Fat Liberation Is Totally Queer

by Anna Mollow

Last Wednesday, my partner and I woke up to wonderful news: DOMA and Prop 8 are defeated! After our wedding this summer, we will be legally married. It’s a time for celebration, and for inspiration.

What work still needs to be done? There are many answers, but here’s one: Fat liberation.

Social equality for all people, regardless of size, must become a goal of the queer movement.

I am a thin woman, and my partner is fat. In the seven years I’ve loved her, I’ve been struck by a contrast: While many on the left have fought for equality for LGBTQ people, fat people are experiencing more stigmatization. This trend is puzzling, because anti-fat and anti-queer oppression are so similar. Both fat folks and queer folks face violence, lack adequate protection against employment discrimination, and are often disparaged for “choosing” an “unhealthy lifestyle.”

Yes, fat people can get married, but many thin people would not consider dating, let alone loving and marrying, someone who is fat.

In my article “Sized Up: Why Fat is a Queer and Feminist Issue” for the Micro/Macro issue of Bitch, I invite feminists and queers to become allied of fat people. Many readers vehemently opposed this idea. “Sized Up” received over two hundred comments on Bitch’s website and on Facebook; the content of many of them made it clear that fat hate is still accepted in some feminist spaces.

One commenter, who described herself as a “formerly fat, now fit, lesbian,” said she was “disgusted” by “the false parallels drawn between the real systemic oppression of LGBT people… and not being able to fit your fat ass into an airplane seat.” Another wrote: “Oh, hell no, I am not living my life in the closet so [you] can eat more Doritos and whine about oppression…Put down the goddamn McDonald’s and read a fucking book.”

“Read a book” is exactly what I’d hoped that readers of my article might be willing to do. Several commenters expressed outrage at my comparison between fatphobia and homophobia—because, they insisted, fatness is “unhealthy” and “a choice.” But the science behind the medicalization of fatness is sketchy. Anyone who doubts this should check out Paul Campos’s The Diet Myth and Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin. These books provide comprehensive critical analyses of the medical literature on body size and health (with dozens of footnotes to peer-reviewed studies), and they demonstrate that what most Americans think they know about “the obesity epidemic” is diet-industry-funded propaganda. Many other excellent books—such as Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size, Glenn Gaesser’s Big Fat Lies, and Laura Fraser’s Losing It—also debunk the myth of an “obesity crisis.”

Of course, I don’t expect that many people who espouse anti-fat views will actually read these books. As fat activist Marilyn Wann aptly observes in her comment on the article, anti-fat messages are about “hate, not health.” For example, one commenter wrote, “Being fat is a choice and can and should be shamed.” What makes some feminists and queers, who have been subjected to so much oppression ourselves, willing to shame others on account of their perceived “lifestyle choices”? Perhaps part of the explanation is that, as women, we have been taught that our worth lies in being “attractive,” and that “attractive” must always mean prettier—or thinner—than some other woman.

As queers, we’ve long been told there’s something wrong and disgusting about who we are; fatphobia may seem to save us from that pain by giving us a way to say that someone else is those things. But at what cost? Do we want a feminist queer movement that is lean, mean, and free of fat folks? Or do we want a movement for everyone?

Even people who earnestly want to “help” fat people often betray unexamined prejudice. For example, in a recent article in The Atlantic, David H. Freedman proposes that the “less affluent masses” of “junk-food-eating obese” may have “little cultural bias against overindulging in food, or putting on excess pounds.” To gain insight into this phenomenon, he drives to East L.A., where he observes “overweight” Latino/a children walking home from school “with a slow, waddling gait.” The confluence of racism, classism, and fatphobia here should make us hesitate before we define “obesity” as a problem in need of a solution.

While most liberals assume that poverty causes “obesity,” the converse is actually true: Widespread discrimination in employment, education, housing, and marriage places fat people at greater risk of being poor. Many employers refuse to hire fat people, believing they are lazy or likely to be too sick to show up for work. This was former White House doctor Connie Mariano’s rationale for asserting that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was too fat to be president. “I’m worried he may have a heart attack,” she said. As a physician, Mariano probably knows that cigarettes pose much greater health dangers than fatness—so why not urge Barack Obama to resign from the White House because he smokes?

Recognizing that much BMI “science” is bogus, the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health recommended that larger-than-average body size not be designated a disease. But the AMA ignored this advice from its own committee; recently, it declared “obesity” a disease, paving the way for big profits for diet drug companies and bariatric surgeons. While the AMA claims that naming “obesity” a disease will reduce the stigmatization of fat people, Wann points out in a recent blog post that the medicalization of weight diversity has long been used to justify the practice of blaming fat people for all manner of social ills.

One example of such scapegoating is a letter to the editor of Bitch, by Cristina Richie, who claims to be “appalled” that my article “endorsed the ecologically reckless notion that obesity is a morally neutral state of being.” According to Richie, fat people’s “overconsumption” of food is a major contributor to global warming. Never mind that fat people do not necessarily consume more calories than thin people; for example, I eat almost twice as much of the exact same (local, organic, sustainably grown) food as my partner. If we intend to penalize people for eating “too much,” then we should also target professional athletes (whose caloric consumption is huge) and pregnant women (whose offspring will definitely increase our carbon footprint).

Fat hate is not just mean words on a computer screen. As a commenter with the tag “Seriously, ya’ll” writes:

I don’t get hired because of my body. I see the faces fall when the committee that had been thrilled by the resume and phone interviews and work samples meets my body. I have friends who have been attacked because of their bodies and many who were abused growing up because the monster in charge was ashamed of their bodies. Bullying fat kids is still, apparently, funny, because who gives a fuck about a fat fuck.

All this is justified, fatphobes insist, because “being fat is a choice.” In their view, the reason diets don’t work is that fat people lack the discipline to implement a “total lifestyle change.” Some confusion is understandable. Most people can exert some control over how much they weigh. For example, a thin person may decide to reduce her fat intake (a choice that will probably make her hungry, grumpy, and less healthy), and her weight may drop from 130 to 110. A fat person may do the same thing (and experience the same hunger and health risk), and her weight may fall from 280 to 260. While the thin woman will likely receive compliments for being “pretty” and “petite,” the fat woman will still be called “obese.”

Well then, the anti-fat folks say, just try harder: move more; eat less. But study after study shows that maintaining a permanent weight loss of more than twenty to thirty pounds is virtually impossible, and that fat people who attempt this have worse health outcomes than those who accept their size. Yes, some people do manage to lose 100 pounds or more, but this weight is nearly always regained within five years. There is a physiological reason for this: If your weight falls too far below your genetically determined “set point,” your body fights back, producing hormones that make you extremely hungry, and your metabolism slows dramatically.

“Being fat is a choice, and being gay is not,” respondents to my article maintained. Being fat is not a choice, but being fatphobic is—and it’s a choice I’m so glad I did not make when I began falling in love with my partner many years ago. Even if fatness were a choice, many fat people love their bodies and would not want to change them.

This week, the Supreme Court made it clear that “skim milk” marriages will not do. Neither will fat-free, or fatphobic, feminist and queer movements. After all, isn’t fat liberation what feminism and queerness are all about: loving ourselves and each other without regard for what mainstream culture defines as “normal,” “healthy,” or “beautiful?” If I had chosen not to challenge the anti-fat prejudices that I, like everyone in our culture, had been taught—if I had failed to see how gorgeous and sexy fat women can be—I would have missed out on the love of my life. Fat liberation is totally queer, and embracing this cause must be one of our movement’s next steps.

The author thanks Jane Arlene Herman, Jennifer Nicole Herman, Merri Lisa Johnson, Irwin Keller, and Alicia Michelle LeCompte for their love, support, and editorial advice.


 

Originally published on BitchMagazine.org. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

Anna Mollow’s essays on queerness, feminism, fat politics, disability, and chronic illness have appeared or are forthcoming in Bitch, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Social Text Online, The Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, and the Disability Studies Reader. She is the coeditor, with Robert McRuer, of Sex and Disability (Duke UP, 2012). Anna is a Ph.D. candidate in English at U.C. Berkeley, where she is the recipient of the Andrew Vincent White and Florence Wales White Scholarship.

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119 Comments

  1. Thumb up 23

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    Thank you so much for this post! It’s incredibly well-written and logical, much needed in the fight against fatphobia!

    I always wonder, the people who say “it’s a choice! they deserve to be shamed!” with such vitriol.. especially in the queer community.. how do they not see the parallels? Even if it was a choice (which it isn’t as you explained), who cares? Why do you fat haters care?? Global warming? lol, no. Tax dollars? sorry. These are straw man arguments. Thin people get heart disease too. Athletic people are in need of medical care a lot for pushing their bodies to the limit. But are they excused because their bodies meet the societal norms of attractiveness? Hmmm… sounds like bigotry to me.

    You don’t like fat bodies? Look away. There, all better.

