46 thoughts on “I Wasn’t Going to Say Another Word about this, Because I’m Sick of It

  1. Let ‘em flame. Honest, compassionate, reasonable people will see the essential truth…the rest, I don’t care about.

  2. I don’t know. I’m as unhappy about this comparison game as I am when people try to compare everything to racism.

    Fat people were not incarcerated in death camps during the Holocaust, with a 60% death rate (higher than any other group because of how badly they were treated). One in three homeless youth is not on the streets because they are fat. Fat people have not been compared to pedophiles or blamed for Hurricane Katrina. Fat people’s funerals have not, as far as I know, been picketed by people. Fat people are not preached about from church pulpits. Fat people are not put to death in various countries around the world. I am aware of no studies showing that fat children/teens are at a significantly higher risk of physical abuse in their homes, or being kicked out of their homes.

    The post you links to makes some interesting points but I still think it’s lazy and sloppy to resort to talking about one oppression in terms of how it’s like another. And I was waiting for the whole post to see the obligatory comment about how racism is over, and boom, there it is, last paragraph. “You don’t get away with saying bigoted things about black people any more”? Tell that to Don Imus, to Michael Richards, to every comedian and politician who talks in code about welfare and handouts and drug users, hell, tell that to Bill freakin’ Cosby. Tell that to the recent posters on the LJ Fatshionista community who could not shut up about how dreadlocks are “just a hairstyle” and anyone who thought differently needed to relax and get over themselves and stop being so mean, never mind that a three-year-old is being expelled from school due to his locs.

    Yeah, I’m not super happy with the post.

  3. Elusis: I think there’s a difference between “comparable” (i.e. contains similar attributes) and “equivelent” forms of discrimination. Whenever someone brings up the comparison between fat bias and gay or racial bias, I see a lot of people jump in to argue that the comparison shouldn’t be made because the level of discrimination is not equal in both cases. I agree that racial discrimination is not only still a very real every-day problem, but also (IMO) more widespread, institutionalized and severe than sizism. But the fact that one form of discrimination is worse than another does not invalidate the fact that size discrimination DOES occur in a frequency and severity that warrants awareness and action. Children are being removed from their homes. Fat people are being denied adoption rights, jobs, health care, insurance and even citizenship because people make assumptions about them because of their weight. That’s a problem. The stereotypical image and biased messages about fat people is very similar to those used to justify racial discrimination in this century. Someone saying that fat people face discrimination that takes a similar form to modern racial discrimination is NOT making a value judgement on which one is worse. It does NOT take away or lessen the pain of historical racial discrimination and hate. It DOES give people a reference point so that they can internalize the problem in a way they can better understand. I think that other than saying that it isn’t acceptable to make racial comments anymore, the article makes some very good points.

  4. I think comparing oppressions is tricky in the extreme and for every person you find from an oppressed group who might agree, you’ll find several who are offended. So you either have to find other ways to talk about it or you need to accept that people will take offense.

    I have a kind of rambly post up about it now.

  5. Tell that to Don Imus, to Michael Richards, to every comedian and politician who talks in code about welfare and handouts and drug users, hell, tell that to Bill freakin’ Cosby.

    And look at the fall-out from the Imus and Richards and even recent Mel Gibson tirades, too. I doubt either of the three will be welcomed with open arms in their respective fields in the future.

    Elusis: I don’t think it’s a lazy analogy, at all. I think it’s a necessary one. There are so many people who, while they oppose racial and sexualized forms of discrimination, still think it perfectly acceptable to promote forms of discrimination against fat people. Only by emphasizing the similarities of these forms of oppression can we ever hope for these people to see the the hypocrisy of their beliefs.

    And I don’t think playing the “But my oppression is worse than your oppression” game is beneficial for any marginalized group. When we make judgment calls on which groups are more “deserving” of social justice, we’re only perpetuating the very foundations that form the bulwark of all social injustice.

  6. And I was waiting for the whole post to see the obligatory comment about how racism is over, and boom, there it is, last paragraph

    Elusis, for the record, I remarked on that in Deniselle’s comments, but she moderates and I don’t know what time it is in Finland, or when she’ll get to it.

    As for the rest of what you’re saying, yes, it’s true, if you want to take it that far. But Deniselle isn’t saying, “It’s exactly the same!” She’s saying there’s a lot more overlap than there seems to be at first glance — and it’s useful to look at that overlap, because it shines a light on how much different forms of bigotry have in common. The point is, it’s all about irrational hatred and an overblown sense of entitlement among the privileged group. Whether that’s expressed as forcefully toward fat people as it is toward other groups isn’t even what’s being discussed here. The comparison is valid for a limited purpose.

