Bad Arguments Against Safe Spaces for Size Acceptance

Nothing to proveOne of the the things that I believe is critical to civil rights work for marginalized groups is the creation of safe spaces.  Those who disagree with us, including those who respectfully disagree, haters and trolls often insist that they have a right to speak in our spaces.  Today I’d like to address some common arguments around this, and why they are so very, very wrong.

If you don’t let me comment you are infringing on my right to free speech!

I’m embarrassed for the people who make this argument, as it is patently ridiculous.  The First Amendment of the Constitution states

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It does not state

Bloggers shall be required to approve your bullshit comments, and people shall be required to allow your bullshit hate all over their Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr pages.

Bloggers work hard to create our online spaces and acquire an audience and the First Amendment in no way requires us to turn that audience over to anyone who can manage to successfully submit a comment.  If someone is upset that you won’t post their comment or allow them to wax poetic about how and why they hate or disagree with you on your Facebook, tell them to write their Congress person.

If you really believed in your cause you would allow open debate

In order to fight and have some respite from oppression, marginalized populations have every right to create spaces where their oppressors do not have a voice.   The insistence otherwise is about further oppressing people, as well as the shock of people who are laboring under the misapprehension that they should get to say whatever they want, anytime and anywhere they want, and have just learned that’s not actually how things work.

Let’s be clear that fat civil rights activism shouldn’t be necessary. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies regardless of what it means to be fat, how we got fat or if we could become thin.  Our rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and basic human respect are inalienable, we should not have to debate for them.  The reason we have to do that is because people are taking our rights away through an inappropriate use of power and privilege, we are under no obligation to help them out.

I disagree with you and I’m fat so I should get to give my point of view.

Nope.  It’s ok for spaces to be created for Size Acceptance, Health at Every Size, Weight Neutrality etc. and to moderate out anything other than those beliefs, regardless of the size of the commenter.  I believe that my right to choose Health at Every Size is predicated on a bodily autonomy that means that other people are allowed to choose to diet or have their stomach amputated or whatever.  That doesn’t mean that I have to celebrate those options or provide a space for them to be promoted or positively discussed.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t get to have an opinion about those options that I discuss in my space. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t fight the industries that profit from selling those options. That said,  I don’t go to other people’s spaces and argue about their choices, for example I would never go onto a weight loss blog and try to convince the blogger to follow HAES.

I have a right to an explanation of why you won’t post my comment/deleted my Facebook post etc.

While you might be willing to give someone an explanation, that’s your choice.  There is no right to an explanation.  Oppressed people get to choose how we deal with our oppression.  That means that if you create a space then by an extension of the underpants rule you are the boss of that space.  You get to make decisions about what’s allowed in the space, you can change your mind or make different decisions at different times and you don’t have to provide an explanation.  Your rights, comforts and desires come before those of people who want to disagree with you – often much to their shock and dismay.

When you refuse to give haters, trolls, and those who disagree with you an audience, they will sometimes throw what we from the South call a big ol’ tantrum.  This can take any number of forms from baiting you with the crap arguments above, to getting their chat room buddies to help spam you, to reporting your site for bullshit reasons, right on up to death threats.  Why do they do this? Who knows, they seem to have plenty of justifications.   I guess when you don’t have to spend time fighting for your basic civil rights you have to time act like, or actually be, a junior high school bully and then justify your behavior.

Again, oppressed people get to deal with this however we want.  In my case I decided that I want this blog to be a safe space and so I moderate out anything that I think puts that in jeopardy.  In the meantime I’ve created a special page to monetized my hate mail – purchases and donations from my hatemail page help me do fat activism work full time, and fund fat activism projects I’m working on, which fills me with glee. It also helps me look forward to getting hatemail in case it’s interesting enough to add to the page and help me do this work (unfortunately precious little of it makes the grade.)  You get to decide how you want to deal with your haters, and whatever choices you make are fine.

Here is a brilliant example of how to make choices for your space and then enforce them. Check you this vlog by Maria Denee, the Curvy Fashionista ( about Fashion Bashing!

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35 thoughts on “Bad Arguments Against Safe Spaces for Size Acceptance

  1. The US Constitution first amendment right to free speech means that you won’t be thrown in jail or prosecuted for expressing your views. That’s all. It does not require me or anyone else to listen to your view, nor does it mandate anyone having an opposing view to publish it So, you don’t agree with me? Fine. Get your own blog. Simple.

