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Shut Down —

March 22, 2012
by

Strong4Life launched its campaign largely on the basis of a single claim:

I’ve spent three months hammering home the fact that this claim is not based in fact. More recently, I pointed to their shift in strategy, which included a new claim, including citations from a medical journal.

Of course, that allowed me to review that journal and pick it apart until their claim was nothing but a flimsy bit of nonsense.

Strong4Life only created this new cited claim after the NIH condemnation and after they banned from their Facebook group anybody who even mentioned the Phase 1 ads.

“This isn’t the purpose of our campaign,” they said. “The real issue is helping the children of Georgia get healthier, and we will only focus on that.”

But as you can hear in my conversation with Tim Whitehead, VP of Marketing and Communications for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Strong4Life used the ads with the false 75% claim as part of a “stunt” to kickstart a dialogue on children’s health.

Now, in order to simplify, let’s set aside our disagreements with CHOA over whether fat kids need to lose weight or whether their general mission to save fat kids is wise, let alone plausible. Let’s just agree with them that fat kids need their help eating healthy foods and getting exercise.

So, CHOA wants to raise awareness of a problem (unhealthy kids), but in order to do that, they decided to release a series of attention-getting ads, and justified their harshness by pointing to a study that they will not provide to the public. But when we ask for that study, when we ask for them to elaborate on their claims, they tell us that discussing the ads was derailing from the “real” conversation that should be about health. They then proceeded to censor their web page to remove any comments that tried to discuss the complex effects that the original ads may have on the environment, the conversation and the kids they are claiming to want to help.

In my view, that is what is happening with the NOLOSE letter as well. NOLOSE wanted to raise awareness of a problem (POCs being left out of fat, white activism), so in order to do that they released an attention-getting letter that suggested that I told a POC that if they wanted diversity, they should do the work.  I was the example used to illustrate the need for greater attention to diversity in Fat Acceptance, but this wasn’t about my actions, I’m assured. And others keep saying the same thing: there’s good information in this letter, so don’t get hung up on the fact that you were used as an example.

Except the thing is, that example was misleading at best, and an outright misrepresentation of fact (aka a lie) at worst. And until NOLOSE clarifies the context of its letter and explains whether they believe that I demanded education from a POC (as opposed to inviting what appeared to be an expert on diversity to help us), then this awareness-raising letter will ring hollow for me.

This segment of the letter also implies that part of my real offense was inviting Starkey to join us, rather than going to Starkey, or whoever, in the first place and asking how I could support them. This shows up in the list of suggestions:

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. [emphasis mine]

So I have asked, where was your campaign, NOLOSE? I googled for people who were working against Strong4Life and posted everything I found on FatKidsUnited. Who did we leave out? Are there people who were speaking out against this and whose feedback I didn’t solicit or whose viewpoint I didn’t promote? Where was this other table, this other campaign, and how do I find it?

Because I was told by Rachel in email that it was inappropriate for me to ask specific POCs for their feedback or their help, and that I could make “unintentionally racist waves” by soliciting their opinions and feedback on issues of race.

And in this thread, [person who defends NOLOSE] elaborates on why social media is flawed:

I think the letter outlines pretty clearly that crowd-sourcing as a method of activism is exclusionary to POC much of the time. It leaves them out when white people are the originators of a crowd-sourced campaign because our social networks are almost always filled with lots of other people like us, so a white person will end up crowd-sourcing to other white people. It also leaves POC out because white people have a disproportionate amount of access to social media.

Okay, so I can’t ask specific POCs for help and I shouldn’t use crowd-sourcing because it excludes POCs. The solution, I’m told, is that I have to educate myself and find the answers for myself. It’s easy, I’m told, because Google holds all the answers.

Well, let me give you an example of how Google does not hold all the answers.

The video I created yesterday included two pieces that I have since removed. At one point, Whitehead says that the harshness of the Phase 1 ads was okay because this is how fat kids already feel. This reminded me of the Clark Doll Test, where black kids were offered a choice between a white and black doll, and they chose the white doll. This, I explained, was not an indication of how children should feel, but about how they feel because of the environment they live in.

I felt this example was appropriate because the work of Dr. Rebecca Puhl and weight stigma is founded almost entirely on the existing research on racial stigma. In fact, in the interview I did with Dr. Puhl, she makes a point of explaining how the health problems associated with weight are similar to those associated with racial stigma.

So, these two issues are definitely related, but I wanted to get feedback from POCs. This is when I was told that asking a POC for specific feedback was offensive. And while I understand that a single black person does not, and cannot, represent the views of all black people, I can’t find anything through Google that will help me navigate this grey area.

So, I did consult two different POCs, and one said they had no problem with the comparison, while the other  recommended that I not bring up colorism because she personally tuned out to people who drew these kinds of comparisons. She also said:

It should really be a standing thing that if you’re not talking about race, or issues that intersect with race directly; not a comparison with race not to bring it up.

Now, I have read blog posts and comments from people about not comparing weight and race, or any other identity group, which makes sense and I agree with. But in this particular case, it seems as though the issue of weight and race stigma do intersect, and that the results of the Clark Doll Test could teach us that living in an environment that stigmatizes children will drive their perceptions of what is desirable and undesirable.

If I posed this same question to a large group (as I am, in a way, now), responses would vary based on personal experience and understanding, but ultimately it would be a mish mash of individual opinions.

So what do I Google to get this spectrum of viewpoints on such a specific, and tricky, issue? Aside from asking POCs their personal opinions, how do I find a reasonable answer to my reasonable question?

