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.
Thanks as always for reading and being willing to explore the tough stuff with me.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)