What is "Fat Acceptance"
Paul, over at Big Fat Blog has asked this question for the current discussion topic.
There are a lot of good answers there. I wrote one, too, but for some reason can't get it to post right now. So, I decided to share here:
I dream of a day when "fat" is just an adjective like "tall" or "brown eyes." I think fat acceptance is about removing the visual stigma associated with being fat. "Fat" is fraught with a whole body (sorry for the pun) of meanings about the moral character of a fat person. It is the same meanings that are always associated with stigmatized persons.
It is good to be self-accepting and, yes, in order to be able to accept others and to confront the prejudices of others, it takes a good dose of self-fat-acceptance.
But I hold the person exhibiting bigoted behavior responsible for the stigma. All too often the "answer" for stigmatized persons is purported to be in "self-acceptance."
Fat acceptance for me is about removing the stigma and that means someone other than me is going to have to change. That means that at its base, fat acceptant is about a cultural change and that takes time and repetition.
BTW, that is where my nickname "cshock" comes from. I know my body is "culture shock" for many people and that is why I proudly go out and about. The more others see fat folx out enjoying themselves, the more natural we will become. Our visibility is part of the repetition that needs to be in order to change culture. But it isn't easy to stand up to the prejudice.
Because it is going to take time and repetition, I'm always excited when I see fat accepting tidbits in the culture. My two favorite quotes:
"You probably noticed, elsewhere I used the word fat. I used that word because that's what fat people are. They're fat. They're not large; they're not stout, chunky, hefty, or plump. And they're not big-boned. Dinosaurs are big-boned. These people are not necessarily obese, either. Obese is a medical term. And they're not overweight. Overweight implies there is some correct weight. There is no correct weight. Heavy is also a misleading term. An aircraft carrier is heavy; it's not fat. Only people are fat, and that's what fat people are. They're fat. I offer no apologies for this. It is not intended as a criticism or insult. It is simply descriptive language. I don't like euphemisms. Euphemisms are a form of lying. Fat people are not gravitationally disadvantaged. They're fat. I prefer seeing things the way they are, not the way some people wish they were..." -- George Carlin
"Mom, I'm fat. But big deal. I don't feel bad about it, and you never made me feel bad about it. And just because there are people out there who want me to feel bad about it doesn't mean I have to. So Bobby Hill's fat. He's also funny, he's nice, he's got a lot of friends, a girlfriend. And if you don't mind, I think I'll go outside right now and squirt her with water. What are you going to do?" -- "Bobby Hill" from the cartoon "King of the Hill" while comforting his mom regardeing her supersized feet. (BTW, I have to admit I cried when I first saw this episode. It was a rare and beautiful TV moment.)
What is "Fat Acceptance"
The Twenty No Theory of Bureaucracy
I hate dealing with big, multi-level bureaucratic institutions like credit card companies, technical support, schools and government. Over the years I have developed a theory on how to handle (and I mean handle in the most pejorative sense of that word) the automotons (automorons?) that one encounters when trying to get something from such an organization. I call it the "twenty no" theory.
The concept works this way. I do not believe that the answer is "no" until I have been told "no" 20 times. If the person I am dealing with says "no" to my request I ask for a supervisor and make my request again. I have found that persistence up the ladder almost always pays off in three "nos."
I have a friend who wrote a paper she presented at the ASA 1998 called "Administrative Bureaucracy as Collaborative Effort" about her experience with the National Institutes of Health in gaining permission to interview persons on house arrest for her dissertation. She had to gain permission through this office because she wanted to ensure that her subjects would tell her the truth about their experiences on house arrest without fear of her being compelled to testify against them regarding violations of their sentences. This certificate actually requires an act of congress that is based upon recommendations from NIH's research ethics board. The long and arduous negotiation she had with the legal and medical staff at this board were intricate and often times off-topic. For example, one of the people with whom she had to deal actually questioned her several times regarding her safety because she was "an older woman" encountering "criminals." This was almost humorous if it hadn't been frustrating because, first, Sylvia is someone who can take care of herself. She is, in a word, gutsy. Second, the "criminals" who are on house arrest are usually not violent. They might write her a bad check, but they probably haven't killed lately.
I found her experience with the NIH enlightening and was happy to see her write about the experience as a locally negotiated, collaborative effort that required human interaction skills more than policy knowledge. It fits quite well with my "twenty no" theory.
