Great post on fat and race

Tara at Fatshionista writes about people of color and the fact acceptance movement:

There are reasons why people of color aren’t flocking to the fat acceptance movement, and they’re probably not the reasons you’re thinking of. [...]

I also need to say that if I hear the “fat is the last acceptable oppression” meme one more time, I am going to scream (louder). Fat hatred is often blatant, shameless, vitriolic, and completely public. But guess what? So is racism! (And classism, heterosexism, ableism, and sexism.) Racism is institutionalized into our laws, our classrooms, our work places, and our daily interactions. Just because some white folks think it’s unacceptable to say the n-word, doesn’t mean that racism is gone or that it’s not “acceptable.” When people in the fat acceptance movement say that fat is the last acceptable oppression, it alienates and invalidates the struggles of people of color, who know first-hand that racism not only exists, but that it is also very much “acceptable” in polite society.

Another offensive myth that I hear parroted around fairly often is that people of color are more accepting of fat bodies, and that men of color love a “thick” woman. Let’s just say that that is NOT my experience. In many different Asian communities, that is the opposite of the truth. By Taiwanese (where my mom is from) beauty standards, my 5’4, size 20, size 10 shoe body is enormous in almost every sense of the word. The last time my mom went to Taipei and tried to buy me a pair of shoes, the vendor asked her if they were for a man. The last time I saw my uncle 8 years ago (when I was a size 16), his friends laughed at me and he said that he wanted to put me on a diet program. Of course, Asians and Asian culture is not a monolith, and this standard is not true for everyone, everywhere. In fact, among other communities of color, it is not necessarily true that bigger women are more accepted. Our communities are also capable of internalizing fat-hating messages, so to say that people of color are more accepting of fatness is not only false, but it also marginalizes us further and contributes to perpetuating the invisibility of our struggles with our bodies.

I don’t agree with everything Tara writes; for instance, I don’t agree that the fatosphere rarely brings up the connection between class and access to healthy food. (I rarely see it brought up anywhere but the fatosphere). But it’s a great post.

Hat tip: Racialicious, which also quotes this great post by Fillyjonk:

…As people who are interested in social justice, we have a responsibility to give a shit about causes other than our own major concerns. Any oppression diminishes us. I am lucky enough to have a skin color that people can ignore, a relationship that I can get officially recognized, and enough financial stability that I don’t have to worry about where the rent is coming from. That means that racism, homophobia, and classism don’t affect me as much as fatphobia and misogyny; it means I could ignore them if I wanted to. But I invite them into my consciousness, not because I’m a glutton for emotional stress, but because I want to live in a just society. And I believe a just society is one in which the concerns and the marginalization of others matter to us.

Nobody is asking us to give up being fat activists and be anti-racism activists instead. But these things are not mutually exclusive; even if we don’t have the resources to do active work for both (or some other additional activist issue), we can give a shit about both simultaneously. If you do have the resources, by god, keep it up, but I know I just don’t have the energy to try to address all inequities and injustices. It’s hard enough to keep talking about large-scale attempts to disenfranchise and vilify fatties. But even if this isn’t a place where every oppression is equally addressed (which I don’t think anyone expects or even really needs), it’s really crucial that it be a place where every oppression is considered and important. That means that we do not minimize or dismiss people’s concerns. Right now, it means we listen to Tara when she talks about the things that hurt or alienate her; that we believe that these things are alienating; that we take this into account in the future; and that we understand that this awareness is not an unfair onus, but part of the greater work of social activism.

On the same subject, I’d also highly recommend this post at The Rotund.

This entry posted in Fat, fat and more fat, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

11 Responses to Great post on fat and race

  1. 1
    Tara says:

    Tara, the OP here.

    Thanks for the shout out!

    I realized after posting my speech/rant that I should have made my section on food access clearer. I agree that the FA movement talks about it as it relates to class, but not in terms of a racial justice issue as well.