  2. I once taught a semester of communications law at the university here in town. My first two points of the semester were:

    (1.) The Constitution isn’t a list of rights the government gives you. It’s an extremely limited list you give the government (and the government only) of their rights against you.

    (2.) The First Amendment protects your voice. It gives you no right to a forum or an audience. Those you have to earn.

    I was accused online recently of being a “communist” and “in favor of censorship” because I told someone that the online forum had every right to delete his racist comments. My response was that no, I’m a true capitalist — I think if you want the “right” to post, you get your own site and stop whining that others “must” let you speak on theirs.

    1. “I was accused online recently of being a “communist” and “in favor of censorship” because I told someone that the online forum had every right to delete his racist comments.”

      For someone tooting an anti-communism horn, he doesn’t seem to have much respect for private property, feeling entitled to vandalize someone else’s online yard and all. I guess that variety of troll also thinks they have legal standing to sue people they egg and TP for cleaning up their “artistic personal expression.”

      1. Yep — of all the trolls I’ve had the misfortune to engage with, this was the weirdest. He was calling people communist while demanding to use their property, and he kept insisting he was politically liberal while explaining how black people had lower IQs and that interracial relationships created stupid children.

        After a while I just started hitting “report abuse” on his comments for fun.

  3. How do you ‘debate’ civil rights? Is someone claiming that it is okay to suppress a group of people for not trying to fit someone else’s ideas of how they should be? Fat people should try to be thin? Black people should try to be white? Disabled people should – what?

    I get really frustrated with the urge to make everyone conform to a one-size fits all way of being.

    1. Disabled people should – what?

      We should try to walk normally, use our hands with ease and grace, and think without feeling like our heads are stuffed with alternating layers of granite and wet cotton, of course!

      From what I’ve seen and studied, people who try to debate civil rights really just want the status quo to remain, usually for their personal convenience and comfort. These arguments usually get wrapped up in glitzy paper called tradition, health, jobs, taxes, etc. Paper being paper, it’s pretty easy to tear through.

      1. It really is about maintaining the status quo isn’t it? And also about not having to feel uncomfortable around something different.

        Although, if you can let go of both of those things, life gets a lot richer and more fun.

  4. I completely agree with the points in this list, and as someone who has been active in online feminism, have made all these arguments at various points.

    That said, after a long period of being involved in online feminism, I believe that the pursuit online Safe Spaces can have downsides for the movement itself. It can create a dialogue/narrative in which there is an ever-narrowing range of ‘acceptable viewpoints,’ and where respectful but alternate perspectives are not heard or considered.

    I think our arguments become stronger by engaging in productive debate and, on occasion, allowing our views to evolve in response to well-made outside or internal critique. By not allowing perspectives to be heard in the Safe Space that are dissenting but respectful and well-considered, and that adhere to the same basic philosophy/ethics as the underlying movement, the movement loses out on an opportunity to grow and strengthen.

    Drawing the line is really hard. Many people are just trolls and will be disruptive if allowed to participate. And no blog proprietor or curator of online discussion is obligated to allow anyone to speak, so ultimately they can draw the line how they like. But I would like to see an evolution towards having at least *some* online FA/HAES spaces be a little less ‘safe’ and and little more oriented towards dialogue and discovery.

    For example: while certain parts of HAES are absolutely well-established scientifically, other parts are based on science that is newer and more speculative. Nutrition science basically sucks and there is just a ton we don’t know. By treating all aspects of HAES as absolutely settled science, HAES will have a hard time growing or evolving if and when results come out that challenge some aspects of the theory.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I hear what you are saying. I strongly believe that, while it might be true that the pursuit of safe spaces can have downsides of the movement, the needs and rights of the oppressed people take precedence over “the movement.” Oppressed people are not obligated to have the movement as a priority over creating a space where they can feel safe. My suggestion would be that those who are concerned that there aren’t enough spaces where debate can happen are welcome to create spaces for that, but that it’s not ok to place the burden of that on other people who have done the work to create their own spaces for their own reasons.


    2. I think you hit the nail on the head with “dissenting but respectful and well considered”. I don’t mind at all reading dissenting points of view as long as they are well thought out and most important of all, respectful. I like learning from other people and their experiences but as soon as someone gets abusive or resorts to name calling I tune out everything they have to say.

      Those kind of comments are rampant on the internet and I really don’t get it. Obvious trolls are ignored as a matter of course, but why otherwise intelligent people think calling others moron, or idiot, etc adds something to their argument is beyond me.

