The other day, as I was relaxing on my couch watching an episode of Judge Judy (I can’t help it, I just love her), I was reminded yet again of what a schizophrenic society we live in. We’ve all been subjected to diet commercials. I’ve noticed they are especially prolific during the day, when advertisers assume a lot of women will be at home tending to the kids and wondering what to cook for dinner. Since I work at home, and occasionally goof off by catching a daytime show, I also come under their radar once in awhile. Here is what I’ve noticed for a very long time, and I’m sure you have too.
They’ll air a diet commercial; some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young woman will stand there saying, “I was so miserable 30 pounds ago! Then I tried Weight Watchers/Nutri System/Jenny Craig/[INSERT DIET MEGA-CORPORATION HERE] and now I feel free! I can live again!!!” Then they’ll show her before and after pictures, and maybe even a picture of her inside some old pants, which are stretched out to look like a clothesline. Those of us watching who are far more than 30 pounds overweight feel appropriately chastised, along with all the shame, malaise, and annoyance that follows.
Thirty seconds later, a commercial for Domino’s Pizza/McDonald’s/Burger King/Sara Lee Cheescake/[INSERT FAST FOOD MEGA-CORPORATION HERE] airs. The commercial will linger over and accentuate every single gooey, mouth-watering, drippy, cheesy, sugary bit of saturated fat-and-carbohydrate laden deliciousness. They will encourage us all to open up our mouths and enjoy some of it, and there are always thin people smiling and happily enjoying said food.
It’s a constant yes/no message; the eternally doomed romance of temptation and shame. On the one hand, we’re all being told how fat is disgusting and our lives will never be happy until we lose weight. Then, in the next breath, we’re subjected to a barrage of unbelievably alluring, junky food.
It’s the same with women’s magazines. I try to avoid them at all costs, but whenever I’m in a waiting room, there’s an inevitable pile of them on a table somewhere. It’s either that or stare at the wall, so I flip through them… and it’s always the same: countless pictures of toothpick-thin models, articles on working out and dieting, and then a HUGE food section in the back with the most delectable recipes for crispy fried chicken, deep dish lasagna, and triple chocolate brownies drizzled with caramel.
We all know it’s a big con. We all know the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar bottom feeder, preying on our insecurities and egos in order to thrive.
Jen’s post today got me wondering how accurately the perception of Wall Street greed matches the reality. The signs from Occupy Wall Street use generous imagery of pigs, a favorite for illustrating greed and corruption:
Then you get the odd fat joke mixed in.
Of course, cartoonists have been portraying high-power executives as enormously fat pigs since Thomas Nast attacked Boss Tweed for political corruption in the 1870s.
Compare Nast’s portrayal of the corrupt Tweed with any of the OWS political cartoons and you’ll see that not much has changed.
But exactly who are these corporate fat cats who run the institutions that have inspired the rage of a generation for their unparallelled greed and corruption?
Bank of America
HSBC Bank USA
Irene Dorner (fourth from left)
Richard Davis (left) PNC Bank
Jim Rohr Bank of NY Mellon
Gerald Hassell (right)
TD Bank US Holding
I see one, maybe two, people who would qualify as “fattish” in these pictures, but all in all these are slender people, not fatties. For more examples, you can check out CNN’s list of the 25 highest paid men and women, and see for yourself just how outdated and misguided the current rash of Fat Cat imagery has become.
So please, Occupy Wall Street, political cartoonists, and anyone else who will listen: we are not your symbols of greed and corruption; we do not wish to be lumped in with these selfish, greedy assholes who put personal profit above all else; stop using us to demonize the people you really want to direct your animosity at: selfish, greedy assholes.
Stars, please shine the way for me Show the one that I have followed To see how far I’ve come.
~ Dawes, “How Far We’ve Come”
When I first started blogging, I had a great big bucket of fucks to give. About everything. Those of you I’ve known from the beginning have seen me spreading fucks around like I was Johnny Fucking Appleseed.
Feminism. Fashion. Politics. Race. You name it, I gave a fuck about it. Today, I still give a fuck, but my views have been shaped by conversations I’ve had with people I’ve disagreed with online.
I can be confrontational, stubborn, abrasive, rude, arrogant, and irritating, all in the span of a single paragraph. Although some may see my troll-like stance as a lack of empathy or compassion, I see my approach as forging my beliefs in the fire of confrontation. If my opinions can’t withstand the heat of dissent, then they probably aren’t right. I can’t exactly explain why, but I get a lot of psychological satisfaction from being right.
Now, I don’t just mean right, as in I can outargue you. In my experience, people very rarely “win” arguments. Two people come together, exchange beliefs, then go back home with pretty much the same belief system they brought to the table. We live in a society where intransigent beliefs are a virtue. There’s nothing more righteous than accepting a belief as true and then never yielding your position.
