness” are not the same thing. Also, whenever researchers discuss the origins of xenophobia, they always stress that the purpose of the research is not to provide an excuse for being xenophobic, but to use our magnificent human brains to find a way to manage or fight our xenophobia so that we don’t hurt people who are different. Feeling shocked after unexpectedly viewing a mangled face is natural, but we are in control of our behavior.

      1. It sounds like you’re trying to say that we know with a fair degree of certainty that the things on your list are consistent across cultures. My understanding is that that level of certainty isn’t there yet.

        Also, “toned limbs” and “soft curves” sound pretty vague to me. (I’m kind of unsure about “clear eyes”, too: not red? no cataracts?) And if by “toned” you mean “firm rather than squishy, with a little muscle definition but not too much” I’m pretty sure that that that’s NOT what all cultures during all times valued. Opinions on muscle on women have varied a lot over the years and between subcultures just in U.S. culture.

        “Waist-hip ratio that’s small enough to suggest the woman’s not pregnant”: I’m not sure if you’re referring to the .7 thing, or if you’re being deliberately vague because you know that that’s in dispute. But there is dispute about the supposedly universal .7 ratio. I’m not going to delve into this too much right now; if people are really interested I can dig into it more later, maybe in a separate blog post.

        1. With regard to the waist-to-hip ratio thing, I meant, less than 1, and probably somewhere between 0.65 and 0.8. One study which indicated that certain African groups appreciated a WHR around 0.8 or even up to 0.9, later found out that the groups were only shown front views of women, with varying hip widths. When they were shown profile views with different levels of buttocks protrusion, it was discovered that the groups really did prefer WHR around 0.7, but they liked the fat carried in the back rather than on the sides.

          Also interesting is that in one study, congenitally blind men preferred a WHR of 0.7, over a WHR of 0.84 (they were given mannequins with with WHRs of 0.7 and 0.84, and indicated which one they preferred).

          “Toned” means not lacking muscle tone. Lack of muscle tone (hypotonia) may indicate illness or malnutrition.

          “Clear eyes” means eyes that are healthy looking. Cataracts generally indicate illness or advanced age, and thus one would not expect most people to prefer eyes with cataracts over eyes without cataracts. Eyes that aren’t bloodshot are also considered to be more attractive than bloodshot eyes.

          The list that I gave is simply a list of things that are believed to be evolutionary-based preferences, NOT requirements. Someone can be missing some or all of these traits and still be considered sexually attractive by some people. But in general, as indicators of “sexiness” (health, youth, and fertility), smooth skin will be preferred to diseased or wrinkled skin, toned limbs will be preferred to weak/limp limbs (hypotonia), full scalp hair will be preferred to patchy hair, etc.

          If this list of evolutionary-based traits is indeed disputed by scientists, I would be interested in seeing the other perspectives. When the professor gave us this list, the implication was that it was generally accepted by anthropologists.

          1. I’m not familiar with all of the things on the list (as you can probably tell), but my understanding was that many of these things were still tentative and hadn’t had many studies done confirming them, so I was mostly just trying to say that it’s a case of “we think” vs. “we know”. The waist-hip ratio is the only one I know of where there’s been an active back-and-forth dispute rather than just “what data we have suggests this, but more studies needed”. I had heard about the subsequent profile-view studies about waist-hip ratio but IIRC not every scientist was convinced by them. Defining it as .65-.8 is probably better supported than .7. I remember there was also a paper looking again at the Miss America data that researchers had used to give a .7 ratio and looking back they found it varied somewhat over the years, and if anything there was better support for slightly below .7. I think they had reasons for arguing it wasn’t just random variation over the years. If I do that blog post I will look into it more.

            And yes, any one person can be attractive and not have all the traits–in fact, any one person is likely to not perfectly match all or even any of the traits, since most of them are a matter of degree. Even supermodels get zits or get red eyes after a late night, and it’s hard for anyone to be perfectly average.

            1. Yeah, there is definitely more of a physical attractiveness spectrum, instead of “hot or not.” And also, I remember reading that the closer someone is to a person, the higher they rate that person’s physical attractiveness…so personality affects a person’s perceived attractiveness.

      2. I do strongly agree that beauty and physical attractiveness are not the same thing, though. Otherwise, how could a mountain be beautiful?

        But now I have to nitpick again and say that “objective physical attractiveness” is a weird phrase. Normally I’d say that physical attraction is inherently SUBjective. If you define it as “the average amount that people are attracted to you” it would change as the population changes. If you define it as “your score on symmetry, feminine features, a bunch of other measures” it wouldn’t exactly be objective, because we don’t have a perfect scientific understanding of these cross-cultural factors and what weight to give each.

        1. Yes, that is a very sloppy phrase. I was trying to differentiate preferences that seem to be universal, from preferences that depend strongly on culture. (Beauty needn’t be based on EITHER of these.) Maybe “evolutionary-based indicators of health, youth, and fertility” is a better phrase?

  2. I think that both sides of this conversation is wrong, beauty should not be a factor at all in movements like Fat/Size Acceptance. A woman should not have to identify as curvy, hot, sexy or beautiful to be accepted in Fat/Size Acceptance and this is what the movement is today.

    When you read writings from the period of the Fat Manifesto you can see how much today’s Fat Acceptance still clings to the ideology of Fat Acceptance from the period where it was in bed with the Fat Fetish Community.

    This is one reason that Fat Men, Fat Trans-Men, Androgynous Fat People and other Fat Variants are stuck on the outside of mainstream Fat Acceptance.

    1. I think you are misreading Ragen. She was responding to the poster’s statement, which, in essence, said that you can’t considered everyone beautiful because some people aren’t beautiful. Ragen was noting that the poster’s comment was uing the poster’s own definition of beauty, not some universal truth of what beauty is. I would contend that there is no universal truth defining beauty – isn’t the truism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? And accepting some definition of beauty isn’t a requirement of size acceptance. Beauty is a concept and a construct, and it often plays into one’s self-esteem, but you need not consider yourself or anyone else beautiful to believe that everyone, regardless of size, is worthy of dignity and respect.

        1. I never said that a person had to earn his right to decent treatment by being beautiful. I was responding to the visitor’s comments about the “cheapening” of beauty and that’s all.

        2. This is to me the nub of it. Beauty is lovely where it occurs, and it certainly does occur in fat people as well as others, but it’s not important to the essence of civil rights, or self-acceptance.

