Tuesday, 29 October 2019

On (re)producing the fat stigma you claim to be fighting

The British Psychological Society is calling for changes for how we talk about fatness, suggesting we should no longer use the phrase “obese people”, but instead, “people with obesity” or “people living with obesity”.

These changes are being proposed to recognise that fatness is not about personal choice and that fat shaming and fat stigma are harmful.

But this suggested language change is based on the idea obesity is a disease to be cured and fat people are not a natural part of the world. This serves to reinforce stigma, rather than prevent it.

How does stigma and shame affect fat people?

Fat stigma can harm people’s physical health, mental health, and relationships.

Independent of body mass index (BMI), fat stigma increases blood pressureinflammation, and levels of cortisol in the body, due to the activation of the fight or flight response.

Fat stigma reduces self-esteem and increases depression. It isolates fat people, making them less likely to engage with the world. It also impacts on fat people’s relationships with familycolleagues, and friends.

Fat stigma erodes self-esteem and isolates people.

People around the world, and of all ages, hold negative attitudes about fatness and fat people. In a study in the United States, for example, more than one-third of the participants reported, “one of the worst things that could happen to a person would be for [them] to become obese”.

How terminology reinforces stigma

While many people are uncomfortable with the term fat, fat activists prefer the term. They see it as both as an act of rebellion – to adopt a word that has been wielded against them – but also because they argue it’s the most appropriate word to describe their bodies.

To be overweight implies there is a natural weight to be; that within human diversity, we should all be the same proportion of height and weight.

Obesity is a medical term that has pathologised the fat body. The British Psychological Society’s acknowledgement that rather than saying “obese people”, we should call them “people with obesity” reinforces that obesity is a disease; a chronic illness people suffer from.

The British Psychological Society’s desire to shift to person-first language is understandable. Person-first, or people-first, language is an attempt to not define people primarily by their disease, or disability, or other deviating factor.

Person-first language recognises people as individuals with rights to dignity and care, and puts the person, rather than their “condition”, first.

But others have argued person-first language attempts to erase, deny, or ignore the aspect of the person that isn’t “normal”, and reinforces that there is something shameful or dehumanising about their disability or disease.

They promote identity-first language, which allows people to take pride in who they are, rather than separating a person from that aspect of themself.

The problem with person-first language, they argue, is that those identities are stigmatised. But without the stigma, there would be no concern with calling someone a disabled person, for instance, rather than a person with disabilities.

So what should we do?

Ask people what they want to be called.

The best approach, especially for health-care professionals, is to ask people what they prefer their designation to be.

And for the rest of us, to acknowledge that what an individual wants to be called or how they want to talk about their experiences is up to them, not us. If a fat person wants to call themselves fat, it is not up to non-fat people to correct them.

Shifting the language we use to talk about fatness and fat people can reduce fat stigma. But continuing to frame fatness as a disease is not a helpful contribution.

 

Re-posted from The Conversation



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Friday, 25 October 2019

THIS FAT OLD LADY’S FAT FRIDAY – FAT HALLOWEEN

If you want to be it – you can be it!

This Fat Old Lady’s Fat Friday – Fat Halloween



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Friday, 18 October 2019

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Tricky Argument That Dieting Makes People Fatter

Dieting and SuccessAs the whole Kurbo disaster has unfolded (in case you missed it, Weight Watchers – aka WW [insert eye roll here] decided that their best move was to harm children with a diet app which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that their shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit based in large part around their decrease in adult subscribers.)

Of the many, many (OMG so many) arguments that were made against the catastrophic atrocity, one that I saw a lot was that dieting is likely to make kids fatter than they would be otherwise. This is a tricky argument and I want to get into that today.

Now, when I talk about “dieting” I mean any intentional attempt to alter food intake and/or movement in order to decrease body size. Yes it counts as a diet even if someone calls it a “lifestyle change” (sure it is  – you change to a lifestyle where you diet all the time.)

First of all, based on the research it’s absolutely true. It turns out that one of the many negative effects of giving a body less food than it needs to survive in the hopes that it will eat itself and become smaller, is that the body’s famine defenses kick in and alter it to become a weight gaining, weight-maintaining machine.

Would the victims of diet culture have been smaller without their history of dieting? Maybe. What’s important is that a smaller body is not a better body – bodies come in lots of sizes for lots of reasons, and people of all sizes are fully worthy of respect.

And that’s the issue with this argument. Though it’s true that dieting is likely to leave people fatter than they were when they started, using that as an argument against dieting is inherently fatphobic since its core premise is still that we want to avoid people becoming fat/fatter.

That said, we live in a fatphobic society and dieting and the diet culture it creates have real negative consequences to physical and mental health, and so this argument can also be considered a harm reduction strategy. It can be seen as a drop of fatphbobia in the fatphobia bucket, but if it keeps a parent from putting their child on a diet for example, it may be worth it in a cost-benefit analysis.

There are things that we can do to improve this argument by the way that we frame it.

After I explain statistics around dieting and weight gain I’ll often say something like “so even if you believe that fat people would be healthier if we were thinner – and I don’t agree – dieting is still the worst possible advice you could give us.”

