The Great Fat Debate

Nothing to proveWe often hear about “debates” about fat rights, size acceptance, and Health at Every Size. Though I often take such opportunities to get the word out about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, there’s something that I want to make clear. There should be no debate.

The reason that civil rights in the United States have been and continue to be up for debate is not that they should be debated.  It’s that they have been, and continue to be, stolen from groups of people through a misuse of privilege and power, and those people are forced to fight to get them back which often involves debating. When people forget or refuse to acknowledge that, you get situations in which people actually believe that they should get to vote on whether or not someone else should be allowed to get married to the person that they love, while insisting that nobody should get to vote on their marriage.

This is often reinforced by the idea that successful oppression is self-legitimizing – suggesting that because people’s rights were successfully stolen in the past, that’s a legitimate reason to keep doing it.  Except, it’s absolutely not. It’s a great reason to rectify the issues as soon as possible, preferably right damn now.

The idea that it’s ok to discriminate against fat people in hiring, or college selection, or employee benefits is just wrong. The claims of the “cost” of fatties are questionable at best, but those calculations should never have been made. The idea that it’s ok to try to calculate the cost of a group of people who share a single physical characteristic and suggest that based on your calculations that group of people should be eradicated to save society some money is not ok.  It. Is. Not. Ok.

It is not ok for the government to wage war against a group of people for how they look, whether or not they could look differently if they tried. The fact that fat people have to fight for our basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that we have to “debate” about our right to exist, is not an interesting meeting of the minds, it is yet another gross transgression against our civil rights.

There is absolutely no outcome that justifies the oppression of fat people.  As I’ve said before, fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies regardless of how we got fat, what being fat means, or if we could be thin through some means – however easy or difficult. There are no other valid opinions on this – we have the right to exist without shaming, bullying or stigmatization, period.  This is not debatable.

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22 thoughts on “The Great Fat Debate

  1. This reminds me of being queer in the United Methodist Church a decade ago. Everyone wanted to have a “dialogue” about… something? Whether we were evil? Whether the church should deign to treat us like people, and if so, just how far it should go? Whether we were somehow hurting biblical literalists, the same way we were being hurt?

    …yeah, I’m not part of that church anymore.

    1. Stories like this make me glad my family’s church successfully expelled me for “not being right” when I was five. At least I was young enough to just go, “YAY! I can go play on Sunday morning and I don’t have to wear a dress!”

      1. I grew up going to Unitarian fellowship, which was fun, then we started going to a Universalist church. I hated Sunday school and finally convinced my mother I shouldn’t have to go because the teacher supported Goldwater (the teacher was so creepy). I just love your YAY!

        1. I can only speculate–my parents aren’t even sure, but they didn’t appreciate the way I was treated or talked about. My guesses involve my Asperger’s syndrome, at a time when even full-blown autism wasn’t regularly diagnosed in clearly autistic girls; my pretty damn obvious lesbian tendencies (even at that time, my crushes were Superman, Ursa from Superman II, and Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture); and my intelligence and preference for science over religion (I tended to get bored in Sunday School and ask if we could, say, learn about dinosaurs instead, or if the Flood was a flood of lava, and I sometimes got the other kids going). I wasn’t doing anything wrong or out of character, and I would have stopped if someone had taken me aside and explained about place and time, but instead, they chose to gossip.

    2. That breaks my heart to hear. I was part of a United Methodist Church that was very open and accepting of queer people. We had gay members of our congregation and even same-sex couples married in our church. It wasn’t until I went off to college and started meeting other “Christians” that I started to realize how bad things were…

  2. Wow. Wow. This is quite simply the most profound, logical, clear, valid and true statement of rights. Thank you. And the first person that must acknowledge the rights of “fatties” starts with me, a fat person. I have these rights, I am allowed and deserve these rights. Thank you thank you thank you.

  3. “This is often reinforced by the idea that successful oppression is self-legitimizing – suggesting that because people’s rights were successfully stolen in the past, that’s a legitimate reason to keep doing it. Except, it’s absolutely not. It’s a great reason to rectify the issues as soon as possible, preferably right damn now.”

    This needs to be emblazoned EVERYWHERE!

  4. As usual you are correct. Now, what do we do? I try to stand up for myself and my son at every turn (though it does get tiring!) What else can we do, especially on the local level. School is about to start and I am DREADING the war on obesity for my middle-schooler. –Jen

  5. Hi, I just wanted to say that you’re a huge inspiration to me. My whole life I’ve wanted to dance, I mean wanted it so bad that I sometimes still cry myself to sleep at night because I was too afraid to go for it when I was younger. Not because of my parents, I know for a fact that they would have happily signed me up for dance classes when I was younger had I just asked. But even at a young age, I was afraid to fail at something I truly wanted, and a lot of that had to do with my chubby. And as I got older, I got fatter, and I felt like my dream was so far off. Now though, I’m older and fatter, and love myself more than ever and I’m dancing. And a lot of that is thanks to you. So thank you, thank you so much simply for existing and being the amazing person and inspiration that you are.

  6. Also, these debates are often waged with “facts” that “everybody knows” and negation of the oppressed experience. Who needs research when you can trust your own privileged opinion? Gah!

    1. Oh, that makes me SO crazy. “Everyone knows, blah blah blah.” Do you have any facts to back up the BS you’ve been force fed by the media and other sources over the years? Can you think for yourself, or are you just another sheeple?

  7. Hi Reagan,

    A friend of mine regularly sends me goodies from your blog. When she sent me this post, here’s the response I sent her. It’s totally up to you whether you post this or not, but I think this is germane to your discussion:

    “I think that one of the things that gets mixed up into this is a discussion of “attractiveness” versus “existence.” Run with me, here. It seems to me that if you bring up weight issues to men, they’re likely to think that you’re asking them what they like to look AT. If you continue to talk about body acceptance (except for a very few rather clear-seeing individuals), they will insist that you “can’t tell them what to like.” They will practically always think that an individual who’s down with body acceptance is trying to tell them what is attractive. You may just be trying to tell them that the issues facing fat people are those of a minority and are real, but they will then decide you are some kind of psycho/lesbian/feminist/wiccan nut job and retreat to their latest issue of Pierced Biker Waitresses or whatever. I can almost GUARANTEE, that the fatter the man *is* the more he’ll start yelling about what he “likes.”

    If you talk to a woman about the issue of body acceptance, there is a greater likelihood that she’s had some event in her life that hinged on this topic, even if she is very thin. She will immediately start talking about what her experiences were or a sister, mother, or friend’s experiences. She probably will NOT start blustering about how she doesn’t think men who are too fat to wear Speedos shouldn’t be allowed to have children. In other words, she will try to place herself in the situation of having to advocate for what she looks like.

    I am certain that this has something to do with the power structure/media. My husband has told me a few times that he thinks all young men are sold a bill of goods about what’s hot and what’s not, and if you don’t like what’s hot there’s something definitely wrong with you. So, step outside the aesthetic of toothpick body with unnatural, super-spherical breasts, and you’re a weirdo.”

    In the interests of full disclosure, I am a woman of quasi-atheletic build who was an overweight child. It was amazing how many “friends” I suddenly had when I started looking like a “normal girl.”

    Thanks for writing this blog.

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