The 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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