Things That Don’t Justify Concern Trolling

Picture thanks to reader Morgan!
Picture thanks to reader Morgan!

Yesterday I blogged about how it’s ok to be fat and to not try to be thin no matter what your situation.  Predictably, today I heard from people who want to concern troll fat people using a couple of very common, very ridiculous justifications:

The first is based on the suggestion that if the person “wants better” or “healthier” for someone (here “better” and “healthier typically means “thinner” but sometimes mean something else) then that person should definitely step in and start doling out advice whether it’s wanted or not.

Not so much.  What we want for other people is our business and has actually nothing to do with them. Other people’s health is not our business unless they ask us to make it their business. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks they can make psychic health predictions based on other people’s size, it doesn’t matter if the object of their concern trolling has diagnosed health issues and they disagree with that person’s decisions about how to handle those issues. It simply doesn’t matter.

People are allowed to want people to be “healthy” by whatever definition they are using. They do not, however, have the right to actually make other people’s health their business unless and until their input is requested. Other people’s right to make choices for themselves without unsolicited advice is not subject to whether or not anyone thinks they are making the right choices. 

When it comes to personal health decisions, other people’s autonomy does not have to be “balanced out” by someone else’s desires to try to control those decisions regardless of their reasoning.  I do think that there can be exceptions made to this rule (I’m thinking of intervening when someone is dealing with an eating disorder or addiction), but we shouldn’t be surprised if the person we are talking to tells us to search for our beeswax elsewhere.

The second justification I often here is some version of “Fat people are at higher risk for health issues and that costs me tax dollars so I have every right to talk to them about their health.” 

Horseshit. Even if it was true. If you want to make an argument about tax dollars then I want to see a list of the things that your tax dollars pay for, broken down into things of which you do and do not approve and the interventions you are involved in for each thing you think makes your taxes too high, as well as your letter submitting to the authority of anyone who says that they know better than you what you should do to be healthy, including your willingness to let them tell you how to live so that they can bring down their tax dollars, otherwise this is just a weak justification for fat bigotry.I blogged about this in detail here.

Our bodies, our business.  We may have trusted advisers, we may welcome the input of others, but we are under no obligation to do so and there is no justification for concern trolling.

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10 thoughts on “Things That Don’t Justify Concern Trolling

  1. At first I was thinking, “what if a concern troll took to asking someone if they wanted advice first, thus giving that person the opportunity to say “no” or at least “not today.”‘ But then I realized that there have been so many times in my life where I’ve been asked a preceding question like that and did not feel emotionally/socially/financially safe to say “no” and then had to deal with the resulting bullying. … so that’s not going to work either.

    1. No to mention those charming souls who ask whether you would like some advice and then don’t even pause long enough to inhale before giving it anyway.

    2. I tried that once (not about health, about learning to drive of all things), and said “no thanks, that’s a really sensitive topic for me right now” and proceeded to have a five-minute argument about whether or not she could give me her piece of advice, ended only when I agreed to let her tell my boyfriend (her son) instead.

      Her advice? Don’t stress out about it so much. It was almost funny except that I will have to talk to this person ever again and this sort of dance is likely to repeat.

  2. I love that one. “Here’s what I think you should do about your (X) problem…” then full steam ahead…!

    And it can come out of nowhere, even from people you’d think would never hurl that barb in your direction. Blindsided insults…can’t raise the shields fast enough.

    It took me a long time to learn some neutral responses which, if the person is alert enough, will be more of an insult than any snappy reply.

    1. I broke up with a “friend” after she sent me an email about how I use my eating disorder as a crutch and a justification to do whatever the hell I want. A second friend sent me something similar, but with true caring behind it and she listed out specific observations which did make me take note of behaviors. That one was the more difficult email to stomach, but I kept her friendship. It’s the relationship you have with someone that makes the difference.

  3. One of the things I find really hard in my line of work (I’m a midwife) is the requirements placed on us by law and policy about giving advice. If we see a service user who is over an arbitrarily decided BMI, local policy and national guidelines require us to offer ‘assistance’ and ‘advice’ on healthy eating and exercise, even if we know the person doesn’t want to engage, and as a happy fat person myself, I even know the emotional damage I might be doing to that person… but if I don’t do it, I can face legal consequences, including losing my job.

    I engage as often as I can with the policy makers at the hospital about trying to find other ways to do this, but they in turn have to make the policies to abide by national guidelines… and even though they are just ‘guidelines’, as I said- actual legal ramifications exist if we don’t follow through. It’s concern trolling on a national scale, and frankly, for every person we talk to about weight ‘issues’, we see dozens of others with health or social concerns that we might actually be able to offer effective solutions for. The only possible exception I’ve noticed is gestational diabetes, where women seem really eager to get dietary advice to avoid the use of insulin, but even when they adhere really well it’s rare to see any weight change, which in my mind adds to the argument that high BMI does not actually indicate a health issue, even if health issues are sometimes seen more often in people with high BMIs. Correlations not equalling causes, and all that. 😉

    Still, it’s very frustrating seeing people being essentially brow-beaten by a system that can’t change, thanks to government interference. Something needs to happen, but it’s going to be a long, slow road to any kind of equality. -__-;

    1. Thank goodness I’m not a midwife. If I had to do something I don’t agree with, or face legal repercussions, I’d probably say, “I don’t agree with this, but I’m legally required to say this, so why don’t you plug your ears and hum for a while, and I’ll signal you when you can listen again.”

      But then I’d probably get in trouble for that, too.

      As I said, thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that.

      And thank you, S R Jones, for fighting the good fight against the idea that all babies must be born in a hospital. There have been women FORCED to give birth in a hospital, despite the fact that they had no medical complications to need it. It’s awful!

  4. Reblogged this on Melissa Fields, Autist and commented:
    It is our bodies, our business!! Fat shaming, and unsolicited advice when i make a comment about a journalist who i happen to love watching fat shaming, is a definite NO-NO. Just don’t. Instead, read and follow Dances With Fat and get yourself educated, and your mind from closed to open, thank you.

  5. To really want better for someone is to do something fat phobes are philosophically opposed to LISTEN. I mean really listen, hear what a person is saying to you. Forget your ego, and sthu.

    Listen actively, devote yourself to hearing that person for a little while. And ask intelligent questions that illicit a person’s hidden and usually unexpressed feelings.

    It’s a true act of love, regardless of how you feel about the person.

    Thus beyond the capacities of most fat phobes who just want to vomit their own worthless mental detritus over you, ick.

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