I am a Fat-o-sphere Refugee
Today we welcome our very first GUY as a guest poster, I never thought I’d see the day!
Shannon from Atchka reached out to me around the same time as The Zaftig Chicks, and he told me of a new feed he was setting up to support bloggers who considered themselves part of the Fat Acceptance movement, but wanted to express their feelings about weight loss (a topic that is off limits in most FA discussions — except here). I support his new effort, however I also support FA’s right to require NO DIET TALK. Makes total sense. Where I think FA has gone off the deep end is in attacking the living crap out of people just to make that simple point.
With that, let’s give Shannon the floor, and then sit back and watch the shit hit the fan.
I’m not exactly sure why I was banished, but it had something to do with this Podcast of an interview between my wife and I, where in she talked about her weight loss goals and her skeptical view of Fat Acceptance.
There’s a long back story which involves rent garments and the gnashing of teeth, but I’ll spare you the details. Needless to say, the Fatosphere is a breeding ground for rich drama (to which I was not immune) and when I was summarily dismissed with a passive aggressive note that said, “Well, you wanted to get kicked off anyway” I kinda lost my shit.
It definitely didn’t reflect well on me, but after dealing with the intellectually dishonest arguments, the language parsing, the arbitrarily applied “guidelines,” the narrow definitions of Fat Acceptance, and the clique-y, close-minded group-think that passes for activism, I chose a scorched earth policy over a dignified exit.
What can I say, I’m a bridge-burner by nature.
So, I put my blog on hiatus and set to work creating a new home for Fat Acceptance. I contacted a few people whose opinions I trusted, including mamaV, and asked for feedback and support. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response and I’ve spent the past month laying the groundwork for a new community blog inspired by We Are the Real Deal and engineered in the spirit of Voltron.
That new community blog is called Fierce, Freethinking Fatties.
After bumping up against the Fatosphere overlords for some time, I had come to the conclusion that I would probably be best served by creating a new community. But just as I began scratching the surface of that idea, I got the boot, which kicked my plans into high gear.
My idea for a new FA community stemmed from the fact that what the Fatosphere claimed to be (“Notes is an aggregate feeds that pull from a number of blogs dealing with fat, body politics, etc. Weight loss blogs aren’t included and won’t be included.”) was not what it was in practice.
In short, the Fatosphere has become a community for, mainly, women recovering from eating disorders.
Now, it makes absolute sense that this is how the Fatosphere evolved, since the group most impacted by size discrimination and fat bias are women and that so many fat women have struggled to deal with those issues by succumbing to social pressure and tried to shove a round peg into a square hole, so to speak.
So very many women have spent their lives buying into the diet mentality that once they hear about Fat Acceptance they are already long-down the path of disordered eating and distorted body image. When they find the refuge that is Fat Acceptance, they are still raw from the abuse, both external and internal, that has defined their bodies for so long.
The Fatosphere gradually became a safe place to talk about fat issues without having to read the typical propaganda and noise that they are subjected to outside of the Fatosphere. In creating the Fatosphere, the founders and bloggers have done something remarkable: created one of the only truly safe places to discuss fat issues from a fat context.
I discovered the Fatosphere when putting together my blog and, having lived a fat positive lifestyle since around 1996, it seemed a perfect fit. I’d write about fat issues and I would get readers from the feed (something sorely missing during the early days of Atchka!).
I quickly learned that opposing viewpoints are taboo on the Fatosphere, when I disputed a Shapely Prose post about the rape culture of a certain comic strip. Shortly thereafter, the Zaftig Chicks posted their drama-bomb about privilege and got publicly reamed for it by one of the better known Fatosphere bloggers.
This is when I first got the impression that there was more to the Fatosphere than Fat Acceptance.
If it were simply about creating a safe space, then you would think calling other bloggers “douchebags” for their 101 unpacking of privilege would be frowned upon. But instead, certain elements within the Fatosphere danced around the flaming carcasses of the newbies.
I found the entire affair distasteful and tried to inject a little reason… a call to a give people the benefit of the doubt if they butcher a concept while trying to understand it. But the overwhelming attitude on the Fatosphere was, “If you don’t understand a concept, then you need to read everything you can on the subject until you are sufficiently educated to comment.”