  2. Thumb up 34

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    that rhetoric of deserving shame always gets to me more than most other forms of fat stigma. i can’t understand that language, i can’t understand meeting a person–even one who, for some reason, i find morally repugnant–and deciding that it’s my job to shame them into being someone i find more appealing. i am uncomfortable comparing forms of oppression the way this article does, just because homophobia and fatphobia look so different and happen in such different, and because as a fat queer woman my queerness is inextricably linked to my fatness as it is linked to my being a woman of color and none of those are battles i’m fighting one at a time. still, it always surprises me when i hear the language of shame used by people who have been shamed for things like being queer. regardless of whether “choice” is involved, what is the purpose of shame? what is the actual end result? and why in the world do people assume that fat people don’t know they’re fat?

    also: man, if i hear one more instance of fat people “waddling” i am going to light something on fire

  3. Thumb up 17

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    This article is right on. I think a lot of fatphobia stems from a hatred of one’s own body – whether the fatphobic person is thin, fat, or in-between. I agree that fat liberation should absolutely be embraced by queer and feminist communities.

    It drives me crazy when people make judgments about a fat person’s lifestyle or eating habits. My girlfriend is larger than I am, but she runs long distances every day and eats healthfully. (I, on the other hand, rarely work out. She definitely has a healthier heart and stronger muscles than I do.) She also has Graves’ Disease, and therefore does not have a functioning thyroid. It bothers me when people make assumptions about a person’s health based on weight, when they have no idea what a person has been through healthwise.

  4. Thumb up 17

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    The problem with fat liberation trying to portray fatphobia / fatshaming as a queer issue is that rather than draw attention to the fact that queer women are a lot more likely to be “overweight” – and thus that we as a community suffer disproportionately from the effects of fatshaming – they choose to leave out queer fat people from the conversation entirely, and instead (more or less) claim that straight fat people experience homophobia. Which makes a lot of people extremely hostile because telling an oppressed group that their oppressors suffer from [their] oppression just as much as they do will always piss people off.

    Especially when you started comparing fat [straight] people with queer HIV positive ones, I started cringing so much – because, no, frankly there is nothing comparable to the stigma of HIV / AIDS, especially for queer people – our communities lost almost a whole generation to the AIDS epidemic and it sprawled all these horrible laws criminalizing HIV positive folk – and to a lesser extent queer people generally. Like, did you know that in several countries – and in several US states – it is STILL illegal to spit if you’re HIV positive? HIV can’t EVEN be transmitted through saliva… knowing that, how can you compare it with “obesity epidemic” nonsense? or compare Let’s Move! with child conversion therapy? ugh

    • Thumb up 12

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      This is a really sensitive subject and I want to let you know that I might not get it right, but I feel really strongly about your second paragraph and I hope I can respond without sounding like I disrespect your point of view.

      My experience as a queer death fat woman (I have a BMI of 47) is that queer fat people are well-represented and respected in the fat liberation movement. Again, this is just my experience and I understand it’s not yours. But I feel at home in the fat liberation movement and honestly have never felt that a straight person is speaking over me. It’s also hard to live as a very fat woman who deals with stigma every single day and struggle with feeling dismissed by your comment because it can’t be compared to the stigma of HIV/AIDs as a queer person—I’m trying to figure out if that was your intent or if I’m just hyper sensitive, because admittedly, I definitely am sensitive about it.

      Part of it is that I don’t understand the backlash from the author’s statement in the original article: “Yet like queer people living with hiv or aids, fat people are stigmatized for a condition that is imagined to be their fault.” My read on that statement wasn’t that she was saying that the two groups of people are stigmatized the same way or to the same degree. I do believe that every experience is different and that each group of stigmatized people deserves the respect to speak for their themselves but I don’t believe the author was trying to speak to the experience of living with HIV/AIDS.

      HOWEVER, stigmatizing people for a condition that is imagined to be their fault is bullshit, and I share the author’s frustration that many people who consider themselves liberal and very compassionate people and would never say “people living with HIV/AIDS deserve to be stigmatized because their lifestyle means they were asking for it” have no problem speaking up on that Bitch article to say something like “Maybe you could stop using excuses and just lose the Weight, because it is nobody’s fault but your own.” (And that’s one of the least insulting comments on that article!)

      Nowhere in the article did I see the author try to say that fat hatred compares with laws enacted against people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s not the same. But what is the same is a community rising up to say: let’s stop stigmatizing people because “they CHOOSE to live this lifestyle.” Again, I’m not going to speak to the HIV/AIDS community but I will speak to the fat community in saying that I hear time and time again that my fat is a choice. Yeah, the “Let’s Move” campaign is hurtful, even if it doesn’t reach the level of hatred of child conversion therapy. There’s room in the queer community to recognize all the ways that people are discriminated against.

      • Thumb up 7

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        I don’t know how to explain this better? It’s enraging when someone says, “but you wouldn’t do this to someone who’s HIV positive!! you only do this (oppressive thing) to fat people!! their oppression must be worst than that of HIV positive people!!! no? everything “progressives” do to fat people, they’ve already done to HIV positive folk except about 10 worse.

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          “It’s enraging when someone says, “but you wouldn’t do this to someone who’s HIV positive!! you only do this (oppressive thing) to fat people!! their oppression must be worst than that of HIV positive people!!!”

          I don’t agree with you on ‘fatness isn’t a queer issue’, but agreed with this, wholeheartedly. There are waaaaaaaay too many (white, usually cis, often middle-class) fat activists who pull this ‘it’s the only oppression left!!!1′ bs, and this article really does reek of it despite many important points.

          Really, anyone who ever pulls the “this is outrageous! It’d never happen to (insert marginalized group they’re not part of)” – usually us white people making a wholly wrong and racist comparison to racism – is being horribly appropriative, dismissing and demeaning, or outright implying (other group) isn’t oppressed at all any more or their concerns aren’t important.

          Don’t.

    • Thumb up 8

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      This article and “Sized Up” were both pretty illuminating and hard-hitting for me. Illuminating because while I’m against both fatphobia and homophobia, I’ve never really considered the ways they intersect. Hard-hitting because I glimpsed some of my own thoughts and actions in both articles. When you wrote, in “Sized Up,” about being afraid of getting “too fat,” I instantly recognized my own mindset; I’m afraid of gaining weight because I don’t want to be a stereotypical “fat lesbian.” I would never outwardly judge another queer woman for her weight, and yet I’m still passing judgement, in a way, through my self-judgement. So yeah, a pretty powerful realization.

      I do think you presented fatness and queerness as more parallel than they actually are. I’m not fat (or perceived as fat, at least) so I don’t know a lot about the hardship fat people face day-to-day, but even if it’s equal to the hardship of being queer, it’s not of the same nature. A straight fat woman may be turned down for a job by a fatphobic employer; a thin queer woman may be hired by the same employer (if she’s lucky), but be assaulted walking home. And, of course, there’s the issue of intersectionality; a fat queer woman might be turned down for the job AND assaulted for being queer. This article comes off sometimes as lumping fat people in one group and queer people in another; though I’m sure that’s accidental, given that “Sized Up” covers that issue a lot and that you yourself are the partner of a fat queer person.

      Anyway, a really interesting article, even if I don’t completely agree with the comparison. Best wishes to you and your partner.

    • Thumb up 7

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      I agree. Analogies are almost inherently false, and I witness people using them far too much in their consciousness-raising efforts. It’s a bummer that well intentioned people who otherwise have good/needed stuff to say don’t break that habit.

      I do, however, urge folks to think harder about how fatness intersects with queerness, poverty, race, ability. You’re remiss if you deny that fat children and adults are targets of assault and fatal medical neglect. Point blank.

      • Thumb up 2

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        I almost entirely disagree with that first paragraph. I think analogies (and metaphors/similes) are powerful and invaluable tools in helping people to empathize or understand situations where they otherwise wouldn’t. I do, however, think there are better and not-so-good ways to use them, and also that they get misunderstood a lot.

        A good analogy says, “potatoes are like carrots in that they both grow underground.” It does not say, “potatoes are equivalent to carrots in all important respects”, because then it wouldn’t be an analogy- it’d be an equivalence. It also doesn’t necessarily imply a solution or action- we can’t extend that analogy to “…so you can plant potatoes anywhere where you can plant carrots” without more investigation into the nature of potatoes and carrots.

        The issue of usage comes 1) when people aren’t precise enough about what they’re comparing: they simply say “potatoes are like carrots” and assume everyone knows what they mean, and 2) when they use them incorrectly (as in “potatoes are like carrots in that they’re both orange”) or imply a solution/action that doesn’t directly follow from the analogous trait (as example above).

        All these issues sound obvious with potatoes and carrots, but look around and you’ll see that they’re a little more insidious when applied to more complicated things. They also mean that good analogies say a lot less than people try to make or interpret them as saying. It’s the logical steps that come afterwards- the, “so what do we do about this?” parts- that are the real meat of the argument.

        • Thumb up 3

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          I get what you’re trying to say, but I’m still not on board. It’s fine when talking about potatoes and carrots, but when discussing other people it’s just a quick way to step on a lot of toes. People are not carrots and potatoes, get me? White gay activists invoking the black civil rights movement, for example, is pretty disrespectful no matter how specifically defined the analogy. It’s a false equivalence and it dregs up pain for no good reason.

