This is what progress looks like

A minor shit-storm has blown up over on Feministe where a guest blogger called Monica posted an fat-hating rant.* I’m not going to quote any of it – it was an inane, illogical post – and the point of this post is not to refute her nonsense (she actually talks about how people need to put down the donuts – that’s how unoriginal she is).

Instead I want to talk about another post on feministe that was written almost four and a half years ago. It was a better written, and more coherent. But it was also arguing that fat acceptance activists went too far, and that we needed to talk about the unhealthyness of fat.

There were 122 comments on Monica’s recent post – a good 95% of which are people telling Monica exactly how ridiculous and offensive her post is.

Four and a half years ago, there were just a few of us who spoke up for even moderate fat acceptance (and if you read the comments – which I don’t actually recommend – I was being embarrassingly moderate and conciliatory).

In four and a half years the number of people talking fat and politics at feministe and feministe adjacent spaces has increased exponentially. Every person who says “I’m fat and there’s no shame in that”, makes it a little easier for the next person.

That a few moderates has become 100 angry radicals gives me such hope, and it really shows the value of continuing to talk and fight for what I’d still prefer to call fat liberation.

*Prompted by of all things a Jezebel post – if Jezebel is too fat accepting for you I recommend you don’t read my archives.

This entry posted in Fat, fat and more fat. Bookmark the permalink. 

75 Responses to This is what progress looks like

  1. 1
    ElleDee says:

    I read that thread this morning and I really appreciate the perspective you’ve put on it over here. I’ve never had a dog in a blogosphere fight (of course I have strong opinions, but it’s never been my ass on the line), but they are still stressful. You never know if they are going to turn out to be a learning experience or if the rancor is going to be more destructive. I usually feel that I learn something as an observer and I feel like the blogs I started reading 4-ish years ago really are more sensitive to intersectionality issues. There’s always more work to be done and more missteps looming in the future (ugh), but it’s difficult! I’m not saying that everyone deserves cookies, but learning to check your ego, unpack your privilege and to not be an oppressive jerk is. really. hard. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t fuck up on such a reliable basis. But I think that progress is being made slowly overall, even as the same mistakes are repeated.

    I’ll be watching to see how this blow up works out.

  2. 2
    Shoshie says:

    Ugh, that post was so full of fail. I feel like, if you’re going to argue that an activist group is going too far, you should probably be super familiar with the activist group and all its nuqance. If you are OUTSIDE the group (like a thin woman commenting on fat acceptance), you better be super-aware of the power differential involved in your critique. At least if you genuinely want to help, and not just make people angry and upset. But I was also really happy to read all of the comments calling Monica out on her ridiculousness. Go team fat!

  3. 3
    mythago says:

    WTF happened to Feministe?

  4. 4
    Clarissa says:

    The reason why so many people suffer from obesity in this country (unlike anywhere else in the world) is because a) the food is really horrible and unhealthy and b) the lifestyle is geared towards helping the auto industry make more profits, so everybody has to use a stupid car.

    I wish instead of so many fat-acceptance activists we had more activists fighting the food industry and the automobile industry.

  5. 5
    Adrian says:

    I agree with you there are a lot more outspoken fat acceptance activists in feminist communities than there used to be. That’s clearly a good thing. But I think it’s mistaken to say the handful of people objecting to the post 4.5 years ago were defending “moderate fat acceptance,” and those calling out the recent outrage are really strong activists. It looks exactly the other way around to me. (You don’t have to be all that anti-racist at all to object to the Klan.) Lots of moderates find it easy to speak out against obvious hatred. It’s much harder to see the problem with subtle forms of discrimination that are deeply ingrained in the common culture.

  6. 6
    Jo says:

    The poster at Feministe wasn’t as vile as I’d expected when you said ‘fat rant’, but you’re right, that was pretty much ho-hum *yawn* typical stuff.

    I LOVE that there are 100+ FA/HAES radicals posting where a few moderates used to be. Progress indeed. I’m one of those who might have said “hey, I’m fat and I exercise” four+ years ago, and now would have jumped in with much more “stop the fat shaming etc etc” if they hadn’t closed comments already.

    That surprises me, unless Feministe suddenly decided that 122 people telling M she was Wrong was enough, that they’d easily covered all the bases.

    I am, by the way, fighting the food industry by boycotting all products with HFCS, which kicks my butt anyway, and by (occasionally) writing about how the DIET industry is full of fail. Food and auto aren’t the only ones making big bucks off our bodies, fat or not.

  7. 7
    polianarchy says:

    Clarissa, don’t believe the hype. And for the love of body equality and a shame-free existance, don’t repeat their lies as fact. Check out Kate Harding’s FAQ to debunk those myths.

  8. 8
    BStu says:

    Clarissa, your attitude is still based on an essential belief that fat people are failures. It should be no surprise that what fat people do want to fight for self-respect would not be approaching it from that sort of perspective. I’m sick of people feeling the need to blame something for my body, whether it be myself, corporations, or anything. It never makes any sense. Thin people drive. Thin people eat the same food as fat people. Whatever sins may be committed by those industries, my body is not one of them and regarding my body that was is an insult to me. My body is not an epidemic. And insofar as there may be more fat people than there used to, a far more direct and obvious cause always gets disregarded. The fact that dieting, which has been shown to result in weight gain about 90% of the time, has become utterly pervasive in our society and targets people younger and younger AND thinner and thinner.

    Many fat activists DO protest industrial agriculture and automotive subsidies for their own reasons, but we should not be belittled into doing so as a means of making them atone for our bodies.

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    I wish instead of so many fat-acceptance activists we had more activists fighting the food industry and the automobile industry.