Same with commenting on particular posts. People expected commenters to read each and every comment prior to joining the discussion because, God forbid two people should say the same thing or *GASP!* a person doesn’t get the 101 issue.
This sort of “Shut your mouth and get back in the kitchen” attitude perplexed me. Shouldn’t Fat Acceptance be about helping each other learn and grow? Shouldn’t Fat Acceptance be about pointing each other to valuable resources that will help educate them? But when I asked these questions, the typical response I got was, “That’s what Google’s for.”
Because as we all know, you only have to ask Google a question to get a valid answer.
Instead of simply creating a FAQ that you could point a newbie to, people were simply saying, “Shut the fuck up, n00b” and that was that.
So much for acceptance.
I created my own FAQ for newbies and tried to speak up when I saw this attitude rearing it’s ugly head, but then the problem shifted.
It was no longer about lost newbies, but about bloggers such as myself who wanted to discuss issues of fat science and fat health from a skeptical standpoint. When I posted that I planned on interviewing Dr. Arya Sharma (a leading bariatric specialist in Canada who promoted the idea that doctors should not make weight loss part of obesity treatment, which is damned revolutionary for a doctor in my mind) I received a request from the moderator of the Fatosphere to explain my beliefs on dieting (because people complained that Dr. Sharma “promoted dieting.”)
So, I did.
And yet, my place in the Fatosphere received more and more skepticism from people. Suddenly, I was treated as though I were a fake Fat Acceptance advocate. That secretly I was promoting dieting and that my blog was an “unsafe space” for people.
Long-story short (too late), the interview with my wife (a very fat positive, very intelligent woman) was the last straw for the Fatosphere. I then went on hiatus and, in the meantime, had my name dragged through the mud.
I spent the past month trying to develop the ideal Fat Acceptance community (in my eyes) and it comes down to this:
1. People are capable of creating their own safe space. Not every fat person is recovering from an eating disorder and not everyone who has dealt with an ED is so sensitive that they need a censor protecting them from blogs. Given the proper tools, we can create a community that delves into every aspect of fat culture, not just those that we’re comfortable with. So, we are planning to create a new content-based feed that uses a rating system to give adequate warning for those who aren’t comfortable with certain topics like weight loss surgery or dieting.
2. People are capable of disagreeing respectfully. We don’t need to call each other douchebags to correct a mistaken opinion. We can state our opinions honestly and openly, and defend ourselves the same way. We don’t need to resort to context-killing arguments that rely on misinterpretation and hypersensitive reactions.
3. People are capable of dieting and accepting their fat. Despite recent posts to the contrary, a person can diet (and by diet, I mean change your lifestyle to what you believe is a healthier lifestyle) and still be fat positive. A person can have weight loss surgery and still support the goals of Fat Acceptance. A perfect example is No Celery Please, one of our contributors at Fierce Freethinking Fatties. She recently posted about her experience with dieting and being a skinny Fat Acceptor. Sadly, this kind of post would not be allowed on the Fatosphere.
4. People are capable of diverse opinions and cognitive dissonance. While traveling the path of Fat Acceptance, you aren’t going to go from one day being immersed and diet culture to the next being all anti-diet and self-confident. You can read and accept the 95% dieting failure rate stat, yet still feel compelled to lose weight. We don’t need to label those people “FA Lite” thus making them feel even less accepted for having stepped away from popular culture and been chastised by fat culture. It reminds me of how biracial people talk about feeling caught between black and white cultures. Fat Acceptance should accept ALL fat people, regardless of whether they subscribe to my concept of Fat Acceptance.
5. People are capable of doubt. Not everything that is written on the Fatosphere is true. Nor is everything that will be written on Fierce Freethinking Fatties. You are the final arbiter of truth and people that if they express doubt about standard FA viewpoints should not be accused of fomenting faux revolutions or being fake Fat Acceptors. They are skeptics and I heartily welcome all skeptics.
These are just a few of the cornerstones of FFFs. There are more, but I’m at work and have to accomplish a little bit today. But I hope that the Fierce, Freethinking Fatties can do for Fat Acceptance what We Are the Real Deal has done for women’s issues: create an open, thick-skinned, debate-loving community that welcomes all open-minds into the fold.
Because open-mindedness is exactly what is missing from the Fatosphere.