Fat, Fillyjonk, Media

Speaking up

N.B.: Megan, the author of the article in question, got in touch with me and we discussed the unnecessarily harsh judgments I passed on her article (which, if I’m being perfectly honest, I was just using as a launching pad for the speaking up discussion — and you kind of jump all over launching pads, as a rule, without caring about their feelings).  Turns out Rachel was right all along and Megan’s got a lot more guts than I gave her credit for — so much guts that she doesn’t mind my leaving this post up as-is, criticisms and all.  Which means, as far as I’m concerned, she’s well on her way to telling off every asshole doctor on the planet.  Just a matter of time.  Hopefully she won’t end up SO tough that she stomps on people who strike a nerve with her, like some people I could mention.   

A few weeks ago I was sent an article called “How It Feels to be Newly Thin.” Reading the article made me think a lot about our responsibility to speak out against fatphobia when we encounter it. See, the article’s subtitle is “I may be thin now, but that doesn’t mean I share your opinions about fat people.” But in reading it I discovered that it should have had a sub-subtitle: “But that, in turn, doesn’t mean I’m ever going to say a goddamn thing when you spew bigotry.”

My best friend Bea places nannies in elite homes in Los Angeles, and more than once she has been explicitly asked not to send overweight applicants, no matter what their qualifications. Recently she had a candidate of the highest qualifications and glowing references, but this particular candidate wore size 16 jeans. When she found the courage to share this last detail with the client, the client immediately justified her prejudice by explaining that there were a lot of expensive antiques in her home, and narrow hallways. Fat, this woman believed, was simply unacceptable. If I had been there, I’m sure I would have simply nodded in quiet acquiescence.

I did as much recently when I went on a date with a young doctor. As I batted my eyelashes and enjoyed my newfound attractiveness, he recalled his morning spent helping in the delivery of a baby. “The woman was morbidly obese,” he leaned over and whispered. Who, he wondered, would have wanted to have sex with that nine months ago? I said nothing and just let him buy into the illusion of me as someone who has only ever known a normal, healthy weight range.

First thought: What the FUCK, lady? Are you seriously writing a whole article about how you’re too much of a sniveling wuss to pipe up when the people around you are acting like flaming assholes? You’d think that she’d go on to say that she’s a little ashamed of her meekness, but it doesn’t really happen. She does end on the note that she “can only hope” she won’t keep her mouth shut next time someone talks shit about fatties, but after several paragraphs detailing “the day-to-day humiliations of obesity” and the splendors of gastric bypass (which hasn’t caused her any health problems AT ALL!), you can’t help but think that perhaps hoping isn’t quite enough.

And lord knows we need some thin people standing up to fatphobic commentary. Shapely Prose sloganeer Cacie recently talked sense into some coworkers slinging uninformed commentary on obesity, and as she walked away she heard them say “wow, we should be careful what we say in mixed company, you never know who you’re going to offend.” People need to be caught off-guard like that. We need to convey that bigotry offends all right-thinking people, whether they’re in the oppressed group or not. It won’t stop people being bigots, but at least most of them will stop being proud of it.

It’s not just the surprise factor — it’s the fact that thin people, by virtue of being thin people, are not discounted by other thin people. I know you can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools, and to a certain degree I really do believe that, but from another perspective, the master’s tools are already inside, and that counts for something. If the master’s house has a metal detector, do you really think you’re bringing in an axe? To get less metaphorical: It’s easy to dismiss a fat person talking about fat issues, just as it’s easy to dismiss a woman talking about feminism or a person of color talking about racism. The fat person is making excuses, the woman is hysterical, the person of color just needs to calm down. But to hear the sentiment from the mouth of someone approved by the dominant paradigm — that’ll cause cognitive dissonance, but it’s not so easily dismissed. Sure, people do their best to write off male feminists and so forth, but the fact is they’re speaking up against injustice from a position of power, which means a position that’s hard to ignore. In a sense, it’s the responsibility of the dominant group to speak up for people who will otherwise be dismissed and marginalized — that’s how you show the rest of the dominant group that real people, people who count, care about these issues. Does it fucking suck that you have to exploit bigotry and dehumanization in order to counteract it? Yeah, it fucking does. But if I’m not considered a real person, a person who counts, I can scream in the wilderness until I’m dead and nobody has to listen.

Second thought, more charitable: speaking up is really hard. It’s easy for me to say “you non-fatties, and you fatties too, you have a responsibility not to keep silent.” But can I even really practice what I preach? I talk a good game here and elsewhere online, but in the name of interpersonal peace I have been known to give up face-to-face arguments after a token “you know that thin doesn’t equal healthy, right?” Rather than arguing, I tend to reframe: if a coworker beats herself up about not going to the gym, for instance, I’ll say “I know, I’m dragging too — maybe we should do a little yoga in our offices to perk us up.” A radical idea, for some, that exercise might be for making you feel good — but hardly a radical action.

Granted, I’m not a member of the thin paradigm — I’m easy to write off. In fact I’m just the right amount fat that it could be really awkward for me to have these conversations in a frank way with anyone who’s not prepared. I would expect to be met with a token “but you’re not fat” that’s just dubious enough to be uncomfortable — an unpleasant situation where they try to derail my point by making false and unnecessary efforts to shore up my self-esteem. I don’t need the headache. And it would probably be even more awkward if I were fatter, and people didn’t even feel they could default to “but you’re not fat” in order to avoid the conversation — who knows what they’d do instead, and I might well be in for some personal attacks or at least concern trolling. For a fat person, taking a stand against fatphobia is basically an invitation to delve into people’s more perverse conversational defense mechanisms. For a thin person, it’s an opportunity to be marked as incurably weird. And for both, there’s the chance that your friends and neighbors show themselves to be bigots, and who likes that? (I learned about this the hard way, when I got stroppy and goaded a friend into saying some pretty racist and sexist shit. In a sense I was glad to know his true colors, and I didn’t suffer any pangs of conscience in dropping him and the misogynist crowd he’d been running with. In another sense, though, if I hadn’t gotten all pugnacious, I could have had fun at the dude’s parties indefinitely without being any the wiser. And the people who took his side — I don’t want their friendship either, but at least they would look me in the eye.)

It’s complex and difficult, deciding what kind of social tensions you’re willing to endure in order to say your piece. Every regular reader of this blog has the ammo, but does everyone have the gun? Does everyone need to? Probably the most compassionate solution is to say that those who can write, can write; those who can argue, can argue; and those who would rather change the conversation in subtler ways can do that instead. And meanwhile, those who don’t feel strong enough to speak up at all can read and converse and listen and build up courage. Not everyone needs to be a radical, but everyone needs to eventually get up the strength to stand up for themselves. If you can stand up for others in the process, all the better.

But don’t ever let me catch you writing articles in Newsweek about how you stand idly by while people badmouth fatties. That is trifling.

91 thoughts on “Speaking up”

  1. I think a lot depends on your appetite for confrontation and whether you consider yourself an activist. Fat or thin, I think most people just want to get through the day. Any of us can have a moment where we shoot from the hip if we have to, but I don’t think most of us even holster up on a daily basis.

