What I Learned About Fat and Feminism in 24 Posts or Less

The time has come for me to wrap up my gig blogging about representations of fat in pop culture at Bitch Magazine, and I find myself reflecting on what I personally am taking away from the series. I went into the job with high hopes, thinking I was going to be able to really analyze some complicated issues surrounding portrayals of fatness. Instead I was met with hostility almost immediately, and I realized I was going to have to run a fat acceptance 101 course concurrent with analyzing fat in pop culture. Since I was there do to the latter, I made it clear I was not going to accept any discussion of whether fat was healthy or unhealthy. I did this because opening up the health issue for debate just enables those who would seek to shame fat people, blame rising health care costs on them, and openly “concern troll” under the guise of actual interest in fat people’s well-being. Naturally, this upset some people and there were cries of “intellectual oppression” and other such nonsense.

To digress a minute, commenting on an article online is not a right and I don’t feel the need to coddle commenters who feel like the writer OWES them something, such as a thorough education on a topic that was already discussed, when Google is quite easily available. As so many have said, oppressed people are not a learning opportunity and you need to take it upon yourself to become educated on a topic.

Although fat acceptance has been around for quite some time (and I personally have been writing about it since 1998), people still don’t seem to understand that it is a feminist issue. FEMINISTS don’t seem to understand. Traditional feminism breaks down at the intersections and clearly, this is one of them. Blogging at Bitch brought that realization front and center for me. It was somewhat disheartening to experience the pushback against fat being even simply a value-neutral word, much less a positive term. But I did take solace in the comments I got that were supportive, and the people who said they had learned something from the series.

I also learned that among many feminists there is still a gag reflex when it comes to fat. I was surprised at the amount of people who, to their credit, admitted that they had an immediate reaction of disgust at the story of Donna Simpson, a 604 lb. woman who expressed a desire to weigh 1000 lbs. so she could hold a Guinness World Record. I’m not making any extra value judgments on that story here, so don’t ask. I wrote that post to get people to think critically about their commitment to practicing fat acceptance, not to ask people to condone Donna’s choice. That particular post sparked many critical (to put it nicely) comments that were eventually moderated out, which angered the villagers and spawned more cries of intellectual policing. People, ostensibly feminists since it is a feminist site, were upset that they couldn’t speak to the health issues of Donna’s situation–but they ended up doing it anyway. All the same red herrings that are thrown about in discussions about the “obesity epidemic” on any number of non-feminist sites appeared in this discussion.

So, what did I learn? I learned that we have a long way to go in reconciling mainstream feminism with intersectionality, in this case fatness. I learned that many supposedly enlightened feminists will turn on you when you push their perceptions of what is covered under bodily autonomy. Actually, I already knew these things, they were just reinforced by the experience and I suppose I had kind of a rosy view of how fun this whole gig was going to be. I appreciate the support I did receive, and the editors of the site were extremely supportive as well. But it is pretty much always a thankless task to speak truth to power and to force people to think about things that are important yet uncomfortable to think about.

I’ll brush my shoulders off and prepare for the next challenge.

Want hot sex delivered to your e-mail?

Subscribe to get updates of Sex and The Fat Girl as soon as they pop out!

,

  • Claire

    Well, I appreciated what you did with your writing there. Thank you.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Thank you so much, that means a lot, really. <3

    • http://www.definatalie.com Natalie

      Co-signed! I really love Tasha for bringing fat and pop culture to Bitch.

      • Tasha Fierce

        Thanks Natalie!

  • evmaroon

    I thought your series was great, and great at exposing the fault lines among feminism.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Thank you Ev!

  • Dorian

    I loved your Bitch posts, and I'm really saddened by the amount of–resistance, I guess?–that they were met with.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Resistance is a polite way to put it! LOL. Thanks for reading.

  • Briznecko

    I thought your posts were great! They helped me to better accept myself as well as realize and unpack my in-betweeny privilege. Too bad for the push-back, just think of the *awesome* stuff that could have been discussed if you weren't constantly pulled into comment moderating and limiting your discourse to a FA 101 level.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Yeah, maybe I'll come back and talk about things more in depth, but for now I'm resting!

  • Owl

    Hey there, Tasha. I appreciated your writing at Bitch. It is surprising (maybe?) in retrospect how emotional some of the responses were pertaining to fat and fat acceptance. Wonder what that's about? I'll definitely be checking out your writing here in the future.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Thank you for your support!

