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A House Divided…

26th October 2007

A House Divided…

posted in Fat Acceptance |

I find it highly ironic that someone who professes the inherent right to bodily autonomy and the self-agency to make informed, educated decisions about one’s state of health would so very nastily demean, denigrate and minimalize the decisions of one who chooses to do exactly that.

Kate’s posted a more articulate and polite response to one blogger’s criticism of Heidi - a guest blogger on Kate’s blog who opted to undergo weight loss surgery – than I could hope to muster. I’m not so much angered by blogger Kell’s vitriolic attack on Heidi as I am saddened that one would resort to such an acerbic attack on another human being, especially at her most vulnerable time.

Kell’s since deleted her original post slamming Heidi – I hope out of a realization that the post was unnecessarily cruel – but the original is still available on the Notes from the Fatosphere feed.

In our zeal to promote our own brand of fat acceptance, it’s so very easy to become like the very people we reject. A few days ago, I posted a link to an article by Juliet Samuel of Reason Magazine. In it, she concludes: “The anti-obesity campaign is waging war against the very people it purports to help and, in doing so, undermines the very medical authorities it relies on to perpetuate the crisis.”

But we needn’t look much further than fat acceptance itself to see how some in the movement, one which purports to speak for the rights of all fat people, are unnecessarily and vehemently denying other fat people from receiving what ought to be the movement’s ultimate end-goal: The recognition and realization of equitable human and civil rights for all people, regardless of size.

There is no fat acceptance movement dictator who arbitrarily decides on who does and who doesn’t get the privilege of becoming a fat acceptance card-carrying member. The movement (I would hope) has enough girth to support a diversity of perspectives and experiences. Personally, I remain very skeptical of weight loss surgery and am staunchly anti-diet, but I don’t think we ought to take such an absolutist and bullying stance that we alienate some of the very people we proclaim to speak for.

To present oneself as the “decider” in dictating the collective movement’s fundamental dogma is not only supremely narcissistic, it’s counter-productive to achieving what should be basic, unified goals. To echo Abraham Lincoln’s paraphrase of Jesus, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” If we devote our time to fighting amongst ourselves, how do we ever expect our opponents to ever take us seriously, let alone for the movement to ever realize true progress?

Paul has organized a Think Tank on Nov. 10 in Chicago. I still have to weigh my course load to see if I can afford the time off, but I’m leaning on attending. I know Kate has confirmed, as well as many others interested in advancing the movement.

The Think Tank promises a prime opportunity to solidify and formalize basic agreements about what the movement should and shouldn’t advocate, and the approach we as a group should take to each. If you have the chance to attend, please do so.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 26th, 2007 at 3:38 pm and is filed under Fat Acceptance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 37 responses to “A House Divided…”

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  1. 1 On October 26th, 2007, Fillyjonk said:

    Fashionablenerd also wrote a thoughtful response to Kell here.

    Needless to say I agree with both her and Kate, and think Kell’s post was beyond the pale.

  2. 2 On October 26th, 2007, Rachel said:

    Yes, beyond the pale and beyond cruel. After our last altercation several weeks ago I had vowed not to even mention her name on my blog again for fear her negativity would infect my blog’s “Good Karma” policy, but I felt this had to be addressed. When I hear someone make a racist comment, I speak out. When I hear someone make a fat joke, I object. Silence is only passive acceptance of continued discrimination. I understand Kate’s decision to close comments on her blog, but in my opinion, people who promote hatred and discrimination deserve and need to be called out on what they say.

  3. 3 On October 26th, 2007, Lindsay said:

    Actually, it looks like she’s deleted her blog altogether. I’m not sure how to think or feel about that.

    Being something of a hippie, her approach to things often chafed with my outlook. She has as much a right to say anything she likes her in own blog, and everyone who has their own blog has just as much right to respond however they want. We can’t really really tell her she can’t join our reindeer games anymore than she can say that to Heidi.

    The movement cannot be policed. There is no One Central Authority. Yes, there are people who stand out more and have good reputations for being insightful, helpful, and outspoken – but even someone like Paul (of Big Fat Blog) doesn’t have any authority to tell anyone they can’t participate in the fat acceptance community. So i think she way overstepped her bounds in saying that Heidi had no place in the community.

    Now, if she wants to say that Heidi is banned her blog, or whatnot – that’s her space, so it’s her call. But to say she has no place anywhere? Totally not kosher.

  4. 4 On October 26th, 2007, Kate Harding said:

    I understand Kate’s decision to close comments on her blog, but in my opinion, people who promote hatred and discrimination deserve and need to be called out on what they say.

    I totally agree, Rachel, and I was torn about it, but to be honest, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the comments that might have unleashed (specifically, yet another referendum on WLS) today.