But if I’m not supposed to rely on crowd-sourcing or individual POCs for clarity, then what happens if I Google it and I get the wrong answer? What if I researched my questions on using the Clark Doll Test and concluded that it was okay to use because of the intersection between weight and race stigma? And if someone thinks I came to the wrong conclusion, do I get another letter from NOLOSE?

Because here’s the thing: people keep dismissing my time constraints and saying I “just” need to do this and I “just” need to do that, and it’s quick and easy and so on.

As if that weren’t presumptuous enough, I then have the following encounter on NOLOSE’s white allies group, where I asked the questions similar to the ones above regarding this other table that was mentioned.

The answer I received from [another person who defends NOLOSE] ?

I’m getting really frustrated with how bogged-down this has gotten. The reason that I have not addressed any of your specific questions that you note are going unanswered is because first of all, they all feel to me like derails of the “if you won’t educate me how can I learn” variety. Secondly, those are answers that I believe will become more apparent to all of us as we explore this compassionately with one another. But the answers are not going to come in a bulletpoint format, because these are questions about multi-layered issues of empathy and intersectionality, and they deserve more attention than a reduced dissection of the who/what/when/where of past events. When you post repeatedly about these details and demand immediate answers or threaten to leave if the discussion does not remain focused on these questions that you have, I feel emotionally manipulated to halt all other work on this group that I have been doing for the last three days and emotionally caretake for you, and that feels frustrating, inappropriate, and derailing to me in this situation. [emphasis mine]

Isn’t this exactly what offended Julia Starkey? Haven’t I been called out for not dropping everything I was juggling at that moment in order to educate myself on race and privilege?

My response to Starkey was based on the fact that I have a full-time job and a family, and that I was juggling these responsibilities AND the activism I had already committed too, and that in that particular moment, I was unable to commit myself to the time-consuming act of educating myself.

In fact, the reason I chose crowd-sourcing as my method of activism is because it does not require as much of a time commitment from me. Without crowd-sourcing, or social media, I would not have been able to do what I have done for this campaign.

But we all have time constraints and we all have to prioritize our efforts. And it is incredibly presumptuous for others to step in and demand that we reprioritize our efforts in response to the complaints of a single person I have never met or worked with before.

In her response to my list of question, Rachel responds to my time constraint issue by saying, “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.” [emphasis mine]

Um, I did put it out there:

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. [emphasis mine]

I failed because I asked this POC (who I did not know was a POC) to do the work. Rachel explains that asking a POC for their opinion, rather than doing the work myself, would be just as offensive to me as a fat blogger:

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.

I’ve got news for you: I contacted Strong4Life myself and told them I wanted to work with them. I sent them this message multiple times. I offered to give them my perspective and suggestions on how to improve the campaign without shaming or stigmatizing children.

I did this because I knew that they did not have any fat people on their staff and that they could benefit from a fat person’s perspective.

Was I offering to represent all fat people? No. But I was offering my perspective to help them understand why their approach was wrong. And had they come to me first and asked for my help, I would have gladly jumped on board.

That’s because I have always viewed my “activism” as primarily that of an educator. I have never, EVER told ANYONE to Google it. You know why? Because Google is a fucking search engine and not a Magic Truth Machine.

I am a Fat Acceptance blogger and I have taken it upon myself to run a blog where anyone can ask any question and if they are respectful, even if ignorant, I will answer them with equal respect.

Do all FA bloggers do this? Nope. But those bloggers also drive off those who are genuinely interested in learning more.

Which brings me to my final point: Tone.

I’ve read about how the tone argument is a derailing tactic, and that white people have no right to demand that POC activists soften their tone when talking about racial issues. I agree with this. POCs have every right to address these issues as they see fit. I’m constantly being told how I’m doing it wrong, how I push people away, how I should be nicer, not curse, not do this or that. I totally understand why it’s wrong to try and dictate how people express themselves on the issues that are so integral to their lives.

That being said, it goes both ways. You, as the angry activist, don’t get to dictate how people respond to your writing. If you want to be an angry activist (as I am), then you have to accept the consequences that others may bristle at your tone and walk away from the conversation.

Yes, you are under no obligation to tone down your rhetoric or put on kid gloves for white people, but those you direct your message to are under no obligation to sit down and shut up.

You are asking the offending person to take your words to heart and to consider investing their time in understanding their privilege and racism, unintentional or otherwise. If the tone you choose prevents people from respecting your opinions, then you have to accept that as a consequence of your choice.

I certainly have accepted that the way I write attracts some people while repelling others. And those who are repelled frequently tell me as much. But I continue to write the way I do. Why? Because my writing does reach a certain audience, and I’m happy with the audience I reach.

Same goes for all angry activists: you write the way you do because it works for you on a certain level.

Well, something happened yesterday which I found to be indicative of the framework that NOLOSE is building this discussion on.

Stacy Bias wrote a piece that many of you read. I read it and was touched by the honesty and raw emotion in the post, and it got me thinking about my own defensiveness about this issue. Others expressed appreciation for the delicate way it approached this subject and presented both sides. I thought it was an incredibly valuable post, as did some members of the NOLOSE board, who were linking to the post as of yesterday.

It was here, but now it’s gone.

Why?

Stacy posted an explanation in that Facebook group:

[posts removed at the request of Stacy Bias]

When I spoke out against this, Stacy softened her comments some:

[posts removed at the request of Stacy Bias]

But, I would turn your attention to her original two follow up posts:

[posts removed at the request of Stacy Bias]

[posts removed at the request of Stacy Bias]

To me, this is a person who was pressured into taking down her post. Of course, it was her choice, but it was the choice of those NOLOSE board members to criticize a person who was trying to bridge the divide between differing viewpoints.