  2. Incuriably weird! Me, me! I would love the honor of people thinking I’m iw for blasting fatphobia, and I look forward (for the first time) to hearing something boorish and insensitive. And let’s add IGNORANT. As you and Kate have written innumerable times, your body wants to be the size it wants to be, and it will fight forever to reach that level. Why do people not acknowledge that and stop BLAMING people for their size after all the information that’s gotten “out there” about set point, and et cetera?

    I lost thirty pounds with WW four years ago, and I have kept off about 25 pounds of it only by dint of eating out only about once or twice a year and always choosing the lowest-fat option on the menu, loosing touch totally with my potato soul (oh, I love them and miss them), and making worrisome food choices daily. I don’t want to grow out of my new wardrobe size (no ready money to replace my closet contents), but most days I seriously consider saying to heck with this deprivation! Lifestyle change = diet, no matter what they say. :(

  3. And even if I have a really large cannon, I don’t necessarily want to cast my pearls before swine. For myself, I pick my battles. Some of them are fierce and others of them are only distinguished by the incredibly smart things I think of to say. Two weeks later.

  4. I don’t know, fillyjonk. That Newsweek article strikes me as being completely honest; I think anytime someone gives an honest account, it’s valuable.

    She’s being honest about the humiliation she felt, about the difficulty of speaking up, about the hope that she can develop more courage.

    And the article itself seems to be her apology to her herself that she didn’t previously speak up – to the doctor, for example. She’s speaking up now, and “outing” herself.

    I think it is activism in its own way. I think this article could very well cause a nurse to think twice next time she gets the urge to holler for an “EXTRA wide wheelchair!”

  5. Great Post Fillyjonk.

    I have to say that I think there is value in many people having different “change their mind” tactics. Not everyone can be convinced of something in the same way and some people can’t be convinced at all.

    My grandmother is totally unflexible about her incredibly racist views. My father is pretty inflexible about global warming, but if you manage to re frame the conversation so that he can change his mind and still be right he will consider new ideas. Other people are simply overawed by someone with the ability to speak in complete declarative sentences that they will at the very least argue with you and maybe think about it a little.

    Anyway, I’m just sayin, we all have our own way for a reason. It takes a villiage to change people’s minds… or something.

  6. Jessica, right, hence the second, more charitable thought. Though I’m still inclined to go with my first one.

  7. I’m not one to actively speak out on my behalf, but certainly will for anyone close to me.

    I don’t know if I could have stayed silent in response to a comment made by the Doctor in the article. Why is it any concern of his whether or not he found the woman attractive enough to impregnate? Honestly, I don’t see why this woman didn’t call him on that and walk out?

  8. In the FoBT thread, I had commented that if I were thin, I could be taken seriously when I talk about fat acceptance. I hate that patronizing look that people give me when I object to something they say.

    It has always been hard for me to “pick my battles”. When I was a teenager, I became a vegetarian. When I was a freshman in college, I was a straight gay rights activist. An environmentalist. A forester. etc. Whenever I become aware of an issue, I argue it passionately (when it arises in conversation…I don’t go out preaching.) So my family, in particular, pretty much just roll their eyes at me and tell me I am spewing propaganda.

    Sorry for babbling…I have had a few beers…Which I will happily bring to the party they were talking about over on the other thread :)

  9. I really do have a hard time speaking up when I hear this stuff sometimes, but I am taking the first steps. I don’t pretend it’s okay or that I agree with them. I hope soon to be able to call people on their bullshit face-to-face.

    However, I think there is wisdom in the idea that we do have to pick our battles. My best friend rarely makes comments about anyone else’s body, but often attacks her own, and when she does I feel comfortable talking to her about what she’s really saying and why. And slowly, as I learn, I think I’m giving her things to think about too. I think it’s a lot more rewarding, and ultimately just as valuable to get one more person interested in these issues as it is to get someone from the otherside to shut up.

  10. Buffy- Yeah, seriously! It is that whole “fuckable” thing…and from a doctor! That is really disturbing.

  11. I can understand someone being a wuss. I can understand someone clinging to thin privilege. What I can’t understand is someone publishing what amounts to a massive admission of a character failing, or someone absolutely flashing shallowness like that.

  12. That’s not a doctor I would be going back to see, for sure. That makes me feel all weird and icky about my last yearly gynocological exam, which happened to be with a doctor I had never seen before who was really only a family practitioner and not an OB/GYN (therefore, not quite as used to seeing lady bits!). I wasn’t too worked up about it before, because he’s a doctor, after all, but now…. Jeeeeez.

    I will say that I am one of the thin (? average???) people “on your side,” and have started to slip in comments. I may not be saying “dude, you’re acting like a dick,” but I am saying, “hey, can we not discuss weight/food/whatever? This is not really the appropriate place and it makes some people uncomfortable.”

  13. Sniper, yeah, that’s why I still lean towards my first, uncharitable reaction (for her, that is — you guys have earned the moderate, reasonable version). The only thing that even seems to give her pause, in the article, is her mother’s reaction about “that girl” — the fat self that she’s completely abjected. She talks about other fat people experiencing humiliation, but they’re not real people, they’re “a candidate” and “the woman.” Her own experience seems to be more emotionally affecting, but even that is treated as belonging to a different person. I just don’t see any introspection going on here, or any growth. There is honesty, sure, but if someone wrote an honest article about spending $1700 a month on ass cream, would I gain anything from reading it?

    That said, it’s got value in that it gets us talking about picking your battles, and what happens when you saddle up your fat horse both inside and outside the dominant paradigm. I’m not really in it to badmouth the woman.

  14. I don’t know, fillyjonk. That Newsweek article strikes me as being completely honest; I think anytime someone gives an honest account, it’s valuable.

    I agree with both Jessica’s comment and fillyjonk’s views on the article. While I am happy that the author of the Newsweek article was honest in her accounts, I am also frustrated at some of the ways she perpetuated stereotypes about the “thin world.”

    We all know that thin people do not have better or worse lives than fat people. Fat people may face stereotypes and judgment, but thin people do too! Look at these celebrities that mainstream media deems “perfect,” their relationships fall apart, they have to get cosmetic surgery to fit in, and they must, absolutely must, keep up with their appearance of their career is kuputz.

    I appreciate the article’s honesty. I appreciate fillyjonk’s take on the whole thing about standing up against bigots, such as those the author came in contact with. But, I found the message most important was the power the author gave to these thin people, who we should view as elite and powerful. Who the hell cares what they think? Their prejudice of fat people comes from their overwhelming fear of losing their status. Think of how demeaning that is to understand your success and identification is wrapped up in the fact that you are, “thankfully,” in the “thin crowd.”

    I have a hard time thinking it’s even worth my words to try to convince some stuck-up doctor that attractiveness comes in all shapes and sizes. Hell, there’s not a chance in hell I’d even find myself on a date with someone so shallow. Newfound thinness=shallowness? Oh god, sign me up.

