Tag Archives: fat activism

Agents .000007–License to Hate (Electing hate proxy holders to be mean for us)

Okay (deep breath).  There’s a video that surfaced on YouTube yesterday by a woman named Nicole called “Dear Fat People”  (There is no force on earth that will compel me to link to that ish).  It is seven minutes of unadulterated, unbelievably crappy hate wrapped up in concern trolling.  I mean this video is truly ugly.

It’s infuriating and insulting and stupid.  And it’s going to hurt a whole lot of people.  A lot.

But the one thing I can say it isn’t is surprising.  I’ve seen a definite uptick lately on the number of people using discrimination and bigotry and ugliness as click-bait.  I’ve seen a certain candidate for US president gaining popularity in the polls by making our political arena into a cheap reality television show.  He’s gained popularity for being “plain spoken”.  Nicole also talks in her video about “setting off a truth bomb” and “telling it like it is”.  And I’ve come to recognize these phrases as code words for, “being proxy holders for our hate”.

In some ways, over the years, we have made progress.  There are certain things you don’t say anymore unless you are very sure of to whom you are speaking.  Because in many environments, it’s not guaranteed to be  “safe” or “consequence free” to say certain kinds of hateful things any more.  You might get called out for being hateful.  You might be told you are being bigoted or prejudiced or racist.  And nobody likes being called hateful or bigoted or prejudiced or racist.  You might lose your job.  You might lose your TV show. (And just to be clear–free speech is definitively not the same thing as consequence free speech.)

These conversations where people get called out for their hatefulness (especially in the relatively rare case when people were genuinely unaware they were being hateful) are deeply uncomfortable.  Often the person getting called out gets their feelings hurt.  Often that person reacts defensively.  Many times, that is the end of the conversation.  But sometimes the conversation goes on.  We recently had a conversation like this on our Fit Fatties Forum.  Some people acted deplorably.  Some people acted defensively.  But we agreed to leave the conversation up and live in our discomfort.  And through hundreds of comments, people talked about social justice and privilege and tone policing and gaslighting and white fragility and the differences between racism and prejudice and ableism and fat stigma and so many other deeply important topics.  But this conversation is challenging and difficult and often deeply uncomfortable.  So even though this conversation is deeply needed, most of the time we don’t have it–because it is hard.

But we are also uncomfortable with the notion of not talking about our prejudices as well.  We want to not only be able to be hateful but also be confirmed in our hatefulness.  So we link to and watch and quote and lionize people who say the things we dare not say.  We admire them for being “plain spoken” and “telling the truth” and “telling it like it is”.  We pimp these people out to carry our proxy for hate.  They get to exploit every stereotype for fat people and people with disabilities and people of color and LGBTQ people and poor people and less educated people and and women and children and everybody who does not have all the privileges.  They do this to shock and entertain and win popularity.  But mostly they say all the things that we know on some level that we shouldn’t say about others (at least if we don’t want to be called a hater) but secretly wish (on some level) we could say about others without having to feel bad about ourselves as we do it just to get attention.

Again, none of this is surprising to me.

There’s this quote attributed to Mahatma Gandi that goes like this

It’s pretty easy to see the “hater proxy syndrome” in this quote, isn’t it?  In fact it is this quote that I use to help comfort me through watching some of this yuck.  I can nod knowingly saying, wow we’ve stirred up some haters, haven’t we?  We must be making progress because look at ALL THIS SCREAMING!!!

Which leaves us where?  What can we do?  Well one thing we can do is choose not to give the hate proxy holders any more attention.  They crave it.  They feed off of it.  Or you can choose to call the haters out.  Nicole Arbour’s initial video seems to have been taken down.  I know that there was a strong movement within the size acceptance community to go to the video and report it on YouTube for being hateful (just click the more button under the video and click the “report flag”.  But it seems she has re-posted it again (with the comments turned off.  Wow.  Just Wow.).  So you can go report it again if you feel so moved.  You don’t even have to watch the stupid thing in order to flag it.  (In fact, I advise against watching it).

But the most important thing we can do is to keep talking.  That’s why I’m so excited to remind you:

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind.

Get all the details here!

Thanks as always for reading and being willing to explore the tough stuff with me.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Sorry, RogerEbert.com, It’s Not Okay that Sadness is Fat

Guess which one is Sadness. Go on. Guess.

