Yesterday I posted about an ad that uses fat jokes and age jokes to sell blinds. Whenever someone points out that something is offensive they are subject to a number of responses that, intentionally or unintentionally, undermine the activism of speaking up. I wanted to talk about some of them today:
Can’t you take a joke?
Anytime someone points out that an attempt at comedy may be hurtful, it’s almost immediately suggested that we lack a sense of humor, have a stick where normally there is none, that we need to learn to take a joke, etc.
I’m a fan of comedy, and I’m a fan of comedy that pushes boundaries and edges as a way to make social commentary, discuss things that are difficult to talk about, make people think etc. I’m not a fan of people using stereotypes and stigma for cheap laughs and I’m not a fan of people using the institutionalized prejudices that are used to make fat people’s lives difficult to sell blinds. Nobody is obligated to celebrate humor made at their expense.
You need to choose your battles
Agreed, and the way you know which battle someone has chosen is that they have chosen it. What the person saying this almost always means is that they don’t agree with the battle I’ve chosen, which is within their rights, but makes no difference to me. Once someone has obviously “chosen a battle” the only reason to give them this advice is to suggest that they shouldn’t have chosen this one, which I think is crappy, and heading toward being a violation of the underpants rule.
You need to look at both sides of the issue
Nope, nope, nope. I don’t think that there are two sides to bullying, stigma, or oppression. There’s inappropriate behavior, followed by justification of that behavior masquerading as “the other side.” The fact that someone can justify something doesn’t make that thing ok, terrible things are justified all the time. While it may be interesting for some purposes to look at why someone who bullies, stigmatizes, or oppresses behaves that way, insisting that they stop inappropriate behavior does not require an analysis of the roots of that behavior.
I/my fat friends weren’t offended
No community is a monolith, including fat people. We can each only speak for ourselves and those who choose to have us speak for them, none of of speaks for all of fatkind (or any other group.) However as an activist who creates activist spaces, I suggest that people who aren’t offended by something consider whether or not speaking up is helpful. If someone says that they are offended by something that I don’t find offensive, I will probably choose not to engage in activism around it, but I’m very unlikely to voice my opinion since I’m not really adding anything to the conversation and may actually be discouraging people from speaking up.
Let me just play devil’s advocate
Let me just stop you right there, the devil (whether used a metaphor or an actual belief) doesn’t need an advocate. Maybe ask yourself why, in the face of stigma, bullying, or oppression, do you want to take the devil’s side? Either way, I’m not interested in what the devil might think.
There are any number of reasons that people question or attack someone who has spoken out about mistreatment – from genuine concern to a blatant attempt to derail activism or to keep us from speaking up in the future. We each get to decide how to deal with that, but for me speaking up is worth it.
Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer? Well that movie is now in development! You can go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfatthemovie and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!
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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
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