  15. I’m not really in it to badmouth the woman.

    Well, no, there’s no point in castigating someone who obviously has a metric buttload of personal issues. That being said, I don’t really see the point of her article either.

    By the way, every single time I see the phrase “ass cream” I imagne a big round ass covered in whipped cream with a cherry on top. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

  16. PS – I have nothing AT ALL against thin people, just the ones who think they are better than everyone else because they weigh less. I have nothing against most people, until they prove to me they think they are superior than other people. That’s not cool with me.

  17. I had a member of my bowling team literally yelling at me last week because I told her it was insulting when she said that the 5% or less of people who succeed long term at losing weight “just try really hard and keep at it”. She basically said I needed to shut up and stop rocking the boat with my big fat fattie mouth. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with this… bowling season has a long way to go and I don’t want to quit the team, but I seriously don’t want to deal with this person any more, at all. I want her to be as far away from me as possible, forever, before things get any worse than they already are.
    I thought about printing off a bunch of articles and that thing on “thin privilege” that I read and giving it to her in the context of “what you said was really hurtful to me. Please look this over to understand where I’m coming from” but I’m not sure it’d be worth it, or make anything better.
    Any advice?

    This article was extremely timely. I’m really struggling with when to speak up, because my nature is ALWAYS.

  18. i’m not sure where i fall on the fatty paradigm- am i too fat or not fat enough? depends on the circle but i agree, there’s a bottom line for standing up for what is fair and just. i don’t think any changes were ever made because people just did nothing- through actions or speech.

    now i’m all fired up!

    i remember when i lost a bunch of weight- how startling it was that people would feel free to say derogatory things about fat people around me because they had no idea i was one of them. no matter what size i’ve been, i’m always a chubby girl in my heart. it’s really all i’ve known!

  19. Yeah, I understand the “pick your battles” thing totally. Some people just are not going to get it no matter how clever you are about explaining it, because they don’t want that information. They don’t want it. From anybody. Ever. You can exhaust yourself trying to get through to these people and it will not happen. (Narrow hallways and antiques, my puckered bottom. Yeah, I so believe that what the neighbors will think of my big butt nanny has LIQUID BABY DONUT to do with your hiring decision. And the moon is a giant quesadilla.)

    And I do understand soft-pedaling one’s politics in a professional situation, to a degree. No, not to the point where you giggle at the rape joke because everyone else is, but shit, how often can you afford to be fired (or not hired in the first place) for speaking out? People do what they have to in order to survive.

    But on a date? I don’t think, if I was post-WLS and on a date with this yupmonster (how else would I attain the privilege?), I could resist giving Dr. Asswipe a lecture on how 1) babies are made the same way in fat women as thin women every goddamn day, and 2) I got my stomach stapled — i.e. risked my life on the operating table and forfeited the chance to ever eat real food again — just so people like him wouldn’t hate me and think I didn’t deserve anyone’s love or affection, ever. If there’s ever a time to drill someone a new orifice, that absolutely qualifies. So if she’s having second thoughts about not having said anything, that’s still better than not having second thoughts, though of course not as good as firing up the drill bits.

  20. Oh, my favorite.

    “You have SUCH a pretty face.”

    I’ve had people tell me I have the kind of face that would make a train back up and take a dirt road. (Isn’t it amazing what people volunteer to others, especially if they’re overweight?)

    So which is it? Oh, that’s right. The “pretty face” remark is a way for someone to say I’m acceptable when, really, they think I’m disgusting.

  21. I’m really struggling with when to speak up, because my nature is ALWAYS.

    God, I hear that, Buttercup. Even though I hate confrontation, I just can’t resist it when it makes itself available. In fact, just last night a friend said “I wish I were more like you, so I could tell people to shove it up their ass.” Warmed my cockles.

    But it is NOT a recipe for a strife-free existence, or even for social calm. And these days I find that sometimes I want social calm, so that tightrope has to be walked.

    Also, I <3 Meowser.

  22. Whenever someone says to me “You have SUCH a pretty face” I always want to turn around and say “Yeah, well, from the waist down you’re pretty attractive too.”

    I just got into an argument with a friend of mine, because I was talking about how the statistics we read are all overblown. And she said in the most patronizing tone possible” Shinobi. My Sister is a DOCTOR and she sees fat people with diabetes all the time.” I’m still pissed that my voice cracked with rage and sadness when I said “Yeah, they couldn’t be fat BECAUSE they have diabetes or anything.” She’s a freaking MUSIC major. RAH. And here I am agonizing over what dress I’m going to wear to be in her stupid wedding so I wont look like a fat cow next to her minuscule asian relatives. (In retrospect I think she asked me to be her MOH so I could make her look skinny.)

  23. Ahh, now I wish I’d had the guts to speak up yesterday when my (fat!) male coworker made a joking comment about another male coworker having a crush on this third fat female coworker, as if the idea of a man having a crush on a fat woman is a ridiculous joke (complete with the use of the term “chubby-chaser”). But I am starting to speak up a little bit… I did say something when my (fat) mom talked about how she saw this fat woman wearing a miniskirt and she had to see her fat thighs and it was SO GROSS. And I try to speak up when she or my grandma or my (thin) sister starts in with the diet talk. But I’ve always been a very non-confrontational person, so it’s really hard.

  24. I have a big mouth, so I’m prone to speak up about just about anything….but I get that not everybody’s there.

    On the other hand, I find it incredibly confusing for this chick to be all “I can’t say anything to an asshole when he’s being an asshole, but I can pen an article with my name and picture and have it published in a nationwide newsweekly.” Say what?

    If you ask me, the message there is that fat acceptance, like fat people, isn’t something fat bigots should be confronted with. Horseshit.

  25. Also, I <3 Meowser.

    It’s nice to be <3-ed. I <3 you too, FJ. (Though I always think that emoticon looks like a kitty mouth. I keep wanting to stick whiskers on it.)

    Oh, and remember too that the vast majority of women (it IS mostly women) who get WLS are not really in a state of medical emergency, although their doctors certainly do a number to convince them otherwise. Even “morbidly obese” women still live longer than “ideal weight” men, remember. The prime motivator for WLS is still wanting to be popular. That means you hang out with the popular kids and make fun of the unpopular kids. It’s part of the price of treehouse entry, ganging up against those less kissed by stardust than yourself. So if she doesn’t speak up, no frigging wonder. The chance to speak up wasn’t why she sacrificed her stomach to the gods of acceptance.

  26. shinobi, that looks like a dress that Jennifer Hudson wore and looked pretty damn hot in.

    Oh, and Tari:

    If you ask me, the message there is that fat acceptance, like fat people, isn’t something fat bigots should be confronted with.

    Brilliantly put.