          I am a fat woman with good health habits and very strong body acceptance. I like my body and appreciate it greatly, and I resonate with Ragen’s frequent description of coming to appreciate what her body can do. I find so much joy in the movements I can do.

          I’ve never been particularly beautiful nor have I been much worried about that; I consider it essential for people in beauty professions and thankfully something optional for the rest of us. I’ve laughingly told people that I’m pretty enough that someone who is wildly in love with me can find me breathtaking, but not so pretty that other people will be distracted.

          I don’t think it’s useful to conflate joy in our bodies, which comes from within, with beauty, which is a judgement about those bodies whether it comes from ourselves or from others. Some of the people I cherish most in the world are not beautiful in the physical sense, however much their presence and my love for them illuminate my life. That’s absolutely fine. Beauty is nice but not needed for a good life.

      1. It does not matter if you are saying only some people are beautiful or everyone is beautiful, you are still placing more value on being one of the beautiful people.

        Why not support fat people because they are human and deserve everything out there that life has to offer. A person does not have to identify as beautiful for me to support and accept them.

        1. Yes, this, exactly. We don’t have to be beautiful to deserve respect and decency. We don’t have to be beautiful to love ourselves and take joy in who we are.

        2. I agree that a person does not have to identify as beautiful for me to support and accept them. But I also think that fat people identifying themselves as beautiful can be radical and powerful, given that the mere fact of our fatness has typically excluded us from being considered attractive. I am sometimes torn between, as you say, wanting to do away with the idea of beauty altogether and wanting to cash in on the benefits that come from thinking of myself as attractive, such as not feeling too afraid to approach someone I fancy in case they think I am hideous.

          I like how it feels to “feel beautiful”, though what that means to me may be different from what it means to others. I don’t really want to give that up, and I’d like anyone who wants to feel it to feel they are entitled to it.

          1. Hi Sarah

            I often will compliment a person in Fat Acceptance on their looks, sometimes because they are looking spectacular and other times because I think they need to hear it. I am not going to call everyone I see in Fat Acceptance beautiful, I am not going to say everyone in Fat Acceptance is beautiful, but if someone says they are beautiful I would not disagree.

    2. (Here we go again with fat appreciation kinkster shaming [speaking as a fat, somewhat androgynous woman who is a FA kinkster]
      I hope I’m wrong. But somehow, I doubt it.)

    3. I think you have a great point. It’s just naturally assumed that women, no matter who they are or what they look like, wants to fall into the category of “pretty.” Even if they are far from it society just tends to assume that by virtue of being a woman, the desire to be desired based on their appearance exists.

      1. Clara

        The problem is that women are not the only fat people on earth and as things are Fat Acceptance has assumed ownership of all fat body shapes as being curvy, sexy and feminine even though fat women share some of these same body shapes with fat men, fat trans-men and fat androgynous people.

        This every fat women is beautiful “rule” is a privilege over every other kind of fat person who might be looking for support from fat acceptance.

        1. I think there is a difference between how one chooses to perceive others, and telling other people what they have to do or be. For example, I choose to perceive beauty in every person. I would never suggest that people have to identify as beautiful to deserve to be part of fat acceptance or get civil rights etc. Identifying as beautiful, or even caring about the concept is completely optional.


          1. Ragen After this I am going to take a break from this conversation, I have contributed all that I can. The idea that everyone is beautiful is the belief people should internalize and act on.

            Once a person or group makes the statement that everyone is beautiful, they are stating that being beautiful is a more valuable state of existence.

            There are so many other more important things about people than their looks.

            1. William, I am curious why you assume when someone talks about beauty that they are just meaning the external physical shell of the person? I understand that to our society, that is a very common definition. However, not everyone has that same definition. When some people talk about beauty they are referring to things beyond a person’s physical appearance (I certainly do and I am not alone). Saying someone is beautiful can refer to their caring or giving nature, compassion, free spirited-ness, or passion for their work. I, personally, like to use the word beautiful to describe people and make it clear that I’m not talking about their physical appearance (or just their physical appearance) because I want to ‘reclaim’ that word as meaning more than just how close a person fits into a societal standard for external appearances. Perhaps you feel differently and that’s fine, I just want to put that out there that when people use the term ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful’ they may be using it in a way that you or others don’t.

              1. Hi Beth

                Well in Size/Fat Acceptance I have not seen the word beauty used for nothing else than appearance. Someone may say something like she/he is a beautiful person, but that is being used in another context.

                Also because fat people’s bodies have been villiafied by Society for so long the Size/Fat Community naturally tends to react. It provides a counter balance to Society’s views. It just would be better if the communities reaction was more realistic and inclusive of all the different fat people looking for acceptance. I think that I am the only person in this thread who has mentioned that there are many different types of fat people and fat bodies out there beyond what Fat Acceptance currently focuses on.

                1. I understand that even in the fat community certain shapes or sizes can get all or most of the focus, and some groups can be excluded. There are excellent spaces where that is not the case, including this wonderful place.
                  Are there many blogs about Fat Acceptance run by women? Yes there are. I think the reason for this is that fat men are more acceptable in society (you see far more fat men on television, in movies, in books, in politics, etc than fat women). And yeah, I’ve heard a ton of different descriptors (some pleasant, some not) used to describe fat women’s bodies, I will gladly send you a list if you’d like. As far as trans or androgynous individuals, unfortunately their voices aren’t heard as much anywhere in society. All movements and groups should be accepting of them and allow their voices to be heard.
                  However, it seems like you are talking about something that wasn’t even a part of this post. Ragen never mentions specific body types or even describes her body, she uses a very general and non-exclusive way to say she thinks she is beautiful (and I would agree). Most importantly, this is how she feels about herself, she’s asking no one’s permission, nor is she trying to ‘prove’ it by fitting into someone’s (be that yours, society’s, or that fat acceptance community’s) definition of beautiful. We all find different things beautiful and have different definitions of beauty. If I say that I think I’m beautiful, that hurts no one and puts no one else down nor is exclusive in any way. It also doesn’t state that I am any more or less worthy of respect, dignity, and support, it is simply a statement of how I feel about myself (and it doesn’t matter if other people agree with me or not, or feel that it is important or not). If I were to say I’m beautiful and then proceed to list off that only specific body types are or put down other body types, then that is BS and anyone who does that should be called out for it, especially anyone who claims to be for size or fat acceptance.

