Yesterday I came upon something on Facebook that I felt was fat bashing. The person who had posted it had over 40,000 likes so I tried to post a very calm explanation of why the picture wasn’t cool. I talked about it on the blog, and I alerted the members of Rolls Not Trolls. There were hundreds of comments – calm and rational arguments, impassioned pleas, graphics, resources etc. trying to explain why the picture was problematic. The original poster totally didn’t get it – to me she seemed to be aggressively poor at reading comprehension. In the end she celebrated the fact that she had ignored over a hundred commenters telling her that she was stigmatizing fat people by leaving the picture up and deleting most comments.
As you might imagine this was frustrating to many of the people who were involved. Some even questioned why we would bother since the person obviously wasn’t going to listen.
To me this is one of the things that is both frustrating and fabulous about activism. You just never know what the effect of your activism will be. The person we were trying to educate proved un-educatable in this moment for whatever reason. But I got over fifty e-mails today from people telling me that they were really grateful for what we did because it helped them feel better about themselves. I even got one from a former member of the FB group in question who told me that she didn’t understand what we were upset about at first but that after reading the comments she got it, has resolved to stand up against fat bashing, is reading through the resources that fat activists suggested in their comments.
To me that’s totally worth it. Even if it only made one person feel better it would still have been worth it to me.
I believe that the trick is that I can’t ever choose who I will be an example to, I can only choose what I want to be an example of. I can choose what I want to say and how I want to say it, I can’t choose how it will be received.
My activism is rarely done for those who post hateful things or fat bashing memes or whatever. It’s for the people who read them – it’s so those things don’t go unchallenged. One of the reason that I started the Rolls not Trolls community was because in my ideal dream world, things like this would never, ever go unchallenged – the price for fat bashing would be an onslaught of people telling you exactly why it’s not ok.
It’s also for the fat person reading the Facebook page who has never heard of fat acceptance, or the one who has but needs some ammo to fight back against the war on obesity, it’s for the thin person who started with “what are these people so upset about” and ended at “holy shit, this is oppression and it’s really not ok and I’m going to get involved”
It’s also for me. I sincerely hope that my work as an activist makes the world better, I also acknowledge that a lot of that is out of my control. I know for sure that it makes my world better – I feel better about myself when I am sticking up for myself by engaging in activism – whether it’s a big project like the Fat Activist History Project, or something as small as making a comment on Facebook, every time I engage in fat activism I am reminded that the world is fucked up and I’m fine, and if they want a war on obesity, I will damn well give them one!
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