This was not acceptable to some members, and they continued to confront Stacy until she felt like she was not allowed to express her reaction to the letter openly or honestly because of her comments on tone.

To me, that is no better than Strong4Life censoring comments about their ad campaign, but in this case, they used pressure to force self-censorship.

I believe these facts reveal the true nature of those NOLOSE members who have been behind this letter and the debate that followed. They aren’t interested in a dialogue. They aren’t interested in hearing complicated viewpoints. And you’re more interested in speaking at me than with me, then I am less likely to stick around for your message, no matter how valid it is.

And here’s the thing: this campaign began on January 5 with a single blog post. Anyone could have started their own effort anywhere at all, online or on the ground. I searched for those groups, those blog posts and those efforts through Google and turned up a handful of blog posts. We asked people to let us know if they were aware of other efforts.

If there was another effort, I was not aware of it and nobody has informed me of its existence. Yet, I’m being told that I should have come to their table. Again, what table? What group? What people should I have contacted? Who was interested in fighting Strong4Life, but wasn’t included?

You can tell me that I was wrong to invite Julia Starkey to our table rather than “showing up to the table of our campaigns and work.” But I cannot show up at your table if you don’t tell me where it is or if I cannot search for it and find it.

So, while I agree with many of the points raised in NOLOSE’s letter (and it is absolutely, 100% their letter… their co-presidents signed it and there was no indication that this letter was written, or intended to be from, any individual caucus), I foundnd the way in which they decided to raise those points to be unethical and dishonest.

NOLOSE would like for us to leave behind the conversation about the accusations they have leveled against me, while its members have accused me of throwing myself a “pity party” for defending myself against these accusations. Well, I’ve gotta say that if a group wants me to respect their opinions and listen to their concerns, then they are going to have to afford me the same courtesy.

I read their letter and I’m willing to discuss their concerns, but not until they read my letter and address my concerns. And currently, my concerns are being dismissed as derailing.

Bullshit.

Derailing is insinuating that I engaged in racially-motivated exclusion, then refusing to answer questions about those claims.

Derailing is calling for an open conversation about race, then telling Stacy Bias that her opinions are unwelcome.

Derailing is telling people that the letter is not about me because my name isn’t on it, then lecturing me about all the things I’ve done wrong.

Well, I’m done trying to appease the Julia Starkeys of the world. Anyone who says I am not willing to work on my issues, let alone have a difficult conversation, does not know me and has not followed me any longer than this most recent controversy.

I am always open to criticism and I am always open to revising my outlook and my perspective. What I am not open to, and what I will not tolerate, is the use of false accusations and seedy insinuations to force me, and others, to agree with you.

You can write all the fucking letters you want, but I will continue to focus on what I have always focused on: the science of obesity and health. That is where I invest all of my precious free time. I will continue to have difficult conversations, but I will not yield to those who insist that I put their priorities ahead of mine.

If you want to make the case that I should be reading about this subject or focusing on that subject or getting her perspective or asking his opinion, I welcome those suggestions. But I will not be pushed around by a group that  cannot present their case honestly and without resorting to shame.

If NOLOSE cannot admit that they exaggerated or misrepresented my conversation with Starkey, then best of luck to them because I do not respect liars or bullies.

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45 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2012 1:30 pm

    And this is the last I’m commenting on this subject until I get clarification from NOLOSE. I will continue working on my issues on my own, but I will not engage with anyone from NOLOSE until they publicly clarify what they meant when they said that I told a person of color that they had to offer their own solutions, or what these other projects were that I left out.

    Did NOLOSE prepare a campaign that I could have contacted? If so, where was it? If not, why not?

    Because I’m being criticized for not coming to their table, but I want to know more about what table I did not approach.

    I want answers, and I have the right to demand them given the way NOLOSE has decided to drag my reputation through the mud.

    Peace,
    Shannon

  2. Kala permalink
    March 22, 2012 1:48 pm

    Well this was better than what I thought you’d be putting out in my head when you mentioned it. LOL

    Regardless, to me it seems that NOLOSE is as you say, only interested in talking at others rather than with them. To me that reeks of maturity issues that don’t befit such an activist group. I’m not sure that this letter will elicit the kind of response you would like to see (i.e. an apology and a step moving forward).

    • March 22, 2012 1:51 pm

      Kala,
      I don’t expect an apology either. This letter was more about me saying that I am done being concerned about how groups like NOLOSE portray me. I’m going to keep my head down, do my work, and engage with people who are interested in a dialogue, not a monologue. 🙂

      Peace,
      Shannon

  3. March 22, 2012 2:10 pm

    Take my comments down. Immediately. You did not ask permission. They were made in the context of a group where privacy was explicitly requested.

    • March 22, 2012 2:24 pm

      I have removed them out of respect for you, but you know what I’m saying is true.

      I am getting publicly called a racist now by Marianne Kirby because of all this bullshit. People are making comments about me and my motivations, and they can say whatever the fuck they want about me without consequence.

      This is why I’m done with this topic entirely. NOLOSE has been incredibly dishonest, and those who support them have been played fast and loose with the facts. I’m trying to defend my reputation, but I’m told I should just shut the fuck up and check my ego.

      That is bullshit. If people are accusing me of something as heinous as racism, then I have the right to defend myself, and I have the right to point out the hypocrisy of those who are taking me to task.

