Friday, December 17

Double Double Featurette

In her words, Julie "lives in the sweaty muffin top of the Bible belt.  She and her husband are owned by two cats.  Her "guilty" pleasures include Pepsi, Lamb Vindaloo, and chocolate chip cookies.  At least, they would be if she believed the simple pleasures in life had any business associating with guilt."


Dear Fat Acceptance Movement,

First and foremost, I need to tell you how much I love you.  In the three years we've been together, you've truly brought out the best in me.  Most importantly, you put the sexy woman back in my mirror.  You helped me to understand that the only opinion of my size and my appearance that matters is mine.  You taught me that I can be healthy regardless of my weight or BMI, then showed me what a crock of shit BMI really is.

I don't wanna quit you, FA, but we need to have a talk.  While I recognize that there is no hivemind of FA, there is one recurring issue that occasionally rears its ugly head, so frequently that I wouldn't know that there was no hivemind from the outside looking in.  Someone makes an offhand remark, and THE ALMIGHTY HAND OF PC JESUS reaches through the screen and smacks around the n00bs who screw up.  Just for using the wrong terminology or turn of phrase, or for saying something that falls on the murky gray outline of an -ism, or pretty much any other well-meaning but poorly delivered statement.  I am so sick of seeing people who are new to FA (and the inevitable cultural and sociological awareness that comes along with it in time) made to feel stupid, hateful, or like some sort of -ist just because they said something ill-advised.  Please, by all means, set them straight, but it shouldn't be too much to ask for those who have more knowledge (especially you SRS PROFESSOR types--you know who you are) to just BE NICE when correcting someone.

Don't you look at me in that tone of voice.  Get down off your soapbox about how you're SOOO TIRED of people being OMG UNEDUCATED about social issues.  While you're at it, here's a step ladder and a pocket knife so you can get down off the cross, too.  Not everyone's a Phd.  Some of us are still in high school.  Some of us (gasp!) never finished (or attempted) college.  And that's all equally valid.  Here's the facts:

Most fatties aren't introduced to FA by an understanding, sympathetic friend or family member.  Very few of us, especially the uninitiated, are a part of your clique, and the majority of us have no aspirations to break through the spun-sugar ceiling.  Many of us, myself included, wandered in off the streets, weary and hurting, sweat pooling under the boobs, just looking for a place of comfort, to be amongst "our own".  I got my own fair share of screeds about language and word choice when I was new to FA.  Every single time, the actual message didn't sink in for a few days because it was so rudely delivered, and I was baffled as to why someone would feel the need to be so harsh to someone who had made an honest mistake.  Folks who took the high road and said "Hey, you might want to rethink your word choice here because ________", without fail, received a "Oh wow, I'm sorry, I wasn't aware it could be taken like that."  DONE.  HANDLED.  Everyone ends the exchange on a high note, and we all have milk and cookies.

Everyone comes to FA under different circumstances.  So you came to FA through a women's studies class?  Your best friend showered you in FA links and literature?  You've been an activist for a decade?  Awesome.  Must be nice.  But instead of lacerating the weak-kneed fawns of FA, how about YOU check YOUR privilege before correcting someone.

"Check your privilege."  Good god, I know it needs to be said, but when I hear that phrase in conjuncture with an academic rant of some sort, it strikes me as the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

Because, see, it all plays out like this.

You and your fattie BFF are floating in the deep end of a giant pool.  A gorgeous, sparkling XXL pool filled with glorious fatties.  You've got your luxurious pool floatie and a fancy drink, and you're wearing your brand new bikini, belly rolls be praised!  You're gossiping amongst yourselves, watching the Rubenesque beauties unironically cannonballing from the high dive, and waving to the fatties in the shallow end, t-shirt over their one-piece apology of a swimsuit, motioning for them to come closer, to shed the tent-like tee that's just slowing them down in the water, and maybe one or two of them do.  The door to the locker room creaks open and another fattie walks out, cautiously but undeterred.  She grasps the hand rail in her pudgy fist and dips one foot into the water.  The lifeguard screams "WHAT THE FUCK, BITCH?  YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!  THAT IS NOT THE WAY WE GET IN THE POOL HERE!  WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING, STEPPING INTO THE POOL LIKE THAT!  SHAME!  SHAAAAME!!!"  She stands, mouth gaping, paralyzed for a moment, then runs, leaving her towel and sunglasses behind, back to the safety in the shadows in the locker room.  Homegirl is NEVER coming back to this pool.