    This may be off topic, so the moderators should, of course, feel free to move the comment to an open thread or delete it, but…

    I don’t necessarily think that the “obesity epidemic” is a major problem. The population level data suggests it’s not. However, just for the sake of argument, if we wanted to reduce obesity, how would we go about it. Lecturing people for being fat has been a complete failure. Diet drugs so far have been…shall we say, sub-optimal. We’d need a completely different and more expensive approach. Consider:

    1. First, we’d need to get serious about the 40 hour work week. No routine overtime, no salaried positions requiring 60+ hours, no pay so low that people are forced to get second and third jobs. Why, you may ask? The short answer is sleep. If people don’t have enough time off, they won’t sleep enough. Inadequate sleep has been associated with weight gain (not just in people with sleep apnea.) So if we’re serious about getting people to lose or not gain weight, making sure they can sleep enough is important. For a second reason that people will keep weighing more than “ideal” if they have to work 60+ hours, see below.
    2. We need to make sure that the minimum wage is a living wage. Food is expensive. So is cooking equipment and an apartment or house with adequate space and things like a stove and refrigerator. If you want people off of tid McDonald’s you’ve got to make alternatives possible and, ideally, easy. Otherwise, forget it.
    3. Yep, better public transportation. Cars tend to make people walk less. Walking to the subway isn’t a lot of walking, but it’s more than walking to the garage.
    4. Grocery stores. In every neighborhood. How can you “eat right” if you don’t have any place to buy food?
    5. Universal health care. Not all obesity is idiopathic. Find the sleep apneas, hypothyroidism, brain stem tumors, etc early. And keep people in shape for whatever exercise they favor.

    Like I said earlier, I’m not sure the goal is a useful one, but if a reduction in obseity is the goal, it can’t be reached just with a few lectures from Michelle Obama about eating right. It’s going to take a lot of basic social changes, and I don’t mean outlawing corn syrup: Poverty and obesity are correlated and reducing poverty will either reduce obesity…or reduce the problems associated with it. Either way, a win, but far more work than anything currenly proposed.

  10. 10
    moose says:

    Frequently, folks seem quick to say that fat people have unhealthy diets and do not exercise. “If they would only walk they wouldn’t be so fat.”

    Repeated studies show that exercise without weight loss causes health benefits. Someone’s weight is not a pre-determination of health.

    I know plenty of people who are “morbidly obese” (a term I hate because it has become so pejorative) who eat healthy, sometimes vegetarian diets. Yes, you can be a vegetarian and eat junk food, but most people who expend the effort to not eat meat are not eating donuts and fast food.

    I know people who are fat and strong and powerful. I once read a woman talk about how she, a 5’9″ 250 lb woman, beat out a pile of thin men to become a prison guard because she scored higher on the fitness tests.

    We need to stop panicking over obesity. Despite all the calls to panic we are living longer, healthier lives. Stop worrying about what someone’s body shape is and stop trying to “prevent” things that may not need to be “cured” or “fixed.”

  11. 11
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Shoshie – the problem with inside/outside critique is that the people who have experienced both sides of the conundrum (formerly-fat folks) are the most virulent fat-haters.

    @ BStu
    If the problem was something else… let’s say an epidemic of asthma caused by automotive exhaust… would you be giving the same debate, laying claim to and defending your asthma as part of your body that should not be considered a problem? A negative condition on your health brought about by car-culture.

    Now, obviously, that back to weight is a problem – weight does not equal health. But it is related to it. Yes, the connections between diabetes, joint problems and various similar diseases are far more complicated and poorly understood than the media pretends, but it’s hard to deny that they’re there. And yes, it is questionable whether they exist at all for people who are only moderately overweight. I think Amp’s frequent articles on this subject have highlighted that quite well – that “moderately overweight” band of various contradictory BMI charts may actually represent a position that is as-healthy-or-healthier than being in the so-called “normal” range. So let’s skip that and get to the questions about people who are heavily overweight.

    Here’s the basic fantasy question for fat folks, particularly those of you who are further afield: if you could wake up tomorrow 20 lbs lighter (all body-fat that will not return) with no ill-effects, but nobody else would care if you lost that weight or not (so there is no social pressure to do so, or not) would you say yes? You would still be overweight, but less-so. 20 less pounds of adipose tissue to carry around.

    I would be very surprised if anyone would say “no”, except for ideological reasons.

    You would rather be lighter, therefore you have a problem with your body. Losing that weight would quite literally take a load off your back.

    Now we have a situation where a large and more importantly growing portion of the country is experiencing that. So this is a problem that we should look into.

    The problem is that this is where conservative and fat-hating mindsets get involved. The person with the problem is the one most able to solve the problem, and therefore they get the blame for the problem. And all libertarian ideals about choice fall apart, as always, once kids are involved. So a health issue morphs into a moral one, and sufferers become villains.

  12. 12
    Aunt B. says:

    Silenced is foo, I wouldn’t want to wake up 20 lbs lighter. First, I wouldn’t be not fat. I wouldn’t even be noticeably less fat to others, except that my clothes would fit weird, which brings me to my second point: it would add a considerable financial burden to me, if I had to replace my wardrobe and, like I said, 20 lbs isn’t enough to get me more societal privilege to off-set the monetary cost.

    Here’s the thing, speaking only for me, because I only know how it feels to live in my body–having asthma would be a constant problem with my body that would affect my everyday life. It would suck, for me, whether or not anyone else noticed or cared.

    Being fat does not constantly suck for me in my everyday life. Maybe thinner people look at me and imagine it as some great burden to be this fat, but I don’t experience it as a burden. It’s not like walking through water, where every step is met with resistance, or something. It’s just my body.

    The main and by far thing that sucks the worst about being fat is how other people treat me because of it. I’ve had doctors fail to diagnose me correctly because they assumed I was lying (thank gods that’s been rectified). I’ve had people come up to me in restaurants and make piggy noises at me for daring to eat. I’ve had people give me trouble about being out and walking my dog.

