The fat acceptance movement (also known as the size acceptance, fat liberation, fat activism, or fat power movemen is a social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attituded. The movement grew out of the various identity politics of the 1960s and campaigns for the rights of fat people to be treated equally both on a social basis and on a legal one. Areas of contentioninclude the aesthetic, legal and medical approaches to people whose bodies are larger than the social norm.
Besides its political role, the fat acceptance movement also constitutes a subculture that acts as a social group for its members. Activities include conferences, fashion and arts events, shopping, swimming and other sports clubs.
While a citation from Wikipedia seems convenient, the description of size acceptance actually isn’t all that far fetched. The goal of course is to ensure that fat people be treated like anyone else, and not have a bias against them due to their fat.
I’ve often contended that what makes the size acceptance movement different than any other social movement is its universal application. Anyone can be fat. The social movements of the past didn’t have that. If you were white, you couldn’t be black. If you were heterosexual, you couldn’t be gay. Everyone however, can be fat. Fatness can be genetic, can be acquired via illness, depression, certain drugs, or by just plain old eating your way to obesity, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc.
I also think that there are little subcultures within the fat acceptance movement. I believe first and foremost that size acceptance activism has been adopted by more feminists. It would make sense, since the bulk of fat bias is directed at women. That certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t fat prejudice against men, but I think most readers would agree that other than NJ Governor Chris Christie, there isn’t a lot of public outcry about the size of most guys. Contrast that with the constant monitoring of women in the public eye and one can easily see why the cause would be taken up by most feminists.
While the feminists are an integral part of size acceptance, they aren’t the only component. There exist many fragments that attempt to work towards size acceptance as well. The gay & lesbian communities, fat men, and the social part of the movement as well. Most of you know that for many years I participated in the social part of the size acceptance movement. Anyone who’s read through my blogs from 2010-2011 knows that over the years I grew increasingly disenchanted with the social part of the movement. In fact, I typically don’t consider that part of the fat community to be representative of size acceptance. Most of that part of the fat world is made up of fetishists, feeders & feedees, intentional gainers, paysite models, and people who subscribe more to the sexually charged nature of being attracted to fat. I will state again that while there’s nothing wrong with anything that’s sexual, I don’t think any work is being done to help eliminate any bias towards fat people by having sex with them. The world simply is not a better place because you’ve had sex with a fat person, despite what you think.
One of the leaders of the movement, Marilyn Wann, even has a disclaimer on her website that people with “intentional weight goals & people with feeder/gainer interests are not welcome here”.
But isn’t the size acceptance movement about ALL types of acceptance? If so, why wouldn’t intentional gainers & feeders/feedees be welcomed?
I’ve stated in previous blogs that the people involved with intentional weight gain are dissatisfied somehow with their bodies as they are. If you can’t accept yourself as is, how can you expect others to accept you? While that makes sense, and seems to be the primary logical reason for not wanting to include them within size acceptance, there’s another.
Someone I corresponded with recently in a forum that I used to actively participate in said it best.
There is a huge level of dishonesty and secrecy in this scene and the denial of it all is hurting it
What he’s referring to is the social scene, which as you all know I’m too familiar with. I agree with his statement, even to the point that I know women who’ve been part of it, and the pressure to actively eat & gain with reckless abandon for the purpose of giving a dood a boner, have come to resent it as well. As stated by a woman in one of my previous blogs: “I felt better about myself before I came to this community”.
I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Feeders & intentional gainers don’t like me much, or people in size acceptance who won’t legitimize them. I’ve often said that they tend to be the loudest voices in size acceptance, since media tends to sensationalize the sensational. My favorite analogy is that they’re like vegans, who have a tendency to make sure that everyone knows they’re vegans. While the passion is admirable, is that what we really want others to think about when we’re looking to end bias against fat people?
So, what prompted this blog?
It was a thread in a forum about a woman (Zsalynn Whitworth), who recently appeared on one of those sensational media shows that exploit fat people called “My 600 LB. Life”. I don’t know Zsalynn, I possibly spoke with her online years ago in a chat room, and the extent of my knowledge about her and her life is essentially that her husband is a webmaster, and runs my ex-wife’s fat porn site. (See my previous blog The BBW-Porn Connection).
For those not familiar with Zsalynn, here’s an article from mid 2013 that was written prior to her appearance on the TLC show. OF note is the following comment in the article:
As the subject of a new documentary, All of Me: A Story of Love, Loss and Last Resorts, which follows three women facing questions about obesity, identity and sexuality, Mrs Whitworth explains: ‘It makes me feel like a circus freak.’
With gastric bypass surgery not covered by her insurance, the Austin, Texas resident must raise the money herself and adds: ‘But if that’s what guys want to see, I go to the circus.’
Obviously, for those who are entrenched in the fetish part of this, they take this as a slap in the face from Ms. Whitworth. After all, her statement is essentially saying that she exploited the fetishists for her own personal gain (pardon the pun). A salient point from one of the responders in the thread:
Are we really that surprised anymore? They milk the paysites for all they’re worth then go on national television to either get a reality tv deal or to lose weight. I’ve grown immune to things like this.