I find intransigent beliefs to be a trap. Too much certainty in something that is nothing more than an opinion can lead to intellectual stagnation. But whether we’re talking about politics, religion, health — it doesn’t matter — there is always more we can learn and understand and incorporate into our worldview. To say, “I accept these truths and no more” is to say “I’m done learning.” And people who are done learning have stopped living.
To me, being right means that you are constantly in search of the most complete answer. This blog began as a search for the truth about weight and health, as viewed through the lens of Health at Every Size® (HAES).
Prior to blogging about HAES, I subscribed to the mainstream belief that bodies are pretty malleable through diet and exercise. The very genesis of this blog was due to an offhand comment that if I went on a heart-healthy diet that I would lose a lot of weight.
Due to its strict anti-diet talk policy, I was kicked off the Fatosphere feed, which compiled Fat Acceptance blog posts. I handled my expulsion with dignity and grace … just kidding, I dropped F-bombs like they were snap-pops and posted a photo of a Sumo wrestler’s ass, inviting people to kiss it in lieu of my own.
Fierce, Freethinking Fatties was the blog that rose from the ashes of my self-immolation. And in the Spirit of Not Getting It, I proudly began by published my confrontational interview with MeMe Roth, which ended with me saying “Fuck you” (Yay!) followed by some unnecessary body shaming (Boo!).
Five years later, I look at MeMe Roth and she makes me more sad than angry. Yeah, she was an insufferable hydrant of hatred who inexplicably earned a national platform to spew her toxic brand of intolerance. But that hatred was always a projection of her own fears of getting fat.
Look at her now. Go to the website of her National Action Against Obesity site and check out the “In the News…” section. The last article is from 2008. MeMe Roth Nutrition Help is DOA. The only peep there’s been from MeMe is on her Wedding Gown Challenge page, which has an entry from August 2014 that reads:
Okay, so this wasn’t easy this time. I really can’t put on another ounce if I expect to get the zipper up next year. I’ve had to watch my weight since I was about 12. And I see no signs that it will get easier. I run daily, eat right, and also eat oh so wrong..! I better cut back on that last category. Hope whatever you tried on today still fits. And if not, let’s go for next year..! All my best, MeMe
Of all the projects MeMe worked on, the Wedding Gown Challenge seems the most important to her, as she’s kept it up for six years straight. And just look at the self-recrimination — if anyone needs the Health at Every Size® (HAES) approach to self-care, it’s MeMe Roth.
And I believe that because I’ve spent the past five years trying to figure out what the right answer is with regard to weight and health. I believe HAES is the right answer because virtually all the evidence says (as our readers are no doubt sick of hearing by now) that the vast majority of people who adopt healthy lifestyle changes will lose about 5-10% of their starting weight, which researchers define as “clinically significant weight loss.”
If you lose more, great. But most people find weight loss of 10% or more nearly impossible to sustain in the long term. That’s the reality that obesity researchers have come to accept, while the rest of world is gradually catching up.
I’ve played my part in spreading that message, but there’s only so many times you can say “most people who adopt healthy lifestyles lose about 5-10% of starting weight” before you start to feel like a verbal lawn sprinkler.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m burnt out.
I’ve been writing one thing or another my entire life. I love writing. It’s my original passion in life. And when I started blogging in 2009, I hadn’t planned on doing any of this. One of my favorite posts that I did back then was mocking a bunch of album covers from the Christian music I used to listen to as a geeky God-boy: Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith. You know, the good shit.
I was mainly doing stream-of-conscious blather as my third attempt at blogging (the first two being on OpenDiary), when I happened upon some of Kate Harding’s posts on Shapely Prose and got inspired to write about Fat Acceptance.
The rest is a long and brutal history of me pissing people off left and right as I blustered my way through the unpacking of my privilege. If I had one wish with regards to this blog, it would be that I could go back to the beginning with all the experience and understanding I have now. Not to say I wouldn’t fuck up again, but it probably wouldn’t be so disastrous or so often.
The result of all that damage is that Fierce Fatties became a kind of island unto itself. We’ve always been a part of the Fat Acceptance discussion, but we were distinct from the real thought leaders of the movement. My temperament and attitude has probably done more damage to this blog than anything, and yet we have a wonderful group of faithful bloggers and readers who have stuck by me through the worst of it. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
But what really brought home the self-inflicted divide was the response to our fundraiser. It was a bittersweet victory. We raised just enough money to pay for the website to be upgraded, but only raised half of our goal, so our options are severely limited.
I didn’t know what to expect when we launched our fundraiser. We’ve been around a long time and have a lot of readers, but how many would invest money in its future is a totally different story. In the end, 17 people donated rewards, while 50 people donated a total of $1,026 because they believe in the mission of Fierce Fatties. I feel incredibly honored that all these people (some I know, some I don’t know, and nobody I’ve ever met) believed it was important enough that they donated money during the holiday season.
