Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When Spaces Aren't for You/This is a Body Positive Blog

[Content note: fatphobia, healthism, body shaming]

I've been sitting on this comment in my queue for almost a week now. When I first saw it I thought about immediately marking it as spam, then I thought about just publishing it and ignoring it, then I thought about writing about it, then I thought about ignoring it again, but it kept sticking in my mind so I decided I would go ahead and write about it.

Anyway, here's the comment I'm talking about in full. I'd like to re-emphasize that if you find fatphobic, healthist, food related, and/or body shaming comments to be very upsetting or triggering, don't click "read more."

I am a recent follower on your blog and I really enjoy most of your work. However, I disagree with a lot of your thoughts regarding "fat shaming". I think you are being very reactionary about those who suggest people should lose some weight. As someone who works in mental health and hospital settings, I cannot recommend your "health at every size" approach. The fact of the matter is that at some sizes, you are not healthy, end of story. We should not be focusing on making sure people are happy at every size- some sizes you should not be happy with, because they are a slow suicide. 
When anorexic people become below a certain weight, they can be hospitalised and force fed, even against their will- because it is acnowledged that they are not in their right mind to think that they need to be thinner, and that without intervention, they could die (anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health problem).
Similarly, but more slowly, morbidly obese people are killing themselves. They are undeniably, reducing the value and potential of their life, and being a drain on public health. I am all for different body shapes and sizes, but some sizes are NOT OK. By endorsing any body size you are doing the equivalent of endorsing an anorexic person who eats one tic tac a day and thinks they are fat. 
Of course, the reasons that cause people to become unhealthily overweight is what needs to be addressed here. I am not critiquing that they got that way- I am saying that I can respect and understand it, but I am not going to endorse it or say it's OK. 
There are so many issues I take with this line of reasoning and these comments that I hardly know where to begin.

For one, I don't believe that body positivity has a limit and there exists a place where we should no longer support people. I believe in bodily autonomy [full stop] so I don't think that anyone owes society "being healthy." I also believe that "healthy" is a social construct which means so many things, so it makes little sense to demand health from others. Also demanding health from others is ableist. I believe that people who are medical professionals frequently carry the same fatphobic bias as anyone else, and therefore I don't take much stock in someone who claims to be a part of the medical community as more of an expert on this stuff (especially when "this stuff" is my personal right to dignity.) And I believe that people frequently take on an authoritative tone to attempt to deliver opinions as facts so they can thereby silence differing viewpoints. (How can you argue against "facts?")

And I sure as fuck don't believe that happiness should be reserved for certain people (here I'm specifically referring to: "We should not be focusing on making sure people are happy at every size- some sizes you should not be happy with, because they are a slow suicide." Side note, when I posted this part of the comment on Tumblr, several people pointed out that life itself is a slow suicide, so what's their point?)

But I think the biggest issue that I take with this comment is that it was delivered to me at all. This person admits that they have run into my writing on this topic, and yet, despite my many pieces which address these issues, they felt entitled to share the exact same opinions I have consistently discredited or refuted before. (And this was submitted in an annoyingly buried post from 2 years ago...nice try, I'm putting this crap up front and center.)

The commenter opens with a small compliment about my writing but then demands I change one of the views that is clearly central to my work. It's insulting. Do they think that because we might share some opinions that I could cater the trajectory of my future work to their bias? Should I make my writing less fatty-friendly so that they don't have to run into the cognitive dissonance that comes with actually listening to me on this topic? Do they think they've enlightened me somehow? Because I've got news for them...I'm already intimately familiar with the deeply flawed rhetoric of our fatphobic society. They brought nothing to the table.

Anyway, I've said it before and I'll say it a million more times: some spaces just aren't for you. It continues to boggle my mind that so many people stomp into a space which is clearly by and for people who aren't like them, and demand a platform. (I don't do that to fitspo bloggers, MRAs, or TERFs and I believe they are dead wrong.)

And what compels someone to spend their time trying to dissuade someone from being happy? What kind of person thinks, "Who is this fat woman who is daring to live joyfully and demanding respect!? I must rain on this parade!"

No one has to agree with me on this topic or any other, but you can at least let me have my space to share my thoughts. Go to your own blog and fume about how "unhealthy" my views are. I will never give a platform to examined, oppressive views.

So in case it needs to be further stated, this is a body positive blog. If you agree with any of the premises in the quoted comment, I suggest you go almost anywhere else on the web and have those thoughts validated, because I don't have time for healthism or fatphobia here.

We Have A Right to Safe Spaces
How to Enter Feminist Spaces at the 101 Level and Not Totally Mess Up
On Respecting Boundaries
You don't know the whole picture
Musings on a Fatphobic, Christian Bully
Privilege Derails
Don't Like What You're Reading? Cool! Move on!
I don't actually need an education in the patriarchy, I already know it.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.


  1. Ye gods, did that one ever miss the point.
    Regardless of whether or not some fat people are unhealthy, they still do not deserve to be bullied.
    It's as if their logic goes like this: if a person is reasonably healthy, we can let them live in peace. But woe betide them should they ever become actually unhealthy, for then we shall bully them to health.
    Not once has bullying ever worked to make anyone healthy. Or thin.
    Also, it's as if they think fat people are somehow oblivious to the fact that they're fat.
    "What did that get there? Oh, thanks for pointing it out to me! I wouldn't have been aware of my fat physique had you not told me!"
    Said no fat person ever.
    People really need to eff the hell off and mind their own business when it comes to other people's bodies.

  2. I really, really like this post. I was going to copy and paste a few of the points I agreed with in particular, but seriously, I AGREE WITH IT ALL.


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