The truth is that there are actual health risks to dieting which I think are important to point out, saying something like “It’s not that weight gain is, in and of itself, the problem. The problem is that dieting changes a person’s physical and mental response to food and movement and can lead to health issues including everything from weight cycling to prompting an eating disorder,”

I most often use this argument when I’m speaking to healthcare providers about whether or not dieting meets the requirements of ethical, evidence-based medicine (spoiler alert – it doesn’t.) When I make this point, I try to always counter any fatphobia inherent in the argument by saying something like – “there’s nothing wrong with people being fat, but there is something wrong with giving a supposed medical intervention that has the opposite of the intended effect the majority of the time.” Or “I don’t think the evidence suggests that a larger body is a medical problem to be solved, but as long as HCPs are trying to treat weight loss as if it’s a medical intervention, then we have to talk about whether or not it meets the basic requirements of ethical, evidence-based medicine.” 

If we are using the argument as a harm-reduction strategy, we can try to remove some of the fatphboia by saying something like “The Kurbo app creates physical and mental health risks and, even if you believe that kids would be healthier if they were thinner, there’s no evidence that this app will any kid thinner or healthier. In fact, experts from multiple fields agree that this app will do great harm.

The fact that diets don’t work is an important thing to talk about – especially since they are sold to us a healthcare intervention (of course, being thinner and being healthier are two different things  and dieting almost never results in either.) Still, there are plenty of reasons to eschew dieting besides the fact that the most common outcome is weight gain, and the fact that this argument can add to fatphobia is something we can try to mitigate when we make it.

Was this post helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00
($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Fat-Positive Offline Spaces – Fatch at the Plus Bus

FatchOn Saturday Julianne and I headed to The Plus Bus Boutique in LA to watch Fatch, a fat sketch comedy troupe (fat + sketch = Fatch!) and the experience has me thinking a lot about offline fat community. (And I’m purposely saying offline rather than IRL because the idea that online community isn’t “in real life” is problematic, including being ableist.)

The Plus Bus has new, used, and vintage clothes and wares. As someone who has always been fat, I’ve certainly been in plenty of plus-size clothing stores. But it’s far rarer that I am in a clothing store that actually celebrates fat people – where fat positivity is just oozing out of every bit of the space – a store that creates an authentically empowering experience.

For once I didn’t feel like they were begrudgingly selling clothes in my size because they wanted my money. I didn’t have to worry that an underpaid and highly-pressured sales clerk was going to body-shame me to try to make a sale. Instead, every inch of this place and every second of the experience was created to feel like home.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that there was fat positivity everywhere. I walked into the bathroom and was blown away by the amazing amount of fat positive stuff that was on all the walls. (And I had a little freakout when I realized that one of the things was actually a card I created to help fat people at the doctor’s office. And then another fangirl freakout when I met Jen, the owner.) 

Then it was time for Fatch. I love comedy and Julianne and I go to a lot of shows. One of the things I’ve gotten used to is the onslaught of shitty, cheap fat jokes.  It’s pretty rare to get through a show without being the butt of deeply unfunny punch-down jokes.

And that’s what made this experience such a big deal – from the first moment to the last, the audience got comedy that was hilarious no matter what size they were. But for the fatties, we got to have our experiences reflected in comedy, rather than just existing as the butt of fat jokes. That is something that I find is far too rare, and with sketches about everything from the Nike plus-size mannequin debacle, to auditioning for “the fat friend” character, to Buffy the Fatphobe Slayer, they just nailed it.

I love connecting with fat community online. And there is nothing wrong with those who prefer online community. But it’s a damn tragedy that there are so many fat people who want fat-positive offline spaces but don’t have them –  either because those spaces don’t exist where they are, or because the spaces that do exist aren’t accessible to them. So I’m extra grateful to people like Jen at The Plus Bus and the fabulous fatties of Fatch for creating powerful offline fat positive community.

Want more DancesWithFat? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00
($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 



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Monday, 14 October 2019

the HAES® files: A Tale of Advocacy: Two Knees and a Surgeon

by Theresa Jarosz Alberti

I was so angry at my surgeon. He’d finally agreed to operate on me, but his initial refusal to give me total knee replacement surgery had resulted in more than a year of excruciating pain and disability. Facing the upcoming surgery, I knew I needed to let go of my negative feelings before he sliced me open. It was time to focus on positive energy so that I’d be in the best frame of mind to heal.

Over and over again in the weeks before surgery, I thought: I forgive him his ignorance. He doesn’t know me, my strength, my abilities. I’ll show I’m a good candidate for this surgery despite his misgivings. I will be a success.

Meeting Dr. X

I began having trouble with my knees over 10 years ago. Visits to an orthopedic sports doctor for intermittent pain showed I had osteoarthritis. My knee cartilage would gradually wear away and, sooner or later, I’d need knee replacements. Doctors try to hold off surgery until as “later” as you can possibly stand. So I spent years on a gradual path into pain meds, cortisone shots and physical therapy until I was declared “bone on bone” and the pain was debilitating. My orthopedic doctor sent me off to his recommended surgeon.

I was excited at the idea of new knees. Friends had been telling me how much it had changed their lives. Worsening knee pain had been gradually stealing my life away, slowing me down, making me avoid activity. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys exercise, and I was looking forward to being able to get back to weight lifting and spinning classes and Zumba and more.

That day when I met Dr. X in the white-tiled exam room I enthusiastically told him about all the things I’d tried to fix my knees, my history, my motivation to get the surgery, all while he bent and measured my knees, watched me walk down the hall, and looked at my x-rays. I hoped I would get a surgery date soon, and maybe I could even convince him to do both my knees at once. I knew people who’d had that and done well. I wanted to get back to living an active life as soon as possible.

Dr. X had another idea.

