Tuesday, April 05, 2011

FA for not fat people and noobs.

I covered this briefly here. Briefly for me so you know it's wordy.

First of all here are some things you as a not fat person needs to know when you are trying to navigate fat specific places.

  1. Fat spaces are not about thin people. And as I've said many times in the last few entries not all spaces are for all people. 
  2. Fat people talking about fat things does not mean that fat people dislike or hate smaller people. It's not about you.
  3. When discussions about privilege happens it is also not about you in a personal way. If you were born looking like a supermodel nobody is pissed off about that. The necessity of being aware of what privileges you bring to a situation is that you are aware (or are at least open to learning) about how being born looking like a supermodel has shaped your experience and how someone not born looking like a supermodel will have a totally different experience. When people ask you to check your privilege that is not the moment to leap up and defend all the hot people everywhere. It's not the time to run off hollering that TEH FATTIES ARE SO MEAN. If your feelings are hurt it's okay. Talking about these things is uncomfortable even for the most seasoned among us. Calm down. You're okay.
  4. Sometimes you have got to shut up and listen. I have had many people rally to the cry of NO NEVER SHUT UP..and I think the idea is great yes make noise but, BUT sometimes it's absolutely necessary not to be talking. If you really want to be in a position to contribute to any movement, if you're just yelling you won't hear what other people have to say.
  5. Most importantly, if you cannot shut up and listen go find another litterbox to pee in. 
Now what else can you do?

I honestly hate the term ally. All too often people shoved into the ally role are overlooked and not listened to because they aren't the core part of whatever movement. I think there is a time and place for allies to yes shut up and listen, but I don't think that needs to be all the time.

Now how do you get started?

If you're reading this I assume you have internets access and I suggest starting with reading fat blogs. These run the gamut from Fat Mama's and pregnancy issues, blogs that focus more on science, some that focus on fat fatshion as both a political thing and just a plain old style thing. Pick your flavor.

Now, before you start commenting let me recommend that the first thing out of your proverbial mouth not be about the size of your ass. Also, please don't run into someone else's space defending the size of your ass. Just don't.

When you do comment, I encourage you to be up front if you are new to fat acceptance and navigating fat spaces. Be open to being told if you are being inappropriate.

Don't take it personally if someone isn't really keen on you person with thin privilege commenting on their experience in a way that questions that experience.

Remember (actually EVERYONE) remember that experience is never ever monolithic. Experiences intersect and diverge. Remember that just because you personally have not seen or experienced X thing doesn't mean that it doesn't happen or isn't a big deal.

If interaction isn't your cup of tea at first there are lots of things you can do.

You can stop fat talking in your own life. Examine your own prejudices and biases about fat people. It sounds simple but it's not. Task yourself with examining things that you say and think. Do you look at a fat female presenting person in a tight ass pair of pants and think, "oh those pants are too tight" that is a good moment to grab by the nads and use as your own teaching moment.

Feeling bolder? Do you already have a grasp on these things?


Don't allow fat talk or body shaming in your presence. It can be as simple as stopping a friend mid story and saying, "why does her fat ass factor in?" Question other peoples fat biases and prejudices. Someone says, OMG those dummies in FA want EVERYONE TO BE FAT you can respond with no, they don't and drops some knowledge.

Are you feeling all bold and sassy?

Have you noticed that the stores you shop in don't carry larger sizes? Ask why. If you aren't comfortable just saying, well I think it's not cool that you don't carry larger sizes even though I know you make them. You can tell them that your fat friend (YES say fat) Shannon would LOVE to give them all of her monies but, is sized out.


What else can you do?

You can not hate your own body. You can reject diet culture. You can say to your doctor who may try and fat shame you if you've gained a few pounds that it's inappropriate. You can start your own blog about body politics. You can talk about fat issues from the outside perspective.

If you're not super political that's okay too.

Maybe you have a style blog. You can make a concerted effort to be size inclusize. say you see something cute at Fashion Bug, take that extra second and check it out and report what sizes that comes in.

Maybe you run contests? Include appearal suitable for fat readers and explicitly say that fat or plus size people are welcome to participate.

Do you have an etsy store? Do you make things to wear? Learn how to make things for fat bodies. Ask for testers.

Do you know/interact with indie designers? Ask them why they don't provide for fat people and talk to them about it.

Link to fat blogs. Talk about your own feelings about fat.

Now fatties here's the thing.