          The notable exception to this, I think, is when someone is coming out of a place of marginalization that I benefit from or somehow help to perpetuate. At that point, I do need to admit that it’s not my territory and accept how others speak about their issues.

          SO, I think the honestly empathetic thing (and what will show others that I am not lackadaisical) as a speaker or individual who critically engages systems of oppression, is to just not go there.

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          People are, indeed, about 20947 times more complicated than potatoes and carrots, and people’s social structures about 3875 times more complicated than people themselves (these are clearly very scientifically-based numbers :) ). This is why analogies about people’s social structures are 20947×3875 times more complicated and difficult to correctly execute or interpret than analogies about potatoes and carrots. This may mean that analogies are a tool that, when applied to people’s social structures, regularly cause more trouble than they solve, in which case that may not be a useful place for them; I suspect that the truth is something close to this. (If the purpose of a given analogy is to get people to empathize and understand a situation, but instead it almost always makes them angry even when executed perfectly, which it usually isn’t, that’s pretty counter-productive.) But the difficulties in applying analogies to complex human social structures absolutely positively does not mean that analogies are inherently false.

    • Thumb up 9

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      Sexism is a queer issue.
      Racism is a queer issue.
      Transphobia is a queer issue.
      Poverty is a queer issue.

      Are you equally annoyed by these statements? Because they are pieces of rhetoric that I hear within our community all the time, rhetoric that most consider valid and valuable. They serve to acknowledge both that all oppressions intersect and that they are equally as oppressive and important as queer oppression on their own. I would suggest that if someone has a problem with the statement “Fatphobia is a queer issue,” but they don’t have a problem with those statements, they are holding onto the view that fatphobia is not as important or impactful simply because they want to, because internalized fatphobia predisposes them to view it this way. I think changing this message to appease the masses essentially undermines the issue and is simply pandering to fatphobic voices so they might find us acceptable. I am tired of trying to be acceptable by hiding my voice and my body.

      And if you don’t think that fatphobia is that important of an issue… then that’s a topic I can’t even begin to cover.

      • Thumb up 9

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        I don’t think you understand what intersectionality means? it doesn’t mean treating oppressions like they’re all exactly the same – on the contrary, it means paying attention to people facing multiple oppressions – who are erased by the “fatphobia is like homophobia but for straight people” rhetoric. We (at least me?) talk about the ways in which racism, poverty and other oppressions are “queer issues” by talking about how they disproportionately affect queer people? We don’t say racism is straight people [of colour]‘s homophobia? These comparisons feel both inappropriate and ineffective. I obviously care about the oppressions faced by straight people – but I don’t care about something as a “queet issue” unless it affects queers (and fatshaming /does/ affect queer people, this article just fails to mention it – which is what I take issue with).

  5. Thumb up 15

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    I love this article, thank you for writing it; and it strikes me that queer fat-shaming using the language of “choice” and “lifestyle” is the dark side of the “born this way” narrative about sexuality. Perhaps that’s why fat-shaming is on the increase; although i think it’s also about some queer people feeling like they’re finally making it into respectability, that middle-class dream, and the stigma of fatness, which is deeply bound up with ideas about class, threatens that respectability.

  6. Thumb up 14

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    I want to thank you for writing this. I have not always been as big as I am. But a lot of people think that being fat is a choice. That I can’t control myself. That I’m lazy or I just don’t know how to stay away from fast food. What they don’t need to know, however, is in some respect, they’re right. I know why I can’t keep the weight off, I know why I can’t control myself. It’s all in my head. I eat because I’m sad, I’m sad because I eat. Sometimes I do it and I don’t even notice it. What makes me angry about people who judge us like that, they don’t even get the time to get to know whats under the fat. Maybe if I had just one more supportive friend, I could go to the gym more often. Maybe if I had another supportive friend, they would be there to replace that cookie with a carrot stick.

    Yay for all the lezzies that are out there and now thin after a lifetime of fat. Can you help me do it to? No? You would rather poke fun at my size 24, and talk down to me about how I have no respect for my body, than help me to overcome my demons like you have done. Well, ok then. Thanks a lot for your help.

    This article, is amazing to me. It gives me hope, and reminds me that I am not the only person out there that this hurts. We need more respect for each other. Articles like this, pave the way. Please keep up the great work. I’m behind you.

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      Are we the same person? because this comment reads like my life. Food is some sort of crazy emotional daemon as well as basic sustenance. I don’t know how to wrestle with it in the way that I would like to. What hurts me the most is that my fat keeps me form being healthy because of shame and because of self loathing. At this point I am trying to find a way to dismantle that part and focus on just moving my body and living in it instead of avoiding it.

  7. Thumb up 27

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    I do think fat shaming/acceptance is an important part of the feminist movement, but I hesitate at embracing this comparison of fat people to queer people. My first issue with this is when you start enumerating oppressions and go straight to “yes, fat people can get married, but many people would not consider dating a fat person”. Being dateless is not oppression! The only other people who think it is are MRAs an I think we can all agree that they are as far from both feminists and queer people as possible. I feel like this must be what it’s like when black people get upset if someone says that gay is the new black. Yes, intersectionality and all that good stuff, but at the end of the day they are not literally the same issue and I think trying to frame it this way is shooting yourself in the foot.

    • Thumb up 3

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      “I feel like this must be what it’s like when black people get upset if someone says that gay is the new black.”

      I agree with the point you were trying to make, but you literally just perpetuated the same thing you were criticizing.

      Fellow white queers, if it ever seems like something we’re experiencing could be explained by an analogy to racism? JUST DON’T.

  8. Thumb up 53

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    Okay, but couldn’t we have gotten an actual fat person to write about this stuff? I feel like she thinks she’s doing a service to fat people by loving one of them. And also, as a fat person, all I’m getting from this article is, “Most everyone hates you, you probably will never date a thinner person, and even if you lose weight, you’ll never keep it off, BUT I LOVE A FAT PERSON AREN’T THEY LUCKY?” I appreciate seeing something like this on the site, but I’m not really impressed with the way it’s come about. I feel like an article about fat liberation being queer should come from a totally pissed off fat queer person.

    Also, I don’t think this touches enough on just how fucking classist most arguments against fat people are. I would absolutely love to put as much effort as I possibly could into losing weight, but I have a ton of obstacles because actually decent food, like produce, is expensive as fuck, and joining a gym is expensive, and I work night shift in a factory so I have very little time outside of sleeping and working to even consider anything else. I don’t know, maybe if I lived next to a Whole Foods and only worked 8 hour day shifts and had the money to buy organic food and produce and join the YMCA, I’d be a much healthier person too, but alas, I have none of these things.

    I also have struggled with an overeating disorder for a long time, and I think I used my fatness as a way to cope with my sexuality growing up (and probably still now) in a lot of ways. For example, it was always easy to be “the fat girl” who didn’t get dates with boys instead of the “gay girl” who didn’t want dates with boys. I revel in the fact that I don’t get hit on by men in bars, and that my mother doesn’t nag me or ask suspicious questions about why I don’t have a boyfriend, because she, like apparently everyone else, just seems to assume that no one will love me until I’m thin.

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      Also, people always respond to articles/opinions about fat acceptance with “But it’s unhealthy!” as if I didn’t already know that. I know that a lot of fat people are healthy, and at one point I was one of them (I’ve always been chunky, but I used to play sports and could exercise alongside my very thin and textbook “healthy looking” friends with no problem, I cooked great food and was a vegetarian for several years) so it’s not impossible. A lot of us are unhealthy, too. I think we all know that. You’re not doing me a favor by saying, “Um, excuse me, did you know being fat is unhealthy?” Yeah, hello, I hear it almost every day. At my first job I got paid $.50 less on the dollar than every other one of my co-workers, even though we had the same jobs and were hired on at the same time, because my boss was an ex-Marine and legitimately thought I couldn’t keep up. But I did, and we had productivity records to prove that. So yeah, the idea that fat CAN be unhealthy and the truth that almost every thin person who meets me sees me as some obese monster who has no self-control has completely taken up a home in my head. I KNOW IT. You don’t have to teach me how to hate myself anymore, and you don’t have to help me do it. I’m doing a fine job of it on my own. Ultimately, the idea that fat = unhealthy, while not necessarily always untrue, is, a.) potentially harmful to perpetuate that stereotype being true 100% of the time, b.) just an excuse people use to fat shame under the guise of being “nice and concerned, c.) I ALREADY KNOW IT I HEAR IT EVERY DAY DO YOU THINK YOU’RE TELLING ME SOMETHING GODDAMN NEW?!

    • Thumb up 11

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      Agreed, this would be an amazing start to that article.

      I’d personally like to see more coverage anywhere that addresses the link between sexuality and eating disorders. NEDA tried to touch on it in one webinar during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but limited it to really one theory – the “shame of knowing you’re gay => eating disorder”, which isn’t the case for most people I know (including myself). For me, recovery from bulimia was an enormous part of finally figuring out my sexuality and coming out – I realized I liked girls and started coming out as bi in my last time in treatment, and came out as gay about a year after finally stopping symptom use. Talking to women years after I was in treatment with them, I’m astounded by the number who turned out gay. Eating disorders are a damn good way to stay closeted.