    If I am just living my life without interference, I don’t experience my body as a burden. I know this isn’t the case for others, so I’m only speaking for myself.

    But really, when people have this attitude of “Well, can’t we just all admit that being fat sucks?” it says to me that this isn’t about my body; this is about you grasping for some reason to be able to police my body.

    And it is anti-feminist for you to want the right to police my body. It just is. You may be a great feminist in every other sense, but, if you want to insist on the social capitol to tell me that my body sucks and to try to get me to accept it, I will never stand with you in that goal, no matter how well-meaning you think you are.

  13. 13
    Mandolin says:

    The mod team had best repudiate that post, that’s all I’m saying.

  14. 14
    silentbeep says:

    @Silenced is foo

    Comparing fat to asthma is where your analogy falls apart. Not everyone who is fat, is unhealthy, in and of itself. Also: even for the people that are extremely fat to the point of immobility, there are still no sound, reliable ways for losing weight (dieting fails for most people, and WLS is a risky surgery, and diet drugs have proven to be mostly dangerous too). What many fat acceptance people are saying is this: fat in and of itself, is not always unhealthy, just as being thin, in and of itself, is not always healthy. It’s complicated, as you have said, and yes for certain conditions like diabetes, fat and ill health are related but is is still not clear exactly how (most fat people are not diabetic actually). The “correlation and causation” dynamic between diabetes and fatness has still not been figured out. Fat is just another body type, that does not automatically, always equate to ill health. There is a diversity of health profiles amongst the fat population, as well as a huge range of sizes in the category that we consider “fat.”

    Asthma does not equate to fatness. Being fat does not necessarily something is “wrong” not always. Asthma is different.

    Naturally thin women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis. Tall people are at higher risk for back problems. Telling people to “get shorter” or “get bigger” to reduce risks for certain diseases is foolhardy. Telling fat people, the ones that are in fact at risk for certain conditions (not all fats are) to “get thin” with the largely unreliable methods of dieting and WLS is just as nonsensical.

    Now, this is where HAES enthusiasts sometimes comes in with FA (and to be clear not all people in FA is in agreement with HAES). The idea behind is to focus on what you can reasonably change, which is exercise to the best of your ability, and dietary changes, to the best of your ability – some people that make these changes will get thinner, some people won’t, but the activity is what’s important here, not the number on the scale. Activity really helps with diabetic risk groups, changing diets really help sometimes withe lessening conditions such as high cholesterol. Fat acceptance is about accepting that fat people are multi-dimensional, nuanced human beings, just like thin people, and are trying the best with what they have got. It’s about kindness and respect and dignity. As far as health goes, many people in FA strongly believe that our health is not anyone’s business, our health is a private matter.


    “I would be very surprised if anyone would say “no”, except for ideological reasons.”

    Well that’s you and just because something “surprises” you doesn’t mean that experience doesn’t exist. Being told “no really I don’t believe you” is really offensive and shows the level of fat stigma there. It’s really hard to believe that fat people can be happy and satisfied with the way they are, I know, but it happens.

  15. 15
    Dianne says:

    Here’s the basic fantasy question for fat folks, particularly those of you who are further afield: if you could wake up tomorrow 20 lbs lighter (all body-fat that will not return) with no ill-effects, but nobody else would care if you lost that weight or not (so there is no social pressure to do so, or not) would you say yes?

    If there were really no chance of ill effects, I’d probably say, sure, why not. However, that is not real life. In real life, all weight loss techniques have risk. I’d take a pony too if someone else would feed it, clean up after it, and make sure it got enough exercise. That doesn’t mean I’m secretly desperate for a pony though.

  16. 16
    BStu says:

    @Silenced is Foo

    “If you could magically be thin” is frankly an offensive hypothetical and I, for one, am sick of it. What you are doing is merely demonstrating thin privilege, and using it to discredit fat liberation. Its unconstructive at best and demeaning at worst. The product of the stigmatization of fat people is not a defense for the stigmatization of fat people.

    I am not going to wake up 20lbs lighter tomorrow. I absolutely want to talk about the grossly underserved health needs of fat people. Needs that go ignored in favor of wishing fat people weighed less. Fat people do have some unique health concerns. Just like African Americans. Just like Women. Just like white people. Just like men. Just like thin people. The health care needs of fat people are not met my badgering us to be thin. There exists no safe, reliable means of making fat people into not fat people. So regarding our health concerns as a reason we shouldn’t be is pointless and only serves to advance thin privilege. A thin person will have their health concerns addressed without repeated insistence on a “treatment” with a near universal failure rate.

    Being fat is not like having asthma. I realize many people can only see a disease when they see my body, but I find no reason to endorse their belittlement of me. I am a vegetarian. I don’t even have a driver’s license. I am fat. Your need to portray my body as a sin of your favored targets is not my concern, nor should it be.

  17. 17
    Charles S says:

    Before the derailment goes any further, I’m going to go out on a limb as a moderator and say that this post is not the place for anti-fat bigots to discuss why the fat acceptance movement is wrong. None of the points being raised are new to Alas or to anyone here, and none of them are relevant to the question of whether progress is being made by the fat acceptance movement within the feministe adjacent wing of the feminist blogosphere (i.e. the subject of this post).

    Unless Maia says otherwise, take it elsewhere.

    (Maia, if I am stepping on your moderatorial toes, I apologize.)

  18. 18
    Janine deManda says:

    @BStu – Yes, exactly that. Thank you.

  19. 19
    Abi says:

    You would rather be lighter, therefore you have a problem with your body. Losing that weight would quite literally take a load off your back.

    Isn’t that, like, a textbook strawman? Coming up with some hypothetical scenario, attempting to predict a certain group’s reaction (based on your own notions, not people’s actual arguments) and drawing a conclusion based on your own ass-pulling?