I don't believe that we need to make every fat space a space only for fat people. We can't keep preaching to the choir. We need not only fat people to get on board with the things we think but we need other people to.

We need to embrace the fact that thin privilege or none, fat acceptance can have a profound impact on ALL people with bodies. We need to understand that our words and our struggles could very easily shift to include yet more people.

We need to be firm about our safe spaces. But in being firm we also need to say hey, this space isn't really for you but you can go here and participate.

We fatties need to remember that not all the thin people around us have lived their lives as thin people. There are lots of thin adults who were fat kids and teenagers who STILL hold onto all the things that can bring and we need to embrace them too.

We need to also embrace the people who yes, are still seeking to lose weight. Not because we buy into diet culture but because we care enough about those people to say hey, you don't have to do this to yourself.

We need to remember that sometimes, people just need to hear that. We need to remember that sometimes all it takes for someone to start acceptance is to hear explicit permission.

We need to take our million varying stances and understand that we may not all say the same things but we have the same aims.

We need to be firm when people say things that are wrong about fat acceptance without resorting to snarking them for their ignorance.

I don't think it's fair for us to seek allies but not let them have active participation in what we're doing.

Yes, this is my flavor and vision of FA. I feel like sometimes the uh..more popular(?) FA stances tend to get black and white. Fat/Not Fat and I'm not into reinforcing that kind of binary stand point.

I want FA to be able to deal with and be kind to those who are maybe not fat as far as fat people go but kind and welcoming to people who are fat in the context of their daily lives. I want us to be able to tell those people (again no snark pls) that hey, outside of your eleventy million size 0 friends you my friend are not a fat person AND being fat isn't the worst thing ever.

Do I think that Fat spaces do in fact often need to be for fat people? Absolutely. That said (again, I know I'm repeating myself) fat spaces also can be welcoming and inclusive of not actually fat people because fat or not we have experiences that intersect and we have shit to talk about.

I want FA to show the radical nature of self acceptance to not just other fatties but to everyone.

I want everyone to see the many diverse bodies in their awesome outfits and understand that yes, YES bodies of many flavors are awesome. This is whY I point everyone to the Fatshionista group on Flickr.

I suppose in my fantasy land, we wouldn't have to ever talk about this again. In my dreams of greatness, we wouldn't need FA.

Now dear non fat or people new to FA,
Hi I'm Shannon. Sometimes I might get a little frustrated in repeating the beginning things frequently as do some of the other fat bloggers but we don't mean it personally. Sometimes it's just tiring. Be patient with us. Understand that it's not that we don't want you to know these things. For my part, as I finish up my essay book how about if I make a page with some resources? So you can see some of the blogs, see some of the things we're talking about. For you thin folks and you not fat folks and you new to FA as a concept folks I would like to do that for you. And for myself because, I don't want to be part of the problem.

At this point I turn it over to the most awesome people on the internets. My readers.

Be anon if you want to. Do you have tips for newbies to FA? Have you experienced some burns in a blog? Have links you'd like not fat people to see? Do you have a special entry about not fat people in fat spaces?


Yes in the comments, let's do some work together to give our non fat and new to FA homies a good chance to get a handle on things.

As always teh only rule is don't be a dick. Even if I really like you and you behave dickishly I may talk about that.

Holy shit y'all. I'm going to cry thank you so much for all of the help with the book. I can't even..you don't know how much it means to me.

Homo Out.


Sara Eileen said...

Hey Shannon,

Meems linked me here, and I wanted to say I really appreciate this post. I linked it in a post of my own, in case you're interested: http://www.saraeileen.com/2011/04/06/can-i-be-a-fat-ally-if-im-on-a-diet/

Chris C. said...

Hey, as a mostly-total newb to the world of FA / FA Terminology, I felt like this post was a great primer to a lot of the basics and subtleties of interaction, and I really loved the 'action items' for people to get busy at all levels of commitment & boldness!


byjarke said...

Hey there,

I stomped into the whol FA blogs today thanks to the discussions with Dan Savage and wanted to tell you that your blog is super articulated, that I became more aware of the "fat" issue and that your blog is enlightening and makes me think of how fatness intersects with other axis of oppression. I don't get why a self-proclaimed gay rights activist doesnt get it. That's probably why I stopped identifying with gay and go for a more queer approach.
Keep up the fight fat sisters. you are bootylicious!

It also made me think of the whole bear subculture and how fatness has become a sexy factor for a lot of us.

a queer from Spain.

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