Tag Archives: activism

Weight and Height Anti-Discrimination Law Comes to New York City

NYC (Black) mayor Adams signing law with several fat women standing behind him

Debbie says:

Last Friday, May 26, 2023, New York city’s governor, Eric Adams, signed the city’s first anti-height-and-weight-discrimination law. New York joins a few other places, including the state of Michigan and the cities of San Francisco, California, Washington D.C., Madison, Wisconsin, Urbana, Illinois, and a few others in this slowly-progressing forward-looking legislation.

City Councilman Shaun Abreu said weight discrimination was “a silent burden people have had to carry”.

During public hearings, supporters cited difficulty navigating seating at restaurants and theatres, getting turned away by landlords, and butting up against weight limits on the city’s bike sharing programme.

Councilman Abreu, who sponsored the bill, said he became more aware of the issue when he gained more than 40lb (18.1kg) during lockdown and saw a shift in how he was treated. He said the lack of protections had amplified the problems people face.

Of course, this kind of change always represents dozens or hundreds of activists putting in thousands of hours of work. Laurie was in San Francisco when that city’s law was passed (over 20 years ago!). We wrote about that experience here in 2008, when Massachusetts was trying to get a similar law passed. Here’s Laurie:

I attended all of the meetings with the board of supervisors in San Francisco in 1999 and 2000, before San Francisco passed its size acceptance law. My role was to talk as a mother about the effect of this kind of prejudice has on kids. Lots of other people spoke brilliantly on other aspects of the issue including Marilyn Wann and Sandra Solovay. Others folks spoke on the issues of height discrimination. Interestingly, one of the supervisors, Bevan Dufty spoke eloquently about the pain of a fat kid.

In 2000 San Francisco became the third city after Washington, D.C., and Santa Cruz, Cal., to legally forbid weight discrimination. Tom Ammiano, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors at the time, said that the anti-discrimination measure passed because “many San Franciscans were being denied employment, housing and bank loans merely because they were perceived as being overweight.” I was thrilled when it passed here and it has been an effective ban.

In the intervening years, between San Francisco’s passage of the law, and Massachusetts’ failure, so much has happened to change the landscape of “legal” discrimination against people of color and other marginalized groups, and to feed the backlash against all kinds of protections for various protected or “suspect” classes.

Long before the first laws of this kind were passed, the extraordinary Dr. Arline Geronimus was developing and writing about her concept of “weathering,” as “the corrosive effects of systemic oppression on marginalized people’s bodies.” Dr. Geronimus, appropriately, applies her work generally to health outcomes for Black people and other POC. I believe it also applies, very directly, to health outcomes for fat people (and, of course, is multiplied when Black people and other POC are also fat). Check out Dr. Geronimus’s new book, WEATHERING: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an  Unjust Society, the first book on this subject.

So this is a taste of encouragement and possibility, in a moment when we finally have publicly accessible language to discuss why and how oppression affects health outcomes. Kudos to New York City for taking this leap, and may many cities and states follow.

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Abortion: Three Inspiring Essays and an Activism Guide

Debbie says:

Laurie and I have written about abortion fairly frequently in the many years of this blog, so our readers know that we stand unequivocally and unconditionally with pregnant people’s right to choose. That just means that we’re among the tens of millions of Americans who are appalled by the leaked draft opinion from two weeks ago.

Just about every smart progressive thinker has written about this, and we don’t have anything important to add, so we thought we’d share a few of the fine pieces we’ve seen. The excerpts after each link are just that; the full articles are better.

Mona Eltahawy, writing at her indispensable newsletter Feminist Giant, offers “The Seven Necessary Sins for Fighting Abortion Bans.”  One of her necessary sins is “Attention.”

The few abortion narratives that are considered “acceptable” are often prefaced with trauma and pain—as if they were the price to be exacted for bodily autonomy.

It is important to share abortion stories that say simply: I did not want to be pregnant. In my case, I was not raped. I was not sick. The pregnancies did not threaten my life. I did not already have children. I just did not want to be pregnant. I did not want to have a child. I am glad I had my abortions. They gave me the freedom to live the life I have chosen.

I had an “illegal” abortion in Egypt and a “legal” abortion in the U.S. I reject the power of the State, and Supreme Court, to declare what is “legal” or “illegal” when it comes to my abortions. The State, and the Supreme Court, can fuck off with their opinions and laws about what I can and can’t do with my uterus. That control belongs to me.

Rebecca Solnit wrote “Here’s how Americans can fight back to protect abortion rights” for The Guardian:

This time around – well, as I wrote when the news broke: “First they came for the reproductive rights (Roe v Wade, 1973) and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a uterus in its ovulatory years, because then they want to come for the marriage rights of same-sex couples (Obergefell v Hodges, 2015), and then the rights of consenting adults of the same gender to have sex with each other (Lawrence v Texas, 2003), and then for the right to birth control (Griswold v Connecticut, 1965). It doesn’t really matter if they’re coming for you, because they’re coming for us.”

“Us” these days means pretty much everyone who’s not a straight white Christian man with rightwing politics. They’re building a broad constituency of opposition, and it is up to us to make that their fatal mistake.

Rafia Zakaria’s “Bodily Control and the Color Line” at African-American Policy Forum is another must-read:

… this racial dynamic is likely the deeper psychic rationale beyond Alito’s otherwise inexplicable detour, in the leaked draft opinion, into long-ago eugenicist theories of birth control as selectively racist population control; it’s hard to see this as anything other than a desperate bid to inoculate the Dobbs decision from charges of racialized policy-making from the bench as it translates on the ground into scarce, stigmatized, and prohibitively distant and expensive abortion access for a group of women who are disproportionately nonwhite and poor. And just as is the case with other deceptively packaged appeals to universal racial comity—the ritual invocation of Martin Luther King’s “content of our character” line alongside the rolling critical race theory bans across the states comes inevitably to mind—the careful deployment of superficial colorblind rhetoric ensures that the old measures of racial backlash can now proceed with a new impunity. This is clearly the disparate and unequal socio-sexual order that the high court’s new right-wing majority seeks to underwrite; it’s now up to the rest of us to stop the drift back into maniacal, death-defying control of women’s bodies at all cost.

And, finally, the Los Angeles Women’s Collective has produced a comprehensive and meticulous activism guide, from donation all the way to grassroots day-to-day work.

Don’t mourn; organize.

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