    And until self-proclaimed progressives quit saying there’s no such thing as fatphobia, or that irrational hatred directed toward fat people doesn’t constitute a legitimate social justice issue — when fat teens do commit suicide at higher rates, fat people are barred from adopting children, fat people are denied housing and employment, fat people are paid less, and fat people are constantly represented in the media as objects of derision — I really believe that pointing out the substantial overlap is worthwhile.

  7. Ok. Yall are touching on my dissertation here, so I have to jump in.

    It doesn’t matter that oppression is worse than another (at least, not yet); what matters is the whole ideology behind it: that some are better than others. bell hooks has an ideology of domination that explains all discriminations:

    “We live in a world in crisis – a world governed by politics of domination, one in which the belief in a notion of superior and inferior, and its concomitant ideology – that the superior should rule over the inferior – effects the lives of all people everywhere (Talking Back 19)”

    It is the whole ideology of domination that we have to get beyond. Otherwise, we will always deal with some kind of discrimination for some population. If we find it acceptable to dominate ANY population, it is only a matter of time before they become a scape goat and the really bad stuff starts happening.

    And this ideology of domination fits our society’s view of fat. I just turned in a 36-page paper (quoting losts of FA bloggers) that does a pretty good job of establishing it, if I may say so.

    Well, back to paper #2 — the one on medical rhetoric (I’m so tired of statistics I could spit!).

  8. And I don’t think playing the “But my oppression is worse than your oppression” game is beneficial for any marginalized group. When we make judgment calls on which groups are more “deserving” of social justice, we’re only perpetuating the very foundations that form the bulwark of all social injustice.

    Yeah, that.

    Although I do reserve the right to remind people (who are talking directly to me) that whatever their oppression is, someone’s got it worse somewhere — and it might even be me, so stop making assumptions.

  9. Rachel: When Seinfeld stops airing five nights a week in every major TV market, paying Michael Richards huge residuals, and when Mel Gibson is no longer welcome at all in Hollywood, I’ll believe there’s real penalty for saying racist things.

    “Only by emphasizing the similarities of these forms of oppression can we ever hope for these people to see the the hypocrisy of their beliefs.”

    Sorry, that’s a non-starter with me. There are other ways to make an argument than by comparing oppressions.

    And I’m not saying one oppression is worse than another. Don’t put words in my mouth. I”m saying they’re different, and comparisons are intellectually lazy. And that the “racism is over” argument is insulting to people of color.

    JoGeek: before you decide it’s OK to compare other oppressions to racism, maybe it would be helpful for you to read what people of color have had to say on the topic. Which, mostly, boils down to NO.

    Kate: I still think the urge to compare is lazy, and tries to put one oppression on the coattails of another. (I have this same argument every time a friend tries to use gay rights as a platform to argue about how he feels discriminated against as a polyamorous person.) And what advancement does it create? It is still PERFECTLY OK to say all of those things about gay people! Politicians running for the highest office in the United States say those things about gay people! So there is no ground to be gained by saying “these oppressions are alike!”

    And I still stand by my point. As a fat queer person, I live with a lot more fear about anti-gay attitudes and actions. Openly fat people hold corporate CEO-ships, high poltical offices, vastly influential media positions. Openly gay people, for the most part, do not. Can we talk about fat oppression as a valid concern because it is a valid concern?

  10. Fat people were not incarcerated in death camps during the Holocaust, with a 60% death rate (higher than any other group because of how badly they were treated). One in three homeless youth is not on the streets because they are fat.

    Yes, and nonwhite people and fat people aren’t legally prevented from getting married. Nonwhite people and homosexual aren’t denied access to ambulances, MRIs, or other medical equipment that will accommodate health needs. We can sit here all day taking stock of all the differences between various forms of discrimination, but to do so would be something akin to counting the trees and missing the forest.

    There are differences, as there are bound to be, and to even attempt to quantify or weigh their severity against each other would be a waste of time. These types of comparisons provoke people who find one form of discrimination acceptable but others unacceptable, to think about what they’re really doing…and that is a useful tool. I resent the “riding on the coattails of x movement” type remarks that seem to arise whenever these comparisons are made. Unless you’re willing to stand for equality for all human beings, you’re not solving anything, just sticking a finger in the dam.

