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Fattygate —

January 3, 2013
by

Warning: The Dickweed rating is because whenever I write posts like this I tend to sound like a huge dickweed.

Yesterday, I logged onto the Facebook (http://www.thefacebook.com) and I see a post on the People of Size page, run by Rebecca Jane Weinstein, whom I admire and respect a lot and write glowing reviews of for Fatmas and whose current project, Fat Kids, I strongly support and whose Kickstarter I want to succeed (so go donate!) That’s why I was kind of taken aback as I read her “Thought of the day”:

Thought of the day: Does anyone besides me hate being called a “fattie”? I have no problem with fat, in fact I understand and agree that is important to make that word neutral. But the word fattie, to me, is infantalizing. Because I’m fat does that mean I have to be subjected to “cute” nicknames without my approval? Why not just call me Tub ‘O Lard or Santa? I don’t like being called Becky either. I have nothing against Becky, it just doesn’t suit me, makes me feel like a child. So fattie is fine, for anyone who likes it. But the trend of called all fat people fatties irritates me. What do you think?

At this point, I’m feeling on the spot. I know it’s not specifically about me, but if there’s anyone in the Size Acceptance movement who has encouraged the “trend” of calling fat people fatties, it’s me. It’s the name of the fucking site for fuck’s sake.


She responds to another person, “[U]sing fatties is really common inside the size acceptance movement. It’s not intended as derogatory. I find it derogatory, but a lot of people like it.”

Okay, so she finds it derogatory when people inside the Size Acceptance movement use the term “fatty”; ergo, for the past three years, she thinks that I have been using a derogatory term for a website name. It’s the first I’ve heard her say this, though I haven’t read everything she’s written.

So, then someone asks what she thinks of the Fit Fatties Forum, a group run by Jeanette DePatie and Ragen Chastain. Rebecca’s response:

We’re not sponsoring it, though I think the group is great. Fit Fatties Forum would not be my first choice in names, but I’ll give it a pass because the whole name is cute and the word works in the overall name. I guess you have to account for context. There is also the blog Fierce Freethinking Fatties. In that case I think it’s meant to be irreverent, and I’m OK with that.

This is where I’m confused. Up to this point, she has been fairly straightforward in her criticism. According to Rebecca, calling all fat people fatties (something I do with great frequency, most recently in my post on that thin-whinging Kickstarter douchebag) is infantilizing;  is just as bad as calling someone Tub ‘O Lard or Santa (I had no idea “Santa” was an insult on par with tub o’ lard… I would have gone fatass); and it irritates her that she’s “subjected to ‘cute’ nicknames without her approval.” But she’s willing to make exceptions for Fit Fatties Forum because “the whole name is cute.” And she’s willing to exempt us because it’s meant to be irreverent.

True, but I, and the rest of our bloggers, also use the term frequently to identify the group we’re writing about: fatties. And we use the term in the exact same way that Rebecca says is derogatory (calling all fat people fatties). But either the “nickname” is offensive or it’s not. You can’t express outrage at people who use the term, then say, “Oh, but you two groups are exempt because I personally approve of the way you use the term.” I mean, you can, but it’s inconsistent and arbitrary. What if someone else finds Fit Fatties Forum horribly offensive?

What happens?

Nothing.

You have your opinion and I have mine.

And my opinion is that the connotation for fat and fatty are nearly identical. People who want to insult you can call you fat and fatty with equal venom. The connotation of fat is there whether someone is using it clinically or cutely or not. People respond to the word “fat” no matter how delicately or inoffensively the term is used. But the connotation is determined by both the dominant culture and the individual hearing the word “fat.” And if the negative connotations of fat can be overcome, both culturally and individually, then fatty can as well. And people do that by reclaiming the word and wearing it as a badge of honor.

That’s what happened with the N-word and queer, both reclaimed identities.

And as CC said in her response to one of my Facebook posts, adding her autistic perspective:

Some people find “Aspie” infantilizing, while others say “Aspergian” is stupid and star-trekky. Others demand we use “person first” language (person with autism) rather than “person last” language (autistic person). Everyone has the right to say what they want to be called, but you sure as shit don’t have the right to speak for me.

I really don’t care how Rebecca chooses to identify herself, but I was bothered by the fact that she seemed to be calling out the very behavior that I engage in on a regular basis. I call groups of fat people fatties as a matter of “journalistic” (for what it’s worth) style. When I’m writing about the shit that fat people have to put up with, I often use “fatties” as a short hand, as an identity. As such, I routinely subject Rebecca to those “cute” nicknames that she finds so derogatory.

So, I have to conclude that either she has only read the title of this blog and not the content, or else she’s making special exceptions for certain groups within Size Acceptance based solely on her opinion of what is and is not the offensive use of the term.

I don’t know, I find it all so confusing and I responded in anger, and for that I’m sorry. But at the same time, I feel like our blog was thrown under the bus, only to be dragged from the wheel well after the fact, bloody and battered. Am I over-reacting? Is “fatty” really that offensive?

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54 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2013 11:40 am

    D’you know what? Stressing over what we call ourselves thing is just a waste of time. I personally detest the word obese – but I don’t object to people using it, that’s the medical term. I also happen to think the medical words for genitals sound pretty horrible, and when Sheldon uses the word ‘coitus’ on The Big Bang Theory I cringe. But fat, fatty, chubster…bounces right off me. And I agree – if it’s supposed to be derogatory in one context, how can it be OK in another? It either is…or it isn’t.

    • Theresa permalink
      January 3, 2013 12:40 pm

      Coitus …. *gigglesnort*

    • January 3, 2013 1:02 pm

      I agree. I don’t think the way that other people identify is really any of my business. I try to only use the term “obese” when discussing research or issues that surround the BMI classifications.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Paul Ernsberger permalink
        January 5, 2013 10:50 am

        I agree 100%.