He told me that the risks of operating on “overweight” patients go up “exponentially” over a certain BMI. He said that there were risks of complications during surgery, and risks of infection afterwards, up to 10-15% in “obese” patients. These were the statistics I was quoted. However, other surgeons and other studies dispute these numbers. He suggested bariatric surgery to lose weight.

Yes, the reality is that I’m fat. The medical community classifies me by the ugly term “morbidly obese.” I have experienced weight-cycling and an eating disorder for most of my life. Bariatric surgery has been suggested to me by doctors, friends and even strangers, and I admit I nosedive into shame whenever it comes up. I am adamantly opposed to that surgery, for many reasons. Most importantly, I know it wouldn’t work for me because of my eating disorder.

After I explained to him that I was in ED treatment, he nodded and told me in his deadpan voice that he was not going to schedule me for my knee surgery. My heart plummeted — I hadn’t expected this. He said, “I’m not saying I won’t do the surgery, but I want you to go away and work on your health for 3 months.”

What? My ED program is not a weight-loss program, I told him.

“It’s not about losing weight. I want you to show me you’re serious, and that you understand the risks,” he said. “I want you to develop a good relationship with me.”

At this point, I got louder. I was frustrated, angry, unseen, unheard. I didn’t know what he meant by a good relationship with him. I told him I had already been working on all this for a long time. I’m strong and healthy, I exercise, but pain limits me greatly. I’m highly motivated and educated. I wanted knee replacements so I can walk and climb stairs and resume activities and travel. I knew larger people who’d had the surgery and thrived.

But his answer was still no. “I’m going to get second opinions,” I said. He cheerfully provided me with names of colleagues, and then I was out in the hallway, tears stinging my eyes. I’d been denied surgery. Now what?

Now What?

After telling my story on Facebook, I received many personal recommendations for orthopedic surgeons to try. I had an appointment at one of the largest orthopedic practices in our state (with 36 locations). The recommended doctor told me they had a hard line against doing knee replacements for anyone over a certain BMI. None of them would operate on me.

After more humiliating rejections. I was discouraged, hopeless, full of shame, and angry. At this point, I did what I do best in tough times: I went into research mode. I started looking into alternative treatments. How could I move forward when my knee pain was getting worse every day?

What followed was a year-long odyssey into my new full-time job of managing my health care. I’d already stopped working temp jobs because of my pain. Now I spent my days in long Internet searches, calling my health insurance in confusing red-tape loops of information (and often misinformation) about possibilities.

I found out about pain management clinics and went to three different ones. I tried different combinations of pain meds, which never did more than ease my pain minimally. I tried acupuncture and somatic yoga for pain, did water workouts and more physical therapy. I read books on pain management. I got a cane and a handicapped parking tag, since even small amounts of walking hurt. I now experienced limitations in my mobility that impacted nearly every aspect of my daily life… Though I’m immensely privileged to have had my mobility eventually return, I learned a lot during that period about struggles for accessibility through this experience.

I researched stem cell treatments for knees, which sounded great! Could I grow back the cartilage on my knees? Unfortunately, it’s expensive, not covered by insurance, and unproven. Then I found out about radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for knees. By inserting a needle into the knee, a doctor could burn (or freeze) the nerve endings which might give pain relief for months or years. It might enable me to be active again! I enthusiastically researched this possibility, and after many more phone calls, lined myself up to get RFA at the world famous Mayo Clinic. I was really hopeful.

A week before the procedure, I was informed that my insurance wouldn’t cover Mayo Clinic. That was a hard setback, but I arranged for RFA at a pain clinic in my network a few months later. It ended up being a torturous and stressful experience that required me to have four separate sessions with needles being jammed deep into my knees. The worst part was that ultimately, RFA did not give the results I longed for. I was still hurting a lot every day and was moving less. I was sitting on the sidelines of my life.

I found myself at another “Now What?” moment. Even though I was still angry at Dr. X for refusing me surgery, I decided to return to him a year after my first visit. He had left open the possibility of me coming back and I was desperate. I knew I needed knee surgery. Would he now operate on me?

Dr. X Says Yes

I thought I would have to prepare my case and have all my arguments lined up for my appointment with Dr. X, but this one went much more smoothly. He examined my knees and my x-rays, and it was undeniable that everything was worse. I told him about getting RFA and my lack of success with that. He nodded in that non-emotional way of his and told me he’d send in the surgery scheduler. I would get one of my knees done in 2 1/2 months and then we’d see how that one did. If it was successful, I could have the other one done a few months after that. I was so relieved!

It was hard to wait for those last few months. My husband Bob and I prepped for surgery by going to a surgery information session, getting all the suggested equipment (a raised toilet seat, shower chair, walker) and moving our bedroom from the attic to the main floor. I worked with my fear of having this intimidating surgery, doing visualizations of everything going well with excellent healing and recovery. Then I realized I had to forgive Dr. X.

I can’t have this guy cut me open and remove a body part if I’m pissed off at him, I thought. That’s too much negativity. It didn’t come easy, but I internally extended forgiveness to him, welcomed him to my team. He and I were going to make this the best knee surgery ever.

Surgery + Recovery, Rinse and Repeat

I had my right knee replacement on September 4, 2018. Despite all the risk percentages quoted to me, despite my “morbid obesity,” it went extremely well. With Bob’s help, I got through those first tough months (and oh, it is no picnic!) and made steady progress. Bob could see a difference in how I was walking in just a few days. I did lots of physical therapy, and then returned to Dr. X for my 6-week checkup. He was pleased with my results and said I could schedule my other knee replacement. This time I had to wait 3 months for a surgery date. Having one knee done had made a big difference, but my left knee was still in pain. I was eager to get this surgery done.