                  1. Hi Beth

                    I PMed Ragen about where I was coming from. I totally understand that Fat Acceptance is a reactionary movement fighting Society’s Fat Bias. I explained that since Fat Acceptance ideology supports the idea that all fat women are beautiful and curvy no matter what their body shape or silhouette that there is nothing left for the rest of us in Fat Acceptance to identify with.

                    Fat Acceptance has no problem talking about fat men who possess a more female body shape, but you never hear Fat Acceptance talk about a category of fat women who possess a more mannish body shape. As I said else there are individual fat women who will self identify as curve-less, but not as a category of fat women.

                    I really do not like talking about this but Fat Acceptance has already assumed ownership of all attributes of for Fat Women.

                    1. William, your responses seem to be pretty much the same, so I’m going to give one last response and stop with this. I’ve been talking about this blog and post specifically, you’re speaking in generalities and very vague ones at that (given that you haven’t named any specific instances of what you are talking about). And for someone who doesn’t like to talk about this, you certainly bring up descriptions of the bodies of fat women a lot.
                      While I claim to be no expert on fat acceptance, I do read the blogs of many fat activists and try to stay current on the fat or size acceptance movement and have not seen any of the exclusion you are talking about. I’m sure there are many blogs that claim to be part of the fat acceptance movement that may take this stance, and that may seek to exclude others. However, they do not comprise the entire ideology and voice of fat acceptance. I am sorry if you feel excluded or if some exclude you or others, that is wrong. You haven’t really given any evidence though to support your claims that the entire fat acceptance movement and fat acceptance ideology, which means all fat activists, bloggers, books, etc have across the board excluded certain groups of people.

        2. William, can you give me specific instances of where you’re seeing “Fat Acceptance…[assume] ownership of all fat body shapes as being curvy, sexy and feminine”? That doesn’t sound at all like what anyone’s been saying here. It’s the kind of thing I see more in spaces that I’d call “body acceptance lite” than actual FA spaces. For example, that whole “real women have curves” thing, which lots of FA bloggers have pointed to as problematic.

          1. Blogs like “Dances with Fat” are refreshingly focused on Fat Acceptance with a singleness of purpose.

            Other Fat Acceptance pages and blogs have been doing their best to combat the continuous attacks on fat people’s bodies by Society.

            I did not get into this conversation just to specifically point out what type of Fat Woman is not curvy. Still of all the body shapes out there I have never, ever once heard any fat female bodies described as anything but curvy.

            Now I have heard people say that some fat men are pear shaped like fat women, but you do not heard similar statements about groups of fat women.

            There are individual fat women who describe themselves as less curvy, but that is different.

            1. Also Blogger and WordPress are no longer the hot beds of Fat Acceptance activity. Facebook and Tumblr has taken the lead (I think this is a tragedy) and what goes on there is what Fat Acceptance is.

              I still come back to places like this for real Fat Acceptance thoughts.

  3. To be honest, I think partly what’s going on here is a culture clash. The poster is right, in that that if she went around saying she was awesome and fabulous and anybody in the UK got a whiff of it she’d be mocked within an inch of her life. Even super models are absolutely not allowed to betray a sense that they’re beautiful and awesome. When a writer for the Daily Mail had the temerity to say she was beautiful, the laughter she got lit up the internet. (Though she added a dollop of spite to her article.)

    As to beauty, if you look at what science has to say about beauty, it’s symmetry. The more symmetrical, the more the person is considered beautiful, and that holds true across time and cultures, with everything else (the specific size or colouring that’s in this year) changing depending on fashion and other social dictates. That strict definition isn’t how most people in real life use the term. If a mother says to her child: you’re beautiful, she’s not saying: ‘you’re supermodel material’, she’s saying: ‘you’re infinitely precious and worthwhile and I could stare at you all day’.

    There are other things mixed up in this comment, however, which have to do with self esteem e.g. the comments about jealousy and so on. I don’t want to say too much about that, because that’s the poster’s opinion and she has a right to it. But I agree with you – the only person who gets to decide that stuff is us.

  4. There use to be some areas in Fat Acceptance in the past where the original poster would not have been confronted like she was. Those communities would have offered her support even though she was not a “perfect” Fat Acceptance camper and let her find her way to a better acceptance over time.

    You do not see that now that Fat Acceptance uses Blogs, Facebook and Tumblr to broadcast itself.

    1. I would say she’s far from a perfect Fat Acceptance camper, not because she doesn’t have similar views on beauty and self-esteem but because her goal seems like it’s to bring down someone she disagrees with. In fact, I really don’t see how her statements fit into any kind of Acceptance movement at all.

      1. I agree. The original poster does not sound as if she is at all interested in fat acceptance, only in tearing down anyone who does believe in it. I have been around FA for over 32 years & I personally am fed up with trying to ‘gently educate’ those who come around to criticize us & tear us down. Fat acceptance is not only not too unkind to newcomers, we are too tolerate of trolls, & we are not confident & assertive enough about demanding civil rights for ALL of us…&, yes, that includes all sizes of fat, all genders, trans people as well.

        1. “The original poster does not sound as if she is at all interested in fat acceptance, only in tearing down anyone who does believe in it.”

          Nailed it.

        2. Patsy I agree that Fat Acceptance stands up for the civil rights of many different types of people. I would say that Fat Acceptance fails miserably in supporting the individual body images of all fat people.

          In its quest to claim to beauty for all, (primarily fat women) Fat Acceptance has reserved all variations of fat body shapes as examples of beautiful fat women.

          Once in a while you will see someone in Fat Acceptance show support for fat trans-women, but Fat Acceptance Ideology leaves nothing to support the body images of all the other fat people.

  5. “Size Acceptance is about my acceptance, affirmation and love of my body, not about whether or not someone else accepts it…”
    Right there. That is a perfect distillation.
    And this one:
    “It’s self-esteem, it’s not what-other-people-think-of-me-esteem.”
    Thank you so much for the work you do! I invoke the underpants rule all the time! Often, it’s me reminding friends that they are the bosses of their own respective underpants. (mostly because I am very good at giving at advice [yes, I recognize that I am supremely good at breaking the underpants rule], but lousy at actually bossing my own underpants)
    Anyways, THANK YOU! Your blog has done me much much good.