  2. January 3, 2013 11:42 am

    As usual this is Shannon’s take on reality without consideration for the totality of the situation. It’s is edited to suit him. Beyond that I have nothing to say. If you want to see the actual discussion, go to http://www.facebook.com/peopleofsize. I wish everyone at Fierce Fatties Forum the very best. Whether or not I like a word in the title has no bearing on whether or not I like the content. Besides which I didn’t even take issue with it in this context. But, whatever.

    Rebecca Jane Weinstein

    • January 3, 2013 1:00 pm

      Rebecca,
      I did not bring up the “totality of the situation” because I wanted to discuss your original concerns, which were best represented by your comments prior to my response. As I said in this post, and to you privately, I responded in anger and I am sorry for that. But you clearly did take issue with the context of my usage because what you describe as offensive and derogatory is exactly the way I use the term.

      My take on the situation in this post is my attempt to clean up my original response and to clarify the reasons why I did respond in anger. I felt like you were partially attacking my work, and I responded to that.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • January 3, 2013 1:08 pm

        Shannon, you told me why you are angry at me, and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with whether I find it uncomfortable when someone calls me “a fatty,” as opposed to fat. Because I am not a complete asshole I won’t share what the real problem between us is. But please, please feel free to tell people what you really think of my “bullshit” book.

        • January 3, 2013 1:15 pm

          Rebecca,
          That’s not the reason I’m angry at you. I wasn’t angry at all, I just thought your critique was mean, just like you said you think I’m mean. And I did not say that your book was bullshit. What I said was bullshit was that the fact that you repeatedly used your book as the ideal to which I should aspire with mine. You wrote a completely different book from what I was writing, yet you kept acting like if I only followed your example, my book would be perfect. That, to me, is bullshit.

          Peace,
          Shannon

          • January 3, 2013 1:26 pm

            Yes, I think you are vindictive and mean. As for your book, you asked for a completely honest evaluation and completely honestly I thought it needed a lot of editing. I also said there was some excellent content. If I recall I compared it to my book stylistically, and in terms of editing. And what you said is you could easily have red-lined my book, but you were, in essence above that. Then you interpreted my saying I didn’t have time to go through your book in detail as “surly.” It has nothing to do with surliness, it has to do with the number of hours in the day. And I’m glad we’re having this discussion in public because now I feel even more certain that your whole thing was retribution for anger you have been harboring for months. I’m through now.

            • January 3, 2013 1:39 pm

              Whatever, Rebecca. As always, I stated upfront that I respect that your life is a priority and if you didn’t have time that was fine. What I found surly was when I would ask you a question you would respond with a terse reply that did not answer my question or help me identify the problems you vaguely alluded to. Plus, at first you said you’d be willing to discuss it over the phone, then when I asked if we could discuss it over the phone because I wanted to understand your critique better, you suddenly said it wouldn’t help to talk it through and that you didn’t have time. That was fine, but throughout the exchange you were brusque and short-tempered. I have no problem with sharp critiques, but you seemed slightly sadistic in your delivery.

              I could dig up the references to how my book should strive to be like yours, but it’s not worth it. You’ve decided that I’m mad about X, when I’m really mad about Y. I was more perplexed by the meanness of X than anything, as I told you privately.

              Peace,
              Shannon

        • Kala permalink
          January 3, 2013 6:12 pm

          Rebecca,

          Why is it appropriate for you to come to Shannon’s website and air dirty laundry between the two of you, while at the same time banning him from any discussion on your page? Is it so people like Kimberly Galloway and Heidi Rempel can take a shit on him without him being able to say anything back (although Kim did make her haughty tl;dr posts here [really Kim, learn the art of the paragraph])?

          It’s a bit childish that you assert that not only do you know his exact emotions, that you also know for sure what he is or isn’t angry about. The last time I checked, you were neither a mind reader nor a soothsayer. So pettily insisting that you just *know* rings false.

  3. January 3, 2013 11:44 am

    Sorry, I’m a little upset by this whole thing. Fierce Freethinking Fatties. I was confusing it with Fit Fatties Forum, which I think is great and I am a member.

  4. January 3, 2013 11:44 am

    I don’t find ‘fatty’ offensive, although I would have done pre-HAES/Size acceptance. As you say, fatty/fat/tub-o-lard, if they’re being hurled as insults, and you are sensitive to comments on your size, then you will be hurt. Now that I am no longer ashamed of who I am, I use fatty all the time both in speech and in writing.

    Of course, what RW finds offensive, is entirely up to her. What she chooses to elicit other people’s opinions about, ditto. And whether she chooses to be totally inconsistent in her preferences is completely within her rights as a fallible human being.

    Are you over-reacting? Um, maybe a bit. But you know, this has got me thinking. It never occurred to me before that ‘fatty’ was infantilising, and as I started to read the post above, my first response was probably somewhere along the lines of ‘harumph’, but the more I think about it, are we maybe using the word to make ourselves seem more benign? Less threatening? Us sweet, harmless fatties. OK, we’re not so sweet around here. We’re fierce and free-thinking. But it has given me pause for some free-thought.

  5. Duckie Graham permalink
    January 3, 2013 11:45 am

    I speak for no one else, but I am not offended by the word “fatty.”