  20. 20
    Christel says:

    I have been twenty pounds less than I am now. It isn’t much different, and by proposing the parameter that no one would react differently to my weight change, you have removed any benefit I would have wanted from your scenario. That said, I think that people minding their business and not judging me based upon their perception of my physicality is slightly more realistic and beneficial than your magical dissapearing weight dream.

  21. 21
    maggie says:

    I haven’t been reading Feministe much lately, so when I read the post I wondered if I was in an alternate universe or something. Then I got to Mandolin’s comments and came over here to enjoy more repudiation of the suck.

    The one nice thing is that there are a lot of people mad about it.

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  23. 22
    Maia says:

    Thanks Charles – I was asleep. If people want to respond to Silenced is Foo or Clarissa could they take it to an open thread. Could anyone else who wants to be all “but fat acceptance is wrong” do the same.

    Adrian – You may be right – I do think it’s easy to conflate an angry tone with radicalism. However, I know I was more moderate on that thread than I would ever be now, and there were people on feministe not just saying “Hey I’m fat and I run”, but “I’m not going to talk about my health, because I hate the way you frame this” and challenging the discourse around health more generally.

    I’m a little bit disappointed that they closed the comments. I disagree that everything that could have been said has been said (for example, I think people have barely responded to the way she positions fat hate as political solidarity with poor people). I wouldn’t have minded them closing the comments if a guest poster had posted something bigoted and offensive and everyone had agreed with her. But as it is the only person the closed comments are protecting is Monica. I wouldn’t even mind that if the reason given was “we can’t handle the moderation of comments to this post”, but everything that could have been said hasn’t been said, and everyone who wants to talk back to Monica’s offensive post hasn’t had the opportunity.

    For those of you who don’t know Monica is a guest poster there, who has only written one other post. Generally guest bloggers on Feministe get a lot of lee way, and they often have really interesting radical perspectives not normally covered. This is certainly the most problematic post that I can remember from a guest blogger. Like Mandolin I’m hoping for some kind of comment. Although I imagine it’d take a while to get everyone able to talk – and then figure out what to say.

  24. 23
    Aunt B. says:

    Well, I’m sorry for being a part of the derail, but I did want to come back and say thanks to Maia, because you have brought out a bright spot in this–it’s really nice to see so many people being so vocal and confidant about how Monica is not right. I’ve been thinking about that all day and it has made it easier for me to not feel like this is just another round of “abuse the fatties for their own good.”

    There is something important going on in the comments there.

  25. 24
    Jadey says:

    Thanks. My history in blog activism is short, and it feels better to know that at least there’s been progress. I agree that if the thread had stayed open, we would have had a lot more to say. I’m hoping that one of the Feministe regulars (or brave guest poster?) will open a fat-positive thread there, because clearly there’s still progress to be had.

  26. 25
    groggette says:

    Thank you for your take on this Maia. I missed the commenting window on that post but was glad the commentariat was able push back as effectively (well, maybe not in monica’s case) as they did.

  27. 26
    jules says:

    I am so grossed out by this. I don’t have any words.

    I have been reading Feminsite for nearly a decade — Lauren’s writings were my introduction to feminism.

    It has now been removed from my reader.

    Also, gotta love how 2 posts later, a writer is talking about how women of all sizes should be accepted/etc… but I guess that only applies to breasts.

  28. 27
    anonymous says:

    Feministe has been failing copiously this summer. The woman who thought it was amusing to pressure her Christian boyfriend into sex; various posts/comments by gender-essentialist “mamas” telling us that their children should be allowed to do anything they want and that it’s wrong for us to want any adults-only spaces at all; and now this.

    They don’t get too many comments unless they’re having a trainwreck. I suspect the trainwrecks are designed to drum up traffic.

  29. 28
    Shoshie says:

    I’m pretty annoyed at the fact that the comments were closed, with the assurance that some explanation or apology would come this morning, and yet…nothing. It makes me think that Monica still thinks that she was in the right. Grar.

  30. 29
    Roschelle says:

    I’m all about fat acceptance. Actually I’m all about a positive self-image period. I’m not familiar with the activist aspect of FA. So, forgive me if I touch on an area I know little about.

    I type this post as an emergency room nurse living in the state with the highest obesity rate in the nation. I’ve cared for people with complications from the co-morbidities that are directly related to obesity.

    Some might argue that skinny doesn’t determine that you’re health will be any better than a fat persons. BUT obesity predisposes one to an array of deadly medical conditions.

    Perhaps everyone wasn’t meant to be thin. As long as you’re active and eating a relatively healthy diet …go for it.

  31. 30
    Maia says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

    Roschelle – I am not willing for this to become a space for fat acceptance 101. Please repost your comment on an open thread if you want it answered.

    If anyone wants to respond to Roschelle please do it in an open thread.

    I’d also rather this didn’t become a “This is everything wrong with feministe” thread. Partly because I disagree with anonymous – I thought Maia’s posts were beautiful, and important. But mostly because I’d like the focus to remain on fat.

  32. 31
    lilacsigil says:

    5. Universal health care. Not all obesity is idiopathic. Find the sleep apneas, hypothyroidism, brain stem tumors, etc early. And keep people in shape for whatever exercise they favor.

    This would be lovely – but I live in a country with universal healthcare and the fat hatred is nearly as terrible as in the US. I went 18 months without my thyroid tumour being diagnosed because I was obviously “fat and lazy” – indeed, I was chronically exhausted, sick and gaining huge amounts of weight. Gastric banding is popular, despite the lack of evidence, fat-shaming in schools and clinics goes on and on. The things that really could help people be healthier (like food accessibility in rural areas and public transport) are far better than in the US but still low priority. (I don’t think that universal healthcare is the *cause* of fat hatred here – I think universal healthcare is a wonderful thing – but it’s certainly not a cure.)

