Whenever you see an activist blogger not doing things the way you would, you should handle it by:
- Assuming she is coming from an opposite point of view hostile to yours (as opposed to sharing your POV but having a different take on what’s needed) and needs a 101 education on your POV
- Tell her how to run her site/organization/whatever
- Demand that the unpaid or low-paid blogger account for any refusal to do exactly as you ordered her
A commenter on What Privilege hit this particular trifecta last March, and I’ve been holding onto the comment all this time, waiting to find the emotional space to write about it. I’m going to dissect everything that’s wrong with the comment, because it wouldn’t be fair to let things slide just because they’re not examples of how she’s being unfair to me, but I’ll try to keep it clear which is the Activism 101 stuff and which bits are just oh no i don’t think so.
You have various forms of privilege on your site including on topics of race, religion, gender, age, mental health, class, etc- as I’m sure you well know. But what your site is distinctly lacking is discussion on thin privilege and sizism. I searched the site and didn’t find a single article about sizism. I may have missed it- but I also believe it deserves a tab at the top of your site along side the rest.
She’s right about sizism being an important topic, which is why I write about sizism here on Hathor where it gets far more exposure than it would on WP (plus, I feel it’s very tied into gender issues). That is the main reason why there are no articles (and hence, no tab) on it at WP. But she gets into bossy territory stating that it deserves its own tab. Also, “distinctly lacking” is aggressive language. The use of it in a first contact email implies that my leaving it out was the initial act of aggression to which she is responding in kind.
Sizism and able ism are some of the most pervasive and socially acceptable isms in our society, although sizism is more far reaching and results in many serious consequences such as eating disorders, mental illness, and even suicide.
This isn’t an Activism 101 bit, but whoa, Suffering Olympics alert! Sizism has more serious consequences than ableism? People get murdered for being disabled. Do consequences get more serious than that?
And yet your site has failed to talk about sizism or thin privilege. Fat people simply by being fat face many forms of discrimination including: unsolicited negative commentary on their bodies, desexualization, less pay and job discrimination, lower quality of care in regards to their health including less information from their doctors, having to pay extra when there is no extra cost to whomever is selling a service or product and many more. I’d like to point you to a great list of things that thin people enjoy as part of their privilege: http://sugaredvenom.tumblr.com/post/1295697338/thin-privilege-checklist and here is a small list of discrimination based on weight: http://fatgirlposing.blogspot.com/p/fat-discrimination.html
My site has “failed.” Again with the aggressive language, which implies aggression on my part. On a side note, I have to point out that the thin privilege link she cites is ignorant and narrow-minded, and I think reflects the perspective of this commenter. Two of the privileges it mentions are absolute bunk:
“I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs.”
“I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.”
This is pretty much the opposite of the truth. We have multiple skinny commenters who have relayed stories about people suggesting they have eating disorders, or asking why don’t they just eat something, or congratulating them on weight loss which happened as a result of a dire illness. This also influenced my view of the commenter’s perspective, which comes into play in a few paragraphs.
More so fat people have become the scapegoat for the diet industry with false claims about fat being equal to unhealthiness when the actual evidence shows that fat is not, in and of itself, a negative or unhealthy thing- typical illnesses associated with obesity are, firstly, actually associated with poor diet and lack of exercise and, secondly, showing up more and more in thin people as well. It’s a classic case for the fact that correlation does not equal causation and the reasons for the correlations are complex and a mixture of socioeconomic factors, biological factors, and psychological factors (which I’d be happy to explain in more detail).
Being fat is one of the top risk factors for being bullied. While eating disorders are discouraged in everyone else, fat people are encouraged to engage in disordered eating and eating disorders. Furthermore, sizism very closely ties in with sexism as women have a much smaller acceptable body range and fat becomes “unfeminine”. We are well aware of the negative effects of an appearance obsessed society especially on young girls and with a 4 billion dollar a year diet industry I think it’s time to step up and add sizism to the list of unacceptable bigotry that is beyond harmful to both individuals and society as a whole.