I thought of this today because my brother used this technique to negotiate with his credit card company. After the second "no" he got want he wanted (a credit for a charge) and more (they took off the penalty as well).
So feel free to pass on my twenty no theory and use it at will. Remember that somewhere in that organization resides a human being with the power to say "yes." Find her and you will get what you want.
Latest Issue of The Ample Traveler© is up
Check out the January/February 2005 destination (hey, we made it before the end of February) -- Southeastern Arizona -- Where the Saguaro Rule.
If you want to leave comments regarding the issue, stop by the official blog of The Ample Traveler©, Ample Ramblings.
Thanks for continuing to support our project. We have raised $93.00 to date. We need at least $500 to move forward with our plans and we are hoping for more so we can move more quickly to becoming an advocate for univeral access in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.
As promised on January 29, I thought Yawning Lion would enjoy this picture of me from last Halloween. The costume was inspired by my favorite, albeit controversial, lesbian comic strip, Hothead Paisan.
BTW, it didn't take me 12 days to wake up Steve, but it did take that long for me to figure out how to post a picture here.
Big Fat Blog Fund Drive
Big Fat Blog is having their annual funding drive.
If you are not familiar with this site, it is one of the best places to find out the latest news regarding discrimination against fat people both legally and culturally. Paul tracks news stories, research, books, and editorials regarding fat acceptance, fat prejudice and the latest on the consequences of the war on obesity. He does all of this in his spare time.
His fund drive helps defray the expenses of maintaining an adless website and domain name. Check out the website and let Paul (and all of us fat folk who benefit from his work) know that you support him. Even a dollar will help.
BTW, I know that it is tough to ask for money and it is tough to give money, but supporting these grassroots efforts such as Big Fat Blog and The Ample Traveler are the stuff that movements are made of. The opposition is well funded. It is a multi-billion dollar industry with huge advertising budgets and lots at stake if fat people were to become acceptable. So please consider giving something to show support when these opportunities arise. It is a lonely fight at times and your support helps ease that burden in more ways than financially.
Roller Coaster Week
A bunch of things happened this week. Most of which, I don't think I can really write about yet, which is frustrating.
I'm living on the edge right now. I might have a new career opportunity. It looks good and it is something that would bring in some money, which we desparately need right now. But it is just out of reach and I am anxious to get started. I might have some help getting started, but I'm not sure if the help is coming or not. In the meantime, we have to survive and I'm not sure how bills are going to get paid this month. It could be good. It could be fantastic. I could be disasterous.
My book, Taking Up Space, is making progress. Several people have agreed to read it and write endorsements for it, including someone special to write the introduction. I'm excited about this. I am warmed by the support I feel. I'm also delighted that the book seems to be striking a chord among people. It should be out in late summer or early fall of this year (2005).
Our February fund drive for The Ample Traveler© has made a slow but sure start. We've collected $43 so far. I am warmed by the support we've received.
But I'm also worried about the lack of response and the negative response. I've had a couple of hate e-mails in response to it, which is always unnerving. I spend a lot of time talking about how being seen in public places as a disabled fat woman is an act of subversion, but I'm always surprised when being visible invites resentment. I guess it shouldn't be surprising. People resist change. People cling to their judgements and categories as if they were Linus's security blanket.
It is good. It is bad. I am up. I am down. Things are tense right now. It is time for change, but I'm not sure what will change and if those changes will lead to better things and what my role should be. I'm tired and stressed and excited and worried and anticipatory and, well, anything but calm.
And the clock keeps on ticking. I'm going to try to have fun today and pretend that things are not in an uproar. After all, it's Superbowl Sunday, so there's a party somewhere.
Fund Drive for The Ample Traveler©
We are starting a fund drive for The Ample Traveler© this month to raise enough money to form a non-profit corporation to oversee our work in promoting universal accessibility in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Some of the money raised will also help us pay for the second year of the website hosting and domain name registration.
If we are able to raise these funds and form the non-profit watchdog organization, we hope to expand our work to include finding ways to dialogue with the industry through available forums such as conventions, meetings and speeches.
If you want to help, we could use any support you can offer.
We are committed to showing the industry that diversity is good business.
There is room for everyone.
Thanks for you support.