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Notes on the fatosphere

5th May 2008

Notes on the fatosphere

I do not often discuss my own personal dietary choices here, although I may discuss them on other sites in which I feel they are welcomed and appropriate. The reasons why are primarily twofold: Many readers here are actively battling with or recovering from dysfunctional relationships with food and I respect their struggles. My consistent platform has always been and will always remain that food itself is irrelevant; it is rather our relationships with food that are key. In that sense, what I had for dinner last night is moot.

My personal dietary choices are also informed by influences and beliefs that are unique and personal to me. I became vegetarian initially as a reaction to my eating disorder, but later became a committed vegetarian out of moral and ethical concern for animals and the environment, as well as the desire to live a cruelty-free lifestyle. I also identify as Buddhist, and because of my spiritual beliefs, I do not eat meat, drink alcohol or imbibe other drugs, and I try to do things that I feel do not harm other people, creatures or the environment. Because of this and other health concerns, I try to eat organic when I can afford to do so and I eat minimal processed foods. I also try to patronize businesses whose views are best aligned to my own and I donate support, both financial and otherwise, to organizations I feel promote causes I also believe in.

My spiritual beliefs, as well as my political, environmental and feminist ethos, are my own personal choices. Just as I hope others will respect my right to make choices that are right for me, I also hope I respect the rights of others to make choices they feel are best for them. This is why I do not include vegetarianism or alcohol abstinence or eco-consciousness as part of my fat rights or eating disorders awareness activist platforms and I think I have been largely successful in doing so.

I recently left a blogging community I felt – and continue to feel – strongly in support of out of misunderstandings of my above personal beliefs and the ways in which I present them. I don’t want to name the blog here, because I feel it is neither necessary nor couth to do so. Some readers here may know which community I am referring to, but I hope my comments here will not be interpreted as reflective of this particular blog, but in relation to the much larger movement as a whole. I use this blog only as a springboard to a much larger conversation.*

I left this particular community because the blog owner requested I refrain from or limit sharing my personal beliefs on certain subjects that are important to me. I understand the request and even think it reasonable in theory, but I also feel it (and I) was presented disingenuously and in an insensitive manner. Yet I respect the blog owner’s right to make rules for the community; because I didn’t feel the request entirely fair nor do I feel I can honor the request without great personal compromise of my beliefs, I chose instead to leave. Que sera sera.

I just finished reading George Chauncey’s fabulous book, Gay New York. It’s a fabulous read, and one that has much to say not only on the making of New York’s gay world, but also on how we have come to define and internalize normative gender roles. In his introduction, Chauncey recognizes that the “gay world” actually consisted of multiple social worlds and networks, many of which overlapped but were also distinct and segregated along lines of race, ethnicity, class, gay cultural style and/or sexual practices. Nonetheless, he refers to the making of “a” gay world because he insists all of the men in these networks conceived of themselves as linked to the others in their common “queerness” and their membership in a single gay world, no matter how they regretted it.

I was deeply hurt by comments said to and about me on the above mentioned community, but I also recognize and continue to value the contributions of this site and its members to the larger goal of improving the quality of life for all people. The fat rights community, as with most movements, is not a homogeneous and monolithic group of people. We will disagree. We will debate. We may, intentionally and unintentionally, judge each other. We represent different ethnicities and nationalities; we come from different classes and socio-economic backgrounds; we hold varying religious and spiritual beliefs or a lack thereof; we are active in a multitude of other causes and movements. Some of us are recovering from eating disorders, while others are learning how to be diet survivors; many of us are fat, while some of us are thin, but we all share the belief that the integrity and dignity of all people cannot be measured by our BMIs. In spite of our differences, we are all members of “a” fat world, primarily because that space has both been designated for us and imposed on us and because we all must transverse cultures and worlds that ignore our differences while continually seeking to shove us all into that all-encompassing and confining fat closet.

Last year, an activist I highly respect emailed me and politely asked me to remove the link I have in my sidebar to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The center has often promoted positions which place itself at odds with the fat acceptance community, but I continue to link to it because the center does contribute – or at least seeks to contribute – to the reduction of weight-based stigma. I also do not agree with the approach or sentiments of some activists like Brian at Red No. 3., but I continue to link to his site because I feel we need radicals like him to help balance the movement and because he raises thoughtful and insightful debates, even if I do not agree with his conclusions.