I had my left knee replacement at the end of January, almost 5 months after my first surgery. Again, it went extremely well, and then I had to get through the arduous reality of recovery, this time, snowbound in February. It was hard, but I was so happy to have the surgeries behind me, to be on the road to feeling and moving better.

But I was not done with Dr. X yet. Ever since my first surgery, I’d had an idea brewing. I wanted to talk to Dr. X at my next 6-week checkup about his initial refusal to operate on me in 2017. I’d learned so much in the last few years on this journey of pain and disability and my struggles with the medical system. I’d been doing research on medical bias and updated studies on knee replacements for fat people. I was nervous to talk to him about this, especially with his rather stiff social demeanor. How would he react? He might be angry or dismissive. I knew I had to speak up about this though, if only for myself. Deep breath!

The Big Talk

I was back in the white-tiled exam room for the umpteenth time, my heart beating fast. I was scared but ready. Dr. X walked in and smiled and declared my knees a success. Then it was time…

I want to thank you for doing such an excellent job on my knees! We’re a team, and I couldn’t have done it without you. But I also want to tell you that I believe I suffered needlessly for over a year because you refused to operate on me because of my weight. Despite all the risks you told me about, I’m a success, and having these new knees is making such a huge difference in the quality of my life. I hope that the next time a fat person comes into your office, you will use ME as an example, and look at the whole health of an individual as you assess them for surgery. I’m healthy, I’m motivated and I’ve gone through other surgeries, so I was a good candidate for this surgery. I know doctors want to help people, and you could do so much good for people by not making them go through what I did. So many fat people avoid going to see doctors because they feel ashamed and humiliated by how they are treated.

I then told him I’d made a resource sheet of websites, books and articles related to what I was talking about, if he was interested. Then I held my breath awaiting his response.

To my surprise, he listened thoughtfully and thanked me. He told me he would use me as an example when other fat people come into his office. He took the resource sheet and said he had a resource for me I might be interested in, and asked if I would send him a copy of my sheet by email so that he could share it with others. I was flabbergasted! This did not seem like the same doctor who had first refused to operate on me.

I was overjoyed! This had gone much better than I ever could have expected. He smiled at me and we shook hands. I walked out of that office and into the lobby and did a victory fist-pump, then called Bob, happy and tearful, with my good news.

I’d advocated for myself and for others who might be denied surgery, and I’d been heard. Maybe someone else would be helped because of me. Maybe others wouldn’t have to go through the suffering and humiliation I’d experienced.

The last few years have been a huge learning experience for me about so many things: our medical and health insurance systems, fatphobia in the medical community, what it’s like to live with a disability or chronic pain (which is a blog post for another day) , and how to fight for what you need. It’s now been 1 year since my first surgery and 7 months since my second surgery, and I’m still recovering. I’m not in constant pain anymore, I’m able to do so many things I couldn’t for quite awhile, and I’m so grateful. There were a lot of things I took for granted about health and my body for so long, and now I know how precious those are.

For anyone else out there suffering needlessly because you’ve been denied treatment based on your weight, keep fighting and looking. There are doctors who will operate on fat bodies. Our diet mentality culture breeds all sorts of misinformation, and you can pursue healthy behaviors at any size. You deserve to get help to live a pain-free life. Fight against the useless shame.

I’m so glad I did. I love my new knees!

 


Theresa Jarosz Alberti is a writer, blogger, artist, and creator living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She writes all kinds of things, including seven books of children’s nonfiction and a book of poetry. You can find her online at http://penandmoon.com.

 



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Friday, 11 October 2019

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Victoria’s Secret Hires Anti-Fat Plus-Size Model

WTF are you doingFat people didn’t even fully get out our half-hearted this-is-still-hella-problematic cheer of Victoria’s Secret’s choice to (fricking finally) hire a plus-size model. Because the model they hired, Ali Tate Cutler, once hijacked a fat activist’s Facebook page to declare that fat people shouldn’t be allowed to live because we’re bad for the environment. I wrote about this in 2016, and I thought today would be a good day to revisit it (with thanks to Alysse Dalesandro for continue to fight the good fight on this!)

Alysse Dalessandro, a fashion and beauty writer, and designer for the brand Ready To Stare, posted an excellent article from Everyday Feminism called “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone” on her personal Facebook page. Then a plus-size model and self-described “body Activist” named Ali Tate Cutler took it upon herself to demonstrate why the article from EF was necessary, and illustrate the cycle of fatphobia – fat bash (using “the science!”), non-apology/demand education/tone police, claim to be a victim.

It’s also an example of casual fat elimination, which is when people suggest, during the course of normal conversation, that it would be cool to eradicate fat people because they think that the world would be better in some way if we didn’t exist.

Step 1 –  Make an argument that sounds all “science-y” but is actually based on stereotypes, prejudices, and …rectal pull.  Ali has this step down pat

Sorry but I don’t care about people’s health who are fat, that’s their own prerogative and their own life to lead. They are free to make their own choices. I am a staunch feminist, followed by a close second environmentalist. While some people are genetically obese and are vegetarian, and eating relatively low carbon foot print foods, most obese people are not. I do care about the excessive amounts of carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane gases it takes to produce a large person; the amount of animals that have been killed; the amount of exploitation that is going on to create fat. That’s not even being mentioned. Being obese is simply bad for the environment, and in this day and age, we cannot afford that lack of empathy anymore.