  6. As a fiction writer, one of the lessons I needed to learn was, if I didn’t love my characters or care about them, no one else would, either. If I don’t find them worth being interested in, then why should anyone else? The same applies to ourselves. It’s very much the same rule: If we don’t think we are worthy of love and respect, how can we expect anyone else to think so? Tell the world you’re repulsive and unlovable, and the world is going to agree with you. After all, since you know yourself best, why would they have any reason to have a higher opinion of you than you have?

    Having a realistic appraisal of ourselves is one thing. I know I’m never going to make some fashion magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” short-list, and I’m okay with that. I already know that I don’t line up with their narrow definition of what qualifies as “sexy,” “hunky,” or even “ruggedly handsome.”

    Nothing I could ever do would make me look like Brad Pitt. Nothing my wife could do would ever make her look like Angelina Jolie. We are who we are, and we could immerse ourselves in misery because we don’t fit the cultural definition of “beautiful people,” or we can choose to embrace the beauty of who we are and reap the happiness that goes with that. Since I won’t look any more like Brad Pitt if I’m walking around miserable and unloved, I’d just as soon look like me and be happy and loved.

    The choice to accept what we cannot change is not egotism or arrogance. It’s realism. Our attitude doesn’t change reality. It changes how reality affects us.

  7. Thanks, Ragen! I hope the message that it’s okay to love yourself will sink in with enough people that it’ll become old hat. But in the meantime, keep up the good work. We haven’t heard it enough, yet.

  8. I read this partial quote from Marianne Williamson often when people start throwing their own insecurities out onto others:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

  9. I read this person’s comments and all I could think was “HELLO PROJECTION.” It’s obvious to me that s/he feels insecure, and instead of looking at that as “wow, I may be insecure,” shis position is “How can that person not be as insecure as me? How dare she? It’s not normal, dammit! There must be something wrong with her, because there can’t be anything wrong with me or my feelings.”
    I totally agree about the Underpants Rule and making your self-esteem conditional if you want to, but don’t try to bring down people who don’t make that choice out of a misguided attempt to convince yourself that you’re the one who’s okay here.

  10. This is very unfair. The commenter is revealing that she has self esteem issues of her own, and as well as publicly dragging her into your very popular blog – you could have taken on her points without naming her in a shaming way – there are now people vilifying her in the comments. I won’t read your blog again – I thought it was all about positive self image, not about tearing other people down.

    1. First, the commenter publicly responded to a blog, they did not privately email Ragen with their thoughts, they posted their comment on a blog where anyone can read and comment on it. How is it unfair that the writer of the blog respond to a public comment?

      Second, I disagree that Ragen in anyway shamed or tore this person down. She thoughtfully laid out her beliefs about self-esteem and everyone’s right to have it. Nothing wrong with that, in fact it needs to be said more often.

    2. Hi Alexie,

      I’m really sorry that you feel this way. It was not my goal to vilify her, but rather to use here comment to frame a discussion. My intent was to voice my responses to a general audience rather than to the commenter herself, and to leave room for her to be correct in her opinions while still demonstrating another option, and to draw general conclusions. I feel like I did not drag her onto my very popular blog, but rather responded to a comment that she chose to leave. Of course it’s possible I failed at that, I’m certainly fallible and while I would be sad to lose you as a reader and to lose your voice in the comments I respect your decision if you choose to go.


      1. I have nothing but the highest respect for you. You are calm, thoughtful and intelligent. You take on hatred with wit and good grace. You are an absolute role model of how civil rights can be both effective and civil, and your wins are truly remarkable.

        When I read the original comment, I could see that the poster was groping towards trying to reconcile her own dilemmas with what you’re saying. She was very honest about how conflicted and angry she is, so prefacing her remarks by saying she states opinion as fact etc – while actually true – is not kind. It’s not in the spirit of the honesty she was displaying.

        Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t actually stop reading your blog. As well as being too thoughtful, you’re just too readable.

        1. I have to agree with Alexie on (some of) the comments. I see this a lot in SA/HAES blogs.

          I completely understand how battle hardened fighting this fight makes you. I have been doing it just over a year now and I’m exhausted already. I understand how people who have been doing this for years become completely sick of stating the same arguments over and over and often being faced with a torrent of abuse for their efforts.

          I think one of Ragen’s greatest strengths (among so many to choose from!) is that she never forgets that somebody might be reading these words for the first time. I think there is a tendency to create an Us & Them in situations like this. And after the 500th time of saying something, it’s easy to fall into the ‘will THEY ever get it, why are we bothering’ trap. But THEY can be one little person in pain, who needs to hear those things.

  11. I have always had this idea that thin people were more comfortable. They always seemed to have it together and their physique was a sign to me that they were on the right track. I am beginning to realize that I am not so much jealous of how they look but of their happiness (or at least what I perceive as happiness.) I have to remind myself all the time that thin does not equal happy and what I truly want, deep down, is to be happy. And that is very hard to accept. Happiness no longer has a number value I can attribute to it and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel lost without it. I think it is very natural to expect people, who you view as in your same situation, to feel the same way you do. It’s not right. We shouldn’t wish for the unhappiness of others. But it is natural to not want to be alone.

    I have also felt that some of the self-acceptance mantras out their are fake, whenever on Facebook I see cookie-cutter “curvy girls are beautiful!” or “real men love real women!” type statuses. I wonder if that is how they truly feel but in the end that is not for me to decide. It is up to them. Just as no one can find my personal happiness for me either.

    And also, I would like to say I thought the OP did a wonderful job expressing how they felt. People who express their insecurities through insults and obscenities don’t seem to have that kind of self-awareness. At least, that has not been my impression.

    1. “I have always had this idea that thin people were more comfortable. They always seemed to have it together and their physique was a sign to me that they were on the right track. I am beginning to realize that I am not so much jealous of how they look but of their happiness (or at least what I perceive as happiness.) I have to remind myself all the time that thin does not equal happy and what I truly want, deep down, is to be happy. And that is very hard to accept. Happiness no longer has a number value I can attribute to it and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel lost without it.”