  6. vesta44 permalink
    January 3, 2013 11:58 am

    For me, personally, whether “fatty” is offensive or not depends on the context – who is using the term, how they’re using the term, why they’re using it that way, etc. What offends me the most about that term? The fact that people use it as an epithet, as an insult, to hurt people. And that offends me about every word that can be used to insult/hurt anyone.
    Yes, I’m fat, so I could be called a “fatty”. Big fucking deal. Anyone who would use that term to hurt me is someone that I could give a shit if they live or die. Because the people who know me and love me wouldn’t use that term for me, and everyone else? Can eat shit and bark at the moon for all I care.
    I’ve reclaimed a lot of the words that fat people find offensive simply because I’m a perverse bitch who loves the look of confusion and shock on someone’s face when I use those terms to refer to myself. It’s like they’re thinking “WTF?! She’s dissing herself, that’s our job to dis her, she can’t do that!” My take on it is that if you think you’re going to insult me by calling me a fatty, calling me a fat ass, calling me a bitch, calling me a whale, or whatever insult you can come up that means I’m fat and opinionated, guess again. It ain’t happening. If I don’t know you and you’re rude enough to try that shit with me, you’re going to get called on it and then I’m going to walk away from you like you don’t even exist. Because I don’t know you, don’t want to know you, and don’t give a rat’s ass about what you think of anything. And it’s not my job to educate you on manners, your parents should have done that when you were a child.
    I’ve probably used the term “fatties” in a blog post or two (or however many) because it’s a shorthand way of saying fat people. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but when I’m blogging, collectively calling fat people “fatties” isn’t meant to hurt anyone, it’s meant as a way of collectively referring to fat people without having to use the awkwardness of typing fat people numerous times. I’m using it, not to say that being fat is bad, but to say that “Yes, we’re fat, we’re here, get used to it, and learn to deal with it. We’re not going away, and we’re going to be more and more in your face demanding the rights you don’t think we deserve.”

    • The Real Cie permalink
      January 9, 2013 7:01 pm

      I always liked the attitude of “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect.
      “You call yourself ‘Fat Amy’?”
      “Yeah, so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.”
      I don’t mind being identified as fat. I do have a problem with the word “obese.” It’s such an ugly word and very demeaning. To me, fat is neutral.

  7. Leila Haddad permalink
    January 3, 2013 12:06 pm

    I don’t care if you call me fat. But I wouldn’t at all like it if you said “Hey Fattie, come over here”. So I do understand where Rebecca is coming from, I think. Look at it this way. My boyfriend is black. It is how he describes himself. Would I ever say “Hey blackie, how ya doing?” I think not…

    • January 3, 2013 12:17 pm

      Leila,
      I completely understand that. Having some random person shout “Hey Fatty!” is offensive. But Rebecca is speaking specifically about people with Size Acceptance referring to all fat people as fatties. Here’s an example from the post I mentioned above that I wrote:

      A fatty can be less sexually promiscuous after a lifetime of being treated like an unattractive, unfuckable blob monster. But a similar sized fatty raised under those exact same circumstances can revolt against those assumptions by becoming an insatiable fuck-monster.

      I use the term “fatty” as a collective identity. I would never call someone a fatty in person, unless I knew them, they were my friend and I was certain they had no problem with the term. But Rebecca does not seem to be talking about that situation. She’s specifies that it’s the use within Size Acceptance that she finds derogatory. But if you’re in Size Acceptance, would you really use it in that kind of flippant, vaguely insulting way? I doubt it.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Leila Haddad permalink
        January 3, 2013 12:50 pm

        I hear ya. Just sorting out my thoughts on the matter. I have never been offended by the use of it in the context of this blog or what you write certainly.

  8. Theresa permalink
    January 3, 2013 12:23 pm

    Content warning: unbridled profanity.

    This is a timely topic for me because I experienced some major butthurt recently after offending a blogger whose blog I really love. A comment that I posted was against the commenting rules, which on this particular blog require — I shit you not — at least hours to read in their entirety. Days, if you click on all the links.

    Because the commenting rules were TL;DR, instead of editing my comment after hearing from their mod, I posted again explaining myself. This was of course a mistake because the next day I found both of my comments had been REMOVED! Why? Because I, Theresa, am apparently insufficiently progressive to be allowed to post on this blog. At least, that’s what my butthurt self said, pouting. I was tempted to flounce — what grownup needs to be protected from entire fucking topics and needs fucking trigger warnings for any post that isn’t about sunshine and puppy dogs? Buncha babies… (and so on, said my still-butthurt self).

    Eventually I skimmed the TL;DR content and word-searched my alleged offenses and indeed, discovered that I had not only touched upon a subject that’s forbidden on this blog but also failed to post what should have been multiple trigger warnings on my second post.
    Fuck, I said. Whatthefuckever. Her blog, her rules. Grrr. Merry Fuckin’ Christmas, dammit (’cause this happened ON Christmas, and threatened to ruin my day — HOW COULD THEY?).

    After that I think I finally began to handle the situation correctly by doing *nothing at all,* beyond thinking about what my part may have been in this little melodrama. And to my dismay it took me several days to start getting the fuck over myself. Finally I posted another comment — something completely innocuous like “happy holidays blogmistress” or somesuch, as a demonstration of good faith. Also to see if I’d been banned. I wasn’t — the comment showed up immediately. Which made me realize that I’m the only one still thinking about this (which is as it should be).

    Then yesterday I came across an article on xoJane that is helping me complete the process of getting the fuck over myself. As a bonus exercise in acceptance, it was written by someone whose behavior I’ve found to be highly objectionable in the past, but who is in fact an excellent writer. And as much as I hate to admit it, she hits the nail on the head here, and tells me what I STILL need to do in order to handle these situations better in the future, the bitch. (Kidding Lesley! Thanks for writing the article. I mean it. Grudgingly. But I do mean it.)