      All the while, I’m being told that none of this is the point of the NOLOSE letter, and that it is “derailing” for me to address these accusations. Bull-fucking-shit.

      I’m not just getting called out, I’m being accused of racism, and I will not sit idly by and let a bunch of lying sacks of shit push others around in order to promote their own agenda.

      NOLOSE did nothing to contribute to this fight. They could have started their own campaign and they didn’t. Instead, they attack me after we succeed, and they tried to discourage you from bridging the two sides.

      People can hate on me all they like, but their motivation is crystal clear. They can try and drive me out of Fat Acceptance, but I will remain exactly where I have been for three years now. If they don’t like who I am or what I do, then they can all go fuck themselves.

      I’m sorry I took your words Stacy, but I think it is important for people to know exactly what kind of people are contributing to NOLOSE, and from the way they treated you they seem small-minded, petty and childish. They can’t handle a nuanced conversation, and they will not accept responsibility for the lies they included in their letter.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  4. March 22, 2012 2:11 pm

    though none of my comments in the white allies group were used, i would like to express my concern, as a member of that group, about other people’s comments being taken and used here. the info states, “This space is intended as a place for white people and people with white privilege to work on our privilege & racism.” i considered it a more private group than something likely to end up on a blog post.
    further, i want to clarify that the fb group is not nolose-affiliated.

    • March 22, 2012 2:27 pm

      Well, I’m done with that group, so they can rest assured their words won’t be used again. But for them to insist that I address their concerns without addressing mine is bullshit. I’ve been told that the questions I’ve asked are irrelevant and that the suggestions in the NOLOSE letter are all that matters. Bullshit again. If you start your list of suggestions by defaming me, then I have the right to question that defamation before I move on to the supposed dialogue they want to have.

      Otherwise, they are just exploiting the success we had with this campaign to promote their own agenda, which is nothing but pathetic opportunism.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • Adrienne permalink
      March 22, 2012 2:29 pm

      Correction: a comment from the white allies group WAS used. Shannon: that Facebook group is a closed community, and designated as a safe space. Take Rebecca Weingarten’s comment down IMMEDIATELY.

      • March 22, 2012 2:32 pm

        Rebecca’s comment was a generalization of the NOLOSE letter. There’s nothing revealing or personal about it.

        And when you get to the point where people are calling you a racist in public, you stop giving a shit about safe spaces. I have the right to defend myself and I have done exactly that.

        Peace,
        Shannon

        • janxa permalink
          March 22, 2012 3:04 pm

          I find the juxtaposition of “you stop giving a shit about safe spaces” and “peace” to be hilarious. Your premise is that two wrongs make a right. Your feel attacked so now you don’t care who you hurt or what confidence you betray. Of course you have the right to defend yourself, but what gives you the right to go into a group based on confidentiality and scoop up people’s words to use? It sucks that you feel defamed, but that doesn’t somehow make it cool to drop all your ethics. The WARDG could have been your supporters, but now they see you as someone with no respect which was kind of the whole point of the criticisms from NoLose in the first place. If your purpose here is to restore your good name you’re doing a really crappy job.

          • March 22, 2012 3:16 pm

            janxa,
            Do you know what shame and stigma do? They make people feel like shit and like giving up. For two days now, I have been shamed and stigmatized for a conversation that has been distorted to suit the needs of NOLOSE and their followers.

            A group of people who have done NOTHING in the fight against Strong4Life are now coming in to tell us how it could have been done better. You know how it could have been done better? If the people who supposedly knew all the answers had just done whatever the fuck they think needed to be done instead of sitting back and waiting for the right opportunity to launch accusations at me after the fact.

            I’m not worried about whether it’s “cool” to drop my ethics. I’m furious that people act like bullying and intimidating people into ideological alignment is perfectly acceptable. People have sent me messages saying they would speak up, but they’re afraid. They are afraid of getting called out by NOLOSE, or some other group of zealots.

            Well, the damage has been done to me, so I just don’t give a shit what people think any more. I’ve worked my ass off, got the results we wanted, and their response is to demonize me and discourage me from defending myself.

            I don’t have a good name. Never have, never will. But that doesn’t mean I don’t bristle at accusations of racism.

            Peace,
            Shannon

  5. romham permalink
    March 22, 2012 2:23 pm

    i am a member of that allies group, and we have worked on creating a space that is confidential. With this post you have utterly disrespected that space and disrespected the trust of the folks involved in what can be really painful processes of re-learning. Please, do the right thing and remove the pieces containing group members posts.

    • March 22, 2012 2:30 pm

      The only comments I included (aside from Stacy’s, which I removed) was Rebecca’s reiteration of a section of the letter and Lalita’s claims that she doesn’t have to answer my questions because she’s so busy. I see no reason to remove those pieces, as they illustrate my points. And since NOLOSE feels like they can twist my words to illustrate their points, I feel completely validated in this approach.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • romham permalink
        March 22, 2012 2:37 pm

        You have disrespected the intention of the group. Just because you feel they illustrate your point (they dont), doesnt give you the right to use peoples words in this way. You are taking all of your anger about NOLOSE out on people who arent even members of the NOLOSE POC caucus or on the NOLOSE board, but who simply disagree with you. It’s unacceptable and totally unnecessary. You’ve shown yourself quite clearly in this whole process.

        • March 22, 2012 2:46 pm

          And what gave NOLOSE the right to use my words to portray me as a racist? What gave NOLOSE the right to swoop in after all the work was done and say, “Hey what about us?” They talk about how crowd-sourcing excludes POCs. Okay, but how many of those NOLOSE co-signers were aware of the various campaigns fighting Strong4Life through social media? And how many of them either created their own campaign in response, to which we could go support their visions of inclusivity?