    There is no fat acceptance movement dictator who arbitrarily decides on who does and who doesn’t get the privilege of becoming a fat acceptance card-carrying member.

    Man, I wish more people appreciated that. And I don’t just mean Kell — I mean the people who accuse me of trying to “kick them out of the movement” when I say, for instance, I don’t want diet talk on my blog. It’s like people who accuse me of censorship when I delete their comments. I am just one person with just one blog over here! Get your own blog and say whatever you want, call yourself a fat acceptance activist or not. Nobody elected me queen for life, any more than they elected Kell.

    Speaking of that, I’m sad that Kell took the whole blog down. She had plenty of good stuff to say, and I actually liked talking to her about points we disagreed on. But, specifically because I’ve defended her in the past when people thought she’d gone too far, I wanted to make it clear that this time, I thought so, too. Putting up that post while Heidi’s still recovering from surgery — let alone putting it up at all — was seriously over the line for me. When people in the movement start dehumanizing other fat people, we’ve got a problem.

  5. 5 On October 26th, 2007, Rachel said:

    Kate – Totally understand. If I had to deal with moderating hundreds of comments each day, I’d probably feel the same as you. I’d say only one percent or so of total visitors here post comments, so it’s a much more manageable number.

    I don’t want to provide a forum whereupon we, en masse, try and crucify Kell. But since she routinely censors and now has closed down entirely the primary avenue people have to rebut her, I’ll gladly offer up my soapbox with hopes it will result in, not mass condemnation, but real discussion. People are rightfully angry and offended by her comments, for sure, but lashing out at Kell isn’t really constructive in the slightest. I hope commenters here understand and respect this.

  6. 6 On October 26th, 2007, Kate Harding said:

    I just added a link to this post in mine, so hopefully we can get a good discussion going here — perhaps without quite the volume previous entries on this topic have gotten at my blog. :)

  7. 7 On October 26th, 2007, Meowser said:

    When I saw Kell’s post, all I could think was, “Shit, it’s Betty Friedan versus Gloria Steinem all over again.” (Kate “being” Gloria, that is.) “I was here first, therefore I’m right and you’re wrong” does not make an effective argument. Imagine if scientists all thought that way!

    Yeah, what Lindsay said. Biiiiiig difference between, “I don’t personally approve of or agree with what you’re doing,” and, “You suck, all SA activists should spit on you.” And even in those terms, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The time to give Heidi that lecture, if any, was when she was first considering the surgery, not after she’s already had it and the anesthesia still hasn’t worn off yet.

  8. 8 On October 26th, 2007, The Game Dame said:

    In my opinion, deleting the blog was an act of cowardice and histrionic self-sacrifice in order to achieve martyrdom. “I’m gonna take my ball and go home!” I should know; I did it once a long time ago.

  9. 9 On October 26th, 2007, Kate Harding said:

    When I saw Kell’s post, all I could think was, “Shit, it’s Betty Friedan versus Gloria Steinem all over again.” (Kate “being” Gloria, that is.)

    BWAH!

  10. 10 On October 26th, 2007, vesta44 said:

    I don’t understand why Kell deleted her blog, I liked a lot of what she had to say. The post about Heidi upset me, since I’ve been there done that and it made me feel like maybe I don’t belong here either. But then I thought, oh hell no, I have things to say, meaningful things, and I can bring a perspective that people who haven’t had WLS don’t have (mine failed and I’m fatter than ever, with all the resulting problems of that). So, since I couldn’t comment at SP, I posted on my blog my thoughts on all of this mess.

  11. 11 On October 26th, 2007, The Rotund said:

    If Kell has deleted her blog, I am reasonably sure it is because she is tired and frustrated at having the same fight over and over and over again. That has been a pretty consistent issue for her. And I understand her frustration but I do NOT understand her targeting of Heidi – because I think Kell HAS targeted Heidi as a symptom of what Kell feels is wrong with Fat Acceptance.

    Well, some of what is wrong with Fat Acceptance.

    I think Kell, especially with her experience, has had a lot of very valuable stuff to say but I am beyond saddened and pissed that she would attack someone this way.

  12. 12 On October 26th, 2007, Deniselle said:

    I feel bad that she took her blog down. I, too, agreed with a lot of what she said (not in that post of course, but in general). I didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes with my post, which was mainly meant to update people on Heidi in case they weren’t reading her LJ. It wasn’t meant to be a political statement about WLS. Heidi isn’t even pro-WLS, why does she have to be a symbol for the issue?

    Imagine coming out of surgery and reading that. I really hope Heidi never sees that post.

