September 21, 2012 • In web :: Features
Health at Every Size
Continued from page 1
1. Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
Respecting diversity of size is a pretty popular mainstream opinion - you might be familiar with famous people like Kate Winslet and Jennifer Love Hewitt speaking out against judgement about their bodies, and with singer Adele commenting in People magazine: “I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.” This type of “love yourself” movement has some problems, especially when thinness is shamed (ever hear someone telling a very thin person to “eat a burger”?).
Fat acceptance is seen by some people as a synonym for size or body acceptance, but others think they’re quite different. Margarita Rossi, a self-identified fat Queer Latina woman, differentiates between them: “Body acceptance, for me, is the process of learning to love and appreciate your body and do what is best for you and your body, whether or not whatever is best for you is socially acceptable or not. I think it includes fat acceptance, but fat acceptance is a specific kind of body acceptance which focuses on the specific battles faced by fat people to learn to make peace with their bodies. While I appreciate the inclusiveness of ‘body acceptance,’ ‘fat acceptance’ is more relevant to my life and struggles with self acceptance.” Fat acceptance is a movement specifically advocating for acceptance of and respect for fat bodies and an end to discrimination based on larger body size.
But why are we using the word fat? you might wonder. Isn’t that a bit harsh? Rossi disagrees, saying she actually loves the word. Cynara Geissler, a self-identified fat white woman from Vancouver, says “I treasure and honour ‘fat’ like the hardest-won Girl Guide badge (loving yourself should really be a Girl Guide badge-- It's way harder to do that than it is to lead a campfire).” Fat activists generally use the word “fat” as a neutral descriptor, arguing that it should be no more loaded a term than “tall” or “dark-haired.”
But Carrie* [name changed] has mixed feelings about the word. It’s hard to reclaim a word that has been used as a slur against her, she explains. “Fat is not a neutral term,” she says. “I don’t like having others impose it on me because it still has connotations beyond body size.” While activists work toward freeing “fat” from negative connotations like lazy, gluttonous, greedy and ugly, individuals must always have the freedom to self-identify in whatever way feels right.
Using the more general term “body acceptance” can fail to acknowledge that fat people experience oppressions specifically related to their body size. Fat acceptance is a social justice movement, like other struggles for equality and rights. Margarita notes: “Queer liberation and the struggles against racism, and for civil rights for People of Color, have paved the way and informed the Fat Liberation movement. We owe those who fought and are fighting (intellectually and physically) these struggles a huge debt, and fat acceptance would not be possible without them.”
The following video is from the It Gets Fatter project. A transcription can be found at the video source.