      That said, I totally understand and agree with Ragen’s point about my blog, my rules. I’m just very thankful I stumbled across it.

      1. That’s the vital difference. I quite enjoy arguing with people of differing opinions as long as they’re willing to engage in a respectful dialogue and not just call me names or telling me I’m wrong, stupid, etc.

        If someone can act like a grownup, though, I always find it useful — either I’ll learn something or it will help me sharpen my own perspective.

    3. I respect the right of a blogger or Web Overlord to run their own space as they like. However… I admit that I’m no longer interested in debating feminism with anti-feminists, no matter how “civilized” their behavior is. If I thought that composure and calm would really teach them how flawed their ideas were, that would be one thing. But I’ve been a member of a board where “civilized” debate was the rule of the day, and when push came to shove the anti-feminists still believed and said horrible things about women. They just learned not to use certain phrases and buzz-words that would violate the rules and get them ejected.

  5. I do love your blog, and with its help was finally able to smile sweetly at my doctor and say “Oh, well…and no thanks” when she suggested that although “everything sounds good, but you really should lose some weight, and there’s a weight-watchers class starting…”

    I’m a 75 year old working artist, shaped a bit like a potato. (So was my mother who died recently at 98.) It feels really good to accept my body as is, and refuse to waste time thinking about food points. Thank you.

    However, I do have a guilty pleasure…I occasionally read your hate mail, just for kicks and giggles. This time I wasn’t giggling. I certainly hope you reported the professed “top Navy Seal with 300 confirmed kills” who says he is coming to get you. That guy sounds too crazy to be allowed loose, no matter what his service record is or was.
    I do find myself wondering, though, just what your “clever comment” was that incited the rant. Sounds like something I might want to use on some particularly annoying detractor.

    Thanks again.

    1. Good for you for standing up to your doctor. You might also have added that plenty of research shows that weight loss is not only not necessary for a person your age, but downright dangerous, as weight loss in people over 60 has been shown to increase the risk of early mortality by several hundred percent. It is irresponsible & wrong for doctors to keep prescribing weight loss to anyone. It is even moreso to prescribe weight loss to seniors.

  6. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    If you don’t let me comment you are infringing on my right to free speech!
    I love this one. I’m not the U.S. government, I’m a private entity. I don’t have to publish doodly squat. The First Amendment protects political speech, not trolls spewing venom at random people.

  7. “I have a right to an explanation as to why you won’t let me rant…”

    Good lord.

    Growing up, my mom used to say, “Pedestrians have the right of way?? Not when they walk behind my car as I’m backing up. They have the right of splat.”

  8. ‘the right to an explanation’….uh, no. The only time someone has a ‘right’ to an explanation is if I have a relationship with that individual that merits consideration and connections to maintain the relationship. If I say ‘no’ to a total stranger, giving them the reason why is completely optional on my part. If I say ‘no’ to my children, it might be a good idea to explain why so they will have a better understanding of how decisions are made in a family… but even then, it isn’t their ‘right’.. it is my choice to preserve the relationship or to teach my kids something.

    1. Even if you have a relationship with the individual, even if you feel a personal obligation to explain it to them, that is still not their “right.” No one has a “right” to something that must be supplied by another person.

      1. Amen! I’m deeply tired of hearing about people who have “rights” to anything from another person. I’m pretty sure we have the right to be left alone, and that’s about it. (Oops… my libertarianism may be showing again.)

      2. Save, say, a right to a good, logical explanation from the bank as to why credit card interest rates have gone up, or from a business as to why they refuse to return a deposit. THAT’S a different story, and it damn well needs to stay that way.

          1. But there are people trying their damnedest to change that (and who would be more than happy to throw consumer protection to the wind). And call me suspicious, but I don’t fully trust any entity more interested in its shareholders than in me.

          1. A contractual obligation the business would often be happy to screw you out of. I’m a cynical Democratic Socialist who’s been burned enough times to mistrust any entity that can and will contractually obligate me to do whatever it wants in exchange for a necessary service. Consumer protection only exists as long as consumers are vigilant. (You can imagine what I think of the TPP.)

      1. It made me feel better about how I handled the race troll I encountered elsewhere this week… I just kept thanking him profusely for the hateful comments, gleefully explaining what an honor it was to be hated by someone like him. Blew his tiny little mind. 🙂

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