Can someone who is trying to lose weight still call themselves fat positive? Or should they just use other terms like body positive? Can someone be a fat activist while actively achieving weight loss? Is it wrong to feel anger towards these hypocrites?
I was literally just dealing with this conundrum the other day! Someone on my Facebook feed posted an “after” image of herself in too-big pants. I was.. confused. Like, why is this person on my feed, right? It turns out she is part of “Diet Bet,” a website that encourages your friends to bet money on your weight loss and then everyone splits the pot (capitalism connections!), but she used fat positive hashtags and walks through the world with a fat body. So, I took a second to think about my complicated feelings.
Here’s where I’m going to seamlessly launch into a numbered list of advice points!
- Yes, sometimes people are misguided, but we don’t know the whole story
My first impulse was to unfriend her (I don’t have time for confused people who are posting weight loss pictures on my SACRED motherfucken feed!), but I realized the post didn’t actually super bug me or trigger internalized shame. It’s possible she’s into fat visibility but is hurting for cash; we all know fat women face more hiring and workplace discrimination and maybe Diet Bet is providing her with income she really needs. Maybe she’s super new to fat positive politics and she’s still figuring stuff out. I dunno! I decided to move on with my day, e-friendship intact, thinking “she’s a little misguided right now, but she’ll hopefully work it out.”
- Even though #1 is true, your anger is still TOTALLY legit
It has taken me A LONG time to get to the point where this person’s post didn’t send me into an eye-twitching rage. So, to answer your question: no, it’s not wrong to feel anger toward people who you feel are encroaching upon an identity that is important to you. Especially since a lot of folks who have politicized identities have experienced marginalization and trauma, and we create identity enclaves to foster a sense of safety.
- Ride the anger, but don’t let it ride you
Anger is important. Allowing yourself to feel upset is part of grieving the shitty stuff that’s happened to you. I do recommend capping the anger, though. Like, girl, ride the anger, don’t let it ride you. I recommend: deciding approximately how many resources you want to spend on that anger. Your mental energy, processing time, etc. are finite resources, not unlimited ones. So, when you hit your point of diminishing returns (i.e. it stops being fun and you’re starting to feel shitty all the time) it’s time to audit the anger and see if you maybe want to re-direct some resources elsewhere.
I think what you’re sensing is that these folks are exploitatively using fat positive language to access emotional resources and social capital. This is not social justice. This is also not cute! Requesting space and resources for weight-loss support in fat positive communities that are trying to heal from diet culture is fucked up. I’m a pro-choice feminist before I’m anything else. I believe people should do with their body what feels best to them, BUT I think it’s kind of an asshole move to go into spaces trying to use fat affirmative language to get access to support from people who don’t need to see pics of your zucchini juice and boiled egg breakfast, girl.
- And finally here’s a PSA for the weight loss focused fat folks
I’d like to conclude with a PSA for folks trying to access fat positive community while actively pursuing weight loss:
I get that you’re deep in the experience of fatphobia. I get that you’re just trying to make your life less stressful, and that you’re probably healing from fat shame. That’s SO real! And I feel for you.
Since you are pursuing a normative goal in a weight-loss congratulatory culture, go to OTHER less-tapped resources and communities before you head into fat positive spaces where people are trying to heal from the very thing that you are doing. There are relatively more places you can find support in your weight loss journey, and many people are willing to give you the high-fives and applause you need for your pursuit. So put forth a good faith effort and stop taking up resources and space from people in the fat movement who are not pursuing weight loss. You can read fat positive resources, be part of listening in fat poz communities (if they are ok with that), or fostering relationships with folks who are in the same head space as you. A lot of us don’t have myriad options for support because most people are hostile to fat folks who are not pursuing weight loss. So, take a deep breath, own your soon-to-be-former assholery, and make the change.
Hope this helps, boo!
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.