One of the most often used, and poorly constructed, arguments leveled against those of us who do Size Acceptance Activism, is that if we really loved our bodies we wouldn’t need to do activism, and we wouldn’t be “so angry,” because we would “be at peace with ourselves.”
As a fat person I receive mistreatment at the hands of everyone from the government to strangers that I meet, I hear stories from readers all the time who tell me about abhorrent treatment from their jobs, their families and friends, their doctors and it makes me very, very angry. That doesn’t mean that I’m not happy – I’m happy about a great many things, and I’m perfectly capable of holding happiness for some things and anger for others at the same time.
To suggest that my anger with the way I’m treated indicates that I am “not at peace with myself” makes it seem to me that we should stop the logic train because we’ve had a passenger fall off. I’m at peace with myself – I’m at war with a large part of the world, and not of my choosing. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “war on obesity?” That war is against me, and my body. That war tries to convince people (including me) that I, and everyone who looks like me, should be eradicated based on the shaky assumption that it will save society money (as if it’s ok to suggest that a group should be eradicated in order to save society some money.) Each of us gets to choose how we deal with our oppression – nobody is obligated to react to this with anger, but anger is certainly a valid response.
Not only am I at peace with myself, I’m at peace with myself despite the fact that I’m being constantly given the message that the way I look is proof that I’m a bad person who deserves shame, stigma and oppression. It is that peace that makes me want to fight for my body and my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which includes the right to exist in a fat body without having the government wage war on me for how I look. It’s my love for my own body that drives the anger.
Let’s try this – Imagine that you have a best friend, and every single day that best friend is bullied, shamed, stigmatized. If you become angry about the way your friend is treated, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a good relationship with your friend, it means that you are justifiably angry at their mistreatment.
I spend a lot of time smiling politely and asking people if they wouldn’t mind not oppressing me. I don’t begrudge that and I don’t apologize for it – it’s effective, it gives people the benefit of the doubt (that perhaps they weren’t aware of the consequences of their actions,) and it’s reasonably pleasant. That doesn’t mean that I’m always obligated to do that, nor does it indicate that I’m not angry at a society that condones the behavior and the social constructs that support the behavior. That anger is because I love my body, because I’m at peace with myself, and I’d like some peace with the outside world.
To try to characterized the anger of people who are oppressed as a sign of deficiency in our relationships with ourselves is dangerously (and I think often purposefully) dis-empowering – it suggests that to prove that we are happy with ourselves we must not speak out against our mistreatment (not to mention the serious issues with having some obligation to prove anything to anyone about how we feel about ourselves in the first place.) That’s flat out wrong – it’s way out of line, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it makes me very, very angry.
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com