  27. fillyjonk, this post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve posted several comments in this blog about how I’m not sure where I am in my journey towards fat acceptance – I’m sort of in the “that’s fine for other people…” stage, but I’m reading, listening, and really working on changing how I think about all of this. Anyway, the other day, a coworker of mine – who’s fit, goes to the gym practically daily, looks great – mentioned that her doctor had told her that her BMI was a bit high and she should lose a few pounds because she was in the overweight range. Well, I couldn’t stop myself. I went on a rant about how BMI is a ridiculous assessment, and I backed it up with facts I learned here, such as how the BMI standards for “overweight” were lowered a few years ago, and how fit athletes often end up in the “overweight” or even “obese” categories on those charts. I don’t know if I got through to her, but it was the first time that I really felt like I took a leap on my journey towards truly taking in everything I’ve learned here. I felt proud to have that information at my disposal and to be able to impart it to someone else. (Before, I might have said, “BMI is stupid.” I had a lot more ammo now.) I spoke up.

    Will I speak up the next time? Will I speak up if it’s more personal? Will I speak up if it has to do with my job, like the nanny’s did? I don’t know, but I did it once, and it felt good. I could do it again.

  28. I’m always up for speaking out. In fact, I got a Christmas card today from the fitness magazine I freelance for occasionally, saying “thanks for all your help this year, even if you were controversial” – erm, WHAT? Because I actually look at the science behind the random shit their writers come up with and say, hello, this writer is talking bollocks, I get called controversial… I’m just trying to do my job, which in my mind is get to the truth so that people have accurate information. How very shocking!!

  29. I’m getting better about speaking up, but what I haven’t been able to capture is a way of speaking up that gets people to listen to me without irritating to them to the point . (Maybe I’m asking too much of these short conversations, but you know.) I feel like there must be some kind of tone between “not to be taken seriously” and “irritatingly proselytizing” but I don’t think I’ve hit it yet.

    I have had moderately more success with e-mailing links to things like the BMI project with casual “this is fascinating!” notes, but even then I’ve gotten responses like I did from my friend who said “Actually, I know exactly how much people weigh because I watch a lot of obesity specials on the Discovery channel.” Okay, then.

  30. I wish some of the great comments I read here would have been posted on the Newsweek article discussion board- it would be a great tide against the status quo ‘get off your fat ass, stop stuffing your face’ advice.

    I think the nanny proved to be shallow, and I don’t know why she would write something that detailed her negative experiences without any resolute action to challenge the stereotypes that victimized her. Ironically, by her picture she would still be considered “fat” by most*.

    If I lost 10 lbs, I’d have a “normal” BMI, yet I still encounter negative comments from family and acquaintances about my weight. I used to be underweight, now I’m trying to detach from the idea of weight and self worth. I deserve food, right? *sigh* I’d like to be on the front lines against fat prejudice – god knows its prevalent – I just wish I’d stop getting crap from people around me, this kool aid is making me ill.

    *Okay me.

  31. The writer does come across as rather wimpy in standing up for herself and others – and I get feeling that she feels, deep down, that fat people deserve what they get. It’s not very charitable of me, I know. But perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect this woman (whose decision to have bariatric surgery seems to have been motivated by SHAME) to be assertive when other fat people are shamed or discriminated against.

  32. You know, I feel really obligated to speak up about fat acceptance, and I have done so on many occasions. I recently had to cut a friend loose because she JUST REFUSED to accept that fat people are (attractive, healthy, worthy, fill in the blank…) etc. She’s a thin person, but she is really subservient to men, really wants male approval and really bought into the “men do X, women do Y” thing, so that certainly contributed to her attitudes…but still, had to cut the strings, and I am not sorry that I did.

    I do, however, have a male friend who I’m close to. He knows about mine and my bf’s views on fat…but he seems to kind of passive aggressively disagree with us (he thinks fat is mostly a lifestyle/exercise/eating thing), but he’s respectful..he just doesn’t think it’s a discriminatory or civil rights issue (for example, he doesn’t understand why on earth my bf and I are offended by fat suits…he thinks we’re harshly judging Morgan Spurlock, etc)….and it’s getting to be a little bit of a problem for me. The aforementioned friend is a bit podgy, so he tends to get all, “well, I don’t eat right and exercise, so that’s why I’m overweight blah blah” but he’s on meds, so yeah, that could NEVER contribute to weight gain *eyeroll*…and perhaps I’m flying in the face of his whole FOBT thing, I dunno. I’m really irritated by it, and I feel like I’m not able to resolve my feelings about it. I guess what I want to know is…how stringent do you guys get about fat acceptance and your friends? Do you cut them out of your life only if you discover that they’re an out and out bigot? Do you tolerate it if they’re just not wired to (or willing to) GET IT, but are otherwise respectful? My instinct is to cut off anyone who is negative about fat at all, but yeah….I might be kind of radical. The older I get though, the less bullshit I want to put up with. Bah.

  33. But perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect this woman (whose decision to have bariatric surgery seems to have been motivated by SHAME) to be assertive when other fat people are shamed or discriminated against.

    Right, but again, why was she published? The only insights provided by the article that I can see are the ones coming out of this thread. Her point is is her fear of speaking up – which makes her not unlike a whole bunch of bigots and bigot-enablers – nothing special.

  34. “Honestly, I don’t see why this woman didn’t call him on that and walk out?”

    I’m gonna guess it’s because, if you look at her and read her material, she feels (I’m guessing, y’all) that she now has to conform to a patriarchal apologist paradigm — especially since she’s been denied its “privileges of the approved and obedient” that they dole out (such as they are) far too recently.

    Myself, I might have called him out, in part because I think doctors that have no training in nutrition or complimentary medicine in the 21st century are holding onto their conformist paradigms so hard that they run the risk of verging on malpractice when it comes to difficult-to-diagnose symptom presentations.

    And yeah, the actual remark about who would have wanted to f**k her 9 months previously? And about a patient?

    I’d write an Op Ed to the local paper (perhaps with a copy to a national mag), cc’ing his immediate supervising doctor as well as the Chairman of the Board of his residency hospital that said: “DO NOT GIVE THIS DOCTOR YOUR BUSINESS. HERE IS WHY.”

    But I’m loud like that sometimes.

    I’m with Debra. As an in-betweenie woman-of-color(s), I pick my battles because

    a) there’s only so much ranting you can do, if you rant a lot, before people don’t take you seriously;

    b) I like to play the odds that there’s actually a mind there to persuade; and

    c) the analogy to if you’re gonna steal, don’t steal $10K , steal $10M is if you’re gonna raise hell, do it once and make it count.

    Because then people DO take you seriously.

  35. Oh man, this is a relevant post and set of comments.
    I’m definitely fat enough to not be considered “oh, you’re not fat,” so I’m easily dismissed for not having “dealt with my weight issues.” I speak up and my voice shakes and I can’t help myself. People know not to talk about certain bullshit ideas in front of me.
    I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this blog, this community, the whole fatosphere — even though I haven’t had time to blog myself of late and probably won’t have time (since I (re)discovered how exercising more really does improve my blood sugar and need to spend my limited spare time at the gym).
    You all make the world so much more livable.

  36. My father is pretty inflexible about global warming, but if you manage to re frame the conversation so that he can change his mind and still be right he will consider new ideas.

    I can haz training, PLEZZZ???

