Laurie Toby Edison

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Blaming the Activists

Debbie says:

Laurie and I had a plan for today; we set time aside to blog together about the movie Wall-E and this fat activist article about it from Slate.

It would have been an interesting post–maybe it still will be. But I’ve been derailed, by my friend P., who sent me the link to the Slate article.

Apparently, the Slate article (which I agree with in some part and disagree with in some part) pushed my friend’s buttons, and she published a vitriolic, name-calling anti-fat-activist rant on her blog. It’s public, it’s not password-protected, I could send you to it. But I’m not going to, and at the end of this post, I’ll explain why.

Warning: if you’re a fat activist or an ally, you may find this next paragraph hard to read.

The title of the post is “Idiocy.” She calls fat activists “as a group,” “rabid and out of control.” She says we will respond to the “tiniest bit negative about being fat” by “jump[ing] down your throat and rip[ping] you a new asshole from the inside.” She says that if you suggest there’s a choice involved (in being fat), “you should fear for your life.” She says that if you write a fat character “in a less-than glowing light, you will be crucified on the activist’s altar.”

When I put in a mild response, she replied that she thought I was “one of the few sane ones.” That pushed me over the edge.

As a fat activist for the last 25 years, and an activist on other issues for the last 40, I have (of course–so have you) seen this kind of thing many times before. In milder terms, I’ve taken P.s side.

But here’s the thing that P. never acknowledges.

Everything she describes about fat activists is a hundred times, no a thousand or a hundred thousand times, more true of weight-loss true believers. For every individual who doesn’t think she should lose weight, there is a million-dollar business pushing her to lose weight. For everyone who doesn’t want to admit that there might be something the “tiniest bit negative about being fat,” there are hundreds of thousands of doctors, thousands of bariatric clinics and hospitals, who won’t admit that there might be anything the “tiniest bit negative” about being thin. Trust me (from personal observation), a 109-pound person has a harder time in chemotherapy than a 209-pound person. That’s just one. Have you ever heard anyone other than a fat activist say it?

Here’s where I agree with P.: In an ideal world, none of us would be telling anyone else how to live their lives. No activist would be criticizing women who diet, or get breast prosthetics, or African-American women who straighten their hair. In that same ideal world, no one would have been so barraged with hateful messages from early childhood that s/he would become an extremist in the other direction.

I work hard not to be the kind of activist (fat, queer, antiracist, whatever) that P. describes. This decision is made solely on the grounds of usefulness. I’m well aware of the part of me that wants to jump down the throat of every weight loss evangelist, every person who tells “socially acceptable” racist jokes and doesn’t see the harm in it, every person who says, “That’s so gay! and means “That’s so stupid!” I don’t jump down their throats, because I want them to listen to what I have to say. This makes me “one of the sane ones,” but you know what? The “insane” ones by this standard seem pretty damn sane to me. They’re angry enough to say things that have to be said. (Think anyone would have printed that review if Daniel Engber had said, “Wall-E gets some things about fat right and some wrong?” Maybe, if he has a regular column. But that’s not how you get a regular column.)

If you want individuals to listen to you (which is what I want), you have to learn how to moderate your extremism. If you want a soapbox, a place to yell from (which I desperately want my allies to have), you have to learn how to minimize your moderation and be extreme. You have to define the endpoints to move the middle–I learned that in college, studying the abolitionist movement which got rid of slavery in this country. For each Daniel Engber, a thousand people in theaters are nodding and thinking, “See, I knew the people covering the earth with garbage were fat.” And no, the movie does not say that. The movie is nuanced and interesting and worth discussion–but first there’s a cheap takeaway message for the people who aren’t noticing nuances.

I do not want to be “one of the sane ones.” I want to stand with my “rabid and completely out of control” allies. I’m sometimes wrong-headed, sometimes overly didactic, sometimes an extremist. I also know that what “extremist” really means is “angrier than me.” And right in the moment, I’m pretty damned angry. At the same time, I want friends who choose to diet or have weight loss surgery to be willing to talk to me; and I want to support them without giving up my beliefs.

