I’ve been talking with a couple of other fat bloggers about NAAFA lately, and Sheana at Seeworthy just posted a bunch of the issues that are coming up in those discussions. Here’s my two cents, building on one of her points.
First, let me say I am so grateful that NAAFA exists, and that they’ve been working to combat fat hatred since before I was born. When I first started looking into fat acceptance, their website was a goldmine of information for me.
Problem is, the website looks almost exactly the same now as it did then. The top “news” item on their front page is from 2004. The first “recent article” farther down the page is from 2005. The most recent press release is from last year, and the basic facts about fat activism are presented in “information brochures” — as if printing those pages out for physical distribution would be the most effective use for them.
In 2007, the internet is how you disseminate information; it’s not just a storage space for outdated fliers.
You know what else? People are searching the web for new information on fat acceptance every single day, not every two or three years. I’ve only been blogging about fat on an almost daily basis for three months, and in that time, I’ve gone from about 75 page views a day to over 2,000. People are hungry for this kind of information — for facts, answers, and responses to haters; for solidarity; for resources; for hope. You are still the most visible public face of fat acceptance in this country, and you absolutely earned that position a thousand times over — but by failing to embrace the most effective and inexpensive form of mass communication in history, you’re letting down the people who seek the kind of information you’ve been fearlessly and tirelessly providing for almost 40 years. You’re alienating newcomers to the movement. You’re damaging your own credibility.
And you know what? I’m just gonna come right out and say it: you’re embarrassing the rest of us. “News” from 2004? In the top right-hand corner of your homepage? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
I know that maintaining a website involves money and hours of labor. But see, if you paid more attention to the internet, you’d discover that there are already dozens of us writing about the latest fat news at least several times a week, and doing it for free. For Pete’s sake, at least slap Notes from the Fatosphere on your website. I’m sure Fat Fu would be kind enough to tailor a clean version of it for you, if maintaining your status as a “safe site” is important to you; that’d rule out my blog, but there are plenty of people — have you met Sandy Szwarc? — writing important, meaty posts every day, without ever using the word “fuck.” So why the fuck aren’t they represented on your website? It would cost you absolutely nothing except 30 seconds of time to add the code, and then poof, you’d have new, relevant content daily.
The thing is, the worst problem is not that your website makes NAAFA look like a bunch of dinosaurs; it’s that it frustrates people who are looking for information. It’s hard for people who aren’t already tapped into the fat acceptance community to find out what’s happening with the Massachusetts anti-discrimination bill, or if anyone’s organizing to protest the new AMA guidelines on preventing childhood obesity, or how to find a fat-friendly health professional. The problem is that you’re still widely considered the definitive resource for information on fat health, acceptance, and politics, but your website — i.e., the very first place most people (including everyone from average fat folks to journalists) will go to look for that info these days — is a shockingly outdated and incomplete resource. And if the national organization that’s been out there fighting fat hatred since 1969 doesn’t seem to have any current information, why should those people bother looking anywhere else? Better information must not exist!
Once again, I have all the respect, admiration, and gratitude in the world for everything NAAFA’s accomplished. I would love to see y’all update your methods of communication and retain the place you’ve earned at the forefront of the movement. But if that’s not a priority for you? Then this is gonna be feminism (or any progressive movement) all over again. We newcomers are going to have to say hey, we sincerely appreciate all the work you’ve done; we recognize that we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing if you hadn’t been there before we were born, and we also recognize that things have improved tremendously for fat people in the last 40 years, and we have you to thank for it — but times have changed. What you’re doing is not enough anymore, and you are not speaking the same language as the people who are the future of the movement.
For what it’s worth, I fully expect to eventually hear the same shit from a new crop of young’uns, who will equate blogging with carving their message onto stone tablets. (Hell, I’ve already been asked why I’m not podcasting or vlogging, and I just signed up at fucking Myspace like a week ago.) Part of me actually looks forward to that. Being a progressive means, by definition, welcoming progress. It means keeping up for as long as you can, and stepping aside when you can’t anymore.
I really want to believe NAAFA is still solidly in the keeping-up stage. But boy, your website doesn’t suggest that’s the case.