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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4 thoughts on “Fatphobes in Size Acceptance Clothing”
So appropriate. The obesity establishment is convinced they are doing the right thing, of course. The best of them are sincere and really believe that they are making progress and helping people. I am on speaking terms with some of them. Most can trot out patients that in the short term, at least, are happy with their outcomes. The worst of the hardliners are hoping to pay for a new deck on their house, or have impossibly high alimony bills to pay. They also believe that fat is self-inflicted. They are sometimes the ones who will stand around the patient’s bed during weight-loss surgery and tell antifat jokes when they think the patient can’t hear them. They are mostly all angry when insurance companies are reluctant to pay for treatment of what some insurance executives call a “lifestyle” disease. But when you frame the issues in the way that you do, from a social justice perspective, while pointing out that the weight loss emperor has no clothes on, this is liking trying to convince a devout Christian that there is no God. Ragen,I am so glad that you are posting this stuff!
“Co-opting the language of Size Acceptance in order to sell diets is not.”
But it’s *not* a diet, let alone a *fad* diet! It’s obesity counseling for your health journey! Sure, it’s counseling you to restrict calories and food groups whilst increasing exercise levels beyond what’s recommended in the hopes that this will create a caloric deficit that will trigger your body’s starvation defense mechanisms and cause it to eat itself to appear smaller, which might initially make it sound like any other pile of CICOBS, but look closer, and you will note *we did not call it a diet!* Everyone knows calling your diet a diet is the thing that makes it a fad diet that doesn’t work! /s
“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.)”
Or my favorite (for a certain value of favorite), “I finally married the love of my life, who fully admits they’d never have given me the time of day if they’d met me before my weight loss!”
Getting emotionally invested in a relationship with someone who’s proud of hating random people who’ve never done anything to them or anyone else because of their appearance… an appearance you used to share, and only stopped sharing due to extreme and potentially-unsustainable circumstances? What could possibly go wrong?
To Lady R: Right you are, about the situation you describe of marrying someone while you are temporarily thin who would not have given you “the time of day” when you were fat.
That’s a recipe for disaster. I suggest that if you lose weight by dieting, surgery, drugs, or any other unnatural means, that you wait at least 3-5 years before you resume dating with marriage in mind. But people don’t do that, of course, which is why my next career should be that of divorce attorney!
It is better to find a partner or spouse who finds you attractive AS YOU ARE NOW (radical idea, I know), or consider a single life (it ain’t so bad) than to marry someone while pretending to be a thin person.
Seriously. “Calling your diet anything but a diet” yeah that’s the fail. Semantics.
They don’t get it, they don’t want to get it, they make money friends and influence people by pretending they don’t hate us, while they punch us in the face…
Speaking of that, why is Miss Piggy, the fat female Muppet always being treated like she is the problem they all love to hate and thrashed in every episode? Imagine them hitting Fozzie Bear that way…I think I’ll ask…