    We are just as fat as the US, but have considerably longer lifespans (unless you’re an indigeneous Australian). Strange, if fat kills everyone, isn’t it? Oh, and our healthcare is vastly cheaper, too. And I’m really surprised to see that people think fat activists don’t fight the processed food and car industries – how ignorant! Food accessibility and public access are very important parts of fat activism.

  33. 32
    Maia says:

    Hey Lilacsgirl – thanks for your comments, but like I’d previously said I’d really not like to continue this into a general derailing discussion of fat acceptance. If anyone wants to respond to Lilacsgirl could they do it on the brand new open thread.

  34. 33
    anonymous says:

    [This comment has been moved to the open thread by the poster.

    Also, I moved a comment by Silenced Is Foo to the open thread. –Amp]

  35. 34
    Dianne says:

    Sif: I’m going to comment on your last comment in the open thread. See there if you’re interested.

  36. 35
    Mandolin says:

    Anonymous–you were asked not to talk about that in this thread. Take it to an open one; what on earth is so difficult about that? Why, here is an open thread. Go there.

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  38. 36
    CassandraSays says:

    The idea that Jezebel is too fat accepting really was laughable. By the time I saw the Feministe post comments were closed, but reading through them was encouraging. Well, other than the question of how that particular piece of garbage got posted on Feministe in the first place. Was Jill on vacation or something?

    But the real issue with posts like that, I think, is that fat acceptance is a social justice issue. Even if you honestly believe that being fat is a death sentence/a drain on the healthcare system (I don’t, but hypothetically), that still doesn’t mean that it’s OK for discrimination against fat people to exist. Honestly, the whole health issue is a derail. We don’t allow that derail with other issues. The difference seems to be that this is one of those issues that people see as being the “fault” of the person being discriminated against, but if you really believe in equality and social justice it doesn’t matter.

    I think it’s possible in theory to make an argument that fatness is unhealthy (leaving aside for a minute the question of whether you can back up that argument with actual data) without also making the argument that that makes it OK that discrimination against fat people exists, but I’ve been watching these discussions for a while and can’t recall a time at which those arguments were made separately. Anyone who starts talking about the unhealthiness of being fat always seems to be using that as a pretext for justifying discrimination. Which makes me wonder if people really believe the health stuff or if it’s just an excuse.

    I don’t like questioning the sincerity of people’s arguments, generally, but this is one of those cases where I’m honestly kind of suspicious that people may be using one argument as a sleight of hand for the other argument that they actually want to make.

  39. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Well, other than the question of how that particular piece of garbage got posted on Feministe in the first place. Was Jill on vacation or something?

    Guest posters on Feministe (and on most blogs, including this one) are given a password, but their posts don’t have to pass through any sort of filter or editorial approval before they appear. So I imagine Jill didn’t know about Monica’s post until after it had appeared on Feministe.

  40. 38
    brenda says:

    But as it is the only person the closed comments are protecting is Monica.

    Since the guest posters moderate their own threads, I’d guess that’s no coincidence.

  41. 39
    eli says:

    What a deplorable “article”. Fucking donuts? Fucking really?

    I’m very disappointed that there’s been no official response to the stupidity that was that post. No official response = sweeping under the rug and ignoring the angry fatties? Probably.

    Pity. I expected more from them.

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  43. 40
    cboo says:

    This is my first time posting, but I’m a long-time reader. I’ve been following this discussion and waiting for some sort of response from Feministe. I just came across a new podcast at where Monica defends her post. I found it very upsetting. What I got from it is that she believes that everyone in the fat acceptance movement is living in a state of delusion/denial about our ill health and we are so blinded that we couldn’t rationally consider her argument. I couldn’t listen to the whole thing. I think they are having technical difficulties. My computer stopped cooperating about the time that someone compared the fat acceptance movement to the anti-vaccine movement.

  44. 41
    CassandraSays says:

    @cboo – Argh. I have learned not to click links like that for sanity’s sake, but damn, she sure is defensive, isn’t she?

    I’m tempted to go argue with her though. I’ve been actively supportive of fat acceptance for years. I’m on the smaller end of a size 6. I guess I’m in denial about my ill health too, rather than concerned with social justice issues in general?

    It’s always fascinating to me that people who’re against fat acceptance just assume that anyone who supports it is “in denial about their weight”. It honestly never seems to occur to them that some people might see it as a social justice issue and support it because it’s the right thing to do.

  45. 42
    Jadey says:

    @ cboo & CassandraSays

    Thanks for listening so I don’t have to. I’m incredibly disappointed. I had hoped on the original thread that Monica had at least read some of the comments and links and picked up some real info.

    My brain feels like it’s being pulled apart. I’ve re-read that thread several times now and what I see is anger and hurt and people expressing it the best as they can and genuinely trying to get through to other readers. I read this post from Maia about progress and I’m heartened that there are more people out there sticking their necks out against body shaming. But I also keep hearing people talk about how “rude” and “hateful” that thread was, and I just don’t see it. I’ve seen abuse and blogswarming and hatefulness, and that’s just not it. There were some comments that I disliked, but I was impressed by how largely constructive the thread was, even hurt and angry. But the defensiveness in response… Maybe I shouldn’t be astounded, but I am.

  46. 43
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Cboo! That really was a bit upsetting to listen to — so smug, so close-minded, so sure that their parroting of mainstream opinion must be right.

    Here’s the comment I left there:

    There were some particulars I disagreed with — for example, Jamelle’s blanket statement that slender is healthy, fat is unhealthy. In fact, on average Americans who are “overweight” have lower mortality than those with below-normal weights; people who are thin are just as likely to die as people who are very obese. (Reference.)

    Another example: I also think that one of the female speakers — Monica — made dubious arguments when she was discussing race, mortality and fat. It’s true that women of color in the US are more likely to be fat — but the statistical link between fat in women and mortality, such as it is, exists for white women, not for black women. On average, black women who are “overweight” have a lower mortality risk than black women who are “normal” weight, and have a MUCH lower mortality risk than black women who are below “normal” weight.