Recently I saw a piece by columnist Olivia Collette Roger Ebert. com called “Why Can’t Sad Be Fat?”  The piece was written in response to the recent backlash regarding Pixar’s recent release “Inside Out”.  In the film, which takes place primarily inside the head of an 11 year old girl, there are characters embodying various emotions including anger, disgust, joy, fear and sadness.  In particular, the article skewers Joni Edelman, editor-in-chief at Ravishly.com, feminist and body-positive activist, about a piece she recently wrote for The Huffington Post.

Let’s first address the fact that Joni admits she wrote the article without having seen the movie first.  In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea.  I don’t believe it invalidates Joni’s argument.  It just makes it awfully easy for the opposing side to take cheap pot shots at her.  And they did.  Yes indeedy.

I did see the movie.  And in many ways, I liked it.  But immediately afterwards, I asked my hubby, why did they have to make Sadness fat?  You see, the character called Sadness is blue, wears a frumpy sweater and glasses and is, well, fat.  This is in contrast to the character called “Joy” who is thin, yellow, tall, twirly and wears a gorgeous green Doris Day dress.

I was frustrated.  Because I liked the movie quite a lot.  The movie featured a female lead who loved to play hockey, came from the Midwest, also loved unicorns, and was all around cool.  I loved the fact that sadness was recognized as an important human emotion, and that when the main character Riley is told to put on a brave face regarding a cross-country move to San Francisco, and tries to squash her feelings of sadness, all heck breaks loose.  It’s important to acknowledge that we need to feel sad sometimes.

In many ways the movie is great.

But why did they have to make “Sadness” short, frumpy, bespectacled and fat?  Why did they feel the need to pair fat with lazy?  In the movie, Joy actually picks up Sadness’ leg and drags her around because she’s “too sad to walk”.  Check it out (if you want) in the clip below:

And I can’t help but shake my head at Olivette’s critique of Joni.  In the article on RogerEbert.com, she suggests that Joni is the one equating fat with bad.  Olivette suggests that since Joni hasn’t seen the film, SHE’S the one projecting negative stereotypes onto the fat character and therefore missed the nuances of the film.

Firstly, if she’s a body-positive activist, I wonder what led her to assume that the fat character is a bad one. Not in an evil way, of course, but at least in a way that’s not as uplifting as Joy.

To which I reply:

right animated GIF

Look.  I love the fact that Sadness is important and that Joy misjudges her.  But (and this is a big but) you are still portraying sadness as a character who is fat, and lazy and frumpy.  There is a very, VERY strong notion in our country that being fat is an outward manifestation of being emotionally unbalanced.  That we are fat because we are sad and then we are sad because we are fat.  If I had a dollar for every time I came across an ad or a program or a person in my life who insisted that once I learned how to be happy, once I learned to be emotionally fulfilled, I would stop eating and the pounds would just melt away.  “Fat people shouldn’t be hated.  They should be pitied.  Because they are sad which makes them eat, which makes them more fat, which makes them more sad, bless their hearts.”  Grrrrr.

I understand fully that the Joy character initially misunderstands the Sadness character in the movie.  And I am really clear about the transformation that happens as Joy understands the importance of Sadness to Riley.  But it still doesn’t do anything to take away from the Fat=Sadness=Fat trope in the movie and in the world.

And I don’t buy the argument that if we made Joy fat, the movie would be criticized for furthering the Fat=Jolly stereotype either.  (I.E. you just can’t make those fat people happy no matter what you do, so why try?)  I am glad that this film gets so many things so right.  But it doesn’t take a away a little feeling of Sadness that they had to do it by showing very young girls that the fat girl and the thin girl can be friends, but the fat girl can’t ever really be happy.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me speak about body positivity at YOUR school?  Check out my speaking page HERE.

Thankful for my Online Sisters

At this time of year it’s natural for us to be thankful.  And there are so many things to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful husband and family who are all doing pretty well (including my geriatric doggy who is still begging for walks and treats.) I have a roof over my head and good food to eat.  I have access to medical care and a car to drive.  And by and large, I have my health.

But at this moment, I would also like to say a special thank you to my online sisters.  Some of whom I know well in real life (like Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann) and others that I know mostly from my internet connection like Golda Poretsky, and Virgie Tovar and the militant baker and Hanne Blank.  Some of these women, like Marilyn Wann, I’ve known for decades.  Other online friends are brand new.  For example, I just met Elly Kellner online last night.  She wrote in to More Of Me To Love last night to tell us about an incident where some folks confronted her after a musical performance to let them know that they loved her music but were deeply concerned and distracted by the clothes she chose to wear.