But not everyone (including me) has become immune to it. Purposely gaining weight and being paid for it, then heading for WLS, documenting it and then repeating the process is not rational behavior, at least in my eyes. From another poster in this thread:
The denial is crazy. It’s weird thinking that some people think the core of being fat means not even trying to take care of yourself at all even in the smallest of ways that matter. The pretense that they are being discriminated against by their own comrades who’ve already been through it all when they’re told that they can be fat but they do need to pay attention is really exasperating. If i hear anybody whine stupidly about death fats one more time i think I’m going to choke them. Time to stop being childish and stop hiding the fact that they’ve ended up in the hospital especially from younger folks who they are encouraging to follow in their footsteps. If they stopped playing this game maybe there wouldn’t be so many who later become desperate for absolutely any kind of last ditch effort at relief instead of managing to stay fat and strong.
This statement doesn’t deny that there are people well over 600 lbs who are healthy. It DOES however acknowledge that some of the people we know who’ve gained massive amounts of weight don’t want others to know about the medical issues that they’ve faced, for fear of exposing the fat “secret”, which is that engaging in the fetish ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be. They want to remain “The Beautiful People”, and while their acceptance may be limited to those who engage in the practice, the attraction to that is evidently so strong that they’re willing to lie to support their own cause.
The thread in this forum turned uglier as time went on, and accusations were made (both sides) that bordered on ageism, sexism, gender bias as well as fat hate within an “acceptance community”. The fact remains that (regretfully) there is little acceptance at all in the size acceptance community, and we have this segregation of these subsets within the community who can’t seem to agree on anything
“But Phil, you’re engaging in a bias yourself by criticizing the parts of the community that you feel don’t fit in size acceptance! How can you justify that?”
Pretty simple, really. I’ve written blogs in the past criticizing those who engage in feederism and intentional weight gain. While I don’t accept those activities, one has to understand the distinction between the theories, and the people who engage in it. Now, while I have friends on Facebook who have engaged (and some continue to engage) in these activities, I find it relatively simple to separate the person from those activities, and see those people for all of the other things that they are. We’re like diamonds….we’re multi faceted, and while I may see some flaws (as I do in myself when I work on my own personal dynamics), I recognize the fact that we’re still diamonds. In other words, I may not like what you’re doing, but I like you.
Now, if that activity is the only thing that defines you, fine….then you’re likely not going to like me, or be friends with me, but I think more people who are my friends wouldn’t want to be defined as a feeder/feedee/intentional gainer since their lives are so much more than that.
From someone I consider a friend, who also posted in the thread:
There is no magic benchmark weight threshold between “healthy” and “unhealthy” and it’s NOT YOUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.
There is no magic benchmark weight threshold between “happy” and “unhappy” and it’s NOT YOUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.
There is no magic correlation that relates weight to happiness. There isn’t. But that’s also NOT YOUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.
Intentional gaining is no better or worse for you than non-intentional gaining, but, again, NOT YOUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.
In my opinion, generally she’s correct. All people should be able to live their lives as they want to, be it fat, thin or otherwise. Very often, fat activists level these same comments at those who engage in fat hate & prejudice, who throw all types of accusations at the obese, claiming they can’t be happy, can’t be healthy, have to die sooner, and have more medical issues that the people throwing those accusations out. SO, how can it happen within the confines of size acceptance? I think it’s because there’s that split about what being fat actually is, despite what may be physical similarities.
I think we’re in an in between state in size acceptance, where there is still a group of people still mired in what the medical community has told us about fat people over the years, and another side of the community entrenched in the fact that no one has died simply by being fat, but from complications from it. Let’s face it, however. We don’t have a large sample group of people over 600 lbs that we can work with in terms of generating a presentable model to the rest of the world that says that 600 lb people are happy, healthy and well adjusted, and when shows like “My 600 LB. Life” present women like Zsalynn Whitworth who seemingly present that it’s not good (and there’s no alternative presented), it makes it kind of tough to think otherwise. Go to the fat chick porn boards. You’ll find a ton of threads asking “Whatever Happened To………..?) where they inquire about a certain webmodel, wondering why they’re no longer updating their websites. Some have simply retired (because the $$ isn’t as good as what it used to be), others have gotten married or are in relationships and don’t have time or the inclination to update, but many of them are no longer fat, since they’ve dieted their way back to a weight they’re satisfied with, or have had a form of weight loss surgery. Several people have remarked that they have long time friends who’ve been at those higher rates who have had weight loss surgery. My question for the proponents of massive gain and/or feederism is, if life was so great for them as they got older, why would they feel a need to slim down? There can be a positive takeaway from someone else’s bad experiences, but many will refuse to do that, thinking that it’s just the older people in the social part of the fat community trying to tell us how to live our lives, which I believe couldn’t be further from the truth.
Add to that the idea that the weight extremists seem to be the ones who end up with so much media attention, and suddenly it becomes more understandable that others from within would speak out, as they did in the forum the way they did. You may not think you’re repping for fat people, but your denials lose their luster when you’re the only part of the fat rights movement showing up in the media.