  11. And I’m not saying one oppression is worse than another. Don’t put words in my mouth.

    Elusis, come on. Nobody put those words in your mouth. You just listed a bunch of ways in which gay people have been treated hideously as a direct counterpoint to how fat people are treated. You don’t get to disown that and then accuse other people of intellectual laziness.

    It is still PERFECTLY OK to say all of those things about gay people!

    Absolutely — except in progressive circles, where racism and homophobia are widely (and correctly) reviled, but fat hatred is still, by and large, seen as a non-issue. Changing the entire culture is a different issue from waking up people who are already interested in social justice to the fact that hey, fat people really are discriminated against in some pretty shocking ways.

  12. No, of course racism is not “over.” But it’s not considered okay by the vast majority of people to be racist. When celebrities make racist remarks, they are called out on the carpet for it. Imus got suspended. Richards pretty much got blackballed. Mel Gibson has gone from entertainment demigod to freakshow pretty much overnight. People who are racist at least are now being forced to be covert about it in order to be accepted. That’s not good enough, of course. But it’s a serious improvement over what life was like 40 or 50 years ago.

    Similarly, homophobia has diminished drastically over the past 30 years. In 1980, I was fired from a job merely for saying I thought gays should have the right to marry. That wouldn’t happen now. Again, is that good enough? No. Are there serious outrages being committed against gays? Yes. But there are also huge pockets of acceptance that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And again, it’s not considered publicly acceptable in most places today to put gay people down or assume they must be “sick.”

    On the other hand, even most fat people question whether they should have full civil rights or not. If you DON’T assume that fat people are weird, sick, or deficient in some way, you risk ostracization. If you are NOT on a fat person’s ass night and day insisting that they jump through flaming hoops to change, you are widely considered a nut job. If you are fat and perceived as not jumping through those flaming hoops, even if you are, you will be shunted to the margins of society. It’s the only form of discrimination that normal regular everyday people, even fat ones think is not only okay, but actually necessary.

    To say we have no right to complain because we haven’t yet been subjected to nooses or being dragged from the back of someone’s pickup truck is crazy. Nobody needs to do that to us yet, because we’re way too busy hating ourselves.

  13. So there is no ground to be gained by saying “these oppressions are alike!”

    Except that fatphobia is not widely recognized as an oppression at all. It’s getting ahead of ourselves to compare quality and quantity when one issue is all but invisible as an issue. Deniselle’s post, as I read it, is not about using an analogy to show that two oppressions are the same or should be treated the same way. It’s about using an analogy to show that two oppressions are both oppression. Since most people (ahem Dan Savage) don’t recognize fat people as a group that deserves social justice, they don’t recognize fat prejudice as a social justice issue. The comparison to other social justice issues serves to show, by analogy, that fat prejudice is a social justice issue as well.

    And yeah, homophobia and racism are still not only existent but condoned. No argument here, and I don’t stand for the “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” claims, because pretty much every prejudice is still acceptable on a large scale — even if people cluck, it still goes on. Clucking is just about as enlightened as we’ve gotten, at least in the States, about bigotry — if people cluck, you’ve come a long way. But people don’t even cluck about fatphobia; they think it’s funny. I’m not hoping to convince the kind of people who defend Don Imus that they should have tender feelings towards fatties. I just think there are plenty of progressives who explicitly or implicitly condone fatphobia because they don’t recognize it as oppression.

  14. Elusis: I have been reading what people of color have to say about it, both in blogs and responses. I’ve found that like any other group, there is a diversity of opinions. Some do support the comparison, some don’t. It’s the same in the gay community…some see the comparison as valid, some don’t. Sometimes those who object to the comparison express that they feel that it somehow diminishes their own situation, others are offended because they themselves are sizist and don’t believe prejudice against fat people is a problem in the first place. I can’t see how any blanket statement professing to know the opinions of a large diverse group of people can possibly be accurate.

    And I do have to say, in the cause of chasing down sloppy thinking, that my own post expressed some of my opinions as absolute statements. I should have said “in my opinion” instead of “this is” or “this does not”, and my apologies for that. I still, however, believe that not only does fatphobia contain similarities to racism and homophobia, but that there may be some racism inherent in sizism. Paul Campos draws some interesting conclusions on this.

    I also wanted to ask if you’re named after the Greek mysteries of Eleusis or if it just sounds similar? Completely off-topic of course, but I’ve studied some of the Greek religious practices and your name made me curious.

