I hate the trope that “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” it’s demonstrably false, and patently offensive to all of the people who are dealing with prejudice that is acceptable to at least some people or it would be happening, and I would be super happy if nobody ever said it again. On the other side of that, sometimes people insist to me that oppression of fat people isn’t really a thing – that fat stigma doesn’t really exist. To them I say, the New York Times thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to invite people to casually debate whether or not fat people should be allowed to exist, in their opinion column.
Here is where someone is going to say that they’re not debating whether it’s ok if we exist, they’re debating whether or not we should have to lose weight. First of all let’s be clear that nobody can show me a study where more than a tiny fraction of people have successfully lost weight long-term and none of those studies (with weight loss like 2 pounds or 5 pounds over two years) even come CLOSE to showing that my chances of becoming “normal weight” are anything better than lottery odds. So even if you believe that they are debating my right to not diet (and let’s be clear that I should have a right not to diet) rather than my right to exist, they are still debating whether or not I should have to do something that nobody can prove is a possible.
Then there is the argument that I’m not fat, I have fat (like that whole “You’re not fingernails, you have fingernails” thing.) I’ve already written about my disagreement with this, it boils down to the fact that I wouldn’t say “I have brown hair, I’m not brunette” or “I”m not short, I just have lack of height” so I think trying to get around being fat is about anti-fat bias. My experience, of which I am the very best witness, is that my being fat is like my being brunette. And just like I can temporarily dye my hair, I can temporarily lose weight. But my experience of trying to lose weight was much like that of the majority of people who attempt weight loss – I lost weight in the short term and, even maintaining my diet behaviors, I gained it back in the long-term. Like I have heard from many other fat people, I dieted my way up to my weight and, knowing that the most likely outcome of intentional weight loss is weight gain, suggesting that obesity is not ok so we should all attempt weight loss is advice that makes absolutely no sense. (for a list of research check out this post)
Some respondents seem to be suggesting that fat people should have to do what is currently believed to be the “healthiest” thing, you know – for the good of society or because it would, ostensibly, make us less expensive. And if that’s the case then who is the “decider”? If people have studies that show that everyone going raw foods vegan and doing hot yoga will save on healthcare costs and be better for the “good of society” do we all have to eat cashew cheez while sweating our asses off in downward dog? If people have studies that say that everyone going paleo and doing crossfit will save on healthcare costs and be better for the “good of society” do we all have to eat a steak while we flip tires in a garage with no air conditioning? Or is this really just prejudice against a group of people who are identifiable by how we look?
Not to mention that this debate rests on appearance based stereotypes – the NYT isn’t debating whether or not it’s ok for thin people to engage in the behaviors that they seem to assume fat people do, or have the healthcare concerns that they are trying to link to fat people (even though people of all sizes engage in these behaviors and have these healthcare issues – all of whom should be offered blame free, shame free, future-oriented care.) This is about taking a group of people who share a single physical characteristic and debating whether or not the world would be improved if we didn’t exist. That’s. Fucked. Up.
If people are interested in improving public health may I suggest that they focus on making information and options accessible to as many people as possible, not trying to make fat people’s bodies the public’s business.
Yes, obesity is ok. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size dependent, they are inalienable. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying or oppression. It doesn’t matter why we are fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin by some means however easy or difficult. Fat people have the right to exist, period. There is no need for a debate because there are no other valid opinions about this. Fat people have the right to be treated with basic human respect, and inviting people to debate whether or not our existence is “ok” is a dramatic and terrible violation of that.
This kind of crap is the reason that we created the Fat Activism Conference. We need as many people doing activism in as many ways as possible, so we put together three days, 38 amazing speakers, teleconference style so that you can listen from wherever you are by phone or computer, and downloads of the workshops so that you can listen live, or on your own time. Only $39 bucks with a pay-what-you-can option to make it affordable for everyone! Join us and let’s talk about tools for the revolution!
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Here’s more cool stuff:
My Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details