    This is something I really need to learn how to do, because I can’t even conceive of it without my head exploding.

  37. I can’t help but speak up. It’s partly because I recognize the ridiculousness and self-rightous cruelty of people’s attitudes, but it’s also somewhat selfish. The more I convince other people that fat is as much genetic as anything else, that thinner does not equal healthier, that intuitive eating is holistically healthier than counting calories, the more I believe it myself.

    I went off a bit today. My work friend, who’s about a 0/2, was talking about how she wants to lose weight. She mentioned how she hasn’t gotten thinner since taking an intensive running class. Personally, I found this really disappointing, as she’s usually someone I talk about working out with because we both enjoy it. So while she started wondering what she could do to lose weight, I asked her why she wanted to. I pointed out that she ate well, was in great shape and was probably about where she wanted to be. That she would probably need to make it her life’s work, her new obsession, to lose even the small amount of weight to fit into those too-tight jeans.

    There are situations where I keep my mouth shut, but those are pretty selective spaces. Mostly I really, really WANT to share the fact that most of what people think they know is wrong. It reminds me of the same thing. It reminds me not to get self-righteous because I am one of those people who lives off health food and pre-dawn trips to the gym because I like them. Though if I were afraid of being accused of “making excuses” or otherwise being delegitimized in the eyes of the people I’m talking to, it might be different.

    As far as the woman in the article… her failure to speak up is pathetic, but it’s human nature. Which makes it even more pathetic, in a way, if very understandable.

  38. I can haz copy whn publshz in national ragz?

    At the risk of sounding obsequious, if a post from this blog were going to be published, I would be downright embarrassed if it were one of mine. :)

    To answer Melena’s question from a while back, personally I have never had to drop a friend for being an anti-fat bigot. If they’re engaging in diet talk or body-hate talk that I can’t tolerate, I’ll challenge them once, and if they’re not open to being challenged, I’ll just ask them if we can not have that conversation. But so far none of my friends have said anything dramatically ignorant on the subject of fat — I’m not sure if it’s because I pick my friends wisely or because I’m fat enough that they think twice.

    I have dropped friends over being inveterate misogynists or Nice Guys, and usually the final straw is a demonstrated unwillingness to listen to reason, the equivalent of putting one’s fingers in one’s ears and going “lalalalala.” The friend I mentioned above said something to the effect of “maybe the Klan has a point” about something or other (damned if I can remember or care what it was), and when I gave him a link to Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack — like you do — he called it lesbian women’s studies bullshit or something like that. Following up racism with misogyny? You win the chance to not be friends with me anymore!

    So no, I wouldn’t ditch someone for having negative feelings about fat that they were willing to examine (even if they didn’t come around to my way of thinking), or even for having negative feelings about fat that they were willing to keep to themselves. If it starts infringing on my mental space, though, or if they prove to be irrationally bigoted, I’m just not going to feel like I need that shit in my life.

  39. I find it really awkward to talk about size acceptance, but its a worthy subject for debate and my obnoxious mouth cannot be kept shut for long if I really care about something =)

    People usually just look at me funny (when I talk about size acceptance) and are like “but your not fat”. Its a very confusing response.

    I have talked to people at high school diversity conferences and many of the discussion leaders have interesting answers as to why size discrimination is not really discrimination.

    In fact, I am so willing to talk about it that I would like my own blog! Does anyone know where I can get one?

  40. I haven’t even read all the comments here yet. But i must say, i have this problem of a. not everyone wants to hear it so i don’t always bother, and b. i don’t want to have problems in the workplace over it.

    Perhaps i shouldn’t mention this here but i don’t think what i’m saying is offensive at all, i’m just voicing my opinion, but in the moment when it happened i didn’t feel i could.

    You see, according to people around me at work – feeding your child chocolate is child abuse. Someone spotted a woman feeding her little child chocolate in public.
    I guess they observed that the child was really young, and didn’t even seem to want the chocolate, and the mom was just forcing it on the kid.
    And these are perfectly nice people saying it. Very nice, very thin people, some of whom also happen to be “watching their weight”.
    And they say in hushed tones how “you can’t tell these parents anything about it because they are so defensive”.
    (Gee, i wonder why.)
    “They are giving their children bad habits”, etc etc. Ya. cuz if u forbid a child to have chocolate the child will NEVER find out it exists, will NEVER overreact when they do have access and eat tons cuz they know they may never see it again. will NEVER develop disordered eating around food.

    I had to bite my tongue because nobody was actually talking to me and i just don’t want any problems… but i think u can all imagine how i felt inside to hear that.

    fucking child abuse. to feed a child chocolate. and how RUDE of such parents to be defensive if u say anything to them. if u TELL PERFECT STRANGERS HOW TO FEED THEIR CHILD BASED ON SEEING THEM FOR TWO SECONDS at a bus stop or whatnot.

    And yes, i do get the thing where if ur not skinny and u say anything like what we say on this blog – people just attack u and act like ur making excuses for how you look, how u are.

    I don’t need excuses. I’m just me.

    That said, i also have to play devils advocate here:
    Okay, i myself do not talk about calories or whine about what i should or shouldnt eat, and am open about the fact that i believe in exercising solely for the fun and health of it. But, just as i expect people to respect that, i feel i should respect them if they are dieting or discussing their diet. They are them and I am me and to each their own.

    But yeah if someone said hurtful things about someone for being fat, that’s different… that’s not just stupid diet talk, that’s insulting. And it’s a delicate balance, like with politics or anything else, where you draw the line between what u want to say and what u feel u can say without getting urself into trouble u can’t afford…

    Fortunately i have not been faced with straight out insults like the ones described here. I have no idea how i would deal with it.

  41. (ah when i said perhaps i shouldnt mention this here – i meant because it is public, and i’m talking about people i’ve worked with… but as i said, i’m not saying anything horrible about them so that’s why i chose to just go blabbing about them in public. hopefully they wont read it and feel hurt or get all pissed :) )

  42. oh and yes, the child abuse thing is a quote. perfectly reasonable and nice people consider this as child abuse. i just… don’t know… what to say about that.

  43. On the other hand, I find it incredibly confusing for this chick to be all “I can’t say anything to an asshole when he’s being an asshole, but I can pen an article with my name and picture and have it published in a nationwide newsweekly.” Say what?

    I actually found myself in great sympathy with the writer of the story. After I lost a lot of weight and became “newly thin” it was almost like being admitted acceptance to a club I had always been denied entrance too. I can understand the wanting to finally fit in after a lifetime of never fitting in. Plus, even if you’re now thin, if you admit to once being a fattie, the perceptions towards you change. It’s like the old wealth looking down on the newly rich.

    You have to keep in mind that this woman, like myself, had faced a lifetime of humiliation, and deprecation by both herself and society. WLS doesn’t bring about a sudden turn-around in self-esteem. When I lost weight, I actually became even more meek and timid. I hate personal confrontation, even now, but as a writer I am 10-ft tall and bulletproof. So, while it might be difficult for this woman to tell Dr. Asshole off in person, she chose to instead write about it.