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        Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with control. Obviously with an over-eating disorder, I LOOKED like I was losing control (being fat = no self-control), but I still felt that I had control over how I looked and in that way, the type of attention I was getting from other people. By living in a notoriously unsexualized type of body, I was taking sex and orientation, something that completely scared the shit out of me in middle and high school and beyond, out of the equation. And I’ve also always always always used eating as a way to self-medicate my depression, but that’s kind of another story. As for bingeing and/or purging eating disorders, the little I know from having friends who’ve dealt with them is that it gives them a sense of control over a life that maybe they feel they don’t have much control over. And maybe being unable to come out or being unable to come to terms with a person’s sexuality leaves them wanting to control some other aspect of their life. Also, I think there’s probably a good portion of people who are scared of falling into some “lesbian” stereotype of being fat and don’t want to be “othered” any further than their sexuality. I’ve seen a lot of gay men who buy into body hatred as well, because they feel that there’s some thin, well-muscled standard they have to meet. I don’t know. I think for a community that rails against stereotypes and wants acceptance everywhere, the gay community at large can have some serious body image issues.

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        “I’d personally like to see more coverage anywhere that addresses the link between sexuality and eating disorders.”

        This is something I’m very interested in. I think for a lot of queer people with eating disorders, their sexuality tends to be tied into it. I know mine was. I knew I was gay from a young age but for a long time I just ignored it or tried to tell myself I’m just a bit bi or something. Then I couldn’t ignore it any more and I was so afraid of being “the lesbian” that I thought I needed to make up for it by being as un-stereotypically lesbian as possible and to me that meant being “thin” and “delicate.” If you read Portia De Rossi’s book “Unbearable Lightness,” which is about her struggle with anorexia, her sexuality is brought up a lot. What’s interesting is that, when Portia was recovering she became overweight for a while and it was also during that time that she met Ellen, and she states “My two biggest fears, being fat and being gay, led to my greatest joy.” Successful recovery from an eating disorder definitely requires self acceptance, facing your fears and unconditional love of who you are.

        Sorry if that was a bit off topic.

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          I totally agree that more research needs to be done on the link between ED and non-normative sexualities. I think for me, in addition to the comfort I found in controlling/restricting what I ate, there is/was a sense that the thinner I was, the less femenine I looked. I’m not masculine of center at all, but the idea of having hips/breasts did not mesh well with the way I wanted to gender-present and that was also tied to my slow acceptance of my sexuality. Obviously not all l/b/t women reject traditional standards of female beauty/acceptable female bodies, but for me the desire to not appear excessively “femenine” was directly related to my identity as a lesbian, and I found that in long distance running I could pursue/attain a physical form that was idealized in women’s running (rail thin, no breasts/hips) but far from the “typical” ideal female body. I don’t know if that makes sense. I need to think about this more because I have a lot of feelings about the ways that certain sports permit athletes (in particular queer athletes) to have non-gender normative bodies.

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          Yes, I have read Unbearable Lightness, LOVED it. I’d like to read it again, but I lent it to my mom :).

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          Also, Rebecca: re: conforming to the “typical ideal female body” – I think this goes both ways. I do present as high femme, and tend to be attracted to women who fall under mainstream beauty standards (as well as a fair amount of other presentations). Having an eating disorder, this made it incredibly easy to write off being completely into, staring at and obsessed with other women’s bodies as “oh, I just want to look like her” and not the “oh damn, I want to be on her” that it really was. The be/do conundrum times 1000. The fact that my idea of what I wanted to look like, mainstream feminine beauty standards, and the appearance of women I’d eventually realize I was attracted to all lined up made it so much more difficult to figure out sexuality – I just assumed all girls looked at other women like I did!

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      So, when are you going to finish the amazing article you just started writing? :P But seriously, I would love to see a response from a fat queer person to this as well, especially because I think that there are many reasons why people are fat and fat means different things to many different people.

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    Yay!! Thanks for writing this. I <3 hearing feminists and queer people talk about fat liberation!

    It is such bullshit when someone claims that your way of existing in the world is unacceptable.

    Some fat people eat healthily and exercise and are fat anyways. Some fat people do not. And you know what? It's not anyone else's business whether someone is a "good fatty" or not. Plenty of people of all sizes make decisions that affect their health in negative ways, but fat people are singled out for extra scrutiny and seen as having less of a right to their own bodily autonomy.

    The reason that happens is because too many people have a visceral disgust for fatness. You see this in internet comments whenever fat activism gets brought up in a non fat-positive space. People *always* cloak it with, "but it's about health!" statements, but the truth is, there's no reason you have a say in fat people's health any more than anyone else's health, and thinking you do means you're viewing fat people as something less than fully human.

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    I hear what some of you are saying about being uncomfortable with the comparison of fat people to queer people, but my interpretation of the author’s point is that fatness and fatphobia are inherently queer and feminist issues. Just like being a person of color is not the same as being a queer person, but racism is inherently linked to homophobia and sexism. I personally see a lot of the links between queerness and fatness – the “choice” issue, the false concern about “health” and happiness, but you don’t have to think they’re the same to know that these identities are both feminist issues.

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    I just don’t understand how even if being fat IS a choice, we have the right to be jackasses to people about it. I’m Jewish, and I definitely choose to be so, but no one’s arguing that someone can treat me like shit because of it. I mean come now.

    I’m about a size 12/14, so I’m not fat, but not thin, and I can tell you that people are wayyyyy awful when I’m dating a fat girl versus a thin one. It’s irritating as hell that people think you can just treat someone like shit over a few pounds.

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    Thank you for opening up the dialogue on Autostraddle about fatness. As a fat girl, I have gotten a lot of sh!t about being fat throughout my life from just about everyone – parents, kids at school, doctors, siblings, friends, girls (in the dating sense). When I go to the doctor for my annual physical, I am repeatedly “diagnosed” as “obese”. Yes, I’m fat. I’m totally aware of it. Yes, I could probably eat a little better and work out a little more, but I’m more active than many thin people. The fact that I’m fat is nobody’s business but mine.

    My biggest issue in my own fat acceptance is dating. I’m on OkCupid, like the rest of the world, and there are a few questions about dating a fat person, and over half the time, girls say that they’re not interested in dating a fat person. Fine, you do you, but it gets to the point that fat people are so shamed for being ugly/unhealthy/etc that I can’t even finish my sentence. When I’m perusing OKC, I will actually search for that question first to see if I even have a chance. How pathetic is that?! Seriously, how horrible are these messages that you’ve gotten about fat people throughout your life that you won’t even consider dating (or even being friends with, or hiring) a fat person?! We’re not contagious.

    /rant

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      omg so I just googled it because my Mother (who is terrible) didn’t like a friend of mine once because she was fat and she was afraid I would get fatter too and actually science would suggest that while it isn’t exactly catching, you can gain weight if you surround yourself with others who are overweight.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/25/health/25iht-fat.4.6830240.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      It isn’t fair, but it is science.

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        I learned about this a lot in undergrad – they think it’s based on social eating situation and habits. But it hasn’t been replicated, which means it hasn’t really been proven. Science is tricky that way.

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          Aaaand now the article has actually loaded, and I read it and realized it said exactly what I just said. Woops.

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        I thought about this study when I read this comment, too.

        However, I always keep in mind that a lot of obesity research is super biased—the diet industry sponsors so much of it that it’s hard to trust any of their findings—and even worse is the reporting on it by the mainstream media. The NYT in particular is one of the worst at making broad statements about the “obesity epidemic” without critical thinking. From the NYT article: “The investigators say their findings can help explain why Americans became fatter in recent years: Persons who became obese were likely to drag some friends with them.” Actually, we haven’t been getting fatter in recent years, we’ve just ramped up anti-obesity rhetoric. (This is a good takedown of a lot of obesity “facts”: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/08/jfs-special-report-obesity.html)

        And not only that, but they’re failing to think about why having fat friends might make you gain weight, too. Is it because not having to hold yourself up to impossible beauty standards around your attractive fat friends who accept their bodies means that you might be able to start eating normally and stop maintaining impossible to uphold exercise routines? And what about the data that shows that while we can’t figure out a way to make fat people skinny, we also can’t figure out how to make skinny people fat? Don’t studies showing that we can’t make thin people fat contradict the study that having fat friends can make you fat?(http://lovelivegrow.com/2012/01/genetics-starvation-and-willpower/)

        I take studies like this with a huge grain of salt. They all start off with the incorrect assumption that obesity is a death sentence (because, you know, skinny people don’t die) and get reported by a media who has a very real stake in keeping their readers primed to buy into the diet industry.

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          This! All science isn’t created equal, and these studies certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum removed from our cultural biases and the agendas of the folks funding the studies in the first place.

          And this, yes, so much:

          “Is it because not having to hold yourself up to impossible beauty standards around your attractive fat friends who accept their bodies means that you might be able to start eating normally and stop maintaining impossible to uphold exercise routines?”