  13. 13 On October 26th, 2007, Amy's Brain Today said:

    Caveats: I haven’t been reading these blogs very long, and I don’t agree with personally attacking someone who’s made herself publically vulnerable. Nevertheless, as somewhat of an outsider here, but a veteran of other political struggles, I do want to suggest that you all take a look at the big picture. This isn’t just Kell vs Heidi. Having compassion for someone isn’t the same thing as giving them a very public platform for their apologisms on something a movement opposes. I mean, if you really care about having a compassionate movement, where is that compassion when it comes to Kell’s feelings? Does that commitment to compassion fall by the wayside because someone isn’t behaving compassionately? We’re only required to be kind and understanding to our nice, kind, and weak sisters, but not the tough ones who don’t pull punches? I would suggest it behooves us all to try to understand the motives of committed activists who strike out in anger, rather than to blanketly condemn them, because they’re usually energized by significant commitment to their cause which others might do well to emulate, as well as significant personal effort expended in resisting the various forms of capitulation to this culture that hates us. I wouldn’t have written the post as Kell did–but I can certainly relate to the frustration she felt, seeing Kate give a very prominent place on her very popular blog to someone who was advocating weight loss surgery, something the movement Kell’s committed to, and which everyone else–as y’all keep protesting anyway–is against. Shapely Prose must get hundreds of times the traffic Kell’s blog does; even if Kell wrote every post against WLS, she could never hope to provide a counterpoint to Heidi’s post for, let’s say, people who might be new to the movement. Did you consider, Kate, offering equal time and placement on your blog to someone who would describe her decision NOT to have WLS? Or who would describe her negative postop experiences, or those of someone close to her? Or who would explain the reasons why the fat acceptance movement is ideologically opposed to WLS even though we understand why some individuals might give in to the incredible pressure to have it? Or to a disabled person who might describe their experience of struggling with many of the difficulties Heidi complained of, WITHOUT any magical surgical “cure” in the offing? Of course those things are available on other blogs, but so are many, many defenses of WLS. You decided, Kate, to provide a forum for Heidi which she never would have had on her own. With exposure and publicity comes responsibility and I for one can totally understand the frustration that drove Kell to post what she did, as much as I disagree with making it into a personal attack.

  14. 14 On October 26th, 2007, The Rotund said:

    But that’s just it – Heidi ISN’T advocating WLS. Her post was the least rah-rah WLS post I’ve ever read and I’ve read a LOT of posts about WLS.

    I understand, respect, and admire Kell’s commitment to Fat Acceptance. Which is something that many people feel. But by simultaneously lambasting someone for presuming to speak for the movement and then SPEAKING FOR THE MOVEMENT herself, Kell has demonstrated not just a deep lack of compassion but also a fair bit of hypocrisy. The issue is a larger one – do we as participants in a movement want to ignore and disinclude people at the extreme of the spectrum (people who DO have health and quality of life issues based on their fat) or do we want to include those people as equally worthy of dignity and human respect? I don’t think we’re losing sight of the larger picture – I think we are trying to redefine it.

    By asking Kate if she considered having other, anti-WLS people on her blog, you are creating a false scenario. We aren’t unbiased media (if such a thing exists), required to give equal time to all sides of the debate. Kate is vocal, as are fillyjonk and sweetmachine, about her anti-diet and anti-WLS political stance. Bringing in some other guest blogger to talk about their different experiences is something, I am POSITIVE, that Kate would be willing to do if the opportunity presented itself. But it’s also not necessary because it is an anti-diet, anti-WLS SPACE. That message is on constant repeat.

    I can understand Kell’s frustrations at having the same arguments and, from her perspective, having people choose over and over again to include people she would rather exclude. But I CANNOT understand turning this into a person thing – which is what she did when she attacked Heidi. It’s not like this is the first post Kell made about Heidi. She’s made a whole series of posts and deleted all of them for one reason or another. We aren’t making it personal. She did.

  15. 15 On October 26th, 2007, Devi said:

    There is no fat acceptance movement dictator who arbitrarily decides on who does and who doesn’t get the privilege of becoming a fat acceptance card-carrying member.

    Thank you for posting this.

  16. 16 On October 27th, 2007, Dorianne said:

    Came over from Kate’s blog – well, I’ve been all over the fatosphere trying to figure out what’s going on. Anyway. Took me awhile to find the original post everyone is up-in-arms about, and I’m kind of….I don’t know what I am yet.

    I think I said this before at Kate’s blog, and yeah, I’m the one who is big (no pun intended) on analogies…but having been involved in feminist organizations for many years, I’ve discovered there is not ONE static feminist movement, but MANY feminist movements, doing many different things and not always agreeing on the issues at hand. And I do believe that any one particular feminist movement has the right to set boundaries around discussions – that movement owns their own space, they are paying the rent, and their membership is who should be deciding what their principles are and what priorities to focus their limited resources on. This doesn’t mean those feminist movements have the right to determine what principles and priorities are appropriate for other feminist movements. By the same token, it doesn’t limit their right to critique the principles and priorities of those other movements.

