Fat People: You Don’t Have To Justify Your Existence

Dear fat people,

You don’t have to justify your existence to anyone. Not TV doctors. Not lapsed surgeons. Not authors of diet books. Not researchers running an ‘obesity’ center. Not your own doctor. Not your parents. Not your spouse.

When they ask, “Well, don’t you think being fat is unhealthy?” You don’t have to educate them. It’s not your job to give them reasons why you have accepted your body.

When they say, “You must justify your fatness. I’m paying for you!”, tell them they don’t have a problem with you, they’ve got a problem with the system and how it apportions dollars and care. If they’re so concerned about being able to control who and what they ‘pay for’ then they need to take it up with their elected representative or an actual economist, not you.

You don’t have to tell the fatphobes why they’re wrong. Why they’re creating a fictional narrative about your life that isn’t your life. Why threatening you with future health ills is absurd and childish. Why they don’t understand the economics of insurance markets. They probably won’t listen anyway. They’re not looking for reasons to be okay with you. They’re looking for reasons to feel better than you. To blame you for their slimmer pocketbook, or global warming, or world hunger. To absolve themselves from responsibility for those things. To justify their own disconnectedness and indolence. To soothe the guilt of their own consumerism.

Dear fat people: all fat people, of all colors and backgrounds, of all those varying ways to be fat and visibly so, even if you’re just fat in your own family circle or if you’ve been used as a headless fatty folk devil in a news article: you don’t have to justify your existence.

You don’t have to justify your existence by performing health. Or by subscribing to HAES. Or by having a list of studies on-hand whenever some ubiquitous fatphobe challenges your experience and threatens you with the deterioration of your health and even early death if you don’t agree with them.

Fat discrimination is wrong. Don’t listen when they say you’re “lazy, unfit, immoral, liars, burdens.” Sadly, you aren’t the first group of people to be labeled as the biggest sinners, the biggest losers, the folk devils that must be fought and vanquished at all costs, the root of all evil. It’s a formula, an effective one that most people don’t even realize they’re playing into.

There’s no conspiracy. The fat public health panic, known colloquially as the ‘obesity epidemic’ even though obesity is neither a disease nor an epidemic, emerged as a response to a complex panel of variables. No one person sat down one day and said, “You know what we should do? Pathologize fatness, stigmatize fat people, make a bunch of money off it, then sell fat stigmatization to governments and world health organizations so we can codify dieting in their health regulations.”

Timing is everything: an aging population means that diseases highly correlated with aging like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes are going up, up, up. People are smoking less, getting taller and healthier, and also dieting much more regularly: all states of being that, in addition to aging, result in increased average weight. Fudge with an old statistical tool for insurance tables called the BMI and suddenly you’ve got a health panic on your hands.

Healthism emerged, partially as a response to an aging population afraid of death and convinced that if they ate the right things and did the right amount of exercise they could extend their lifespans to Auroran lengths (see: Asimov), partially as an outgrowth of modern Puritanism, partially because of the fat health panic outlined above, partially as a vehicle of elitism and classism and ableism, and for many other reasons not useful to go into here.

Dear fat people: you don’t deserve to be discriminated against. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don’t have to justify your existence. You don’t have to buy into the myth of health, an arbitrary measure whose definition has not only changed throughout history but means different things to different individuals, to different practitioners of health, even.

You don’t have to justify your existence. If you do, you lose. You lose for yourself, and you lose for the rest of us. What is fat discrimination? Believing that fat people don’t have the right to simply be. That, if they exist as fat people, they are “lazy, unfit, immoral, liars, burdens.” The answer is not to argue that you are “active, fit, moral, trustworthy, generous.”

What right does anyone have to require that in order to live unabused they must live up to a standard the abusers don’t expect of themselves? It’s a lose-lose situation. Ceding to fatphobes the right to question your existence also cedes to them that if you as a fat person didn’t perform exercise, or didn’t count calories, or weren’t ‘healthy,’ or were disabled, or just didn’t adhere to the Healthistic model of virtue, that they would be justified in flailing and abusing you.