    That said, there really were very few “particulars” to disagree with; most of what I heard was too generalized and nonspecific to be argued with effectively. What I mainly take issue with is the tone of smug contempt the podcasters had when discussing fat activists. It made me feel as if there’s no hope of trying to have a dialog with anyone here, since you consider everyone who disagrees with you to be intellectually worthless.

  47. 44
    Mandolin says:

    Comment twelve here reads to me as ominous–for me, the issue is very simple. Will fat hatred be treated the way I have no doubt obvious racism or cissexism would have been treated on that blog? Or will the moderators give shelter to fat hatred and shame fat people and their allies for their anger? I hope that the moderators won’t disappoint (and it’s in this hope that I have not yet removed feministe from my reading list), but the lag in response time and the generic-ness of the comment worry me. It seems to me that the moderation on feministe has become louder and more enthusiastic over the past few months when a moderator hears something they think contributes to bigotry–the contrasting silence here worries me. I hope my concern is unjustified.

  48. 45
    CassandraSays says:

    @Jadey – Agreed. I read the whole thread and saw no rudeness (since when is calling out the bloggers when they write something stupid not allowed on Feministe?) or hatefulness. I did see lots of anger. Which tends to happen when you dismiss an entire political movement with a mean-spirited, condescending little crack about donuts.

    I’m curious as to why so many people who’re anti fat acceptance seem to percieve fat acceptance advocates as bullying them. It happens on Jezebel too, people who’re anti fat acceptance acting all righteously aggrieved and put upon when their comments are called out and argued with. Part of it is just people waving their privilege around, obviously, but I see it even from people who’re fat themselves. The psychology of this eludes me, unless it’s some sort of magical thinking, ie. if you just hate fat enough you will cease to be fat, and so will everyone else.

    I’m not sure why they don’t notice that that’s been tried for a while now as a tactic (hey there, MeMe Roth) and it doesn’t seem to be working out very well so far.

  49. 46
    Shoshie says:

    I think that a lot of the perception of bullying comes from fat people being scary. A) We’ll get our fat all over them, and that would be icky and contagious. B) The fat bully is a pretty common trope. Obviously those angry, mean, fat people are being super mean to that poor, innocent guest blogger, those meanies!

    I’ve had a couple of comments that haven’t gotten through, which is frustrating. Maybe because I’ve pretty much run out of patience for fat shaming and concern trolling. But I haven’t used any attacking or abusive language, which makes me pretty annoyed that my comments have been deleted. There may have been some swearing involved, but then I swear when I’m angry.

    I don’t really understand why the official mod response has taken so long. I appreciate that they’re giving a voice to the FA side, but I really really wish that the mod team would take a stance against fat shaming.

  50. 47
    Mandolin says:

    I just had a comment not go through, also. I suspect they’d give an official reason as “off-topic”, which I’d have more sympathy for if they had threads where discussing the moderator reaction was on-topic. In the absence of such threads, or open threads, they’re basically just telling a portion of their readers to suck it.

    I think I’m out of patience now and will go ahead and stop reading there.

  51. 48
    Shoshie says:

    I understand why you’re gonna stop reading there, and totally support your decision, but I will say that I’ll be really sad to stop reading your comments there. You’re always very insightful.

  52. 49
    Mandolin says:

    I generally dislike slipping something off my reading list, but I also really dislike the way they’ve handled this. If it turns out that, whenever Lauren puts up her promised post, she goes off on how it’s not okay to whomp fat people on the head with the rude label for speaking out against fat-hatred, then maybe I’ll go back.

    Thanks for the compliment.

  53. 50
    Lauren says:

    My post will have nothing to do with FA.

    “In the absence of such threads, or open threads, they’re basically just telling a portion of their readers to suck it.”

    Speaking as myself and not a representative of Feministe: None of us are professional bloggers. We all have lives that are quite complicated at the moment, and as such sometimes the readers have to, as you say, suck it.

    Or conversely, vent at their own blogs as you’ve done well here. I’ve enjoyed the discussion.

  54. 51
    Mandolin says:

    Yeah, I get that you’re busy. But seriously, a couple sentences indicating that people’s anger was justifiable and doesn’t deserve tone policing? Would have taken less time than what you just typed.

    Maybe you already put something like that on feministe and I didn’t see it, in which case I apologize.

    Let me try to pull back from the aggressive stance here–Lauren, has there been an official moderation response from one of the regular feministe bloggers indicating that fat-hatred is unacceptable on the blog? Did I miss it? I’m sorry if I did.

    If there hasn’t been, then that feels really weird. There have been such responses in regard to other recent feministe controversies. It makes me wonder why fat-hatred is being treated differently.

  55. 52
    Maia says:

    Lauren – I’ll respond to this comment of yours here as you are not letting through comments at feministe

    Because she is a Feministe guest with whom the Feministe team is familiar, we are positive that she was acting in good faith. Sure, she stepped in some shit, but let’s not act like she came here to stir up trouble. C’mon.

    She didn’t step in some shit – she shat on people. Whether or not she was doing that on purpose, or not, whether or not she was aiming to cause trouble is irrelevant. Effect not intent right?

    I think your construction of what Monica wrote as “stepping in some shit” is a political construction of the debate. A political construction I strongly disagree with.

    It’s one thing to state that people have complicated lives, and don’t have time to deal with a blog blow-up. I am very sympathetic to that – and as open threads are not a feature of feministe, it would be hard for you to create a space where this could be talked about without a lot of work. However, I think it is then incumbent on you not to put forward a political construction on what happened, if you can’t create a space for people to respond.

    Unless, I guess, you want the take home message from the femniste team to be that Monica stepped in some shit and that is not open to debate. (Were FA activists the shit? Or the BMI? I can’t make metaphor work – because I see Monica as the active one).