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    This is somewhat tangential to the main thrust of the article, I guess, but it seems like a lot of the article’s emphasis is on the idea of fat not being a choice, and this bothers me–not because I’m against fat liberation or because I think that one’s size is always imminently controllable but because I actually have a huge issue with the way the fat lib and queer lib movements frame the idea of “choice”. I get that the “born this way” narrative has been really important in fostering mainstream LGBT acceptance and will likewise probably be very important in changing prevailing attitudes toward body norms, but it shouldn’t ultimately matter if someone DID choose to be gay or fat–and to say or even tacitly admit that it does matter is just another way of propagating the message that the norm is superior to any deviations from it. :-\

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      I get what you’re saying and I agree with you, but I’m not as bothered by it.

      Yes, it should be fine to be fat by choice, just like it should be fine to be queer by choice. There’s a good Fatstronauts 101 post about fatness as a choice over at Shakesville. (Stereotype #11: No One Wants to be Fat http://www.shakesville.com/2012/09/fatsronauts-101.html)

      I’m not as bothered by the, “it’s not a choice” argument, though, because I think it’s really just trying to highlight how shitty it is to be attacked for *who you are* (as opposed to what you do).

      I think the underlying emotion behind “it’s not a choice,” is roughly:
      “You are attacking me for something that’s fundamental to who I am as a person. You are saying I don’t have a right to just peacefully exist in the world as myself.”

      and while obviously you shouldn’t be attacked for who you are *or* for what you do, it seems worthwhile to point out that the two concepts aren’t synonymous. you can be a fat person regardless of whether you eat a low calorie diet and exercise frequently. you can be a queer person even if you are a cis lady who’s only ever dated cis men.

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        But, like, religion is largely a choice (even if the way you’re raised does largely predispose you to one particular dogma or another), and we still view the right to practice whatever religion you want as fundamental. Just because something is a choice doesn’t mean it’s necessarily any less intrinsic to your identity.

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          Thank you. Biological reductionism steals us of the opportunity to assign dignity to all the messy facets of who we are, let alone our lived reality. We are not merely the sum of our predispositions and influences. We have consciences and inner lives, making choices based on deeply adhered to convictions. This, to my mind, is far more important to “identity” than any etiology.

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      As someone who is fat and has always been fat as well as someone who is gay and has always been gay… it’s very hard to say. I don’t feel as if I had a choice in the matter in regards to either lifestyles, in fact I’ve always felt thwarted by both.

      But despite my dispositionary lack of choice in the matter… I feel there is a dual meaning behind the term “choice”. To me, a person DOES make a choice and that choice is whether or not to embrace themselves against the opposition of societal normality.

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    Also, what does it matter if being fat is a choice? I don’t think having 10 kids or listening to Katy Perry is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean people who do deserve to be shamed publicly or bullied.

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    Let’s free everybody. Non Caucasians are also much more heavily oppressed in the gay community as well. “No Asians” or “Whites only” posted everywhere, and everyone talking about how they just would never be attracted to or consider dating someone not white, even if they aren’t white themselves.

    We need to stop being so close minded and start opening up what we consider valuable to people of all sizes, races, etc. It’s about time.

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    This is so much to think about. I am a large person. I refer myself as large because fat hurts a little. I used to be more active (I walk about 25 miles a week), I used to eat a lot healthier (I was a vegetarian in college), I was bulimic for a little over 8 years and now my diet or what I eat on a daily basis is determined by the number on the scale in the morning. I have a number in my head and when I’m under that number things are good and when I’m over that number I take a walk. None of my opinions are healthy w/r/t being fat and fat liberation sort of makes me cringe because I think being fat can’t possibly be empowering.
    Then I considered it in correlation with being female, queer, or African American and in all those cases I see them as things I can’t really change. I watched The Weight of The Nation on HBO and actually sort of understand that being fat, like being gay is something possibly biological and that when we diet or establish a weight our bodies actually fight to keep “the number” even in the best of circumstances and under the most intense of control. It hasn’t made me feel really awesome about being large, but it has changed my mind about how I view others. I am against discrimination in all forms and I am adding fat to that list.

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      I hear you yeah. If it helps, I saw a study the other day suggesting that joining fat activism had a positive effect on health ;)
      (And yeah like. You can affect your weight, technically, but the rare best-case scenario is losing and keeping of 10% of body mass. And that might be a big deal for much smaller people who see their current weight as ‘fat’ and 10 lbs less as ‘not fat’, but like, going from 280 to 250 I’d… still be ‘obese’. But all the fat-shamers talk about it as if weight loss would make us trim, and lol no.)

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    I don’t think the problem is whether or not bing fat is a choice, but instead the fact that being fat is automatically seen as unattractive. I lost about 60lbs 3yrs ago and was treated completely different. I was getting hit on, I got compliments daily, ppl stared/checked me out. Which all sounds great right? Wrong. Instead I ended up feeling terrible about myself. No one ever said those things about me when I was fat, I never got compliments on my looks or got asked out. I began to resent my skinny self and decided I would gain some of the weight back. Here I am three years later bigger and better, instead of focussing on skinny being beautiful I decided to focus on my self confidence. If I believed I was beautiful at any size then ppl would have no choice but to think that too, right? RIGHT! I can’t say as if I don’t have any issues with my body now, but I can say that if you can’t love at a size 14 then you certainly don’t deserve to love me at a size 8!

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    I know I have a lot of issues re: body image and a pretty unhealthy idea of what “thin” even looks like, my ideas about what’s attractive in a woman are tightly tied to years of disordered eating and excessive exercise, so I don’t know if I can contribute too much to a discussion on fat liberation/prejudice, other than to say that I’m so freaking sick of people talking about other people’s bodies.

    Obviously there are a lot of positive aspects of fat liberation–diversity of bodies, different standards of “healthy”, acceptance, etc.–but I also quite frequently hear slogans along the lines of “real women have curves”. (I didn’t get that sense from this article, but I’ve heard it before and it reeks of “I’ll put you down to make myself feel better”, which gets us nowhere.) I’m not going to compare the criticism people give me for being “too thin” to fat-shaming because it’s not the same, the stigma isn’t the same, the connotations aren’t the same, they’re different and I get that. But at their core they both revolve around this idea that people should be policing other people’s bodies, that there’s one “right” way to be female, that the body I choose, and to some extent the body that I don’t choose but inhabit regardless of my choice, is the wrong shape, the wrong size, somehow imperfect according to someone else’s standards. I shouldn’t feel more or less attractive than the woman who’s twice my weight, and nor should she, or at the very least that feeling should have nothing to do with our sizes.

    And with the exception of close acquaintances/family members who are legitimately concerned about my well being, I see no reason whatsoever that anyone should ever offer their unsolicited assessment of my body. The classmate who rolls her eyes over my choice of salad for lunch because “I can afford to eat more (calories) than that” has no idea what kind of struggle choosing my lunch presents for me. Or the friend on a perma-diet who comments that her life would be so much easier if she were skinny like me–she doesn’t know what kind of mental and physical turmoil I go through for the sake of thinness. Ah. I’m going off on a tangent.

    I don’t know first-hand what fat-shaming feels like but I think we all feel the effects of it, regardless of our size. I’ve said it a million times. I just think that everyone would benefit if we would just shut up about what other people look like.

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      I think that’s actually one of the biggest intersection points between fat activism, and, for example, feminism!

      The “real women have curves” slogans are bad too, because the whole point of fat activism is that no one should get to pass judgment on someone else’s body! You own your body, and no one but you gets to decide if it’s “correct” enough to be in the world or not.

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    I guess what really gets to me about everyone saying “Don’t compare fat people to queer people!” is that some of us are fat AND queer and take shit from our queer community on a daily basis.

    Absolutely, if I were to draw a venn diagram with circles titled both ‘fat’ and ‘queer’ there would not be a 100% overlap, but come on guys.

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    I agree with many of the points you make, but I think when you compare institutional oppression to personal preference you lose ground. “Yes, fat people can get married, but many thin people would not consider dating, let alone loving and marrying, someone who is fat.” I don’t really think you can draw a parallel between legal fights like marriage equality and the fact that it’s hard to be fat on OKCupid (of course, not that the latter is a good thing, just that it’s not on the same level as the former).

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    may be this has been asked before, but still:

    so even if some people would chose to be fat – what the ..?!
    how would that make bullying any more valid?
    as far as i am concerned, it is their bodies and their choice to make and that’s about it.
    why would it outrage or offend someone if a person decided she/he wanted to be fat?
    my body, my business.
    everyone elses body – not my business.

    i am not talking about the many many people who do not have this choice or might even be unhappy.

    it just seems so pointless and startling to me how anyone would feel offended by someone elses weight.

    ?

