Yay for Lesley Kinzel, taking fat acceptance mainstream

I totally have a project due tomorrow (oh grad school, I love you, but I’m exhausted and can’t wait for May when you’ll be over), and shouldn’t be writing this post, but whatever–this is important stuff!

Lesley Kinzel’s blog was one of the first fat acceptance blogs I got really excited about a year and a half ago when I found fat acceptance.  I love a lot of what she’s written, but particularly her ventures into satire.  Oh satire, I love it.  Anyway, I was (selfishly) disappointed when she (unofficially, possibly temporarily, no word from her on the subject) stopped blogging at her blog as she took a new job at xojane.  I followed her there, though, and at first I pretty much only read her articles, but I got hooked on a lot of the other writers there, and now it’s one of my go-to sites.  When she writes about fat acceptance there, it’s not in the same way as she wrote (writes? will write?) about it on her blog.

The audience of her blog is people in the movement or discovering the movement, and that’s why the satire works in that context; it allows those of us already on board to picture a world in which worries about an “obesity epidemic” are ridiculous.  On her own blog, Lesley writes really…powerfully, transformatively…about life almost as if it already is how we wish it to be (if that makes any sense).  Her view is forward-looking, allowing you to see what it might be like to look back on this time when people were not respected because of their bodies.  I love it.

The audience at xojane is not strictly a fat acceptance audience (although there are quite a few of us!), so when Lesley writes there about fat acceptance (which is not the only subject she writes about there, by the way), she writes in a way that acknowledges that these might be new ideas to a lot of people.  She’s a little more careful, which, for me, diminishes the power a little bit, but I think it’s absolutely the right approach for a more general audience; she has to meet them where they (on average) are, or she might lose them entirely.  I think it’s really smart, and I LOVE that she’s infiltrating the mainstream (if xojane can really be considered mainstream–but at least it’s more mainstream than the fat acceptance community).  Marianne Kirby is doing it too, and again, I love it.  So while I miss the “the alternate world is here” tone, I fully support getting fat acceptance out there.  As an insular community, it’s supportive of its own, but by gaining a platform, Lesley and Marianne (and others, of course) can potentially change the tide of culture so that there is less of a need for such insular support.

Lesley’s article today in xojane was probably the boldest (in terms of fat acceptance) I’ve seen her write there, and I just wanted to re-post some of the comments I left there, because the things people wrote really inspired me to put into words some of the nuances of fat acceptance (for me).  I post as DFacade there, in case you want to look for them in context, but here they are:

1. (in response to someone who complained about people discouraging her for her own dieting efforts, and who said that the fight against fat shaming made her feel bad about wanting to be less fat)

“Hi Dusty–you absolutely deserve to make choices for your own body, free of comment from others.  And some people who are anti-diet are not always respectful of that (just as some people who are pro-diet are not respectful of non-dieters’ decisions), so I understand why you’re uncomfortable about it.

I think, however, that it’s essential to get the stigmatized group’s perspective out there.  We don’t want to stay shamed and misunderstood just because people who are dieting would rather not hear about us and our reasons for not dieting.  When we hear someone talking about their diet, it is ANOTHER person expressing the culturally defaulted point of view, because the majority of people currently assume that dieting is a thing that everyone does or would do if they were fat.  And many of us non-dieters are recovering from eating disorders, so hearing about dieting can be especially traumatic.  That said, I don’t tell people that they aren’t allowed to talk about (their own) dieting around me, but if it’s just the two of us, talking about dieting with me is not going to result in a very stimulating conversation, because I’m not going to tell them they shouldn’t be dieting, but I’m also not going to get all excited about it.  I’ll probably just say “Oh, ok” until the subject changes.  And on the flip-side, if I sensed someone doing that to me when I talked about not-dieting, I’d probably change the subject as well.