  56. 53
    Jadey says:

    @ Mandolin

    I have no official information, but I’m pretty sure part of the reason is that Lauren is the only regular mod available right now. Jill is out of country for sure, Chally referenced a personal issue taking her away from the blog in a comment on another thread (explaining that she was modding as emerg back-up and really wasn’t supposed to be there), Cara and Sady’s personal blogs have been quiet lately, and a lot of the other mods have not pinged my radar in the last month or so. I think a quick informative post on the state of modding at Feministe might be helpful in letting people know what’s going on, but I’m honestly convinced that there’s a major logistical issue that’s complicating things, rather than a lack of moderator interest.

  57. 54
    cboo says:

    Maia – thanks for your post. I agree 100%.
    I’m incredibly frustrated. First the original comment thread is closed prematurely and then we are told that this hateful post was made “in good faith” and we are given no opportunity to respond. I’m not saying I think that Monica was intentionally trying to stir up trouble, but she did post something that included ignorant and hateful statements and I hope the official response will eventually amount to more than “be quiet and leave Monica alone”.

  58. 55
    CassandraSays says:

    It’s really rather disturbing to watch this play out. Is it because the people in charge at Feministe don’t think this is a feminist issue, so it’s OK to not publicly acknowledge that something was wrong with Monica’s post

    There was an incident at Jezebel where a similar dynamic played out – guest blogger posted something (unintentionally) racist, commenters jumped in to protest, mod response was basically “how dare you be so rude to our guests”. Now in that case the guest blogger (Tavi) recognised where she’d gone wrong and apologised, but it didn’t stop the defensive angry responses from the mods. I’m really hoping this isn’t going to go the same way.

    I think this is a sign that the blogosphere really needs to have a serious conversation about moderation and the role of bloggers in general. Recent events seem to indicate that there’s an expectation on the behalf of bloggers that their writing not be subject to harsh criticism, and that if that happens it’s “rude” and they have the right to shut it down (with a wierd extra layer of defensiveness when it comes to guest bloggers). The problem with that being, these aren’t people’s little personal blogs we’re talking about, they’re major blog presences with lots of readers and an impact on the online feminist community. So I’m not sure that “shut up and don’t say mean things about the bloggers, it’s my blog and I owe the readers nothing” is really appropriate any more. I kind of feel like if you step up and take on that sort of leadership role in the community then you DO owe readers more than a defensive stop-criticising-us-that’s-rude response. Especially give the fact that usually what’s going on is a disenfranchised group complaining about how they’re being talked about. Surely calling out of prejudice should always be acceptable on lefty blogs of all kinds, and should never be met with the suggestion that the people complaining need to shut up.

  59. 56
    CassandraSays says:

    Apologies for the grammar and punctuation fail – for some reason it’s not letting me edit.

  60. 57
    Mandolin says:

    Jadey @53–I’d quite like what you’re saying to be the case, but Lauren’s comments at PostBourgie make me doubt that.

  61. 58
    Lauren says:

    Mandolin — Jadey’s comments are quite correct. I am the only person dealing with this now, a few minutes in the morning and an hour or two at night, tops. The OP has been ill all week. There is no consensus on how this will be handled, and I don’t feel free to speculate on that publicly.

    My comments at PB are mostly in reaction to Barry’s sleight of hand rhetoric, which I think misconstrues the spirit of the fallout. My opinion is complicated, and as a long-time reader/lurker, I’m only responding because I was mentioned by name.

  62. 59
    Mandolin says:

    Lauren–OK. Thank you for being clear. I’ll forebear from drawing final conclusions until after an official reaction has been made on your blog.

    This should not be taken to indicate that I think your rudeness, dismissiveness, and ignorance on PostBourgie are in any way all right.

    But I know there are issues on which I am ignorant, and as Barry notes on the other Alas thread concerning the issue, I try not to judge people by their worst positions.

  63. 60
    Lauren says:

    Thanks for the charity.

  64. 61
    Mandolin says:

    You’re welcome. I hope you extend it to the next person who thinks it’s not clear why issues facing single mothers became part of feminism.

  65. 62
    Ampersand says:

    Lauren, you keep on referring to me as having engaged in “slight of hand rhetoric” or being “disingenuous” — terms that imply that I’m being deliberately dishonest or deceptive.

    Once again: I may be mistaken, but I’m not being dishonest, and I’m not trying to fool anyone. It seems odd you’re not willing to give me that much benefit of the doubt, considering that you say people should accept Monica’s post as written in good faith. (I agree she wrote in good faith, and have said so in comments here.)

    Sorry you’re so busy — I know what that’s like! I hope things calm down for you soon.

  66. 63
    piny says:

    I think this is a sign that the blogosphere really needs to have a serious conversation about moderation and the role of bloggers in general. Recent events seem to indicate that there’s an expectation on the behalf of bloggers that their writing not be subject to harsh criticism, and that if that happens it’s “rude” and they have the right to shut it down (with a wierd extra layer of defensiveness when it comes to guest bloggers).


    I’m not saying this paragraph put me right back on Lauren’s side, because it didn’t–quite–but…

    Look, I agree that Monica should have been more informed. That is, I think she was responding to arguments that weren’t really part of fat activism in the first place, rehearsing talking points that are bad for American health, and ignoring related healthcare issues that kill fat people. I also think it’s very unfair to use the response to her initial post as proof of her inaccurate points about the larger conversation. People aren’t unwilling to talk calmly about science and nutrition because they hate science and nutrition. They’re angry at Monica, because of things Monica just said. They’re reacting to the willful ignorance that they see, and to a very specific problem with a particular conversation.

    The ur doin it wrong genre is treacherous at the best of times. It’s like correcting someone’s grammar online: they’re gonna be a lot more critical of your writing.