Dear fat people: you don’t have to justify your existence. You aren’t supervillains: if you don’t fit into the Healthistic box the fatphobes say you must the world won’t stop turning. Children won’t die. The landmass of your country won’t be swallowed by the oceans. You won’t suddenly get all the so-called fat diseases. You won’t bankrupt your government’s economy.

You will be one precious person saying, “No. Healthism is wrong. Health is bullshit. You’re creating a hierarchy of acceptable, codified discrimination with a bullshit arbitrary measure. And I’m not buying it.”

One precious person, going against a seemingly irresistible tide. You won’t be the villain. You’ll be the hero.

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Support Sara Koffi’s “Class Dismissed”

I was contacted recently by Sara Koffi, a plus-sized, African-American aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter about an eminently worthy film project called Class Dismissed, for which she needs funding. Help Sara say what she wants in her own words (which is the only true “right” way), without having to give up control of the creative process and hence dilute her genuinely size positive, LGBT* positive, sex positive message. Her appeal is below, including a link to where you can donate, which I’ve also included here.

Also note that Sara has a guest post up at Shakesville (published yesterday).

My name is Sara Koffi. I’m a plus sized, African-American aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter. I’m from Memphis, TN and have been “knocking” on Hollywood’s door for the past two years. My artistic focus has always been on creating something that would depict honest experiences.

But…I’ve learned that reality and Hollywood don’t always get along. After getting an offer to present my work in the “right” way (none of that topic, too much of that topic, etc), I decided to go another route. I realized that I’d have to be in charge of the full creative process if I wanted to create something less problematic. Something genuinely hilarious and poignant, that wouldn’t rely on stereotypes for the sake of entertainment (because that’s pretty gross).

So I came up with Class Dismissed.

Class Dismissed is a feature length dramedy about Christy, a plus sized escort and Aubrey, a chronic overachiever with some coming out to do. It follows their college lives a few days before Aubrey’s parents are coming over to visit and before Christy meets a confused conservative type who she maybe kinda’ likes.

I’ve got the background, the ability and the ambition…But not the funds to make this movie happen. Which is why I’m writing you. I only ask from support from the people that want the same thing I do: less problematic entertainment. I want Class Dismissed to be genuinely body positive, genuinely LGBT* positive, genuinely sex positive (no slut shame in my game) and genuinely based on the realities of college.

If you’d like to share this idea, the link is below:

http://igg.me/p/187967?a=936110

Thank you so much!

Peace and love,

Sara Koffi

The Fucking Awesome Truth

Go read this fucking awesome post by Joanna at Dead of Winter:

The Truth is Radical

It will blow your fucking socks off. It’s so old-school FA, I’m all a-quiver like it’s 2007 again. Dammit, I miss Junkfood Science!

Some candy:

Instead of feeling liberated with the knowledge that I was not a failure or defective because of my weight, my health, or my lifestyle, I insisted on holding onto my prejudices, not just against others, but myself.

Why would someone do this?

The reason is two-fold: One is that we still want to hold on to “The Fantasy of Being Thin” that Kate Harding discusses. The other, more subtle, one is that we can’t bear to face it. To face it would be to realize just how thoroughly people hate us and how pervasive fat hatred is, inserting itself in every area of life, held by virtually all people in our culture, and knowing there is no escape for it.

Ding-ding-ding-ding-DING! Sometimes when I really think about how much I’m hated — how irrevocably the culture equates my value as a human/women to my weight, and how many times and in how many ways I’ve been discriminated against, seen as less valuable or even valueless because I’m fat — well, I get really fucking depressed. It’s hard to handle. Really hard.

Finally, holy awesome, Batman:

No. It is our anti-fat, healthist culture that is radical. It refuses to acknowledge any factor in health, fitness, or weight besides lifestyle. It refuses to allow people with socially stigmatized bodies and lifestyles to exist. It refuses to allow them any measure of worth, intelligence, or morality. It seeks to deny basic rights and social support.

Joanna has written the post I’ve wanted to write for at least a year. Con-fucking-gratulations, I’m so fucking glad to see something like this on the feeds, it made my fucking weekend. And I’ve been having a pretty good fucking weekend.