First let’s clarify – if you missed her point (and it would be easy to do since it is a poor argument, very poorly made) she is suggesting that people whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is greater than 30 (aka obese people) shouldn’t be allowed to exist because of her assumptions about the amount of meat that we eat and the subsequent impact on the environment.

Ali is a plus-size model and self-described “body activist,” but she appears to be one of those people whose “body positivity” only expands far enough to include herself.  Just as her “body activism” is questionable, so is her “environmentalism” since it seems to include lashing out irrationally on other people’s Facebook pages using numbers that she makes up. Suggesting that size = amount of meat eaten is patently ridiculous, especially considering the popularity of the paleo diet.  Ali seems to know that there are fat vegetarians and fat vegans (and thus that you can’t tell how much meat someone eats based on their size)  but she’s not one to let facts get in the way of a good fat bashing.

Regardless of what you believe about fat people and our carbon footprint, any time someone like Ali suggests that it’s ok to take a group of people who are identifiable by sight, calculate (or, in Ali’s case, make completely random guesses about) their cost on society, and then suggest that they shouldn’t exist, they are going down a bad, bad road.

But it gets more hypocritical. Having spent some time looking at Ali’s social media she is very proud of the time that she spends flying around the world, apparently the expanded carbon footprint that requires is justified in her case because of the importance of Ali wearing clothes in many locations.  To be clear, I have no problem with Ali being a model traveling around the world to do it, I do have a problem with her throwing carbon stones from her carbon house.

Finally, in the “adding insult to injury” and “horrible irony” categories, the winner is…Ali’s use of the phrase “lack of empathy.”

Step 2 – Issue a Non-Apology, demand education, and tone police

Like so many before her, Ali seems to suffer from NAS (Non-Apology Syndrome.) So, after seeming to be super surprised that people didn’t jump on her “stereotype the fatties for the environment” bandwagon and instead insisted that she stop saying ignorant shit and educate herself, she issued the kind of non-apology that  far  too  often follows this kind of fat-shaming. This is better than some, but still fails at the core goal of apologizing  for doing something wrong:

I wrote a comment on @readytostare instagram about obesity and its relationship to over consumption. I was coming at this from an environmental viewpoint. After reading some of the viewpoints and comments on the thread, I can totally understand how my comments came off rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And definitely not the truth for many people. I didn’t want to offend ANYONE and I’m so sorry that I did. I hope you can forgive my poorly written comments.

Except the problem isn’t that what she said “came off” rude, coarse, and inappropriate it’s that they, in fact, WERE rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And the problem isn’t that people were offended, it’s that she stereotyped fat people allowing ourselves to exist in the world constitutes a lack of empathy on our part.  Finally, the problem isn’t that the comments were “poorly written” it’s that they were inaccurate, bigoted, and suggested that fat people shouldn’t exist.

At this point Alysse said on Facebook

From the emails she has continued to send me, I’m clear that she’s not open to understanding how what she said was wrong, she just doesn’t want people to be mad at her.

Ali doubled down with a note telling Alysse how she should have responded:

This is Ali Tate. Thought I should write you about our interaction on Facebook. I’m really, I didn’t meant to offend you! I’m a body positive activist as well, and am passionate about talking and learning about these things.

But I don’t think I warranted a “fuck you” on Facebook. If I am wrong and wrote a false claim please, by all means, tell me why it is wrong and engage in rational discussion? The last thing I meant was to offend, just a good conversation. Anyways, hope you could unblock me and we can Converse about it.

Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that in the third sentence she actually meant to say “I’m sorry.” This is still not ok.  First of all, bigots don’t get to control both sides of the conversation. This (all too common) technique of fat-shaming and then telling fat people how they should respond to your bullshit, is bullshit.

Also, you have to come from a particular combination of privilege, bigotry, and ignorance to think that you can suggest that people shouldn’t exist, and call it “just a good conversation.”  There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether or not fat people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether fat people have the right to exist.  Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.

Step 3 – Claim to be the Victim

At this point Ali posted to her own Facebook

Wow. Now I really know what it feels like to be cyber bullied. It’s rough guys. Hope no one has to go through this.

Sorry Ali, my tiny violin is in the shop. This is another common tactic of bullies – engage in bullying behavior and then accuse those who stand up to them of being the bullies, using claiming victim status as their exit strategy from the situation. This also makes it clear that Ali has never actually been the victim of cyberbullying and I hope that continues for her, because it is horrible.

Let’s examine the situation:  Ali, a plus-size model and “body activist,” voluntarily went onto the Facebook page of a fat activist, on a thread about why concern trolling fat people is not ok, and hijacked the space and the thread to concern troll fat people – stereotyping us and calling our existence “empathy” that the world “cannot afford.”  Ali is the problem here, and so is the idea that people who stand up to oppression are bullies.  Many people have offered to educate her so I’m not going to spend my time and energy on it, but I sincerely hope that she educates herself, or at the very least keeps her stereotyping and fat bashing to herself.

In the words of Alysse (who was kind enough to give me permission to write about this and answer my questions)

I initially had blocked Ali from seeing the post because I didn’t want to cause any trauma to her because I knew I couldn’t control how people would respond but then I decided then that blocking her wouldn’t give her a chance to respond either. It was a difficult situation for both me and her. I believed that she should be held accountable for what she said about the community that both employs her and that she claims to advocate for. I hoped that the experience would educate and multiple people who I consider to be strong body advocates have come forth and offered to educate her. I hope she takes them up on that.

