All We Are Saying…Is Not What You’re Saying We Said

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I don’t know if y’all have been following the latest “fatties are unhealthy! eleventyone!” dustup that hit the feminist blogosphere last week, but if you haven’t, Maia of Alas, A Blog and Aunt B. of Tiny Cat Pants have cogent summaries of what went on. And their pieces are well worth reading anyway, even if you’re caught up.

Like Maia, I’m heartened by the amount of pushback that’s going on now in response to such things, as opposed to just a few years ago, when only a few of us fatasses were raising our hands and saying things like, “Uh, excuse me, I haven’t eaten a whole box of donuts in one day EVER, and probably couldn’t finish one in a year, so you’d best come up with another reason for my mighty-mighty lardy-lardiness.” (Note the Good Fatty badge being waved in the air, as if anyone ever sees the damn thing but us FAs.)

And like Aunt B., I wonder about the feminists among us who still think policing other women’s bodies is okay in the name of “health,” especially when those same feminists are so quick to call out slut-shaming and drunk-shaming and blaming women for their rapes or beatings by criticizing the “bad” behavior that preceded them. I mean, I try to stay away from “Nobody would say X about Y kind of person” arguments these days (though I didn’t always), because if you hang around most people long enough, they will say X about Y type of person, even if the mores of their particular peer group compel them to do so in code. But Aunt B. is right on the money when she notes that many women who are otherwise fierce protectors of each other completely lose their shit when it comes to issues of food and weight:

If I can pick up a guy I don’t know at a bar and take him into the bathroom and fuck him silly and feminists can see how that’s my business, even if I might get a disease or get pregnant or slip and throw out my hip or some other outcome that would affect my health, why can’t I pick up a burger at a bar and not have it become cause for public fretting, especially by feminists?

Seriously. I will never be able to understand how the same women who (rightly) opine that women should have the right to drink like men frequently balk at the idea that women should be allowed to eat like men. Sure, you can inhale a thousand calories’ worth of Cosmopolitans or Coronas and fall off your barstool and that’s badass righteous, but gods forbid you should indulge in a cheeseburger. On a bun made with white flour. With fries. And a full-sugar soft drink. (You food slut, you.)

But what struck me, when reading all the posts and comments about this, is how many people set up the straw-FA, and attribute things to us ‘Spheres that we didn’t actually say.

We say, “Weight is, for the most part, not a very good proxy for health, and there are much better ones, like socioeconomic status.” They hear, “Being dozens of pounds over (or under) your baseline weight is just ginchy for you, and your doctor should never bring it up with you ever.” (So there’s a right way to bring it up, and a wrong way? And the wrong way involves the shame finger and accusations of lying and denial? Who knew?)

We say, “What causes people to weigh what they do is complex and multifactorial, and varies a lot from one person to another — and you can’t tell what people’s habits are by their pants size.” They hear, “Weight is purely inherited and has nothing whatsoever to do with behavior.” (Uh, no. Try the behavioral factors have been played to fucking death in the media, and we really, really don’t need to flog them yet again. Also, try dieting is a behavior too, and it makes most people who try it fatter, not thinner, especially if they take it up in childhood.)

We say, “Adults have a perfect right to have other priorities besides being a perfect goody-twelve-shoes about exercise and diet, and they’re still worthy of respect if they do.” (I mean, really, is this such a radical statement? If it is, then I am O-L-D; I can remember when admitting you liked bean sprouts would get you laughed at by everyone except ultrahippies.) They hear, “You must fuck fat chicks or you are a sociopath.”

We say, “Announcing you’re on a diet and giving a public blow-by-blow of your weight loss (as opposed to just eating the way you see fit without making a big deal about it) is pretty much akin to announcing you’re no longer a leader of our movement.” They hear, “You’re not drinking enough bacon grease, yuppiefuck; get with the program.”

We say, “Hounding kids about their weight is not likely to result in happier or healthier kids OR adults, for the most part.” They hear, “We don’t care if all the children lose their toes to dry gangrene by the time they’re 12, as long as we can eat all the baby-flavored donuts we want.”

We say, “The odds against permanent significant weight loss have always been pretty long, so if we care about health, we’re going to have to look at other parameters besides weight when measuring our overall physical and mental health.” They hear, “Nobody can lose weight at all, ever,” and proceed to tell us about how they lost 15 entire pounds by being “good,” and how they “know” they’d be the size of a barn if they let themselves go, which they’d never ever do because the God they’re too cool to believe in would smite them dead.