    I feel the same way about fat acceptance/activist movements. There doesn’t have to be ONE monolithic movement – and there probably never will be. Just like feminists (and many of us ARE feminists), we are all different people with our own sets of principles and priorities. While it’s within Kell’s right to determine what happens in her own space, and to critique movements which give space and support to stories like Heidi’s, it’s not within her right to determine whether or not Heidi should be “permitted” to be a part of those other movements. That being said, while I disagree strongly with Kell’s critique (I don’t support WLS, and I would have welcomed a thoughtful and reasoned critique of Heidi’s decision and other blog owners’ decisions to post about it, but I cannot personally support a critique that amounts to a personal attack, and which implies some kind of ownership of “the movement”), I still defend her right to speak her mind, and I feel sad that she’s taken her blog down.

    Lots of hemming and hawing over whether or not to post this, but I’m going to push “submit comment” now….

  17. 17 On October 27th, 2007, Charlotte said:

    As someone fairly new to the SA movement (I’ve been reading blogs like this one, The Rotund and Kate’s for a couple months), this recent development in the the fatosphere is facsinating to me because it’s allowing me a deeper look inside the movement and the varying degrees of fat acceptance and different opinions on weight loss and weight related topics.

  18. 18 On October 27th, 2007, sweet machine said:

    Amy’s Brain Today (I always feel like that should be written with more punctuation: “Amy’s Brain — Today!”), though I agree with TR about “balance” being a bit of a red herring here, the disability issue is something I find really problematic in the general conversations about Heidi’s experience. I think there have been a lot of assumptions/implications by many bloggers and commenters that immobility and dependence are in some ways a fate worse than death, revealing an unconscious able-ism that I find appalling. I tried to address this in my comment on fashionablenerd’s post, some of which I’ll repeat below.

    what I think comes through so clearly in Heidi’s SP post is that she is in constant pain. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in constant pain, and I have no idea what decisions I’d make to try to alleviate that — I might get a very risky surgery too. I imagine I would. That’s another reason I support Heidi in her decision — if she can get respite from that pain, then she should.

    The issues of fat and disability are really tangled up in our culture, and Heidi’s scenario is one that makes it even more difficult to sort out. I just wanted to point out that it’s not the fact of immobility that is so poignant here, at least to me; it’s the pain, shame, and fear that Heidi experiences every day that is heartbreaking.

    I am open to the idea of featuring a person with disabilities describe his or her experience on SP, as I think it would be relevant to body acceptance as a whole (if not necessarily fat acceptance). But I still don’t think framing it as the counterpoint/other side/balance to Heidi is quite accurate.

  19. 19 On October 27th, 2007, Kate Harding said:

    Amy’s Brain, The Rotund covered a lot of what I had to say in response to your comment. (Thanks, TR!) Especially this:

    Bringing in some other guest blogger to talk about their different experiences is something, I am POSITIVE, that Kate would be willing to do if the opportunity presented itself. But it’s also not necessary because it is an anti-diet, anti-WLS SPACE. That message is on constant repeat.

    Indeed it is something I’m absolutely willing to do, and the opportunity may have just presented itself with Vesta44′s story. As soon as I read it, I knew I would at the very least link to it, and I would love to cross-post it on my blog. Email to Vesta44 will follow this comment.

    But one other thing to remember here is that I asked Heidi to do a guest post in response to different criticism I was getting at the time — that I was neglecting the experiences of people who are much bigger than me and might have trouble living in their fat bodies. When I asked her to guest post, all I said was, “Please tell me about your experiences as a 500-lb. woman. WLS isn’t off-limits as a topic, since I know it’s a big part of your life right now, but be aware that the blog is an anti-WLS space.”

    And as TR said, Heidi’s post did not remotely advocate WLS. It just explained how she had come to the absolute end of her rope, and decided to do something she never wanted to do and wasn’t entirely optimistic about, even after the decision. And by being so candid about what brought her to that point, I think she made a terrific argument against WLS for people who are in the target market for it: people who are mobile and functional, but happen to weigh a lot more than society thinks they should. Many people said it was an eye-opener for them about the difference between being very fat but reasonably healthy and being a prisoner in your own body — getting to the point of absolute desperation.