Two strangers told me they were very distracted by my dress, was the back of the dress longer than the front!? And what sort of a legging was that!? And those shoes!? They assured me they only bothered to tell me all this because they thought my music was really good. But if only I wore a small heel, spike heels weren’t necessary, but a small heel and a sleeve then I would have been so much bigger in music already. The way I was dressed now distracted them too much from my music. I could take Ella Fitzgerald as an example. She was a big lady too and she wore beautiful garments!

In the finest tradition of concern trolling, these strangers assured Elly that they had her best interest at heart, and they just wanted others to not be distracted from her music.  Well Elly’s response was simply EPIC.  She created this music video to document her reaction:

I am continually encouraged and inspired by so, so, so many people who are doing amazing work to help make acceptance of body diversity more real in our culture.  From all of the powerful and wonderful speakers we had in our Fat Activism Conference, to the thousands of people who support each other daily on the Fit Fatties Forum, to the thousands of people who read this blog, I am thankful for you.  I am thankful for ALL OF YOU.  I am thankful for the way you make the world a better place for EVERY body.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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P.S.S. Want to book me to speak at your event?  Click HERE.

80 Odd Years of Happy

The title of this post might refer to the notion that you’ve been hearing that infernal song for 80 years.  But in this case it does not.  It refers to a whole bunch of folks, some well into their 80’s dancing around to that infernal song.  Which is happy-making indeed.  And I feel like sharing this video with you because I feel like we could all use a little happy in our lives today.

It’s been kinda a rough week.  Many of us have been deeply saddened by the passing of Robin Williams, a deeply talented movie icon who brought joy to so many of us.  And many of us have been deeply angered by George Takei’s need to not only present a deeply troubling meme bashing disabled people on his feed, but also his ridiculous need to defend his actions using the tired “people are just too sensitive trope”.  I’m not going to post the awful meme here on my blog.  In case you’re curious, I am going to post a link here to Lisa Egan’s article about it which explains the whole thing so much better than I ever could.

Nope, today, I am going to simply post this video and share a little of the love I feel about it:

I am aware that there are some problems with this video.  I think it’s pretty likely that this is a branded entertainment piece for the retirement community.  And the super high production values lead me to believe that the retirement community spent a whole lot of money on this thing.  That said, I love the fact that there are so many people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities doing their thing in here.  See that George Takei?  Old  people dancing!  People with walkers boogying down.  Put that in your meme and stuff it, George.

I also love the way the video depicts old people as being powerful and vibrant and fun.  I think as a society, we are so quick to dismiss older people.  We see them as a problem or an expense.  We see them as a throwaway society.  But all people in our society have value.  Everyone has something to give.  I was reminded of this yet again with another amazing video I came across in my Facebook feed today.

As a person who works as a producer this is something that I think about constantly.  How can we get everybody involved?  How can everybody contribute?  How can we help everybody not only feel valued but also be valued?

If you’ll forgive me for feeling all the feels in this very public way, I just want to tell you this.  We are a deeply troubled world.  We can make things better, but we need all the help we can get.  So let’s begin with a deep commitment to not exclude or throw away a significant percentage of the population who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of age, ability, weight, sex or beauty, OK?  Every BODY has value.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. We are only 10 days away from the Fat Activism Conference.  Join us in making the world a better and more inclusive place for people of all sizes.  Register today at www.fatactivismconference.com.

Thanking Those Who Fight for Rights

I love labor day.  It’s a last breath at the end of summer.  It’s the break that makes the beginning of the school year a tiny bit more bearable for the kids who are regretfully leaving summer break behind them.  It’s a time when Americans gather and drink beer and eat barbeque and enjoy a 3-day weekend.  It’s the morning after the glorious Sunday night, I don’t have to get up in the morning revelry.

But I also think it’s important to remember what labor day is really about.  Labor Day was developed by the American Labor Movement as a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City  in 1882 with local parades and speeches.  Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887.   Following the deaths of several workers at the hands of US military and US Marshals during the Pullman strike, legislation was rushed through and Congress unanimously voted to make Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.

The same labor organizations and activists who organized and pushed for Labor Day also fought for important rights for American workers.  Before the efforts of these labor groups, the typical American work week was 60 hours spread over about 6 days.  And while one might argue that in many ways the American work week is once again headed  in that direction, it’s clear that our current situation would be much different if it hadn’t been for those dedicating and sometimes even sacrificing their lives to make things better for American workers.