  22. Thumb up 15

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    Oh, I find so much of this problematic. Especially: Um, it’s written by a thin person.
    I look at this opinion the way that I look at queer or trans people trying to co-opt anti-racism. Don’t. Just as gay/trans people have a different fight/history/oppression than PoCs, so do fat people and queers.
    For one: history. Thin-centric ideals are a relatively new phenomena, as fat has long been synonymous with wealth and power, because the wealthy and powerful didn’t have to do much work and had access to fattier, richer foods. In addition, thin-centric ideals are largely Eurocentric.
    Yes, fat people are being harassed, discriminated against, shamed, assaulted, and neglected medically. But that is not nearly the kind of shit that queer people have to deal with, especially on a legal level. Having a harder time finding a date isn’t the same as not being able to legally get married. And queers around the world are being jailed, tortured, and killed for their sexuality/gender expression. NOT the same as what fat people have to deal with.
    Do I think queers should fight against fat issues? Sure, as much as the next guy. But I don’t think our movements are at all the same. Again, exactly as queer/trans people shouldn’t argue that the gay or trans movements are the same as the racial equality movement. Nope nope nope.

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      Also, comparing conversion therapy and the Let’s Move! campaign? That’s absolutely horrible and shows a level of ignorance about the horrors of conversion therapy. Trust me, as a kid who was put in every physical activity imaginable so that I wouldn’t get fat (my mom’s words), and who went through conversion therapy, I’d pick physical activity every single time. Physical activity: not actually bad. Conversion therapy: very, very, very bad.

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        Yeah Conversion Therapy was way worse than being told in my formative years that I was fat and weighing myself everyday. Physical activity isn’t a bad thing, it is good for mood and improves your health. It is the worst comparison.I probably struggle more in a relationship with the internalized guilt and shame of my faith than over how tight my jeans are.

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      And, comparing the stigma of HIV to the stigma of fat is hugely ignorant, as well, and wrong on so many levels. In this case, yes, “read a book” is the best response to such a comparison. It’s downright offensive. Again: history, and the cultural issue.

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    Fatphobia definitely is one of those things which is largely accepted, and obviously that’s bad.

    I wish fat activism would be less anti-science though. It is unhealthy to be very overweight – you are at a hugely increased risk of many diseases. But so are people that drink, that smoke, that (including thin people) are physically inactive. I get that these things are less stigmatised (or perhaps just body weight, in the same way as race and gender is instantly apparent?).

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      It’s not anti-science. There are so many resources out there in the fat acceptance community that I don’t even know where to start to dismantle the statement “It’ is very unhealthy to be very overweight, but here’s a well-linked (as-in, links to peer-reviewed research) a classic one: http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/.

      I’m guessing you disagree with this strongly, but I want to just as strongly say that I think that your statement was actually anti-science and ignores a lot of really ground-breaking research being done by HAES or FA individuals in favor of believing what the $60 billion diet industry says about being fat.

      I don’t mean to jump all over you—I agree that even if a fat person is unhealthy, that doesn’t mean we should stigmatize people. No one owes anyone else their health.

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      Both sides are pretty anti-science, in my experience. In that there’s a lot of cherry-picking that says thinness is ideal and a lot of cherry-picking that says it’s not.

      Which, in my view, makes me lean towards thinking it’s all a wash and maybe we should focus on more clear-cut measures of health (like serum cholesterol, blood pressure, quality of life, etc.) than BMI.

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        “maybe we should focus on more clear-cut measures of health (like serum cholesterol, blood pressure, quality of life, etc.) than BMI”

        Yes. Just yes! This really bugs me. I think it would change the discourse around weight too – some people might find all their indicia to be just right at the weight they are. Some people might lose weight to get BP or cholesterol down. Some people might gain to deal with fatigue and autoimmune issues. And there’d be less of a discourse of guilt about the whole damn thing and more of a discourse of “I am doing X because I care about health indicator Y”.

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          This yeah. My (extremely skinny) doctor always wants to talk about my weight and how he’s concerned that it’ll affect my blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and cholesterol… but ignoring that my levels for all of those are FINE, seriously I have fantastic cardiovascular health. Yet he always focuses on that, giving less attention to my *actual* medical needs, and I get significantly worse care as a result.

          Unfortunately, he’s the only doctor in the region who’s remotely good with trans patients and HRT, so I don’t really have a choice.

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        “Both sides are pretty anti-science”
        ^this.
        The only way to approach scientific literature is to go in with an open mind, critically review all available information *from the peer-reviewed journal, not the newspaper*, determine what each one is *actually* saying versus what it says it is, and draw conclusions based on what’s there rather than cherrypicking studies that you like. Sometimes they may contradict! This is okay and will probably get figured out someday in the future. Just because a study turns traditional understanding of a topic on its head doesn’t make it more likely to be wrong or right, but it does deserve more scrutiny. Just because the results of a study align with the goals of an industry doesn’t make it more likely to be wrong- sometimes there are multiple competing giant industries! (Sugar/corn vs. artificial sweetener is a good example. Also, see http://lesswrong.com/lw/lw/reversed_stupidity_is_not_intelligence/) There are no shortcuts in trying to suss out the truth via scientific literature.

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      Yep, I have to agree. I think it discounts the valid points the post makes to totally deny that being obese is linked to health issues. Which people should know enough to mind their own business about.

      I do think our health system has issues. My friend who is a very active athlete was told to lose weight by her doctor, despite being very healthy in all areas. So yes a focus on markers would be much better.

      Also I can’t say I know a lot the Lets Move thing since I’m not American but physical activity is generally beneficial for kids. Unless there is some side of this program that I don’t know about.

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        Physical activity is healthy, yeah. But programs like that almost invariably focus on weight loss, not activity in and of itself.

        And much larger people are generally met with extreme disgust and harassment if we dare be active in public (usually from the same people who’d shame us for being ‘lazy’ and tell us to work out).

        And I can’t speak for this specific program, but similar ones tend to shame fat kids and outright encourage harassment and bullying.

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    Wow, thanks for the article! Not only because it was interesting, but this conversation it sparked is really enlightening. I am a small, but not thin, person, and I find myself comparing my body to petite pixies in a totally unhealthy way. Like someone else said, some days are better than others. Reading articles and conversations like this really does help.
    I agree that bodies are different, and that fat shaming is unacceptable- really, most shaming is unacceptable. However, some people feel unhealthy and want to be thinner, and that should be ok. My mother struggled with a food addiction most of her life, and that is why she was overweight (I use this sensitive term intentionally). I support her in her weight loss, because she feels healthy and happy, and has a better relationship to food, not because being thinner is better.Like many people have said, we should open up the space for all bodies, and support each other as a community to be our best selves.

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    I agree with a lot of this article: healthiness is not based on thinness, fat-shaming is wrong, etc- but not that obesity epidemic is propaganda. With 1/3 of Americans having type 2 diabetes, it accounting for more health care spending ailments caused by drinking or smoking, and accounting for 100-400,000 deaths each year, I think that’s a little preposterous.

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      Can you cite your sources, please? I’m looking at diabetes.org and seeing that it is the underlying cause of 71,382 deaths each year.

      The fact that correlation is not causation when it comes to type 2 diabetes and obesity also makes me unsure of the point that you’re making. We shouldn’t fat-shame but you’re saying that health care spending on type 2 diabetes is preposterous because of…obese people? The link between fat bias in health care professionals and poor outcomes alone makes this problematic.

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      Type 2 diabetes is also linked to lack of sleep/interrupted sleep/sleep disorders, but I don’t see people getting shamed for not getting 8 hours of sleep a night, doing shift work or not using a CPAP machine if they have obstructive sleep apnea.

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      I agree on the ‘obesity epidemic’ point (although the term is somewhat ridiculous). What maddens me is that much of this situation has been brought about by the food industry deliberately downplaying the role of sugar in causing obesity. Sugar is cheap–particularly in the form of high fructose corn syrup–it’s addictive, and it’s in everything. When we’re at the stage where there’s talk of recalibrating what is considered overweight or obese, maybe it’s time to ask *why* the population is getting fatter.

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      Did you know that the % of the population who’re obese/overweight hasn’t changed significantly at all over the past 10 years? I’m betting you didn’t.

      Also, did you know that overweight/obese people with type 2 diabetes tend to live longer and have better prognoses than ‘normal’/underweight people with type 2 diabetes?

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    It’s amazing how we as a society manage to make assumptions based off of appearances. Never more so than weight. And somehow we’ve decided that’s ok. I don’t know if it stems from fear. Or if there is some sense of power to it. If feeling better about yourself is tied to making others feel worse about themselves. I just don’t understand it. And while it never occurred to me that a woman’s weight should be a factor in whether or not to pursue her, I will say that if it had, I’d have missed out on some of the sexiest women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

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    “…Put down the McDonalds’s and read a fucking book.”

    I can’t believe someone would actually say that. -_- Not only is it fatphobic, ignorant, and just plain mean, but since when has reading a book been a form of exercise? Trust me, if it were, I’d look like fucking Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Now that I think about that, thank god reading isn’t a form of exercise…

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    So I strive to be fit, as physical activity keeps me from being a crumpled up ball of anxiety and self-hatred. In fitness communities, though, the “BUT WE JUST WANT YOU TO BE HEALLLLLLLLLTHY” mindset prevails, and I find it really disturbing and triggering (I’m pretty thin naturally, but I find it really easy to get into disordered body image patterns).