    I don’t think WLS is necessarily the right response even to that kind of desperation — but the point of giving Heidi space to tell her story was that I have no idea what it’s like to be her. And I probably never will. And most of my readers, most people in general, will probably never know what it’s like. People like Heidi are hidden, both in the broader society and in the fat acceptance movement. In the context of the movement, it’s hard to reconcile the existence of people like her — woefully unhealthy, extremely fat people — with the usual (and very important) “Fat doesn’t equal unhealthy! HAES is the way!” messages. I struggle with it myself. But unlike Kell — who’s pushed for a “normal fat” movement, leaving the extremely fat, the unhealthy, and those with eating disorders to their own devices — I am not willing to say my fat acceptance fight is only for people like me, not people like Heidi. (I should say that I’ve vastly oversimplified Kell’s vision of a “normal fat” movement, and honestly, I’m sympathetic to a lot of the points she made about it — which were essentially going in a “We need different branches of the movement to address different points/needs” direction. But it still doesn’t sit right with me.)

    Finally, Heidi’s post did something you almost never see anywhere, in the mainstream or within fat acceptance: it fully humanized a woman who weighs 530 lbs., who struggles to walk and breathe, who can’t clean herself after going to the bathroom, who is virtually bedbound — the very model of the extreme fatty society holds up before us with a resounding “BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA,” and from whom those of us advocating for HAES often try to distance ourselves. It reminded people that that woman, the woman usually seen as a symbol or a caricature, is smart, hilarious, brave, vulnerable, and very much full of life. Plenty of us within the movement, let alone outside it, don’t give much thought to people like Heidi — we want to talk about the fat triathletes, the fat fitness instructors, the fat doctors and scientists who make much better ambassadors for the movement out in the fat-hating real world. But we’re fighting for Heidi’s rights, too — or we damn well should be, anyway.

    And if we want people like Heidi to have the right to good, comprehensive, dignified health care that includes REAL options other than WLS, then we have to acknowledge that they exist, that they are desperate to feel better, and that they DON’T have many options right now. We have to acknowledge that it is unbelievably difficult, if not impossible, in the current climate, to find a doctor who will look beyond a 530-lb. person’s weight in trying to figure out what’s making her sick. And we have to acknowledge that when a person is in incredible pain, both physical and emotional, and she’s already tried everything she and her doctors can think of, she might just decide to do something she never thought she’d do and never believed could be the right answer — something that, in fact, she’s STILL not sure is the right answer, except that she finds herself all out of other ones. For a healthy, functional person to call that decision “weak,” let alone traitorous, is just beyond the pale.

    I am all about drawing lines in the sand for the sake of movement efficiency, which is why I have made it abundantly clear that I am anti-WLS and anti-dieting, despite loads of criticism and even a few burnt bridges as a result. But I hope to hell I never become so militant that I can’t tell the difference between someone who’s drinking the weight loss Kool-Aid and an informed, thoughtful person driven by extreme suffering to compromise her own principles. Especially not when it’s the kind of person who is rejected, neglected, and abused everywhere else in this society.

  20. 20 On October 27th, 2007, byrneout said:

    “I would suggest it behooves us all to try to understand the motives of committed activists who strike out in anger, rather than to blanketly condemn them, because they’re usually energized by significant commitment to their cause which others might do well to emulate, as well as significant personal effort expended in resisting the various forms of capitulation to this culture that hates us.”

    Rude is rude. No amount of “commitment” will make it polite. Kell’s motives are not the issue; her deportment is.

  21. 21 On October 27th, 2007, Kate Harding said:

    I just wanted to point out that it’s not the fact of immobility that is so poignant here, at least to me; it’s the pain, shame, and fear that Heidi experiences every day that is heartbreaking.

    Great point, Sweet Machine. I think a lot of people were struck so much by the stuff Heidi discussed that’s taboo, they glossed right over the very first thing she said: she is in pain every minute of every day.

    I’m reminded of reading Nando Parrado’s book about surviving 72 days after a plane crash in the Andes. Previous treatments of that story focused on the fact that the survivors ate human flesh. That’s what brought the horror of the situation home for people. But when you read his book, you know what emerges as the single most horrifying factor in the whole experience? The cold. The brutal, unimaginable cold that was there pretty much every moment, affecting everything they did.

    And on a much smaller scale, I’m reminded of the first time I got food poisoning. Before that, in my mind, the misery of food poisoning was all about the barfing and diarrhea. In reality, those things provided moments of relief from the otherwise unrelenting nausea that was the real misery.

    Constant pain, or cold, or nausea, is the kind of thing that’s invisible to others and doesn’t make for a very good story. We want tangible details to help us understand someone else’s suffering. But what makes suffering suffering is not the details that only emerge now and again — it’s the simple, relentless, maddening pain in the background that never goes away. That’s what people who haven’t been there really can’t imagine.

  22. 22 On October 27th, 2007, mshell67 said:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t read the post in question that Kell wrote, but it’s nice to see intelligent discussion about the issue. Heidi’s situation is extreme, but we all have to remember that at one point in our lives we may find ourselves in a situation that we have to make a decision that we never thought we would make. We all just need to be kind to each other, even while having heated discussions (which I love!!).