      Holy cow. I had no idea that I thought that until you put it in words. I just didn’t even recognize my own feelings. Thank you for saying that!! *hugs*

    2. The truth is, thin people are really no more secure or comfortable with themselves than anyone else. Insecurity knows no bounds, and the overwhelming majority of us are only too aware of our own personal flaws. While fat is attacked as a health issue, thin is also attacked if we don’t fit what the cultural idea of “normal” happens to be. I should know. When I joined the Air Force at age 17, I was 6’2″ tall and weighed 107 pounds. People constantly harangued me about why I didn’t put on weight (hello? I ate food like it was going out of style already. What more was I supposed to do?). I didn’t tan, so I was harangued about being too pale. I had plenty of insecurities to deal with, even if being fat wasn’t one of them.

      When they made the animated adaptation of Beowulf, released in 2007, Angelina Jolie commented on the character modeled after her in the movie, and said that having her bare behind shown was a real insecure moment for her. Yeah. Really. Even though the “bare behind” was an animated approximation of her body, and not actually her appearing in the altogether on the screen.

      It’s very easy to think others have it all together, and we don’t. More often than not, others are just doing a good job of hiding that they don’t have it all together.

      1. You’re absolutely right. It can seem a bit odd but assuming thin people are happy and totally comfortable in their own skin is actually just as bad as people assuming that I am just not trying hard enough to lose weight or whatever else they might think.

        I realized this as I was sitting in the waiting room in the eating disorder clinic I go to. As usual I was watching the women around me and thinking about how “if I had legs like hers” I could were shorts whenever I wanted and how I could finally fit in boots designed to go up to my knees. How wonderful would that be!

        But she is a patient just like me. Why would she be here if she was perfectly happy? Those legs are a summation of everything I thought I wanted and yet they still brought her here. She was suffering and I almost couldn’t see it. I still don’t know if I see it. But I am trying to.

        Even positive assumptions can distract from who a person really is. I guess that is why Ragen always says “size acceptance” rather the fat acceptance. Accepting fat people for who they are is only one side of the issue. It’s the idea of truly seeing people for who they are and allowing them to be as they are without ridicule. That is at the heart of it all.

  12. Fantastic post! I agree with you, Ragen, that it does not “lessen” the term beautiful if it’s applied to everyone. Being able to see beauty everywhere means there’s MORE beauty to me, not less. If I can see some beauty in everyone, that’s a whole lot of beauty in my eyes. My life is filled, from horizon to horizon, with beauty, and my heart is more joyful because of it. If I can only see it in a few, that would make me feel like my life had LOST a lot of beauty. I would not be as joyful a person, if I saw less beauty in the world. If I see it when I look at myself and when I look at others, there is beauty everywhere I turn. How is that “less” in any way?

  13. I really do see where this person is coming from, because most of the time it’s considered bragging to say positive things about yourself. I don’t believe that it’s acceptable in U.S. culture either to actively exhibit such sentiments. And honestly, I feel it would be more effective to spread the positive by aiming the comments at other people and showing your self-esteem through your actions rather than what seems as bragging. I think that the conflict above is at least partly the idea that it’s okay to think you’re great, but less acceptable to tell people that you are.

  14. >I read this person’s comments and all I could think was “HELLO PROJECTION.” It’s obvious to me that s/he feels insecure

    Oh, dear. As someone who grew up in the USA and has lived for years in England, this is not at all obvious. I don’t think it’s even true.

    I’m with the commenters who have pointed out that this is a culture clash. Well, I would call it a culture miss, a thing where people are talking about different things and don’t realise they are doing it. Displaying American-style self-esteem looks absurd and risible in England. People cringe to watch someone making such a fool of themself, and when someone close to them does it they mock that person relentlessly. This doesn’t mean English people hate themselves and others (some do and some don’t). It’s about what’s considered reasonable and appropriate to say. Showing modesty is very important in English culture, and the more you have to be modest about the more important the ritual statements that demonstrate modesty are. It’s people who don’t know those rituals (including Americans) who take them literally and thereby misunderstand. An English person dismissing his or her beauty or accomplishments usually doesn’t feel at all bad about them.

    While there are many things I’ve found difficult as an immigrant in England, this is one area in which I prefer English culture to American. Much of the American approach to ‘self-esteem’ looks very hollow to me, more like taking that absurd song “I believe I can fly” literally than learning to live well with one’s feet on the ground. However, I am grossly out of step with my fellow Americans this way. Positive-talk is a key American ritual — it’s considered inappropriate in American culture to downplay (or even fail to exaggerate) one’s virtues. It looks like that person is failing to live up to his or her potential, and bringing others down by failing to create the positive pep-talk environment that is considered normal in the USA. Rising to the best one can achieve is a requirement in American culture. Asking whether one is literally beautiful or successful or whatever, like Pippy did, is from an American point of view missing the point: this kind of talk is about creating the proper positive environment to bring the best performance possible out of people. It’s no more meant to be literally true than English modesty talk.

    Again, I think this is fundamentally about what ways it’s appropriate to _talk about_ things in these two cultures, not about whether one should feel comfortable with one’s body (yes, if you can do so in a compassionate way) or whether one should insult other people’s bodies or take away civil rights because of how they look (no, please don’t do that).

    1. I think you’re seriously judging the mindset of a lot of Americans. I’ve noticed the trend these days IS to downplay attributes and achievements. The woman in the UK who wrote about how hard it is to be pretty got plenty of flak here as well, and this summer, a speaker at a high school graduation got tons of praise for telling seniors they aren’t special and shouldn’t come to expect positive comments all the time just because they’re leaving high school. I don’t know how long you’ve been away from the US, but reality checks are all the rage, especially due to the constant “instacelebrity” culture.

      But if someone wants to believe they can fly and find inspiration in it, why is it such a problem? It’s only when it turns to arrogance and trying to find praise on purpose is when it becomes an issue.

      1. If you like the American upbeat style, go for it. I’m not telling anyone not to get into that. My point was that I believe that being immersed in that — and it is deep in the fabric of American life — has made a lot of people deeply misunderstand what (I think) Pippy was saying. Hearing her comment described as “silencing” Ragen or putting down fat people just doesn’t fit at all with how it sounded in my English-tuned ears.

        Cultural assumptions are the things that just feel normal. It’s very difficult to see them until you’ve been out of them. Yes, modesty exists in the USA, as in any group of people, but it is very different from modesty in England. And the approach to self-esteem that works well for Ragen really makes people uncomfortable in England.

        I’m sorry if it sounds judgemental that I don’t like the pep-talk aspect of US culture. I tried to make it clear that that’s a personal preference and nothing universal but it seems I failed.

