I was in on the fantabulous Body Love Revolution Telesummit on Tuesday (There's still time to register for upcoming sessions!). A question came up that I think needs much closer analysis. The caller organized diversity events on his campus (hooray for him for considering size diversity!). He asked how and whether thin people, specifically thin men, are accepted as voices or advocates in this whole Fat Acceptance movement. It was a really thoughtful, and painfully real question.
The first thoughts that came into my head were about Malcolm X. Whatever you think of any or all of his messages, he did advance the idea of self-determinism; that a minority group does not have to rely on the majority to represent their voice or be a witness to their experience. He believed that if a group was not protected from hate and bigotry, they must protect themselves. This is why straight people are allies of the LGTBQ community, but not always accepted into every community as a full member of the family. It is about standing up for yourself, because being dependent on another person to approve you or vouch for you in order to be okay is NOT okay.
We as a fat acceptance movement have sometimes needed advocacy from thin people. I remember the introduction to Paul Campos's book, where the publisher would only take the book if Campos was thin. Likewise, Linda Bacon's advocacy success may be based, in part, on the fact that she is thin. Our voices must often be carried by thin people where they normally wouldn't go. This is not a bad thing. These people helped carve out huge chunks of new territory for us to carry the diversity message, and provided us with the strong empiric ammunition we needed to fight the good fight. On the other hand, they have a very different experience and perspective from Marilyn Wann, or Peggy Howell. They acknowledge and fight against size bigotry, but they have not really experienced it.
So when the caller asked this question, he's asking a few things. He's asking whether we are hostile towards thin people. He's asking whether thin people are welcomed as part of the "family". He's asking how a thin person can respectfully lend their support to the movement without co-opting the voices or having personal experience as a target of bigotry. He's asking whether the participation of men is encouraged, threatening, or irrelevant to the movement. It was a damn good, but complex question.
I will be giving my answers to these questions over the next week or so, trying to tackle each area of a complex web of activism and identity. Your mileage may absolutely vary, because there is no "one true way" of any movement. You may have answers to these questions that are very different from mine, because your experience and paradigm are very different from mine.
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