    Clearly I am still not done with this issue.

    http://www.xojane.com/issues/ask-lesley-how-do-i-stop-accidentally-offending-people-all-the-time

  9. hlkolaya permalink
    January 3, 2013 12:32 pm

    I have to say, I feel a little on the spot about Rebecca’s assertions that ‘fatty’ is infantalizing and derogatory too considering I run a group called “the triangle fatties”. I don’t understand how it’s anymore derogatory than “fat” and i don’t understand how it sounds childlike at all. I suppose that’s a personal preference, but it shouldn’t be pushed on other people. Other people shouldn’t be called out for something that she personally feels even though she knows other people are fine with it. I don’t know.. I know I’m rambling, but I feel personally hurt by her statements especially as someone I greatly respect.

    • January 3, 2013 1:00 pm

      hlkolaya, read the entire conversation and see the context. It was a conversation topic in a discussion group. I posted the idea and then asked what people thought. We have many conversations that address controversial issues — that’s a large point of the group. I actually said Fierce Freethinking Fatties was an irreverent title witch I liked. There was context to when I didn’t like the term fatty, and it was very specific. It had nothing, NOTHING, to do with the word fat. It was a semantic point about how sometimes the way we use words empowers and sometimes makes us seem less serious. It was literally a “thought of the day.” Something that came into my mind and I posted for discussion. I equated it with nicknames that make me feel childlike, such as shortening my name to Becky. I felt it didn’t suit me, and likewise, while I call myself fat, I don’t call myself fatty. I was also pointing out that drawing lines can sometimes seem arbitrary, like if fatty is OK, then is tub of lard? It was about where we choose to make distinctions – not that calling someone fatty and tub of lard are the same thing.

      I don’t recall Shannon every posting in that group (he may have, but he doesn’t regularly). This had nothing to do with him, or any SA group that uses the term to empower. And it was, as I said, an idiosyncratic preference of mine personally, which I brought up for discussion. Almost no one agreed with me. But with no one else did that degenerate into a two day battle over who is more offensive and offended.

      I really don’t want to be discussing this here. But it is difficult when Shannon goes on the attack. I don’t appreciate my reputation being impugned because he is now obsessed with this.

      Rebecca

    • The Real Cie permalink
      January 9, 2013 7:03 pm

      Heather, I feel that the context in which you are doing it is reclaiming the word and taking the nastiness out of it. The same way that gays have reclaimed words such as “queer.” I like it.

  10. Matt Seegz permalink
    January 3, 2013 12:48 pm

    My enlightened contribution to this topic is as follows: butts.

  11. January 3, 2013 2:21 pm

    Umm, where does a fatty begin and end or does one ever cease being a fatty or never one to begin with. I see fatties everywhere….lol. Yes little fatties, tiny fatties, big fatties, and super sized fatties, all over the world – I see you. You can’t hide…. oh well. We’re all fat. The end or is that the beginning?

    • January 3, 2013 3:09 pm

      Twix,
      Excellent questions. When I refer to fatties, I’m referring to those who are affected by whatever subject I’m referring to. So, when I talked about perceptions of fatties and sexuality, there’s a huge grey area where some people say “Yeah, that person is fat!” and others say “No, they’re not!” So it’s intentionally vague. I use it as a catchall for identifying the affected group.

      But I feel like anyone can identify as a fatty. We’ve had former bloggers who lost over 100 pounds, but still felt fat and still identified as fatties (which is why they blogged with us). So, I think there are two issues: self-identification and group identification. Self-identification is up to you, but when I’m identifying a group, I sort of leave it up to you to define who is and is not a fatty. It’s just easier than saying “those in the overweight and obese categories…”

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • January 4, 2013 12:18 am

        Yep, it’s a matter of perception. I think my humor on the matter fails to bleed through. You see, I see it this way, all people are fatties. None of us can get away from some sort of fat…. what makes us human is to have it. I’m grateful I’m a human and thankful for the role fat plays. Geez to think what life would really be like sans all fat. So to her or whoever, we’re all fat… get over it.

      • Marilyn permalink
        January 4, 2013 5:12 pm

        I lost 25 pounds so I’m also a former fatty. I went from a BMI of 27 or 28 to my current BMI 23. I had a lot of stress this fall which caused me to have trouble eating and I distracted myself by overexercising. I’m feeling at bit better now so I’m eating more and exercising less.

  12. January 3, 2013 3:22 pm

    I don’t object to you using my comment, but all I can say is if i were Rebecca I’d be pretty irritated that you’ve written an entire article here and put her on the spot. There was a way to discuss this without going “This person was mean to me” in public. I think Rebecca is splitting hairs and seems obsessed with labels, but your choice in this is very poor in my opinion.

    • January 3, 2013 4:16 pm

      CC,
      Rebecca wanted to have a discussion on whether “fatty” was offensive and did it on Facebook in a forum with 1,500 members. Today, we’ll be lucky if we hit a thousand views. On Facebook, I tried commenting without using her name because (1) I didn’t know for sure that it was her and (2) I didn’t want to call her out by name. Then she got mad that I didn’t call her out by name. But the issues that she raised affects this blog directly. It affects my writing directly. If there are fat activists who believe that calling all fat people “fatties” is derogatory, then I want to have a conversation about it. I have tried to use this forum to discuss the subjects she raised without making it a personal attack. I never said she was mean, but I did say that I felt like her comments were inadvertently (or not) attacking me and this blog. I thought I did so without hitting below the belt. Is there somewhere that I crossed the line?