So why didn’t I give you the link to P.’s post? Because I know that some of you wouldn’t be able to resist going and ranting there. And ranting at her is not going to be useful. This post is an attempt to practice what I’m preaching: be extreme on the soapbox and moderate when dealing with individuals.

27 Responses to “Blaming the Activists”

  1. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    Thank you for the Slate pointer – that’s a good article, and I look forward to your comments on it. I saw WALL-E a couple of weeks ago and it made me squirm and cringe and almost leave. Yeah, the animation is stupifying, and I love the nerdy Wall-e, but still.

    I think the message is subtler than the obvious one, but I fear most people will think the film is pointing a finger at and making fun of fat people. I’m not actually convinced it’s NOT making fun of fat people. I do think there was a sincere effort to pin the plight of humanity and destruction of the earth on Buy ‘N Large

    Oh, and then there are the gender-coded robots. That bugged the hell out of me. THEY’RE MACHINES.

  2. P Says:

    As I said elsewhere, my beef is not with activists who have strong, even extreme opinions, and are willing to state them forcefully. My beef is with activists who are completely divorced from reality, who refuse to listen to any opinion that doesn’t align perfectly with their own, who are incapable of using logic, and who ignore factual evidence that disagrees with their opinions. In short, it’s with activists who are irrational.

    A fat activist who says that there are no possible negative health repercussions from being obese is just an idiot, and as my joints will point out to you right now they’re an idiot without a basic understanding of physics. That’s entirely different from someone who has studied the research and says, “You know, recent studies don’t really back up some of what we thought was true about the correlations between weight and (some health issue).”

    The rant was also about people who fail basic logic. If I say, “Being obese increases your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure”, and someone responds with, “I’m obese and I don’t have either of those things, so clearly you’re wrong”, they’re just being stupid.

    A few years ago, a fat activist jumped down my throat because I said I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to do it for health reasons, and because I thought I would feel better, but those reasons were completely unacceptable to her. In her warped view of the world, size acceptance only meant fat acceptance, and the only possible reason that one might want to be thinner was because they were caving to social pressure. (“I support your right to choose, so long as your choice agrees with mine.”)

    My rant was really about irrationality and illogic first and foremost, and secondarily about unwillingness to hear opposing viewpoints. Hypersensitivity to the point of imagining things was really only a distant third.

    The problem is that I’ve run into a *lot* of completely irrational, illogical fat activists, and it feels to me right now like sane ones are the exception rather than the rule.

  3. Tiana Says:

    I admire anyone who manages to stay calm about this. I’m not even a member of any the groups that I try to defend, and yet I’m incredibly angry. “That’s so gay” bugs the hell out of me and each weight-loss commercial sends me into a small rage.

  4. Tiana Says:

    Oh, and now that I’ve seen the other comment posted shortly before mine: I wanted to do it for health reasons, and because I thought I would feel better, but those reasons were completely unacceptable to her.

    But … but that is exactly what fat acceptance is about, right there. Every fat acceptance activist has once thought that losing weight would make them feel better. That’s the whole POINT.

  5. P Says:

    P.S. As you know, there are plenty of other areas in my life where I have a low tolerance for illogic and irrationality. In my world, we place a high value on critical thinking and analysis, logic, and mathematics.

  6. P Says:

    Tiana, I think we may be using “feeling better” in different ways. When I said it, I meant that it would be easier for me to climb three flights of stairs, and would make my knees less grumpy. I wasn’t pointing at some nebulous “will make me happier” thing, but rather some very specific physical improvements. I think I have the right to make those assessments for myself, rather than having someone else do it for me– I don’t think fat activism has much to do with how well my joints function.

  7. *Marie* Says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Your clarity about the issues with her rant, in the paragraph after “But here’s the thing that P. never acknowledges”, is invaluable to me. I lose sight of those points far more often than I should. Your discussion about how your own thinking and feeling inform your personal decisions in these matters is inspiring. You’ve reminded me yet again why I love to read (and hear) your perspective.