          NONE OF THEM.

          Correct me if I’m wrong.

          Peace,
          Shannon

          • romham permalink
            March 22, 2012 5:35 pm

            Do you realize that if you google “fat POC” one of the first things you will find is a site called “Fat POC”, “One post a day highlighting fat people of color. This could be a quote, photo, piece of art, or anything else. This is a blog dedicated to encouraging and showcasing fat (and non-“straight sized” people of color. We are anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-classist, anti-queer hatred, anti-trans*phobic, and generally an all inclusive space.”

            Then, you will find a facebook group called “This Is Our Zine – Anti-Fat/body/hair phobia for Indigenous/POC peoples” whos mission is “Online and printed zine about dealing with body/hair/size/fat phobia for and by Indigenous peoples, Black Peoples and people of colour.”

            or how about the Queer People of Colour Conference blog? where size is also part of the dialogue? http://qpocc.webs.com/

            or how about connecting with folks like Nomy Lamm? http://www.nomylamm.com/

            or the folks over at Sins Invalid? “Sins Invalid is a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized.”

            or check out posts like this
            http://www.racialicious.com/2008/03/24/intersectionality-extends-to-fat-acceptance-too/

            and this
            http://kateharding.net/2008/03/24/giving-a-shit/

            and so many more articles and ideas for expanding the nets cast in the work we’re involved in. Google ain’t perfect, and i’m sure you will find an excuse for not contacting any of these folks, or reasons why those links aren’t good enough, but if you and others had taken an even cursory glance at what’s out there, you would find resources. Any of these groups (and so many more) could be open to discussing, taking part, guiding, assisting in some way, some already were. But instead of recognize that fat POC were already being part of the process, you prefer to pick out pieces where you feel you are being personally targeted, as though you are some sort of special case of white centrism. Let me let you in on something: you’re not.

            No one is “portraying you as a racist”. Please, stop blaming NOLOSE for calling this out. Its not a personal attack on you, it is a call for ALL white fat activists to step the hell up.

  6. Lalita Devi permalink
    March 22, 2012 2:47 pm

    Remove my name and my comments from your public blog immediately, you did not have permission to reproduce them anywhere. You have committed a serious breach of confidentiality in order to “illustrate your points.” I am horrified by your behavior here.

    • March 22, 2012 2:48 pm

      Well, maybe now you can understand how I feel. I’ll remove your name, but not your words.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Lalita Devi permalink
        March 22, 2012 2:53 pm

        You sign an abusive, disrespectful denial of my right to confidentiality with ‘Peace,’ Shannon? You intend nothing of the sort. Remove my words from your blog. They are not yours to use.

        • March 22, 2012 3:08 pm

          Your words belong to the universe. I’m just borrowing them.

          Peace,
          Shannon

          • Lalita Devi permalink
            March 22, 2012 3:18 pm

            “Borrowed”? Really? You stole them from a confidential space, and you clearly have no intention of returning them. The Universe, indeed. Nice try.

        • Kala permalink
          March 22, 2012 5:41 pm

          There is no law that protects you from this. You have no confidentiality agreement with Shannon. Only your shuddering outrage.

          Are you afraid that the rest of us might see the shit that you spew behind your closed doors?

  7. March 22, 2012 2:47 pm

    If you can’t stand the heat, don’t put it on the fucking internet. And you can quote me.

    Shannon, if you ever want to get a hold of me, you can email me via my blog. I won’t be posting here for a while, at least until this stupid shit blows over.

  8. March 22, 2012 2:52 pm

    It is incredibly disrespectful to quote people from a closed group without their permission. Also you seem really fixated on saying that no one was addressing your questions or concerns, when I think it’s clear that basically a whole day of comments was about addressing and reframing those questions.

    If you’re going to quote me, you could at least use the whole quote, because what you chose to leave out is really telling about how you don’t want to think about this beyond immediate actions. I’ve reproduced it in its entirety for you here, with one typo fixed. I put it here not because I have any hope for a better reaction this time around from you, but because I feel you have completely misrepresented the conversation to make yourself look like you’re trying but no one is helping. I don’t have permission to put up other people’s quotes, but I can put up one of my own:

    I think the letter outlines pretty clearly that crowd-sourcing as a method of activism is exclusionary to POC much of the time. It leaves them out when white people are the originators of a crowd-sourced campaign because our social networks are almost always filled with lots of other people like us, so a white person will end up crowd-sourcing to other white people. It also leaves POC out because white people have a disproportionate amount of access to social media. In this case in particular, fat activism is already overwhelmingly white, so to crowd source to the fat activist community in general is to invite a disproportionate number of white people. But more importantly, this goes beyond crowd-sourcing, to the idea that when we say, “All are welcome” we are somehow actually welcoming everyone. I feel no doubt that when we say “all are welcome” (and we do this as activists all the time) we mean it with the best intention, but we’re missing the point, because unless POC see that we are actively working on being anti-racist – ie actively working with them and trying to be aware of our shit – then to say we welcome them is just to ask them in to another of a million situations where they will encounter racism and then be told they are difficult or have a tone problem or are calling someone evil when they try to point it out or work against it. Welcoming everyone is welcoming to the people who already feel they will be treated well, it is welcoming to the people who aren’t already worn down and exhausted by having to fight the same fight to be heard again and again. So this wasn’t about who exactly to reach out to – my understanding of the letter was that the method of crowd-sourcing has an impact (not an intent, but an impact) which amplifies white images/voices and leaves out the important work of considering how racist the original strong4life campaign is.