  15. I still, however, believe that not only does fatphobia contain similarities to racism and homophobia, but that there may be some racism inherent in sizism.

    Not to mention classism, which is something that many progressives also have a problem with.

    It’s as if some progressives feel they don’t have room in their heads for one more group to consider, which I don’t get. Nobody here is asking for everyone to drop the fight for gay rights or burn their NAACP card. Nobody here is even asking for new recruits into Fat Acceptance. Just stop acting like a bigot towards fat people, please. It takes less energy!

    Look, I don’t know a single transgendered person (that I know of) but in the last few several years I’ve become interested in the rights and safety of transgendered people. Why? Because they’re people and they way they’re often treated in society appalls me. I haven’t devoted my life to this issue, but it’s something I consider when I’m deciding where to put my (sadly limited) money and political influence. What’s the big deal? People are people. Jeez, already.

  16. BTW, I didn’t mean to fall into saying that fat was the “last acceptable form of prejudice.” I don’t believe that at all. But I do think it’s the last form of prejudice in which even most people are subjected to it think they’re getting exactly what they deserve.

  17. Oh, I didn’t think you were saying that, Meowser; I was actually typing my comment while you were writing yours. :) I think the point about fat prejudice being overwhelmingly acceptable to the victims (while generally invisible to perpetrators an onlookers) is an interesting one.

  18. I think it is a bit simplistic to ever talk about systems of oppression as if they are neat, self-contained structures. Race intersects with sexuality and gender and class and…. So saying we ought to talk about one thing at a time is always overly simplistic. In particular, I think most people in the fat acceptance movement are pretty sensitive to the ways that body image reinforces patriarchy. And that normative ideas about the body body have always been a part of racism.

    What I find most grotesque about the Savage-ites is that he has such swagger about bodily autonomy and the government staying out of the bedroom and people minding their own business. Except when it comes to fat. I vividly remember one of his columns denouncing “muffin tops” and how these people are so outrageously offensive when he could simply look away. It just seems so wildly contradictory to, on the one hand, want to be able to pursue pleasure however you want so long as no one gets hurt but that only applies to your sex life. If he has to look at you in public you’d better conform to his expectations of your body.

    There are underlying principles here about treating people decently. And minding your own business.

  19. Kate – saying “one of these things is not like the other” is not saying “one of these is worse.” I’m an ardent supporter of multiple social justice causes including fat activism, queer civil rights, anti-racism, feminism, and so forth, but I can articulate how they’re different oppressions with different histories and yet still think they’re all valid.

    attrice – your post you linked to makes good points, thanks. Though I think that the issue with comparing black civil rights to gay civil rights is not actually easily attributed to homophobia or “gays = ick” – the objection I most often here is “hello? 300 years of slavery?” and so on. However, conservative groups who try to rally black *churches* to support anti-gay policies are, I think, playing on “gay = gross/bad/sinful”.

    Generally, because I have to go to work and can’t do a back/forth dialogue in the way I’d like: I have, myself, asked the question (in public! I’m sure someone can find it!) about whether there is anything useful from drawing comparisons – do we have to reinvent the wheel each time we fight injustice? Can we not look and say “what have we learned so far here? what strategies are useful? what errors in thinking are we effectively bringing to light elsewhere?” – but at this point, I am at a place where I think comparative strategies are just largely made of FAIL.

    Even when they have valid points, they tend to go from subtle knives to blunt hammers in the blink of an eye, erasing difference while co-opting pain. Even when they have valid points, they seem to devolve into platitudes of the “last real oppression” or “can’t we all just get along?” or “I feel your pain” variety despite best intentions. And even when they have valid points, they are objectionable enough to at least some members of any given group that they create separation rather than union, alienation rather than allies.

    It is far too easy for divisions to work against justice. People of color have felt driven away from feminism and gay rights (leading to the favorite Good White People strategy of throwing up their hands and sighing over how they just can’t seem to get any POC to stand with them and they don’t know why). Lesbians have felt driven away from feminism. Women and queers have felt silenced in communities of color. Who does this serve? Not marginalized people, that’s for sure. A failed strategy is a failed strategy; fat acceptance need not try marching on Moscow itself just to prove a point.

    A tool that does harm is not much of a useful tool. Except to the dominant discourse, of course.

  20. Even when they have valid points, they tend to go from subtle knives to blunt hammers in the blink of an eye, erasing difference while co-opting pain.

