Did I miss something? ‘Cause there’s all this “good fatties/bad fatties” talk going on in the old ‘osphere right now, and I do think these conversations can be useful and important… but I’m just not sure where they came from. I don’t know of any fat blogger or fat acceptance activist who believes that only those who practice HAES deserve dignity, respect, and rights, or that deliberately focusing on your health (as a fat or thin person) makes you better than someone who doesn’t. I know of one person who advocated treating people with eating disorders differently from “normal fatties,” and she was shouted down and then flounced away pretty damn quick; other than that, at least among the fat blogs, I’ve seen nothing of the sort.
Fat people with eating disorders have different issues than those of us without — to wit, eating disorders. But we are all bloody well fat, all human, and all deserving of respect. During my time in the movement, I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise, which is why I find the current rash of good fatty/bad fatty talk — like the “lavender menace” article in Bitch before it — pretty baffling. It seems to me this notion of the “good” fatty who practices HAES impeccably (as if there is such a thing, given that HAES is not about following any set of rules) and then smugly demands respect for being morally superior to a “bad” fatty… well, that’s nothing but a straw fatty.
It’s important to be mindful of not letting that straw fatty become a real one, when the reality is that society is much more willing to accept a fat person who exercises than one who doesn’t — and more willing still to accept a person who’s trying to lose weight. In our efforts to find wider acceptance for fat people, it could be tempting to say, “Okay, well, they’re ready to accept the ‘good’ fatties a little now, so the rest of you wait over there, and those of us with normal blood pressure and no eating disorders will come back for you later.” Anyone who’s worked in any social justice movement is familiar with that pitfall and why it must be avoided. Those who hew most closely to the dominant group’s values (and/or appearance) are always the first candidates for “acceptability” — but taking that offer of acceptance while selling out those who are further away from the dominant group only reinforces the very values you’re trying to dismantle. That’s social justice 101.
But somehow, the many, many conversations about avoiding that around here seem to have bodied forth the Straw Good Fatty, and now we’re acting as if she’s a real enemy. She’s not. Not yet, at least — and hopefully, she never will be. The enemy is and always will be a culture that hates fat people — no matter what we eat, how often we exercise, or what sizes we wear.