GitM 5: Magnanimous Bastard
Muddy Monday is a feature in which we “get in the mud” with fat haters by accepting their arguments (even the ones we disagree with) and still find holes in their logic.
Good morning my fellow fat enablers! How are you doing this morning?
Well, I think you’re overestimating, because as we all know, each day you spend learning about Fat Acceptance, you are pushing this nation closer to the edge.
At least that’s what the media wants us to believe. Fat Acceptance is fat enabling.
And, in a way, they are correct.
We are enabling fatties. Fuck, I’ll be the first to admit that. To the extent of my ability, I enable each and every one of you fat bastards to live your life as you see fit. You want to stuff your face with cheesecake? Go for it. You want to starve yourself into a size 2? Be my guest.
But I won’t stop there. I also hope to enable you to love yourself unconditionally; to seek happiness where you choose, rather than at the bidding of weight loss companies; to love your body in all of its jiggly sensuality; to cast-off shame and despair for failing your 10th weight loss attempt; to pursue health…or not; to be who you want to be, regardless of the fear-mongering.
The basic concept is bodily autonomy, and I support it 100%.
This Muddy Monday, we’re going to look at the popular claim that Fat Acceptance is enabling obesity.
There is a great range of claims that FA is fat enabling. There are those who just come out and say it, those who want to save the children, and those who cite outraged health professionals. Then there are those who claim Marianne Kirby’s claim of gaining 100 pounds after giving up dieting is a lie and that Normal Eating® would have saved her from a life of fatness, those who claim Fat Acceptance is allowing feederism to flourish, and those who claim there is a limit to how accepting we should be.
Before we get in the mud, I want to point out something about those last two items. First, regarding feederism, that article is from ABC News and uses the following headline: “Lusting for Fat: Gainers Come Out of the Closet” with the subheader: “As Fat Acceptance Voices Grow Louder, Blogs Celebrate Putting on the Pounds.”
Sounds like we’re in for an in-depth discussion about how Fat Acceptance is encouraging feederism, right?
Except, there’s only one line about Fat Acceptance:
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance also condemns the practice of so called “feederism,” because it coerces a person to become larger.
The rest of the article is about how our culture is rewarding fat people:
In a special report, the celebrity magazine In Touch Weekly looks at what it calls Hollywood’s “big new obsession” and the perks of being overweight: “fame and fortune.”
Ah yes, the perks of being overweight. Did you know that, being morbidly obese, I’m allowed to use handicapped parking spaces without a pass? Or that I receive a free order of large fries when I order my six Extra Value Meal lunch? Man oh man, it’s good to be fat.
And, of course, the article goes on to use whatever source will confirm their suspicions:
“The days of justifying our fatness by lying and saying we have a mysterious genetic or metabolic disorder are over,” says the Bigger Fatter Blog. “We now freely admit to and embrace what the fat haters would call gluttony. We are fat because we eat huge amounts of food and we like it.”
For those unaware, Bigger Fatter Blog is an anti-Fat Acceptance blog. I have yet to figure out if its authors are actually feeders with a contempt for Fat Acceptance or if it’s a satirical blog attacking Fat Acceptance. Either way, I think they’re a bunch of assholes.
Yet these ignorant fuckwads are thrown in as evidence that “As Fat Acceptance Voices Grow Louder, Blogs Celebrate Putting on the Pounds.”
That article is one, steaming pile of shite intended to discredit Fat Acceptance by tying it directly to feederism. And as we have previously discussed, feederism has nothing to do with Fat Acceptance whatsoever.
But that’s a red herring. I prefer people who take a more nuanced tone, like this person:
Look, I’m all for Fat Acceptance. I’ve been fat.
When am I going over the line of “Fat Acceptance” though?
When I go to Walmart and I see a person who is so obese that they cannot walk around the store, but must ride in a scooter, and their huge belly hangs down in between their knees and thighs almost to the foot rests of the scooter, am I being “unaccepting” to find that sight not only disturbing but disgusting?
Yes. Yes, you are.
Because here’s the thing: the person who is so obese that they need a scooter (nevermind the fact that you don’t actually know why they need a scooter other than FAT + SCOOTER = TOO FAT FOR ACCEPTANCE) is rare. As I have previously written, I am 5’7″, 260 pounds, which gives me a BMI of 40.7. That means I’m perfectly balanced on the borderline of morbid obesity.
The ever-delightful Michelle Allison recently wrote about the show “Heavy” and how “nearly 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating obesity.”
Michelle and I both have a BMI over 40. Do you know how many people are fatter than us? 5.7%.
We’re both fat, but we’re both far from requiring a scooter to shop. In fact, I would venture to guess that the number of people who rely on scooters for shopping trips is less than 1%. Yet seeing them is evidence that Fat Acceptance has gone too far? Or that Fat Acceptance should somehow exclude the Bad Fatties?
I think the better explanation is that you are seeing more fat people because you have been trained to see more fat people. It’s not that Wal-Marts have become permanent Shriner conventions with fatties spinning donuts (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. donuts) in their Rascals.
It’s that we have been taught for over a decade that fatties are everywhere, with thanks in no small part to the headless fatty phenomenon. Every story about the obesity epidemic comes with two things: a reference to 2/3 of the population being too fat and this guy:
Saying that Fat Acceptance is dangerous because it enables feederism or fatties in scooters is like saying that Civil Rights is dangerous because it enables gang life and young black criminals. If you spend your time looking for the dark side of a political movement, you will find it.
Being able to tie two seemingly related issues is not the same as establishing a cause and effect relationship. Yeah, you can create a plausible theory as to why the Civil Rights movement led to “welfare queens” and criminal entitlement, but you would have to ignore the complex reality. You would have to ignore the history of racial discrimination and injustice in this country in order to accuse the NAACP of enabling all the worst stereotypes of black people.
The same goes with Fat Acceptance. You would have to completely ignore the history of socially-encouraged disordered eating and unhealthy lifestyles promoted by the media in order to point the finger at Fat Acceptance and say, “They are enabling [insert fatty stereotype].”
And besides, how dare anyone in this society, particularly those in the media, accuse Fat Acceptance of enabling unhealthy lifestyles when our “culture” has always promoted an unhealthy lifestyle at the other end of the spectrum, and always will.
Yes, Fat Acceptance is bad because they enable obesity, yet our popular culture is blameless in the deaths of 9,576 teenagers each year because anorexia is “rare.”
The whole thing reminds me of Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown. For those youngsters who don’t recall, “Murphy Brown” was a popular television show in 1992, when George Bush (the original) and Bill Clinton were sparring in public.
Around the election, Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) gets pregnant, but the father wants nothing to do with it. Murphy decides to go through with the pregnancy anyway, which, in 1992, the subject of single mothers was still a relatively taboo subject in society.
Well, Bush’s Vice President, Mr. Potato Head (aka Dan Quayle), tried to tie the LA riots and gang violence to a breakdown of family values and, somehow, Murphy Brown.
That quote received the most attention, but his words just prior that put it into context:
“Ultimately, however, marriage is a moral issue that requires cultural consensus, and the use of social sanctions. Bearing babies irresponsibly is, simply, wrong. Failure to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this.”
The current Fat Panic is of an unequivocal nature and they say that being fat irresponsibly is, simply, wrong.
But society overwhelmingly rejected Quayle’s analysis because it did not take the complexity of the issues into account and attempted to make a folk devil out of a positive role model.
That is where we, as Fat Acceptance advocates, stand today. We are attempting to help people make peace with their bodies and provide them the educational tools to make healthy, informed decisions about their bodies. But, ultimately, we respect each individual’s right to use their body as they see fit.
That is not enabling; that is the very foundation of freedom in this country.
So, if you are looking for an overly simplistic folk devil to pin the ills of our generation, or any generation, on, I highly recommend you dig deeper than Fat Acceptance or Murphy Brown.
You’ll have to go all the way back to that magnanimous bastard, Thomas Jefferson, who had the audacity to enshrine the importance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness into the very DNA of our nation.