    Totally agree with that. We just disagree about whether comparisons can ever be useful anyway.

    And even when they have valid points, they are objectionable enough to at least some members of any given group that they create separation rather than union, alienation rather than allies.

    Well, except they’re objectionable to some members and not to others. You and Deniselle are both white, fat, and queer, but you see this issue differently. And the result is, one of you feels alienated, while the other feels included. All people who are members of the same oppressed group aren’t going to agree with each other about everything that is and is not offensive to that group, so the fact that a given potentially offensive statement might create some separation and some alienation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s separation rather than union, or alienation rather than allies. It just means this one position doesn’t speak to every single member of that oppressed group — which is pretty much to be expected.

    I mean fuck, we’ve had enough fights right here about who is and isn’t representing the fat rights movement properly, just since I started blogging last spring. Lots of people think I’m an asshole — because I don’t do enough for people with eating disorders, because I focus too much on healthy fatties, because I don’t do enough to welcome those who aren’t ready to stop dieting, because I do TOO MUCH to welcome those who aren’t ready to stop dieting and, inevitably, because I am not fat enough to have a right to speak for REAL fat people.

    So I’ve alienated people, but I have to chalk it up to the type of dissent that’s arisen in every social justice movement, ever — because otherwise, I could drive myself insane trying to please all of the people all of the time. All I can do is use my best judgment, be as conscious as possible of my various layers of privilege, listen to people who don’t have the same privilege, and think things through as well as I can.

    I’m listening to you — and I hope you know I always enjoy having conversations with you online. You’re making some excellent points, but I still disagree when it comes down to the basic one. Meanwhile, I’m also listening to Deniselle and Attrice, who are no less officially queer than you, and both have slightly different takes on it. And I’m processing it all and doing my best.

    Right now my best take on it is: comparing oppressions is a tricky operation that can easily lend itself to sloppy missteps (“the last acceptable prejudice”; “racism is over”), and always lends itself to heated debate and some hurt feelings, but is still, imo, useful in a limited way. As are all analogies. If the two things in question were exactly the same, it wouldn’t be an analogy.

  21. People of color have felt driven away from feminism and gay rights (leading to the favorite Good White People strategy of throwing up their hands and sighing over how they just can’t seem to get any POC to stand with them and they don’t know why). Lesbians have felt driven away from feminism. Women and queers have felt silenced in communities of color.

    Excellent point. It would be great if anyone could raise an injustice and have it acknowledged without getting into the comparison game, but I don’t even know if that’s possible. Even when the person who raises the issue avoids comparison somebody is sure to say, “How can you be worried about that when….” I’ve seen it on a million feminist and liberal blogs and discussions.

  22. “However, conservative groups who try to rally black *churches* to support anti-gay policies are, I think, playing on “gay = gross/bad/sinful”.”

    Oh definitely. It wasn’t clear in my post at all, but I do separate fellow progressives who support GLBT rights, but disagree with the comparison to racism from those who think queers are sinful and yucky.

    I put the folks who trolled Rachel’s blog in with the latter group which is why I used the comparison. I was, in fact, thinking of a lot of big churches in Atlanta (where I used to live) that would regularly lambast GLBT people for using the civil rights comparison and in the next breath talk about icky gay sex and ‘parts that don’t fit’ etc…

    I’m still rolling a lot of this around in my head. I have to admit, while I wasn’t personally offended by Rachel’s post, I am generally uncomfortable with comparing oppressions. A position that was definitely cemented after my experiences with trying to communicate animal rights’ positions to people outside of the AR paradigm.

  23. Lesbians have felt driven away from feminism. Women and queers have felt silenced in communities of color.

    Oh, shit, I meant to comment on that, too. It IS an excellent point. But you know, I was also thinking about it (specifically lesbian feminists) from another perspective.

    Back in the day, there were plenty of feminists who were vocal about their desire to be separated from lesbians. (Now, there are undoubtedly some who feel that way — and lesbian feminists are well aware of it — but if nothing else, it’s not generally expressed as a Goal of Feminism.) “Their struggle is not our struggle, so why weigh ourselves down with people who are even more reviled by this society? Especially when they choose to be that way!”

    And quite frankly, I see plenty of that train of thought going on with Savage’s remarks (recent and older). Fat people are morally inferior freaks who can change, unlike gay people, so stop talking about them in the same breath!