  8. Meowser Says:

    Oh no, not another one. Not another “those nasty fat acceptance extremists are keeping me fat” screed. Please.

    Look, P., it’s real simple. You think dieting works. We don’t. But can we really stop you, if your heart is set on it? I don’t even know who you are, let alone where, and I’m not interested in policing anyone’s intake regardless.

    And if we’re such idiots, why do you need our approval anyway? Ninety-nine percent of people you meet will clap you on the back and say, “Go for it.” Why do you care if we don’t? Why are you so upset about the idea that some of us want a rare safe haven from yay-weight-loss talk? And I do mean RARE. Space like that is almost impossible to find in this world.

    If you think diets work, prove us wrong. Go for it. Lose 100 pounds, or however many you have in mind. Keep them all off for good. Laugh at us when you succeed. Keep laughing. The world will laugh with you. It’s not like hardly anybody has any more respect for us than they do the people who believe in legalizing pedaresty. Who cares if your knees wind up hurting worse from all the overexercising, or you wind up with back problems because your weight has shifted so dramatically, or you’ll get a heart attack or a stroke or cancer anyway because everyone has to die of something? You will belong. And that will make everything stop hurting.

  9. Sarah Says:

    “A fat activist who says that there are no possible negative health repercussions from being obese is just an idiot, and as my joints will point out to you right now they’re an idiot without a basic understanding of physics.”

    You are ONE individual. You do NOT speak for anybody else. Health is an ENTIRELY INDIVIDUAL concept. I bet I’m a physically bigger person than you, and my joints are fine.

    “The rant was also about people who fail basic logic. If I say, ‘Being obese increases your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure’, and someone responds with, ‘I’m obese and I don’t have either of those things, so clearly you’re wrong’, they’re just being stupid.”

    How is that being stupid? If obesity is just so horrible and bad, then every obese person WOULD suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. But, they don’t. There are MANY factors that can increase a person’s risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. But, do you point any of those out? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    “The problem is that I’ve run into a *lot* of completely irrational, illogical fat activists, and it feels to me right now like sane ones are the exception rather than the rule.”

    What is your definition of sanity? Somebody who has an opinion that only you agree with?

    “In my world, we place a high value on critical thinking and analysis, logic, and mathematics.”

    Funny, cause you’ve shown none of that here. Is being an asshole considered critical thinking now?

    Count me in as one of those “irrational” fat rights activists. You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

  10. BStu Says:

    The one things fat activists absolutely have to do is resist the urge to seem “reasonable” by the terms laid out by those who oppose fat acceptance. Because their terms are always a litany of ways we challenge their beliefs too much. Often in straw man terms, no less. We can’t have a NUANCED position. No, evidently that’s just for cartoon movies. If we don’t use the language of fat hatred, we’re idiots.

    Fat people have health problems. So do thin people. I don’t see a multi-billion dollar industry built around promising thin people that their health problems will go away if they gain weight. I want the health issues of fat people tackled. And I know that will never happen productively so long as we’re told we must stigmatize fatness. Insisting that fat activists must “admit” that fatness causes health problems is a red herring. It’s ignoring what fat activists are actually saying to instead attack something they aren’t. What FA *is* saying is that fat people are not doomed to be unhealthy. Fat does not mean diseased. Fat people CAN be healthy, which is enough to completely refute what the other side is saying. They say we can’t be healthy. Well no. That’s not true. We can be. Which is precisely why we must stop blaming fat for those fat people who do face health concerns. Because stigmatizing fat hasn’t worked. It hasn’t made people healthier. It hasn’t even made their weigh less! Its not extreme to say we need a new path. We need new answers. That’s not sticking my head in the sand. Its pulling my head OUT of the sand.

