posted by meowser
Buffpuff, who doesn’t blog anywhere near often enough to suit me, the other day blogged the following regarding the infamous Gruen Transfer mock-ads:
I’m not trying to infer that fat discrimination is worse than racism, anti-Semitism, ableism or homophobia nor am I trying to say it’s exactly the same in nature. They’re all different, they’re all life blighting, they all still go on and they all stink. What I am saying is that here, in my experience, sizeism has yet to be acknowledged as a form of discrimination at all – by the media, the government, the medical profession or anybody else save a handful of those who experience it. There is no public discourse, no self-examination, no glimmer of change on the horizon, no protection enshrined in law which, given that we we make up half the UK population, is shameful. That doesn’t make tackling sizeism more important than tackling any other type of discrimination, but it does mean there’s an awful lot of work to be done before it’s taken as seriously.
I completely agree.
Now, before anyone starts yelling “Oppression Olympics!” at Buffpuff or at me, rest assured that neither of us confuses a social justice movement being taken seriously, or at least being given lip service, with actual lack of prejudice or hate. We’re well aware that none of those other prejudices are “over,” or can no longer be considered serious problems — of course that’s not the case, or all those social justice movements wouldn’t still exist. I haven’t changed my mind about fat hate being a repository for all kinds of prejudice people feel they need to talk in code about.
What I want to know is, when are people going to have to start talking in code about us? (And when I say “us,” I of course mean the part of “us” that’s fat, regardless of whatever other identities we inhabit.) When is being vocally against human rights and humanistic treatment for fat people going to cost anybody anything ever? Bear in mind that the mock-commercials in question were being created to “sell the unsellable.” Us. We’re what’s unsellable. Of course fat rights is a big fat joke! All you people have to do is eat less, and everyone will like you just fine! (That is, if you don’t belong to any other stigmatized groups, either.)
Almost everyone thinks this. Even most of our fellow fatties, who still imagine they’re just a few passed-up sodas and spurned candy bars away from the acceptance they crave way more than sugar. That’s how bad it is, folks; if you showed me a really naturally-skinny person and a really naturally-fat person side by side, and I knew nothing else about either one of them, and you asked me which of them would be more likely to be down with fat acceptance? I go with the naturally-skinny person. Every time. I’m really not kidding. Why? I have no clue (although it could have something to do with the fact that the really skinny people know they couldn’t attain anywhere close to my BMI if they tried). But when I try explaining this stuff to people, I’ve noticed over and over again that my odds are better with people with BMIs under 22 who don’t diet than with people with BMIs over 32 who do. If fat people were on their own damned side, fat acceptance wouldn’t feel like shoving an anvil off a five-mile cliff.
I’m in total agreement with those who say the Gruen Transfer presentation was appallingly sexist, smug, smarmy, and self-congratulatory (sssssss), and I continue to maintain that there is no such thing as someone who truly loves everyone but fatties. What’s happened is that fashion has changed so that people such as these telegenic young(ish) white men are now required to give their share of superficial lip service to being against other (although certainly not all other) forms of prejudice.
Look, I grew up in the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when American suburbia was all white-flight haven. In those suburbs, I was surrounded by white people, Jewish and not, who were visibly relieved they didn’t live next door to poor black people (although they were also visibly relieved when there was an affluent black family around who spoke the King’s English better than they did). These same people also despised George Wallace and Richard Nixon and everything they stood for, and voted for JFK and Lyndon Johnson and were outraged by things like segregated bathrooms and voter literacy tests, and were thrilled to see the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed. They may not have wanted to live next door to poor black people, but they were downright proud to vote for people who made it easier for those poor black people to vote too, and to move about in public without being dogged by Jim Crow.
Is that good enough? Does that prove lack of prejudice? Of course not, squared. But it was something. Superficial lip service in favor of black civil rights by whites, arguably, is what finally got the law changed, even if white people took their sweet time coming around to it. (And yes, I’m well aware that there were white people who were true believers and put their lives on the line for the civil rights movement in ways that totally put me to shame, also, including women who would later go on to spearhead second-wave feminism.)
