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!
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
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
25 thoughts on “You Just Never Know”
“I can’t ever choose who I will be an example to, I can only choose what I want to be an example of.”
You are so inspiring to me; dare I say, I find this really empowering. Thank you!
I literally have nothing to add, except my thanks.
I’ll piggy back that.
Yep! Me, too!
I needed that, just right this two seconds. I’m one of the people who, in the end, just took my marbles and went home because the OP was so clearly telling us all to go piss up a rope. You remind me why we were all there, that it wasn’t just to try to educate her. That we do it for us. That we do it for. . . well, you just can’t ever tell, can you? Thanks again! I’m clipping this for future reference.
Hooray for a new ally! Wonderful!
Love the much-needed reminder “the world is fucked up and I’m fine,”
Good one for your next round of visual memes?
Great that your persistence paid off in the form of one person waking up — kudos for that!
Bravo! I have been reading your blogs for a few months now. You are eloquent and well spoken. You express so well what is often just a jumbled up mess of feelings inside me. I applaud your work and your passion. I love that you stick up for all the oppressed.
Thank you so much.
I love the Rolls not Trolls group and I added my two cents… which were removed within an hour. The poster was gleeful about her ability to toss our remarks and block us… I do believe she really doesn’t understand the meaning of open discourse.
Thank you and all the lovely members who posted their own responses to that meme. Hopefully when someone looks it up they will find your or their blogs and see why the picture is problematic.
Love you and love the RnTs!
I had to think of a scene in a book I once read (“Set this house in order” by Matt Ruff). The protagonist and one of his friends witnessed a very ugly scene in a diner. A man and his little daughter were sitting at a table nearby, and the man continuously told the girl that she was ugly, worthless and all kinds of things. The protagonist called out the man on his behaviour and told him that the girl was neither ugly nor worthless. When he went back to the table his friend asked him: “Why did you do that? It was useless! This man certainly won’t change his behaviour, he will even have forgotten what you said to him by the end of the day!” “I know”, said the protagonist, “but she will remember…”
I wish someone had done this when I was a little girl. All these comments made didn’t change the attitude of the particular admin, but they certainly changed something for other people, and that’s why it’s worth it. And they changed something for me. Thank you.
Beautifully put. That makes me realize that the effort I put into fat acceptance isn’t “wasted time” if I don’t convince the person I’m talking to, it can be those who hear me talking or those who read my words who take away positive things from it. Plus, even if you don’t change a person’s mind today, you might be planting seeds that will eventually bloom in them.
I loved reading what you wrote. Thank you!
I am glad someone in that group saw enough before it was removed to have new things to think about. That makes it all worth it. I have to remind myself now and again that we don’t do the posts for the haters but so that those fat people in need get to see a different view. Not to be dramatic, but it is like being a beacon in the darkness.
Please keep fighting the good fight! I jumped ship on fb a long time ago, but I try to be supportive any way I can!
You never know how you influence people. Every once in awhile you get feedback. Whien I was first divorced I had a series of roommates who became dear friends. Years later, one told me that I taught her how to budget and balance her check book. I don’t even remember specifically giving her instructions, but I certainly talked about independence. Another said I taught her how to eat fish. Hmmm, I did that? I have always encouraged people to try new foods. So, it is useful to express your beliefs. Good for you to keep up the good fight. It can feel futile at times, but, you never know.
Sometimes if you keep at it, and try a different turn of phrase or analogy, someone just might get your point. I had this experience on facebook watching my friends argue about spoilers for movies (one didn’t understand why others got so upset) and neither side could seem to find any common ground. I came in with an analogy about not liking to have someone tell me what was in the box before I opened my present (a spoiler) because it ruined my joy of the surprise. My spoiler friend genuinely appreciated my explanation even though he still liked to learn about things early.
I try not to assume someone is being obstinate automatically (even when they are being incredibly frustrating). They just might not be getting it the way I’m are currently explaining it.
I love that you educated lots of people, if not the one you were trying to enlighten. 🙂
Keep up the great work!
For whatever it’s worth, I am someone on whom you HAVE made an impact–and I thought I was rather enlightened before! So do keep up the activism!
Lori Lieberman, RD, MPH, CDE, LDN
I give you all the credit for making me see things in a different light. Personally, I know all about fat-shaming, people who try to control your body, and the manipulations involved in dealing with someone who doesn’t accept you for who you are. (hence, you not accepting yourself after hearing for years about how terrible fat people are)
Keep on doing what you’re doing!!
Yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you. ❤
“[My activism is] 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”.”
Accurate! Ragen, your words are always so on point!
One of the good things about yesterday’s drama – It brought out young people, old people, men, women, black people, white people, fat people, AND thin people alike – there where over a hundred people (they banned over 130 people), from different walks of life and all of them where united in the effort to educate that group as to why what they where doing was wrong. It was so nice to see such a wide variety of people coming together for fat acceptance.
“I can’t ever choose who I will be an example to, I can only choose what I want to be an example of.”
May I quote you in a sermon (yes, I really am a preacher)? This is one of the most cogent summings up of not just activism, but of life, that I’ve ever read. Thank you!
Glad you liked it, you can quote me anytime 🙂
I’ve just learning about this whole issue and it’s opening my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. I have a lot of plus-size friends (there’s a lot of us about) and I’ve seen the suffering they have, not because of their weight as such, but because of the way they get treated.
As I read about the subject, it’s hitting me so hard that I have spent my life hating my body and believing that I was ugly if I went over a UK size 12 (about a US size 8?). I am wasting so much energy when I have so many other things in my life to worry about.
And that is the very reason we press on with our activism. I am so glad you are seeing that!! *hugs*
Thank you for all that you do. I went out to a fancy restaurant for a birthday celebration with my family last night, and they had those horrid little chairs with arms that pinch large thighs something awful. I still have bruises today from trying to fit in. Had I not run across your blog and the fat acceptance community, I doubt I would have had the courage to speak up and ask a waitress for a chair without arms. Fortunately they had one and the rest of the night was quite pleasant. I wish they had taken large customers into account when buying furniture… we should not have to ask for different seats than everyone else! At least the waitress was nice about it. If I had been too embarrassed to speak up, the evening would have been painful and humiliating despite the amazing food. (The restaurant is Cafe Firenze in Moorpark, CA.)
Good for you for asking! Well impressed.