    We have a long way to go before minorities within minorities feel fully included, and it is going to require the privileged people listening to the less privileged a whole lot more. But still, when one oppressed group is saying, “I don’t want to be associated with that other oppressed group,” it’s a fucking problem, and it means people like Savage could really stand to listen more to people like me, for all my straight privilege. And one of the ways to get the point across to other marginalized people who still want to distance themselves from icky fatties is to use these analogies.

  24. Wow. I didn’t expect quite this kind of exposure all of a sudden. This is a heated topic, as I thought it might be, and it’s impossible to really discuss issues like homophobia in a relatively brief blog post. I’ve published all of the comments in my blog so far, but I haven’t responded yet. I don’t like to discuss complex issues without giving them proper thought. It’s soon midnight in Finland, so I’m probably going to sleep on this and then respond a bit more. I’ll just make a quick post here for now.

    kate, thank you for linking to my post. I have a lot of respect for this blog and I read it daily, even if I don’t always comment, and it means a lot to be respected back.

    A short response to the criticism…
    I wasn’t really meaning to say “oppression against fat people and gays is the exact same”, that’s a claim you can’t really make because of Hitler and organized religion and the fact that sexuality is an immense taboon in our society, much more so than food. People do hate gays more than they fat people, although I’m seeing escalating hate against fat people, so we’ll see what the future brings. I was discussing the kinds of arguments we face, and the kinds of “logic” that runs behind these arguments, which isn’t the same as drawing a parallel between the actual practice and strength of the discrimination.

    I definitely wasn’t saying that racism is now over and we can focus on the real oppressed groups now that we’re done with that. That kind of attitude is bull and feeds bigotry, and I think oppression is something we need to fight on a constant basis, also to maintain equality, which we might never fully gain anyway. I see a lot of racism in today’s society, most notably the latent kind that people don’t say out loud. However, I think that as a culture, we do fight against racism, and people like Michael Richards and Mel Gibson get a much stronger reaction than someone like Dan Savage going against fat people. You don’t lose your job for targeting fatties; in fact, you’ll be applauded by many people. “Racist” is a much bigger stamp on a person.

    I’ll have to think about this a bit more. However, as a Finnish person, I don’t have the proper cultural background for understanding the wider issues of racism in the US, and I ask for a little patience from Americans in this.

  25. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Deniselle — and sorry to put you on the hot seat!

    I was discussing the kinds of arguments we face, and the kinds of “logic” that runs behind these arguments, which isn’t the same as drawing a parallel between the actual practice and strength of the discrimination.

    That’s the point I’ve been trying to make about your post, so I’m glad to hear I read you right. And again, I think you did a terrific job with exactly what you set out to do.

  26. For the most part I agree with Elusis’ point that all oppressions aren’t backed up with the same socio-political power structures. However, I would like to say that anti-fat bias does have a racial element to it. Most of the media’s images of “beauty” have been skewed to tiny framed white women, and the culturally pervasive ideals of beauty are in line with this vision. To be thinner is to approach this white-washed standard of perfection.

    Drawing direct comparisons between oppressions can be tricky, but making links between where oppressed groups have common ground is productive.

    On another subject, the whole argument about not choosing to be gay is a minefield. I personally don’t like it because it does sound like “We didn’t choose this awful thing!”, and it marginalizes those of us who did choose to be queer (for any number of reasons). I’m more for discussing why nobody is allowed to make choices that fall outside of mainstream acceptability. If I did choose to gain weight this year, whose effing business is that but mine? If I woke up and decided that I really wanted to date only women from now on out, what’s the big deal? Why do other people feel the need to care? What happened to minding your own business?

  27. I just got out of a Feminist Theory class. We used 3 different text books that all had sections on African-Americans, Latinas/Chicanas, GLBT, handicapped individuals, and Native Americans. We talked about all of those groups and the responsibility feminism had to each if we believed that feminism was about equality for all. And, after attending a feminist conference in AK, it seems are being supported by feminism on the whole at this time (I know it was different in the past).

    I’m writing a paper for a small feminist conference we have here in spring arguing why Fat Acceptance should be on that list as well.

    I still think that all of those systems (racism, sexism, etc.) fundamentally work alike — a belief based on the writings of bell hooks, an African-American feminist. I’ll let yall know after I write my diss whether or not I prove it.