What hurt was when we asked for help, the broader Fat Acceptance community pretty much ignored us, including people I thought supported us. Quite frankly, I can’t blame them. I’ve long accepted where I stand. And thanks to my thoroughly Catholic upbringing, I feel tremendously guilty for inflicting the collateral damage of my ego on my co-bloggers. Although I’ve certainly had a prolific five years, I’ve also been a significant drag on the success of Fierce Fatties.
Although I know I’ve been a part of the Fat Acceptance journey for some readers, I can’t help but feel that my own contributions are largely unnecessary for the broader movement. Most recently, as I put together the HAES roundtables on the social determinants of health (SDH), I was put through the wringer just to publish what I did.
The final straw was when I was criticized by the person who recommended I put together the SDH impact roundtable for not paying the participants. Perhaps if I had ever made a single dime from this blog that criticism would make sense, but the implication is that if I can’t afford to pay people for their opinions, then it is wrong to ask their opinions in the first place.
I believe that above and beyond my own writing, this blog is my contribution to the movement, and perhaps without me at the helm it can become part of the larger conversations happening.
So, I have asked Jean Braithwaite, an incredibly skilled writer and editor whose views align much with my own, to be my successor as Chief Fatty. Even more important, she has the deeply-considered thoughtfulness needed to take Fierce Fatties to the next level.
She agreed, but due to a preexisting project, she can’t start just yet. She hopes to be able to take over Fierce Fatties this Summer.
We would also welcome a co-editor to divide up responsibilities. If anyone is interested in becoming co-editor with Jean, please feel free to email me at atchka at hotmail. Bloggers as well. Because even though I’ve exhausted my supply of fucks on this subject, you haven’t. It’s time for you all to step up and start giving fucks for the state of fatness today. You have a voice that needs to be heard, a viewpoint that needs to be shared. Everyone does.
In the meantime, we’re going to put the blog into a state of Hypno-Helio-Static-Stasis. If you’ve just started reading, we have a vast archive of content that can tide you over in the coming months.
As for me, I will continue to write and incorporate everything that I have learned into my work. I believe that perhaps I can still serve the movement through some other writing project.
For one, what I love writing most is fiction. It’s been my lifelong passion and the majority of my creative energy has been spent creating worlds for my own amusement. And when I invest my creative energy in a project, it’s difficult for me to divide my attention too much. This blog has occupied such a significant percentage of my creative energy and time that it’s been difficult to work on anything else.
So when I really listen to my heart, when I think about what I want to do, I’ve been more and more excited by the prospect of writing a novel for my daughters. In fact, about a week ago I read them the first chapter and I’m happy to report they enjoyed it.
I’m also starting a smaller blog that will be less labor intensive and less of a commitment. In fact, the week after I re-upped the domain for Fierce Fatties, I was playing around with available URLs when I found one that I really liked AND found a coupon that gave me a huge discount for a two-year subscription.
I’ve always loved theology and I’d like to do some exploring of different faith traditions and talk about my own belief in the Divine Ground (a term Aldous Huxley used to describe the higher power that most religions are trying to connect to). I don’t know if I’ll write weekly, but I will write when the mood strikes me.
[Side note: Ironically, I recently learned that our blog has an entry in the thoroughly-enlightening Conservapedia which reads: “Fierce, Freethinking Fatties is an atheist fat acceptance movement website.” For the record, we have no official stance on God … but we are comprised of at least one lapsed Roman Catholic, a pagan or two, and the rest I don’t know off-hand because it’s not really a topic we discuss at length here.]
Anyway, that’s the long and short of it. After five years of searching and probing and questioning and doubting and deconstructing and rabble-rousing, my entire philosophy on weight and health can be summed up as follows:
If you want to be healthy, know thyself: who you are, what you need and what you can achieve. Also, know what the science says. Use that knowledge as a kind of guidepost for your journey. Perfection is not the goal, self-actualization is. And if you’re as encouraging and compassionate with yourself as you are with your friends and family, then you’ll have no problem building and sustaining good metabolic health. You got this.
Many of us have already heard the points in this argument…but with the recent Lane Bryant controversy, it bears repeating.
Why are we reclaiming the word FAT?
1. We’re taking our power back. For so long the word FAT was used to shame and denigrate us. We think the word is simply descriptive, like hair color or height. So we’re going to use it as a descriptive term and rebel against the stigma associated with it.
2. It’s a political statement. It’s shocking to hear a fat person call themselves fat. As activists and rebels sometimes it’s good to shake things up. It’s also the language of our movement; by calling ourselves fat we’re showing solidarity to our cause.
3. Fat isn’t a disease. The word obese is a term used in the medical community to mean a disease state, usually associated with metabolic illness. But not all fat people are metabolically unhealthy. Also, “overweight” implies that there is a weight that people are “over.”