Got any others?

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34 Responses to “All We Are Saying…Is Not What You’re Saying We Said”

  1. wriggles Says:

    Nice to have you back Meowser,

    I wonder about the feminists among us who still think policing other women’s bodies is okay in the name of “health,” especially when those same feminists are so quick to call out slut-shaming and drunk-shaming and blaming women for their rapes or beatings by criticizing the “bad” behavior that preceded them.

    Not to mention the objectification of fat bodies as the conglomeration of bad habits, not any more dignity inducing than being a mere sex object.

    It’s been my view and it hasn’t been popular that feminism has a problem with fatness that goes beyond the zeitgeist of fat hating.

    As for creating straw FA and attacking that, it’s an indicator that there isn’t a genuine and cogent anti FA stance, obejection has to be hypocritical and irrational.

    I stand to be corrected on that one though, as ever.

  2. Mozzyt Says:

    LOL, this made my effin morning. So bloody true!

  3. Bree Says:

    I think quite a few feminists still can’t connect the dots when it comes to fat. For many of them it seems, they can cry for the rest of their lives woman can do anything else a man does, but we still have to maintain a socially acceptable appearance at the same time.

    If we want to have true female body autonomy which includes society not trying to treat our reproductive organs as public property, the same goes for our stomachs and fat rolls.

  4. Fantine Says:

    How about this one: “My mental and physical health are much better that they were when I was dieting, since I have given myself permission to eat whenever I’m hungry and stop whenever I’m satisfied.”

    And they hear, “I have no willpower whatsoever, so I’ve given myself permission to completely give up. I never eat healthy food and I never exercise, and I eat boxes and boxes of baby-flavored donuts every single day, nyah nyah nyah.”

    • Heidi Says:

      This is exactly what I was going to say! That’s the one I hear the most from people when I mention not dieting/HAES.

    • GeekGirlsRule Says:

      Ditto this. I get this all the time.

    • Sefi Says:

      Reminds me of this response to someone that decided to quit dieting: “Why do that? Eating that junk food is harmful to your health-clogs your arteries, increases your chances for cancer and a lot of other things. I am sorry but I don’t agree about eating and doing whatever you want. I feel I need tough love with myself to maintain now that I am near my goal. I feel that I am worth the effort and I think that you are worth it too.”

      Eating what you want always means “junk” food in a dieting mind, probably because that’s the food they want to eat. Putting something off limits only makes you want it more.

      • Fantine Says:

        That is one thing I was thoroughly amazed by once I had been practicing HAES principles for a while–that I actually got tired of eating sweets and wanted more nutritious food most of the time! I had read about other people’s experiences with that, but it was still amazing when it actually happened to me. And I think you’re right–when I was dieting, all I could think about is whatever the forbidden food was, whether it was chocolate or hot dogs or potatoes. When I was at my most restrictive, I used to dream about eating hot dogs. And now that I can have a hot do whenever I want, it’s really not one of my favorite foods.

      • Fantine Says:

        Typo correction: Have a hot DOG, not a hot DO. Although my hair does look pretty nice today.

  5. Andy Jo Says:

    What I have to say may upset some. I apologize in advance. I know not everyone thinks this way, but I am trying to convey what a public message “sounds like” from the feminist movement. I fully realize that they are frequently not intended to be as they sound, but this is the world of PR and politics – not one’s internal thoughts. I say these things as a feminist who spent years as an active part of the movement: What passes for the face of feminism today is just as constricting as what it purports to be replacing.

    What messages am I talking about? Here are some samples: So you want to be chaste? You must be frigid. You find certain sexual practices unclean? You’re just restrained by religion and need to liberate yourself sexually. So you really feel that your family is central to you and you feel it is your priority? You’ve been duped, and are a tool of the patriarchy. You get angry because the behavior of the leadership of the movement gives it a public black eye and causes public support to vanish? Tough bickies — the public just needs to get over it and they just don’t understand anyway. And so on…

    And another thing that enrages me is, despite the lip service paid to rape or sexual harrassment of men by women or by other men, it is largely not a matter for discussion. Men DO NOT report these things as they do not feel supported when it happens to them – the movement does not support them, and society certainly does not. I actually heard a feminist leader in my area once say “well, they’re men they can take care of themselves — we are here for women”. I’m not even including what goes on in jails (which is a whole other can of awful). If we feminists do not support others in their plight — who will? More to the point, if we do not support others in their plight — how can we ever be credible on this issue?