    • March 22, 2012 3:08 pm

      Rebecca,
      Where is your suggestion, aside from saying that crowd-sourcing is inherently racist. Okay, then how do I, a guy in St. Louis, organize a response to Strong4Life, a campaign in Georgia, without relying on social media? You point to plenty of problems with the method, but do not offer a solution.

      And if NOLOSE knew how to fight Strong4Life with an appropriate campaign that included greater diversity, then why didn’t they do so? I have not seen any evidence that they have done anything on this particular issue until they decided to write a letter complaining about my comments. Or am I to understand that perfect inaction is preferable to imperfect action?

      Peace,
      Shannon

  9. vesta44 permalink
    March 22, 2012 3:53 pm

    Shannon – When I first read that letter, my thought was “WTF? Do y’all need an engraved invitation to this project?” An open call was put out for help, and the ones who are complaining about not being included because POC don’t have as much access to social media have just as much access to social media as I do, as a white person (if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have known about the project at all and wouldn’t have known they were supposedly being excluded). My other thought was who else is doing anything about fighting the CHOA/S4L campaign? Who else is organizing write-in campaigns, who else is coordinating people who are taking S4L to task on their Facebook page, who else is organizing Twitter campaigns, etc? How many of those other efforts were started/organized/coordinated by POC? They’re complaining because we, as white people, didn’t come to their table? What table? Where was it and what kind of work were they doing? Where did they publicize their work, where did they put out a call for help to fight CHOA/S4L?
    This whole NoLose thing has been bullshit from the beginning – their description says nothing about POC being specific members – it’s a community of fat dykes, bisexual women, transgendered folks and our allies, seeking to end the oppression of fat people. Those members could be any color – red, white, black, brown, yellow, purple with pink polka dots and there’s no way to know, short of being told by said person what their color is. I’m sorry, but I’m working to end the oppression of fat people, period, and I don’t give a rat’s ass what color they are. I’m also not asking anyone who’s willing to help what their color, gender, race, sexuality, size, or age is as long as they’re willing to help end fat oppression. If that’s not good enough for NoLose, well, too bad, that’s one of the main reasons I don’t join organizations – I’m not going to be told how to do my activism or that I’m not doing enough or I’m not doing it correctly or what-the-hell-ever because there’s always someone out there who isn’t going to be satisfied by what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, how much I’m doing, who I’m including/not including.

    • March 22, 2012 3:58 pm

      Thanks vesta.

      Unless they can show me where NOLOSE was doing something and we neglected them, I just don’t give a shit. I feel so wrought out over this and for what? Because NOLOSE thinks I didn’t respond to Julia Starkey the way she wanted me to? If they can do better, let them. I’m done.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • March 22, 2012 7:50 pm

      Vesta…you said a mouthful, this whole thing has made me not what to read my email any more…and I feel the same way you do about activism. Who has the right to critize how we do our good works? Just so long as we are doing our best.

      I hope that if Shannon does continue on with this campaign he might think about how to be more inclusive from here on in…(after all it’s been hammered into all of our heads by now.) But no one is perfect and I’m sure no one expected to be lamb-basted for calling out the shameful ad campaign in Georgia that would have been so harmful to another generation of people growing up in a fat phobic world.

      I consider myself a fat activist and my activism is through my art…I don’t have all the facts at my finger tips to argue sensibly with someone who doesn’t believe in the non-diet HAES approach. So I am very fearful of putting myself in a situation where I would need to relay on facts and figures…could I take the time to study and learn them? Probably! Do I have the time? Absolutely not! Does that make me any less a HAES Advocate? I really don’t think so…We all have different priorities and to assume that because we have been told that we need more information…and we have not gone out hunting for it means we are less of an activist is just ridiculous.

      I am wondering why NOLOSE needs a POC Caucus if they are doing everything so perfectly? I really hope this ends soon…I just feel so red faced when I read these posts…Shannon…I am sorry you are being run through the ringer like this…I really hope this whole issue is ended with this post…because it seems with every other comment we get deeper and deeper into a mire of hostility and a new level of humiliation.

      • faycinacroud permalink
        March 23, 2012 1:45 pm

        I feel the same way. I’m not a wizard with statistics or research the way Shannon or Ragen from Dances With Fat is. I can only say how I feel being treated the way I have. I think there is room for all of us and we can all work together. I find this whole attack on Shannon very disheartening.

        • March 23, 2012 4:17 pm

          disheartening is the word for it. But I think I might have learned something from it myself…I am planning a big conference here in Michigan for Women in the Arts and yesterday we met at that infamous Scarab club which is 105 yrs old…down town Detroit, and the Society of Women Painters and Sculptures…and I brought up the fact that I wanted to visit some specific studio spaces on the tours that included more POC’s…okay I’m cracking myself up. When I asked both leading women from the different groups how many POC;s they had in their organizations they went white…I mean whiter then white….We are in Down Town Detroit?? and we are not going to see any African American Artists??? had this whole shit storm not occured I bet I would not have thought about. So as uncomfortable as it has made me..and it really has…It has made me think a little more about inclusion.