Let's be real honest and accept the fact that many who come to FA do so because of the hurts we've suffered in the past.  It gives us a framework for WHY we're fine just as we are, and how to deal with folks who say we must alter our physical selves to be a person of value.  No matter how you come to FA, it's rare that someone does without having been wounded due to their size, shape, or physical traits.  So why beat them up more?  If they're making that sort of mistake, there's a 85% chance they're new to FA, a 10% chance they've been around awhile but just unintentionally ate shoeleather, and MAYBE a 5% chance that they really are a sexist/racist/homophobic asshole.  I'm all for educating people about the weight their words carry and the unintentional harm they may cause, however, we should be able to gently correct each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

FA, I know you're smart and wise as the day is long.  At your best, you're a soft hug from a dear friend who smells like grandma's purse.  You're loving and reassuring, accepting and welcoming, fun and flattering.  And I simply cannot thank you enough for bringing Brenda Jean (and Kae and Alexys, and Nicole, and...) into my life.  That said, at your worst, you're cold and elitist, conceited and self-righteous and dare I say...a bit of a bully.  So cut it out already.  There are enough people in our lives, our families, the media, and the entire world that are out to make us feel less-than for being more-than.  Let's let bygones be bygones and fully embrace ourselves and each other from this day forward.

Let's let compassion be our guide.

Love,
Me

32 comments:

  1. Seriously. I have felt this way so many times.

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  2. Beej? You rocked my world with this! I want this to be read by everyone in FA! Because some of us (ME! Dammit!) dropped out of HS and don't have the academic jargon to be so PC until it is pointed out to me. Then allow me to understand, let it sink in, let me figure it out on my own at the same time and dang! Don't knock a gal down for being ignorant! I think that hurts FA most! I shall be linking to this post (with your permission of course) through my blog because this needs to get out!
    I love your blog, I don't always comment, but I always read! Love you! *big death-fatty hugs*

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  3. Well said and beautifully written too. Fuck that holier-than-thou racket. It's turned me off more blogs and online debates than I can say. I find it utterly exhausting and really quite arrogant to assume there is only one way to view the world as a Fat Acceptance advocate.

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  4. To everyone who commented (or is reading) -- I just want to say that if you reblog or link (you have advance permission and I encourage it) to make sure you credit Julie, your new guest blogger at BT, as the author. Strongly Worded Letters! Only here, folks.

    Sarah, I can sympathize completely. Thanks for asking and for reading <3

    Buttercup, I couldn't agree with you more. At times I've even felt like rejecting some of the values for fear of coming off with that tone because I see so much nitpicking, impatience and arrogance in the message.

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  5. http://community.livejournal.com/racism_101/29935.html
    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument

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  6. Beej & Julie - thanks for posting this!

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  7. This. So, so much this.
    I certainly did not think that anybody would be bullied on fatshionista, and I'm pretty sure most newcomers feel the same way. It's surprising and so hurtful when you say one little thing, that you may have said out of tiredness, because you hadn't thought about how it could be interpreted, and, yeah, maybe because you are misguided in your thinking. If it is a case of misguided thinking, then surely other people's abuse would roll off their backs. They'd think nothing of it. But if it was just an honest mistake, waking up and finding all of this hurtful comments from people who you thought were on your side... yeah, that hurts. it's horrible to see, and yeah, I'm so glad that so many people are bigger than this, but to those who aren't... maybe you do need to think about who the real bully is.
    Fabulous post.

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  8. Here! Here! ::clinks Pepsi can:: :)

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  9. Anonymous: I suppose you meant your links to be some sort of counter-argument? Because there is a difference between:

    A. An -ist who uses the tone argument to justify and defend their -ism because they want to remain an -ist

    and B. Someone who makes a mistake out of ignorance but is willing to learn, and perhaps even gets triggered by being berated for being wrong because they've spent their whole life being berated for being wrong.

    On some blogs, I have seen newbies who make a mistake get attacked from many sides, often in a transparent attempt by the attackers to gain favor with the bloggers. All "Look how I eviscerated that person who dared to use the word 'blip' instead of 'bloop.' Aren't I the good little FA feminist liberal? Can I have a sticker?"

    And there's this sort of ganging up thing, where they talk to each other about the transgressor, this very "mean girl" thing where they're all "How dare this person come in here and flap their ignorant privileged lips when they obviously don't even have a bachelor's degree in Womens' Studies. For shame!"