    And for gosh sakes, will people STOP claiming fat activists don’t want to her opposing view points. Look around our culture. ALL we hear is opposing view points. I’m am so sick and tired of this self-important attack leveled at fat activists who have the audacity to continue having their opinions. Anytime someone disagrees with us and doesn’t sway us, they act like we just don’t want to hear them out. No, we’ve heard you out. We’ve heard a thousand people exactly like you out. We still disagree. We confront a society telling us how wrong and stupid we are every day of our lives, so don’t you DARE tell us that we don’t want to hear opposing view points. We just don’t care to agree with opposing view points. We hear them plenty, whether you want to keep going on about how wrong we are or not.

  11. P Says:

    Sarah, I’m going to see if I can explain this politely.

    Imagine that there’s a scientific study. There are two groups in that study– women between the ages of 40 and 50 who are overweight (by some criterion– details are irrelevant for our purposes), and women who are not overweight. Let’s further say that this study is being done by responsible scientists, and they’ve done the proper analysis to control for other factors (like smoking, diet, exercise, race.) In short, it’s a well-done scientific study to see the difference between women who are and aren’t overweight.

    So we have this well-done study. The results show that 2% of women who are not overweight develop high blood pressure, and 10% of women who are overweight do so. If our scientists have done their job well, and other scientists duplicate the results, then it’s reasonable to conclude that being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure by a factor of five.

    Note that I said “increases your risk”, not, “guarantees that you will get.” You still have only a 10% chance of having high blood pressure, but that’s definitely a statistically-significant increased risk over not being overweight.

    One person saying, “But I’m overweight and I don’t have high blood pressure!” does not contradict the results of that study in the least. It does not mean that the science is wrong, and that overweight women really only have a 2% chance of having high blood pressure. It only means that the individual in question happens to fall into the 90% category rather than the 10% category. My argument is that someone who tries to claim that one person’s anecdotal evidence is stronger than controlled scientific studies is being illogical and irrational.

    n.b. I made up all of those numbers to serve as an example. I don’t know what the real numbers are, but the correlation between obesity and hypertension has been well documented. There’s some information on this page if you’re interested: http://www.obesity.org/statistics/obesity_trends.asp

    I’m not trying to be an asshole, and I’m certainly not calling anyone an asshole.

  12. Debbie Says:

    Lisa, I liked the film a lot better than you did, though I also saw most of what you saw. The question of whether Buy’N’Large is equated to the fat people, or is the evil victimizer of the fat people is an interesting one. I just chose to think of the robots as not gender-coded, which made the film more fun for me. (I’m still fond of the blog review I saw which said, “People don’t act like that,” when in fact the main characters aren’t people.)

    P, I’m glad you showed up for the discussion. I outlined the points where we agree in the post. And of course you have the right to decide for yourself how you want to handle your own health; no one knows better than you that no amount of criticism can stop you. I hope your knees feel better.

    Tiana, good points.

    Marie, thank you.

    Sarah, I completely agree with you that it’s about individuals. I’m a great believer in statistics, and probabilities, and at the same time, when you’re sitting in a doctor’s office, or lifting a 300-pound-weight, or whatever it is that you do, it’s what your own body can do that matters to you. BStu’s comments about the nonvalue of stigmatizing fat, below your comment, are extremely useful here. Laurie and I would, however, both hugely prefer to limit the name-calling in the comments.

    BStu, you rock!

  13. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    Debbie, the other interpretation of the robots that I can think of is nerd gets non-nerd, gender aside. I haven’t seen any discussions of that possibility – have you?

  14. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    P. – There’s recent, reputable work on the long-term effects of the stress of poverty on children and brain development. Turns out that the conditions of being poor result in high levels of stress hormones and serious long-term effects.

    There has been some good work done on similar effects of racism on minority communities, particularly African-Americans, and extremely famous work (look up Whitehall Study or Michael Marmot) on the effects of social status and control of one’s life on health. Logically, given such precedent, any study comparing fat and thin people needs to take into account the health effects of the constant barrage of fat-hating messages in our society.

  15. Hope Evey Says:

    This was a very well-written, well-thought-out post – thank you! I really appreciate what you’ve said here.

  16. janet Says:

    Debbie, the other interpretation of the robots that I can think of is nerd gets non-nerd, gender aside. I haven’t seen any discussions of that possibility – have you?