      Peace,
      Shannon

  13. Kim permalink
    January 3, 2013 4:09 pm

    What I think we could all use is a little more sensitivity to the fact that what we do and say and the choices we make affect people for the better or worse. If you use a word (and it is my understanding that you choose to do so knowing the political and deogatory connotations of this word from both this blog and the ongoing blow up that occured on FB) then you must be at least somewhat aware of the fact that said word is in fact going to be controversial. In many cases, a reader will simply stop reading and move on, never letting you know that they found your word choice to be poor. Your soapbox, while seemingly lofty, feels more like an excuse to cover up a lazy tendency in your writing to oversimplify and use a lack of descriptive and unique adjectives by creating a one size fits all noun. Moreover, you found it necessary to prove yourself in the “right” by blasting someone for something that was posted a “thought of the day” and really had nothing to do with you. If anything, she was being overly solicitous so as not to offend the bloggers who self-identify as fatties and or use the term fatties to describe a group of people. So she doesn’t like the word. So what? What does it matter to you? At the end of the day did it make you a better person to become the know it all in the room? Who made you the representative for all those writers out there who use the term fatty to describe a certain segment of the population? If it were myself, I would want to pick someone less reactionary and someone who could do better than pick fights and air their dirty laundry across public forums for everyone to see their vitriol. If it were my post or if I were Rebecca. I would have simnply left the question up in the air… does anyone else find it offensive? Just because you have never gotten any complaints does not mean that people don’t take an issue to the term. If you want to “take back fatty” you go right on ahead. It is your constitutional right under this thing called freedom of speech. But please be grown up enough to a) take responsibility for outcomes/reactions to your public displays of word choice and b) be adult enough to understand that just as you have a right to post your thoughts and opnions to the world, so do other people. If you pick a fight with every single person who doesn’t agree with you, you will shortly have no readers and no leg to stand on. I myself do not care for the term fatty when it is applied to a large group of people. My feeling is that it stereotypes a large number of people (when applied to a group as a whole) and fails to recognize the unique features of the individual. Overused, it becomes a quaint and easily dismissed turn of phrase. Used as an adjective, I find it to be amusing and in when used properly, a powerful way to deliver a message in a humorous way. But really? More than anything, as I read your comments and your blog, I find it sad that there are writers who in a public forum will excuse their word choice by stating that it is easier to write a blanket, one size fits all word to describe a group then it is to come up with original, diverse and unique writing. It sounds like you would be helped greatly by the presence of a good thesaurus and a conflict management class. And your choice of the word skinnies? I find that word to be distasteful and vitriolic as well. Poor word choices all all around.

    • January 3, 2013 4:40 pm

      If you write a blog about people who chew their toenails off and it’s called “Happy Toe-Biters” and a friend of yours, who you have worked with, and around, for nearly three years, suddenly writes a Facebook post that says, “I find the term Toe-Biters to be infantilizing and derogatory,” would you not be a little bit bothered by that? Would you not wonder why she didn’t mention this to you sooner? Would you not seek to defend your use of the term? Would you not state your opinion on a forum that is, supposedly, for stating opinions?

      I never said that I don’t think anybody is offended by the word “Fatty.” Of course people are offended by the word “Fatty,” just as they’re offended by the word “Fat.” But the fact that Rebecca wrote a post describing the term as derogatory and infantilizing bothered me because I use the term freely and have for several years. This idea that I should never have responded at all, or that it shouldn’t matter to me is bullshit. I can just as easily say, “Why did Rebecca write about whether other people use the term ‘fatty’? What does it matter to her?”

      And as far as using the term “fatty” being a lazy tendency, no, it’s not. It’s no more lazy than gay activists who call themselves queers or who write about issues that affect queers. That isn’t lazy, it’s using a consistent identity to discuss a particular group. Claiming that the use of identity shorthand is lazy is ridiculous. If you want to start a blog that refers to “girthful citizens” or “plus-sized people” or whatever the fuck you want, then do it. And if someone comes along and says, “I find ‘girthful citizens’ derogatory” and you want to respond, then do it.

      But if Rebecca found it offensive, derogatory and infantilizing that people within Size Acceptance were using the term fatty, then it would have been nice to hear that from her, oh, say, three years ago and not out of the blue on Facebook yesterday. Because her comments, prior to the bizarre exceptions she made for us and Fit Fatties Forum, are describing my actions in terms that are pretty fucking awful. I don’t care if that’s what she believes, but I have the right to defend my usage and explain myself, just as she has the right to state her opinion on Facebook. That’s what I did and that’s what she did. But only one person aired dirty laundry outside of this basic argument: Rebecca. She has offered to share private messages I sent to her and brought up a completely unrelated discussion we had about the book I’m writing. So fuck that noise.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  14. Kim permalink
    January 3, 2013 4:39 pm

    I cannot speak for CC, but in my opinion, you crossed a line when you took it to the personal rather than keeping a rational and even tone. Instead of positing an open discussion that is rational, you become hyperbolic, make blanket statements, misquote and pull parts of someone’s argument out of context and attack it without recognizing it’s original intention. All of which you did in a public forum. Your good points are drowned out by an overall tone of dismissal, condesention and vitriol that makes it difficult to defend against. That type of overbearing, one-side argumentation style, striking out without truly listening behavior is reactionary and does nothing to further your cause. When you attack the person rather than debate the subject, you lose credibility. I am not defending her position, she had her own reaction as well and the fallout was unfortunate, but the person taking responsbility for actions and reactions has been Rebecca. Again, as a writer in a very public forum, you are going to encounter critiques and criticisms. You can take them in, accept them as they come and become, if not a better writer, then at least a more conscious and empathetic one, or you can continue to continue as you are. Which is a perfectly viable option. However being honest and real wins over being reactionary and hostile any day. And in my book, this whole outburts and the fallout behind it has cost you this reader and those readers I might have referred to this blog. If you are truly someone who is conscious that today, you will be lucky to hit a thousand views, you should try to understand what your actions and reactions do to your ability to reach and attract a larger readership. Her 1,500 members aren’t going anywhere but yours just might if they see a trend that they don’t like.