    The fat hate is, I think, just an extension of this thought process. The feminist must strive to represent some sort of an ‘image’ that is different from the stereotype. Standing up for those fatties well, you know… Would taint the movement: the stereotype for a feminist was (and is) an ugly fat woman angry at the world. Fat hate serves to distance the movement from the stereotype.

    Fat hate is the easy way out. It gives the movement a “pro-child”, “pro-family” tint (wrongly, but who cares); it gives the movement a “pro-health” tint and a righteousness that can counteract other positions… So on down the line…

    So… In lieu of dealing with real issues, fat hate becomes central to debunking the stereotype in order to change the public perception. Here’s a news flash, though: If we want the public perception to change, we must begin to live our purported values — all of them. No amount of fat hate will replace truly living our values, and treating all human beings as worthy and equal – male or female, fat or not, able or disabled, young or old…

    –Andy Jo–

  6. Kathy G. Says:

    A persistent problem with feminism is that, unfortunately, it has mostly been a white, upper middle class movement. As such, it has had, and continues to have, a lot of classic white upper middle class biases and blind spots. Anti-fat prejudice is one of them. It’s heartening to see there’s been some progress made in this area, though.

    • Lindsay Says:

      [Feminism] has mostly been a white, upper middle class movement. As such, it has had, and continues to have, a lot of classic white upper middle class biases and blind spots.

      Yeah, I think you’re right about this.

      I would also add that mainstream feminism today (or at least the online kind) skews fairly young — just about every major feminist website I can think of is run by one or more 20-to-30-somethings, and most of the new feminist books I can think of that were published in the past few years were also by young feminists. Since younger people tend not to be as fat as older people — they haven’t yet experienced the normal metabolic slowdown and associated weight gains of middle age — they might be less likely to see fat as a perfectly normal fact of life.

  7. ZaLisa Says:

    I don’t really have anything to add other than I need a t-shirt emblazoned with “Food Slut” on it!

  8. JeninCanada Says:

    Sing it! You’ve got something really hilariously true here. Thanks for the post!

  9. joannadeadwinter Says:

    Don’t forget the whole trope about how fat people contribute to environmental degradation and global warming, which disproportionately affects the poor, who are disproportionately women. Ergo, fighting fat is a feminist issue.

    And my personal favorite: “How can you be pro-choice and be against dieting. It’s MY body after all, and I can choose to diet! No fair! You’re judging me!”

    Yeah, yeah, noise noise.

  10. Anna Says:

    Oh My God. Really. REALLY?!

    Wait, so, smoking, drinking, drugs, STDs, whatever, etc, those are fine, but if we eat full fat food it becomes a thing about our health?

    What people do with their own dang bodies is none of my dang business. Have sex with seven million people! Get seven million piercings! Eat seven million chocolate bars! Eat no chocolate bars! Don’t have sex ever! Decide what you want to do and do it. It’s none of my business.

    • Anna Says:

      Wait, that came off way more wanky than I intended. Let me try this again.

      I’m reading the thread, and loving all the people going “Hey, author lady, you are an idiot.” That makes me happy.

      It upsets me that we are allowed to do what we want with our bodies, until out bodies are no longer aesthetically pleasing. And then it gets swept under “Oh, but, for your HEALTH!” It upsets me that some feminists, who I have generally accepted as comrades in arms, are still buying into this shit and bigotry.

      I stand by my last paragraph though. Mostly because I like saying “Seven million”.

  11. closetpuritan Says:

    Meowser, I really liked this post.

    Except for this part: “which they’d never ever do because the God they’re too cool to believe in would smite them dead.”

    I know you’re mainly trying to make a point about how reactionaries against FA tend to be all smug and self-important and whatnot… but you seem to be using “don’t believe in God” as a synonym for “smug and self-important”, or using (your assumptions about) their beliefs as additional evidence for how full of themselves they are. I don’t think using a (non)religious identity as an insult is cool.

    But anyway, I really do like the rest of the post. Even things that are often said in the Fatosphere–although not agreed with universally–like “there’s zero causal connection between weight and health”–people get so hung up on them, and if they were paying any attention to the rest of the things coming out of the Fatosphere (especially HAES), they would realize, even if overnight we were able to convince everyone that that was true, does it really matter that much if they say that? Many of them go the route of “discriminating against fat people is bad, BUT…” But if they are serious about thinking that anti-fat discrimination is bad, would they hate FA so much because of something that, in my opinion, is not even the main focus of FA?