    But I don’t think Monica needs to think of herself as a Blogger, or a Guest Blogger–and I don’t know if Lauren should think of herself as a Big Blogger, or a Blog Host. Is this dynamic any different from what always happens when people criticize people on blogs? Are bloggers more inclined to graciously accept criticism of themselves?

    I disagree with Monica’s arguments and with Lauren’s characterization of them, but I don’t see any need for another long discussion about how disappointed we are in the internet. It seems like a derail from the fat-acceptance issue, as much as anything else, and a lot of unnecessary work for everyone involved.

    And, you know, life is short. Even if you’re thin.

  67. 64
    Mandolin says:

    Is this dynamic any different from what always happens when people criticize people on blogs? Are bloggers more inclined to graciously accept criticism of themselves?

    I think you’re right that defensive behavior is defensive behavior, online or in person. I don’t think the internet is especially at fault.

    What I do think is that, in general, there’s been a consensus in the feminist blogosphere that people *should* be able to take criticism, and that it’s the responsibility of the person who is empowered to take criticism from those who aren’t, whatever the phrasing of that criticism. This isn’t necessarily particular to the internet, but it has seemed to me to be an evolving community standard, and that community standard is salient here. It’s reinforced by feministe’s responses to various recent controversies (and good on feministe for that), and by specific posts such as this one.

    In my opinion,the furor about how rude and bullying the fat people have been can be essentially understood under the rubric that criticism is perceived as being louder when it comes from someone you don’t think has a right to speak. I apologize for the ableism in that post title, but I think the what it’s describing remains valid:

    Women aren’t supposed to talk, so when they talk, they’re seen as talking A LOT. Black women really aren’t supposed to talk, so when they talk, they’re seen as talking REALLY LOUDLY.

    And when fat people talk, they’re bullying. Apparently.

    None of that’s surprising, or unique to the internet. But it’s surprising from the sole active representative of a blog that has taken specific positions against that kind of behavior from empowered groups in the past.

    Is it a derail from fat acceptance in general, to talk about feministe’s reaction in particular? Maybe. But it’s salient to me as a feministe reader.

    But anyway, I guess there’s an official reaction coming at some point, right? So, maybe that’ll change the dynamic. That’d be nice.

  68. 65
    piny says:

    I just wrote several paragraphs criticizing Feministe’s reaction.

    This is what was called for, and what makes me glad I don’t work at a desk anymore: “a serious conversation about moderation and the role of bloggers in general.”

    And I say again: *shudder*

    And maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t disagree more with this, either: “But it’s surprising from the sole active representative of a blog that has taken specific positions against that kind of behavior from empowered groups in the past.” Is it really surprising, or are you just being rhetorical?

  69. 66
    Mandolin says:

    Surprising? I don’t know, kind of? I thought Feministe did pretty well, in general, at trying to hold themselves accountable. Maybe I mean that I think Jill has done pretty well in the past.

    So, yeah, I’m a bit surprised.

    But you’re also partially right, I wasn’t thinking about it deliberately, but I probably chose the word “surprising” for its rhetorical weight. I’m trying to explain that I think Feministe has set up some standards for itself, and is not meeting those standards, and that it’s on the basis of the difference (the surprise) between those two positions that I’m criticizing the blog.

    I’m sorry if I’m coming across as hostile; I’m not trying to be.

  70. 67
    CassandraSays says:

    Thanks, Mandolin, for adding the context element. I didn’t THINK it was necessary to lay that part out, but apparently it is.

    Maybe I’m just coming at this differently because I’m a journalist, and accustomed to the idea that I may be called upon to answer for anything I publish, and loudly argued with/questioned/generally told I’m wrong and expected to respond. The idea that people criticising someone’s argument, even if the criticism is harsh, is somehow rude or unseemly just seems really wierd to me. Are we really assuming that bloggers have a right not to have commenters say mean things (or things they percieve as mean) to them? I mean personal non sequiturs that have nothing to do with what the person wrote, sure, that would be kind of mean spirited (and also irrelevant, and also understandable in some situations given the power dynamic involved). But pointed criticism of a blogger’s posts? The expectation that bloggers try not to actively offend their readers by using words/phrases commonly seen as slurs? (Monica wouldn’t have gotten nearly as negative a response if she’d just left out the donut crack) A situation where it’s unacceptable to say, hey, blogger on a feminist site, maybe try not to actively go out of your way to offend people who you know are reading?

    If that’s what we’re assuming as the norm then I’m shuddering right back.

  71. 68
    BStu says:

    I’m bowled over by the suggestion that making an immature donut crack can be regarded as “good faith”. Defining it as such, especially while decrying those who responded, is setting up a discussion that is anything but in good faith but rather one structurally hostile to fat people. Which, I suppose, is Feministe’s right but they aren’t exactly being honest about that implication.

  72. 69
    Ampersand says:

    What does “in good faith” mean to you, BStu? Because I wonder if we’re defining it in different ways. To me, it means “the argument the person is making is one that they believe to be true.”

    I agree with you that the donut crack was abusive, ignorant, immature, and hostile to fat people. None of that, however, means (to me) that it wasn’t in good faith. (And being in good faith doesn’t rescue it or make it reasonable.)

    If Monica’s stated goal had been a mutually respectful dialog with FA people, then THAT would have been a statement in bad faith, imo — it doesn’t seem that Monica’s up for that. But she didn’t make such a statement.

    Finally, “Feministe” hasn’t yet made a statement — as Lauren explained in a new comment on PB, they run by committee, and the committee is currently not available to meet. So Lauren’s statements so far aren’t official Feministe statements.

  73. 70
    BStu says:

    I would not disagree with that definition of “good faith”, but I think the implications of that definition are what is not being dealt with. They are free to create a space that privileges fat hostility, but that should be stated outright so that fat positive members of the community know they are not respected. Its that implication that I don’t think is being dealt with.

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