    • January 3, 2013 4:47 pm

      Kim,
      Don’t lecture me on how to run a blog. If I wanted to get nasty, I could compare our rankings on Alexa to just about any other Size Acceptance blog (including People of Size) and I’m perfectly happy with where we are.

      But to your points: where did I misquote or pull Rebecca’s comments out of context? I posted her Facebook comments in full. I chose the first three comments because those reflected Rebecca’s opinions prior to my initial response, which I have apologized for, both publicly and privately to Rebecca. I have tried to boil down the arguments I made on Facebook to a core argument here: the behavior Rebecca described as offensive is the behavior I engage in on a regular basis.

      I haven’t misquoted or taken anything out of context in this post and I challenge you to point to one area where I did. Just one.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • vesta44 permalink
      January 3, 2013 6:39 pm

      Kim – Thank you very much for dismissing every other blogger who posts here. You’re acting like Shannon is the only one who blogs here and since you think his posts aren’t worth reading, neither are the posts of any of the rest of us. Well, fuck you very much, but who the fucking hell made you the Goddess of who gets to read this blog? I don’t give a rat’s ass if you “refer” other readers to this blog or not, they’ll probably find their way here sooner or later without your “help” and then they can make up their minds whether the content of this blog is worth reading, whether on a regular basis or just once in while or not at all. Just because you don’t find anything worthwhile here doesn’t mean other readers won’t. So take your high horse with when you leave and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

      • Kim permalink
        January 3, 2013 8:47 pm

        Vesta, first, let me apologize for being ignorant of what fiercefatties.com is. My assumption was (and I was wrong) that it was the purview of atchka. I didn’t realize that it was a collaborative. I will refrain from using blanket negative speech about the site and state to people who are interested in investigating the site that I had a very negative experience across both Facebook and fiercefatties.com with this particular blogger. I will be happy to read other’s writings on this site and will encourage others to seek it out who are looking for fresh perspectives and good writing, as is often found on collaborative sites. I apologize, I should have said that I would not be reading his blog posts or comments any further and left it at that. My blood was up and I was tired. The *only* reason I came back was because a friend told me what this site is actually about, and that there was a comment (yours) that I should read to fully understand. Also, my comments were expressly my opinion and while not necessarily presented in the best way possible, as I was upset about the treatment of my friend, were given as a way to open a conversation and an attempt to enter into a discussion about how the words we use to define us affect people emotionally and how to go about finding a way to bridge that gap. As someone who is a fierce activist in more than one movement (one of which this blogger referenced) I am well aware of the roots of such language and where fat activists are attempting to go with it. My response, had it been rational and not reactionary would have reflected a true belief that while we can use that language in such a way, it is our responsibility as advocates of a movement and activists in the true sense of the word, to be sure that the ways in which we deliver that message are not mishandled, and that rather than exclude and dismiss those with a different view point, we need to open up a dialog and not be combative or exclusionary. I am not proud of the less than elegant potshots that I made at this particular blogger in response to his language and combative, condescending attitude. I am aware that I have not won any friends here, and should I not be welcome to return and read/comment/contribute than I completely understand. My hope is that this would not be the case.

        • vesta44 permalink
          January 4, 2013 1:04 am

          Kim – One of the things I’ve taken away from this brouhaha is that my determination to not let the insulting words of the fat-phobic bigots I run into hurt me is the wisest choice I’ve made in a long time. Those insulting words hurt me when I was a child, and a teenager/young adult, but they have long lost the ability to hurt me anymore. At 59, I’ve learned that insulting words only have the power to hurt me that I let them have. If I can use those “insults” thrown at me to describe myself in a positive way, they have lost their ability to hurt me, to negatively impact my life. And if I let those “insults” hurt me, well, then I haven’t come as far along the road to fat acceptance/fat liberation/size acceptance as I thought I had.
          When I was younger, I didn’t want to age, didn’t want to be seen as getting older. But now that I’m actually here, I’m finding that being older gives me a perspective about life and people that I couldn’t, and didn’t, have when I was younger. I’m able to look back at all the time I wasted worrying about what other people thought of me when what I should have been worrying about was what I thought of myself. I’ve learned that as long as I respect myself, like who I am as a person, then what other people think of me doesn’t really matter and their words just don’t have any power to hurt me, no matter how nasty or vitriolic they are. The words thrown at me by the haters can’t/don’t change who I am as long as I don’t let them. And all the arguing about what terms those of us in FA/SA should be using to describe ourselves is a moot point because, face it, there is no way in hell that anyone is going to get everyone to agree on which words should be allowed to describe us and which ones are definitely off-limits.
          One other thing before I go…… If you refuse to read posts on here simply because atchka wrote them – you’re going to be missing out on some awesome posts and a lot of really good information. While he has raised some hell a few times, he’s also done way more good than bad with his writing on this blog. Dismissing him out of hand because he’s made mistakes means missing some informative posts on a wide variety of topics that are of interest to fat acceptance/fat liberation/size acceptance. There are plenty of people in this movement that I don’t always agree with, and if I said half of the things that ran through my head when I was disagreeing while reading some of their posts – well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t have to comment every time I disagree with someone or every time I think they’re wrong.