  23. 23 On October 27th, 2007, attrice said:

    My problem with Kell’s writing is not her radicalism. In fact, that’s the one point where I totally sympathize with her. I’ve often found myself taking the more radical positions in all sorts of movements (feminism, animal rights, glbt liberation) and have gotten lots of “you’re so mean and you’re trying to tell me what to do and it hurts my feelings!”

    My issue from the first time I read her blog is that she combines a kind of radicalism with a completely..libertarianesque view toward individual action.

    Fat discrimination is epidemic in our society, but any single person can be blamed if they fail to buck up and sufficiently resist.

    Women’s oppression can be blamed on women’s refusal to stop being oppressed.

    And that sort of thinking lends itself to personal attack type politics, imo, because you see yourself as being superior in your ability to resist society’s messages *and* you also think the oppressed are, in essence, oppressing themselves. So Heidi is both personally weak and yet responsible for the oppression of fat people everywhere.

  24. 24 On October 27th, 2007, Deniselle said:

    attrice, that’s a good analysis. I think this kind of thinking leads to abandoning what fat acceptance is (to me) all about: supporting people who feel weak and cave into societal pressure, helping us build a defense against it all with love and compassion.

    I’m not saying Heidi is weak, as I see her decision arising not from societal pressures but from her own desperate situation. Maybe I see myself as weak though. I frequently think badly of my body. I need other bloggers and my own blog to keep my head over the water. I need bloggers who are forgiving and understanding, and Kell’s superwoman attitude seems kind of crushing. I think lots of people in the “movement” or “community” have similar needs, and Kell isn’t very sensitive to that, even if she makes good points a lot of the time.

    I also feel like she makes it too much about the general/political and too little about the personal. I remember one of her Saturday challenges was to not talk about yourself. While I agree that sometimes there’s too much “my diet and exercise habits” type talk around the community, as opposed to talk about larger issues, I don’t think we can completely take the personal out of fat acceptance. We need to start by accepting our own bodies, and it takes a lot of soul searching. That’s what makes fat acceptance so deeply personal.

  25. 25 On October 27th, 2007, William said:

    Hi

    For me Fat Acceptance is more than just fighting the views of Society, in fact I would say that is a far second or third reason for me participating in Fat Acceptance.

    I primary try to help other Fat People feel good about themselves and support them. I do not withhold that support for a person that is dieting, looking at WLS or even in the Feeding/Gaining community.

    I will tell them I am not into any of those things, but I wish the best for them. If I had a absolute intolerance for everything in Fat Acceptance that I did not agree with I would not be here. I simply participate in what I like and live with the rest.

    I think the censureship in Fat Acceptance Blogs in the number one fact that discredits any views they produce! How can you “speak for Fat People” if many of the voices are missing?

    It is Politically Correct for Fat People in Fat Acceptance to love their Fat, Hate diets and WLS. The truth is that there is far more Fat People outside of Fat Acceptance that hate their Fat and diet and are thinking of WLS. I think they would love to find a Fat Community that would support them before asking membership requirement questions about their vies on diet and WLS.

    William

  26. 26 On October 27th, 2007, attrice said:

    I don’t think the status quo needs to be supported. People need support, absolutely, but the idea that fat people need fat acceptance blogs to be supportive of dieting and WLS makes absolutely no sense. It’s like saying GLBT blogs need to be supportive of ex-gay therapy or feminist blogs need to support wifely submission. Kind of makes the whole fat acceptance thing completely meaningless.

    Not to mention that there *are* blogs which talk about FA issues and dieting! So there ya go.

    Deniselle,

    I don’t think of Heidi as weak either. I just wanted to point out that I think the problem with Kell’s post wasn’t just a ‘she’s a meanie’ or something, but that it is the logical conclusion of the way she views the politics of oppression.

    Although, honestly, there’s a also a part of me that doesn’t want to discuss the particulars of Heidi’s situation at all. Only because the relevant part to me isn’t whether she really needed it or whether or not it’ll really help her, it’s about where modern medicine fails to help fat people. And a society that sees rapid weight loss as admirable and rapid weight gain as disgusting instead of seeing them both as evidence of imbalance and illness (including mental illness.) At this point FA advocates worrying about an individual’s decision to have WLS or engage in WLD is completely and utterly misdirected, imo. When really fat people have options that aren’t all completely sucktastic, then I care about whether or not people engage in these behaviors. But we know that fat people face workplace discrimination. We know that they often can’t get treatment from doctors until they lose weight. We know that diet companies are allowed to dance around the truth that their products are worthless. It seems to me though that at this point the FA movement can’t really provide anything except facts and understanding which is fine, but let’s not anyone be surprised when that’s not tempting enough for people.

