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Actually, No, It’s Not a Behavior

I’m assuming that most of you who don’t reside under rocks have heard about Jennifer Livingstone and her awesome response to the concern troll who chastised her for being a bad example by being fat at people on their television screens.

In case you have been vacationing in Bedrock and don’t know about it, her response was to go on air and call the bully out for what he is: a bully.

All the wrapping it up in diaphanous garments of concern for little children who might be exposed to the horrific sight of a woman who isn’t thin leading a valuable life and succeeding in a demanding profession can’t hide the ugly message of ‘get off my screen, you’re wilting my manbits.’

Plenty of fabulous bloggers have discussed this episode in some detail. Check out this great entry by Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist. She does a lovely job of breaking down how it’s bullying and why that should be called out.

But one thing in the entire conversation has really struck me: the conflation of body type and behavior.

I’m not just talking about the random assumptions of how people who are fat behave as opposed to how thin people behave. I’m talking about the fact that the original email to Livingstone and quite a few of the ‘but it’s not bullying’ comments on Michelle’s blog all claim that fat is – in and of itself – a behavior.

Here’s a quote from that original email:

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.

I don’t know about all of you, but I did not choose the size of my body, nor is it a habit I maintain.

I have a lot of habits. I make a lot of choices as to my behavior every day. I can choose the behavior of taking walks, eating foods I enjoy, playing The Sims, washing dishes in a timely fashion or leaving them to marinate a while, how much attention to pay to Jake the Cat’s constant need to be cuddled, what books to read, and whether or not to sing along with a song I enjoy.

These are behaviors and habits. Some of them may or may not affect the size of my waistline on at least a temporary basis.

But my waistline is not a behavior any more than my height is a behavior. That can also be altered temporarily if I choose, should I take up the behavior of wearing heels, but it is not in and of itself a behavior.

My eyesight is not a behavior, though some of my habits can affect it on a temporary or a permanent basis, such as if I spend many hours on the computer. Still, my eyesight is not a behavior.

My hair is not a behavior, though my behavior can affect it dramatically. I can choose how often to wash it, what products to use on it, how to style it, whether or not to change its color with dye… but all of that does not change the fact that my hair is not a behavior.

My height, my weight, my eyesight, my hair, and dozens of other things are simply physical characteristics and nobody who does not know me can hazard a useful guess at how the are the way they are. Any of dozens of behaviors or choices may or may not affect them.

My waistline may or may not be affected by the choices I make in regards to food and exercise… but I know people who try out every diet known to man and beast without their weight changing one iota in either direction. I’ve heard the story of many a person with an eating disorder diagnosed as EDNOS (eating disorder, not otherwise specified) who had every single symptom of anorexia nervosa except the weight loss.

There are those who struggle with clinical depression and find taking anti-depressants helps a lot. But you know what? Many of those drugs have the side effect of weight gain. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s probably better to take the drugs, gain the weight, and be able to function than to be thinner and trying to cope with suicidal ideation.

Genetics play a huge and uncontrollable part in body size. I’ve got five generations of family photos on my wall that illustrate the inherent unlikelihood of my being thin.

I am fat.

It’s. Not. A. Behavior.

But you know what is a behavior?

That’s right, making the choice to treat people as less than worthy of existence because of a physical characteristic.

I didn’t choose my height, my weight, my eye color, or my skin tone any more than you did. But every single day I can make the choice to treat others with dignity and respect.

And that really is a behavior.

 

What’s Up in the Fatosphere This Week

First I have to bring to your attention the wonderful game going on over at Fat Heffalump, where the ever-delightful Sleepy Dumpling invites us to tell her our superhero identities as agents of O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. Sometimes you have to take ridiculous, infuriating concepts and turn them on their heads. Well, Sleepy Dumpling is a past master at that. She is, indeed, The Incredible Bulk, and we love her for it.

Over at Dances With Fat, Ragen answers the burning question ‘Are We Doing Enough About Obesity?’ The short answer:

You have done enough; more than enough even. It’s time for you to go look for your beeswax at your own home and in your own mirror.

Amen to that!

The fabulous Meowser at Fat Fu has an excellent article on why Mayor Bloomberg’s Big Soda ban matters even to fat people who don’t drink soda. As a California fattie who drinks maybe a couple dozen small sodas in an average year, it’s been hard sometimes to explain what I found so infuriating about that idea. Meowser did it for me beautifully.