    If it were really about health, we’d all be posting our resting heart rates and blood pressure readings, not our weight and body fat percentages.

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    I also agree with this! All the agreement. This year I got into exercise for the first time in 27 years of existence – weight training mainly, with a side of yoga, running, bushwalking. It’s basically been what keeps me sane through a year of work based depression. I love it.

    At the beginning of the year I couldn’t do, say, a bodyweight squat or run for more than 90 seconds. So of course I got onto the internet and started learning. I read websites and posted on forums. And the moment I did this, I got sucked into a vortex of weight loss and paleo diet, even though my main interest is simply getting stronger and lifting heavier. I started feeling guilty about eating legumes and yoghurt! I started wondering if I should count calories! When friends offered me cake or asked me out to dinner, I panicked!

    I am seeing past it now, but it really has been a struggle. Engaging in fitness you’re gonna bump up against crazy-ass weight discourse one way or the other. No doubt about it.

  30. Thumb up 7

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    My weight gain came on when congenital deformities in my lower back finally exploded into chronic pain several years ago. I simply can’t exercise anymore with near the verve which I desperately want to. Weeks sometimes pass when I come home from work and can only manage to lie flat on the floor.

    If fat shamers want me to be thin, great! Pay for me to see someone better than my small town quack of a chiropractor so I can get back to doing sit ups without crying. I can’t even afford to see a pain management doctor, so end up medicating with “other options.”

    I sometimes wonder how many other poor people are obese because of our society’s manifestly cruel desire to keep the rabble terrified of doctor debt.

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    As much as I hate to barge in and get slightly off topic and possibly friendly fire a little bit here, I think it’s wrong to use the word fat to describe people, especially if you’re talking about liberating a group of people, or describing a person you love… I always say this and always mean this.. FAT IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE! Fat is negatively connotated slang that demeans a person’s appearance, suggesting they are unattractive, ugly, or gross. Fat is a word describing someone in a negative way, so please don’t use it to describe plus sized people in general!!! It’s offensive!!!

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      Actually, “fat” is just kind of the term the “fat acceptance” movement has latched onto. I don’t ADORE it or anything, but using it is a matter of reclamation. So if a fat person wants to use the word fat, let’s not silence them, and as a fat person, I recognize that the author of this article is mostly using the term to describe a specific movement. It’s kind of like, some lesbians like the word “dyke,” and others don’t, but it’s one thing to say it as a lesbian, and it’s another thing coming from a straight man. So I would say that traditionally-sized (?) or thinner people should be careful the ways in which they use “fat,” but otherwise it’s a completely acceptable term.

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    There are so many different issues touched on haphazardly in this article that I’m finding it difficult to articulate exactly which part of it rubbed me the wrong way, but it was a bit more clear-cut in the Bitch Magazine article Mollow recently wrote so I’ll start there.

    Comparing the Let’s Move campaign to conversion therapy was at best ill-advised and at worst blatant shock-jockeying. There are plenty of benefits to physical activity at any age regardless of its impact on a person’s weight or BMI, whereas there are zero benefits to aversion therapy/shock treatment/any of the other truly horrible things visited on young queer people undergoing “conversion”. To lump these two incredibly disparate experiences together seemed designed to scare readers into agreeing with Mollow before they could think too hard about the logical implications of many of her points.

    An assertion like this (one that seems so baseless and reliant on pathos that it simply does not add up for me) usually leaves me feeling kind of betrayed by the author and then I find it hard to trust the rest of what they’ve written on the topic, so I’m having a really tough time reconciling my feelings on this article. Fatphobia is awful, and the complications it can add to queerness and femaleness are obviously worth unpacking. However, this kind of one-to-one comparison appears to be less about what we can do to combat fatphobia than it is about one person’s idea of what fatphobia is like.

    If Autostraddle decides to provide more fat-acceptance content in the near future, I’d love to see something that focuses far more directly on actions and solutions, is told from a fat perspective, and (I know I’m asking for a lot here) is willing to discuss all sides of the related medical literature.

    Sorry to be so harsh, a lot of these issues hit pretty close to home and Mollow’s writing left me angry in all the wrong ways.

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      The comparison between Let’s Move and gay conversion therapy was made by Julia McCrossin, a queer fat activist (quoted by Mollow in “Sized Up”). Let’s Move is not just about encouraging children to enjoy exercising. It’s a childhood “anti-obesity” campaign; in practice this means restricted calories [link] and/or over-exercise; because just getting people to enjoy movement does not make them thin if they are genetically predisposed to being fat. Fat adults who were forced to diet as children say the experience caused lifelong damage.
      Also, “Sized Up” does give lots of examples of possible “actions and solutions,” “I STAND against weight bullying” campaign. This is a wonderful activist initiative. People of all sizes upload photos in support of weight diversity and against shaming fat children: [https://www.facebook.com/IStandAgainstWeightBullying].

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    Alright so it’s totally unacceptable to be cruel to someone. Regardless of their “choices” it is never okay to shame someone, or put them down. People who hurt others physically or emotionally or otherwise are wrong. I think we can all agree with that.

    However, I am still not convinced that fat liberation is “totally queer.” I think we want it to be, because fat people are discriminated against and so are gay people and if you’re a gay fat person, then you’re really in trouble.

    I must confess, I have a problem (let’s say feelings) with a lot of points in this article. Am I obligated to get behind the fat acceptance movement because I am also a lesbian? And am I a douchebag because I am not attracted to fat women? Am I an asshole because I was fat and then lost 70lbs? Did I somehow sell out? Am I a jerk because I think fatness is more in your control than you think it is, and it’s perfectly okay to not want to be fat based on how the world treats you? Maybe I am all of these things, but that is how I feel.

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      You’re not a sellout or a jerk for losing weight and feeling good about it. You’re not obligated to be attracted to any kind of body type. If this was an empowering choice for *you* as an individual, then it should be respected and validated. Just realize that not every fat person will choose to make the same choice you made. Not every fat person wants to lose the weight, and that is a personal choice that should be respected every bit as much as your personal decision to do so. It all comes down to respecting other people’s personal choices.

      Whether a person’s weight or body type is within their control is irrelevant. For one, this is going to vary for each individual based on their genetics, health, and life situation. Does it really matter at the end of the day? Does a person who “chooses” to remain fat deserve less respect and dignity than a person who “cannot help it”?

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      I’ll save anyone else the time of actually clicking through and reading her bile, here’s the skinny of it, paraphrased:

      “How DARE they! Being fat is CONTROLLABLE and should be SHAMED! I lost 70 pounds and refuse to recognize that I’m an extreme outlier and loss of even just 10% of body weight is impossible for 80% of fat people! Obesity is a horrible EPIDEMIC and I completely buy into the media scaremongering! (Various arrantly false claims about the ‘cost of obesity’ on the health care system!) The MILITARY says fat is a NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT! I immediately dismiss all research I see contradicting me because I don’t understand that ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ are two different terms!”

      Apologies for the pun.

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        Wow, that’s pretty bitchy. Not only do you tell everyone not to read her rebuttal, but you also throw in a skinny pun. Because how dare a skinny person have opinions or feelings re: this article. Only fat people can talk about their struggles and how everyone needs to accept them or else they are fat-hating jerks!

        To me, this article said, “All fat people are not unhealthy and are actually healthier than people at a ‘normal weight,’ dieting doesn’t work, and anyone who doesn’t agree that America doesn’t have an obesity problem is a fat-phobic jerk.” And that offends me. Because it positions fat persons as victims who have no control over their actions in the same way that gay people have no control over who they are. And that’s not true. Fat people can control what they put into their bodies and how much they are active. I’m not saying it’s easy. Not even remotely. But it’s possible.

        Furthermore, I feel as it Ms. Mollow is trying to say that obesity is not a problem – that it is over exaggerated by the media. Which is also not true! Why would there even need to be a “fat liberation” unless there was a high number of fat individuals? Maybe it doesn’t seem like a problem to you, but as Maria argues, go to another country. Go to France or Japan or Italy and tell me how many obese people you see. I lived in Japan for a year, and let me tell you that the only time I saw a fat person in Tokyo was at McDonald’s. When people eat smaller portions and get regular exercise (ie: walking everywhere), they aren’t fat. WHAT A SHOCKER.

        I actually agreed with a lot more of Maria’s points than Anna’s. Perhaps it’s because I’m not fat. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have friends and family that are overweight that I care for deeply. My mother is 60 pounds overweight, which is hardly obese, but she has high cholesterol and other health problems because of it. It worries me that she takes Lipitor every day but can’t find time in her day to take an hour walk or something. I know it’s hard with a busy schedule, but I also know she could probably trade 30 mins of watching American Idol for 30 mins of aerobic exercise and be much healthier for it. But she won’t, not because she’s happy with her extra weight, but because she had become completely apathetic to her own body and her control over it.