Ali seems like the perfect plus-size model for a company whose Chief Marketing Officer said “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

Until I see a real apologize, all I know is that Ali and Victoria’s Secret both hate fat people – but still want our money. To go along with our discussion of raising our standards, it’s sad to think that it would actually be raising the bar to require that those who make their money from us to not simultaneously call for our eradication, but here we are.

Was this post helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00 ($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

 

 



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Monday, 7 October 2019

Higher Standards – The Next Frontier of Fat Activism?

don't want to stigmatize (1)Fat people are taught early and often that we should have low standards, and low expectations. We’re supposed to be ok with a limited selection of clothes that are much more expensive than what thin people can get. We’re supposed to be happy that anyone would hire us over a less-qualified but thinner applicant, and not complain that we’re being paid $19,000 less. We’re supposed to date anyone who will have us, and put up with their fat-shaming bullshit. We’re supposed to accept that many of the people we call fat acceptance “allies” still actively advocate for a world that doesn’t have any fat people in it. It’s that last one that I want to focus on today.

Let’s start with this – I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live. People are allowed to decide that something (however small) is better than nothing. People are allowed to decide that “better alone than in fatphobic company” is not the adage that they want to live by.

When it comes to fat acceptance community, I’m ready for more. I’m ready for better. I believe that if we want to make progress as a movement we need to start having higher standards, and stop spending so much time being apologists for people who are perpetuating messages that harm us, just because the messages could, conceivably, be worse.

I wrote about the issues with James Corden’s recent problematic response to Bill Maher here. To me the worst part of it wasn’t the clips of Maher shamelessly calling for the bullying of fat people, because Bill Maher is a fatphobic bully and that’s what fatphobic bullies do.

The hardest part for me was seeing a fat person who was supposedly “refuting” Bill Maher’s fatphobia actively buy into and perpetuate almost every single premise of Maher’s argument, punctuating it with cheap fat jokes.  It was seeing a fat person, deeply entrenched in internalized fatphobia, say that Bill’s heart was in the right place, that fat people are indeed an epidemic and a problem to be solved. The hardest part was watching a fat person use internalized oppression to perpetuate weight stigma, with fat people cheering him on.

Before we get too far into this, we need to talk about privilege. As someone with a number of privileges including being white, currently able-bodied and neurotypical, I’m talking to people here with similar or more privilege than I have.

Also, my work stands on the shoulders of so many who came before me and have made progress, partly by making these concessions – which is what they had to do to make progress in the culture they were dealing with. I am forever grateful and in their debt for the progress those pioneers made, and continue to make (and I’ve done it too, both as a fat activist and, in particular, as a queer activist in from the mid 90’s in Texas, I made concessions and compromises that I would never make now.) This is not a criticism of the past.

Civil rights movements are a progression, the Fat Acceptance movement is no different, and friends, I think it’s time for us to progress. Especially when it comes to our expectations of those who speak for us or call themselves our allies.

I think it’s time to be clear that someone with a message that amounts to “I don’t want to stigmatize fat people, I just want to eradicate them from the Earth and prevent any more from existing” is not remotely fat positive, and is anything but an ally. With friends who want to eradicate you, who needs enemies?

I know it may be difficult to think about upsetting people – even if they are just people  who want to eradicate us but in a non-stigmatizing way, or upsetting celebrities who are still chanting “body positivity” while cashing checks from weight loss companies, or asking that people do their own work around their internalized fatphobia before going on National Television and speaking for fat people. But hear me out – what if this wishy-washiness, this willingness to call basically anything that isn’t abject oppression “allyship” helped us in the past, but is now what’s holding us back?

What if we started actively, intentionally, pushing the line of acceptable treatment far away from “eradication but with a little less bullying” and toward “total, unequivocal affirmation?”  (Always understanding that while this has become our problem, it was never our fault. That fat people were never the problem – weight stigma, fatphobia, diet culture, and their minions are.) What if, instead of encouraging each other to be more tolerant of the messages that perpetuate our oppression, we encouraged each other to raise our expectations and raise our standards.

What if?

Was this post helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00 ($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



via Dances With Fat https://ift.tt/2IudgKg

Friday, 4 October 2019

THIS FAT OLD LADY’S FAT FRIDAY – FAT KNEES

A rant about the medical establishment denying fat people knee surgery.

This Fat Old Lady’s Fat Friday – Fat Knees



via Fatties United! https://ift.tt/351GXMB

When You’re Stuck In A Room With A Fatphobe

Fat People Not Obligated (1)This post was inspired by the amazing Naomi Finklestein, an anti-diet coach at Redefining Wellness, She recently found herself in the position that plenty of us have found ourselves in – being at an event where you are the only fat person or the obviously fattest person in the room, and the speaker is a fatphobe. Naomi started a discussion in the group about how people choose to deal with this.

There were lots of great suggestions about making it an activism opportunity and educating the speaker, and of course that’s always an option in these situations, but there’s something that I think is important to remember when we find ourselves dealing with someone who is perpetuating weight stigma (and thereby harming us,) and that’s this:

However you decide to handle this is completely valid. You are not obligated to do any activism or education. You are not obligated to center the feelings or education of people who are buying into and perpetuating your oppression, you are not obligated to give them the benefit of the doubt. You are allowed to choose to do whatever it takes to make this as easy on yourself as possible given the situation.