        1. I see what you are saying about cultural differences and personal choice , but I think the part that’s kind of grating to American ears is the assumption that we all grew up in a candy cane world where we were told we were amazing, could do anything and were beautiful. I’ve been reading this blog for years and the one thing I always notice is that most of us from all over the world grew up hearing the same things – you’re fat, you’re ugly, don’t eat that, is that a pimple? There’s no overflowing wealth of positive affirmation, just a lot of people flashing airbrushed pictures at you and then wondering why you aren’t THAT, as if you ever had the choice. And it may just be that your experience of American life was far, far different than mine, but most of what I see on this blog is people who have been put down for years.

          The thought in the original post echoed an idea that I HAVE heard before – not everyone can be beautiful, because beauty is supposed to be an exception, and why do you feel you need to be, or that you need to tell people you are? But I don’t think that Size Acceptance is about saying all women are beautiful – it’s about saying beauty is not dependent on size, and that when a fat woman is beautiful it shouldn’t be the exception to the rule. You shouldn’t have to say ‘IF a fat woman REALLY takes care of herself, she can be beautiful.’ And if the standard of beauty cannot accept that, maybe it’s time to change the standard, or change our personal standard – hasn’t it been done enough before? What is beautiful now was not beautiful 50 years ago, and if we are so narrow minded that we can’t see beauty in one type of person, then maybe it’s time for people to look at things differently, instead of shoving pictures under those people’s noses and saying ‘you could be beautiful if you transmorgified yourself to look like that’.

          Maybe this isn’t the problem elsewhere, but the biggest issue I have with weight in the US is that people actually act offended if you AREN’T up to their standard of beauty. How many times in the grocery store do we hear people mutter ‘couldn’t she put some makeup on?’ or ‘those pants are too tight. I can’t believe I have to look at that’. Like you offend them just by existing. And I think the point that Ragen was trying to make is that, you know what? I’m beautiful to me. I’m sorry if I hurt your eyes while you look at broccoli, or if you think I should be thinner or prettier or have blonder hair in order to be in front of you in this line. Sorry my ass isn’t shapely enough to not hurt your eyes, but I like me, and I like looking at me, and that’s honestly enough for me.’

          I don’t think you sounded judgmental, but I do think a lot of us grew up with (to a degree that may not be exactly the same) the kind of modesty you speak of. I’ve never felt okay saying that I’m pretty, or smart, and even avoided mentioning any honors classes I took growing up because it seemed absurd and so self-important. There still may be cultural differences, but I think that we can all agree that somewhere along the line, liking yourself should be good enough, and infinitely better than hating yourself because someone told you to.

    2. …it’s considered inappropriate in American culture to downplay (or even fail to exaggerate) one’s virtues.

      Hrm. This has never been my experience at all in the US. In all the communities in which I’ve participated — large or small, formal or informal, public or private — it’s been considered essential to engage in self-loathing or self-deprecating talk.

      1. I agree that the cultural differences can be quite different, but in reality, what difference does that make when it comes to treating others? How you see yourself? Of the right to be a healthy and happy human?

      2. Nor mine. I think there’s definitely rhetoric in places like women’s magazines about loving your body (which is then undermined by an article about how to change your body on the next page) but it’s more the sort of thing that everyone else says that other people should do. Meanwhile, women bond over “fat talk” and hating various aspects of their appearance. It’s something that’s preached but not practiced. Maybe in my case I wouldn’t say it’s “essential” to do self-loathing (but then I’ve never been the best at social stuff), but I don’t hear anyone talking about being beautiful and I think in most contexts it would be considered vain/arrogant to do so.

        I would be tempted to say it’s a regionalism (it would be so easy to ascribe it to the lingering influence of Puritanism in New England!), but Tori and I live in opposite corners of the continental U.S.

  15. Wonderful post! It’s interesting because just last night I was talking to a woman and it became apparent how much she lacked confidence. The unfortunate side effects were that she (I believe unintentionally) tore people down a bit, projected her issues onto others, and she couldn’t truly relax and enjoy herself. It made me very sad to see. Here in the US it’s difficult for anyone, especially women, to express confidence in themselves. If we do, then we’re arrogant, and we’re supposed to feel bad about that.

  16. I wish I could say I “couldn’t believe” some of the comments here trying to silence Ragen … unfortunately I’m a jaded, humorless feminist so it’s just all too typical. It’s classic gatekeeping. It still makes me sad.
    If folks want to keep their thoughts of their own greatness to themselves, that’s fine with me, but I want people to understand that their compulsion to do that to other people, that itch to reach out and shut up a person who’s having and demonstrating good feelings about themselves- that’s a result of oppression, too. I understand I’m talking in the second person here and I don’t usually do that but I feel the need to… Y’all are used to being punished and degraded for standing up for yourselves, and you’re used to being rewarded for complying with the notion that you’re worthless… i mean if you agree with the bully, if you give him your money, he leaves you alone for another day, right (to use Ragen’s analogy)?

    I would like to ask a favor of you naysayers. Try four things: 1. understanding the difference between the concepts of “arrogance” and “self-preservation” and even “self-defense.” Just spend some time thinking that over. 2. do a wiki search on “internalized oppression.” just that one piece of jargon. it might be enlightening. 3. think about finding good things to say about yourself, and practice saying them. even practice arguing with someone who doesn’t agree. 4. spend a week making a conscious effort to NOT police the behaviors of other people who are your peers. just those people, people who are marginalized in the same ways as yourselves. just try it out for a week and see what you observe about that. again, it might be really enlightening.

    thanks for this post ragen, and thanks to the commenters here- even though what folks are saying is more than mildly disturbing i needed the crust wiped outta my eyes, i guess.

  17. I read the entire comment before reading it within the frame on Ragen’s post and my initial reaction to her comment was she was upset there are women, and not just women, but fat women who are confident, have solid self-esteem and believe in their own beauty (however one defines it). This made me sad. Her remark about unconditional self-esteem reminded me so much of myself when I was younger. My self-esteem was based on what others thought, what size my pants were and how “healthy” I was eating.

    After reading the comment and Ragen’s reaction to them, I agree with Ragen. I think she expressed so well what so many of us don’t quite know how to verbalize. We love ourselves, no conditions, no input from anyone else and that is perfectly OK.