        I also have a morbidly obese friend at work who seems to only get bigger and bigger as time goes by. And it makes me sad! Not because I’m personally disgusted by it and think lesser or him, but because he is such an awesome guy and I don’t want to see him die of a heart attack in 4 years because he’s 600 pounds. Perhaps he doesn’t need me to point out his fatness, but I fail to see how waving pom-poms in celebration of his morbid obesity is supposed to be any better.

        I’m not without empathy for my fat friends and family, but I know without question that their condition isn’t genetic, nor is it something they can’t change. True, there are societal factors and learned behavior that factor into obesity, but to say that it’s completely out of a person’s control is ridiculous. If people want to be fat and they are 100 percent happy with their lifestyle and body – more power to them! There is a reason why Marilyn Monroe is considered more attractive than Kate Moss. But don’t get irate with me (or with Maria) for not wanting to join the fat acceptance crusade because frankly I don’t think it’s healthy to support the behaviors that lead to obesity.

        Don’t tell me you’re born that way. I don’t buy it. Certainly some girls are bigger than others, but you don’t become 400 pounds overnight people, and you certainly didn’t pop out of the womb that way. Come on, now!

        I’m sorry, but you can’t come at people being all, “ACCEPT US OR YOU ARE A FAT-PHOBE!” and then attack someone’s else’s opinion. I get it, you don’t agree with Maria. But I do. And I encourage everyone to read Maria’s article instead of just reading this misleading and honestly condescending summary of it.

        For the record, people who make fun of random strangers for ANYTHING – body size, race, gender identity, etc. – are assholes. But you know what? Some people are just assholes. If you really love your fat body and don’t want to change, who the fuck cares what other people say?! Get over it!

        If you could please show me factoids that show fat people are regularly threatened with violence, kicked out of their home, forced to go through damaging repairative therapy, denied fair housing, etc. then I will join your crusade. Until then, it just seems to me like people are whining about people being mean.

        And if y’all know how to stop mean people from being mean, let me know. I’ve been trying to tap into that secret for years!

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        Hi J,

        My response will probably only infuriate you more, but for the rest of the comment readers, here’s a little perspective and some pedantic fitness/nutrition info.

        Let’s clarify: I did not lose 70lbs–that was my partner.

        I only lost 40lbs-by upping my physical activity ONLY (oh, but I was young). And then I gained it back (BAM, I was a statistic) when I drank copious amounts of alcohol and ate crappy food for lunch every day. The US ARMY rejected me on the basis that I was too fat (there’s that national security threat). Two years later, I lost 40lbs AGAIN… this time by eating things that were good for me (read: high nutritional density), abstaining from alcoholic beverages and other sugar bombs, and remaining active. When I got DEPRESSED (which was frequently)… I ate my feelings and moved less–and I got fat. When I decided to take responsibility for my mental and physical health, guess what… I lost weight.

        I am in control of this body. It’s a very empowering feeling. And I was in the LUCKY MAJORITY of people who have no medical contraindications or conditions that would hinder my ability to alter my metabolic state. Guess what. The MAJORITY of Americans are too fat.

        Let’s define some terms here:
        1) fat = adipose tissue
        2) body fat percentage = ratio of fat mass to lean mass
        3) overweight = an arbitrary line drawn where BMI > 25
        4) obese = an arbitrary line where BMI > 30
        5) fat person = ??? my suggestion is to consult this chart

        So… if you don’t want to be “fat,” don’t worry about being “overweight.” There’s 3,500 excess calories to every pound of fat gained. While this rule isn’t CONCRETE, it works within the context of diet of whole, minimally processed foods and WATER. Don’t crash diet. Don’t restrict. Just drink some H20 and avoid pre-made/pre-packaged food. And get some MOVEMENT, for god’s sake. American’s don’t MOVE.

        As for shaming fat people. I don’t shame fat people; that’s bad for business, and I would never have been involved with half of my lovers if that were the case. I’m trying to call out those of us in DENIAL. (Believe me, I know what denial feels like. I’ve made up every excuse imaginable for fluctuations in my weight: oh, it’s just that I’m getting older; oh, at 30 I’m SUPPOSED to flesh out here; oh… I guess I have too much muscle; oh… I’m just PMSing a little longer than usual).

        Let me add one more thing, which is that–loosely speaking–“fattish” people have no reason to think they are unhealthy, and they’d have marvelous control over their body shape if they could commit to the changes. If you worked at a gym, you’d see first hand who takes their goals SERIOUSLY and who does not.

        For everyone who is gaining weight year by year, know that once too much body fat is accumulated, you begin to develop negative feedback loops. The processes that work for “fattish” people can be significantly less-to-non-effective for obese people. Suddenly, you have numerous hormones out of balance–and hormones are very powerful things.

        Listen, I’m just a gay personal trainer. I see the games people play EVERY DAY–people who are dissatisfied with their body shapes. I have yet to meet ONE person who who doesn’t respond positively to diet and exercise.

        We have an epidemic of obese infants. We have an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes–in CHILDREN. We have problems like early-onset puberty because our children are too fat. We have problems with estrogen dominance due to too much fat; consider the impact that has on breast cancer incidence. Amazing. The Fat Acceptance movement encourages us to turn a blind eye to fat; it’s often hard to know who is “fit fat” (as we say in the industry) and who is sick fat.

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          The problem with a lot of the arguments that fat acceptance people make is that they blur the line between people who are 10-30 lbs overweight (maybe a little more for guys) but are healthy because they have an active lifestyle and/or have more muscle mass and a normal %bodyfat and the people who are sedentary and clinically obese. And they use the argument that “BMI is bullshit because of [the former group of people]” to justify themselves.
          Obesity is not genetic. Some people might gain weight easier than others, or naturally be a little heavier, but no one is genetically wired to be 45% bodyfat, Look at a picture from the 1920’s. How many obese people do you see?
          And, before everyone decides that I’m an ignorant, fat-phobic asshole, I’m not about shaming fat people. But to say that individuals aren’t at least partly responsible for their weight/%bodyfat/fitness is totally wrong.

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    I have a really big problem with the fact that now because queer people are starting to get breadcrumbs of acceptance, every cause on the planet tries to piggyback on us. Its the same reason why it bothers me when people do something bad to a white queer person, and the response is something to do with the black civil rights movement and how oh wouldn’t it be terrible if someone said this to a poc?!

    It bothers me because these parallels being drawn feels appropriative. POC face their own issues, as a white person, how dare I say that my experiences parallel their’s? I haven’t a fucking clue what its like to be a racial minority, I’m not going to try and translate my experience into their’s because society at large has at least theoretically agreed that racism is bad. I’m not going to take advantage of all of someone else’s, someone less privileged than me’s, hard work.
    Queer people still face massive, systematic discrimination. When we get marriage, employment protection etc, we will be fighting for years to try to heal ourselves from the damage that comes from living in a society that hates us, has always hated us. People won’t date you? Healthcare is more expensive for you? The diet industry in an era of an obesity epidemic? Don’t tell me thats the same as growing up queer, being put through conversion therapy, almost losing my family. Don’t translate yourself into my experiences.

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    Thank you for writing this! I’m glad you referenced Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size. This book has completely changed the way I approach health, nutrition, and fitness. I’ve made the personal commitment to try to eat healthy and exercise because I know it’s good for me. And (gasp!) I haven’t lost a single ounce of body fat as a result. What I am losing are the self-loathing and shame that accompanied the fat-phobic “health” advice I used to buy into.

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    Here’s a wonderful middle-line article on the subject of Fat Liberation. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/obesity-crisis_b_1967677.html

    “And I can be okay with “okay at any size” if it includes a proviso: okay at any size as long as health is not adversely affected. But when weight imperils health, as it clearly does all too often, I am not okay with it. In this context, bold displays of burgeoning flesh, and “flab is fab” bravado may do more harm than good.”

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    The parallels between the movement for queer rights and fat rights are apparent to those of us with intersecting identities, and we have a right to name our lived experience. If you didn’t live though the last 60 years you might not realize how similar the shaming, pathologizing, medicalizing, and internalized oppression was as LBGT people tried to conform/reform, how the ineffectual interventions felt like personal failures, how impossible it seemed to imagine a world where people with diverse sexualities could respect and admire each other. But we lived through it, we saw how culture can make room for diverse representations of “normal” and “worthy.” Even when everyone is doing everything right according to the food and exercise police, there are some people at higher weights. The goal can’t be to get rid of those bodies. Those of us in the LGBT community also have a great deal of body fascism that is related to having to prove we are good enough, and we need to face that problem and get help to the people who need it and put an end to that suffering too.

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    If “Fat liberation” is so “totally queer” then I personally wonder why this is not only the only article on the subject within the stratosphere of autostraddle.com but also, out of the many hundreds of community groups on autostraddle, there is not one specifically for fat and/or over weight women.

    It seems pretty exclusionary to me.

    I also wrote an in depth article on the similarities between queerness and fatness, and it’s wholeheartedly astounding that people in the queer community can so clearly discriminate whilst at the same time demand anti-discriminative respect. I find it hypocritical.

    To be honest, it’s a sad shame.

    I believe autostraddle should embrace fat queers a little more thoroughly, but that’s just my opinion: as a fat queer.

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