    Anyway, I appreciate what you’ve said here and also over at Racialicious!

  2. “the fact acceptance movement”
    haha! If on there was one of those!

    BTW, vegans discuss “the connection between class and access to healthy food” too. We’d love to see less KFC and McDonald’s and more farmer’s markets and cooperative natural food stores. IMO, it’s not so much an issue of lack of access, but more that 1) there is coercion, in the form of TV commercials and child-aimed marketing campaigns, to eat unhealthy food, and 2) there is misinformation about nutrition – the dairy industry would have you believe humans cannot live without cow’s milk, despite the fact that much of history and much of the rest of the planet disproves them.

  3. bleh, I made a typo, too.
    It should say:
    If only there was one of those!

  4. 4
    Lea says:

    Amen to that. I am so sick of hearing people talking about “the last acceptable oppression” and how, by total coincidence, it’s always the one that affects them the worst. The fact of the matter is, oppression in general, oppression as a principle, is far too acceptable. That’s one of the factors that most sets back movements like fat acceptance and anti-racism. In order to be a true humanist, one has to embrace and learn about all the myriad forms of oppression and how they intersect, not just the ones that are “obvious” to one’s self.

  5. 5
    FormerlyLarryFromExile says:

    Ampersand

    I don’t agree with everything Tara writes; for instance, I don’t agree that the fatosphere rarely brings up the connection between class and access to healthy food. (I rarely see it brought up anywhere but the fatosphere).

    Are there many areas of this country that don’t sell fruits and vegetables or is the point that they are too expensive?

  6. 6
    Bjartmarr says:

    There are many areas of the country where fruits and vegetables are somewhat difficult to get. Generally, these areas tend to coincide with the poor areas of inner cities. Fast food, on the other hand, is astoundingly easy to find.

    They’re also expensive. The cost of 100 calories of Snickers bar is about 25 cents; the cost of 100 calories of apple is about $1. Give or take.

  7. 7
    Jim says:

    “Another offensive myth that I hear parroted around fairly often is that people of color are more accepting of fat bodies, and that men of color love a “thick” woman. Let’s just say that that is NOT my experience. In many different Asian communities, that is the opposite of the truth.”

    She has made an obvious category error, or probably she is exposing a category error. “People of color” as a term may have some value in some discussions, but the notion that Asians an African-Americans form some kind of cultural monolith called “people of color’ is pretty silly.

    “They’re also expensive. The cost of 100 calories of Snickers bar is about 25 cents; the cost of 100 calories of apple is about $1. Give or take.”

    That is true only if the criterion for value is calories per dollar. It works the other way if you are valuing foods by phytochemicals or other nutrients or things like fiber content. Then apples are a much better deal than Snickers.

  8. 8
    BananaDanna says:

    I’m pretty sure she’s exposing the category error and how it renders her experiences as an Asian POC invisible, Jim.

  9. 9
    Angel H. says:

    Re: food availabilty

    I go to the less expenisve grocery stores (Sav-a-Lot, Aldi, Dollar General Grocery, etc.) as much as I can. But the fresh produce sections are always pitifull. I am very picky about the produce I eat, and even if you do find what you’re looking for the quality of the product is often lousy. (Organic produce is nonexistant in those stores) So, I end up shelling out a couple of extra bucks that I sorely need on the “good stuff” at Kroger or Food Lion.

  10. 10
    nobody.really says:

    Was I the only one who read the heading “Great post on fat and race,” and thought that Amp was going to discuss the movie Run, Fat Boy, Run?

  11. 11
    Acheman says:

    That is true only if the criterion for value is calories per dollar. It works the other way if you are valuing foods by phytochemicals or other nutrients or things like fiber content. Then apples are a much better deal than Snickers.

    And the point is that if you are on a tight budget, it’s easier to skip on phytochemicals and fibre than it is to skip on calories. The market nudges people towards long-term malnourishment.