    There’s a long, interesting interview with Andrew Stanton, the director of Wall-E, that addresses some of this:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92400669

    It does sound as though gender was the main frame (mainframe, get it?) for the contrast between the two robots, but not the only one.

    I have more to say on Pixar’s gender politics (my toddler is currently obsessed with Finding Nemo), but will wait for the post on Wall-E to air them.

  17. Lynne Murray Says:

    This whole debate resonates a lot with me, but three things in particular struck me. I don’t know if others will see any connection but here are out my reactions.

    First “reality” — whose reality is it anyway? I don’t think there is an objective reality that we all share, just like there’s no one size that fits all. To some degree we can influence other people’s reality with our perception of our own. E.g., a a “take no B.S.” attitude versus a “tell me what to do” attitude shapes one’s reality, and even the way the world reacts to one for better or worse.

    Second, of all the many buttons I have to be pressed on weight issues one that tempts me to froth at the mouth most is, “I need to lose weight because…” fill in the eminently sensible reason.

    I.e., “My cause is just and therefore my results will be effective.” Not like those shallow people who only lose weight for trivial reasons like finding love and being treated better by everyone they meet.

    When someone says something like this I feel a post-traumatic-recovering-dieter-stress attack coming on flashing back on the decades I spent looking for the magical mantra that would make impossible weight loss possible Oh, wait, now I’ve got it, “I need to lose weight because it will end global warming, kick start world peace and make me a healthier, happier person.”

    Third, I think people who are cite weight as a contributing factor in health problems (particularly those in the medical community) overwhelmingly use this tactic to avoid treating fat patients. I think the deep-seated fat phobia and anti-fat prejudice makes it possible for a less-than-dedicated medical professional to withhold treatment and feel self-righteous at the same time. This fact alone makes me very cautious about accepting at face value any statement about “fat causes” or “weight contributes to” this or that problem.

    Those statements don’t stand in some kind of objective vacuum. I want to know who said it, I will read the medical journal articles or otherwise research what studies tend to prove or disprove it, and I want to know what agenda (if any) the person who made the statement is espousing, and whether they have a profit or have a personal payoff reason to make that statement–e.g., a doctor who tells me to come back when I lose weight doesn’t have to consider other contributing factors to whatever problem I may be consulting her/him about. Maybe said doctor has just bought him/herself a few precious minutes to devote to more deserving patients.

    Not too paranoid, eh? Just a little. But I paid my Paranoids R Us dues several years in advance.

  18. Lizzie Says:

    fyi, Googling “tiniest bit negative about being fat” brings up this post and the one you refer to but don’t link to, so it’s easy to find.

  19. P Says:

    “Second, of all the many buttons I have to be pressed on weight issues one that tempts me to froth at the mouth most is, “I need to lose weight because…” fill in the eminently sensible reason.”

    Lynne, why does it matter what the reason is? Why isn’t it acceptable for me to say, “I want to lose weight because I want to?” Why do people believe that they get to express an opinion about why I choose to lose weight, while at the same time arguing vehemently with the world about why it’s OK for *them* to choose not to lose weight? Isn’t size acceptance about supporting individual decisions, not just the ones that you agree with?

    If the only valid choice is to not lose weight, is there a choice at all? Haven’t you just taken the status quo (“fat is bad; you must lose weight”) and replaced it with an equally limiting and one-sided situation?

  20. Lynne Murray Says:

    Hi P,

    It’s not a matter of what’s “acceptable for you to say.” You can say anything you want. And I’ve got to reiterate that there are literally millions of women in the world who would be happy to discuss with you their perception that losing weight will make them healthier.

    However, when I said it pressed MY buttons I meant to express why remarks like that make ME feel bad. I certainly hope it’s okay for ME to feel how I feel based on my own experiences. My point in making that statement was to explain a possible motivation for the fat activist who went off on you. Ranting at people personally is not my style, but I may understand where she was coming from. I suspect that she might have had the kind of bad experiences I have had. These experiences can make a person very sensitive to those words.

