Dealing with Life in a Fat-phobic Society

This is meant to be a guide for people who are ready to become internally liberated from fat-phobia, while still living in a fat-phobic society.

1. Don’t make assumptions.

Just because someone is thin, does not mean they

a) Hate fat people,
b) Don’t know what it’s like to be fat (many of us were thin once, twice, or more times during our yo-yo dieting days),
c) Aren’t sympathetic (some are honest and informed enough to appreciate the issues),
d) Aren’t empathetic (they could have had a mom, dad, sister, best friend, etc that was fat),
e) Accept the obesity epi-panic paradigm

Just because someone is fat, does not mean they

a) Don’t hate fat people
b) Accept their fatness (“I’m a thin person in a fat person’s body”)
c) Are sympathetic to other fat people (“Ugh, I might be fat, but at least I’m not as fat as *that* disgusting person!”)
d) Are empathetic to other fat people (“I’ll working to get those pounds off, I swear!”)
e) Don’t accept the obesity epi-panic paradigm (“I’m so depressed…how did I let myself go? I’m so unhealthy. I must have no willpower.”)

2. Appeal for justice to the right authorities.

a) If your child is singled out in gym class for his/her weight, it might not be the gym teacher who is prejudiced. It could be a school policy to single out fatter children, to weigh them, calculate their BMIs, or use calipers publicly to determine their body fat percentage. Appeal to the principal, school board, state, or federal government accordingly.

b) If an ignorant news anchor makes disparaging remarks about a fat person/fat people, remember they are merely playing their roles in a fat-phobic society. Take the producer of the show to issue; bring your issues to the top of the power chain, not to the chain’s replaceable mouthpieces.

3. Realize fat issues and fat-phobia are multi-religion, multi-ethnic, all age, cross-class, multi-culture, multi-sex, cross-educational, cross-political, multi-moral, etc.

a) While statistics show certain groups are fatter, and certain groups have varying levels of fat acceptance and forms of fat-phobia, that does *not* mean any group is immune to fat-phobia, or any group should be marginalized in the War Against Fat-phobia. We’re all in this together, and we’re not going to get out of it unless we stand together, equally.

b) Fat rights are apolitical. Fat rights can be advocated by liberal, conservative, Progressive, libertarian, fascist, democrat, etc. You do not have to be a member of any one particular political movement to be a believer in fat rights, and have the ability to advocate. The assumption those of one political stripe are worthier advocates for fat rights than those of another political stripe is fallacious and divisive, and will only harm the integrity of the movement.

c) Fat-phobia is omni-political. One political group does not discriminate or hate fat people more than another. Some so-called Progressives and left liberals consider fat people to be a representation of the materialistic, consumption-obsessed dynamic they despise. Some so-called libertarians believe fat is voluntary and fat people will somehow increase the tax burden. Some so-called conservatives believe fat is synonymous with anti-Christian gluttony, and is therefore undesirable. Some fascists believe if fat people had their diets and behavior properly controlled and directed, they would no longer be fat.

4. Shed your anger.

Everyone is indignant when they witness something they believe to be an injustice. However, hasty, angry retorts will be used against you, as a reinforcement of how undignified fat is, or how defensive fat people are, or how “crazy” fat liberation is. Respond with truth in measured tones, wherever you encounter fat-phobia, whether it be on the internet, in your child’s school, on TV, in your family, at your workplace, in public, etc.

And, finally:

5. View your obstacles as opportunities.

Because of your unique experience with discrimination, both fat-based and otherwise, you are likely more informed on certain issues than some other people, who have not experienced what you have experienced. You have the power to educate others about what you’ve experienced.

However, always be careful not to marginalize other people based on their weight, demographics, and so forth, when you’re educating. We’re all individuals, with individual experiences, and should respect other people and not belittle them if they do not understand or agree with us.

Hope you all find this list useful.

7 comments on “Dealing with Life in a Fat-phobic Society

  1. anniemcphee says:

    Ok I’m going to make a comment without having finished, then go back and finish – hope no foot-in-mouth…

    Another thing not to assume about skinny people is that they have never been brutalized by school bullies (even fat ones) and had their lives be torment from sunup to sundown by that abuse for years on end. Sometimes THE outcast of the entire class is a skinny kid, and other times fat kids are popular or well-liked. School torment, like parental abuse (both in my case) are equal-opportunity monsters. So don’t assume a skinny person can not relate to your experience being tormented. They might, they might not. Never hurts to ask.

  2. anniemcphee says:

    “c) Fat-phobia is omni-political. One political group does not discriminate or hate fat people more than another.”

    Ahhhh that is so fucking true. Unbearably true. Tragically true. And understanding the different ways in which each political group hate fat goes a long way to understanding how to combat it with each person once you know where they are politically. In other words, different approaches work with different people depending on their political beliefs. From within, we have to understand that it comes from everywhere, and in combatting it, we have to take many approaches. Hope I’m making sense.

    Very excellent post.

  3. BigLiberty says:

    You definitely make sense, Annie, and your point about skinny people and abuse is so, so true. Some of my best friends in school were skinny girls who were as tormented as I was (for different reasons, and some of the same reasons).

  4. This is great. Thank you!

  5. Bee says:

    Spot on, as always…

  6. phledge says:

    Fantastic post! I’m especially pleased about “shedding anger” because I think that’s what ruptures and cripples our movement(s) internally. Brava.

  7. BigLiberty says:

    Thanks, phledge. And yes, angry reactions to internal politics can’t certainly help any movement; however, suffering injustice at the hands of internal politics doesn’t help the movement, either. There’s a careful balance, in order to have one’s say and keep a rational, civil tongue in one’s head! lol

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