I have become pretty intolerant of anti-fat sentiments and the anti-fat arguments I’ve heard over and over again. I say snarky things when I hear them in person, I jump in fighting when I read them online, and I shut things down entirely when they are made in my own spaces, like this blog. I sometimes call myself a fat activist, but activist suggests some sort of altruism. It’s not about the social good; it’s just about defending my own life. I’m not a fat activist; I’m just a fat person.
I sometimes refer to the comments and arguments I disagree with as “fat-hate”. But most of the people I talk to don’t hate fat people. I hung out with some people just this past weekend who have said some of these things, but they definitely don’t hate me. We’re friends. So “fat-hate” doesn’t quite work as a description for their opinions. Fatphobia is another term I’ve heard, but it has a similar problem. Most people would say they aren’t afraid of fat people.
Fat-hate and fatphobia are both a bit of shorthand. They mean something like, “the attitudes, assumptions, and opinions that contribute to stigma towards, disapproval of, and bias against fat people.” Bias, stigma, and disapproval all sound really detached. The truth is that a great many people really do fucking hate fat people. A great many people really are afraid of fat people. They are afraid to stand near us, afraid for their children to see us, afraid that we’re coming for their tax dollars, eating all their food, and somehow going to get our disgusting all over them.
It doesn’t matter if you think your anti-fat sentiment is perfectly rational and besides, you don’t have anything against fat people personally. It is personal. I can’t escape how personal it is because we are talking about my body. I won’t let you get away with acting like it’s impersonal, either.
But I do sympathize. Not everyone I talk to has done as much thinking on this topic as I have. And then that shorthand comes out, and it can get kind of confusingly aggressive. I get tired of the same conversations and sometimes give a shrill accusation – “That’s fat hate!” instead of a measured rebuttal. And the other person has a reaction something like, “What the fuck did I say?” or maybe ou just thinks I’m a weirdo and leaves it at that.
I’m willing to put some work in to clarify this issue and to expand on this shorthand.
What do I mean by fat-hate?
Over the next few days, I’m going to try to list out as many things as I can think of. If you can think of some things that ought to make the list, let me know in the comments. On the topic of fat people, if you’ve ever wondered, “I wonder if I should say that,” drop that in a comment here, too. If you’ve heard me freak out on someone and wondered what was wrong with what they said, let me know. I’ll work it all into a big post on things to give up on if you are committed to making the world a safe place for fat people.