Last night I got an email from a friend asking for my advice on how to respond to an acquaintance who viewed fat positive blogs on tumblr. After looking at a few blogs on tumblr they came away with the idea that fat stigma is an issue that only impacts white cisgender middle class women while also being horrified that we clearly disregard our own health. The first point, while being completely untrue, has far more to do with the hierarchy that has been created in fat spaces where fat people with the most privilege due to gender, class, race and even body size are given the most space.
That does not mean the community is a true reflection of fat people, as much as I wish it were, because if that were true the community as a whole would look drastically different and if this person looked a little further they would see that there is a good portion of the community that reflects that reality. The issue I’ve found are people disregarding the reality of who is impacted the most by fat stigma because they ignorantly believe that fat community is a true reflection of our society. This is part of the reason my own tumblr will rarely have anyone that looks like me and is filled with content that moves outside of the archetype created by fat community.
The lack of diversity is a huge issue in the community and that even harms the reality of what it means to be a fat person in regards to health, because when everyone thinks that fat people are white and middle class they falsely believe we all have access to health behaviors. This places soul blame on individual fat people for performing health in a way our society deems acceptable. For fat positive people that means preaching about health and proving to others that we may be fat but we are healthy. I’ve rejected this argument over the last few years for numerous reasons. People who demand we conform to an inaccessible performance of fatness, one that is based on proving health, are not actually interested in the humanity of fat people but in us performing for them and their comfort.
Those demands also harm fat people in the community who don’t perform fatness in a “socially acceptable” way due to numerous reasons but overwhelmingly you see that it has more to do with lack of access to health behaviors than just purely not caring. The emphasis outsiders place on fat people to perform fatness for their comfort is based within a neoliberal politic that demands individuals overcome whatever constraints on their lives to meet the demands of society. This was applied to the concept of health in the 80s by Robert Crawford when he coined the term healthism and the expectation that people can be healthy, transcending whatever barriers to health they have, if they have the will to do it.
I’m not here for that. My politic starts from the bottom up, so I’m not interested in performing fatness in a way that is socially acceptable to make other people comfortable. That is why I tweeting about the email I was sent and it turned into my dear friend @mazzie tweeting back with the hashtag #NotYourGoodFatty. I’m not interested in performing fat positivity in a way that harms other fat people by letting outsiders know I am meeting their demands on my body. I want to challenge those demands. I want people to work harder. I want them to think more about how if they were seriously concerned about the health of other people they would be fighting poverty not people.