Slight digression: at this point, you may be wondering, “Why doesn’t she get her own blog on the topic?” She already has one. It’s not enough that she have a blog where she writes and handles tabs as she sees fit. It’s also essential to her that every other blogger fall in line and do things her way.
Getting back to Activism 101 issues, it’s hard to read that amount of basic information, with no “as you may already be aware” type remarks, as anything but an implication that I am obviously ignorant of what fat people deal with (oh, the irony). Because clearly, only ignorance could explain why I have aggressively omitted the tab she thinks I ought to have.
If you choose not to include sizism and thin privilege in your website I would love an explanation as to why. Please feel free to ask any questions.
And then she demands that I account for my continued failure to comply with her demands. Because it’s my job to answer to her.
In addition to both the Activism 101 and general issues with her comments, I should add: people with her views are one of the reasons I struggle to talk about this topic. She mentions “sizism”, but she’s only really interested in a discussion of “how tough fat women have it, and how privileged thin women are.” But everyone (and I mean everyone, including fat women) feels entitled to judge women on whatever size they happen to be. That’s the bigger problem that I feel encompasses the problems fat women have without implying that being skinny solves everything – it doesn’t, because as with beauty “privilege“, your best possible outcome is to be judged worthy of pleasing men sexually. Not the sort of “privilege” I’m after, thanks.
Here was my email response to her:
The reason I don’t have a “tab” for sizism is I only talk about that on Hathor. I’ve been fat/overweight all my life, but my experiences have never been made welcome by fat women in a fat activist context because… well, I don’t know. Maybe you can figure that out.
Anyway, eventually I just internalized everything and now I doubt I could get any words out on the topic other than “Everyone just needs to fucking fuck off”, so there you go.
I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that I was a skinny privileged bitch who’d never experienced the nightmare of being fat and therefore worthless in my society no matter what else I have to offer, but just to let you know? It sure came across between the lines.
Some people I shared this with didn’t get why I thought she’d presumed me skinny. My reasoning did involve a slight leap (I was pissed off at the time), but I didn’t see how I could possibly care as little about fatism as she presumes without having been skinny all my life. Not trying to defend that point since it’s not essential, just explaining that remark in the email. I still think she did envision me skinny, but we’ll never know.
Because she never wrote back. To elaborate: I have always been plump – not obese, but never skinny either. Sure, I’ve gotten a lot of crap for being bigger than people think I ought to be. But when I’ve tried to talk about it with fat women, or on behalf of fat women, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I am so privileged to not be obese. I should shut up and be grateful I’m not even fatter. I’m just not fat enough to have a “real problem.” How dare I say anything. (This isn’t true of friends, by the way – just a lot of the “fat activists” I’ve encountered.)
This commenter sure sounded to me like she’d have that same reaction – that same prejudice. That same Suffering Olympics urge to take offense at anyone claiming “I have this issue too, even though I’m not exactly your size.” The only context in which I’ll discuss what I know from my life experience about sizism is in a sizism discussion where stories of woe from skinny people have been made welcome, too – like the discussions we have here.
Even if this commenter had been making a totally non-problematic point, her way of going about it was all wrong. One person I shared this story with suggested she should’ve just offered to write a guest post – that would at least entail her doing the unpaid work instead of ordering me to do her bidding. She had no business assuming she knew what POV I was coming from. She had no business using the aggressive language about an omission, which is too vague a thing to be presumed an act of hostility. She had no business challenging me to account for why I chose not to do things her way.
She should have presumed we might have common points of view. She should have guessed that maybe I just hadn’t gotten around to articles on that topic. It should have occurred to her that maybe I had size issues myself, and having been beaten up about my size a lot, just hadn’t found the psychological space to deal with that topic just yet. In short, she should’ve kept an open mind about me instead of launching into a sermon that assumed I was a sinner.
As it happens, I have written on her topic of choice, but I feel sure what I’ve had to say about it would displease her to no end.