  28. I’m sure many people here also read Bitch, Ph.D (bitchphd.blogspot.com), but I wanted to mention explicitly that M.Leblanc is I think responding to some of this over there. Aaaaaaaand…there’s sort of a slight Sanity Watchers issue in the comments so far, what with the “You make a good point but fat is UNHEALTHY and I know someone who DIED FROM IT so I’m just saying we should regulate what people eat FOR THEIR OWN GOOD SO THEY DON’T HURT THEIR FAMILEEEEEES” line rearing its ugly head(s) again.

  29. I have to admit, while I wasn’t personally offended by Rachel’s post, I am generally uncomfortable with comparing oppressions.

    You know, I wasn’t really even comparing oppressions with my Dan Savage post. While gay people and fat people are both marginalized groups, each is unique in the struggles it faces and the oppressions each must battle. What I was doing, rather, was calling attention to the fact that similar justifications can be made for the discrimination of both groups – namely, that one’s weight and one’s sexuality is somehow a “choice.” I don’t believe either to be entirely a matter of “choice.” And I did this not to compare oppressions, but to point out the hypocrisy inherent in Dan Savage’s beliefs on gay people and his views of fat people.

  30. I think that different forms of discrimination are more and less prevalent in different situations. Some areas/communities are very tolerant of homosexuality or fat people and some are not. Where I go to school being gay is not a problem, but when I come home…its another story. One of my good gay male friends is a very tolerant guy but is constantly obsessing over being too fat even though he is very thin. All types of discrimination share the fundamental similarities but it is the situation that determines the severity. All types of discrimination also have the potential to become severe and life-threatening. I know kids who have gotten the living shit beaten out of them for being fat. I also know kids who have gotten beaten up because of their ethnic background. When it comes down to it, getting beaten up is getting beaten up and all forms of discrimination can lead to that… and much worse! Lets try and SOLVE these problems before they become severe! They all stand the potential and with society’s randomness who knows when they will be aggravated!

  31. I finally get the offence, phew I was lost there because I remember seeing a programme about the ex-gay thing and when they said that the failure rate of it was 95% the connection between that and the same failure rate of diets was immediate.
    I must admit I was not thinking at all about the suffering gays because I wouldn’t have dreamt of making such a ludicrous comparison!

    Bigots use the same old techniques on the objects of their bigotry.

  32. On another subject, the whole argument about not choosing to be gay is a minefield. I personally don’t like it because it does sound like “We didn’t choose this awful thing!”, and it marginalizes those of us who did choose to be queer

    WORD, Godless Heathen. I think the rhetoric of choice is actually kind of backwards here. The real justice issue, I think, is that consenting adults get to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm someone. THAT’S IT. It shouldn’t matter if I kiss the ladies because I’ve wanted to since I’m 5, or because I decided to try it when I was 25. That’s where I see a strong parallel with the FA argument, too: it doesn’t matter if someone is fat because, say, she has PCOS, or if she’s fat because she really does eat a lot of Twinkies (gasp!). She’s still a human being and deserves to be treated as such by other human beings and by the law.

  33. WORD, Godless Heathen. I think the rhetoric of choice is actually kind of backwards here.

    That’s exactly what M. LeBlanc is talking about in the post Heqit mentioned above. For my take on why the rhetoric of choice is useful, even though I agree with you in principle, see my long-ass comment around #30. Sanity Watchers warning applies to all other comments in the thread.

  34. Elusis wrote: “I don’t know. I’m as unhappy about this comparison game as I am when people try to compare everything to racism.” And Kate H. wrote: “If the two things in question were exactly the same, it wouldn’t be an analogy.”

    As a writing teacher and a rhetorician, I need to step in before my head explodes.

    In thinking about fatphobia, it makes absolute sense to look at the similarities and overlap in *rhetoric* used against gay people and against fat people (and against any other people).

    Analyzing the rhetorical arguments used to oppress groups does not mean arguing that members of those groups experience oppression in the same way, or that their history is the same, or that their future will be the same.

    What it does mean is that the *language* and *logic* used to address them, describe them, and oppress them is similar enough that we might reasonably borrow counterarguments already in use by the gay rights movement into the FA movement, and we might also productively point to the existing work the gay rights movement has already done to deconstruct and rebut the language and logic (or rather, the illogic) of homophobia–and use those tools to deconstruct and rebut the language and illogic of fatphobia.

    To examine patterns within the rhetoric of oppression insults no one, and is very much not about sloppy thinking.

