As my regular readers are no doubt aware, I moderate my spaces – this blog, my Facebook page, the Facebook pages I manage etc. This often angers the people who would like to use these spaces to forward their agenda of fat hatred and bigotry and/or call me unoriginal names. Sometimes I get the ridiculous “You’re infringing on my freedom of speech” argument (newsflash to these Constitutional scholars – the first amendment says “Congress shall make no laws…abridging the freedom of speech” it does not say “bloggers shall be required to post your bullshit comments”.)
The one that I want to talk about today is:
If you really believed in your cause you would allow open debate on your blog (or Facebook etc. )
In order to fight oppression, and have some respite from it, 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 are experiencing the rude awakening that there are spaces that aren’t for them to speak in.
Let’s also be clear that fat civil rights activism shouldn’t be necessary. The idea that our right to live in a fat body without being oppressed is debatable is a pretty clear indication of the problem. The truth is that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shaming, stigma, bullying or oppression regardless of why we are fat, what it means to be fat, or if we could become thin. There are no other valid opinions about that. Our rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and basic human respect should never be up for debate. At some point our society got confused and started to think that some people should have to debate for their civil rights with people who are already enjoying theirs. That’s complete and total bullshit.
The reason we have these spaces in the first place is that people are threatening and stealing our rights through an inappropriate use of power and privilege. We are under no obligation to help them out. That means that, while we may be forced to fight for rights that should already be ours, believing that we shouldn’t be oppressed does not mean that we have to allow our oppressors in our spaces to “debate” about whether or not we have the right to exist.
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21 thoughts on “Not Up For Debate”
But, I’m SPECIAL because I want to HELP – I just want to help people live longer and be healthier. In fact, I happen to have a friend who has an uncle whose neighbor… *fart noise fart noise*… really IS better for you!
Oh, wait… this is NOT the right place for that sort of shit? My bad, I’ll take it elsewhere.
But whyyyyyy don’t you want a debaaate? Why? I *demand* you explain exaaaaactly why you won’t argue with me! — Every condescending pain-in-the-ass ever.
The biggest problem with this is that it’s so hard and time consuming to educate people who have little or no real interest in actually studying the issue of obesity ….that having to do it over and over again, with every doctor, every person who “cares about our health” (concern trolls), that we could spend our whole lives and get nowhere with it.
Educating people needs to be done with blogs and other mass media, without having to get bogged down in “debate” with every single undereducated and propagandized concern troll in the world ….
Wish there was a like button, because I totally agree. Though I have to remind myself that, even though it can be exhausting, every once in a while you really make a difference when you take the time to educate someone about fat issues. Picking your battles is key to mental health, but if you’re feeling ok and up to it, taking the time to explain things – yet again, can pay off in the long run (even if we can’t see it). Sometimes planting those seeds is all we can do, we may not see the plant grow up, but it never will if the seed never gets planted. Often times, that’s all it takes, is someone taking the time to explain things from a perspective they may never have been exposed to; or exposing them to the truth that they have never been exposed to.
Why do some folks have a problem with us creating a safe place to talk about our struggles and pains? It’s not a difficult concept.
It’s the same with misogynists or racists or any other oppressor. They are so used to EVERY OTHER DAMNED SPACE being for them that being told, “this space is not for you” is startling. Then they have a tantrum like a child being told they have to share for the first time in their lives. The more privileged a person is, the less likely they have already encountered spaces that don’t cater to them.
I find it unintentionally hilarious, that concern trolls and haters describe their abuse and invalidation as “open debate”. Does this new definition mean that I can go into church and interrupt the sermon with my “concerns” about the church’s response to human suffering?
(not that I want to, just a random example)
I’ve used a similar example before, in explaining the responsibilities that correspond to the right of Free Speech. My example is, I have a right to disagree with, say, Mormon doctrines. I have a right to express my disagreements in free speech. I do not have a right, though, to interrupt an LDS service with my declarations of those disagreements. They have a right to peaceable assembly, and as such, are well within their rights to ask me to leave, and if I refuse, to call law enforcement and have me arrested for trespassing.
Quite often, those insisting on “open debate” on a private blog or forum, are not actually looking for debate. They’re looking to pontificate or troll for arguments, and because of the ones seeking to stir up trouble, those that might be interested in actual, respectful debate and dialogue need to be restricted as well. We don’t know from the onset just who is going to be polite, and who is going to use any opening they can to be a bully.
If someone wants to make their case that fat people aren’t entitled to respect, they’ve got the whole rest of the Internet to do that. This blog = your house, your rules.