    The mindset it brought up for me was the idea that the “right motivation” will make weight loss possible. This was not my experience.

    Perhaps it was yours, but my experience was the opposite, and there were other repercussions involved with losing and regaining weight.

    For example, my failure to lose weight or to keep off any weight I did lose was chalked up as a personal failure of character on my part by many people. Some of those people were cruel enough to say that “if you cared about your health” you would lose weight etc. That’s why those words are hurtful.

    Perhaps for you, the health motivation made weight loss possible and you are healthier for it. But I certainly have seen a great many people driven into yo-you dieting by those words–another reason why I see them as not completely neutral or completely private, even when one is referring to one’s own body and not recommending a course of action to others.

    That said, I know a few women who enjoy bonding with other women who share the “we’re dieting toward a healthy weight” solidarity. I have asked my perpetually dieting friends not to discuss their latest program with me because to me it feels like diet talk, and I live most happily in a No Diet Talk Zone.

    I think Health at Every Size is about supporting people toward improving heath. But we have to acknowledge that we may take different approaches toward our bodies. Hopefully we can respect one another and each be allowed our own individual dialogs with our own bodies. I don’t tell other people what to think or feel and I certainly don’t let others tell me what to think or feel.

    Lynne

  21. P Says:

    Lynne, that’s interesting. I don’t mentally draw any connection between “I want to do this because…” and “… therefore I will be successful.” I can see how linking the two could be stressful, but it never crossed my mind that the two things would even go together.

    Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to defend my choice to try to lose weight, but I feel like I have to. I’ve been so conditioned by the fat activist movement that talking about a desire to lose weight means that I’m automatically on the defensive about it. I feel like I have to come up with some eminently solid justification, or I’ll be told that I hate myself, that I’m caving to social pressure, that I’m a traitor to the movement, or any one of a number of other unpleasant things. I’ve actually been far more traumatized by fat activists than by the whole of the beauty, fashion, and diet industries put together. Telling someone who wants to lose weight, “dieting doesn’t work and if it does you’ll just gain it back anyway” isn’t really supporting someone in their size choices– it’s just as harmful and hurtful as the things thrown around by the diet industry. Worse, it’s coming from people who we generally see as allies.

    You asked earlier what I meant by reality. Right now, I’m having a hard time with sleep– I sleep on my side, and at my current weight I wind up pinching a nerve in my shoulder when I sleep. That in turn is leading to any number of unpleasant side effects (waking up with numb hands, significant exacerbation of RSI issues.) That’s reality for me– physical issues that can be directly traced to my weight.

    I think that we can probably agree that the stuff we learned in freshman physics is objective reality. In my case, I’m thinking of F=MA or force = mass times acceleration. More mass means that I’m putting more force on my knee, and it is expressing its displeasure with the status quo.

    I don’t think either of those things are a result of deep-seated fat hatred. Rather, they’re an obvious consequence of putting large amounts of stress on joints and continuing to do so for many years. Imagine a hypothetical person who weighed, oh, let’s say ten thousand pounds. Imagine that our hypothetical person stood up one day and his femur snapped under the weight. Even the most extreme fat activist wouldn’t disagree with the guy’s doctor when he said, “Your body just isn’t able to handle that much weight.” There comes a point when our physiology just can’t cope with the extra weight. Different things start breaking in different people at different weights, but I think “Sometimes we carry more weight than our bodies are able to handle” is a pretty accurate reality.

  22. wriggles Says:

    What you are describing above P, is itself anecdote, the point is that regardless of how much pain you’re in, dieting is unlikely to reduce your weight in the medium to long term, it also risks increasing it by further adjusting your metabolism.
    This is something every prospective dieter should consider beforehand.

    I do not believe you or anyone should be harrassed but being questioned or warned seems to be interpreted as harrassment by some who want unconditional approval, so it is tricky, you could tell them that you know they disagree, but you feel that they are doing so in a disrespectful manner.

    I think that if you go public with your concerns, you must expect people to respond with another point of view, as long as it is a point of view that they can explain.

