The Problem With A Lively Debate

You Cannot Be SeriousThe Facebook page “Unpacking the “F” word” posted a quote from my blog:

“Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies regardless of how we got fat, what being fat means, or if we could be thin through some means – however easy or difficult. There are no other valid opinions on this – we have the right to exist without shaming, bullying or stigmatization, period.”

There is now a lively debate going on about whether or not this is true. And that is incredibly, completely, and totally fucked up.  Let’s be clear about what that interaction is:

I (and other fat people) say:  “I have the right to exist.”

Other people say:  “Well, that’s debatable.”

No, it’s really not.  The answer to someone’s insistence that they have the right to basic human respect regardless of their appearance should never be “Not unless you can prove it through a lively debate with people who believe that their own right to exist is above reproach.”

The fact that people are willing, if not excited, to debate the right of fat people to move about the world without being shamed, stigmatized, bullied, or oppressed; the fact that there are people interested in arguing that some people don’t have a right to exist because of how they look (people who can do so for fun, or as an academic exercise, or because they are bored, since their own right to exist does not hang in the balance,) is as enthusiastic an endorsement of the need for the Size Acceptance Movement and Fat Activism as I can think of.

A more subtle version of this is when people insist that they can be for the eradication of obesity but not for the stigmatization of fat people.  Let’s rephrase this to get some perspective:

I don’t want to oppress fat people, I just want to eradicate them from the Earth. But, you know, in a non-stigmatizing way.

I love fat people, I just don’t think anyone should be one.

I want to not stigmatize you while actively trying to create a world without anyone who looks like you living in it.

To kick it up a notch, people blend in healthism and ableism with fat hate with ideas like:

It’s ok to be fat unless it is affecting your health.

Ignoring for now the complexities of health and body size, there is no weight or health status at which one loses their right to exist and be treated with basic human respect.

I’m fine with people being fat, but they shouldn’t be allowed to get disability benefits or accommodations because it’s their own fault.

Ignoring for now the complexity of body size and dis/ability, nowhere in the ADA  definition of disability does it say “unless the impairment is the fault of the person, in which case no accommodations shall be given.”  The idea that we should try to determine if a person’s disability is their fault before providing accommodations/benefits is absolutely horrifying.

There are any number of things about which it’s appropriate to have a lively debate. Fat people’s right to exist is not one of them.

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18 thoughts on “The Problem With A Lively Debate

  1. Good morning Ragan. I would like to share this post on tumblr, but wanted to check with you to see if you’re okay with that.

    There was some serious fat hate there yesterday and I was so incredibly pissed off that I was unable to address the situation in a calm manner!

    Just a side note…have you seen the new Marie Osmond nutri-system commercial? She basically uses her mother’s death as a reason to diet (with that incredibly unhealthy product)! That one and the new Kirstie Allie jenny craig commercial just infuriate me!

    Sorry, I am on a tear this morning! Thanks for being such a calm voice of reason out there. I appreciate your work!

    Laurie Horton ________________________________________

    1. Hi Laurie,

      Thanks for your kind words about my work. Please feel free to use my work to combat fat hate anytime and in any way that’s helpful. Thanks for the activism work you’re doing! I haven’t seen those commercials, I guess I’ll have to go look at them – though I’m not looking forward to it!


    2. Did she happen to mention that her mother gave birth nine times & that she was quite old when she died? I will not, do not, watch diet ads. I turn off the tv, change the channel, or if it is the tv in the other room being watched by someone else, I leave the room & get as far out of earshot as possible.

    3. Reply to side note:

      Yes. I have seen at least two of Marie Osmond’s latest commercial for N/S. They are repugnant. She shared in a second commercial how her husband only finds her attractive when her size meets his approval. I’d feel differently about tolerating such a thing in a marriage, let along sharing with America that my husband is a shallow dick and I don’t mind being treated that way. Her choice. I don’t have to make that choice, or listen to someone who did. Or anyone who thinks I have to make the same choice.

      1. I didn’t realize that she said that, as I said, I will not watch the commercials. This is indeed repugnant, & I wonder how much can be laid at the feet of her parents & the Mormon background, the teaching that a woman basically exists to please a man & produce babies. Her mother produced nine babies in 14 years; shame on her body for producing any visible fat.

    4. I myself just saw the commercial on Marie Osmond using her mom’s death as a reason to use nutri system. What a discusting thing to hear from a woman who does not need to use her mother’s death to sell herself on a commercial. Shame on you Marie. I hope your brother shamed you because someone needs too

  2. I am a person. I have the right to exist. What’s to debate?

    Absolutely nothing.

    Anyone who needs to debate my right to exist is welcome to pick one of my extended digits and have a good, long twirl.

  3. This ties so well into your last post. Why does anyone think it’s okay to “debate” whether fat people should have basic human rights or not?Because they don’t think we’re human. Sometimes I suspect they don’t even think we’re *real,* but an unpleasant illusion that will disappear when they’ve hated and rejected us with enough sincerity; that elusive magical moment when they’ve finally “done enough” about “obesity.”

    And why should they care how they treat us in the meantime? Illusions don’t feel pain.

  4. Ragen’re my idol!
    I want to ask you something. Many people come to the forums fat activism Spanish language, people somehow support the movement but repeat the same health fanatic speech and tell us diets do, our answer is that health is an excuse, which is something personal and private, which is no sin to be obese and sick, and acceptance of one’s body is not limited to health issue. What worries us is whether we should allow those speeches look in the forums, which are many, every day, or whether we should set limits. You have much more time with the fat activism and what it can tell us is helpful, not always we know how to cope with things, freshly started, we have much to learn.
    Big hugs!

    1. Hi Ceci,

      Thanks for the compliment, you made my day! And thanks for the activism work that you are doing, it is so necessary! I get people who try to make the speeches all the time in forums that I manage, too, and I absolutely know what you mean. I choose not to allow it – I choose to create spaces based on Size Acceptance always (which means no diet talk, weight loss talk, or negative body talk) I blogged about it here in case it helps

      If there is anything that I can do to help, please feel free to e-mail me (ragen at danceswithfat dot org) and thanks again for running these forums.


  5. I sent a reply to a concern troll playing the health card:

    “The problem with your sentence as written, is that it creates, for the sake of argument, a situation under which fat people might not have the right to exist in the fat bodies they have to live in, right now, without being shamed, bullied and stigmatized. The notion of a circumstance under which you don’t have to respect someone’s boundaries, or treat them the same as people whose appearance you approve of, is kind of dehumanizing whether that was intentional or not.”

    The idea that some bodies are more equal than others, and that permission to exist is ever conditional–yuck.

  6. Interestingly, I have the same health issues regardless of my weight. I still have hypothyroidism. I still have a crappy pancreas that doesn’t work correctly, hence, diabetes. I still have bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I still have idiopathic hypertension. My weight has fluctuated a fair bit (lost a bunch without doing anything except being careful although not obsessive about my carbohydrate intake due to the diabetes diagnosis.) because my thyroid is wonky. I’m actually exercising less because I feel weak and dizzy thanks to said thyroid.
    So yeah–same health problems regardless of weight. At any weight I’m the same person, and all people have the right to be treated with common decency. That is not debatable.

    1. And on the ADA comment in Ragan’s post – I was on a diabetes forum where t1’s were commenting that t2’s should not get disability or accommodations because they had done it to themselves. WTF? More over-generalization and fat-phobia. I was too shocked to answer.

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