As activists and educators make progress in the fight against fatphobia and diet culture, more people and companies who profit from them are pivoting. Examples that come to mind are Weight Watchers, the OAC, and Canadian doctors. Then there are all those people trying to peddle intutive eating and HAES for weightloss which is completely antithetical.
In all of these examples, these organizations are tripping all over themselves to say that they are against stigmatizing and shaming fat people. And obviously, fat people should not be stigmatized or shamed.
But…all three of these groups also sell weight loss (despite the fact that there isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant long term weight loss.) While they claim, again with extremely questionable evidence, that they are selling weight loss for health, they also often use messaging that shows that they are selling weight loss interventions, including interventions that risk our lives and quality of life, as a solution to fatphobia (with testimonials about how great it is to be able to shop in straight-sized stores, ride roller coasters etc.)
While we often celebrate this as progress, there are also three very serious issues with it.
First, they are still selling the idea that fat people should change themselves in order to make our bullies happy. The equivalent of recommending that we give a bully our lunch money and hope he stops beating us up, except instead of our lunch money it’s the majority of our stomach and other parts of our digestive system that we’re giving up.
Second, they create confusion by intentionally misrepresenting concepts like Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, Body Positivity, Size Acceptance and Fat Activism. Now, this is a different kind of confusion that people like Jillian Michaels create when they lie about the concepts to fit their narrative, but it’s still harmful and it dilutes the concepts and hampers the fight for social justice.
Finally, and perhaps the most harmful thing is that they make their advocates into fatphobes in Size Acceptance clothing, smiling at us and saying what basically amounts to “I don’t want to stigmatize you, but I think the world would be better if nobody like you existed and so I’m actively trying to eradicate people who look like you from the Earth.” That’s not possible, but organizations like these put fortunes of money into convincing people that it is, even getting fat people who are still deep into internalized fatphobia to shill for them.
As someone who is both queer and fat, this sounds a lot to me like “I don’t think queer people should be stigmatized, I just think that they should all undergo “conversion therapy” for their own good.
They are conditioning us to accept a world where lipservice is given to not stigmatizing us, while billions of dollars are spent attempting to make sure none of us exist.
It is literally impossible to not stigmatize fat bodies while promoting a platform that insists that being thin(ner) is better.
You can’t have a platform of not stigmatizing fat people while still actively preaching that existing fat people should be turned thin, and future fat people should be prevented from ever existing.
The only way to be truly non-stigmatizing of fat people is to stop trying to eradicate us and prevent us from existing. Embracing a diversity of body sizes, creating spaces that accommodate and affirm fat bodies, weight-neutral healthcare…these are anti-stigma actions. Co-opting the language of Size Acceptance in order to sell diets is not.
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