  10. LittleBigGirl permalink
    March 22, 2012 8:35 pm

    My two pennies dropped here…
    1) Why are there two “tables”? Why aren’t we all sitting at one awesome table of Fat Activism?
    2) When did enlightenment become a bad thing? Isn’t a large part of our (fat) activism trying to educate people and clear up the misinformation about things like what it means to be fat and to reveal to those who may not realize how fat people are mistreated? If we say that someone should get a clue, shouldn’t we tell them what clue to get and wouldn’t it behoove us to tell them where to get it? If we do not encourage questions and create a positive learning environment, how can we hope to see any change? How *can* people learn if we don’t teach them, or at least have the compassion to try and show them where they can educate themselves?

    3) I feel like a little girl who wants to hide under the bed and cover her ears because her parents are fighting. I didn’t realize the “fierce” in this site’s title meant how you all treat each other. I used to look forward to new blog posts here but my joy in those has been pretty effectively killed off. This is not the safe or supportive space it could be right now, and I hope people can please take a deep breath and realize that at the very least this is detrimental to the cause.

    I can’t make anyone here take a time out, so I’m going to remove myself because I know the effect anger, stress and depression have on my health and this board isn’t good for my health right now.

    Thanks to all,
    LBG

    • faycinacroud permalink
      March 23, 2012 1:47 pm

      “Why are there two “tables”? Why aren’t we all sitting at one awesome table of Fat Activism?”
      EXACTLY!
      I don’t like fighting of this nature either. The whole thing seems extremely unnecessary.

  11. March 23, 2012 6:36 pm

    My question for you Atchka and all those who are so gleefully joining in to trash people who are calling for more anti-racist awareness in fat activism…. do you actually care about ending ALL forms of oppression, or only the one(s) that target you?

    If the answer is that you DO care about ending ALL forms, then really, in the end, the question of who said what doesnt matter that much…what matters is keeping on with the work of learning how to build a better world.

    I get being offended if you think that you have been misrepresented. I dont know if you were misrepresented or not. What I do know is that if we care about ending racism then we care about it even if a person of colour is mad at us. If we care about ending racism then we keep doing the work even if a group of people of colour are (as we see it) disrespectful to us. If we care about ending racism then we dont bail on the work just because we feel personally attacked.

    If you care about ending racism, and you feel misrepresented, then it is fine to say so. But it is not fine to use that as a reason to throw out any concern about racism or the impact of your words due to white privilege.

    And before you say that you have not done that, stop. Consider this. Atchka – in this thread you called a group of people of colour “sacks of shit”.
    Take a moment please and consider what it is like to read that for any person of colour who happens by your blog. I have rarely read something so dehumanizing as this from someone who is at the same time claiming a place in the larger movement for social justice.

    If you care about ending all forms of oppression – if you care about not perpetuating racism, then you need to live up to that commitment and not make it contingent on how any one individual or any group of people of colour do or do not behave.

    You have fallen down here. No matter what else is true about the sequence of events that led to this point, where you have chosen to go in defending yourself is extremely problematic.

    I would suggest to you that you cannot actually do the work you want to do – the work of challenging society’s assumptions about “the science of obesity and health” – if you dont incorporate an anti-racist (and an anti-sexist, anti-abelist, etc…) analysis into your work – at least you cannot do it well. Kind of like the mainstream feminist movement’s tendency to ignore race, and ability, and cis privilege, and class, and fat, and so on and on and on…

    I would also suggest to you that anti-racism – and indeed the work of ending EVERY form of oppression – must be a priority for each of us. The work of ending racism should not ever be seen as only the concern of people of colour. Racism plays AS POWERFUL a role in shaping each white person (our sense of self, our understanding of the world, and our political work) as anything else going on in our lives – fat oppression included – whether we know it or not. When people of colour ask us to do anti-racist work it makes no sense to characterize that as them asking us to put their priorities ahead of our own – unless we in fact DO NOT CARE about ending racism.

    Do you care? If so, then this is your priority as well. It might not feel good, but whatever else is true about what has happened here, this is a call to greater integrity in the sense of having there be greater congruence between our value of anti-racism, and how we actually live our lives – and specifically how we, as white people in the fat justice movement do our work.

    I know from personal experience that it is scary and painful to be called out – especially publicly. And I hear you that you feel you have been misrepresented.

    But what it always comes back to is this:

    Do you have a commitment to ending all forms of oppression? Or only those that target you? And if you want to see yourself and be seen as someone who cares about social justice for everyone, how will you show it at this time?

    Because in the end, it is what we do at times precisely like this one that show whether our commitment to social justice is real. At times like this we never get to stay static – we either move on to deeper realms of learning and commitment or else we devolve to new lows.

    The sack of shit comment – that was definitely a low. But it is never too late – we always have the choice to choose diferently. I am happy to talk. I have no interest in making you feel badly. I myself have said stuff as messed up as anything you have said here. I have an interest in supporting you if you choose to use this as an opportunity to grow. Feel free to contact me – I think you get my email when I post this. Email me any time and I will do my best to respond as soon as I can.

    I leave you with these questions once again:

    Do you care about ending all forms of oppression?
    If yes, how will you make that commitment mean something, right now?

    Here’s wishing for a better world!
    Kalamity

    • Kala permalink
      March 23, 2012 6:48 pm

      Hold the phone:

      “And before you say that you have not done that, stop. Consider this. Atchka – in this thread you called a group of people of colour “sacks of shit”. Take a moment please and consider what it is like to read that for any person of colour who happens by your blog.”

      Shannon called a group of individuals that were of mixed race, sacks of shit, for being dishonest about something. But primarily he was targeting his most vocal detractors, who are almost all entirely white.

