The nature of FA

So, over at Babble, Lindsay has collected 100 links of fat blogs. Exciting indeed.

There’s been some talk in the comment section, in which I commented, about blogs being ranked according to their political stance in the FA movement. I’m feeling a little punchy this morning — maybe because it’s finally sunny here and the extra zoloft I’ve been affording myself is really kicking in — so I want to expound on this further.

It appears that some folks think that some of the people on the Fat O Sphere feed aren’t radical enough. That some people should just shut up and accept themselves already. That what some people are doing isn’t really fat acceptance unless they are balls-to-the-wall, fuck-you I am fat and proud and am gonna shout-it-out-loud.

Whoa.

First, these are people’s lives and bodies we are talking about. Bodies aren’t easy to just Get Over. Our bodies are extraordinarily personal. We have lived with them. We have fought them. We have struggled with them, maimed them; We have pleaded with them and begged them to Just Fucking Cooperate Already, OK? We have shoved them into jeans where we have had to use pliers to pull the zippers up. We have poured them into things that involved taffeta and tulle. We have burned our scalps because of bad dye jobs. We have overplucked. We have had bad wax jobs. We have purged. We have cut. We have run an extra lap to burn off the extra cookie we ate at lunch. We have gone hungry. We have tried the latest lipstick in order to win that man. We have contorted ourselves into the most satisfying sexual position. We have worked ourselves into such a frenzy over our bodies that our bodies actually become this separate entity outside of us. We exist outside of our body, and we treat it as though it is not actually a part of us. We abuse it, shun it, toss it aside like it is some piece of garbage.

Coming to fat acceptance is coming to a sort of peace over our bodies. For some people, it starts with saying: Weight Watchers is bullshit. For others it starts with saying: I am so tired of being hungry all the time because I am dieting all the time. For others, it starts with rejecting or recovering from eating disorder(s) and that culture. For others, it comes from feminist culture, or queer culture. For others, it comes from somewhere else completely. But it starts somewhere. It starts with a small inkling that fighting the body is a big fat waste of time.

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It’s really not.

Here we are, in our bodies. They want to be our friends. They carry us and nurture us despite our best efforts to fight them. They keep us alive and safe and protect us even when we neglect them. They have an internal desire to work properly without us even having to get involved and fiddle with them. That’s pretty amazing.

Yet all of our lives we are taught we need to fuck with what we are born with. We need to dye, pluck, thin, primp, shave, cut, and alter what is otherwise essentially natural and basically good. Biology is not destiny, not for the average white American woman.

When you are taught, from the womb, that you are not, can not, will not ever be OK as you are, it’s pretty hard to wake up one day and just decide: Yep! Today is the day I will toss all my socialization right out of the window and accept myself. The End.

Now imagine that you are fat. Or queer. Or trangendered. Or a person of color. Or disabled. Or otherwise of the non-dominant culture. You are fighting battles on several fronts. Learning to love yourself, learning to love the body that you have or need to have in order to function in the world as yourself when it flies in the face of what 99% of culture says is alright is not something that should be taken for granted. It is not easy. It is downright radical.

I reject the notion that fat acceptance is a static concept, that we don’t journey towards greater understanding of ourselves or each other. I reject the notion that it is not a consciousness raising effort. I reject the notion that we all should keep quiet until we have come to that perfect point of acceptance of ourselves. From whom do we learn, then? How is society changed, then? The courage to face the foibles we all share in tearing down the walls of dominant culture is where we gain power, both personally and collectively.

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7 Comments

  1. kira said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I agree completely. Fat acceptance has definitely been a journey and a struggle for me, and most people here express the same in their posts and comments. And like so many journeys, it’s not always an easy process, and – as I said in the comments at Lindsay’s blog – it’s not always linear. One day you may feel great about yourself, while the next you may be fighting your body again. Which creates a huge practical problem – how would you create a static hierarchy ranking something as fluid as a journey? You’d have to update the list monthly or weekly, maybe even daily, as the authors progressed through their personal journeys.

    But you know, thanks for sharing this, for the reminder of why it’s not easy. If only I could wake up one day and accept myself without a doubt. Maybe someday I’ll reach that point where I accept myself 100% every day, but I’m sure not there yet! Personally, as a relative newbie to FA, I’ve found it really helpful to read blogs like Good With Cheese, written by people who’ve discussed their difficulties as well as successes with FA. Although it’s inspiring to read posts by people who are absolutely in-your-face 100% self-accepting activists, and know that I can reach that point someday, it doesn’t help me navigate that journey from here to there. It really helps, on those bad days, to know that other people have gone or are going through similar things.