    The simple fact that she did write about it deserves kudos. It’s a start, in any case, for her.

  44. You can see her collarbones!

    Eleanor, not to pick on your comment here, but this is a pet peeve of mine. Collarbones, like so many body parts, are different on different people. I know several people (including myself) who had “skinny” collarbones even when they were fat.

    I’m not disagreeing with the point of your comment, I’m just pointing out that all litmus tests for “fat or not” are bound to be shaky.

  45. I hate personal confrontation, even now, but as a writer I am 10-ft tall and bulletproof.

    I totally relate to this, Rachel. I am 28 years old and have an older brother who’s disabled; it took me over 20 years of my life to be able to say “Please don’t use that word around me” when someone calls something “retarded.” I still get shaky when I have to confront it. But in writing, I’m fierce and eloquent in a way that is very hard to replicate in person.

  46. Sorry, that woman is no longer fat .

    It’s incredibily depressing that NO ONE seems to give women the tools to build their self-esteem, to see the system for what is, and how they can work to change their lives MINUS conforming to the status quo. No one should have to starve or have surgery to “improve” themselves.

  47. Well, it helps to be taken seriously about fat acceptance when you base your entire career on it (oh, my God — what have I done?).

    Like other people have said, I’ve learned to pick my battles. There are people who are not going to get it and are not worth my time, a surprisingly low number I’ve found. There are people who recognize that fat individuals are treated poorly, but still believe it is changeable and unhealthy — this seems to be the majority. And then there are those who are fascinated by the subject, but don’t quite get it though they really try. And every once in awhile, I run into someone who totally gets it; I have opened a door to a whole new life for them.

    That is why I speak up — for those folks. I’ve learned to ask myself “so what?” So what if some rolls their eyes at my ideas? So what if someone thinks its just an excuse? I seldom respect those people’s opinions anyway. And it’s worth it if I just educate a few.

    Remember, though alone we might not be heard over the din of fat hatred, together our voices roar. Personally, I think _Horton Hears a Who_ should be our theme story, we just need to change “a person is a person, no matter how small” to “a person is a person, no matter how FAT.”

  48. sweetmachine: thanks for picking me up on that. It’s not something I’d actually realised before, or noticed on myself or any of the other fat people I know. I guess it’s probably partly because many fat women don’t like to dress in such a way that you can tell! Can I at least assure you I wasn’t using it to mean she must be too thin though.

  49. I can haz training, PLEZZZ???

    Hahaha! I think it is probably easier with my dad because I know he’s a crazy republican, so I know what he WILL agree with. I find that it helps to really understand the other side’s arguments from their point of view. (But sometimes I don’t understand how certain people’s heads don’t explode from the cognitive dissonance.)

  50. Good thing that doctor wasn’t across the table from me. My hand would have left my arm and smacked the hell outta him in nothing flat!!!!

    The whole article was just sad! “I’m skinny now and I can’t admit I was ever fat so here’s a diatribe about being newly skinny and gee, don’t you wish you were me!”

    Um…NO! Sorry, but when I see prejudice against ANYONE, I speak my mind!!!! Glad to hear you’re skinny now go away…you bother me! :)

  51. It is hard to speak out. On another blog I read regularly (that is food related, but not about diets, health or size acceptance or anything like that) someone made a very disrespectful comment about fat people. I was offended, but even when I didn’t have to face this woman, I still waffled about calling her on it. I finally did, and it started an avalanche of comments. The original commenter just seemed to get more disrespectful about fat people, and pretty snarky about the comments I made (such as being fat is not inherently unhealthy, being fat may be more linked to genetics than many people realize) and others started to attack her, which was not really my intent.

    Even online, when no one could see me (and I think I float on the border of being average to fat depending on who you ask) I felt very vulnerable and worried about bringing up the issue. I used to feel the same way when my family told racist jokes, until someone once told me that if I sat there and acquiesced, it was as good as condoning it. I got mocked by my family when I called them on their jokes, but they don’t tell them in my presence anymore, which is the best I can hope for. That said, the more you do something, the easier it gets, so I’m going to try to do more of this speaking up thing, even though confrontation generally makes me want to throw up!

  52. God, family is the worst sometimes. I get mocked by my family even when I don’t call them on their jokes, since I am a known feminist — they will mock me preemptively!

    Good on you for speaking up though, and good on everyone who has reported on struggling with reticence and overcoming it. Or even not overcoming it — in having the dilemma at all, you’re miles ahead of most people, who are happy to just sniff “but really, obesity is a HUGE PROBLEM in this country.” Y’all are inspiring.

  53. The whole article was just sad! “I’m skinny now and I can’t admit I was ever fat so here’s a diatribe about being newly skinny and gee, don’t you wish you were me!”

    I think you completely missed the point of her article. I don’t think she was reveling so much in her weight loss as she was lamenting the accompanying loss of self.

  54. I, too, pick my battles. Some of them I just don’t know how to fight. Like Kristen said WAY up there, I’m often the outsider, being a straight gay rights activist, a liberal in UltraConservia, and pro body acceptance PERIOD, despite being an “acceptable” size in our society.

    The worst conversations I’ve had about the latter are with friends who think they are fat. What do you say when a friend complains about her weight, calling herself fat, talks about dieting and exercise as a cure-all, and generally beats herself up her body? All I can come up with is that I’m not friends with her because of OR in spite of her weight. I’m not going to say “oh, you’re not fat,” because that endorses her view that fat is something wrong, something you don’t want to be. Is there ever a nice way to say “Stop beating yourself the f@#$ up! I don’t CARE what size you are. I like you as a person. I wish you liked yourself that much!”? Because saying it like that doesn’t go over well. :(

  55. Yan, are you fatter or thinner than she is? If it’s someone thinner than I am saying things like that, I try to say something like: “Really, being fat is not some terrible thing.” But that doesn’t work so well when the person is significantly fatter than you, because then the response is just: “How would you know?”

  56. Actually, I think this article is rather poignant, especially the moment where the mother gently tells the writer that she loved her fat daughter very much. I think this is a woman struggling with self-acceptance and who is trying to make small steps towards speaking out. I certainly wouldn’t have made her choices but I’m still somewhat sympathetic to her position. At least she hasn’t become a raging fatphobe (yeah, I know, that’s setting the bar low).

  57. At least she hasn’t become a raging fatphobe (yeah, I know, that’s setting the bar low).

    You know… it is, but sadly, with some of the stuff I’ve seen from post-WLS people, it’s a really good point.

  58. She is larger than I am, Becky. Anything I have to say about food or exercise or body image is dismissed by her and many of my knitting circle friends because I am smaller than they are, so of course I know nothing about negative self-image. I’m a hobby foodie and nutritionist because of some medical issues I have, but as far as this one friend, in particular, is concerned, my life should be perfect because I wear a smaller size of jeans than she does. Her negativity about herself has really driven a wedge between us this year because it drags me down, and I don’t want to be there anymore, down in that place where you decide you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not whatever. I am who I am, and I’ve worked really hard at being happy with that, all of it.

