I got a series of comments from someone who was suggesting that fat people should be forced to lose weight for the good of society. After I didn’t approve any of their 7 comments, they said: “You need to approve my comments. Why won’t you engage in a civil debate?”
Besides the absolutely ridiculous idea that I’m obligated to give anybody else an audience my blog, there is a deeper issue here:
There is no way to have a civil debate about whether or not a group of people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a civil debate about whether I have the right to exist. Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.
There’s so much weight stigma, bullying and oppression that happens, talk about the “War on Obesity” is encouraged by the government and rampant, and public health seems to be largely about making fat people’s health the public’s business. If we’re not careful we can start to think that those things are ok and that we have to step up to the mic anytime someone wants to “debate” whether or not we have the right to exist. We can start to think that fat people should feel obligated to engage in these debates, or try to justify our right to exist by proving that we are “healthy”, or “worthy”, or that we want to be/are trying to be thin, or whatever. We can start to believe that fat people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are contingent on our ability to successfully debate for them.
That’s Bullshit. THIS IS NOT OK. People, including the media, the government, our friends and families, and perfect strangers, have no right to treat fat people the way that we are treated. Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies, period. It doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what our health status is or might be, or if we want to/could become thin. And those who suggest that it’s ok to treat fat people like crap because they will acknowledge our right to exist and stop the mistreatment just as soon as we become thin can take a flying leap – these people do not get to try to eradicate me while cowering behind the excuse that they don’t want to eradicate theoretical thin me.
Sometimes I, and other fat people, do choose to debate these topics but it should be clear that when we do so, it’s a courtesy – not an obligation. The systematic stigma, bullying, and oppression of fat people IS WRONG. Completely and totally wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrongity Wrong. It is absolutely unjustifiable whether it’s couched in terms of health, costs, social responsibility or anything else. It is an affront to our civil rights – it is pure shaming, bullying, and oppression, and it is most assuredly wrong.
So why won’t I engage in a civil debate? Perhaps it’s because, as the unwilling combatant in a war waged on me by my government – assisted by the media, the diet industry with their $60 billion a year in profits, and a volunteer army of total strangers – all of whom ridiculously insist that they are trying to eradicate me “for my own good”, I am not feeling civil. I will not “civilly” beg for my right to exist from people who are actively trying to eradicate me, but I will damn sure fight for my right to exist against anyone who threatens it. They want a war on obesity? I’ll give them a war, and civility will not be my first priority.
You can never have a reasoned discussion with someone who believes that their rights are immutable but yours should be up for debate. It’s not difficult to be friendly to someone when you’re debating their right to exist in peace, while your own is not in question. “I want to oppress you” and “I don’t want to be oppressed” are not two reasonable, valid, debate-worthy points of view. The former is a statement of violence, the latter an insistence on basic human respect. The idea that there is “common ground” to be found between the two can only come from the power and privilege of an oppressor.
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