This should never have happened, you should never be in this situation. You are not, and will never be, the problem in this situation. The problem is 100% fatphobes and their choice to perpetuate diet culture and fatphobia, and others choosing to buy into it and perpetuate it themselves. You can choose how you want to deal with this and then change your mind – day to day (or minute to minute) You are amazing and valuable and wonderful and worthy. Fuck diet culture, fuck fatphobia, fuck fatphobia’s minions.

Was this post helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00 ($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

 



via Dances With Fat https://ift.tt/2OkZ8XM

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Dressing Doesn’t Ruin Salad (Unless You Don’t Like the Dressing!)

can't ruin a saladThis has come up in several conversations lately, so I thought it was a good time to update and repost this. Trigger warning: I’m going to write about food, and about diet culture messages about food.

I was talking with a friend about vegetables, specifically that she believed that eating them would support her health, but she was still struggling with eating them. Before we go farther, the usual disclaimers apply – health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed no matter what we do. The field of nutrition is ever-changing and we don’t know more than we know.  We each get to prioritize our health and choose the path we want to get there and those choices can be limited by things like socioeconomics, access and more. Finally, even if vegetables were absolutely proven to make us immortal, we still wouldn’t be obligated to eat them.

So she asked me how I get vegetables and I said that one way was salads because I like them and they are fast and easy for me to prepare.  She said that she likes salads but there’s no point in eating them because she only likes them with dressing.

And that, y’all, is how the diet culture messes us up. In talking with other people who’ve recovered from diet culture, this kind of mentality was a big obstacle to overcome.  The diet world tells us that nothing is ever enough unless it’s the “absolute healthiest” (by which they actually mean the most diet-culture compliant) and that we should sacrifice anything and everything without complaint for the chance of becoming thin.

It is in this way that a meal with chicken, roasted root vegetables, salad, and a brownie becomes a minefield. Is that white meat?  Was that chicken cooked with the skin on?  It wasn’t cooked with added fat was it?  Were the vegetables roasted in olive oil? Is it possible to just get them steamed? With no salt? Is that cheese on that salad? Oh god is that ranch dressing?!  Do you have some red wine vinegar and Mrs. Dash?  And do you have some fruit instead of the brownie, actually the fruit probably has too much sugar.  And on, and on, and on.

I’m not interested in telling anybody else what to eat.  I am interested in examining the messages that we get around food from diet culture and the way that those messages affect us.  Going back to my original conversation with my friend, she had bought into the idea that you “ruin a salad” with dressing.  In truth, vegetables have value that is not “ruined” or reduced by adding dressing to them – maybe you just felt like eating a salad, you’re still getting that. Maybe you wanted to nutrition in the vegetables, you’re still getting that (and possibly more than without dressing if your salad contains fat-soluble vitamins,) maybe you wanted roughage, you’re still getting that.

I think we would all be in a much better place in our relationships with food if we weren’t told that health is easily definable, “all or nothing,” and always about “the absolute healthiest” (aka absolute most diet-industry compliant) thing. I think we’d be better off if we looked at our relationship with food as a series of choices made for various reasons that are personal and nobody’s business but our own (and those we choose to include.) I think we’d be better off if we stopped confusing the concepts of health/healthy (which are problematic as it is) with weight/weightloss.  It’s not the dressing that’s ruining our salads, it’s the messed up diet industry messages around food.

Was this post helpful? If you appreciate the work that I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time tip or by becoming a member. (Members get special deals on fat-positive stuff, a monthly e-mail keeping them up to date on the work their membership supports, and the ability to ask me questions that I answer in a members-only monthly Q&A Video!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Body Love Obstacle Course

This e-course that includes coaching videos, a study guide, and an ebook with the tools you need to create a rock-solid relationship with your body. Our relationships with our bodies don’t happen in a vacuum, so just learning to see our beauty isn’t going to cut it. The world throws obstacles in our way – obstacles that aren’t our fault, but become our problem. Over the course of this program, Ragen Chastain, Jeanette DePatie, and six incredible guest coaches will teach you practical, realistic, proven strategies to go above, around, and through the obstacles that the world puts in front of you when it comes to living an amazing life in the body you have now.
Price: $99.00 ($79.00 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Love It! 234 Inspirations And Activities to Help You Love Your Body
This is filled with thoughtful advice from the authors Jeanette DePatie, Ragen Chastain, and Pia Sciavo-Campo as well as dozens of other notable names from the body love movement, the book is lovingly illustrated with diverse drawings from size-positive artist Toni Tails.
Price: $9.99 softcover, $7.99 Kindle, ($6.95 + free shipping for DancesWithFat Members)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com .

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 



via Dances With Fat https://ift.tt/2pjqPpj

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

the HAES® files: No Body is Disposable! Fat and Disability Communities Join Powers to Close the Camps

by Dawn Haney and Max Airborne

In this poignant and timely piece, Dawn Haney and Max Airborne of Fat Rose describe how disability and fat liberation politics are inextricably connected to migrant rights. They describe how fat and disabled people have taken a stand against the detention centers at the USA’s southern border, in the #NoBodyIsDisposable movement, and explain how ASDAH members can deepen their social justice work by taking action on this critical issue.

*****

No Body is Disposable!

All Bodies are Valued, Indispensable, and Cherished!

Your Body is Integral. It is necessary to make things whole.