    OK, I’ve got one: When people say, “My joints hurt, I should lose weight,” or “I’m tired and low energy, maybe I should lose weight,” and we respond, “Maybe you could try strengthening exercises for your joints,” or “Have you tried HAES?” they hear, “You should give up and just sit on the couch eating whole pizzas and dozens of donuts all day!”

    I guess their thinking is that if we give up even a little bit of the health-related scare information, a bunch of the people who are sorta trying now will say, “Fuck it, I’m not going to diet anymore, I’m going to eat fast food 3x/day!” (As if weight loss/maintenance efforts were mostly health-motivated, rather than mostly looks-motivated.) And then because “OMG obesity is increasing! Crisis! We have to stop it!” they go into panic mode, or something.

    • Rosa Says:

      This. So much this.

      I have several friends who, when diagnosed with something that has several suggestions for fixing it – PT exercises, diet changes, exercise, clothing/shoe/ergonomic changes, drugs – they jump RIGHT on the diet and let the rest slide.

      And it is so hard to say gently, you know, I understand dieting/losing weight is an important part of your health plan, but so are these other parts, because what they hear is “I want you to fail at dieting so I am going to tell you it’s not important.”

  12. raven_feathers Says:

    i loved this post and laughed at the food slut bit, but wish you hadn’t taken the dig at atheists there at the end. your point could’ve been made without falling back to the old saw that atheists are all smug hipsters and, apparently, thin, too. many of us are none of the above. your post really lost it’s bite with that snippet of irony.

  13. Mulberry Says:

    All we are saying is [anything]. They hear [nothing]. That’s it in a nutshell.

  14. Shameful behaviour « This Wicked Day Says:

    […] ADDED 7/9: Another good response, taking on the Straw Fat-Acceptance Activist (and coining the wonderful phrase ‘food slut’) at Fat Fu. […]

  15. Big Fat Deal » Fat Acceptance And Feminism (Again) Says:

    […] this morning, I read this terrific post from Meowser on the controversy, as well as the strawman version of Fat Acceptance that is being […]

  16. meowser Says:

    Sorry for the delay in comment-approving, folks. Right after writing this post, I went to the ER with horrible stomach pains and wound up needing emergency gallbladder surgery! I just got discharged and I’m doing fine postop, but I haven’t had access to a ‘puter until now.

    Anyway, about the atheist thing: I just think it’s kind of funny that there are certain atheists who would laugh at the idea of anyone saying, “If I do X, God will smite me dead,” but seem to carry that belief around when it comes to actually indulging their appetites even if they wouldn’t phrase it as such. (Do I have people like this in my very own family? Why yes.) I’ve no beef whatsoever with atheists, just with that particular brand of internal inconsistency.

    • closetpuritan Says:

      Meowser–
      Sorry to hear about your hospital visit! I hope your recovery continues to go well.

      Thank you for clarifying the atheism bit. I pretty much agree with you, in that case. Healthism can be sort of like a cult, and of course we’ve all heard foods described as “sinful” and “bad”. In fact, I remember seeing a NY Times article where a religious leader was lamenting that thinness was seen as the new morality/purity.

    • Kowalski Says:

      Seconding the get well wishes!

      Re: atheism.
      I’m an atheist and that “smite me dead” line cracked me up.

      The whole post was hilarious and spot on, thanks so much for writing it!

    • Rosa Says:

      Sorry you’ve been ill! I hope you’re feeling better.

    • Lindsay Says:

      This atheist also found your smiting comment funny, and not at all offensive.

    • BuffPuff Says:

      Really really late to this party, but fab post, meowser – and I hope you feel loads better soon! (Don’t know why the God I’m too agnostic to try to define even gave us gall bladders when they cause so many people such grief).

      • Meowser Says:

        Yeah, it’s an organ that pretty much exists to sit around waiting to get infected. Like the appendix. Intelligent design, my round bottom.

  17. SingOut Says:

    I just read Lauren’s comments at the PostBourgie podcast post responding to the criticism of Monica’s original post, and I’m so disappointed. I think I’m done with Feministe. 😦

  18. Open Thread: Dancing Sitting Down Edition | Alas, a blog Says:

    […] Terrific post by Meowser catalogs some of the many straw-fat activists we see so often. […]


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