    OH the second that last part isn’t directed at anyone, it’s just me being rambly.

  27. 27 On October 27th, 2007, Rachel said:

    But I hope to hell I never become so militant that I can’t tell the difference between someone who’s drinking the weight loss Kool-Aid and an informed, thoughtful person driven by extreme suffering to compromise her own principles. Especially not when it’s the kind of person who is rejected, neglected, and abused everywhere else in this society.

    Exactly, Kate. In many cases, people who have WLS do not and will not become thin. They just become a less fat, fat person who is still subject to the same marginalization by the anti-obesity hysterics. Rejecting them entirely from what should be an inclusive fat acceptance movement simply renders them movement-less.

    And I think the tendency by some in the fat acceptance movement is to think of people who have WLS as very impressionable, gullible people who believe WLS to be an easy, magical cure. Maybe there are some people who think this way, but from the WLS patients I’ve spoken to, they’re in the minority. Sure, many people are unduly influenced by a culture and medical profession that tells them fat is unhealthy, but I doubt most people go into what is a very serious surgery casually and without consideration.

    My best friend Lisa had weight loss surgery earlier this summer – go here to read an interview with her I featured on the site. Lisa is no dupe nor did she choose surgery just so she could become thin. She did not make her decision unarmed and uninformed. She chose WLS because she believes she has very serious medical issues that are exacerberated by her weight and believed WLS to be the best possible medical choice for her and her family. She did not base her decision on the advice of doctors alone – she researched the various surgeries available for more than a year, and spoke to hundreds of others who have had WLS.

    Frankly, who am I to criticize Lisa’s personal medical decision, or tell her it was a wrong one to make? The anti-obesity doomsdayers claim the right to dictate to others how much their bodies ought to weigh. Aren’t we doing much the same if we deny others the medical agency to make personal health decisions?

  28. 28 On October 27th, 2007, Deniselle said:

    I’d like to ask those who have been around longer than me and discussed things with Kell more – do you think Kell might be more partial to a “healthy fat person” or “strong 300-pound woman” image than someone who’s genuinely suffering from weight-related health problems? She did make some rather frustrated posts about how she’d like to focus on the majority of fat people, not on the ones who have extreme health problems. Which personally I’m OK with, as long as the biggest people also have a voice in the movement at large.

    I guess what I’m asking is – with the same disease history and the same pain, but no plans to have WLS, would Heidi still have been a red flag to Kell? Was she, in reality, opposed to Heidi’s public suffering and the possibility that the readers who aren’t fat might assume this is the reality of obesity?

  29. 29 On October 27th, 2007, Lindsay said:

    That’s an interesting thought, Deniselle, but unless she comes back (and feels like talking about it), all we can do is guess. It’s something along the lines of which we should be asking our own selves – are we bothered at all by people who are quite large and/or people who are both fat and unhealthy? If so, why? If we’re bothered by both, which one provokes a stronger reaction? Why? If we’re bothered by any of the above, what sort of issues do we need to address within ourselves? What is the cause of the reaction(s)?

    Asking these things about someone who isn’t here to answer the question herself… strikes me as either futile or slightly underhanded. Either way, not productive.

  30. 30 On October 27th, 2007, Deniselle said:

    I guess I’m trying to understand where Kell is coming from with such a strong opposition to Heidi (in her earlier posts, she was working to refute Heidi’s idea that she’s fat because of her eating habits, for instance). But I know Kell’s not here to answer it herself, and it might not be the right place and time to ask these questions. Nevermind.

    What I do see in the FA community is that, like Kate said, there tends to be an emphasis on physically active, healthy-eating people. Maybe us not quite as healthy-living ones should be a bit more verbal about our lifestyles too. The thing is, it easily feels like something to be ashamed of or hide, at least keep away from the blog. Just so the haters don’t see it and think “Typical fat person, living on burgers and candy, I knew it!” What Heidi’s blog made me realize is that the relative healthiness of the writer has no real impact on the strength of the message – it’s all about how personal, genuine and well written the blog is. Maybe this is going back to the issue of public versus personal, but it’s 4 am here, so I can’t bring myself to make a real point anymore. More tomorrow.

  31. 31 On October 27th, 2007, Devi said:

    I think it’s understandable to want to focus on people who living very healthy lives within the FA community. Show healthy, active fat people, and you have a slightly better chance of counteracting the media hysteria.

    That being said, not everyone really is healthy at every size. I wasn’t. My highest weight was reached through spectacularly destructive eating and extreme lack of physical activity.

    Looking at me now, do I seem like someone who is healthy and overweight? Probably. I eat well, I exercise regularly, and I easily outpace women half my size at the gym. But it’s not the whole picture.

    Does the fact that I wasn’t healthy mean I was less deserving of acceptance? I don’t think so.