  59. Hi, I’ve been lurking at this blog for a while. It’s helped me dispell my own personal myths about my weight, and given me a lot of strength and information for when I talk to friends and family about my weight.

    That out of the way, I’m posting something completely off topic to this post, because it irked me beyond means just now. I just saw a commercial for Nutrisystem, with the standard “before/after” photos and the disclaimer, “results not typical”, but one line got my ire up so badly: “You’ll feel free to do the things you’ve always wanted to do”. Proof that the media actively contributes to the “Fantasy of being Thin”, not to mention, the whole ad made it seem like people look perfectly glamorous after dropping huge amounts of weight. You know, instead of having the remaining skin piles hanging off of you, or sagged bosoms, or other typical problems that happen AFTER weight-loss.

    And it’s one of those things, that before reading this blog, I’d have bought into it. Now, it just makes me angry.

  60. I guess what I want to know is…how stringent do you guys get about fat acceptance and your friends? Do you cut them out of your life only if you discover that they’re an out and out bigot? Do you tolerate it if they’re just not wired to (or willing to) GET IT, but are otherwise respectful?

    I don’t tolerate it, period. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I pick a fight every chance I get, either. With friends, I usually say something fairly mild, most often reframing whatever they’ve said in terms of HAES. (Because when this comes up around my friends, it’s usually, “I need/want to lose weight,” not “Fat people suck.” I don’t have friends who are just out and out hateful to fatties, at least not in front of me. So I guess that counts as cutting those people out of my life.)

    I tend to go with things like, “Well, exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables will be good for your health whether you lose weight or not. That’s not really the important thing.” Then, it can go one of two ways with people who remain my friends: 1) They go, “Huh, I never thought of it that way,” and we have an actual conversation about it. 2) They drop it. I’m perfectly fine with dropping it — I don’t need to evangelize everyone I meet. And as long as people understand that anti-fat talk isn’t okay around me — including anti-fat talk directed at yourself — I don’t give a crap what they think in secret, or what they say around other friends. I mean, in the big picture, I give a crap, but I can’t control their thoughts or what they do when I’m not around. I can only set boundaries when it comes to hanging out with me. As long as those boundaries are respected, we’re cool.

    If someone actually wants to fight with me about the assertion that exercise and veggies are good for you regardless of weight? Forget about it. Like I said, that’s an awfully mild statement, all things considered, not to mention a factually unassailable one. If someone’s so committed to fat hatred (again, even if it’s mostly self-directed) they can’t see the truth in something as simple as that, I’m not interested in hanging out with them.

    And I’m not much interested in hanging out with passive-aggressive people, no matter what they’re passive-aggressing about. Someone who tried to slip in anti-fat comments around me in a “non-confrontational” way would A) get a damn confrontation, like it or not, and B) not be a friend of mine for much longer.

    Having said all that, I fucking hate confrontation (believe it or not), and I’m definitely a fan of picking your battles. I don’t need to tell off every fatphobe I encounter, if only because that would mean never doing anything else with my life. It all depends on who the person is, what they said specifically, and whether I’ve got my fightin’ pants on that day. I don’t think any of us needs to feel obligated to single-handedly save the world from fat hate. Walking away can be as effective as a confrontation, and sometimes (like in work situations), it makes sense to bite your tongue. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    But as FJ said, writing about your wussiness in a national magazine? Is probably something to be ashamed of.

  61. But as FJ said, writing about your wussiness in a national magazine? Is probably something to be ashamed of.

    I made the grevious error of reading a smattering of comments…she doesn’t need to feel ashamed, as a majority of the commenters I saw were all rah-rah-rahing her weight loss and “taking control of her health”. Yeeeahhhhh. Any fleeting feelings of shame she might feel will fade away the more she gets praised for being thin, I suspect.

  62. About a month ago I wrote a post about running across a post somewhere online where everyone was commending a woman for being brave enough to post what she actually weighed. I wrote about my own struggles with weight loss and my body and how difficult it has been for me to stop hating myself and instead just focus on being healthy instead of a particular weight.

    In response, one of my friends suggested to me that maybe I have a thyroid problem (which, fyi, I don’t).

    It wasn’t until reading this post that I realized why that comment bothered me so much. I was trying to stand up to the pressure people put on themselves surrounding g.d. numbers and what I got in return was some concern trolling.

    I just started reading your blog, but this post really got to me. Thank you.

  63. yan – perhaps you could try a simple “I love you just the way you are right now.” Even if she doesn’t accept herself, let her know that other people can accept her.

  64. I’d agree that I thought this article was poignant rather than something to be frowned upon.

    Regardless of what anyone says – it’s not easy to be fat in a world that mocks and belittles and marginalizes it. It’s not easy to be the one speaking up and speaking out, especially if you’ve spent your whole life wishing you were a little less visible and took up a little less space.

    Up until about 6 months ago, I hadn’t personally heard very much about body positivity or fat acceptance. I kind of knew there was a movement, but not its size or scope. And I have since gone back and read my blogs from the period where I was losing weight (which hasn’t stayed gone) and realized that it’s hard to make positive change from a position of self-hate. No matter how much I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t about the scale or the pants size, it was. It was about not feeling like I have the right to be big and bad and beautiful regardless of whether I wear a 2 or a 28.

    I think that the author of the article is trying her best to come to terms with who she is and how she fits into the world. And I think she is to be commended for her efforts, and encouraged in her efforts to go further.

    For those who are critical of this woman, think back to before you knew about size acceptance, before you realized exactly how shitty the treatment of larger people is, before you understood that it’s possible to be healthy at a size with more than one digit….most people who comment/blog seem to have tried, in some cases repeatedly, to BELONG to the skinny club. It’s hard to go from seeing that as the be-all end-all to tearing up the membership card.

    Just saying.

  65. I’m the pessimist of the thread. I don’t believe most people are going to get over their prejudices against fat people. There is always going to be somebody who will hate me because I’m fat. Even my own mom tells me how wonderful my life COULD be, if I only didn’t weight so much.

    So, I have just given up on educating others. I give full reign to the others here (who are MUCH more intelligent and prepared than I could ever be on the subject) to do so.

    I’m walking around with a big “F YOU” sign on my back these days! I’m tired of defending my fat.

  66. Kate and Fillyjonk, thanks so much for answering my question.

    I swear, sometimes I feel like I’d go insane without the online fat communities. I just want to meet some people who I don’t have to EXPLAIN this shit to, you know? Just once, I’d like to have a conversation about fat without feeling like I’m boxing.

    I can dream.

  67. I’ve had thin privilege all my life, and never realized how much wrongheaded and hateful stuff is said about fat until I started reading these blogs, and I’ve only recently started to call people out on it. Even now, I can’t imagine making any headway with these dickheads (a woman who thinks a size 16 nanny will break her antiques with teh fat? a doctor commenting on the fuckability of a woman who he’s just seen give birth?) and I also might choose not to bang my head against those particular walls. I’m much more likely to call someone out if they sound ignorant or deluded rather than like a hardcore asshole. I mean, these nasty fucks will just move on to being nasty about something else. Best to avoid. So, another vote for the middle ground.