  15. Kim permalink
    January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

    I don’t have to like you Shannon, and I don’t know you or have any cheddar in commenting here other than to say that your lambasts on facebook have been well and beyond vitriolic and many of the comments here and there are blown up and out of proportion. I am not telling you how to run your blog. I am simply stating a fact. This fact is that your blog is your forum, and you can run it however you want. If you want to run your readers out because they don’t like your terminology, then that is your option. Period. If personal attacks is what you were going for, you succeeded. The difference being that I don’t really care, and the pity party you are throwing does nothing to further your cause. In terms of lazy writing, I refer to your use of the word as shorthand. “I often use “fatties” as a short hand, as an identity.” On FB you say “clustering a group of people to simplify the discussion” and you go on to say that you cluster “skinnies” in the same way. That is lazy writing. And I find it extremely offensive that you would put yourself in the same league with Queer or Black activists simply because you think you are an activist yourself. Don’t you dare swing the race and sexual preference arugment around to make up for your shortcomings. As for a friend. I have had friends and family who have taken issue with a blog post or a position that I have posited. The difference between yourself and I is that I took the matter up in a private manner that respected my relationship with them, and I didn’t go into long diatribed or attack people I don’t even know because they reacted to what amounts to a very public tantrum on FB. That you brought it over to this blog and polished it up to look like you are an injured party? Doesn’t really convince me. That you can’t take criticism or rational commentary without getting defensive, overblown and out of control? Even worse. I don’t know you. And I don’t really care. Don’t bother to reply here, unless you just want to blow hot air and make yourself feel better by thinking you look good by spouting more nonsense, because I am going to practice my very real right to ignore this blog and suggest to anyone looking for a good blog to avoid this as well.

    • January 3, 2013 5:12 pm

      OH NOES! What will we do without Kim?!?

      And I didn’t put myself in the same league as any other activists. I was explaining how identity language works, you twit.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  16. lifeonfats permalink
    January 3, 2013 5:15 pm

    Fatty/fattie doesn’t offend me at all because in the size acceptance community, we are using that term as a “take back” and making it positive. I even used the term in my previous post “What Not to Get a Fatty for Christmas.

    I think in this community we have a real issue with bloggers and supporters who get offended at every little thing and everyone else has to walk on eggshells around them and quite frankly, it’s getting pretty tiresome.

    • January 3, 2013 5:29 pm

      Bree,
      I try to take each shitstorm as they come and learn from my mistakes. In the past, I have learned how not to talk about certain issues and what words are always wrong to use. If I understand the justification, if I can see where the other person is coming from, then I adopt their way of thinking, as I have so many times throughout the past four years I’ve been blogging. But I’m not going to be subject to the whims of the self-appointed language police, I’m not going to ask permission to use the term fatty and I’m not going to change my work to suit the sensitivities of everyone. I just can’t.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • January 3, 2013 6:35 pm

        My point is, you have an opinion. Other people have theirs. Some of them have unreasonable and fucking stupid opinions. You all agree to disagree, so how’s about we can the circle-jerk and agree that if someone gets on your ass about your language choices, you can tell them to stick it?

        Honestly, the disagreements between this blog and the rest of the fatosphere (which is pretty damn PC-police) don’t bother me; what bothers me is that they wind up devolving into petty circle-jerks. That is not what I read anyone’s blog for.

        • January 4, 2013 10:14 am

          CC,
          We will keep the circle-jerk to this page only and it will not continue onto any other posts. And I agree with your comments.

          Peace,
          Shannon

  17. January 3, 2013 7:13 pm

    This is what is posted on the PeopleOfSize facebook page regarding this controversy, I am reposting it here. Additionally, you may not be aware, but I have been running the FFF feed on PeopleOfSize.com for a long time. I adore many of the bloggers here. There is not much more I can say on the matter:

    If any group or person feels slighted because they use the word fatty or fatties, I am very sorry. When you try to start a conversation every day for four years you sometimes say things that are not well thought out. My point really and truly was not about group names, it’s was much more about how people refer to me personally. But it’s all too blown out of proportion now to try and explain. Let’s just say I wish I had had some other random thought that morning and threw that on the internet without thinking instead. Any other random thought at all! Better I should have had no thought at all that day and just went back to bed!!

    I think that all of you who know me from here, or from the book, or wherever, know my aim is never to hurt anyone. And it is never to slight people of size, fat people, fatties, or anyone of any size, shape, or name.

    Rebecca

    • January 4, 2013 10:15 am

      Thank you Rebecca. I appreciate you writing this and I accept your apology. I hope you have accepted mine.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  18. January 3, 2013 8:25 pm

    Mom and Dad…please don’t fight. All this fighting, I have to admit, makes me uncomfortable, but I’ll live. IMHO, the use of nicknames depends on the context and who is saying them as well. I love both of your blogs, Rebecca and Atchka, and to see you two arguing like this really makes me sad. But I think this whole thing can be compared to the growing pains that any group that has been discriminated against has to go through to get to a point where they are comfortable with the terms used to identify them, singularly and collectively. Look at any group; people with disabilities, women, gays, African Americans, Hispanics, etc. and you will see over the decades, the metamorphosis of the terms used to represent them. So…I think all this is historic defining of who we are as a people. Defining what we like and what we don’t like. People of size weighing in on one side or the other, or down the middle. It sure has made me think of what’s terms are okay in my mind. So thanks Rebecca and Atchka for starting this whole discussion.

    • January 4, 2013 10:17 am

      Tracey,
      When I hear people bickering, I frequently say the same thing, “Mommy, Daddy, stop fighting!” I may have watched too many after-school specials growing up. I think the discussion itself is worth having, which is why I brought it here. I tried to do so without attacking Rebecca personally, as I initially did in my response on Facebook. I think it’s fair to debate language and terminology. It’s important to iron out our differences so that we can clear the way to do the real work that matters. Thank you for your comments.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  19. LittleBigGirl permalink
    January 4, 2013 12:51 am

    Wow did I miss a drama show. O_o I don’t really want to wade in too deep into this seeing how far it’s degenerated but I’ll toss in two pennies nonetheless:
    RJW posted her personal opinion that the term fatty wasn’t one she cared for. She is apparently annoyed by the ‘cuteness’ of the ‘y/ie’ and feels it makes it a a derogatory term. She asked how others felt about it. Shannon could have just said “I respectfully disagree with your opinion” but apparently that wasn’t exactly how he chose to respond. :-/ I don’t think she was attacking or dissing people who use the term, just expressing her personal dislike of it.