  32. 32 On October 28th, 2007, Thorn said:

    Although, honestly, there’s a also a part of me that doesn’t want to discuss the particulars of Heidi’s situation at all. Only because the relevant part to me isn’t whether she really needed it or whether or not it’ll really help her, it’s about where modern medicine fails to help fat people. And a society that sees rapid weight loss as admirable and rapid weight gain as disgusting instead of seeing them both as evidence of imbalance and illness (including mental illness.) At this point FA advocates worrying about an individual’s decision to have WLS or engage in WLD is completely and utterly misdirected, imo. When really fat people have options that aren’t all completely sucktastic, then I care about whether or not people engage in these behaviors.

    *applause*

    attrice, I agree with this 100%. Discussing the particulars of Heidi’s situation is, as Brian also describes Kell’s post, “a distraction.”

    I believe that absolutely is the case. It’s not about whether or not Heidi’s situation does or does not “really” warrant WLS. It’s about the fact that a woman in constant pain, a woman who is becoming increasingly trapped by her own body, a woman whose symptoms indicate something is clearly going on with her that is going unaddressed, is having all of her other health care options essentially withheld from her until she consents to WLS.

  33. 33 On October 28th, 2007, Meowser said:

    That being said, not everyone really is healthy at every size. I wasn’t. My highest weight was reached through spectacularly destructive eating and extreme lack of physical activity.

    HAES does not mean “accept having a binge eating disorder and serious depression, and don’t do anything about it, because if you do you might lose weight and screw you sideways with a phone book if you do.” What it means is that we don’t auto-assume that a person is in poor health solely because of their weight. We also don’t auto-assume that every person who is fat is so because they are “lazy gluttons,” as there are also plenty of “lazy gluttons” out there who are thinner. And it means that health issues — both mental and physical — are treated as they would be for a thinner person with the same problem, not with “lose weight and then maybe we’ll treat you.”

    It’s all too easy to say to someone who’s suffering, “Your doctor is a rusty tool, go find another doctor who can see past your fat.” The fatter you are, the more remote a chance there is of that happening, especially if you don’t live in an “enlightened” San Francisco-esque city and have no way to get there for any kind of extended treatment. Stories like Heidi’s and Vesta’s are important to get out there because they point that out. People like this absolutely need to be given more choices besides, “Hand over your stomach and then we’ll talk.”

  34. 34 On October 28th, 2007, Fillyjonk said:

    People like this absolutely need to be given more choices besides, “Hand over your stomach and then we’ll talk.”

    Oh, bravo!

  35. 35 On October 28th, 2007, WilliamW said:

    Hi Meowser

    Also when people in these situations come to Fat Acceptance asking for support they do not need to be attacked!!

    What better way is there to push them away from Fat Acceptance and leave them with only the Doctors to listen to.

    To change people’s ideas and behavior takes two way communication and can never be accomplished in angry responses to the newcomer. You have to listen to them and respond.

    I know from Ads that I have heard on the radio that WLS Doctors know how to market themselves and their Websites are very nice to the prospective WLS patients visiting there.

    William

  36. 36 On October 28th, 2007, annaham said:

    Constant pain, or cold, or nausea, is the kind of thing that’s invisible to others and doesn’t make for a very good story. We want tangible details to help us understand someone else’s suffering. But what makes suffering suffering is not the details that only emerge now and again — it’s the simple, relentless, maddening pain in the background that never goes away. That’s what people who haven’t been there really can’t imagine.

    I agree completely, Kate. I’ve been following this whole thing with great interest, and what consistently amazes me–whether it’s with trolls, people who claim to speak for “the whole movement” [which, of course, happens frequently, and not only within the FA movement, as we know] or with Kell’s post–is a stunning lack of basic human empathy. I’m not overweight/fat, but I do have a disability that would be considered by many to be “invisible.” What disturbed me so much about Kell’s post was her apparent unwillingness to see Heidi’s circumstances as human circumstances, and she therefore felt entitled enough to decide what behaviors, choices and experiences are “acceptable” within the FA movement, and which are not. It saddens me that some people still have such incredibly self-centered attitudes, even within a movement that, somewhat ironically, is so focused upon improving the quality of life for all of those within it, and not just those who fit into a very specific or narrow set of criteria.

    A philosopher (whose name escapes me at the moment) commented some years ago that it is nearly impossible for those who have never experienced severe health problems or disability (ies) to even conceptualize what life with such a condition would be like. The more I witness the aforementioned lack of empathy–both within certain sectors of the blogosphere and in real life (even in my daily life)–the more I am, unfortunately, inclined to agree with this hypothesis.

  37. 37 On October 30th, 2007, Paul said:

    (A late thanks for the Think Tank plug, Rachel!)

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