All of this has made me think how important it is to remember and thank all people everywhere who fight for our rights.  And I’d like to expand that thinking towards those who have fought for our rights to exist, work, get decent medical care, equal pay and be treated with dignity in bodies of all sizes.  I can’t begin to claim that I know who all of the important players are.  But I can name a few that I have known personally.  Marilyn Wann has spoken and shimmied and marched and chanted at so many amazing, ground-breaking fat positive events.  And her amazing book “Fat, So?” was important for so many of us tentatively beginning to move towards body acceptance.  Lynn Macafee is a fierce freedom fighter who has worked tirelessly with so many size acceptance organizations to get rid of prescription diet drugs that have unpublished and deadly side effects, fight for the rights of fat parents and so much more.  Bill Fabray who founded NAAFA in response to the horrible experience faced by his wife simply because of her size.  Katherine Flegal who’s work with the CDC debunked a lot of the common thinking about the health effects of obesity and faced intense scrutiny and harassment by many of her colleagues.  Other important writers and researchers on the connection between obesity and health include Glen Gasser, Paul Ernsberger and the Cooper Institute.  There are the lawyers, Paul Campos and especially Sandra Solovay who have written and spoken in so many important forums about the rights of fat people.  There are so many of brothers and sisters  in NAAFA and ASDAH and so many other important size acceptance organizations who have done so much to make things better.

While I’m pretty none of us feel that we are truly where we need to be in terms of universal size acceptance, it’s important to remember that so many of us have done so much to make life better for everybody.  That’s why I think it’s important to look at histories like the one created by Barbara Altman Bruno for the ASDAH blog.

And that is why I am so very excited about the project my good friend and colleague Ragen Chastain is working on called In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History.  Ragen is  recording interviews with many of these people who have been so important to the movement.  She’s funding the project herself, so don’t be afraid to throw a few dollars and send a little love her way!

So by all means, enjoy your day off (if you have today off).  Eat hot dogs.  Go to the beach.  Play all day on your Xbox.   Whatever makes you happy.  But remember to take just a few seconds to send a little thanks to those who have worked so hard to make your life just a little bit better.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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Hold Your Tongue, Fatty!

tonguebrigadeIn the category of “not necessarily new, but new to me” I ran across this article about a doctor who claims that he can make you thin by sewing a patch on to your tongue.  Not surprisingly, the product is called the “miracle patch”.  The procedure seems simple enough.  A patch  is sewn onto the tongue that makes it extremely uncomfortable, if not impossible to swallow solid food.  Now you might get concerned upon reading this that without solid food the patient might starve to death.  But never fear!  The same doctor also sells a nutritional liquid supplement that “meets all nutritional needs” while “maximizing weight loss results”.

“It’s cheaper and faster and more attractive than wiring your jaw shut!” say the doctors.  “It is safer and cheaper than gastric bypass surgery.”  Of course, the doctors are altering the function of yet another perfectly normal organ and making it impossible for you to eat anything other than our prepackaged pap.  But hey, you’ll be (at least temporarily) thin!

This procedure is still listed on the site of the cosmetic surgeon interviewed for the article.  So while it’s not being touted much in the news any more, the surgery is apparently still being performed.  This is horrifying to me on so many levels.  It’s yet another example of the current spate of “we’ll do anything to make you temporarily thin and us permanently rich” school of medical procedures.  And I have to admit, that I was struck by the symbolism.  During this procedure, the docs are literally holding your tongue.  And it seems to me that this is precisely what society is continually asking us fat people to do.  Don’t taste.  And for heaven’s sake, DON’T TALK!  The web site assures us that for people who have undergone this procedure, “speech typically returns to baseline within 48 hours.”  I guess this means that physiological barriers to speaking normalize in a short time after surgery.  But what about the psychological barriers?  Isn’t this just another way to say that people who aren’t perfectly thin are without worth and that people who don’t have perfect bodies shouldn’t be allowed to eat or even taste?  Isn’t this just another striking example of how people without socially-mandated “perfect bodies” are told to hold their tongues?

Well you can just forget about that!  I’ve written nearly 400 blog posts on Fat Chick Sings, and I really have no intention of shutting up any time soon.  I’m going to continue to talk and sing and whistle and shout!  So how about you, my loyal readers?  Does the proverbial, societal cat got your tongue?  Or would you like to join me in a size accepting, bigotry smashing, virtual primal scream?  What do you say?  Shall we free our tongues to taste and savor all of the amazing things this world has to offer?  I will use my patch free, pliant and liberated tongue to whisper, shout, sing, and simply say, “Yes.”

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Hey all you Fit Fatties out there!  Don’t forget to enter your miles so we can reach Seal Beach for our Virtual Trek across the USA this Saturday!

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