  18. I can’t get past feeling terribly sad that there are people who would actually argue that not everyone deserves to be called beautiful. There are a million different kinds of beauty. Asserting that anyone is completely devoid of beauty really does say more about the speaker’s ability to recognize beauty in all its forms.

    1. Still by stating that everyone is beautiful you are setting the grounds that being beautiful, a person’s looks are the most important thing about them. That the perception of beauty is the number one thing we need to change about the opponents of fat people.

      Fat Acceptance spends most of the day on Facebook and Tumblr saying “you are beautiful” “Thanks and you are beautiful too”. That is not much better than the fat haters that say no fat person is beautiful or handsome.

      Beauty is a outside issue that Fat Acceptance spends entirely too much time on, instead of dealing with Fat Issues.

      1. I think there has been more talk in the comments about the presumptive assumption that beauty is the only topic of this blog post. It’s not. It’s about self esteem.

        Secondly, she does not singularly extol Fat Acceptance. She speaks of Size Acceptance. Yes, people of the fat size but she does not single out any other size as not being part of acceptance. At least that’s how I see it based on her description of what this blog is about, various blog posts, et al.

        ~~ “I think that the ability to perceive beauty is something that we develop, and some people never develop past looking for a superficial, arbitrary social construct either because they don’t think it’s possible, don’t know it’s possible, or simply don’t want to. That doesn’t make anyone else not beautiful, it just means that most people haven’t developed a strong ability to perceive beauty in different forms. I believe everyone is beautiful, and I think that the only way that “lessens” the term is if someone is trying to use the idea of beauty to make them feel better than, or superior to, others.”

        This is about the only part of the article that really speaks more specifically to ‘beautiful’. Note her usage of “I think” before prefacing her commentary. Indicative that this is her opinion, rather than assuming all people believe this way OR should believe this way. I see this as a strong, positive statement.

  19. I realised size acceptance at landmark forum and then thro Louise hay books.
    just wanted to share this one I saw on her website


    I am a 25 year old woman and I always seem to always be comparing myself to other people thinking there are better than me. I never am acceptable exactly as I am. Any advice? -Doreen

    Dear Doreen

    There is only one you! There will never be and never has been anyone like you on the planet! Stop comparing yourself to others. We are all different. You are here to learn to love yourself and to love other people unconditionally. Even though every person has measurable things about them, such as height and weight, there’s far more to you than your physical body. The immeasurable part of you is where your power is. We are all unique, wonderful beings, each special in their own way. Affirm:

    I see within myself a magnificent being.

    I am discovering how wonderful I am.

    I choose to love and enjoy myself.

    I am wise and beautiful.

    I love what I see in me.

    I am in charge of my life.

    I am free to be all I can be.

    I stand on my own two feet.

    I accept and use my own power.

    I love, support, and enjoy the women in my life.



  20. The commenter seems like kind of a jerk.
    There are different kinds of beauty. Unfortunately, these days too many people confuse “hotness” with beauty.
    The best thing I ever heard about hotness is that hotness tends to seek out its own kind. A person may think they’ve really scored if they get with someone who’s hot. But six months down the line, they may well find that they wish they’d taken up with someone who could be their friend instead.
    Hotness is not beauty.
    People who will never be deemed “hot” are not ugly.
    I have to tell this to myself every day. Otherwise I will end up slipping back into self hate. I am not hot, never have been, never will be.
    What universal law is there that states that I should have to?
    Fuck that. I did it for way too long.

  21. Wow. I will admit that I was very upset with that reader’s comments. I find it highly problematic that she is effectively policing Ragen and anyone who dares to stand up against and barrage of bullying and stigma and say, “damn it, I am beautiful.”

    It’s bad enough that those of us who are outside the culturally-accepted beauty bubble are given shit, and are told that we can’t possibly be accepted until we do everything in our power to get inside the bubble. But, we we turn around declare that we are fine as we are, we are awesome, we are lovable and we don’t need this bullshit…we are told that self-esteem is conditional, not everyone objectively can be beautiful and shit down and shut up. Policing our bodies and our health, and now policing us for trying to love and accept ourselves? To me, there’s something very, very wrong about that.

    I understand the reader probably has a lot of her own issues – and this is a public space and she has the right to air her opinions like everyone else (and I will just say at this point: Helena Handbasket, I saw your comment to her, and you’re a better person than I will ever be!). However I, like so many others on here, have been fighting against stigma and self-loathing for far too long. So, I’m sorry, mate, but I’m not going to sit here and be told that I can’t say that I’m beautiful and it cheapens the term if everyone uses it. And I will keep saying it, even if I don’t believe it. Cos if I don’t…who the hell will?

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Mrs. KH. The truth is that there but for the grace of God go I. The only thing standing between me and the same feelings and judgement she expressed is what I’ve learned from wonderful other people like Ragen and the amazing community that populates this blog.

  22. Like Love, self-esteem that is conditional isn’t self-esteem at all. I mean, really, I can’t think of anything more useless. If your self-esteem plummeted every time you made a mistake, you’d quickly become too meek and afraid to try ANYTHING, and suddenly you’re no longer living, just existing.

  23. Also, “beauty” doesn’t become meaningless if everyone uses it. It’s because everyone’s beauty is unique, and to reference one of my favorite quotes, “I’ve never seen a smiling face that wasn’t beautiful.”

    1. SQG

      The original poster was talking about Fat Acceptance which narrows her comments to the uniqueness of beauty and fatness. In Fat Acceptance that has been idealized as all fat women are beautiful.

      1. But if all people are beautiful, and we accept that fat people are people–real, whole and complete–then yes, it also follows that all fat people are beautiful. Which isn’t to say that the original poster will be attracted to all people or all fat people, but that’s a separate discussion from beauty.

        1. The problem I have with the all people are beautiful is that it implies that there is something wrong with not being beautiful. That not being beautiful is something so tragic that we must say everyone is beautiful.

          1. I see where you’re coming from, William. And in terms of an ideal of beauty, I agree with you that not everyone is beautiful nor needs to be. But when I say “everyone is beautiful,” I’m not talking about some objective physical standard. Everyone is beautiful when they (genuinely) smile because they’re letting their light shine through uninhibited, and basking in that is a gorgeous experience. I think the potential for beauty lies in everything, and it has nothing to do with aesthetics. Beauty is Love incarnate. But that’s just my take on it!

