As I talk to people who are interested in doing activism against the stigmatization, bullying, and oppressing of people based on their size, there are three really common myths that come up.
1. Doing Activism is Scary and Risky
While it’s true that in civil rights activism many people will have to take risks and some people will risk everything, that doesn’t mean that all activism is scary or risky. You could make some HAES/Size Acceptance book marks and go to a bookstore and put them in books, or put them in magazines at the store (an idea I stole from awesome activists in LA). You could put sticky notes with positive messages and website for resources on bathroom stalls. You could post fat activism things to your Facebook or Twitter. You could tell an activist who you respect how much you appreciate their work. You could support a fat activism project. You could post a body positive comment in a thread of negative comments – not because you’ll change the authors mind, but because someone reading the comments might see it and be helped and supported in their body positive journey (you could join the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook if you’re interested in getting support to do this – message me on Facebook if you want to join)
You could do some work to love your own body more. You could decide to stop saying negative things about other people’s bodies (of all sizes).
2. Activism is pointless because those who are against us have so much more money than we do.
The truth about this is that a whole lot of money they have is ours – in addition to the government using our tax dollars to fight a war to eradicate everyone who looks like us, we are also directly funding our oppressors. When we buy their products we give money to the people who are profit-driven to keep us down and keep reinforcing stereotypes about fat people and conflating weight and health. I made a decision a while ago that I wouldn’t consume any product that was sold with a diet/weight loss message. No diet soda, no gum that advertises weight loss, nothing. I will absolutely not fund the war against me. You don’t have to do that but do realize that a lot of the War on Obesity runs on our time, energy and money – not fueling the machine that oppresses us is activism in and of itself. Fat activists are part of a long line of activists who are are winning against the odds.
3. One person can’t make a difference
In fact, one person is the only thing that can make a difference. A massive boycott only works because each individual refused to buy the product. A big project only works because of each individual who donated money, posted, facebooked, tweeted, and e-mailed people about it. A protest march helps to galvanize a community because each individual got up and got themselves to the march. If every person waits for 100 people to go first then nothing happens. Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something.
I’m often asked what I think is the most important thing for the Fat Activism Movement and my answer is always that it’s more people doing activism at whatever level works for them. Nobody has to be an activist but if you’re moved to make the world a little better by participating in activism – whether it’s fat activism or something else – I hope you do it.
If you want some support, I welcome you to attend the Fat Activism Conference. Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recorded so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Check it out!
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
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.
10 thoughts on “Three Common Fat Activism Myths”
I really appreciate this post. There are a number of causes I’ve felt moved to be a part of over my life time, and until recently I put them almost all off, because “activism=front line, risk everything, commit your WHOLE LIFE to the cause”, and I’ve always wanted my activism to be the sort that does not lead it having to interacting with people en masse. I think your blog was the first place I came across that outright said, “activism can also look like ______” It has changed my understanding, and has helped me appreciate a wider, more varied approach to activism. Thank you.
Nothing ever gets done until someone does something. And you know what? Little things can add up to big differences.
Just this morning I got two emails regarding online petitions I signed. It was no skin off my nose to fill in a couple boxes on online forms. I was just one person who signed those online petitions. But I was one of thousands who took the time to sign each one, and they both had a positive effect, along with other efforts made. The petitions alone weren’t enough, but they may well have been the thing that tipped the balance.
So today a woman who had been imprisoned and sentenced to death in Sudan for converting her religion walks free, reunited with her family. Today a man in prison in Utah has received desperately needed medical care he had been denied for a large mass on his tongue.
Did I do either of these things by myself? Of course I didn’t. But I had a small role in helping these people, and I’m glad I stepped up to do that. I’m glad I took the time to sign dozens of other online petitions for everything from requiring food companies to list GMO products on their labels to protesting the terrifyingly skinny fashion model Minnie Mouse debacle. And I’ve talked to people about the toxicity of fat shaming, the lack of evidence for long-term major weight loss or any beneficial effects from it. I’ve made it clear I won’t participate in body shaming talk, which has actually gotten some people in my circle to stop engaging in body shame talk… at least in front of me.
Most of all, I engage in the activism of living my life out loud enough to serve as an example to other fat people who have bought into the shame. I walk with my head held high, dress in my quirky finery, laugh out loud, eat salad or ice cream or whatever I feel like eating without worrying about how others will perceive it, I participate in walk-a-thons… and if one fat person, or one woman, or one closet peacock looks at me and thinks ‘maybe I can do that, too’ then my work is entirely successful.
I’ve never been arrested, I haven’t received any death threats, my life still involves my husband and my cat and my friends and TV and books and board games and parties. Very few people duck and cover when they see me approach. Few people would think of me as an activist. But that’s only because they don’t realize that most of my life is an act of activism.
Wonderful, uplifting post! Thank you for sharing your comments. 🙂
I went to the neurologist on Wednesday. He asked me if I had lost weight on my medication (he has lectured me about being fat before, and this is not a dangerous side effect of the drug or anything like that). I told him I don’t weigh myself anymore and focus on taking care of my body. He didn’t say anything else about weight, and I was proud of myself for speaking up!
Now wondering if it would be possible to sue the federal government for forcing me to fund a war against me.
Agreed (or at least ask them to reallocate the funds to a better use, like education or actual healthcare).
One of the best pieces of advice came when I began quietly disclosing my Asperger’s to friends. This was in jr high and a guy tried told me “Be open about it! If you talk about it, people will understand.” I realized that if I spoke without sounding ashamed, people may realize that having a disability is not something to be ashamed about or pity. At times, people are hard headed, but often they respond to how the tone gets set, and figure out that we (any group name here) are more than a stereotype or a gross caricature.
Sometimes it seems like people think of activism as the stereotypical protester with a bullhorn, or public speaking. Certainly those activities are a form of activism, but they aren’t the only one. The way we carry ourselves in daily interactions and the quiet conversations that involve educating others (loved ones, classmates, students, colleagues, etc) also help get the message across. Even just sharing certain images on social media, or decisions as a consumer can say much, without uttering a word. I even once had a practicum teacher who talked to me about speaking up for her students when other staff or students treat them in a condescending way. The humor and language we use or condone can be a form of activism.
When I talk to teachers and get kudos for sharing my experience, it rocks, but sometimes I wish I could shout “you can be an activist too!”
Thank you for reminding readers that they can, in fact, be activists.
It doesn’t always feel like activism when I offer my opinion on Facebook or whatever, but I don’t see the results very often. When I do get positive feedback, I just glow for awhile.
Also, I do it for me, so I can be the person I want to be. I want to be someone who tries to make my corner of the world a little better. I want to respect the person I see in the mirror.
I had an endoscopy this week to look for ulcers. No ulcers so they healed; hurray. The GERD recommendations include ‘loose weight’. First, it assumed that everyone that has GERD is “overweight”. Second, that “loosing” weight would help.
I went to the doctor on Friday to have my mirena coil. She weighed me but made NO comment on it, removed the coil WITHOUT the accompanying lecture…it was amazing – but also disappointing – I was all geared up to have the argument with her and she turned out to be professional, courteous and nice!!!dammit!! 😉 I am getting better at saying, ‘I don’t think my weight is up for discussion’. That and generally taking care of myself are the extent of my activism for now, but I’m working on it. thanks for the reminder it doesn’t have to be the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach!!