Same went with the women’s movement, as we called it when I was a baby fatty. No, we couldn’t get the ERA passed, even with a majority of Americans in favor of it, because Schlafly et al managed to convince just enough people in the exact right places that it would require men to wear pantyhose and take their wives’ last names, and 7-year-old girls to use the men’s room and have to be exposed to strange men whipping out their willies to pee. Silly shit, but boy, it was effective. But a whole mess of other, smaller laws did pass and mores changed along with them (Daisy’s Thank a Second Wave Feminist post lays this out spectacularly) that allowed women to get medical care without their husbands’ or fathers’ permission, and wear pants to school and work, and have their own credit, and about a squillion other things that women nowadays take as givens. Is that because people forgot all about sexism all of a sudden? Need you ask? Nope, superficial lip service struck again. (The swelling chorus of millions of women who all seemed to realize simultaneously that they were getting the fuzzy end of the lolly for no good reason didn’t hurt, either.)
I don’t care if people like me or think I’m pretty or healthy or nice or that I smell of sandalwood soap (not elderberries!), or any of that shit. Okay, maybe I do (at least give me credit for my deodorant working), but that’s not the most important thing to me at the moment. Most of all, I want the fucking laws off my fat ass. I want it to be illegal for people to pull the kinds of shenanigans the airlines have pulled on us. I want it to be illegal for people to refuse to hire us or to fire us or to spurn us for promotions or to slap fines on us just because of our weight. I want it to be illegal for schools to refuse us admission or landlords to refuse to rent to us because we’re fat. I want it to be illegal for insurance companies to refuse to cover us, or doctors to refuse to treat us for the problem we came in for, no matter how potentially deadly, until we get thin. And if we can’t make it entirely illegal, I want it to be extremely painful and costly for them to do those things. I want it to be more than a few of us who have been labeled fringe goofballs saying it shouldn’t be. I don’t care why people protest on our behalf. I just want them to frigging do it.
Hell, I remember when things like same-sex marriage and trans rights were considered just as “unsellable” (says the woman who lost her job as a teenager in 1980 for saying she thought gay people should be allowed to get married to each other and adopt kids). There’s still untold miles to go in both of those battles, and plenty of hatebags to defeat, and millions of people who are way more prejudiced in either or both of those areas than they’d ever cop to. But would anyone who’s paying any attention at all claim those causes are “unsellable” to almost everyone now? Things can change, drastically and quickly, so I wouldn’t say there’s no hope that our rights will become “sellable” too. However, one thing I will say — and once again, I’m with my fellow Jew Buffpuff on this — I’m not among those offended that someone would compare the plight of the Jews to that of fat people. No, there haven’t been fat pogroms or concentration camps, and I’d like to keep it that way.
But I also know that when there have been violent uprisings against Jewish people (and not just in the last century), they didn’t come out of nowhere. It took decades of escalating scapegoating and hatemongering before those eruptions took place. Nazism was not a one-decade fluke where people temporarily lost their marbles; any Jew could tell you that. And as long as fat people are portrayed more and more often in popular and alternative media as the Awful Ugly Greedy People Whose Fault Everything Is, and with our rights actually becoming more curtailed than they were a decade ago, I’m not willing to say it couldn’t happen to our fat asses (Jewish or otherwise), too. (And yeah, I know all too well that “my” people have been some of the leading fetishizers of thinness, unfortunately, because stoutness has an unbreakable association with the dreaded shtetls and thinness has long been linked with fitting in with upper-caste WASPs.) I’m a lot more concerned that people won’t learn from what happened to the Jews than that they’ll think about it too much, frankly.
It’s tempting to say the “support” of people who (I think) are assholes is worse than no support at all. And I still don’t intend to allow diet or yay-weight-loss talk on this site, for the simple reason that I don’t get much of a safe haven from that stuff elsewhere and neither do most of my readers. But as far as whether or not you, yourself are actually dieting or hoping to become thin(ner), and want to know if you can still work for fat rights and say your own fat is no good? Or what if you think fat is unhealthy, but that all the things I mentioned should still be illegal? Let’s just say this. There’s a huge difference — I mean, the size of the Grand Canyon — between who I feel I can stand behind as a movement leader and who is “fit” to be a supporter. I hesitate even to type the latter part of that sentence, because it sounds as if I have some kind of Fit Supporter Rule Book and I really, really don’t.
But just because I don’t want to hear about your diet or applaud while you pull out the waistband of your fat pants doesn’t mean I hate you, or don’t want your support. (I think most people in fat acceptance have meatspace friends and relatives who diet and don’t hate their guts for it, even if we don’t want to hear their blow-by-blow weekly scale reports.) When it comes to getting the laws and the culture changed, we need all the support we can get, even from calorie counters, even from people who are decidedly not perfect in other ways. If only the pure of heart could effect any sort of change, we’d be in big-assed trouble.