The same beliefs that influence my dietary choices have led me to see how futile hanging onto bitterness and anger truly is. Don’t get me wrong: I think anger can be a very constructive and needed tool in the right situations and sometimes we need to get angry about things in order for real change to occur. But the anger I am speaking of is the kind of anger that brews and festers within, scorching only the one who holds it near. I am deeply hurt by recent events at this community, but I am not angry with anyone there and I don’t want to let my hurt feelings interfere with the work I and members of this community are jointly doing with the fledgling Coalition of Fat Rights Activists and the larger movement overall. My goal now is to encourage both myself and others to move forward in more constructive ways to benefit the good of the movement as a whole.

To borrow Lindsay’s suggestion of communicating in baseball lingo, I hope we can all recognize that despite our differences, we’re all still rooting for the same team. We are doing exciting things with COFRA to improve the quality of life for fat (and thin) people and I want to continue to be a part of that. I hope you will, too.

*I do not wish to revisit the particular incident I reference in this thread. I think quite enough has been said on the topic and enough feelings have been hurt. Comments about the larger issue this post has raised are welcome.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 3:10 pm and is filed under Fat Acceptance, Feminist Topics, Personal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 13 responses to “Notes on the fatosphere”

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  1. 1 On May 5th, 2008, BigLiberty said:

    Great post, Rachel.

  2. 2 On May 5th, 2008, Charlotte said:

    Great post, extremely well written.

  3. 3 On May 5th, 2008, spacedcowgirl said:

    I really appreciate this post, Rachel, FWIW. I know we were on opposite sides of the issue you refer to, but it’s great to hear you reinforce the importance of solidarity in FA and continuing to work together for change.

  4. 4 On May 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Spacedcowgirl: I should probably note, we can only work together if we, in fact, work together, implying a reciprocal arrangement.

  5. 5 On May 6th, 2008, glt said:

    I’m so sorry people gave you crap over that. I send you fuzzy bunnies and kittens. Because I’m a fat vegan and I don’t think I could handle something like this as gracefully as you have here.

  6. 6 On May 6th, 2008, spacedcowgirl said:

    Rachel, check your email for further clarification.

  7. 7 On May 6th, 2008, Fauve said:

    I think your choices are great, Rachel. On the issue of Buddhism, I didn’t know they avoided alcohol. In terms of meat-eating, I read a book in which the author interviewed the Dali Lami. At one point, he admitted to eating meat every other day, for a health condition. I was blown away at this thought, as I feel alot of guilt for my meat consumption. I respect vegetarians for their choices, but I am not strong enough to abstain, I guess. Then too, I read that our car’s tires and brake fluids have animal byproducts in them. I think it’s extremely difficult and probably impossible to live a life that does not take *any* advantage of animals. That said, I wish that animals who are killed for meat would have much much better conditions than they do.

  8. 8 On May 6th, 2008, Fauve said:

    Sorry, I meant Dali Lam(a). Please forgive any misspellings!

  9. 9 On May 6th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Not all Buddhists interpret Buddhist thought or ideology similarly, Fauve. There exists a wide range of followers, just as with any religion (although I am loathe to call Buddhism a religion). Those Christians who handle snakes and speak in tongues are not representative of more mild-mannered Baptists or of Catholics nor do all Muslims interpret Islam to justify terrorism.

    But on the subject, it’s interesting to note that the Buddha himself was not vegetarian. He and his followers often relied on the kindness and generosity of strangers for sustenance and he thought it ungracious to not accept any offer, even that of meat. The Dalai Lama recognizes the economic and environmental hardships of the areas in which many Buddhists live (Tibet, Nepal) that make it difficult to follow a strictly vegetarian diet. And despite his meat eating, the Dalai Lama has continued to maintain that a vegetarian diet is in-line with Buddhist teachings.

    What I have taken most from Buddhism is the importance of not judging people, of recognizing that others take many paths in life, and that these paths aren’t necessarily wrong, even if they aren’t the route I recommend. I accept the Dalai Lama’s decision to eat meat as what is best for him, although it is not best for me.

  10. 10 On May 6th, 2008, Sarah said:

    I really admire you and what you have done/are doing for this community. Thank you.

  11. 11 On May 7th, 2008, Clare said:

    Rachel, I think I read some of the thread you are referring to – that is how I found this blog. I don’t think you were at all pushy or self-righteous about your vegetarianism, and as long as you do so respectfully, no one should prevent you from speaking about what is an ethical and religious choice for you. I have bookmarked this blog and I’ll keep reading it in the future. Much love to you.

  12. 12 On May 7th, 2008, Fauve said:

    Rachel – thank you for your very thoughtful and interesting response. I appreciate it.

  13. 13 On May 9th, 2008, Weathering the storm or, growing pains « Big Liberty said:

    [...] Rachel’s “Notes on the fatosphere“ [...]

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