    IMHO, words have whatever value we give them. Even less controversial terms can be made to feel insulting when the person using them is intending to insult.

    Is there a word for larger people we can all agree on? I doubt it. We all have our preferences. I hate “obese” and “plus size”. I don’t think we can agree on the definitions of any of the words either. So we’ll use whatever we are comfortable with I suppose.

    I don’t love the term fatty but there are worse ways to refer to fat people. I do like the idea of “taking back” the word for ourselves, but people who sling it as an insult will always see it as an insult and mean it as an insult because they believe fat is bad and fat people are bad.

    When I read blogs like Shannon’s I expect to be reading about fat people, and I expect to see many euphemisms for fat used during that discussion. I don’t really care which ones are used. I might snicker at a more pretentious PC-sounding term like “people of size”, or cringe at the term obese because I don’t like how it is defined and used in the medical community. I find “obese” to be more triggering or insulting than “fatty.” Shannon is a self-identified fatty, writing about fatness. I wouldn’t expect him to use any other word. If RJW doesn’t like “fatty,” I’m curious what term she likes to use when she needs to make a blanket reference to a group of people who identify as fat.

    You’ll never hear a journalist or medical professional refer to someone as a fatty, at least not to their face and/or in their professional capacity. So it may not be a derogatory term but it is a casual reference and so can only be given so much weight (no pun intended.)

    So I don’t think the term is that bad…but arguing about it isn’t really very awesome either. I don’t find these kind of blog entries very enjoyable. I come to read what I hope will either be informative, entertaining, thought-provoking, or some combination thereof. I personally don’t think an issue of terminology is worth this much head or blog space, and the debate does not seem to be respectful or thoughtful enough to have much value beyond making the people involved look petty. If you had a point Shannon, I’m afraid I couldn’t find it behind your anger. The offensiveness of the term “fatty” is in the subjective and bias eye of the beholder, who is entitled to their opinion.

    • January 4, 2013 10:22 am

      Thank you LittleBigGirl. Given my history of the response to these kind of posts, I really tried to be reserved in the presentation. It’s much shorter than I typically write and I honestly tried not to make it a personal attack, but an analysis of what I saw and why I responded the way I did. I thought that maybe I could raise the question in such a way that didn’t devolve into a poo-flinging contest, but that didn’t work. So, next time I am faced with this kind of situation, it will give me even greater pause as I consider whether it’s worth it.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  20. Paul Ernsberger permalink
    January 5, 2013 11:06 am

    OK, so we know what fat activists think. What about the public? Surveys and psychology studies agree that obese people find the label “fat” to be most offensive. The word “fatty” has not been tested, but common sense suggests it would be considered even more offensive.
    The public most prefers the label “overweight”. As a researcher, this is the most offensive label to me, and indeed the only fat label I personally find offensive. That is because the term directly implies that there is some ideal weight that everyone should be. The term “overweight” was invented by Metropolitan Life Insurance in 1959 in counter definition to “ideal body weight”. The concept of a single ideal body weight for everyone has been abandoned even by the most radical anti-obesity crusaders, yet the term “overweight” persists like some prehistoric monster that should have gone extinct long ago.
    In the 1960’s, size activists made the conscious decision to use the label “fat” precisely because it was the most offensive. The analogy was made that it was like black people calling each other the n-word to lessen its sting. Over 40 years later, black people no longer use the n-word as a desensitizer but the size acceptance movement is still at it, insulting their core demographic with gusto and wondering why so few people show up to proudly proclaim they are fatties.
    In science, we are stuck with the word “obese” because it describes a simple equation:
    BMI > 30 kg/m^2.
    In science, the word “fat” means “a class of compounds insoluble in water”. Today, “fat acceptance” likely means that you are okay with foods cooked with butter.

    • January 5, 2013 3:05 pm

      Wait, is this the Dr. Paul Ernsberger? I’m honored by your visit and I’m so glad you chimed in.

      I see exactly what you’re saying. The only difference I see between the two situations is that the N-word gradually became off-limits in mainstream society, especially as an insult. If you used the N-word as an insult, you became the stigmatized person in society. It became taboo to say it in any context, unless you were the group reclaiming the word or the identity. The same cannot be said for “fat.” But it’s a challenge, because unlike the N-word, we can’t simply make it off limits in the mainstream culture. The N-word was made specifically to insult a class of people, while the word fat has waxed and waned in offensiveness since its creation. But throughout most of our history, fat did not nearly the negative connotation that it has in the past four decades or so. It has grown increasingly harsh over time. But does that mean we abandon it altogether? I don’t think so. I think that, if anything, history shows us that we can manipulate the connotation of words by their usage. And although fatty is an unpopular word in the mainstream, it has grown more acceptable over the past few years. I believe we can strip away the negative connotation over time, but we won’t know unless we try, right?

      And in this space, we explicitly state that we’re not a safe space. If you have trouble with certain words or certain discussions, you have to tread carefully for your own sake. In that way, I like to think that we’re for people who are a little further down the road to self-acceptance. There are lots of resources to help people who are near the beginning and still affected by the cultural attitudes toward fat people.

      Thank you so much for adding to the discussion. I’m a huge fan of your work, and would love to interview you some time.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  21. Ashley L. permalink
    February 1, 2013 2:05 pm

    I personally find the term “fatty” offensive because I have only heard it used in a derogatory context (ex. “no fatties”). I don’t like it when an adjective once used to describe a person (recognizing that being fat is only one aspect of that person) is turned into a noun (essentially wrapping that person’s identity around the fact that they are fat).

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