I got a couple of comments from “Renee” on my blog about Public Displays of Fatness that pretty well outline the poorly thought out, entitled comments and arguments I get on a regular basis. This is a post for my readers, and also for me to refer these people to in the future.
As a formerly fat person I can say I understand the looks and remarks, however I can’t agree 100%.
What about the lady who is facing reprocussions of her twitter post about her getting AIDS in Africa? It’s not for fat people only.
What about her? I get comments like this a lot from people who seem to think that the fact that other people have horrible experiences with bigotry has some kind of bearing on the fact that fat people have horrible experiences with bigots. It doesn’t. All oppression is worth fighting. Like that woman’s tweet, for example. Those fighting oppression can only do so much, and we get to choose how much we do, and what we do. Trying to draw us into a game of Oppression Olympics only wastes our time.
Second, some of these people are actually only trying to be nice. You going “how dare you give me any love or encouragement because you’re a stranger” basically makes that person never want to give kind words ro someone again. It’s your attitude that makes genuine people “rude”.
Oh yes, the “they were just trying to be nice” excuse. In the article I talk about people who looked at my food and say “This is why you’re fat,” people who responded to my eating a salad with “Good for you for you, just keep it up and you’ll lose the weight” and those who saw me at the gym doing an intense workout and said “good for you for starting an exercise program, stick to it and you’ll lose the weight.“
The first one is just completely rude, if someone thinks that constitutes “trying to be nice” then we are too far apart to even have a useful conversation. The second and third are problematic because the people saying them are making assumptions and judgments. They are assuming that I’m a beginning exerciser which is annoying. They are assuming that I’m trying to lose weight, which sounds to me like they are thinking that my body is in need of weight loss.
Nobody asked these people for their “encouragement” – when you choose to “encourage” a stranger, you risk them not wanting your encouragement, when you “encourage” someone based on your assumptions and judgments, you risk being called out on it. If I do so and someone is put off from ever “giving [what they think are] kinds words to a stranger” that’s their choice – it’s not on me.
In addition to the fact that I am under no obligation to smile and accept judgments and assumptions delivered as “encouragement,” as a fat activist when I encounter someone who assumes that I’m trying to be thin, that’s an opportunity for activism and I get to choose whether I take that opportunity and, if so, what I do with it.
Third, those who are obese do have more medical problems, and taxpayers pay for that. Want bigger beds/equipment and hospitals need lifts? Taxpayers pay for that. Sweeping it under the rug only discredits you.
I love it when random strangers on the internet think they are authorities on my credibility, it’s my favorite thing. Not only don’t I sweep it under the rug, I blogged about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. This argument is tired, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the blog about which Renee is commenting. It seems like “Oh my tax dollars!” is always the last ditch effort in these types of comments. But I’ll be benevolent and address it anyway:
First of all, the idea that fat people have more health problems than thin people is problematic because of the confirmation bias informing the counts. Also, fat is not a behavior, or a state of health, it’s a body size and there are fat people and thin people who have the same behaviors and different body sizes.
But that’s not even the major issue with this argument. Should the taxes of people who don’t mountain climb pay for the injuries of mountain climbers? Should the taxes of people who don’t drink pay for accidents and health issues that happen to people who do drink? Should the taxes of fat people who exercise pay for health problems of thin sedentary people? Of course they should! Health is not entirely within our control, and we all get to choose how we prioritize our health and what path we take to get there. Unless you want to live in a world where there a “health authority” controls what you have to do and how you have to look to get health insurance (what we eat, what movement we do and how much, how much we sleep etc. etc.) then you don’t have a leg to stand on in this argument.
I’m also going to ignore the fact that hospital funding is way more complicated than “taxes pay for beds”. Even if it were true, fat people pay taxes too. If thin people’s taxes afford them beds and equipment that works for them then fat people’s taxes dollars should afford us the same thing. Also equipment that accommodates fat people would also accommodate thin people (as well as the elderly who often require special equipment, but not necessarily those with disabilities and premature babies and everyone else who requires – and should get – special equipment for whatever reason).
Renee cannot point to even a single study that suggests that the majority of people can lose weight long term. Weight loss is not evidence based medicine and requiring people to do something that only a tiny percentage ever succeed at in order to get proper health care is inhumane. Those who truly care about people’s health are looking for ways to remove barriers to health care, not finding ways to justify them.
Lastly, it wasn’t until I lost the weight that I realized, most people are not staring because you’re fat. Or you ate that extra slice of pie. They don’t really care about how much you weigh. Only your attitude and behaviors.
Two tired tropes of oppression “it’s all in your head” and “it’s all your fault.” (This is also just weird since Renee’s first comment was “As a formerly fat person I can say I understand the looks and remarks.”) Weirder still that she assumes that her experience is universally applicable. Whatever. Oppression is real. Fat people receive poor treatment, and coming into an anti-oppression space and telling people that their attitudes and behaviors are responsible for the oppression that they experience is a form of oppression in an of itself.
I copied the comment to write this blog and then trashed it. Not one to sulk away in silence, Renee sent another:
I find it hilarious that my comment was deleted simply because I only agreed with this to a certain extent and argued other parts. I AGREED to part of this. You want your voice to be heard but you won’t let anyone else speak who dissagrees with you even a little.
This is a great example of the sense of entitlement that many people have about my blog. I created a space where I put my thoughts out. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have acquired an amazing audience who post thoughtful comments, and support me and each other. I am under no obligation to hand that audience over to someone who I think is being oppressive. Renee, and everyone else who feels this way, is welcome to create a blog, acquire an audience and say whatever they want.
I’m sure you’ll delete this too a call me a bitch or something, but I honestly feel bad for you. You are so full of hate you won’t even let anyone else speak. You didn’t even take the time to respond. How rude! And no, it’s not because your blog is a “loving, safe place”, it’s ensuring the delusion that everyone should agree with you. Because if it was a loving place you would at least have kindly rebuttled or said thanks for my input. But no. Rude. Rude. Rude. You’ve lost a kind reader who actually reads this and liked your style!
Wow, Renee did a whole thing all by herself there. The idea that oppressed people must allow their oppressors a voice in every space they create or they are “full of hate” or whatever someone claims (insert chicken noises here) is a form of oppression and a way that oppressors try to keep control. I just searched my whole blog and I couldn’t find anywhere that I said it was a “loving, safe place” so I don’t know why on Earth she put that in quotes except that she seems to be supplying both sides of the conversation here. I am not required to educate oppressors, nor am I required to give an audience and a response to every person who is able to successfully publish a comment. I consider what people think of the way I exercise my rights where this is concerned to be information for them, not information for me.
I get accused a lot of not letting my dissenters speak. I have done a number of blogs like this where I respond to those who disagree, I even publish my hatemail. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s about not letting my dissenters speak, I think it’s about not letting them speak on their terms. That’s just never gonna happen here, so I’ll wave goodbye to Renee and wish her the best finding greener blog pastures.
Like my blog? Looking for some holiday support or gifts? Here’s more of my stuff!
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
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
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
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!
If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen