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Sausage Factory —

March 19, 2012
by

Today was supposed to be the day I released the video of my conversation with Tim Whitehead, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

But before I do that, I need to address some issues that have been raised in a letter by NOLOSE. I believe this letter is addressed largely to me (or at least I was the catalyst for the letter), as well as to the larger white fat activist community.

I realize that since the letter does not call me out by name, some will assume I’m being paranoid and neurotic again, but there are two items that suggest NOLOSE is calling me out for my efforts against Strong4Life.

First and foremost is this paragraph:

A person of color raised questions on the “Stand4Kids” tumblr about the tools used to make the project inclusive, the intent and possible effect of the projects in communities of color, and the ways in which these images would be used to support children of color in Georgia. The response was disappointing: these discussions had not happened within this project, and the commenter was told that if they wanted to support diversity within the project, they, as a person of color, should join the project’s Facebook page and offer solutions. More recently, the organizer of the campaign did address this posted concern to acknowledge that the proper outreach had not been done, and that she would take the questions posed on board. [emphasis mine]

This interaction seems to be the crux of the letter: that a person of color (POC) raised concerns about the lack of diversity in the I STAND photo series, and that someone from our group told this POC that if they wanted diversity, they should join our Facebook group and offer solutions.

Well, as you may have guessed, the person who responded to the POC was me, and you can read the full thread for yourself.

But before I address this, the other reason I believe this letter is addressed to me is that in my second response to Julia Starkey (the POC who commented on the FatKidsUnited blog), I said:

Everyone working on this campaign is a volunteer and everyone working on this campaign is committed to encouraging diversity of bodies, lifestyles and viewpoints. Some of us are better versed in diversity strategies, while others, like myself, are flying by the seat of our pants. [emphasis mine]

Jump back to the end of the NOLOSE letter where it says:

Flying by the seat of your pants, when it comes to addressing the real concerns and questions around diversity and inclusion of POC in fat activist spaces or campaigns, will no longer be good enough.

So am I being paranoid, or was this comment thread the inspiration for the letter from NOLOSE? I’ll let you decide.

Now, we need some context to make sense of all this because unless I explain what I was doing at this moment in the history of our fight against Strong4Life, I fear some will assume that my inaction in response to Starkey’s comment was something more than that it really was.

On January 4, I began noticing an uptick in articles on Strong4Life, which Deah had already written about back in September 2011. I found the sudden resurgence of media attention odd (and as I later learned, the campaign had been running since May), but had not planned on doing anything but blogging about it.

Why hadn’t I planned any action? Well, in October 2010 when the show Huge was canceled, I attempted my first shot at fat activism (as opposed to blogging only), eventually organizing an international rally outside ABC studios in support of Huge and more fat-friendly television.

I busted my ass putting all the pieces together, even getting the support of Savannah Dooley, co-creator of Huge, and Nikki Blonsky and several of the show’s main characters. Things were looking great until I posted my video, which, in spite of Dooley’s warnings, included a swipe at Joey Lawrence, whose show, Melissa & Joey, was spared the axe at ABC Family.

Because of this, Dooley withdrew her support, followed by Blonsky and the rest, and the rallies collapsed like a souffle at a Megadeth concert.

Since then, I’ve avoided any attempt at creating, or leading, any movement or action in support of Fat Acceptance. I knew I lacked the skills and personality to lead a successful movement, so I decided to leave it to the “real” activists in Fat Acceptance.

Fast forward to January 4 — I’m ready to write some posts about the resurgence of Strong4Life, when I read this Facebook post by Candye Kane, which made me wonder why it didn’t seem like anyone in Fat Acceptance was doing anything about Strong4Life. After all, fighting Strong4Life seemed to be exactly what Fat Acceptance was made for.

That inspired my first post on January 5.

This was the beginning of my work against Strong4Life.

On January 6, as we mounted this campaign, I emailed two Fat Activists who I knew would be strong and powerful allies: Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann.

Both of them responded immediately and expressed an interest in doing something to fight Strong4Life. Two days later, shared her brainchild with me about creating an alternate billboard campaign, which I thought was epically awesome, while I began formulating my own project, the FatKidsUnited video series. I also began to write daily on Strong4Life.

My biggest obstacle at this point was trying to reach as many Fat Acceptance activists and supporters as possible. In the nearly three years since I’ve begun FA blogging, I’ve pissed off countless people and burned pretty much every bridge I felt had suffered too much structural damage.

But being the optimist I am, I reached out to a handful of these people, tried and true Fat Activists who understood what was at stake.

I have a habit of over-estimating people, and envisioned the Strong4Life issue helping us rebuild bridges throughout the Fat Acceptance community in the unified purpose of ending fat stigma and hatred. I indulged fantasies of everyone I had ever met in the Fatosphere coming together, casting aside their differences and singing in a spirit of unity and harmony for the fat kids of Georgia.

On January 13, I sent an email to one particular blogger who I have had a pretty rough history with and essentially asked if we could call détente for just this moment. Following is an excerpt from that email:

We need every single voice we can get on this campaign, and I’ve noticed a distinctive absence of voices from mainstream Fat Acceptance. I realize this is largely because nobody wants to work with me or be associated with me, which is completely understandable in most circumstances. But here we have a chance to improve the lives of fat children in Georgia and it’s time to set aside our personal differences and focus on what really matters.

I don’t care if you mention that you got this information from me. In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t. But if we could coordinate our efforts to send a unified message to CHOA and to the Surgeon General (and First Lady on Twitter, too!), then we have a shot at bringing down the billboards.

Once we accomplish that we can go back to the status quo. But for now, can we call a truce and work together, even if it’s behind the scenes?

Rather than respond to my email, this person posted a passive aggressive post about what a faux activist I am:

It is upsetting to see someone who has trolled multiple fat activists treated as a legitimate player in FA. Someone who has positioned himself as a faux activist for the benefit of those eager to use him to show how awful fat acceptance is… Sure, problematic people can sometimes have good notions. I’m not going to judge the people I do trust for endorsing the work of someone I have no faith in or respect for. But I’m not going to participate. I’m not going to lend credibility to someone I feel has not shown good faith towards the activists and especially the women who have led fat acceptance to where it is.

This was the only response I received from this group of Fat Activists who I contacted in spite of our troubled history. Later, I wrote my post, “Unnatural Allies —”,  in response to these activists.

This is how I began my work: completely disheartened that my past behavior had so alienated me from Fat Acceptance that Fat Activists were intentionally opting out of the debate due to my involvement.

Up to this point, my online activism had consisted of encouraging people to call CHOA and Strong4Life to demand they bring down the billboards. When it was clear that wasn’t helping, I posted the Call to Action on January 16.

I had no idea whether the first approach was better or whether this new approach might yield better results. I had no idea because I am not an activist and I have never done anything like this before in my life. Inspired by Candye’s words, I wanted to do what I could to end Phase 1, but having never taken on a multi-million dollar healthcare campaign before, I was basically brainstorming ideas and hoping something, anything, would work.

By the end of the week of that first Call to Action, I was feeling personally discouraged, and began wondering whether I should end the campaign after approximately two weeks with few signs progress. And publicly, there wasn’t much happening, but behind the scenes Ragen was busy preparing for the billboard campaign, and I had only heard sporadically from Marilyn since that first January 6 email. I had no idea about the I STAND photo project until Marilyn told me about it on Saturday, January 21, at which point my confidence surged as I felt like the cavalry had finally arrived.

Buoyed by Marilyn’s inspirational project, I launched my video project the same day as I STAND on Monday, January 23 with visions of a fatty version of “It Gets Better” dancing in my head.

Sadly (to me), only two people, the incomparable Jennifer Jonassen and our very own erylin (although we couldn’t figure out how to post hers) responded to my call for videos.

Meanwhile, I began helping Marilyn with her project, Photoshopping posters and even providing access to my Dropbox account so her team of Photoshop Angels could quickly and easily exchange source files and finished posters. And behind the scenes, Marilyn, Ragen, Rachel Adams and I were busy hammering out the details of the coalition that was forming.

It was in the midst of all of this that I received Starkey’s comment:

I was wondering what methods or policies you had in place to make this project welcoming to people of diverse races, ethnicities, ages, religious, etc.

Do you have plans to have people in the “we stand with” posters be more representative of children who are targeted for weight discrimination?

All too often programs and posters produced by government offices attack children of color, particularly those who are economically marginalized.

The stand4life site had 5 children’s faces on it. Two appear to be white, while three appear to be black. I don’t see 3/5 of the posts above or on the tumblr depicting people of color (with the caveat that guessing someone’s race based on a photo is dodgy)

Julia was referring to the handful of photos I had posted on the FatKidsUnited blog, which were a fraction of the posters that had been created by that time. I created this page as a home for the photos, although a Tumblr had been created simultaneously for this project, which I wasn’t aware of at the time. So, the images available at the time of Starkey’s quote (around 20 in all) weren’t even representative of the photos submitted.

Marilyn was busy with the launch of I STAND, so I figured I would respond to Starkey with what I thought was an invitation to help us improve the diversity of I STAND.

Julia,
All of our photos are submitted by people who want to be a part of this campaign. Obesity and race are correlated (as are obesity and poverty, and poverty and race), and in Atlanta, race plays a factor. As mentioned in this post, Strong4Life uses child actors, so they can pick and choose the diversity they wish to represent. We are limited by the participation of our members. Also, this is a limited list of the posters created, which we will be updating today. To see the latest, visit the Stand4Kids Tumblr, where photos are being added as quickly as they can create them.

That being said, I think it is important to have greater diversity among our representation and if anyone has ideas for how to do so, please let us know. Our campaign is open to everyone, everywhere, no limitations.

Peace,
Shannon

This answer did not satisfy Starkey, as she was looking for a specific list of things we had specifically done to make I STAND more inclusive. I could not been involved in the logistics of I STAND, rather than strategy. And as Marilyn would later point out to me in private, this was her project.

There are already a lot of information resources available online on ways to increase diversity in organizations and campaigns. Before I repeat myself, what resources have you looked at? Are there strategies you have tried which have worked for you? What about ones that haven’t?

How are the images and messages on the Stand4Kids tumblr going to be conveyed to communities in Atlanta? In particular how do you plan to address children in the Atlanta area?

My project was the video series, which failed to get anyone but Jennifer involved at all. Now Starkey was demanding that I list the resources I had consulted for our diversity strategy and what strategies I had already attempted… just one day into a campaign that I was simply helping out with.

So I tried to explain how our efforts were volunteer-based and, once again, that we would definitely welcome any assistance in improving the diversity of I STAND. I also tried to explain how stretched thin I was between assisting Marilyn and managing my own activism, which included both the video plus my daily blogging on Strong4Life.

Julia,
Everyone working on this campaign is a volunteer and everyone working on this campaign is committed to encouraging diversity of bodies, lifestyles and viewpoints. Some of us are better versed in diversity strategies, while others, like myself, are flying by the seat of our pants. I am totally open to any recommendations, but I am squeezing this campaign between my real 9 to 5 job and my family, and it has taken its toll on both.

If you would like to help us improve the diversity of the community, we welcome you with open arms.

As far as how the messages and images will be conveyed to Atlanta and how we plan to address the children in the Atlanta area, we are still in the planning stages of that phase of our project. If you would like to contribute to the discussion, I encourage you to join our Facebook group and provide your input.

But, generally speaking, I can say that our message will be positive and uplifting, encouraging children of ALL sizes to love themselves unconditionally and to pursue health without focusing on weight (aka Health at Every Size).

Peace,
Shannon

On January 27, I received an email from Marilyn Wann which mentioned that I had offended Starkey with my response, and Marilyn answered Starkey herself:

Hi!

I welcome people to send their photo and credo to me at marilyn@fatso.com along with any photo credit and whether you’d like your name to appear on the image or not (either way is fine).

I haven’t done proper outreach yet, but I totally agree with you, Julia, and take your suggestions on board. Thank you!

It enrages me that anti-”obesity” campaigns pride themselves on targeting poor people and people of color and imagine they’re doing anyone any kind of favor.

So, my comment, which said that we hadn’t done anything, but that we welcomed help in improving diversity was “disappointing,” while Marilyn said she hadn’t done the proper outreach yet, but that she was taking Julia’s comments on board. Because of this, NOLOSE says that Marilyn “did address this posted concern.”

I want to know, what’s the difference between these two comments? Marilyn said what I said: we hadn’t done anything specific to improve diversity yet. The only difference I can see is that Marilyn said that she had not done the proper outreach, while I suggested that anyone who was better versed in diversity strategies should join the Facebook group to give us ideas.

So because I did not respond to Starkey’s comment by offering to research diversity strategies and personally do the work of getting POCs involved in Marilyn’s I STAND campaign, I have invited the following criticism from NOLOSE:

When open and authentic conversations about race and class fail to happen, we see these attitudes in the ways that people are left out of conversations. We see people who live with great privilege speaking as authorities on the impact of racism and classism, without basing their approach in the ally model. We see large size acceptance campaigns launched without coalition among diverse groups, thoughtful discussion around inclusivity, or well-versed allies on hand to help answer questions and facilitate community conversation. We see white allies depending heavily on POC and poor people to discern, direct, and implement the work of addressing these concerns within our communities only after or in response to work being presented that does not include their voices. We see white allies responding defensively and closing down conversations when presented with clear questions about taking steps to do their own work of finding ally mentors, addressing the ways their own acknowledged and unacknowledged privilege directly affects members of their community, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue about the interconnectedness of oppressions and the diverse ways those oppressions affect different members of our communities. [emphasis mine]

This is the accusation leveled at me: that I have left people out of the conversation because I did not find an ally mentor for the I STAND project. And, of course, I’m told that flying by the seat of my pants is not an option for activism.

Allow me to point out one other interesting corollary to all of this: recently I stumbled across a Facebook group called “Fierce Fatties” and, thinking it was some kind of fan page for our blog that I hadn’t seen, I asked to join, was approved, and I posted a comment on that group about how excited I was to find this page.

The next day, I was banned from the group and it became private. I contacted the moderator, Virgie Tovar, to ask why I was booted and to ask why they were using the name Fierce Fatties if they weren’t going to include the person who coined the phrase “fierce fatties” into the group.

Virgie never responded to my email and I was essentially shut out of that group and any conversations with them.

Virgie is also one of the co-signers of the NOLOSE letter.

So, in my opinion, what this comes down to is that in building a coalition to fight against Strong4Life, as well as in trying to work with allies and activists like Virgie, I was ignored or publicly blasted for my work. The day immediately following the launch of I STAND, a project I had no responsibility for, I was asked about our diversity efforts and responded with an invitation to participate. Meanwhile, I completely and utterly failed at getting ANYONE to participate in my project, and the primary focus on my activism has been daily blogging and organizing a scatterbrained phone-in and letter-writing campaign, something I had never created before. And all of this was done between jugging projects at work and my family.

And yet, because someone told me that I should research diversity and recruit POCs personally, and I did not have the time, or skills, to do that, this means that I was leaving POCs out of the conversation. And because I invited Starkey to join us on Facebook to help come up with ideas to promote diversity, this was me “responding defensively and closing down conversations.”

And finally, there’s this criticism:

POC in the fat justice movement demand and deserve allies showing up to the table of our campaigns and work, rather than constantly being told they have made a place for us at theirs.

Again, my offense was that I invited Starkey to join us on Facebook, “our table,” rather than went to “their table.”

The thing is, I didn’t know NOLOSE had a fucking table!

I had no idea who was doing what, aside from Marilyn and Ragen. Just three days prior, I was on the verge of giving up because I didn’t think anyone was really doing anything, and it all seemed like a waste of time. Maybe if Starkey had said, “Hey, we’ve got a group of POCs working on this over here,” things would have been different because I would have been aware of the table.

Instead, I was asked a series of questions for which I didn’t have an answer because we had just begun this project, and because I didn’t drop the other projects I was working on to appease Starkey, I’m now being accused of excluding POCs from the discussion.

This isn’t the first time I’ve committed some grave offense against a political identity group, but this one seems completely unjustified in my opinion. I’m sure NOLOSE will disagree and explain all the many ways in which I failed to ensure diversity and inclusion.

And that’s fine. I’m willing to accept whatever further criticisms they want to share because I’m out. I’m done. I quit.

As proud as I was to see the title of “Fat Activist” beside my name in this article, I’m renouncing the title immediately. I’m not an activist any more. I’m just a blogger.

I will no longer lead or spearhead any form of activism, although I will always be willing to lend my voice. But in the three years I’ve been here, I have faced a barrage of criticisms for all the things I do wrong as an activist or an ally. I’ve been routinely raked over the coals for things I wasn’t even aware of, and in the eyes of many people, that lack of awareness is as much of a crime as willful ignorance.

I’m tired of people shooting first and asking questions later. If people have an issue with the way I present myself, the way I work with other groups, the activism I’ve done, then why wouldn’t they email me privately and try to explain where I’ve gone wrong.

Oh, that’s right, “real activists” don’t do 101, they just point out the failures of others.

That’s fine with me. The past three months have been nothing but one long, complicated pain in the ass, and my only reward has been public accusations of erasure and exclusion.

Well, I have never been, and I will never be, the kind of person who can anticipate the needs to the multiple and diverse allies that contribute to Fat Acceptance. And if that precludes me from being an effective Fat Activist, then allow me to be the first to say good riddance.

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91 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    March 19, 2012 1:47 pm

    Shannon – I read the letter from NoLose when it was first posted and my first thought was “WTF! There was an open call for participation to everyone! Was an engraved invitation supposed to have been sent to NoLose to join in? Or do they have their noses out of joint because they didn’t think of the ISTAND project first? Because they didn’t think of the letter-writing campaign to the supporters of S4L? Because they didn’t have anyone who was going to S4L’s Facebook page and taking them to task for their erroneous information and getting banned for it? Was that letter because they were jealous that they didn’t think of these things first and ask their white allies to join them?
    This old, disabled, fat, bisexual woman is god damned sick and tired of the oppression olympics and people who are coming from a place of privilege (degree from Harvard, working at Harvard) need to keep that in mind, no matter what their color is. I’ve been a single, fat, disabled, bisexual mother on welfare so I have a right to speak for fat bullied kids of every color in every state and anyone who wants to join doesn’t have to tell me what their color, age, ability, gender, size, or socio-economic status is as long as they want to fight with me.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      March 19, 2012 3:06 pm

      I had a long reply written, that I deleted, because I was a chicken (because I get pretty tired of being told how privileged I am, when I’m doing the best I can to be more aware of my privilege and work to come from a place of inclusivity).

      However, one thing that occurs to me, every time something like this comes up, is, if POC are truly equals (and make no mistake, they are), then why do they have to have an individual invitation? That’s makes the appearance that they think they need to be invited before they can jump in, which implies an inequality. Not necessarily in the minds of the people saying, “Hey, EVERYBODY who wants to, come to this party,” but definitely in the minds of the people who think they must wait on an invitation.

      The call was put out for everybody who wanted to make a STANDard. None of the individual people who chose to respond were individually invited (that I know of, at least I wasn’t specifically invited). To wait for a specific invitation shows that a person or group doesn’t think they are equal.

      While there is much social injustice, and many areas where the dominant paradigm needs to be more inclusive, in this case, there really was no way one could get more inclusive.

      Because “all” really DOES mean “all”. Special invitation not needed to join.

    • March 19, 2012 3:37 pm

      vesta,
      All I can say is that I’m fairly secluded in my activism because of all these bad experiences I’ve had with other activists. Each time, I’ve withdrawn more and more until I’ve basically got a (relatively) small cluster of people who understand that I’m enormously imperfect, but attempting to improve. But that self-inflicted isolation means I’m usually not aware of what else is going on in the Fatosphere.

      My work against Strong4Life was out of interest for fat kids. Everything the letter says about S4L being disproportionately aimed at poor, black kids is absolutely true. In fact, it was in my conversation with Tim Whitehead (either tomorrow or Wednesday, mind you) where he told me that they were targeting “poor and urban” areas. As soon as I got off the phone with him, I asked you all to ask S4L on FB (since I was banned) where the five billboards were, which made it public knowledge that they were targeting poor, urban areas.

      I have been speaking out against this particular aspect since I learned about them. I wrote about it here and here.

      Although I’ve been doing other things besides blogging, I’ve seen my role as an activist in this effort as digging up the dirt and presenting it to everyone so they could use that information to further the cause.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • vesta44 permalink
        March 19, 2012 4:05 pm

        And that’s the thing that gets me – it’s been said right from the start that S4L was targeting poor urban areas and the call was sent out for everyone to join in and help, so you would think that anyone reading about it who had come from that background/was living in that background would have jumped on board in a heartbeat and been helping all along. I’ve lived in poor rural areas and poor urban areas, I’ve been bullied as a kid for my weight and I’ve been bullied as an adult for my weight, so even though no one issued me a personal invitation, I volunteered my efforts – I sent 2 photos for STANDards, I blogged here, I posted on S4L’s Facebook page until I got banned, I posted on other Facebook pages – all without a personal invitation from anyone, just because I saw the work you’d been doing and thought it was a worthwhile endeavor to end the bullying for fat kids that I had endured when I was a kid. I’ve been poor, and just because I’m not poor now doesn’t mean I don’t remember what it was like back then, and the only reason I have as much privilege as I do right now, other than the fact that I’m white, is because I married a man who spent 20 years in the Navy and retired with a half-way decent pension. Because I’ll tell you what, if we had to depend on his salary from his part-time job at WalMart and my SSDI alone, we would be fucked 7 ways to Sunday. We would have no health care (other than my Medicare, which wouldn’t cover him), we wouldn’t be able to afford the house payment, or the car payments, or insurance on the car, or anything else that we have now. I’ve lived that life, and I’m happy as a pig in shit to be out of it, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t fight for anyone who’s living that life now to have a better life and I’ll fight whether I get an invitation or not. After all, I wasn’t exactly welcome in FA when I first found it – I’d had WLS and that’s anathema to the diehards, but I said fuck them, I’ll make my own space in FA whether they like it or not. I have something to offer, something to say, and it’s important and I’ll be damned if I let anyone shut me up (I’m a bitch like that). And almost 5 years later, here I am, and here I’m going to stay.

    • faycinacroud permalink
      March 23, 2012 1:53 pm

      Exactly! I’m looking at this letter and thinking “what the hell did he say that was wrong?” The anti Strong4Life group on Facebook has never been “whites only.” The “I Stand” campaign was made up of volunteers to pose for the photos. Nobody would have said “no non-white persons in these photos.” This whole thing is crazy.

  2. March 19, 2012 2:46 pm

    As a sociologist who has been involved in SA for decades, and a cultural diversity instructor please let me give you this piece of advice…. don’t drive yourself crazy with every criticism. There will ALWAYS be upset people for a whole variety of reasons. If you have acted with pure intentions and did what you could to listen fairly and address their concerns and they are still not happy…..know that your are not perfect and neither are they!!!!

    Your response to give suggestions was appropriate. On one hand, I agree with the author, a white middle class person does NOT fully understand the experience of child of color in another socioeconomic status. No matter how oppressed we THINK we are, we have not walked in another’s shoes. On the other hand, PRECISELY because of “white privilege” are we dependent on those giving valid constructive criticism to also give solid practical suggestions for improvement. You can not have it both ways. You can not say white privilege prevents a person from fully understanding the child of color, and then expect that person to be in the best position to actively recruit same needed perspective for diverse opinions. Their very limitations are going to limit the success of their outreach.
    It IS our responsibility as a movement though, to follow valid suggestions once we receive them.

    Also, give yourself a break because you were not all things to all people from the start. The response to Strong4Life was very spontaneous and for the most part, was an emotional reaction. It would be nice if the author of that letter could understand that many people were taken back to their abusive childhoods and came from a place of pain. Sensitivity is a two way street!

    I do think the SA movement needs to be more open period. I have found getting my points across was always a struggle. Not only do I have a back ground in sociology, I have taught at a school for the past 6 years that teaches MARKETING. Social science is used in a way that has practical implications and often subverts the pure theorists who give everyone ideological litmus tests before an idea can even be entertained. But the marketers are kicking our rears when it comes to winning over public opinion. Still, I find myself preaching to deaf ears. That is why I tend to work alone. If others want to come on board fine! But as a solo volunteer, I don’t expect to be raked through the coals like I am some corporation or well organized advocacy group. For those with a better way, but all means implement!!!

    • March 19, 2012 4:00 pm

      Thank you so much for this email. This is how I felt, but I need external validation that I’m not just being a selfish, ignorant asshat. After the NIH letter came out, I received a letter from Dr. Brooks Robinson, Director of BlackEconomics.org, which was addressed to Dr. Guttmacher. In it, Dr. Robinson discussed how stigma against black children in the media is just as detrimental as Strong4Life. I responded and told Dr. Robinson that I completely agreed, since most of the research we have on weight stigma is based on racial stigma. I also offered to work with Dr. Robinson on that issue after I was done with Strong4Life. I never heard back from him.

      I hope I’ve never portrayed myself as representing, or understanding, the experience of a child of color in another socioeconomic status. I’ve tried to give my experience as a thin white child who was bullied for being “fat”. That is the basis on which I decided to fight, as you said, from this spontaneous, emotional place. So, I was doing what I do best: agitate. But I have not been agitating from any particular viewpoint. I was agitating based on the facts that I uncovered about the campaign itself, including the frank admission that they were targeting black children. And I’ve committed as much time as I could possibly spare without losing my job or alienating my family, and to be told that I didn’t do enough just feels like a slap in the face.

      I would have been absolutely interested in learning how to be a better ally, but not while I’m in the middle of a fight. I feel like that’s the kind of thing you do between battles, when we educate ourselves and prepare for future fights. In the middle of a fight, I would rather rely on someone with experience to teach me. But I find that there are quite a few activists who simply will not engage in 101, and then get mad if you aren’t able, for whatever reason, to do the 101 yourself. I understand why it’s that way, I just don’t agree with that approach.

      In the end, I feel like asking for help is unacceptable and being unaware of your need for help is unacceptable. If that’s how activism is going to work, then I want no part of it. I’m too discouraged by all of the anger and hostility and eagerness to smack down the imperfect activist. I’m tired of having to worry about what I’ve said, or haven’t said. I’m tired of having my intentions picked clean off the bone. I’ve done my part in this fight, and I’m out. I’ve got other projects I’m working on by myself and I’m perfectly happy that way.

      If NOLOSE wants to lead the revolution, they can go right ahead.

      Thank you so much for you reassurance. It was much needed.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  3. March 19, 2012 4:49 pm

    I think you have done a brilliant job, and your activist work set the wheels in motion in the first place. I kept gasping every time you said you were not a real activist. The last I heard they do not offer a degree in that. If you put yourself out there and make a stand about something that gets your knickers in a twist…whether if effects one other person or the country it’s activist work. Do not doubt yourself and do know quit just because you feel are not as effect as some of the others.

    Just let it go…you are not responsible for organizing everything, if NoLose Want’s to do something about the signs in Georgia great…why they think they should be able to silence you in the process is totally ridiculous. These people who decide they can’t join your campaign because of what ever history you might have with them are equally silly. It seems that they are biting off their nose to spite their faces.

    You can only do what you can do…we are all imperfect and we all have limitations, if these people who are criticizing you really wanted to do some good they would save their energy for the real work…and not spend it harassing you and depleting your energy and feelings of self worth.

    It’s not who got the most responses to their calls, it’s not who got the most people to get on board their idea, it’s that you moved people do something. We can’t be all things to everyone…you did what you know how to do and then some. The fact that this other organization feels they need to put you down and run your through the ringer tells me they are not focusing their energy where they should be which is working against the Georgia Fat Hating Billboards. And frankly I’m disappointed in them, it has nothing to do with the color of their skin, it just has to do with how petty and frankly short sited they are.

  4. LittleBigGirl permalink
    March 19, 2012 4:54 pm

    Shannon –
    I am so sorry you are feeling frustrated. You have been working your butt off doing amazing stuff and I hope you can remember and not lose sight of that.
    Nothing can shatter a movement faster than internal politics. In-fighting is a horrible enemy to unity and progress.
    I haven’t been in the Fatopshere long enough or gone in far enough to have any idea why you (feel you) have a load of burnt bridges and a line of angry people behind you. I guess I’m one of the lucky few who doesn’t think you are an a**hole…yet. 😉
    I can tell from what blogs of yours I *have* read and what occasional convos on these threads we have had that you are very outspoken, brutally honest about your opinions, you don’t sugarcoat, and you have no problem challenging people directly. This is why you are, or at least are still closer to being, more of an activist than I ever will be. I still do not know what exactly an activist is, but I don’t think I am one. I believe in SA/FA, I believe in HAES, I believe what CHOA is doing is wrong. However, I have to spend so much of my time fighting for myself that the idea of fighting someone else directly on behalf of everyone is terrifying to me. My early life experiences have done a very good job of landing me in the fetal position – I never learned to stand up to the bullies and look them in the eye. Metaphorically (or literally) I might find the words to put on a picket sign or paint the sign, but I don’t know if I would march with it. I think you would. Ragen would. Marilyn would. I wish I could. I wish I could think of what I could do to feel like I am contributing more. I post here every chance I get, not just because I agree or feel strongly but so that people know there is at least one more little voice, one more person paying attention. When I struggled with being fat before, I struggled alone and it was that loneliness that made it worse. Being victimized is bad enough but being victimized and alone is Hell.

    I am glad we will not be losing your unique voice here, but I understand how difficult and stressful the actual “action” part of activism must be.
    I have to admit when people start in with all the PC stuff and start subdividing themselves into special groups with acronyms, I get really confused and frustrated. I can’t get my head around the seeming paradox that a special group who has been negatively singled out or targeted because they are special then wants to single itself out and get special accommodation for the same reason. I am also annoyed by people who put their burden on you – what bothers me about the exchange you had with nolose is that IMHO she came in with a challenging, negative, “prove yourself” vibe – she didn’t ask “what can we do” or “what can I do”, she asked “what are you doing/going to do?” thus implying it was your job to meet her expectations. Coming in with a chip on your shoulder and saying “this is a problem, fix it!” and then complaining when someone doesn’t is ridiculous. Her attitude was accusatory from the start. It read like she threw a tantrum bc you told her to do it herself instead of doing it for her. I don’t want to have to debate about “privilege” with somebody while CHOA and their ilk is still pulling all the stuff they are pulling. I’m sorry but I think getting hung up on special labels and sub groups and who’s privileged about what is time that could be spent fighting the real fight out there against fat hatred.

    When we fight each other, people like CHOA win.

    Thank you for all your hard work and sacrifice Shannon, I really do appreciate all you have done and I hope you can give yourself more credit. Sending you a virtual hug if you need it… (Shannon)

  5. nycivan permalink
    March 19, 2012 5:32 pm

    dude…. I consider the FFF blog and the work you do on it activism…. I am sorry about the passive/aggressive way in which you are being called out. While I cannot personally know the experience of every other person in every other group I can call bullshit when I see it and I think you have clearly pointed out the bull-shitty aspects of the voices against you. It is such a shame because it taints what I see as a watershed moment in the movement going up against the medical establishment.

  6. Mulberry permalink
    March 19, 2012 5:47 pm

    WHAT THE HELL!!!!
    I’ve been perusing the internet for nigh unto 2 decades, encountered my fair share and more of breathtaking ignorance and sheer malevolence regarding fat and other topics. But I can scarcely remember a post that got me as angry as this one does. The distortions, the sense of entitlement, the refusal to teach, etc., etc.
    YOU and a few others are out there fighting Strong4Life.
    YOU are willing to explain fat acceptance 101 over and over, even to the clueless who are determined not to ever get it.
    YOU have many times interviewed fat haters of all stripes, and fat supporters as well.
    YOU put together hugely informative articles with plenty of cites that must have taken hours just to research.
    You HAVE “gone over to their table” in the sense that you have asked around for help and support. And some are so petty as to refuse to do so just because (or so it appears) you didn’t kiss the proper ass properly.
    I’m not saying that no one else has ever done any of the above. It’s just that you’ve done all this and still get accused of trolling, and that boggles my brain.
    If I were in your shoes, I’d get disgusted and discouraged too. I say you are fighting the good fight and you have supporters right here and I’m happy to be one. If your detractors can do a better job, let’s see it and I can learn from them, too.
    As Florynce Kennedy said, “We criticize each other instead of the oppressor because it’s less dangerous. The oppressor fights back.”
    (This page contains some other hard-hitting quotes from her. http://www.msmagazine.com/summer2011/verbalkarate.asp )

  7. March 19, 2012 6:06 pm

    Honestly, this kind of crap is why I don’t bother doing anything beyond posting here. Why bother, when all that’s going to happen is that I’ll get called out for my privilege (oh shit, I’m a fat Jewish female autistic, I have privilege coming out of my ASS, don’t you know!) and told to shut up.

    I hate the idea of privilege. I hate it. I don’t give a fuck where anyone comes from. What if I just fucking want to help someone? When did awareness and compassion become negative traits? When the earthquake in Haiti happened, I donated a LOT of money to organizations I found trustworthy – I saw the people on the streets, the destroyed infrastructure and desperate need for help. But when I mentioned that, I got accused of ‘appropriating people of color’s tragedy’. I was a white woman, so apparently my help, money and prayers weren’t wanted. I ‘didn’t understand’, so I could fuck right off.

    Shannon, you don’t usually do things just to make a splash or to draw attention to yourself. You do them because they’re the right fucking thing to do. It makes me sick when people have to make everything all about them, about their control issues and their desperate need to have everything look rosy for them instead of the people they’re supposed to care about.

    Fuck people. I’m going back to bed.

    • faycinacroud permalink
      March 23, 2012 1:56 pm

      I’m a fat, mentally ill, middle-aged, working poor person. Oh, the privilege we have! We just stink of it, don’t we?

      • vesta44 permalink
        March 23, 2012 2:16 pm

        I have privilege simply because I’m white, and I benefit from that in some ways, but that benefit is offset by being fat, female, bisexual, disabled, and when I was younger, I was all of those and poor and a single mother (on welfare, no less). Now I get to add age to the list of discriminations I face, even if I don’t look 58 or feel it mentally/emotionally (but let me tell you, I feel way more than 58 physically, some days). But I guess none of those intersectionalities matter, because being white trumps everything else.

        • faycinacroud permalink
          March 23, 2012 2:23 pm

          I know. I’m mostly white, (part American Indian) and appear to be entirely white. So people automatically assume that I have privileges. There is the fact that I can walk into most places without having stupid discriminatory thought against me such as “oh, she’s going to try and five finger discount something off our shelves because she’s (fill in the race.)” But in my adult life I have never been privileged. I’m a member of the working poor, and until I was 38 and my mental illness was properly diagnosed, I had a hard time holding a job at all. I’m female, so I get the “privilege” of being seen as “the weaker sex.” I’m fat and nearly 50, so I’m “privileged” to be seen as ugly.
          I totally recognize that I have lived with “white privilege.” But that doesn’t mean that I agree with it or that I don’t think I have a lot to learn (or that I can ever really understand) what it is to be a member of a minority race in the United States. I just hate when people assume that I’m a racist (at least knowingly a racist) or that I’ve had a wonderful life because of the color of my skin.

  8. LexieDi permalink
    March 19, 2012 6:10 pm

    Atchy-

    I’m so sorry I wasn’t more involved in this fight against the billboards. (Depression will take away everything you care about.)

    But I just want you to know that you’re an extremely powerful and valuable Fat Activist/Blogger/Supporter and we need you.

    All I can say about this situation is that I’m a middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gendered, straight white girl and that’s about as privileged as a person can get. I don’t always know what’s right and wrong but I am thankful for those who guide me, especially my best friends (who are black and Iranian). We live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, able bodied and cis-gendered -centric world and we all need help improving ourselves… no one’s perfect and no one has to be. You just have to honestly try and I think you did.

    Stay strong, Atchy. We love you.

  9. lifeonfats permalink
    March 19, 2012 6:48 pm

    As a half-black, half-white woman, I’m going to say this to Ms. Starkey and I’m sure I will get tons of backlash for it, but here it goes:

    Stop playing the damn race card and waiting for everyone else to do something before you decide to get involved and then whine about how you’re not included.

    And also, did you ever stop to think about why more minorities weren’t actively campaigning against Strong4Life? There could be a multitude of reasons. Maybe some actually agreed with the message. Maybe some were afraid to speak out because they didn’t want to be seen as “promoting obesity.” Maybe some were unaware that this was even happening. Maybe some didn’t bother to be concerned because they and/or their children weren’t fat so they felt this wasn’t targeting them.

    Should there be more inclusion in the fat-positive community? Of course! I’ve spoken about it and others have too. But to be honest, your attitude towards this whole thing isn’t making you a good ally in my eyes or others here. Around here, you can’t wait for approval and then throw a temper tantrum because you didn’t get an exclusive invite to be approved. You just jump in. The color of your skin isn’t even taken into consideration but unfortunately, now it has because of your feelings. You made this racial—not anyone else.

    Shannon kept on this topic until I almost wanted to quit reading the FFF blog. What were YOU doing, besides waiting and whining Ms. Starkey? (Oh, and the reason I didn’t make a video was because I don’t have the video capability right now to do video responses. Maybe we need to have more old-fashioned options for people who can only express themselves through writing or still shots using Movie Maker instead of live video). But I digress.

    OK, rant to Ms. Starkey over. But seriously Shannon, I feel that quite a few of the females in the community don’t like having a man spearheading things and having a such a loud, prominent presence. Well, those ladies need to get the frack over it. Fat is one area that doesn’t discriminate. It’s the fat people who do. And seriously, with all the crap heaped on us about size, our population should be the last to be non-accepting.

    • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
      March 21, 2012 9:57 am

      I don’t think this has anything to do with “gender resentment.”

      Also, Ms. Starkey has put together this awesome piece of literature:

      http://www.scribd.com/sparkysays/d/25272118-Extended-Resource-List-for-Learning-About-Racism

      And has worked in many facets of anti-racist activism for the many years that I’ve known her. I don’t see how defaming her character adds anything to this argument.

      • March 21, 2012 1:12 pm

        Definition of defamation: false or unjustifed injury to the good name of another.

        In other words, what is being said has to be clearly *untrue* and damaging to someone’s reputation.

        I don’t see how Bree’s comment is clearly untrue, nor do I see how it’s damaging to Ms. Starkey’s reputation. Bree did not reveal anything about her that Ms. Starkey already reveals in her own words and what Bree is revealing is *her* opinion on how Ms. Starkey comes across. Bree seems to feel that Ms. Starkey plays the race card.

        For the record, falsely accusing people of slander/libel/defamation is, in itself, ad hominem.

        • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
          March 21, 2012 1:17 pm

          um, okay. I still think that there were people asking what she’s done in the movement, and she’s done a lot.

          • March 22, 2012 7:25 pm

            Um, okay, totally dodging the issue. You can’t just throw words around like that and then complain when people call you out on it. Words mean something. Defamation is an ugly word and a legal accusation. And your dodging that issue? Sketchy sketchy sketchy.

        • March 23, 2012 10:51 am

          I don’t care to get into a semantic argument about the definition of the word “slander”, but if you object to someone saying, evidence-free, that Atchka is asking someone “as a person of color” to educate them, don’t you think it’s understandable that people also object when people assert, evidence-free, that they’re mad at Atchka because they don’t want to see a man taking a leadership role? I also think that “pity party” is… not a constructive phrase to use, since IMO, it’s basically a shorthand for, “you’re only saying this because you’re being emotional, and by the way, having emotions makes you weak and bad.”

          Everybody on this thread, on both sides, is pissing me off.

      • March 21, 2012 2:06 pm

        And how does defaming my character add to this argument?

        Peace,
        Shannon

        • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
          March 21, 2012 2:12 pm

          It doesn’t. Pointing out that you over looked something when you & others were initially organizing as well as the fact that you have been majorly defensive is not really defamation, is it?

          Nobody is perfect. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes trying to promote positive fat activism. We all make missteps- its part of the process. Its how you proceed afterward that’s important.

          • March 21, 2012 2:40 pm

            Rachel,
            This is what the letter said:

            “the commenter was told that if they wanted to support diversity within the project, they, as a person of color, should join the project’s Facebook page and offer solutions.”

            Is this true? Did I say that as a person of color, Julia Starkey should join our project and offer solutions? Because that’s what people keep coming back to: that I demanded to be educated by a POC. So, did I do that or not?

            Peace,
            Shannon

          • March 21, 2012 2:57 pm

            By the way, I was not involved in the initial organization of the I STAND project. Marilyn Wann did everything by herself and launched on January 23. I had ZERO input in this project and was simply hosting photos on the blog which I created as a central repository for all of our projects. What I did to prepare was to Google for blogs that were writing about Strong4Life because, as I already said, at this stage in the campaign Strong4Life was not specifically targeting POCs. It was weeks after Starkey’s comments that it became clear that S4L was turning its sights on POCs in two of the poorest areas on Georgia. My primary activism at this point was blogging every day. I’ve been blogging about obesity and health issues, including the intersection of obesity, race and class for almost three years with not a single complaint that I was appropriating POC experiences or excluding anyone from the conversation. It just seems really odd that these accusations appear now, after we have succeeded in ending the Strong4Life campaign.

            Peace,
            Shannon

  10. March 19, 2012 8:07 pm

    Thank you Lifeonfats. Your last paragraph is so dead on. I think alot of it may be a gender resentment and I will even go beyond that, an ego issue. Some of the traditional “leaders” in SA just bristle when anyone reaches more people than they do. Sorry, but I have been witnessing it for over a decade now!

  11. Mulberry permalink
    March 19, 2012 8:45 pm

    Gender resentment. I don’t quite get this one. First, not all of the don’t-like-Atchka bloggers are female. Second, opportunities open to Atchka are just as open to others. There are female bloggers who are enormously popular and could be (or perhaps already are) leaders with some power. There are so many people to reach and so many issues to fight over – what is even the point of this sniping?
    On the issue of gender, I would almost expect men to be more resentful. I’d like to see more men in fat acceptance; it’s no more a one-gender issue than it is a one-color issue.
    Shannon, keep doing what you’re doing and someday, when you least care about it, others will come to you for advice and help and support. You’re a consummate fat activist in my book, whether others call you one or not.

    • nycivan permalink
      March 19, 2012 9:35 pm

      I second that…. Consummate!

  12. lifeonfats permalink
    March 19, 2012 8:49 pm

    SSanders, I’ve also witnessed it and I’ve been taken to task for criticizing the mindset. That’s probably why I feel more comfortable with the bloggers who aren’t as popular and or labeled “outsiders,” because they seem to have a more open-minded attitude and I feel you don’t constantly have to walk on eggshells when you post. Now, I’m not against having some PC in the community because we do need it, especially when it comes to trolling, but this is definitely a place where individuality should be welcomed.

  13. JustSomeLady permalink
    March 20, 2012 3:45 pm

    What does get tiring for most POC, especially in poorer communities, is the constant ‘white savior’ phenomenon that seems to happen. People latch on to a cause and take it up without making any attempt to contact the persons who live within that commnunity, finding out what their feelings and concerns are, etc. It seemed a very gung-ho, “We’ve got to stop these villians from saying what we don’t want them to say,” as if the people that are being targeted are hapless rubes who need protecting. I liked the campaign and I contributed to it. I do see some valid points though made by the folks at NO LOSE and I don’t think it’s incumbant upon the Georgian community to have to flag down an outside entity to get them to listen to them. A lot of effort went in to contacting senators, media outlets and health organizations but was there any effort to contact any of the community leaders in that area to say, “Hey. We’d like to talk with you about this campaign.” That’s what I got from the open letter.

    • March 20, 2012 4:24 pm

      JustSomeLady,
      The campaign has targeted all of Georgia since August, and began increasing their focus on poor, urban areas around February 13, when they announced the end of the billboards.

      This has not been about rescuing POCs from the evil villains. This is about sparing children from the unrelenting stigma and shame of these billboards. These ads were not designed to discriminate. They were sure to include representations of three different races so that the message would hit as many people as possible. We were not fighting for the black kids or the hispanic kids or the white kids. We were fighting for kids, period.

      And yes, I did contact Dr. Rick Kilmer from the Atlanta Eating Disorders Clinic, as well as Edin. My primary concern has been about the eating disorders that result from this kind of campaign, and these are the first places I thought of as the people who would see the results of the campaign. If I neglected to contact someone more appropriate, I’m sorry, but I honestly have no idea where I would start. I’ve never done this before. And I’m sorry if you think that’s an excuse, but it’s all I’ve got. If it makes you happy, I’m not going to do it again, so you won’t have to worry about me leaving anyone out of the fight.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • JustSomeLady permalink
        March 20, 2012 4:44 pm

        Hey there Atchka, it’s Lorenzee. I didn’t come here to fight with you or scold you about this. I’m not connected to NO LOSE at all. I’m merely trying to give a perspective as someone who grew up in an underprivileged area and could relate to some of the feelings expressed in the letter. Again, I supported your efforts and still do. When I read the open letter those were the first thoughts that came to my mind. I recall the days as a youth during the summer we seemed to be the prime target for religious groups and the well meaning to come in during the summer and put on shows and hand out free stickers, books and leaflets which seems like a generous thing to do but often times it comes off as being patronizing and somewhat condescending. I was not trying to upset you or accuse you or anything. I suppose I was just wondering aloud if maybe some of what is being talked about in the letter stems from this trigger issue. And no, I didn’t know about the contact with Dr. Kilmer or any of the other stuff which is why I asked.

        • March 21, 2012 9:04 am

          Lorenzee,
          I understand where you’re coming from, but at the time I responded to Julie Starkey, this campaign was still being used throughout the state of Georgia. It wasn’t until February 13, when they issued the statement on how the campaign was ending, that we learned that would be specifically targeting poor, urban areas. By that point, my primary activism was blogging, not I STAND. So, the racial component was a recent development, and my focus has continued to be on the bad faith of CHOA, as it has from the beginning.

          But I’m kind of bothered by the fact that you came to offer criticism without being aware of the history, and I wonder how many of those who have offered stronger criticisms than you are aware of the history of this campaign?

          Peace,
          Shannon

  14. March 20, 2012 4:16 pm

    I would never insinuate that all people of color/women/gay people/Jewish people/insert minority of your choice are “hapless rubes” … but using Kony as an example. Are you really suggesting that if any change to the situation happened as a result of increased worldwide awareness (read: more white people paying attention), it would be resented? Because if so, I seriously give up on trying to comprehend people. I’d like to think (though I obviously can’t say for sure) that if someone tried to help me get out of a bad situation, I wouldn’t tell them to piss off because they were white/male/Christian/straight/whatever.

    • JustSomeLady permalink
      March 20, 2012 4:31 pm

      No I’m not saying that at all. I’m one of maybe 8 people in the entire universe who has not seen the Kony video so I’m not completely certain it compares in this instance. I’m not saying that it does not, I’m simply saying that I’m not certain.

  15. pyctsi permalink
    March 20, 2012 4:55 pm

    I think the fact you make mistakes and admit that fact makes it easier for me to add my voice, knowing I don’t have to be perfect takes some of the pressure off. I know you are willing to listen to criticism and take suggestions on board.

    I understand people in the area did things at a grassroots level, but this did need more exposure, because if it takes off in one area it will be spread.

    I live in Scotland, so I have more of a safety net in place for me than unemployed people in America, but I took my place in the fight because the UK tends to pick some of the worst ideas possible from America and try to apply them here.

    Not too long ago I felt I couldn’t make a difference, much like with my health I assumed there was no point as I couldn’t do enough, thanks to the people in the size acceptance community I realise I can apply the same principles to my activism as I do my health.

    Ragen Chastain says that you are boss of your own underpants and you get to prioritise your health, put in as much or as little effort as you want – I think this applies to activism too.

  16. March 20, 2012 9:33 pm

    Maybe I’m just super naive, but why the heck can’t we all just get along? When I first discovered size acceptance, I felt like there wasn’t really a place for me – a fat (mostly)white Christian Aspie (hi CC, glad to see another spectrumite here!) who likes men. I had to google cis-gendered because it confused the heck out of me. Every blog I read seemed to be for fat people of color (any color) who had some sort of disagreement with their assigned gender. (To be SUPER CLEAR – i like everyone. You’re a woman trapped in a man’s body? OK, if we have any similar interests, let’s be friends. You’re a man in a man’s body who likes men? Great, tell me how the heck men think. The only thing I care about is if you are a rectal sphincter or not) So point is – I didn’t really see a whole lot of people like me, but I hung out anyhow. Kept reading…wandered into this lovely group. Made my own space by joining the conversation. Oddly enough, Shannon, some really old posts of yours on someone else’s blog pissed me off, but now you’re one of my favorite people! So my rambling, disjointed point is this – why does the human race need to put people into so many categories and be so cranky about it. There should really only be like, 2: jerks and cool people. The end. Yeah, yeah, yeah, who gets to decide who is a jerk and who is a cool person? I’m not denying there are differences between groups – but I don’t see why there can’t be more hey, here’s where we agree let’s grow that area and less of the hey you didn’t include me or hey you’re different so i don’t like you or whatever. that goes for all aspects of life — like why can’t Christians, Jews, and Muslims collectively say “hey, we all worship the G-d of Abraham…where else can we get along?” instead of having to always be right all the time. (yes, i know that is a generalization and that not all members of these religions fight with members of the others….but good example) anyhow…I am glad for everyone who has done anything here, and the people who have said a kind word to me, either on this blog or the fb page….

  17. Fat Academic permalink
    March 21, 2012 2:30 am

    I imagine the difference perceived between your response and Marilyn’s response was that Marilyn seemed to be taking responsibility for educating herself and you seemed to be expecting someone else (i.e. a POC) to educate you. Sometimes POC (for example) get weary of having to educate everybody about diversity and inclusion. There are zillions of resources out there, sometimes we need to take responsibility for educating ourselves about certain issues so the people in those minority groups don’t have to do Education 101 with different individuals all the time.

    You have done a lot of amazing work on this campaign Shannon, I haven’t agreed with all your methods or everything you have said but overall I think you have done a great job and done it well.

    Bri

    • Theresa permalink
      March 21, 2012 8:58 am

      Bri, that’s not exactly what happened. A poster identified only as “Julia” came to the blog and asked a whole bunch of questions about how folks were making sure the project was diverse, said she knew of online resources that would be helpful, and when she was greeted with enthusiasm and invited to participate, left without revealing any of the helpful information she supposedly had. Next thing that happens is she tells Marilyn and NOLOSE how offended she is that Atchka told her that she AS A PERSON OF COLOR should take on the duties of ensuring diversity. Makes it sound as if Atchka said, “Awesome, you’re Black, why don’t YOU take care of that?” HOWEVER. Those five words (“as a person of color”) were never EVER uttered by Atchka, and by adding them to their narrative, NOLOSE has clouded the discussion of their legitimate grievances with what amounts to a totally unnecessary, false, personal attack against Atchka. Wouldn’t that make you livid?

    • March 21, 2012 9:11 am

      Bri,
      I understand the perceived difference, but the difference is just that: perceived. I wasn’t asking a POC to join the fight, I was asking the person who seemed to have an interest in increasing the diversity of the campaign. As Theresa pointed out, it’s NOLOSE that has added this racial motivation to my actions. Plus, at the time that Starkey asked her question, there was not a specific racial element to the Strong4Life campaign. The ads were aimed at ALL kids, not just poor and urban kids, as happened later in the campaign.

      Couple all this with the fact that I wasn’t running I STAND, and I failed at promoting my own video campaign to anyone, let alone specific races, and that my blogging was been my primary form of activism, I just don’t see why these accusations have been leveled at me.

      Yes, technically, I should have said, “I will do it,” but I wasn’t going to make a promise for something I did not have the time, energy or background to commit to completely. To be called out on this technicality and to have my work be tinged with hints and suggestions of racism does not seem fair.

      All this has done is make me even less determined to fight this kind of fight in the future.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • March 21, 2012 9:15 am

        I hear what you are saying Shannon. I guess the point is that if someone was to say they didnt have time time energy or background to be inclusive towards fat people we might feel upset or offended. I imagine that is why Julia responded the way she did. Im not saying I wouldn’t feel similarly to how you do at the moment if this was to happen to me. I guess it is just a chance to reexamine where we stand on inclusion. I am sorry this has made you less determined to fight this kind of fight because you do the fight so well.

  18. March 21, 2012 9:07 am

    She didn’t actually say she had the info. She just said it was ‘already…available online’. I interpret this meaning she has seen it at some point but may not have links etc.

    You will notice I used the words ‘seemed’ and the phrase ‘I imagine’ in my original reply as I really have no idea what was going through her head or how she was interpreting Shannon’s response. I am just surmising how she *might* have felt in the interest of perhaps assisting Shannon to see how the other party might have been thinking. It is entirely up to him if he wants to consider that perspective or not. I was just attempting to facilitate some understanding – something I would do with the other party as well if I had a line of communication with them.

    • Theresa permalink
      March 21, 2012 9:51 am

      Understood Bri, and I think that to Julia Starkey, things “seemed” a certain way and she “imagined” she was being dismissed because she was a POC even though that was a mistaken assumption since Atchka had no such information. Unfortunately, Julia’s mistaken assumptions were taken as fact, and became the cornerstone of a very public dressing-down (and yes, shaming) of a hard-working activist.

      That’s why I wish NOLOSE would make this ONE tiny, conciliatory gesture — of acknowledging that Julia Starkey jumped to conclusions about Atchka’s intent and/or Atchka’s perception of her race. This would not necessitate retracting NOLOSE’s position on the inclusiveness of the “I STAND” campaign, or any other of the legitimate concerns that were raised in their letter.

      It would be a huge positive step in healing this misunderstanding which has caused a lot of conflict and division, and which frankly is distracting all of us from fighting the real enemy, which is fat stigma and oppression.

      I’m suggesting this with the full knowledge that a lot of the so-called “101” literature says that if you’re white, you are supposed to sit down and shut up when someone tells you “you’re doing it wrong,” no matter what they say or how they say it. But we’re talking about facts, not opinions here. Everyone has a duty to be factual when they’re criticizing someone, and to correct those mistakes when they are discovered.

  19. Rachel Kacenjar permalink
    March 21, 2012 9:40 am

    A couple of things:
    *disclaimer: I’m a white person who is on the NOLOSE board and I am only speaking for myself.

    1. I want to be clear about the fact that NOLOSE hosted this letter, NOLOSE co-signed this letter, but NOLOSE did not write this letter. Our POC Caucus Group that formed at our conference wrote this letter, and as a board, we chose to cosign it because we believed in what it had to say. NOLOSE as an organization never expected to be at the table when you planned this campaign.

    2. Atchka, I don’t think anyone was trying to discredit your work. I think that for the most part, we were all excited by the “I Stand” campaign. The crux of what was being criticized here was the work you did not do to be inclusive of POC from the very start. The “Stand4Kids” Campaign was targeted at POC, so it would have been a great idea for you and other organizers to seek out and work with POC at go. The learned experience and collaboration with more POC would have deeply enriched the work of this campaign, created bridges within fat activism at large, and would have had a very positive impact on the children directly being effected by this campaign.

    3. As white fat activists we are facing much oppression in the work we do. We have likely had long histories of being oppressed, made fun of, and talked down to. However, we must remember that others in our group are oppressed to a larger extent and marginalized at a deeper and more historical level than we are. We need to ALWAYS remember that.

    For this and many other reasons, it is NOT OKAY to ask POC to educate you on how to be a better ally. That’s your job. In fact, one of your readers pointedly asked one of the POC who initiated the letter what she’s done to educate people. Well, check this out:

    http://www.scribd.com/sparkysays/d/25272118-Extended-Resource-List-for-Learning-About-Racism

    This is a great place for folks to start.

    Also, if people want to work/learn/process/discuss these issues (or whatever is on your mind w/r/t racism within our movement) I would like to invite you to join our discussion group here:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/wardg

    4. Turning sound criticism of your campaign into a pity party for yourself isn’t helpful. I get that you feel bad. I really do! I’ve certainly made missteps as a privileged activist before, and I’ve immediately become defensive when people have called me out. However, I can say that I’ve always felt like an ass when I look back on getting so defensive, and in general, it would have been better if I just listened to what people were saying, processed it on my own time or within a group of peers. Being called out doesn’t mean that people are ostracizing you or think you’re a bad person. They’re saying “here’s what’s problematic about ______.” While you may feel uncomfortable right now, this is a great opportunity for a lot of people to learn and change things in our community.

    5. Privileged people need to be willing to feel uncomfortable to get things done, learn and grow. We need to be mindful and thoughtful of how we go about things, but we still need to be willing to make mistakes. Don’t just quit because you made a mistake! Shit, I could be making 1 billion mistakes writing this long comment, but I’m putting myself out there in hopes that it will create positive change. Again, this is a learning opportunity, and we need to keep moving and improving.

    None of us will ever have all of the answers or be the perfect activist, but we do have to remain willing and commit to never giving up on learning. Ever.

    • Kala permalink
      March 21, 2012 12:42 pm

      “Turning sound criticism of your campaign into a pity party for yourself isn’t helpful. I get that you feel bad. I really do! I’ve certainly made missteps as a privileged activist before, and I’ve immediately become defensive when people have called me out.”

      This premise is ridiculous as it was not sound criticism. Shannon should have been clearer in that he did not own the campaign and thus did not feel comfortable calling any shots about it. But to suppose that he should have taken personal responsibility for cultivating racial diversity in the campaign, and taken responsibility for educating himself on something he wasn’t necessarily seeking to educate himself on at that point of time, that’s a load of garbage.

      “For this and many other reasons, it is NOT OKAY to ask POC to educate you on how to be a better ally. That’s your job.”

      Really? This comment would make sense if we were talking about random POC walking down the street. But we’re talking about a POC, an activist POC, that came directly on here to demand to know how this campaign was reaching out to POC. That’s a wee bit different, and I don’t think it’s particularly ridiculous to ask such a person to assist in educating you.

      Also the term pity party is beyond condescending. He posted a letter in defense of himself, after seeing a publicly posted letter criticizing him. A letter that was so pathetically passive aggressive that it didn’t even name him. Disappointing coming from such supposedly enlightened and learned activists.

      • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
        March 21, 2012 1:31 pm

        I am going to paraphrase/quote another NOLOSE member here:

        Julia never said “I have the answers and I’m not going to share them with you.” She pointed out that these resources are readily available all over the internet. And they are. With the help of google, I can turn up countless accounts of how to be an effective white anti-racist ally.

        The issue here, I think, is more about the fact that this information is easily resourced, and there’s no need for white activists to behave as if they just don’t have access to it.

        I’m sorry that my term “pity party” offended you. But this seems like instead of actually hearing a lot of what was said, Shannon took the defensive and was looking for validation of his mistake. But please keep in mind, the letter did not address Shannon specifically, and we also came to Marilyn Wann with our concerns. The POC group (again NOT NOLOSE, but a POC Group that convened at NOLOSE) was using this as a jumping off point for ALL WHITE FAT ACTIVISTS. Not just Shannon.

        I find it problematic (again, quoting/paraphrasing a NOLOSE member) that the idea that this discusssion, “misunderstanding,” conflict – whatever you want to call it – is distracting from the “real issue” of fighting fat oppression.

        What we’re actually dealing with is internal as well as external forces of oppression in our movement, examining our own actions and speech, etc. The premise of the fat activism many of us endorse and work so hard on is that fat oppression is inextricably intertwined with battles against racism, colonialism, classism, etc. We can’t neglect that!

        • Kala permalink
          March 21, 2012 5:14 pm

          He asked her to join the discussion, unaware that she was a POC or an activist, it seems, which appears to me as a pretty reasonable thing to do. If he would have researched the username, perhaps he would have known more. From my perspective, if I would have known she was a POC and also an activist for POC, she would seem like a credible person to ask about the damn thing. I have said, if we were asking some random POC the question, that would be one thing, but we’re talking about someone who is directly an activist on the issue.

          Additionally, I don’t see anywhere that Shannon has made a mistake. And your continued insinuation that he has goes far to weaken your other overall points.

          I wonder if I should write an essay, with some good points, but some incorrect insinuations about you personally, in addition to others, that are not totally based on reality. Let’s see if you are able to bunker down and get the good points from it. Maybe I should take it a step further and make some generalizations about queer activists as a whole, or feminist queer POC activists, or transgender Jewish fat activists, with some good points here and there, and see how that gets taken. I would guess that since clearly these are less privileged groups of people, outrage at inaccuracy would be warranted here.

          Also, yes, the entirety of NOLOSE didn’t write the letter, or sign off on it. But the top administrative members of the group did. Unless your group does completely democratic decision making, with the goal of reaching consensus, for every single decision, we can assume that the administrative members have some level of authority over the group and crafting its overall culture and direction. It’s not a stretch to feel that given that the top administrative members of the group did sign the letter, that it is somewhat representative of NOLOSE as a whole.

          I am not a fat activist. You could call me an ally to the movement, but I’m not in any way directly a part of it. So please spare me the “real issue” part. Your entire posts come across as very transparently fake. It seems to me that you think Shannon was clearly in the wrong, support the letter and everything behind it, and would just like him to shut up.

          I notably don’t need your fauxpology about the pity party thing. You didn’t offend me, you offended Shannon. I wanted to point out that it was unnecessarily condescending. And for an activist within a movement that is fundamentally supposed to be about empowerment, completely fucking hypocritical.

          TL;DR: It is clear that this issue stems from a misunderstanding, and in light of that misunderstanding I think Shannon deserves an apology. I also think that the public letter should be amended or retracted to reflect the misunderstanding. Fauxpologies are obnoxious.

        • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
          March 21, 2012 10:48 pm

          I’m sorry that my term “pity party” offended you. But this seems like instead of actually hearing a lot of what was said, Shannon took the defensive and was looking for validation of his mistake.

          First of all, an apology that says, in essence, “you are just too sensitive” is no apology. A true apology would sound like, ‘I’m sorry I used an offensive term. Let’s see if I can come up with something that’s not so offensive.”

          And you don’t seem to actually be hearing what Shannon is saying. 1) He had no knowledge of Julia being a POC, so, the letter that NOLOSE is hosting and signed off on (which actually means that NOLOSE completely supports, by the way, no matter how hard you seem to try to distance yourself from it) is completely disingenuous on a fundamental aspect. 2) Shannon was not the one who was in charge of the IStand campaign. Any concerns about inclusivity should have gone through the proper channels, which would have meant actually emailing Marilyn Wann privately to ask her all the questions.

          It is difficult to take seriously a letter that demands, not suggests, and gets it’s facts so completely wrong, when at least one person who is responsible for the letter did not do things correctly herself. (As in, did not go to the person responsible, who would have — and did — give the appropriate response when these things were brought to her attention, and is completely misrepresenting just exactly what Shannon knew about whether she was a POC or not.)

          Unfortunately, because of these things, the real concerns about more inclusivity are being overlooked. Do we (white bloggers and activists) need to work more on our inclusivity in our activities? Yes, we do. Do we need to understand more our privilege and what it means to always operate from that space, so we can be more sensitive to the needs of our fellow activists and, hopefully, not make them feel left out? Yes, we do.

          Does the way this is being handled address any of that? No, it doesn’t. Because it’s based on false premises and a mishandled communication in the beginning.

        • ksol permalink
          March 22, 2012 10:20 am

          Elsewhere in this thread, someone pointed out a list of resources that, as I understand it, Ms. Starkey herself compiled. It was too much trouble for her to point atchka to the link?

    • March 21, 2012 2:48 pm

      1. NOLOSE hosted the letter on its site and signed by two co-presidents of NOLOSE. To say that this isn’t NOLOSE’s letter is difficult to believe.

      2. You said “The crux of what was being criticized here was the work you did not do to be inclusive of POC from the very start” and “The “Stand4Kids” Campaign was targeted at POC” (meaning Strong4Life), but that is not true. It was not until they announced the “end” of the campaign on February 13 that took place over two weeks after Starkey first commented. And when I first began working on the project, what I was searching for was ANYONE, ANYWHERE, who was writing about Strong4Life, so I could include their posts and their viewpoints on the FatKidsUnited blog, and you can see the results of that search there. The implication in the NOLOSE letter is that I insisted that POCs join US, rather than us joining them, but I did not find anything, blogs or projects, by any of the co-signers of that letter, let alone anyone else who has taken umbrage with me. I want to know what is this “table” which I was excluding? Can you, or anyone else, tell me specifically who I was excluding?

      But more importantly, at this stage in the campaign, Strong4Life had billboards throughout the state of Georgia aimed at white, black and hispanic kids, so there was no reason to believe that this was an issue of targeting POCs only. My own focus was on stopping the billboards, period.

      3. As Theresa Dyer-Bakker has repeatedly pointed out, Julie Starkey did not identify herself as a POC, so I was not asking a POC to educate me. I wasn’t even asking to be educated because at that time in the campaign, I didn’t have the available time for education. I would have had to sacrifice some other effort I was already working on, and it is unrealistic to say that if a person raises a reasonable concern about a campaign that I, as just one of dozens of volunteers, am responsible for addressing that person’s concerns is unrealistic. Do you know how many people emailed me about doing this or contacting that or changing this? And do you know how I typically responded? “That’s a great idea, can you help us do that?” It’s not because I was dismissing their ideas, it was because I only had a limited amount of time for what I had already committed myself to, and I was already stretching myself thin helping Marilyn.

      4. This isn’t about the criticism, this is about the approach NOLOSE took to publicize this criticism, by suggesting that I excluded POCs and that I that I told a POC to do it themselves.

      “the commenter was told that if they wanted to support diversity within the project, they, as a person of color, should join the project’s Facebook page and offer solutions.”

      Did I tell a person of color to offer solutions? No, I told a person. I had no idea that Starkey was a POC, but NOLOSE has suggested otherwise. This is a false attack on my character, and an intentional manipulation of the facts to imply that my response was racially motivated. Perhaps this would have been a better opportunity if it didn’t seem like they were exploiting me in order to make their point. And yes, they are exploiting me. They have valid points, but the way they decided to get attention for their critique was to make false accusations about me. Then, when I defend myself, I’m told that I’m “crying about it” (told to me by a NOLOSE supporter on Facebook), and you’re telling me that I’m throwing a pity party for myself. I’m sorry, but after busting my ass for three months, only to have these kind of accusations leveled against you, is incredibly insulting and hurtful. And rather than acknowledge that NOLOSE was falsely accusing me of excluding POCs and demanding that POCs educate me, I have been told to stop being a baby and pay attention to their critique.

      Well, this is why shame and stigma doesn’t work because once you shame someone, especially if you exaggerate the claims you’re using to shame them, they have a hard time getting past that shame.

      5. Perhaps others are willing to keep making mistakes and keep getting called out for them, but that’s not how I work. I’m always willing to learn and grow and improve my understanding of others, but I will not play this kind of game where people are waiting to pick apart my words so they can use me as a lesson for other white people. The authors of this letter (which for all intents and purposes is NOLOSE, no matter how you try to frame it) deliberately attempted to make my comments seem nefarious, that I intentionally dismissed a POC’s concerns about a campaign that was directed at POCs. Neither of these facts were the case when I responded to Starkey, and I will defend myself from accusations to the contrary.

      The NOLOSE letter began by talking about concerns of divisiveness within Fat Acceptance, but while working on this campaign I did everything I knew how to do in order to make it as inclusive as possible. If my efforts were lacking, I’m sorry, but unless you can point me to a blog post or a group’s actions that that were taking place on or before January 24, which I neglected, then I don’t feel like the critiques of my actions are valid.

      Because here’s the thing… I just emailed you about asking for a POC’s feedback on the video I’m posting today and you told me that it was not a good idea to assume that a POC wants to give me feedback and that asking a POC for feedback might create “more unintentionally racist waves.” So, I’m not supposed to contact individual POCs and in the letter it says that using traditional social networking sites is not enough. Well, what are my options, then? Nobody has explained to me WHO I should have contacted, WHO I neglected, or WHO felt excluded from the conversation.

      Can you answer any of those questions?

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
        March 21, 2012 10:47 pm

        Here are the answers to all of those questions:

        1. My main reason for not taking full ownership of the letter as a board member is because a. I didn’t write it and b. I don’t want credit for this because I don’t deserve it. I’m white and not involved in the POC Caucus, so yeah, I didn’t write the letter. Clearly. Do I stand behind it? Yes. Would I cosign it again? Yes.

        2. I get that. I hope you know that I absolutely, 100% realize that you weren’t looking to exclude anyone. I think what folks are saying is that it would have been great if you did specific outreach to fat POC in order to reach the demographic that the campaign was targeting. The NOLOSE POC caucus certainly isn’t the only POC group in the world- maybe there were others you could have worked with as well? Though I am hearing you say you didn’t know who the campaign was targeting and understand that.

        Something that the white working allies are trying to do is put together a resource list so that when there are big projects like this on people’s plates and not a ton of time to get the work done, you would already have connections to certain groups in the movement you could potentially work with. I this would be a great solution moving forward.

        3. I get the stretched thin thing and understand. I think maybe it would have been great to put it out there that you needed help with this. No one expects you to be all things to all people, but inclusivity is really important. Asking you to be mindful of that is a piece of constructive criticism that could really be helpful in your future work, should you decide to proceed.

        Your defensiveness regarding this and other details are kind of jarring, and I have to wonder why you can’t see that its a good/helpful point and try to move on. I’m not trying to be mean, but being as inclusive as possible/doing outreach is always a great thing in activist work, and really could have put more hands on deck for you so you wouldn’t have been stretched so thin.

        4. I don’t think anyone’s intention was to publicly shame you. You were not named in the letter- in fact, we assumed Marilyn was at the head of the campaign, and that’s why we came to her first.

        Something my friend Nicole said was: “This issue is so much bigger than any one interaction between members of our community. I wonder if there is a way we can assume best intentions about this letter (and its writers) and try to move on from the nitpicking about the specific chain of events around the campaign.”

        I totally get you put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this, but the intention of the letter was to use this as an example. This is a jumping off point. I know when you’re so close to something, that’s hard to ignore, but for the bigger intent and purpose, an example needed to be made so we could all move forward in doing our best work.

        5. To single out one person of color and ask them to review something for this purpose is akin to saying “I need feedback on this from you because you are a person of color and then I will have this vetted by a person of color and I will have done my research.”

        That’s just not how it works. If some person came to you saying “Hey fat person, I need your opinion on this thing to make sure it won’t offend all fat people and is inclusive of a world view of fat people.” You’d feel kind of weird, no? Tokenized? So yeah, don’t do that to a POC. You don’t speak for all fat people and no one POC speaks for all POC.

        Your options are to research groups in your field doing work that has a shred of similarity to yours (you’re not the only activist in the world!) and ask if you can get feedback on your work. I am having a really hard time figuring out why this idea seems so time consuming/impossible/difficult/taxing for you.

        Overall, I think that there would be a lot more folks willing to support you in your work if you would open your mind, take down your walls of defense, and just really think about the feedback. This letter was to ALL WHITE ALLIES IN THE FAT JUSTICE MOVEMENT, not just you! We all need to be humbled, take a step back and think about our shit, and work on this together!

    • March 21, 2012 7:08 pm

      “For this and many other reasons, it is NOT OKAY to ask POC to educate you on how to be a better ally.”

      Bullshit. You lost me right there. I’m so sick and tired of people telling me to understand them and not lifting a finger to help. I have Asperger’s syndrome, okay? All your neurotypical horseshit is Greek to me. I -need- your help for me to understand. I am not African-American or whatever fucking term is politically correct in this day and age, so how in the fuck am I going to know what it’s like to grow up African-American, to live as African-American? Should I just not bother? This all seems so completely disingenuous to me. It really seems like so many people – the small cross section of people of color that I’ve met being the absolute worst offenders – want to be in a small exclusive club and not even try to include other people.

      This is the kind of stupid, high minded, obnoxious, holier than thou SHIT that makes good people like Shannon want to just quit while they’re ahead. People try to help and get called out – you don’t have to be an idiot to know that it’s going to sour them on whatever cause you’re pushing. One of the earlier commenters asked why you need an engraved invitation to get involved. Answer: you fucking don’t. Sit down, shut up, and let’s get to work.

      • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
        March 21, 2012 10:09 pm

        I don’t feel “holier than thou.” I’m not. I don’t think I’m more educated/more enlightened/a better person than anyone else here. I’m simply offering what I think are the reasons behind the initial letter and suggestions for working some of this stuff out.

        I think telling me to “sit down, shut up, and get to work” is quite rude, but you go ahead with your bad self and say this uninformed crap if it makes you feel better. I volunteer as a fat activist nearly 60 hours a month and then work for size equality in a field where fat people are not accepted about 40 hours a week. I AM working. You can call me whatever petty name you want to, but don’t ever accuse me of not working.

        • March 21, 2012 10:36 pm

          Okay, you got all upset and angry over something that was meant to be a metaphor. I don’t know you and I have no idea what you do for fat people. If you say you are an activist, I believe you. I used “get to work” as a metaphor in that we’re all bitching amongst ourselves and we should all be focused on the main goal.

          And you still, by the way, didn’t answer any of the questions or points I had. Why should I give a crap about anything any so called “activist” has to say if they don’t want to accept me as someone who wants to know more? Shannon has been pouring his heart out for weeks because he believes in taking these billboards down. And from this angle, it seems like instead of fighting the good fight, NOLOSE et al. are trying to make this about race or lack thereof. I’m tired of every group needing an engraved fucking invitation in order to sit down at the table. Or I don’t know, should Shannon/we/etc. be asking NOLOSE for a seat? Whose table is it, anyway? I’m sick of the pissing contests that inevitably happen with this kind of shit. We’re all against fat hate and stigma, so why can’t we focus on that instead of bickering amongst ourselves?

          • Rachel Kacenjar permalink
            March 21, 2012 11:05 pm

            I’m not angry or upset at you, I just don’t want to be falsely accused of not doing the work. Doing the work is basically all that I do.

            I also don’t think POC sitting down to write a thoughtful letter full of constructive critique is “bickering.” These are folks within our own group of activists who feel marginalized and oppressed! Why wouldn’t we extend the courtesy of an invitation to the table to them? They’ve felt unwelcome at the table we all should share, and I personally feel shitty about that and want to fix it as best I can.

            This isn’t about Atchka’s actions- its about all of our actions, and I feel like he’s derailing the larger issue by making it about him. This is about the unity and equality within our own movement- a movement I pour a ton of love and work into, and want it to be the best damn movement possible. That’s why I take this letter so seriously.

          • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
            March 21, 2012 11:19 pm

            +1

            Seriously, the proper response was given, the one of “I’ll take that on board” from the person who was in charge of the campaign. Rachel, you even admit you all assumed it was Marilyn.

            So why single out Shannon like this? Why lie about what he knew? Why take the words of somebody who was just volunteering time on another’s project and put undue significance to them? And why, if there was an issue with inclusivity, why did those feeling excluded go onto a public forum where anybody could answer to post the questions? Why NOT go to Marilyn in private email, and not take it public until and unless you didn’t receive the response that would indicate that she was willing to work on her mistake?

            And no, this isn’t throwing Marilyn under the bus. But since this letter which NOLOSE is very heavily sponsoring (so heavily one cannot tell it’s not NOLOSE who wrote it except for people saying over and over again, “Oh, it’s not us”) uses the IStand campaign so heavily, and since the one who was the creative and directive force DID RESPOND IN AN APPROPRIATE MANNER, why, then, continue this? Why use the IStand campaign in the letter at all?

          • Kala permalink
            March 21, 2012 11:23 pm

            And yet again, I really find it hard to believe that Rachel, or any member of NOLOSE, could read a letter with false claims about themselves, in additional to productive messages, and be able to extract the productive messages out of the letter. I also don’t see how apparently Shannon’s one blog post on being upset about the NOLOSE letter’s false allegations, is somehow derailing a larger issue. I guess I didn’t notice, but this was actually the battlefront of THE war against oppression, right here, right fucking now, on FierceFatties.com. And Shannon is apparently being a total dickwad by derailing it. Fuck you Shannon.

          • Lori S. permalink
            March 22, 2012 12:17 am

            OK, I will answer your question on how to educate yourself if a specific activist declines to assist you in your self-improvement project. In four words:

            Google is your friend.

            If you need more words, here are a handful: the resources are out there. Someone has already linked to Julia’s compilation of resources, in fact. So speaking of “disingenuous,” your protestations of helplessness look pretty thin here. Go read a book. There are dozens if not hundreds out there. I’ll even give you a place to start:

            “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Davis Tatum. It should come in handy dismantling that little racist chestnut up there about how “It really seems like so many people – the small cross section of people of color that I’ve met being the absolute worst offenders – want to be in a small exclusive club and not even try to include other people.” Good luck.

    • March 21, 2012 9:02 pm

      Rachel, as always, I am proud to know you.

  20. Rachel Kacenjar permalink
    March 21, 2012 9:42 am

    * I’m sorry, I meant Strong4Life where I said “Stand4Kids” in paragraph 2.

  21. March 22, 2012 1:41 am

    Dear Lori S. – Thank you for the link to the article. I will look at it. And I mean that seriously.

    However. I don’t use Asperger’s syndrome as an excuse, but rather, as an explanation – I would have no idea what to google that would be acceptable to the people who’ve taken it upon themselves to police the idea of race relations. “White privilege”? Great, more things making me feel terrible about myself when I’ve done nothing except be born white. “Racism”? You get definitions so wide, whose is correct? “People of color in social movements”? Too broad. I ask for help, and people like you get all high and mighty and tell me to do my own research. And you wonder why I feel ignored? Nothing I do is good enough, and I’m continually told that since I’m not a person of color, I’ll never understand, so why the fuck should I bother?

  22. March 22, 2012 1:46 am

    Continuing – I’m an Aspie. People don’t know anything about Asperger’s syndrome, usually, unless they have a family member who has it. Why is it that most Aspies are happy to educate, when most of the feminists or activists for people of color that I’ve met insist on firing off these bitchy, “it’s not my job to educate you” replies? Of course it fucking is. I have a doctorate in law. Would I expect someone who’s never studied U.S. law to know what the Rule Against Perpetuities is? Of course not. So why would you expect someone who isn’t African-American to automatically know anything about what has been held up as the African-American experience?

    • Kala permalink
      March 22, 2012 1:55 am

      Apparently if you read McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and other seminal anti-oppressive works, you’ll just “get it”. Then mmaybe you’ll be able to find this damn table that keeps getting asked about, maybe you can let us know if you find it.

      • March 22, 2012 2:20 am

        No offense, but are you being sarcastic or not? I can’t tell. There are a lot of times I do feel like other people just inherently “get” things I have trouble with.

        • Kala permalink
          March 22, 2012 2:48 am

          I was being totally sarcastic. I wouldn’t demand anyone to understand the racial experience fully of someone else from essays, although I’m sure there are people that might be able to. I’m probably not one of them.

          What one can understand from just reading, without direct assistance from someone knowledgeable, is so variable between person to person, and of course the game can change in different ways if you’re on the autism spectrum (I know first hand because my brother has Aspberger’s).

        • Mulberry permalink
          March 22, 2012 3:42 am

          I think she was being sarcastic. She’s essentially agreeing with you.
          As for the “not my job to educate you”, how is this working out? Maybe it’s not my job to educate people on fat acceptance either, and to instead point them to medical studies, but I have a better chance of winning converts if I do say a few educational words and maybe then point them to articles to explain further.
          It’s not Atchka’s “job” to write lengthy, well-researched articles on aspects of fat acceptance, but I am impressed and grateful that he takes the time (which he doesn’t really have) to do so.
          I really don’t see why there is all this antagonism towards him. The way I see it, he noticed something that could hurt many children, he loves children, and he wanted to jump in and do something about it. That says to me, here is a person with a good heart. I also have seen someone who can and has learned from mistakes, and someone who has been far less censorious of postings than many others in the Fatosphere are. I see that he has graciously offered to work with others, even those who don’t like him, in order to accomplish a particular fat-accepting goal. Aren’t these qualities something to admire? I do.

        • March 22, 2012 4:31 pm

          Thank you, me neither CC! Not seeing sarcasm is a huge problem for Aspies (people with Aspergers for those of you who aren’t). Nor can we read body language very well. I can’t speak for CC, but I have a hard time with all the read between the lines stuff. If we would all just say what we mean we wouldn’t have all these problems.
          And the biggest problem that I have with this whole situation is because I have never “got” racism in the first place. And maybe that is privelege – to not get why some people don’t like other people just for their skin tone and to be mean to them for it (and yes I am aware that is a simplistic definition, but it does get to the heart of it).
          As someone on the spectrum, I feel like I am ALWAYS outside. forget black or white or brown or yellowish or reddish or olive – I feel like I am purple with green spots and have had to educate myself about everyone else my entire life. I have to figure out appropriate behavior from observation, and if I misinterpret something, I just look like a fool – because G-d help me if I dare ask any questions to clarify the situation. If I ask for help, I get laughed at, and my differences are maginified. And I would imagine that this might be how Shannon is feeling right now, and possibly how people in marginilized groups feel when they want to be part of something the larger group is doing.
          There is a saying in one of the educational pamphlets for employers and Aspergers employees that “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s”. Maybe everyone (in the WHOLE WORLD!) should remember that when they are meeting someone who is different than them in some way – i’m rambling. point is, it sucks that the world in general isn’t past this crap and we can’t all just get along.

          • faycinacroud permalink
            March 23, 2012 2:07 pm

            Sarcasm tends to comprise a lot of my humor, and I probably should add a “sarcasm” label at the end of posts where I am being sarcastic. Knowing that people with Asperger’s have trouble detecting sarcasm, I am being serious when I say this.
            I am often accused of being “too sensitive.” Sometimes I wonder if maybe other people aren’t too insensitive.

  23. March 22, 2012 10:23 am

    I want to give my reaction to the statement by the NOLOSE People of Color caucus statement.

    First, i took it as a letter directed toward white fat activists in general, including me, using the Stand4Kids campaign as a concrete example of the ways that racism plays out in a white-dominated fat activist scene. I did not know about any of the issues here until they came up in a white allies working group FB group.

    Second, I read the part that is so contested (“the commenter was told that if they wanted to support diversity within the project, they, as a person of color, should join the project’s Facebook page and offer solutions”) differently–I saw it as, there were not white people who were willing to take on the work of researching and changing the white-dominated nature of the project, and so her identity as a person of color was relevant, even if it was not known to Shannon. It is relevant in the absence of white people doing the work–not because Julia was identified or singled out as a person of color to do it, but because no white person stepped up enough even to be asked to do so.

    Third, I think the reason the that NOLOSE as an organization is not “owning” the statement is not because the people involved in decisionmaking don’t agree with it–nor do i think anyone has implied that. I think it is posted on the NOLOSE site and signed off on by the NOLOSE board because people find it deeply important. But–for the members of the board who are not part of the POC caucus–it would be claiming the words of people of color for their own, and taking credit for them, which itself replicates white supremacy and racism.

    i think that there are two internet resources that come to mind for me: the first, about concrete steps that we can take to work against racism, is here: http://damaliayo.com/pdfs/I%20CAN%20FIX%20IT_racism.pdf and the second, about the tone argument and how we, as white people, can turn conversations about racism as being about our feelings and no longer about the concerns of people of color (and no longer about oppression) http://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/the-feelings-of-white-people/
    There is also already on the internet a number of pieces about racism in fat activist circles, as well as the experience of fat people of color (including, on one site specifically, the following: http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2008/08/fatness-and-uplift-not-a-post-about-push-up-bras/ and http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2008/11/thin-is-in-and-white-is-alright/ and http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2008/10/on-the-heels-of-nolose-a-lesson-on-the-intersections-of-fat-class-commerce-and-race/ and http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2008/07/walking-the-talk/ ).

    Also, though I think I saw it linked above, I wanted to also share this: http://www.scribd.com/sparkysays/d/25272118-Extended-Resource-List-for-Learning-About-Racism which i think is really helpful and also quite comprehensive–and happens to be compiled by Julia.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      March 22, 2012 11:27 am

      I appreciate your reply, and respect the time you took to educate. Really, thank you.

      If you are on that white allies group, you know what I will be writing here. The way the letter is worded, it turns what Shannon did from unconscious racism into conscious, full knowing racism. The former is bad enough, and it is a problem we (as a group that has mostly white activists and bloggers) have to take responsibility for and work through. The latter though, is completely unacceptable in an activist movement that is working to reduce and eliminate oppression.

      It’s a question of intent, and that letter as it is written, it implies Shannon’s intent was deliberate.

      I find it curious that this, which is a very major point, is being described as a small point. The fact that the people at NOLOSE refuse to take ownership of their own error in something so glaringly false, and change it, and apologize to Shannon for the fact that they have accused him of overt racism is very telling.

      It makes the appearance that they don’t care who they hurt, or what lies they have to say, as long as they get their message across. And in fact, by taking this stand, by not changing the wording slightly, to show that it was not overt racism, they are the ones who have stopped the conversation about the bigger issues that we absolutely must deal with.

      Because, for me at least, I need to know that the people who are calling me out on my unintentional racism, who say they are invested in the higher good of all, are, actually, invested in the higher good of all and are not going to make an example of me based on false information.

      It speaks to their integrity. An organization that calls for transparency and ethical treatment of others, needs to be transparent and treat people ethically. When called on the fact that there are falsehoods in the letter, falsehoods which make Shannon look really bad, they, instead of doing the ethical thing, doing what they call others to do and examine their own shit and make amends, they instead say that those who continue to talk about this are “derailing the conversation”. This tactic is neither the ethical way to act, nor does it show they are acting with transparency.

      As I said last night, until they make amends, reword that letter to take out the statement that Shannon knew Julia is a POC, and issue a real apology about this, the discussion about the real issues of unintentional racism cannot go forward. At least not for me.

      Of course, I am not Shannon, so I can’t answer to what he wants from all this. I just know what I want watching all this.

      Because really, an organization that is showing itself to not be above continuing falsehoods is not one I’m going to give a lot of credence to if they call me, or other people, out on unintentional or intentional racism.

      • March 22, 2012 12:56 pm

        I stated above that i didn’t read the statement in the piece as saying that Shannon necessarily knew that Julia was a person of color, so i think the inaccuracy is not cut and dry, But even if I accept that yes, they unequivocally said that Shannon knew Julia’s race, which is inaccurate–i still don’t think it invalidates the other points.
        I see part of my responsibility as an anti-racist white person to be to listen and be actively open to critique of my racist behavior (and here i am not saying Shannon’s racist behavior–i am talking about my racist behavior as a white person doing fat activist work). I think that there is a huge amount of valid critique in this letter, and i think that it wouldn’t be written if the people involved weren’t committed to the greater good of fat activism–in addition to knowing that the people involved in the core work of NOLOSE, and several of the others signed onto the letter, spend so much of their time and energy on fat queer organizing and activism work. If it weren’t based in a commitment to the greater good, it could have just been a tumblr post that said, “Fuck all of you, we’re out.” But instead it was an open letter, an invitation, an imploration, a chance for us to do better.
        Even if i think someone is a total a-hole, if i am called on racism by them my first response–and it has taken a long time and a lot of work for this to be true–is to sit with it and try to really hear it. So for me, even if I believe that they are slandering Shannon, I still want to be called out on how I am perpetuating oppression.

  24. March 22, 2012 4:54 pm

    As per usual Atchka you refuse to take ANY accountability for anything and play your grand role of the White Man Martyr. Every time I forget you’re around you do something like this. Holy Hell

    • March 22, 2012 5:07 pm

      Hi Jessica,
      Welcome. And shut the fuck up. Thanks.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • Kala permalink
      March 22, 2012 5:31 pm

      You’re so sure of this racial motivation? I love slandering people with not even the remotest whiff of proof.

      • March 22, 2012 6:47 pm

        I’m not sure exactly what you mean by racial motivation to be quite honest (so I’ll try my best to respond), but I am quite sure of Atchka’s long-standing history of putting his foot in his mouth, being politely asked to reconsider his words or actions and then his inevitable inability to be humble, apologize, take accountability and work to do better. He’s a white man who continually talks to women disrespectfully, doesn’t work to end his participation in white supremacy and generally doesn’t give a care about anything beyond his own voice. We’ve had our fair share of disagreements, Atchka and I, and we always seem to find ourselves in a place where I ask something politely of him and he responds with aggression.

        We’re all racist. That’s the world we’ve been brought up in. Instead of denying it, we, as white people, should just be humble, educate ourselves on the issues being brought up to us by people of color, and do better next time! That’s all anyone’s ever asked of Atchka and yet, he just wants to stomp his feet and pout like he usually does.

        I hope that helped Kala and I hope Atchka can someday get over his big ego and work to be the kind of man he believes he is

        • Kala permalink
          March 23, 2012 1:50 am

          Help Kala? I notably don’t need your help, nor your lesson.

          I know where people like you are coming from, I’m familiar with the theory. I don’t in the least agree with it, not at all. People like you make me cringe, and I reject your rhetoric. Are all white people naturally at some level of privilege above POC in this country? Yes. Are all white people racist because they inherently benefit from that privilege? That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.

          All you NOLOSE people on here are examples the most annoying type of elitist. You’ve created this absurd, artificial construct that is essentially unattainable. Only people like yourself, who spend countless hours examining their own privilege and supposed racism, and countless other hours analyzing the same on other people, only that kind of effort is sufficient.

          Unlike others who have posted here, people like what we’ve been seeing here don’t make me ashamed of the feminist and progressive label, I absolutely assume those labels for myself. I assume them even if it means that people think I’m on the same bandwagon as you, and you can pry them from my cold, dead hands. But go on, tell me that I’m “doing social justice wrong” or some other crapola.

          I really personally doubt that your type of rhetoric does a fucking thing regarding actual real world oppression. You’ve created your supposedly inclusive group that is out there fighting oppression, but you appear apparently fairly close-minded and intolerant of other ideas. A group that seems to be the most nit-pickiest group that I’ve ever run into, that doesn’t appear to even be able to grasp at the fringe of real world practicality. And that’s coming from me, a progressive feminist. I can only imagine how absurd you look to anyone to the right of myself, which is most of the damn country. I’m honestly glad that you’ve created some sort of space where you and people like you feel comfortable, but to pretend that your brand of introspection and understanding is portable to or plausible on a mass scale? Absolutely ridiculous. You’re like abolitionist AR vegans who really think that someday their view of total animal liberation and the end to all animal use will prevail over the world. That somehow, their fringe version of morality and ethics will rule all.

          Also, you don’t even know what race I belong to, you have no knowledge of my ethnic background. So thanks for assuming I’m white. I am in fact middle eastern, which on the census is considered white, but in practice in the United States is often not considered white.

          I’m being absolutely condescending and not even remotely friendly to you as a group, because I know damn well that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that any of you could ever see my perspective as something legitimate. I’m some kind of unenlightened troglodyte in your eyes, and I don’t think that view is particularly deserving of my respect.

          • March 23, 2012 11:12 am

            I’m sorry. To clarify, I was using “we” for White People. I never assumed your race.

            I stand by everything I said and it is unfortunate that Atchka is unable to grow, learn or be humble in any way.

          • Kala permalink
            March 23, 2012 2:15 pm

            If you think Shannon is not able to grow, learn, or be humble in any way, you have absolutely *no* idea what you’re talking about. I speak with him frequently, and he is continually attempting to be better at what he does. He is frequently humbled, and often takes the advice of people that he respects. I often disagree with him, and I let that be known, but I have never felt that Shannon has some kind of moral failing so large that I must ostracize him. I do not see him as sexist or racist (then again, it’s not as if I went and used your hyper-liberal re-definitions of those terms). He’s more cognizant of his privilege than the average person by far, but unlike many of you, he’s not out there in the contest of which white person feels the worst about their privilege.

            Just because he doesn’t use the same language as you, doesn’t make him some kind of an abomination. People like you, and the rest of the NOLOSE crowd that showed up here, think that your view of social justice is the only valid one. That’s a load. And honestly, if Shannon was anything other than a white male, I think you all would have treated him far more reasonably. That’s not an accusation of reverse racism, but it is an accusation of bias.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      March 22, 2012 11:19 pm

      Because this response you have going here is just so polite.

      Yup. You just keep believing that.

    • Mulberry permalink
      March 23, 2012 4:26 pm

      I don’t know what Atchka you’re talking about, because I’ve certainly seen this one apologize where it’s warranted. Show your own moral superiority here and apologize to him for a change for your spreading of lies and half-truths.
      According to the most stringent definitions, I’m a racist, a sexist, an ableist, a homophobe, a fat-hater and an elitist in several different ways. My invisible knapsack exploded a few years ago and I’m too lazy to clean the mess up. Kindly do me the honor placing me on your shit-list, or wherever it is you’re putting Atchka or Bronwen or Kala or Vesta or Bree (and others who put in a good word here for Atchka). I want to be in the company of people I can respect.

  25. pyctsi permalink
    March 22, 2012 7:21 pm

    I think the problem I have with being told to google something is making sure you get the right thing, I’d rather be pointed at some good starting places by people who know what they are talking about, so that I can tell the good from the bad, rather than just start googling.

    I will always ask someone who appears to be an expert to point me in the right direction, or help me get started when I want to look something up and in return if I know more on a subject that comes up than the person I’m talking to I try to let them know where they can get more quality information, so they can start their own research with a decent standard for a baseline.

    I don’t expect anyone to educate me on things, but I’d rather have guidance than be left to flounder in a sea of information.

    • faycinacroud permalink
      March 23, 2012 2:12 pm

      I agree–if you want someone to understand what you are saying but haven’t got the time to explain it yourself, POINT THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION! Don’t just say “google it.”
      Also, I’m always happy to give people my perspective on something they may not understand because they don’t have experience with it. If someone genuinely wants to know what it is like to live with mental illness, for instance, well, I can’t say what it’s like for everybody, but I’m happy to give them my perspective! The more we understand each other the better the world can become for all of us.

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