I think you’re struggling with that fine line that many people cross back-and-forth over–stating one’s own stance vs. judging.  Our culture tends towards more of the “this is what I do and you can/should do it too!”, but I know that Lesley, and many others in the fat acceptance movement are pushing for “this is my stance; please accept it for me, but feel free to have a different personal experience”.    A big part of the movement (for me) is the fight for individual autonomy, something I haven’t really found anywhere else in life.  And sometimes that means accepting a whole lot more diversity of choice than you might, at first experience, be comfortable with.  It might mean that you question your own decisions because you see people making a whole range of decisions, instead of just the default one, but isn’t it better to have a culture where a whole range of choices are available and respected?  I think we need to create an environment where individual choices are not seen (by either the individual or others) as a judgment on others’ individual choices.”

2. (in response to a small part of a larger comment, where the person said: “When you acknowledge body-shaming and fat-shaming in particular, you are acknowledging that there is no relationship between weight and health”)

“Hi, I’m a supporter of and participant in the fat acceptance movement, and I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I just wanted to point out that acknowledging fat-shaming and body-shaming does not require you to believe that there is no relationship between weight and health.  You can believe that people might have certain weight-related health problems, but still not think that they should get shamed.  You can even believe that some people might be able to lose weight and keep it off, and that that would improve some of their health problems, but STILL believe that they shouldn’t be shamed if they don’t.

It definitely helps the movement when health is on our side, but we shouldn’t need it to be to get respect.”

I hope it doesn’t sound like I was speaking down to these commentors–their comments just helped me pinpoint some of my own thoughts about judgment, individual autonomy, and the importance of keeping health as a separate (but related) issue.  I actually think that the autonomy issue is really tricky, and I may not have done it justice, because I believe that people with or recovering from eating disorders have a right to not hear other people talk about diets, but I’m not sure what the best method of implementation is.  I distanced myself from mainstream media for a long time when I first found fat acceptance (and I’d given up ladymags a long time before that, even), and I’ve only returned to some mainstream media with caution.  I am capable of hearing about diets more now than I used to be, but should self-inflicted isolation have been my only option (apart from the creation of a world where dieting is not a majority behavior)?  And is it even a good thing that I’m more comfortable hearing about diets now?  Does it mean I’ve just re-socialized myself in some weird way?  I’m not really sure.

Anyway, I’m happy Lesley is continuing to get her voice out there, and I’m happy for the resulting stimulating conversation.  And now, back to the real world fake world of grad school.

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2 Responses to Yay for Lesley Kinzel, taking fat acceptance mainstream

  1. Thank you for updating on what these ladies have been up to, because I myself have been wondering. Marianne and Lesley are two of my fav bloggers and I have been missing their posts. I’ve been to xojane before and I think it’s awesome. I support what they are doing in their projects and the FA movement even though I am thin. I have even tried to introduce fat acceptance to a couple of forums and blog communities I participate in. Maybe my delivery of what it is all about wasn’t that great, but I didn’t get such a positive reaction from the majority. I guess I can’t be too surprised consider I’m talking to a crowd of 18-25 year old girls and many of them are known for being quite judgmental. But it was disappointing when even the girls who are fat rejected the idea that fat acceptance was a good thing. One of them said, “I’m fat because I eat like crap and I know I do so I am not going to lie to the world and say I’m fat because I was born that way.” The rest of them, well, you can probably guess what their reaction was. I did that because I was curious about what people would think of fat acceptance and I wondered if it would strike a chord with anyone, and well I got my answer. I sometimes wonder if the mainstream world is ready for fat acceptance, or can they ever really be “ready?” It was a completely absurd idea to me when I first discovered my first fat acceptance blog, I have to admit. I have to give props to the people out there promoting this to the mainstream world, because it can’t always be easy.

    • fattery says:

      I think it’s cool that you’re trying to spread the word that things could be different, that there are options, and honestly, I think that right now just exposing people to the idea can be helpful. Maybe their first reactions were bad, but maybe the next time, or 10 times down the road, they might think differently. Also, there may have been people for whom the message struck a chord, but who were too intimidated by the commenting atmosphere to say anything about it.

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