    I wish you well, because I would not wish diet failure on my worst enemy and I really mean that, I hope you are one of the rare exceptions. Dieting is incredibly seductive precisely because it promises relief or problems that are far more prosaic in cause than cutting calories.

  23. P Says:

    After digesting this for quite a while, Debbie, I think I’ve figured out what about your entry doesn’t sit right with me. You write:

    “But here’s the thing that P. never acknowledges.

    Everything she describes about fat activists is a hundred times, no a thousand or a hundred thousand times, more true of weight-loss true believers.”

    My response to that is, “So what?” I don’t think that anyone else’s behavior prevents me from thinking and behaving rationally.

    I can listen to Rush Limbaugh until my ears bleed, but that doesn’t give me leave to ignore both facts and reason and turn into a blithering idiot– I’m still able to gather and analyze data, think rationally, and come to an informed conclusion. I don’t have to behave idiotically merely because someone else does so, and I don’t think it’s fair to use that as an excuse.

    I completely understand why someone would be angered by a world that stigmatizes them. However, stooping to the other side’s level doesn’t seem like a valid response.

  24. Debbie Says:

    Thanks, everybody, for such a terrific discussion (so far)!

    P, thanks for the thoughtful response. I think you’re responding to a subtly different point that I was making. I wasn’t saying “fat activists are sometimes irrational in response to the amount of weight loss pressure from the bigger culture.” If I had been saying that, I would agree with you. I was saying, “The weight-loss pressure and hysteria from the bigger culture is frequently irrational, anti-scientific, and, [to use your word] ‘rabid.’ Therefore, any criticism leveled at fat activits for being irrational, anti-scientific, and rabid is uneven if it is not also leveled at the system they are trying to counteract.” Does that distinction make sense to you?

  25. P Says:

    It’s true that my criticism is uneven, Debbie, but I think that’s almost all critics’ opinions are uneven. A politician criticizing one party very rarely criticizes the opposing party even when behavior is similar. You are critical of the weight loss industry, and rarely critical of fat acceptance.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect peoples criticism to be balanced. If I run into a stark raving lunatic on the street and call him that, I don’t feel any particular obligation to hunt down all the other stark raving lunatics in the world so that they can all be treated the same way. And I don’t think that, “That guy over there is a lunatic, so I can be too”, is justification for ones own bad behavior.

    By the way, I know what my next rant shall be. “Diets don’t work.” The reason for that seems painfully obvious to me, and yet it’s something that I don’t think either side wants to acknowledge.

  26. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    Speaking of logic, I was thinking of this discussion, and remembered that I forgot to mention one thing. P., when you’re considering issues around weight loss, do you take into consideration the source of funding for any studies you might read? I can provide citations on how funding sources result in biased studies in a wide range of medical areas.

    Also curious if you’ve read Gina Kolata’s “Rethinking Thin.” She’s not exactly a fat-acceptance activist, and yet she thinks it’s worth reconsidering diets.

  27. Debbie Says:

    Okay, I’ll go once more and then drop it.

    Yes, most critics’ opinions are uneven. I’m much more often critical of the weight loss industry than of fat activists, and to me that looks like an uneven-ness that reflects the power of the two groups and the social usefulness of the two groups.

    I’m not asking you to make your criticism be balanced, though in fact I generally much prefer, and am much more interested in, balanced criticism than profoundly one-sided criticism. I’m saying more or less what Lynne and wriggles said above: When you make a one-sided criticism that presses my buttons, especially in a public venue, I’m going to respond. If it seems to me that your criticism ignores a power dynamic that I think is important to the conversation, I’m going to point that out. I want other people to do the same for me; that’s how I learn, and how I counteract both my and my culture’s tendency to oversimplify.

    I can guess what your “diets don’t work” rant is going to say, and my current intention is not to respond to it, though I reserve the right to change my mind. I would, however, strongly recommend that you read Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin (my review is here. If I’m right about your rant, Kolata (who is a superb science writer and a thin person) may change your mind. If I’m wrong, it’s a good book anyway.

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