  2. Miriam Heddy said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I agree with what you’ve said, and yet I think that confounding this is the impatience factor. FA bloggers regularly deal with trolls who spout some of the same old, same old fat-phobic bingo lines, and after awhile, bloggers just end up having to put up a notice saying that people engaging in that bingo will just be deleted, because it’s not worth responding to each and every one when the information is out there, easily and readily available, to counter those claims.

    Then you have some of those same bingo moments happening within the blogs writing within the Fat-o-sphere, and it becomes another moment of impatience–especially if you’ve been an FA/HAES person for years and years, because what do you do when you read those moments where you see the person engaged in cognitive dissonance. Do you point them out? Do you ignore them? What’s the political obligation? If we leave them without response–without addressing the dissonance, then are we effectively sanctioning what happens next–which often is readers of the blog taking a cue from that dissonance and commenting in ways that often come closer and closer to something that few of us would recognize as FA/HAES?

    Don’t know the answers to these questions, and I do find myself just not responding to a lot of FA blogger posts that include comments that don’t strike me as “getting it,” quite. But sometimes, especially when the comments start piling up, I get frustrated and start to think that, though you’re right, FA is a journey, it’s worth defining the endpoint–the theory and practice of it, so that yes, people can reflect on where they are and admit that maybe they’re not there yet (rather than what I see often, which is people arguing that we shouldn’t define the movement, it’s theory or goals).

  3. Twistie said,

    February 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Amen! Sing it, sister!

    My FA journey has been relatively quiet and simple, but I still have my bad days when I start poking at my belly and wondering where my waistline went. I still have days when I wake up and feel unattractive.

    In my childhood, my parents actively taught me to reject social assumptions that didn’t fit with my experience. I haven’t shaved my legs in about fifteen years, and it’s been even longer since I shaved anything else on my body. I’ve dressed the way I pleased whether it was fashionable or not, eaten what I liked, gone where I wanted, and generally refused to be mainstream unless (for once) the mainstream was in synch with me…and yet I have my bad days when I have trouble loving my body.

    If it’s sometimes a struggle for someone who grew up being actively encouraged to think for myself with the wonderful example of a mother who was fat and unashamed in a time when there was no FA movement, and who has studied the history of fashion enough to understand on a deeply visceral level that physical beauty is a far from static concept, how hard is it for someone who didn’t grow up with those advantages? How hard is it for someone who has suffered – or continues to suffer – from a full-blown eating disorder? How hard is it for someone who has struggled all her life to fit in?

    Self love is a journey. We all make detours and stumble. We only get where we’re going if we’re willing to help others and accept help in our turn along the way.

  4. BigLiberty said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I think it’s dangerous to start splitting and categorizing the movement, because you’re naturally going to leave some people out in the cold. Maybe it will take them a bit longer to start really coming to terms with their bodies. Maybe their ideas of activism don’t match up with yours, politically. We’re aren’t all the same carbon-copies of one another, and to divide us will be to weaken the movement, ultimately.

    Let’s promote diversity and strength by keeping the movement whole, and accepting different viewpoints with patience and understanding (being that we can see the difference between trolls and between those who really want to be a part of the movement, and may be at a different point in their journey, or may express their activism in different ways).

  5. jamboree said,

    February 20, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am just starting out on my own fat acceptance journey, as it were, and I would feel embarrassed if my own feelings on the subject were deemed “unworthy”. Maybe I’m not as politically inclined as other FA bloggers, but aren’t we trying to build a little haven where we can all talk without fear of reprisal and judgment?

    You can’t take “acceptance” out of the Fat Acceptance Movement without destroying the very thing we are working towards.

  6. Lindsay said,

    February 20, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I know more about fat acceptance today than i did last week. Last week, i knew more about fat acceptance than i did a month ago. A month ago, i knew more about fat acceptance than i did six months ago. I haven’t been blogging for a year yet, and the things i have learned in this not-yet-year have just grown at an exponential rate.

    It gives me pause to consider where i might be in another year. Just how amazing is that?

    Growth is a lifelong process. The day you stop learning and growing is the day you might as well close the lid on your own coffin.

  7. Di said,

    February 21, 2008 at 11:16 am

    It’s hard not to be militant, or radical, when you’ve decided to go the fat acceptance route. While I’ve gone so far as to accept and support OTHER fat people, I’m still not so sure about myself. I find myself still counting calories, and still dreaming of a day when I’m again small enough to fit comfortably on an airplane seat.

    While some people see my take as buying in, in a way – paying close attention to what I wear and how I present myself – ensuring I look fabulous as I am is forcing me to evaluate my body objectively as a palate on which to carefully drape art. In some ways, objectifying my body is the only way I can trick myself into accepting it!


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