    It’s sloppy thinking–i.e,. irrational thinking–that drives racism, sexism, homophobia, fatphobia, and all manner of variations on oppression–hence the strangeness of similar arguments being used to oppress groups with vastly different histories and cultures and diversities of experience within those cultures.

    As a Jew who lost much of my family to the Holocaust, I spent a long time as a child trying to understand why Jews had to die–and that question became a lot more complicated when I learned more about who else died and tried to figure out what Jews and gay people and Roma and physically disabled people and Freemasons and Jehovah’s Witnesses had in common.

    Very different groups of people that we might argue have very little in common still ended up put to death under a single, irrational philosophy that deemed all of them less than human. Does anyone really believe that, if it happened today, fat people would somehow *not* end up amongst those others in line for extermination? Because sadly, the rhetoric of oppression seems infinitely flexible to support the dehumanization of just about anyone you might think of, and some you might not.

    The sloppy thinking isn’t in those of us who notice the rhetoric of oppression, but in those who perpetuate it to justify their exclusion and dehumanization of any part of humanity they have decided is less deserving of respect.

    And that’s no game.

  35. Kate, no problem, I put myself in the hot seat by posting about such a controversial topic. It’s actually been interesting to follow the conversation.

    fillyjonk and Rachel, also warmly appreciated that you liked my post. I also enjoy reading yours.

    Here’s a new post about this:

    http://fatlyyours.blogspot.com/2007/12/allow-me-to-elaborate.html

    I’ve responded to most of the criticism there. I thought it might be better than writing twenty separate comments here and at my blog, but I will look into the posts more now and probably comment on some individually.

  36. Pingback: On Comparisons and Food « The Long and Winding Road

  37. Random de-lurk to say:

    Comparing one type of oppression (be it homophobia, fatphobia, sexism or racism) to another is like comparing apples to oranges. Yeah, they’re very different things, but they’re also BOTH FRUIT. And us fruits should stand together.

    I’m sorry if that was inane. But what I mean is – why does the fact that one oppression is not exactly like another mean that we can’t talk about the ways in which they are alike (and the ways in which they are not alike)? It seems like there’s this hidden undertone where one group thinks the other is marginalizing what they’ve been through, and the other group thinks the first group doesn’t recognize that they’re being oppressed at all. Which, if people are thinking this (or thinking that others are thinking this) we should say so explicitly and get it out in the open, rather than discussing what can or cannot be compared, as if analogies aren’t a fundamental part of human language and human life, even for non english majors.

    And now I’m going to bed.

  38. Pingback: The Nature and Prejudice and Discrimination (And Why Comparisons Between Forms of Discrimination Can Make Sense) « Queendom

  39. I actually had a dream about this debate, but I don’t remember much more than that Kate’s last name was suddenly Spurlock, and I was surprised I’d never noticed it. I thought how ironic it is that I admire one Spurlock and despise another, and also wondered if she’s any relation to Morgan Spurlock. How is it, Kate? :D

    It seems like I’ve addressed most of the issues in my new post. If anyone wants to ask me something or wants me to address something I haven’t yet addressed, feel free to ask here or at my blog. Thank you for taking time to read the entry and comment on it. I’m still quite overwhelmed that so many people liked it, and I’m in a pretty jubilant mood. Hugs all around!

    By the way, if someone has commented in my blog and it doesn’t come up (and isn’t all about how much you hate fat people), try re-posting in case blogger is acting up (someone had this problem earlier today). I don’t reject any posts that aren’t clearly hateful or trollish. I mainly want to see what goes up, because I’ve had a problem with ad spam in the past.

    Kate and fillyjonk, thank you for the analytical posts where you defend my point of view, and you definitely read me right there.

    Miriam, thank you for the thoughtful analysis. My intention was, as you said, to compare rhetorics, not so much compare the practice of discrimination.

    Elusis, I’ve read your comments and basically replied to them in my new post. I get the feeling you’re not only responding to my post, but also some things you’ve seen happening in the movement(s), and it goes a bit outside of the scope of my post. That’s why I’m not sure how to respond to your comments. Comparing oppressions is a valid concern, but I see you doing just that in your posts, so it sends a slightly contradictory message.

    As Kate pointed out, it’s pretty impossible to talk about discrimination in a way that doesn’t exclude someone. I’m not sure if we can see eye to eye on whether comparing rhetorics is helpful, but we can respectfully disagree. However, if there was something particularly sloppily worded or argumented in my post, I’d appreciate a more detailed criticism.

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