    The problem is that in any activist movement, there are enemies, so sometimes activists see "enemy" instead of "budding ally who needs some loving correction."

    And yes, privilege plays into it. High school. College. Liberal upbringing. Regular internet access. Spare time to educate oneself. Activist bloggers need to check their own privilege and realize that not everyone has access to these things.

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  10. you. are. wonderful.

    i have felt this so many times for others and myself. thanks for saying it.

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  11. Thank you everyone for all the comments!

    Hustler, I can certainly empathize with your comment. It's frustrating to get a peek at how much the things you've been doing or saying (to yourself AND others) may have not exactly jived with what you want to be for.. all while being on defense. Especially in the beginning, when it's all so confusing (at least it was for me) and a person can be made to feel like every single thing they say is inappropriate, hateful and hangs them on the hook of shame.

    Luna, first of all! I stalked your blog and I'm now following you <3 Second, what a great comment. I really like that you pointed out -- The problem is that in any activist movement, there are enemies, so sometimes activists see "enemy" instead of "budding ally who needs some loving correction." Excellent feedback.

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  12. Do you understand that you aren't just one person with one dodgy comment though. There are many, many, many of you coming up, saying things that are "wrong" or on the borderline of an ism. And it's hard to tell who's going to be as ass about being corrected, and who is actually an ally who needs loving correction.

    Why is the onus on the person being hurt to tell you how you hurt them in a way that doesn't make you feel bad?

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  13. Of course I understand that it isn't just one person with one dodgy comment. Though I think what you're overlooking is the fact that it happens so often, being a bitch about it is practically a sport. So, while I don't think it's anyone's responsibility to inform anyone else in general, if you choose to.. "let's let compassion be our guide."

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  14. Dear Anonymous: Manners are free, use them freely. That was what I took from this, you can correct people, just don't be a dick about it.
    =0)

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  15. Oh, cry more. If you need your feelings to be ~respected~ and ~gently handled~, then you need to grow a thicker skin. Don't blamed the SCARY PC POLICE for your own inability to accept criticism.

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  16. LOL Anon, you slay me.

    Stay classy, boo.

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  17. I really liked this post - especially the analogy of the fatties in the pool.

    I don't really even want to address Anonymous' comments, because it's clear that whoever it is (interesting that they've chosen not to comment as themselves) is not interested in learning from the exchange, but simply expressing their point of view as correct.

    I would like to say that I agree that many people who come to FA come beaten down by the world, and if they don't have a thick skin it's because it has been flayed off them by the shit they put up with out there. I thought that FA was supposed to be a safe space for fatties, and while lambasting them for poor word choices is different to the lambasting they recieve out there in the world, it still is telling them that they're not good enough, which just compounds the problem.

    And after all, doesn't FA need as many brave warriors as it can get? Not every soldier goes into the army knowing how to fire a gun - some people have to be taught. And while yes, I understand that soldiers aren't mollycoddled into learning how to do their job and there could be an argument that treating people this way prepares them for the way the rest of the world will talk to them when they bring up FA, I would hope that we're better than that. That we would teach our newbies with love, not harsh discipline.

    Anyway, I'm sure this isn't going to make a difference to Anonymous' opinion, but I felt like I needed to put it out there.

    Thanks for a great post ladies.

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  18. I've just recently came to blogger and your blog through some others and I think that this post is the most powerful Ive read since Ive been here. As someone new to the whole idea of FA - this is beautiful.
    Im so terrified now of being yelled at by a big ol' scary FA Professor now though lol!

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  19. I probably shouldn't engage with Anonymous any more either, but against my better judgment I just have to point out that the following:

    "Oh, cry more. If you need your feelings to be ~respected~ and ~gently handled~, then you need to grow a thicker skin. Don't blamed the SCARY PC POLICE for your own inability to accept criticism."


    . . . sure does remind me of people who make insensitive, racist, sexist, etc. jokes and then defend themselves by saying "Don't blame me if you can't take a joke! You're just too sensitive. Grow a thicker skin."

    Bit ironic.

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  20. Beej, I gotta say...your followers are amazing. Save one irresistible nugget of snark, I've been silent mostly because, well, I've had my say, and every time some smug Anon wants to trumpet their inalienable right to be rude at all times, someone's pretty much already said what I'm thinking by the time I scrolled down to the comment box! It's really comforting and encouraging to know that I'm not the only one who's felt at times that FA is cutting off its figurative nose to spite its face. Relatability and accessibility are necessary for any movement to survive, let alone thrive.