    And to agree with some commenters above, it is SO frustrating to get “but you’re not fat” as a response. So fucking what? I almost fell on the ground when I got this one from my mom, who works in the diversity field and marched for civil rights in the 60s (she’s white). So all of a sudden you have to be a member of a group to want to help make things better for them????

  68. Yan,
    I have a good friend, and every time I say bad things about myself that she thinks are inappropriate she will say ‘Please don’t talk about my friend like that.” Which, drives me crazy because I’m usually just being temporarily annoyed with myself for doing something stupid. BUT I do think it really makes you think about what you are saying about yourself from the perspective of people who love you.

  69. And to avoid a can of worms, I am not saying “being fat EQUALS being a minority.” I was just surprised that my mother couldn’t see that you can be an ally for a group without being in it, given that she does that all the time.

  70. For what it’s worth (probably not all that much) this article made me think about all of the times when I have (or haven’t) lied about being Jewish. I’ve found that there are times when I’ve said “I’m Italian” and I find that, on an emotional level, I feel the same way when I lie about trying to lose weight when I’m not anymore. It just feels shitty. And I know that I’m always better off if I stand up for myself as that fat Jewess that I am, rather than pretending that I’m something else just to pass.

    This is also not to open up a whole can of worms, but I wonder how many of us have had the same feeling. I almost feel like I need to consider fatness part of my identity in order to take pride in it and be comfortable with it.

  71. But as FJ said, writing about your wussiness in a national magazine? Is probably something to be ashamed of.

    Actually, I disagree. I think that acknowledging your faults in a public forum like Newsweek is something to be commended. And as a double bonus, she’s bringing awareness and attention to the some of the various ways in which fat people face discrimination and marginalization.

    I think folks here are misconstruing what I see to be Northrup’s larger and overarching point. I don’t think she’s reveling in her weight loss nor is she saying “If I can do it, so can you!” I think she’s genuinely trying to sort out who she is and who she wants to be. Keep in mind folks, this woman lost more than half her body weight within a very short time. The world treats fat people differently than they treat thin people, a fact many here sadly know. There’s bound to be self-identity issues that arise with such a dramatic transformation. Clearly the discrimination showed towards fat people bothers Northrup deeply – else why would she choose to write this article – but I don’t think she knows how or is armed to confront it.

    I have to admit: After I lost 60 percent of my body weight and became a newly thin person, I didn’t tell many people who I just met about my weight loss and let them assume I’d always been that skinny. I did this primarily because I obsessed enough about my weight and how I looked and didn’t need the added emphasis, and also because I wanted people to see me as more than my weight.

    But I also did it because I had always been so criticized for how I looked, so ostracized for my fatness and even harassed and felt physically threatened by people for being fat that after I lost the weight,I wanted to get as far away from the stigma of fat as I could.

    It’s taken me decades to reconcile some of my own body image issues and to realize that fat isn’t a physical sign of failure and that being fat didn’t mean that I was a second-class citizen. Why are we criticizing someone who appears to be wrestling with many of the same issues even the most seasoned and hardened body-size activists have probably all faced?

    I don’t see this article as negative in the slightest. Northrup should be commended for her honesty and courage to publicly acknowledge her own shortcomings. I see her and this article as a first step in her own journey towards a degree of size acceptance.

  72. I support her to find her strength and her voice. She’s already ashamed, so I’m not sure how shaming her for her shame furthers the cause of fat acceptance or anything else. She needs to learn to be proud of herself no matter what her size and stand up to haters and I hope she does. I was moved by her, she sounded like she was in a lot of pain.

    Any people here who grew up poor and moved up in the world? Do you take some time to talk to people like your cleaning staff at work? Do you feel ashamed to be near people in those professions, even if this is what your mom or dad or grandparents did for a living? If you do speak to them, do you feel proud of yourself for being so “nice”?* Some people here will know exactly what I’m talking about. Identity crisises come to all sorts of people who think that they need to shed their “old” unacceptable selves, and in the process lose who they are. Think about it and try to have some compassion.

    *I do talk to our cleaning staff, and sometimes I feel like I am being “nice” in doing this and it makes me feel very creepy about who I’ve become, but that’s the truth.

  73. I just want to be clear that I do understand we’re talking about a human being here, with all the complexities that entails….and I have sympathy that finding balance in the midst of transition is not an overnight process.

    It’s just difficult for me to read, without getting angry, an article that is chock full of anti-fat stuff, written by someone who’s bought the booga booga and rolled the WLS dice, titled “I don’t share your opinions of fat people” but containing not much evidence that that’s true. Setting aside entirely any criticisms or judgments, it’s just not easy to read, and it feels a little bit like a bait-and-switch.

    I hope Northrup finds her center and comes to a place of feeling able to speak up when she disagrees.

  74. Just based on the responses, I think some of us were reading different articles. Some read her as saying “Now that I’m thin I get to be in the kewl kids club and I just keep my mouth shut so I get to stay here.” and some of us read “I’ve sat by in silence while people have said some very vicious things about fat people, I’ve tried to disconnect myself from my former fat self but it’s not working. I want to do better than this.”

    Funny how people can see different stories in the same words!

  75. Too true, Rose.

    It’s just difficult for me to read, without getting angry, an article that is chock full of anti-fat stuff, written by someone who’s bought the booga booga and rolled the WLS dice, titled “I don’t share your opinions of fat people” but containing not much evidence that that’s true.

    Oh, I completely get your point and while I’m not angered by her inability to speak up, I do feel saddened that Northrup feels and acts this way. I would also love to see Newsweek publish a story by a fat person who isn’t ashamed or insecure about their size. There’s plenty of us on this site alone. But I guess I just can’t find fault with Northrup because at one time, I was her. At one time, I think many of us were a lot like her, actually.

    (I do have to point out some well-meaning editor probably titled the article and not Northrup. They probably edited the story too, ,so it might not be as she originally presented it.)

  76. I think she’s genuinely trying to sort out who she is and who she wants to be.

    And you know, that’s fine, but why do you have to do it on the pages of Newsweek? Try a therapist’s office, or the coffeehouse with your best friend.

  77. I’m the only non-minority in my office, and my job is related to minority rights. When I heard anti-fat talk, pro-diet talk, and just generally food-obsessed talk in my office space, I bit my tongue and didn’t speak up. I’m a member of a privileged group, I was in a minority space, at that moment in time it was more important for me to keep my mind on my work than make my workplace about the white chick and her issues. It killed me to sit quietly and not get into an argument, to the point where I got permission from my boss to listen to music while I work so I’m not tempted to get into it with my co-workers. In this one space, I remind myself that I leave my privilege at the door and simply say “How can I help?”

    I hate the diet industry so much for making the lovely enthusiastic women I work with throw so much energy into obsessing about their weight. There’s really no other place on Earth I’ve been where it’s been more clear that there are more important things to worry about than counting calories and points.

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