*****

This is the world we fight to live in, one where all bodies are cared for, including our own. This is part of the ASDAH vision.

As fat people, many of us have experienced daily dehumanization. We know how much some people are treated as disposable. When seeking medical care, we have been ignored and ridiculed. Some of us have been denied care entirely; and some of us have died as a result. How many fat people have a story about not being treated at the doctor’s office unless they lost weight?

But this dehumanization and marginalization is not unique to the fat experience. Today, Trump’s establishment of concentration camps at the US border is one of the most intense examples we have witnessed of the state treating families and children as disposable. Over 400,000 people have been held in border camps. Those detained include migrants recruited for work, and people seeking asylum from violence in countries like El Salvador and Honduras. Additionally, children are being separated from their families, despite federal rulings for that to end last summer.

“no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”

― Warsan Shire

Currently the conditions of these camps are so abysmal that lawyers are suing the camps for not having basic accommodations in place for people with disabilities. While this legal action is important, it’s clear that no amount of “accommodation improvements” will solve the underlying lack of care for migrants with disabilities. By definition, incarceration locks people in isolation, beginning a process of disposal. The only real, ethical way to accommodate people is to close the camps.

ASDAH is a leader in cherishing all bodies and valuing Health At Every Size®. How will you cherish all bodies at the border, valuing health at every immigration status, and health at every part of an asylum process?

Photo by Leslie Mah

This August, Fat and Disabled people and our communities joined in support of immigrants, demanding that the government CLOSE THE CAMPS that are imprisoning and harming thousands of people who are fleeing violence from their countries of origin. On August 28th, people gathered outside of ICE offices in San Francisco, and in actions from home and other locations. This was organized as part of a Month of Momentum of actions, where librarians and lawyers, students and tenants, journalists and adoptees came together to demand that these camps be closed.

We participated as an act of solidarity with migrant communities. We also participated as a statement of love. We know that many incarcerated in these camps are disabled, fat, chronically ill, elderly, traumatized, or impaired. Some arrived with these body-minds. Some were impacted by the state terror of the camps, others by starvation or lack of medical care. As co-organizer Stacey Milbern writes, “Our disability and fat liberation politics must absolutely name and hold those whose impairments are created by the state as a result of state terror, incarceration, environmental racism, border policing, war, forced starvation, and so many tools of domination.”

“You broke the ocean in half to be here. Only to meet nothing that wants you.”

Nayyirah Waheed, immigrant

As fat and disabled people, we know and must insist that #NoBodyIsDisposable. We must demand a world where all body/minds receive the basic love, respect, and care that everyone deserves. These camps continue a long history of marginalizing Brown people along the US border, questioning “who belongs” as a tool to maintain state control over who owns the land, who has the right to vote and be paid for work, and who has the right to move freely without constant threat of state interference. We will close the camps, and carry that energy forward to bring dignity, protection, and security to the lives of the people inside and outside of the camps, seeking asylum or legal immigration status.

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As communities that have rallied to resist disposability and reclaim our sense of value, what strengths do fat and disabled people have to contribute to closing the camps at the border?

Photo by Shoog McDaniel

First, we identify our access needs, and develop intimacy as a community to get them met. In many fat and disability community spaces, we ask people to identify their access needs “What will support you to be here?” For fat people, it might be sturdy armless chairs and no diet talk. For people with disabilities, it might be lowered lighting, fragrance free, and ASL interpretation.

What if we met asylum seekers at the border with this question: “What will support you to be here?” And instead of putting people in camps, we listened and developed intimacy as a community to respond to those needs? The Sanctuary Movement and community defense brigades have been leaders in responding to the needs of immigrant communities, from accompanying people to ICE appointments and developing rapid response networks, to offering up physical sanctuary. How can fat and disability communities be part of responding to the immediate needs of migrants and asylum seekers?

Second, we advocate, advocate, advocate — and we bring a friend who can speak up on our behalf. In our personal lives, we advocate for basic care at the doctor’s office, for seating at the restaurant, from our beds, on our phones and tablets. It’s true that we can use a lot of spoons just caring for ourselves and our close loved ones. But we invite you to stretch into advocacy if you have strengths here — messaging your Senator and asking five friends to help make the call with you.

Finally, we have also trained ourselves to resist surveillance industries in our lives. The diet industry and diet culture as a whole are part of the for-profit surveillance industries that keep close watch on bodies — making money off of fat bodies while teaching them they are disposable. When you resist surveillance, you reclaim a sense of value for your own body.

Sadly it is not always safe to resist surveillance openly. Sometimes resisting surveillance involves protecting ourselves within its systems. Brown people along the border are carrying passports, just waiting to be stopped. And this fear is not unfounded–a US citizen was recently held for 3 weeks.

We are writing this piece as a rallying cry for our ASDAH allies to join us in this important resistance work. We know that when the external pressures are this challenging, we need our friends and alliances to show up and remind us we are cherished and valued, that we are integral. We invite you into action, to declare: “You are our people! We will not let them treat you as disposable.” We invite you to show up in support and alliance, using your knowledge that #NoBodyIsDisposable to demand to Close the Camps.

Join us:

 


Dawn Haney has been a social justice movement organizer for two decades, transforming communities and organizations through vision and strategy, shifting power, navigating conflict, and healing. Max Airborne is an organizer and artist, active since the 1980’s in fat liberation, racial justice and queer liberation, and more recently disability justice. Together Dawn and Max are co-instigators of Fat Rose (fatrose.org).



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