(EDIT: I just found out this is my 250th post on Big Liberty. Holy fucking mother of shit. W00t!)

Big is Beautiful Bingo


(click for full-size version)

Reactions to the term “big is beautiful” by the offended.

Inspired by this post.

Add your own in the comments.

EDIT: It appears as if the post on Pinterest by Jane, “W.T.F. / This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” has been removed. However, it was the image below, of a badly-captioned Velvet D’Amour (h/t to Dr. Samantha Thomas):

What inspired the Big is Beautiful Bingo Card were comments on the Pinterest post. I’m sad it’s been taken down, and that I x-ed out of the tab last night before going to bed or I would have gotten screenshots. The comments were — ah, breathtaking is a nice way of putting it? — though there were some great defenders, like Kate.

I Want to Horrify the Fatphobics

It’s almost Memorial Day in New England, USA, the time when us sun-starved mavens of snow crawl out of our log cabins and head to the beaches. There are lots of beaches in New England: great big lakes, rivers, and of course the Atlantic Ocean on which all but two of the six NE states have beaches.

For lots of fat people, or anyone who doesn’t have a so-called bikini body, this can be a stressful time. What kind of swimsuit should I buy? Why in the hell don’t they make swimsuits with longer skirts, is it some kind of rule of swimming that you have a vagina you’re required to show hella thigh? Should I just not bother (again) this year, since I really don’t want to be parading my lumpy, pale self in some skirted, ill-fitting black, navy-blue, or brown swimsuit in front of the hard-bodies and cruel teenagers?

This is doubly ridic for me because I live all of two minutes from Cape Cod. In fact, I live under two miles from the ocean (I only know this because it jacks up the insurance on my house). I love the beach, sitting on it, reading, soaking up sun, then fighting with the subzero surf to get out again, teeth chattering, for more sun-and-book time. My favorite vaca spot when I was ‘thin’ was Hampton Beach.

But since I’ve gained – so for about four years – the number of times I’ve gone to the beach?

Once. Once. I live under two miles from the ocean. The beach-towns of Cape Cod are just a hop-skip down the highway. So what’s the dealio? I’m a big bad fat-fatty acceptance acceptor, aren’t I? I constantly root on other fatties who go to the beach, or pose for pics in swimsuits. I think they look awesome, I think they are awesome. So what the big frickin-frick?

But this season, something changed. I don’t know what, I’m really not sure. But I think I might be going through Stage 1 of fat-beach-goer-acceptance, at long last. Why? Because I found myself wanting to go to the beach — in order to horrify the fatphobics. Yep, to deliver a big pudgy Fuck You to every pair of roving, judgmental eyes.

I know very well this isn’t where I want to be with this, ultimately. Ultimately going to the beach can’t be about the other people at the beach. When I was ‘thin’ I didn’t care about them so much, but I knew I was hot shit, so it was kind of about them as much as it was about my own enjoyment (in that the two impulses often interacted, their perception of my hotness reinforcing my enjoyment or at least putting my mind at ease. Thin privilege, folks!). It shouldn’t be about the other people now, either, but the writer in me sees a golden opportunity to really tap into that hate often elicited by the Public Fat. I think it would be better if I had a friend to go with, but I don’t know any other self-accepting fatties in the area, so I’d have to go it alone. It might be better that way, I think people might be more willing to catcall the lone fatty than fatties in groups.

Right, so this all sounds horrifying and masochistic. But I’ve noticed something else happening over the years I’ve been in fat acceptance: the old insults just don’t really hurt anymore. Some old chestnuts (like cal-in-cal-out) have even reached ‘curiosity’ status — in that, when people utter them, it’s like a fascinating live demonstration of the efficacy of socialization. I think that’s what I’d be going for, here.

Still, it’s kind of scary. Both the going and likely being catcalled, and this power, this anger pushing me to do it.

So, right. This summer, at some point, I’m going to the beach. I’m going to go by myself; and I will record the response to my Public Fatness.