  • Margaret

    Ms Fierce, your bitch magazine blogs have opened my eyes, made me question my self and demanded that I get educated – thank you very much!

    • Tasha Fierce

      You're very welcome! Thank you for the kind words!

  • Kelsey

    Tasha, all of us at Bitch just want to thank you again for blogging about fatness and pop culture for us. I'm with you in feeling surprised and saddened by all of the pushback you got from some people, but I know that just as many people (more, I'd bet!) learned a lot and really loved the series. I know I did! Thanks so much!

    • Tasha Fierce

      Thanks Kelsey! I appreciate you guys' support.

  • Kjerstin J

    Thank you so much for blogging for Bitch, Tasha. Size Matters was such a great series and for all the assholes I know you changed the minds of a lot of other people and had the support of even more. We were so happy to have you and glad you're in the roundtable and keep up all your great work!

    • Tasha Fierce

      Thank you Kjerstin! And thanks for giving me the opportunity to try to educate people about FA.

  • murphy jacobs

    I learned a lot while you were at Bitch, so I followed you here. I have a metric shitload of issues related to weight and body image and you shifted my thinking on so many of them, to the point that I need to read more discussion and opinion to keep my own brain from shutting down.

    As for the flashback and anger and assorted useless verbiage hurled at you there, I am afraid I tuned a lot of it out on the grounds that unanalyzed fear and anger spilled out in the guise of conversation is boring and only tells me the speaker is for some reason fearful and angry. Hang tough, lady. If it helps, I'm one of the people who had a little life change because of your words.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Awesome, I'm glad it had a positive effect on you. Thanks for your support.

  • Casie

    i was shocked by some of the feminists responses to your writing! some of them literally said they wanted to cancel their subscription to bitch because of fat-acceptance! It was eye opening to see such strong reactions to it.

    Fat acceptance is a feminist value! I am not fat, but all women, small or large can benefit from fat acceptance. If you're not currently fat and hating yourself (or resisting those who hate it) you're probably thin and worrying about becoming fat. women are being targeted and socialized to hate their bodies and diet. there is a term for practically every part on a woman's body that can be critiqued and hated. then, on the other side is society hating women for dieting too much and being too thin! women are constantly expected to fit in this smaller and smaller box, not too thin, not too big, not too submissive, not too dominant, not too emotional, not too cold, not too smart, not too dumb. it is impossible to walk the thin line between one of these areas let alone all.

    anyway, thank you so much for raising awareness. I hope the haters didn't win and you left for some other reason. either way, I understand, but it's still sad to see you go. And I hope there can be some understanding (not acceptance) for why these people reacted this way. Fat-acceptance exists because we all at some point were haters or afraid or insecure.

    • Tasha Fierce

      Oh don't worry, no one ran me off, my contract was just for 2 months! Thanks for your support and for "getting it".

  • http://apprenticefeminist.blogspot.com/ maggie

    Oddly, perhaps, Donna Simpson's story was what helped me figure things out better. There had been an article about Lady Gaga's prison girlfriend in the Telephone video a bit previously. The woman who played her said that she chooses to present androgynously and modifies her body with a lot of weightlifting or something like that. And I had thought — I approve of her doing what she likes with her body! It's her body!

    Then when Donna Simpson was in the news I realized…wait. This is what she likes to do with her body. So why do I care?

  • http://whitneyteal.blogspot.com whitney

    Thanks for this! I pitched a column to a website about fat+black+feminism+media and, if I do it, I'll definitely take your stance on not allowing ruminations on health that derail the conversation. I did a short fat acceptance+feminism piece for Change.org's women's rights and was surprised that the comments were positive, but I know the other website will have a different audience.

  • deeleigh

    I really enjoyed reading that series of articles. Thanks for linking to them! I used to have a subscription to Bitch (nothing beats reading it in public)

  • Karin

    Hey Tasha,

    I'm a bit late commenting, but I just saw that you had posted for Bitch and spent the entire evening catching up on your posts there. I REALLY enjoyed them and applaud your (and the mods') patience while answering/moderating the comments at Bitch – the *headdesk* moments were too numerous to count. I do realize where some people's defensiveness is/was coming from, but still – argh!

    Anyway, thank you very much for the series!

  • Garoben

    I just tripped over a link to this from shakesville, but I gotta say I really appreciate that you've replied to every commenter here.

    Now to go read all those articles!