4. BMI is bulls**t. Obese and overweight are classifications on the BMI scale. But the BMI is flawed tool, as it doesn’t differentiate fat from muscle in it’s measurement. And the BMI range is arbitrary, not representing health or the population.
5. Euphemisms imply badness. In her book, FAT!SO?, Marilyn Wann says that using other terms to describe ourselves suggests that we “find the truth distasteful.”
Now, not everyone is ready to call themselves fat or be called fat. And I think there is a valid argument for letting people find their inner-fattie on their own schedule. So, I call MYSELF fat…but I don’t call others fat, unless I know they’ll be okay with it.
Also, some within FA refuse to use any other term than fat. But I have been known to use “obese” or “overweight” when talking about the science of fat becasue those terms mean specific things in the research. Some FAers use quotations marks around those terms, if they have to use them.
A final thought…to be fat is human. Ever person on this planet carries around adipose tissue (aka fat), so I think being okay with our fat is applicable to everyone. Being okay with the word fat would be a boon for us all.
Privilege… it’s something everyone has in some form or another*, but nobody wants to admit.
I have a lot of it in my personal situation.
I am a (lower) middle class cisgendered** straight white lady who lives in a medium sized city in the US.
That’s a whole passel of privilege right there, but anyone living that life might not notice it, because I was pretty much BORN INTO all of those things. And when something “is what it is”, it’s often not noticed as a privilege at all. Indoor plumbing… not too many people think of that as a “privilege” – but just ask someone who lives without it.
HOWEVER! There are some privileges that one DOES notice. Because they can come and go. And what I want to focus on today is a privilege that I have not always had, and that is the privilege of being thin in the United States.
I was a chubby kid (well, not really, but enough so that I was mocked by the skinny kids for not being skinny). I was a fat teen. I was an extremely fat young adult. I was a not-quite-deathfat-but-could-be-mistaken-for-it 27 year old.
Not getting into all of the issues behind that journey…
Anywho. The point is, I lived a long time without this thin privilege.
So now that I am identified in this society on sight as a thin, not fat person, I have found that there are an awful lot of things that I can do and take for granted now that I used to have to worry about and plan for as a fat person.
Things that thin people take for granted that are actually Thin Privilege…
I can go into any restaurant and not worry about whether the seating will accommodate me.
I can plan an airline trip without worrying about anything more than my carry-on fitting in the overhead bin.
If I lose my luggage, as long as I have a credit card, I can pretty much go anywhere (even an airport gift shop!) and grab something to wear to replace what I packed.
I can go into any store in the mall and pretty much be guaranteed that I could find something to wear.
I can walk into “The Express” and the sales clerks will actually ask me if there is anything they can help me with and mean it. (Honestly… the first time I went into an Express and this happened to me, I really didn’t know what to think. I had NEVER had an Express employee politely ask if they could help me in all the years I had been going in there with thin friends and relatives. I had NEVER had one of them not either glaze over or actively sneer at me, as though I was sullying their fine store with my presence. Um, I don’t actually buy things there now any more than I used to… because they don’t make clothes for my personality, even though they will now fit my butt (and, also, I do try to steer my $ towards more fat-friendly places)… but I still go there with friends and relatives. The attitude difference is astounding.)
I can stand right out on the street or in the middle of a mall, and eat a giant ice cream cone, or hot dog, or whatever other food item I chose, and NO ONE is going to stare, point, laugh, or whisper about my choice of comestible.
I can wear form fitting clothing without people mocking me (at least within earshot).
Nobody is going to complain to me if I choose to wear a bikini that I am somehow ruining their day.
Nobody is examining the contents of my shopping cart at the grocery store and acting as the food police if I put some ice cream in it.
I can walk through a crowded room and not worry if I might have to ask someone to move out of my way. In fact! I can walk through a crowded space and actually touch another person to make them aware of my passing WITHOUT it causing horrified complaints of how dare I displace them with my need to move through the area.
I could go on, but I think I have made my point.
Going through life as a fat person means CONSTANTLY taking care to not impinge on others, lest you happen to impinge on one that is a shouter. It means that other people think you are fair game for hostile comments. It means that your very existence is fodder for nasty commentary – even by people who would otherwise consider themselves to be VERY NICE, COMPASSIONATE people.
While the absence of that might not seem like much to someone who has not lived with it… I can tell you that moving through the world without being noticed and called out, now that is a very big privilege indeed… and one that I hope one day can be an “everyone” privilege… not just thin.
*OK, there’s got to be some human out there in the world who has absolutely ZERO innate privileges based solely on who / what / where they are… but I don’t know who they are. I think any time two humans get together, ONE of them is going to have the upper hand based on something.
**And hey! I just found out what cisgendered means! (I identify as the gender that matches my outward appearance in this society)