About 2 weeks ago, I was thrilled to see that size acceptance blogger/activist Amanda Levitt get just under 5 minutes TV time to talk about size discrimination at work, about how she receives death threats in response to her blog, and on her efforts to have fat people be treated as something more than what they are today.
Now, contrast that to the hours of programming dedicated to the fetish side of fat people, and women like Zsalynn, who “embrace the lie” that being fat is great, then sell out by doing TV shows where they essentially say that everything they said and/or did in their porn videos was a lie and that they really despised being fat. To the person who may be questioning their own size prejudices, hearing the fetish side and then the “I hated myself fat” side, they walk away learning nothing, except maybe that fat people are a confused bunch. Since we’re not a community that’s bound by one thing (that fat bias is wrong), mixed messages are sent out. There’s no organized agenda/platform. We have no one or group of people directing the marketing of the message that fat bias is wrong, just individuals who claim they’re repping for themselves with some sort of fat message, and making money from doing so. I can promise you that all of the leaders of previous social movements didn’t use their causes as a profit center. And yes, in my opinion your product shouldn’t be repping for size acceptance (even by accident) if you’re a web model, a regular model who sells t-shirts with fat positive slogans on your website, or anyone else (yes, even those who promote BBW events for fun & profit). That’s one of many reasons that I walked away in 2010, and while I don’t consider myself a leader in any size acceptance, I feel like I can at least legitimize part of my ability to speak out about it, since I don’t have anything to financially gain from what I write. Go back to the civil rights struggle in the 50’s & 60’s. You didn’t see Rosa Parks & Dr. King t-shirts for sale. These were grass roots movements that existed FOR The cause, and they succeeded because there wasn’t an underlying motive other than to end racial bias. The same was true of the gay rights movement. People like Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, and Rea Carey, president of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force remain committed to their cause, and while the NGLTF raised over three quarters of a million dollars last year, the money was earmarked to help elect gay rights activists & sympathizers to political posts, and not to line their personal pockets, which is what I feel happens in parts of our movement.
Wake up, people. The only way we’re going to move the agenda of fat/size activism forwards is by discussing the actual issues, and removing the personalities from those issues. I can’t feel that all everyone here has in common is that they’re fat, or that they are attracted sexually to fat bodies. Let’s continue to discuss those issues among ourselves without resorting to the personal name calling that takes place (which has happened to me on countless occasions when I’ve had ageist comments thrown at me), and present a more united front to the rest of the world than what we’ve done until this point. There’s still time, but egos, our own prejudices, and financial gain have to be put aside to do so. Unless of course, you just don’t care.
In the meantime, we can still be different, but sing the same song. Think about it.
There was some negative reaction to this blog from friends on my Facebook page. Some of it was from web models who felt offended by the following comment:
“And yes, in my opinion you shouldn’t be repping for size acceptance (even by accident) if you’re a web model, a regular model who sells t-shirts with fat positive slogans on your website, or anyone else (yes, even those who promote BBW events for fun & profit)”
That’s understandable. I had a conversation a day later with a paysite model, who asked me to elaborate, which I’ll do here. For anyone who’s read my blogs over the years, I make a distinction between the people who engage in BBW pornography, and their product. I maintain that there is a distinction between the two. I’d prefer that if someone from BBW porn speaks out, that they speak out as themselves, and not someone whose livelihood depends on the fetishism. I don’t think it’s fair to fat women. There are lots of reasons I feel it isn’t fair to other fat women, but that’s likely a future blog.
One friend accused me of prejudice against people in the porn industry. I would have hoped that the comment above would have been sufficient, but I suppose that not everyone sees a distinction between a person and a “brand”. If you’re okay with letting the brand speak out as if they’re a real person, that’s fine. I’m not. To not validate a brand is not prejudice. I would like these people to speak out as themselves, as people whose financial livelihoods aren’t dependent on their product, since that dependency can have its own effect on how that person thinks about these things. As important to this is, where the hell have you been? I’ve been talking about how I view the distinction between model & product for several years now,
I don’t really think that this friend has really bothered to read many of my previous blogs, otherwise they’d have seen the distinction I make between person and product. I don’t know if that would have made a difference. With that said, I also see that many of those who responded on my Facebook page are people who haven’t said anything on my page, or liked any of my comments for the past couple of years. One of the responders is someone who I’ve helped in the past, not only financially, but with solid advice when their copyrighted content was violated.
I feel like a some of them are simply there to monitor me (via my blogs) to see if I stepped on any fat toes. I did, and was taken to task for what was said. I’m simply not a “good soldier” for the movement, I suppose, but I don’t apologize for that. Most of the people who took me to task on Facebook were nowhere to be seen to offer condolences when my father passed away in August, supporting my contention that friends can be on your Facebook page for many different reasons.
I don’t invalidate anyone’s experience because of their job. After discussion with the webmodel, she was satisfied with my explanation. I trust that she walked from that conversation knowing 2 things.
1. Your experience is more than valid to me, just as YOU, rather than your job.
2. Despite your disagreement with me, I would still fight for SA, and not exclude anyone.
For the rest, you’re welcome to unfriend me, if I haven’t already done it to you.