Fatties United ran an article just today that illustrates perfectly not only why we shouldn’t go to television doctors for too much of our health information, but also why so many people who do get their information that way firmly believe that too many fatties are driving up their health costs more than, say, Big Pharma or insurance company investor dividends.

Happy reading, folks!

What’s Up In the Fatosphere

Well, my little chickadees, I didn’t win last night’s Mega Millions six hundred freaking millions jackpot, so I guess it’s back to work for me today, isn’t it?

Oh well.

Don’t worry. I’m not in need of an intervention. I spent a whole two bucks, which I could just as easily have spent on a decent quality bar of chocolate or a small espresso drink.

What? A girl’s gotta dream sometimes.

Anyway.

Back to it.

It’s been an exciting couple weeks in the Fatosphere. There’s been a lot of good stuff going down, and here are a few examples.

Deb Burgard PhD did a lovely post at the Health at Every Size blog analyzing a recent study done on the Jenny Craig program by the folks at – you guessed it! – Jenny Craig. The title? How to Photoshop a Research Study.

The Fat Nutrutionist has been doing a fabulous series on eating without drama that is a must read. She published the seventh lesson, Finding Fullness, the other day. If you haven’t read it, I suggest doing so now… as well as the other lessons in the series, particularly the one on giving yourself permission and the one on nutrition agnosticism.

Back to the Health at Every Size blog, Dr. Linda Bacon has some great tips for de-stigmatizing your workplace.

Not actually a codified part of the Fatosphere, but I loved this article by Kate of Eat the Damn Cake on her musings about Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh, and while you’re in the neighborhood, check out her gallery of women eating cake. Beyond delicious.

Suck It, State of Georgia

If you’ve been anywhere on the Fat-o-Sphere lately, chances are you’ve heard about Georgia’s new ‘Strong 4 Life’ campaign against childhood obesity. Don’t even get me started on state programs that use numbers instead of the homonym words they represent. We don’t have the next five years.

Anyway.

The real thing that’s getting my knickers in a major and painful twist isn’t the revolting assault on correct grammar, it’s the fact that this campaign boils down to government sponsored bullying of children ‘for their own good.’

It consists mostly of black and white images and short videos of children talking about their experiences being fat. They talk about being bullied, having no friends, and generally being miserable. And that’s when the message  begins that it’s all their own fault. If only they ate their vegetables instead of deep fried Twinkies, if only they played baseball instead of video games, if only they really cared about themselves, they would be thin and happy and healthy.

What message does that send fat kids who love broccoli and run around outside already? That these things are worthless if they don’t make you thin.

What message does it send fat kids who do eat some sweets and really prefer television to soccer? That they’re lazy, unloveable slobs who don’t deserve to live if they don’t stop what they’re doing and get thin,

What message does it send thin kids who eat some sweets and prefer television? That fat kids must be the laziest slobs on the earth and that they, themselves, are perfectly healthy and therefore morally superior.

What message does it send thin kids who can’t get enough spinach and love spending time shooting hoops? That if they ever eat a slice of birthday cake or spend a couple hours reading they might become fat and disgusting, so they’d better never stop even for a minute. Oh, and if  they bully a fat kid, that’s extra anti-fat brownie points.

What message does it send to parents? That the only thing that matters about their children is whether or not they are thin. That they must bully, restrict, and terrorize their children for their own good.

This makes me want to put on my Fat Avenger Super Suit and go knock some heads together.

Luckily, someone else beat me to the punch. There’s a petition up on Change.org asking the state of Georgia to end this public policy disaster. Regan at Dances with Fat and Harriet Brown at Feed Me have both talked about this petition, but it will take more voices to make change happen.

Sure, you’re just one voice, but yours could be the one that tips the scales. Sign the petition, spread the word. Let’s think of the children.

This Week in Fat Blogging

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these roundups, and a lot of good stuff has been posted in the Fatosphere and elsewhere about living larger than average. So here are some of the highlights.

First up, Adios Barbie has a great interview with the fabulous Marilyn Wann, pictured above. Wann  has a lot of great things to say. Here’s just one example:

 There is kind of an attitude that bullying or teasing is somehow a necessary or required part of growing up. And I think that it’s just adults being fearful and cowards because this is not necessary. This is something anyone can stand up to. There is even a wonderful book by an eight-year old girl in Chicago about how she didn’t choose to be fat and she shouldn’t be teased for it. I think it’s up to all of us as human beings to stand up against hurtfulness.