      By your logic, there is something wrong for calling out an inaccuracy as an inaccuracy. Do you feel that people of color are magically so wise, that a group consisting of them, in part or in total, is somehow infallible? And if that’s not the case, I guess regardless of the possibility of an ethical lapse, POC should be given slack, because other POC might see you criticizing a group of POC for saying something inaccurate and get upset? I guess the next time I sit down and grade papers, I should make sure not to be too harsh on POC students for getting wrong answers, even if their answers are wrong, because other POC students might see that and think I’m a racist?

      • March 23, 2012 9:51 pm

        Did I say that there is something wrong with calling an inaccuracy an inaccuracy? I just recall saying that no matter what anyone else does or does not do, we remain responsible for doing the work of anti-racism. At least if we want a world in which all forms of oppression are dismantled. Do you disagree with that?

        • Kala permalink
          March 24, 2012 1:54 am

          I clearly quoted which portion of your statement I disagreed with.

    • March 24, 2012 12:18 am

      Kalamity,
      First of all, thank you for being respectful. I am not a pitbull, as many seem to think I am. If you respectfully disagree, I welcome any questions.

      The sack of shit comment was not aimed at POCs, it was aimed at the people who are calling me racist or suggesting that I engaged in racial exclusion, which included Marianne Kirby and Rachel Adams, both appearing white.

      Yes, I do care about ending all forms of oppression, but I only have so many hours in a day, and I don’t even consider myself as working on the oppression of fat people.

      Typically, my work involves the science of obesity, and debunking health myths. I also dabble in cultural stuff, but mainly I read research and everything I can find about obesity and health. I’m also working on a book of the same subject. I also have a wife and three kids and a full time job and a two-hour round-trip commute. My time is limited and while I oppose all forms of oppression, I cannot fight them all. I consider my role as an ally exchange knowledge. Some people don’t want to do that. That’s fine. But I do not demand that anyone educate me.

      I may have more later, but now I’m going to bed.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  12. s m permalink
    March 24, 2012 4:56 pm

    Feeder.

    • March 24, 2012 7:49 pm

      How cute, someone who doesn’t have the balls to sign their name to their comments. Piss off.

      • s m permalink
        March 25, 2012 9:03 pm

        Conflicts with supposed goal.

  13. Ismoon Maria Hunter-Morton permalink
    March 25, 2012 4:36 pm

    Hi. My name is Ismoon Maria Hunter-Morton. I’m a librarian in Portland, Oregon and my email addy is ismoon.maria@gmail.com. I’m happy to have public or private discussions about race, racism, white privilege and intersectionality. I would like to think that in the future, social justice activists could be aware of not only the ways in which we experience oppression (me: disabled, queer femme, bbw) but also the ways we perpetuate oppression by not understanding our own power (unasked for yet buried/unexamined) to oppress others (me: white, educated, us citizen, cisgender). I have read everything I can on this blog, and I understand that Shannon and his supporters are suuuuper pissed. But, people, Shannon is still a white guy. Shannon, I so appreciate your activism and your ability to speak up and dialogue. However, there is privilege and power in being white and being male in our society. Why can’t people of color in the fat activist community say to you and all white fat activists, including myself, “Wait. I feel excluded. White people’s experiences are being centered in this community. I’m being racially marginalized at an institutional and individual level. Please stop.” Thanks for you considering this and all feedback is welcome. Best, Ismoon

    PS I am one of the people in the White Anti-Racism Resource Group for Size Activists on Facebook. I am against the posting of private information in a public space. I understand that trust can be broken when people are angry and feel like they are being victimized. It does not help this process of change go forward, and explodes the communities we are trying to build as organizers imho.

    • March 25, 2012 6:32 pm

      Can I just say, thank you for one of the few posts I’ve seen with this whole debacle that manages to be respectful while disagreeing?

      That said, I don’t think that anyone is denying the existence of privilege. What a lot of us are denying is the leap seemingly made by the attackers that SIMPLY because you’re white, you’re a racist. Shannon is also being accused of a malevolent agenda, and that’s just not the case. In my personal opinion, benefiting from privilege (fat white female Jewish autistic, fyi) is simply not the same as being an -ist. All men are not sexist just because they are male. All Christians are not anti-Semitic just because they’re Christian. Nor are all white people racist because they were born white. It just doesn’t follow that way.

      • March 26, 2012 9:16 am

        I agree. I have repeatedly expressed support for most of the NOLOSE letter. Where I have objected is the way it represents my interaction with Julia Starkey. But people act like I can’t object to their version of events AND find the overall points valid. I don’t understand this. I have only objected to the insistence that there was a racial motivation to my response, when no such motivation existed. The rest of it I agree with and am interested in working on.

        Peace,
        Shannon

    • March 25, 2012 6:45 pm

      I second CC. This was a nice comment and I thank you for leaving it.

      I don’t deny the existence of privilege at all, nor do I deny that people feel excluded. I feel excluded too sometimes when it comes to my own disprivileges. What I object to is the way these issues are oversimplified. I talk about it at great length in these comments and on my blog, but the gist is I don’t agree with this culture of permanent victimhood for certain groups of people that seems to be popular in liberal circles.

      I also don’t agree necessarily with the need for “inclusion.” I think it matters in the sense that we need all kinds and they should be allowed to express their views. However, you don’t need an engraved invitation to do this. When I noticed that there weren’t many poor voices, or non-progressive voices, or voices outside the FA mainstream, I just jumped right in and started talking. Don’t like it? Don’t read me. I don’t need to be “invited” in.

    • March 25, 2012 7:52 pm

      I just emailed you.

      Peace,
      Shannon

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