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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18 thoughts on “Not a Civil Debate”
Reblogged this on Tessa Can Do IT! and commented:
I believe in her!
*Throws hands in the hair* YES.
Any ‘debate’ which begins with the insistence that I admit I have no right to exist – let alone have civil rights – is not a civil one.
Sometimes you just have to tell people that you’ll be happy to debate them only when they understand that a debate requires recognizing that there is more than one way to look at an issue… and that basic human rights are not up for debate.
Exactly. It’s problematic enough that society finds it totally normal and rational to place the burden of proof on a group of people with a certain cosmetic trait *for their right to exist.* But to add to the outrage, their idea of “civilly debating” us is to sit us down, shut us up, and lecture us unchallenged. We absolutely should not have to debate for our lives, but safe spaces like this one are the only thing making such debates *possible,* as they give us a place to tell our stories and present the research that supports our points without fatphobes dashing in to cover our mouths and shout down anything we might manage to muffle out through their fingers.
As always, Lady R, well said.
On the American Heroes Channel (AHC) there is a new series about the history of Auschwitz. The whole killing plan started out as youth euthanasia, then expanded to adult euthanasia. Most of those killed in the early years were mentally ill, or physically damaged in some way (eg. birth defect, accident). I can imagine some veterans of WW1 were killed because they were so horrifically affected by the horrors of war.
It was all said to be done for the “greater good of society” since these “invalids” were costing the system and being a drain. I think this day has returned with all the anti-fat attitudes in the USA. Maybe a friendly reminder to Michelle Obama that she could always use Zyklon B as a last resort.
That’s some next level hubris right there.
Why in the actual hell would I want to engage in any debate wherein the premise is that I need to explain what about me could possibly be so useful as to justify the “harm” I’m doing to society with my very existence? Much less a “civil” such debate? My responses in such debates usually run to about two words, in which the first is very rude and the second is “you”. Maybe an “and the horse you rode in on”, if I’m feeling particularly chatty.
See, here’s the thing — I think THEY’RE doing something very dangerous to society with their words. And yet, I’m still not attacking their right to be that jackass or demanding they defend it. They could take a lesson.
And the complaining about taking their posts down just makes my brain burn. If you want to control the delete button, get your own blog. It’s a fairly simple calculus.
That type of interaction, where someone under the guise of “civil debate” wants in talk about a issue, is called sea lioning. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sea-lioning
I am a championship debator and would actually love to get into a debate with these people so long as the research is cited, cards (copies of research) are provided, and the integrity of Lincoln Douglas debate is maintained. Although, you’d be surprised at how many people can’t even do basic research and end up citing completely bunk or outdated studies, I doubt any of the arguments they have for weight loss can be supported by legitimate research. Let me at ‘um!!
No one is obligated to engage in “civil debate” because too often there is presumed to be no acceptable argument for debate and no need for civility.
While I agree that this was not likely to be a jumping off point for anything civil, and also it’s entirely not okay for anyone to tell anyone else what to do with his or her own body, I’m not sure that the commenter was saying the people should be eradicated, just that they should be forced to lose weight. Still not okay, but not genocide-y type not okay.
Except that in the pursuit of a world without fat people, people (including the government, medical professionals etc.) have been all too happy to risk fat people’s lives (with drugs, dangerous surgeries, and dangerous medical treatments that have side effects of death) leaving the distinct impression that in the war on obesity with its promise of a world without fat people, they want us thin, but they’re ok if we die, as long as we’re not fat.
You are so right that that is the general gist of so many of these messages, but I think it is still important to recognize the difference between wanting to actively kill fat people (or any group) versus actively changing them without killing them. Again, neither is okay but they are different. And actively wanting to kill a group of people is different than being okay with that group dying…still not okay but slightly different.
Oops..just saw that you addressed this in a more recent post! I see better where you’re coming from now! Thank you for elaborating and explaining your word choice for me, and others who might have been confused!