One of my personal favorite blogs, Family Feeding Dynamics, has a great two-part series on food insecurity and how it affects how people eat. The second part is mostly a link to Morgan Spurlock’s experiment on living on minimum wage for thirty days… but it’s worth clicking for Katja’s concept of a really compelling potential reality show. Seriously, Katja, I think you should shop that concept to the networks. I’d totally watch that show and laugh my well-padded posterior off. Heck, if I had the money, I’d produce the sucker!

The always amazing and glorious Sleepy Dumpling at Fat Heffalump has a great essay on how dieting really affects many people in terms of both physical and mental health. The essay itself is powerful, and the comments are quite interesting, too.

Ragen at Dances With Fat has an excellent article on David Letterman’s recent fat-joke attack on Chris Christie. If you don’t like a politician, fight the politics, not the waistline. It wasn’t right when people pulled that on Bill Clinton, and it isn’t right when they do the same to Chris Christie. Believe me, if you’re talking about someone who has ever held elected office, you can find something to disagree with and make it funny. The same subject is given another excellent dressing down by the ever-awesome  Red No.3. I highly recommend reading both, because they have different points to make.

Happy reading, folks! There’s a lot of great fat to chew over.

Steal This Post

Being a child of the sixties, I’ve been thinking a lot of late about one of the catchphrases of the era: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

And then I ran across the quote from Alice Walker that is currently festooning the head of this article. I think I like that version of the sentiment better. It’s not as accusing. It’s more welcoming. And  by being less aggressive in tone, it makes it easier for others to look at it and think to themselves ‘have I been paying my rent like a good citizen of the planet?’ rather than raising a mental middle finger and saying ‘and you’re telling me this while wearing those shoes?’

As I contemplated all of this, along came some fabulous news from Brit Fat Activist Charlotte Cooper. Her Bad Art Collective has been accepted to be Artists in Residence at the Researching Feminist Futures symposium at the University of Edinburgh in September.

Their project is called Bombarded By Images a multi-media performance based installation.

Cooper et al are tired of the phrase ‘Bombarded by images’ used in so many cultural discussions. For one thing, they feel that ‘media’ gets used to describe an impenetrable monolith, while the fact is that media… well… covers a heck of a lot of things that are approached from radically different angles. What’s more, the Bad Art Collective have decided they can be a medium, too, and bombard the world with very different images of fat, of womanhood, of feminism, and of random ponies.

And you know what? They can. I can. You can. We all can.

I don’t care what your cause is. I’ve chosen several for myself, and I write about them, talk about them, donate to groups fighting for the causes that matter to me. Your causes may be quite different from mine. That’s no biggie to me. I’m not even that much bothered if our causes are in direct conflict. I will disagree with them, but I can still engage with you as a human being without rancor. Each of us must find our own beliefs that work for us as individuals, and then act on those beliefs as our consciences direct us.

If you’re worried that you can’t be an activist because you can’t devote your whole life to one cause or you don’t have a lot of money, don’t panic. Just read this article from last year at All Things Wildly Considered about activism. Then figure out what matters to you.

Whether you choose feeding the hungry, FA, feminism, literacy, drug abuse prevention/treatment, fighting a disease that has affected your life, your church, atheism, animal rights, your favorite political party, free speech, the care and feeding of attractive rugby players, something else, or half a dozen different causes at once, just get involved in something. Care. Engage.

We all have something to give. Each and every one of us will need help at some point in some way. It feels good to pay the rent.

And there is nothing more superfantastic than passion.

What is Your Superhero Name?

She’s half Wonder Woman,

Half Jennifer Patterson of Two Fat Ladies:

and 100% the fabulous brainchild of Stacy Bias.

It’s the Badass Fatass Superhero Name Generator!

Who will you turn out to be?

As it turns out, my superhero name is: The BMI Bustin’ Tornado. I think that has rather a nice ring to it.

So who wants to go superheroing with me? What’s your superhero name?

In other news, tomorrow Mr. Twistie and I celebrate eighteen years of ridiculously happy marriage. If I had it all to do over again, I would definitely make the same choice. May all of you make major life choices that make you every bit as happy as this one has made me.

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