Or to borrow from Top Gear — which is ironic considering Clarkson and Company’s dickishness on the subject of fatness and fat people:
“I’m afraid, again, you’ve mistaken this for a democracy and it isn’t one; it’s a dictatorship.”
I love Top Gear. But you’re right, they have some rather mundane attitudes.
I HAVE to educate people sometimes. If I want adequate medical care, I need to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for that work. If I want adequate access to services I paid for, such as flights I booked, I need to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for that work. If I want to maintain close, good relationships with my family, sometimes that means mentally and emotionally preparing myself either to have to educate them or to withstand their ignorance in silence if I just don’t have the energy for it.
I have 101-level conversations in which I argue my right to exist ALL THE TIME.
When I enter a fat positive space, I should bloody well be able to have a conversation about this stuff that is PRODUCTIVE and that breaks NEW GROUND, not just spend the whole time re-educating every new uninformed person who decides to turn up.
Think of whatever fandom you’re a part of. Are you a Trekker? A brony? A superwholockian? Harry Potter? Firefly? Think of how nice it is when you get to introduce a complete newbie to your fandom, and you get to spend some time explaining that world and answering their naive questions.
Now imagine you’ve got a weekly meetup group for your fandom. Each week you get together intending to discuss the latest episode you all watched, or debate a specific plot theory, or speculate on some exciting aspects of it. But every week, three of four newbies turn up and demand that the entire conversation be about you and the other established fans educating them on the basic stuff about the fandom. The first week isn’t so bad, but every week it’s an entirely new group of newbies and most of the questions they’re asking are things covered thoroughly on the meetup website you set up, or can be easily googled.
After several months you’ve never managed to have a productive conversation about the actual things you wanted to talk about. So you make a new rule that the meetup is for established fans only and that the only subjects covered will be the specific ones agreed upon in advance. A whole bunch of newbies who you’ve never met, have never come to a meetup before or even looked at your website so far as you can tell, all barge in to scream at how unfair you’re being to them, that you’re driving potential fans away by not catering exclusively to them at your own expense.
Now imagine it’s not just your fandom. It’s not just a debate on whether destiel is canon or how to reconcile a plot hole in TNG. It’s your right to exist in your body. It’s workplace discrimination and not being able to access public facilities because the equipment isn’t built for you, it’s constant harassment and abuse from strangers and even your own loved ones and colleagues. It’s dangerous unproven medical interventions on children who look like you. And you can never just have a space that is just for people living THAT experience, without a bunch of complete strangers getting angry because you won’t let them ruin it.
Even worse, these newbie fans don’t even like the material everyone is gathered to discuss. Your group is for, say, Harry Potter and the newbies who want you to explain the basics to them every week immediately jump down your throat if you mention Diagon Alley because they think Twilight is a much, much better fandom and nobody should ever mention Harry Potter again.
How dare you talk about Harry Potter in a Harry Potter space???? We are here to debate Team Edward vs Team Jacob! And if you remind us this is a Harry Potter space, we are going to yell louder about who Bella should be with and shriek in horror at the mention of Nearly Headless Nick!
Because trolls aren’t here to talk about Fat Politics 101a. They’re here to tell us we have no right to exist.
^^^ Double that.
I started off in disagreement, but the analogy in the two comments above have convinced me.
I believe in fat acceptance. But there are always causes we dont believe in.
The point really goes deeper than just the fat acceptance movement, and i appreciate that is has been made.
These “free speech” people, if someone walked into their house and started talking about how they were wrong about something, their religion, their way of raising their kids, their politics, whatever, would they feel compelled to hear those folks out politely because they have the right to express themselves, or would they kick them out?
And I know this is more about the advocacy and I agree there, but it also amazes me that these folks think that the asset you have created by your own work –your audience, your readership–should just be theirs to us. They wouldn’t walk into a TV network or radio station and demand air time.
They might just try it.
Thank you for this blog, it was beautifully and elegantly said. We, (fat people) are not hear to give our oppressors a voice and no it is not up for debate! Thank you and Cheers!
This was perfect. The comments were perfect. Everything here is perfect. I needed the boost to my faith in humanity and this sure helped.
“In order to fight oppression, and have some respite from it, marginalized populations have every right to create spaces where their oppressors do not have a voice.” Those words are so true!
If they are so interested in debate then they can run a site themselves, but to make it fair they have to moderate it so that the trolls don’t over run the comments and downvote rational arguments into an oubliette (if that is a feature on the site). I give them 30 mins moderating (after the trolls find the site) before it’s all gone to hell.