            1. Hi singlequeergrrl I understand where you are coming from. You are in a minority in Fat Acceptance when you say beauty is more than aesthetics. I base this on the overwhelming number of fat acceptance people on Tumblr, Facebook and blogs that choose to share their bodies and comment on how beautiful they are.

              I started in Fat Acceptance in the dial-up modem era and photos were rare then. Back then I based my feeling about people on the quality of their thoughts.

              1. I am also in FA circles and I disagree that those who believe beauty is more than skin deep is a minority. You are stating your personal experience as fact, but just because you’ve experienced it doesn’t mean it’s the norm. Please note – I am not denying that this is your personal experience; just saying it’s not everyone’s.

                1. Well my comments do not factor in the people in Fat Acceptance who never post anything, so you could be right. I am making my judgement based on the traffic in Fat Acceptance areas and I am not even including fat fashion areas because I do not read them.

      2. Hm. I’ve usually interpreted discussions of beauty in Fat Acceptance as “anyone can lay claim on beauty”. Personally, I’m not really that focused on beauty in Fat Acceptance. I think in some ways focusing on beauty is like focusing on HAES–it can be helpful for a lot of members of the community to work on reclaiming beauty just like it can be helpful to work on reclaiming health/activity, but it doesn’t have much to do with the social justice side of it. (And I only say “much to do” instead of “nothing to do” because practically speaking, some people will connect them, but it shouldn’t have any connection. Sort of like how people who believe being gay isn’t a choice tend to be more favorable to gay rights, even though it being a choice doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad choice.)

        1. Closetpuritan

          The discussion of Beauty in Fat Acceptance is like no other topic in the Fat Community. Historically everything attractive about fat was promoted as enhancing the beauty of Fat Women. This dates back directly to the fetish era of Fat Acceptance, because before that Fat Acceptance was much more serious about just helping fat people.

          Nothing was left to empower any other type of fat person. Discussions to straighten out fat body image could be uncomfortable, but they are needed

  24. I’m the person who posted that comment. Firstly apologies to Ragen for not responding to your message, I must have entered my email address wrong I think. And thank you for responding, I didn’t take this as an attack, though I would like to have a say on one or two points.
    Firstly, I made this comment in response to the idea that people attack fat people because they base their self-esteem on being thin. I was pointing out that whilst it might be a problem with the attacker’s self-esteem, it isn’t necessarily because they tie up their self-esteem in being thin.
    I stand by what I said about beauty in that I don’t personally see the point of a word which can apply equally to everyone (and this isn’t to say I don’t understand the idea of people finding things subjectively beautiful, but I think there’s a difference between the sentence ‘that vase is beautiful’ and ‘I think that vase is beautiful’, though obviously any aesthetic judgement is open to criticism), but I do think this was taken in a way which didn’t really take into account the fact that I pointed out that beauty and worthwhileness have become confused. To flesh this out a bit more: the desire to defend everyone’s beauty, as far as I can see, comes from a place that thinks that beauty is important, as several comments have pointed out. I didn’t mean it to sound offensive to people when I said that not everyone can be beautiful, I meant it to mean that I don’t see why everyone has to have that trait, and I was also expressing my reaction to people who are very confident in asserting their own beauty. I’m not saying my reaction is right, I was putting it across in order to illustrate my point about how taking offence at what size acceptance is saying doesn’t have to come from a place of basing one’s self-esteem around being thin.
    Mainly though, I’m troubled by the comments suggesting I was ‘silencing’ or ‘policing’ anyone. I was simply saying that I find a lot of the rhetoric around size acceptance upsetting because it stirs up a bit of me which does, as someone pointed out above, think ‘how dare you, what gives you the right to think that?’ I’m not saying, in saying that, that I don’t think people have the right to say that. I do. It just nags at something in me that doesn’t understand where people get the confidence to do it. I don’t understand how saying I find a rhetoric is silencing. If this refers to my point about beauty and saying not everyone can be beautiful, I think this is taking an abstract point as a personal one. I don’t understand the idea of a quality which can apply to everyone (other than ‘humanness’) because I don’t see what that word would mean. It’s not a personal comment. I’m not calling people ugly or saying they can’t say they’re beautiful.
    I apologise to anyone who took my comment as attempting to silence them or deny anyone’s right to say they are beautiful. People have the right to describe themselves however they like, whether anyone else thinks it’s accurate or not.

    Basically I thought your response was really interesting, and I think it comes down to the fact that I do think of self-esteem as being something conditional and it’s something I’ve debated with a therapist… I like myself when I think I’m doing well at something, or contributing in a useful way, or doing something I’m proud of. I wouldn’t like myself if I suddenly changed and started doing bad things or not doing anything or being horrible to people etc.
    I think to some extent a lot of people would agree that liking yourself entirely unconditionally (say if you’re being nasty to people) isn’t necessarily good for anyone, though again I’m not denying anyone’s right to do that. I agree you’re in control of your own self-esteem. I just personally find it difficult to understand or relate to a self-esteem which isn’t based in something like achievements or qualities that you can identify in yourself.

  25. (Mostly responding to Beth’s comment from 12/18, but in a new thread to make it more readable): I think that taking less of a social penalty may be a big part of why there are fewer men in FA, and I mostly agree with you on beauty and the radicalism of saying you’re beautiful if you’re fat. But I did find William’s comments enlightening as far as how a focus on beauty could put off men from FA. Given that beauty isn’t something that is considered as important for men, feeling beautiful or not probably isn’t as important to most of them. It reminds me a bit of how because I’m not that interested in reading clothing or makeup posts, I will tend not to read blogs that are dominated by clothing/makeup posts even if I like the other 50% or less of posts, just because I don’t want to bother wading through the other posts. (Obviously most men will be less interested in [female] clothing and makeup posts, too.)

  26. Hi Beth I posted here because the thread was getting too thin.

    I guess I am repeating myself because my questions have been unanswered. I am being vague because I do not want to be the “bad guy” pointing out issues of fat female bodies. On the other hand Fat Acceptance even in current times has had no problems pointing out a lack of masculinity in regards to fat men which is insulting to fat men and those who identify as fat men.

    I have never seen fat women who are shaped like fat men have their femininity questioned by Fat Acceptance. I have never seen them described as anything other than feminine, curvy and sexy.

    There is just something unrealistic about the whole setup.

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