    I think that some of us who've been around awhile tend to forget that FA asks us to accept a lot of seemingly-radical ideas as truth from the onset. We do nothing for FA by demanding perfect understanding and compliance from day one. As Notblueatall said, manners are free. Not once did I say we need to let folks say whatever they want and that's a-ok. I'm really amused that the Anon commenters who take issue with basic kindness and respect decided to post anonymously. How courageous.

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  21. I'm with you 100% on this, and I'm one of those people whose been involved in FA for a long time; one of the computer geeks that joined the movement in the 1990s, actually. When all the social justice people piled on during the last 10 years, I learned a lot from them - and yet I still find the stuff you touch on here annoying as hell.

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  22. Isn't anything worth doing a challenge that takes time and strength tho? It's too bad that fragile feelings get hurt by hearing responses, but if you like learning, growth and debate, then you have to sort of suck it up and accept your ignorance hazings, dontcha think?

    Demands for politeness and manners always get in the way of any kind of interesting, passionate or honest interaction. I always think those who make fastidious communication rules to protect their own egos are the real oppressors, not the ones who respond with honest reactions and opinions and call people out and make them think. How are your feelings of offendedness over being called out really any different than the people who are offended by what you may have said in ignorance? (Btw I'm a different anon)

    That said, I totally agree about some of the bullies and on Fats. Everyone knows who they are, and all eyes do roll in unison.

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  23. Great post. I cane to FA because I hated my body and felt there had to be a better way. I also have an advanced degree and have taken womens studies course and was surprised to learn how political some of the blogs were. I think there is a bit of academic snobbery occurring and it is obvious that someone who is fat but not aware of the academic style might not have a writing style that fits the mold.

    I am genuinely curious as to the place, if any, for a fat woman who is not political or conservative. Where does she stand? How liberal do we have to be? I would think it would be best for a conservative or non-political woman to stick to the bolgs that are about healing and support rather than the ones that are overtly political. I would hope she could get at least a bit of help and healing here.

    I think ideas can be debated and people can be taught without snark and in a spirit of helpfulness. I have never been one to demand purism at the expense of alienating well meaning people who will help the movement. To me, purism is ultimately self-defeating because it does not promote necessary change or growth.

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  24. THe above anonymous is JennyRose. I just couldn't seem to get my google account not to show my real name. JennyRose is my nom d'net.

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  25. Thank you so much for this post. If I had a dollar for every time I have been slapped down by a very hostile and vocal person (and they are only a tiny few amongst many wonderful FA activists), let's just say I'd have plenty of dollars. I think that it's only because I'm bolshie that I'm still here.

    Sure, I've said a lot of stupid, insensitive things, but only because I didn't know any different. However in the early days, I was ASTONISHED by the stomping on from a great height that I got from a little core group of what I consider mean girls. I thought I was coming to FA to get out of that, but it seems that mean girls permeate everywhere.

    But thanks to my bolshie nature and a whole lot of very wonderful writers who explained concepts without being patronising or bullying, I kept going. I've been learning more and more. My thinking is changing and evolving. I'm trying very hard to be what I want to see.

    It is hard work though, I know. We all get sick of explaining the same things over and over. We all get burnt by the person we try to help see a different perspective who brings in their buddies and resorts to group ad hominem attacks. It's a fine line to tread, I guess.

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  26. that was just WONDERFUL. i myself have been verbally slapped by some of these folks, and i won't say where...i'm so glad someone finally said it. wonderful! xx

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  28. This post is fantastic.

    You've just summed up my biggest problem with the FA community and the reason I'm no longer a member of a certain LJ community.

    If you aren't as educated as some, aren't as far along in your FA journey, don't understand something, word something badly, there is a shit storm to be dealt with. There seems to be no understanding for faux pas and misunderstandings. No sense of community or empathy.

    I know I've said things, particularly when I just started to learn about FA, that were misguided or just plain stupid. But the extremely strong reaction I got from saying these things only made me feel alienated, misunderstood and angry. Not exactly conducive to intellectual growth.

    http://bargainfatshionista.blogspot.com

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  29. This was a really great post! And thank you for reminding me that I should stand up for people who are attacked like this, I unfortunately needed the reminder.

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