Let’s be clear. I don’t actually give a flying fuck whether being fat is or can be healthy or not.
A person’s right to an enjoyable life, to be treated with respect and to have access to all the things I want fat people to have access to, such as quality medical care and clothes that fit, is not predicated on how healthy they are.
I am not interested in proving my worth to others by living up to anybody else’s standards of healthiness. My worth, like the worth of every human being, is self-evident. The right to basic human respect is not conferred upon us once we fulfil certain conditions, every one of us is inherently entitled to it.
How healthy I am and how much effort I put into developing or mainting “good health” is nobody’s business but mine. Not mine and my friends’ and family’s. Not mine and my doctor’s. Not mine and taxpayers’. Mine.
Undoing harmful stereotypes is valuable work, and I completely understand the desire of fat athletes to push the message that you can be fit, athletic and fat, and that fatness does not preclude displays of physical prowess. I think fat dancers and fat marathon runners and fat gymnasts and so on are excellent, and deserve as much credit for their skills as any thin athlete.
But where does promoting the existence of fit fatties leave those of us who are not athletes, who are not paragons of fitness, who have chronic illnesses or disabilities, or simply don’t care very much about jogging or eating all our vegetables? To me, the dark side of “fat people can be fit and healthy too” is an implicit support of the notion that being fit and healthy is what confers on fat people the right to respect and fair treatment. It isn’t. Being people is why we have a right to respect and fair treatment.
That only healthy fatties deserve respect is not the message fit fatties are trying to promote; I don’t for a moment think that activists like Ragen Chastain or other fat athletes who spend time pointing out what they can do believe fat people who are less fit or flexible or active than they are don’t deserve the same respect they do. But it’s a message that sometimes comes across anyway. Fat activists seem to spend so much of our time and energy debunking myths about what fat people can’t do, and yet fat stigma persists (as is clear from Ragen’s numerous posts about confronting fat hate with demonstrations of her own fitness). How many times have I heard thinner people or media say “I’m all for body acceptance, but you’ve got to be healthy” or “fat acceptance is fine as long as you’ve got a healthy lifestyle”?
No. Fat acceptance is fine, the end. If your “lifestyle” is not hurting anyone else then it is nobody else’s business.
You know what does make fat people unhealthy? Internalised fat stigma. And as long as not being fit enough or healthy enough or active enough or not putting some arbitrarily determined amount of energy into “being healthy” is an excuse to treat fat people like subhumans, then fat stigma and its negative health outcomes for fat people will persist.
Applause!! You have summed up my feelings exactly.
An aside, I’m pissed that Everyday Feminism have pinched my quote and are making money off it!
I’m not sure why but this comment got lost in the spam filer somehow!
The quote stealing thing sucks. I hadn’t realised you were the one who coined the phrase, which is an excellent one. It’s really disappointing when people within social justice communities treat each other so badly.
I just did a little dance while having a little tear of relief. Thank you for articulating exactly what’s been bothering me about fat activism.
Standing ovation. This exactly what not only the world at large needs to understand & accept, it is what fat activists need to understand & accept. Fat acceptance is a civil rights movement & we all deserve respect, access, an end to stigma, to be treated like everyone else, just because we are human.
Your perspective is at the core: it’s not what we’re eating, it’s what’s eating us and Fat Stigma is clearly unacceptable ethically and other wise. The worship of THIN is idolatry, theologically speaking. Bless you and keep bringing this to the forefront. This is taking over the lives of many young people, among other age groups.
YES to ALL OF THIS!!
Fat humans have as many rights as other humans. I am under no obligation to be healthy, and therefore, “acceptably fat”.
I am under no obligation to make fat haters feel better about their fat hate.
Great article. Well done.
[…] Fat acceptance and the problem of health. […]
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[…] I Don’t Care If You’re Healthy by Sarah at Radically Visible [notes for discussion of ableism and fat bias] — “A person’s right to an enjoyable life, to be treated with respect and to have access to all the things I want fat people to have access to, such as quality medical care and clothes that fit, is not predicated on how healthy they are.” (Found via Kath at Fat Heffalump.) […]
You could apply all the same statements to, say, heroin addiction. Just sayin’
Indeed you could. I don’t consider drug addiction a moral failing either, nor do I believe that only people who are not addicted to heroin deserve basic human dignity and respect. I think people with heroin addiction need support rather than stigma and shame.
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