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Unnatural Allies —

January 27, 2012

Over a year ago, Marilyn Wann and I had a falling out over the role dieters should play in Fat Acceptance. I said and did some things I regret and, as a result, she unfriended me on Facebook.

I was devastated. I shattered her faith and trust in me, and now the Mother of modern Fat Acceptance had cut me off.

In the video I did about Strong4Life, I mention at the beginning that I had been bullied for my weight, among other things, and at the bottom of the screen scrolls a list of the personality traits that made me a difficult friend and an easy target. The list reads weirdness, buck teeth, butt cut, talked too much, perpetually disruptive, annoying, ADD before ADD was ADD, poor impulse control, socially awkward and no internal censor.

All of these things are still true today (even the buck teeth and butt cut), but I have grown to accept that for most people, I’m not worth their time or energy. I’m like a sanity watchers vacuum.

As a highly-opinionated fuck-up with poor impulse control, I’m accustomed to people either really liking me (the few) or really disliking me (the many). Since I’m firmly in the former camp and like myself unconditionally, I don’t worry too much about the haters.

But when I began daily blogging in opposition to Strong4Life, I wanted to get as many Fat Activists as possible to join us. Over the past year, I have sent Marilyn sporadic messages on various issues in hopes of getting a second chance to work with her, which, in spite if myself, she always responded to courteously and respectfully.

This time, when I asked if she would like to join forces against Strong4Life she enthusiastically accepted, to my surprise, and the rest, as they say, is history.

She could have told me, in the immortal words of Vesta, eat shit and bark at the moon, and she would have been completely justified. Yet she set aside our rocky past in order to unite against a common enemy: corporate-sponsored bullying.

Since then, I have had the unique pleasure and honor of working shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the most inexhaustibly brilliant fat activists ever. The day she refriended me on Facebook well always stand out as a key moment of solidarity and unity in a movement chock full of disparate, passionate individuals.

Marilyn and I still don’t necessarily agree on the role of dieters in Fat Acceptance, but on this issue we are in total lockstep in our sole purpose of ending the shame campaign in Georgia.

The reason I bring this up is that yesterday on the blog, Jackie commented on our inclusion of Alton Brown, a man who has said horrible, hateful things about fat people, and continues to do so, as I noted at the bottom of the Call to Action.

While I do not deny that Brown’s opinions on fat people are terrible and that we should never cease to criticize those who belittle people for the size of their bodies, I will still happily accept Alton Brown as an ally.

Why?

Because if Alton Brown, a man with such a repugnant, vocal disdain for fat people, will speak out against Strong4Life’s fat shaming billboards, then it will clearly be an easy sell to convince the rest of the world that shame and stigma are harmful, reckless weapons in the War on Fat.

Alton Brown’s condemnation of Strong4Life is just further confirmation that Strong4Life must, and will, end Phase 1 of this campaign.

Once that happens, once the billboards come down, Alton Brown can also eat shit and bark at the moon, and I will waste no time calling him out for fat-hating nonsense. The other thing we must consider is that as activists, one of our jobs is to convince the Alton Browns of the world that Health at Every Size® is a viable, evidence-based alternative to weight loss, and that fat people do not deserve to be treated like petulant children in need of a paternalistic douchebag.

If we are lure the Alton Browns of the world to the Fat Side, then we cannot treat them like enemies, but like misguided fools in need of reform. Accepting Alton Brown’s endorsement is not so much a scrapping of our principles as it is an admission that Brown is possibly just 95% misguided. By engaging with him, we hope to lower his misguided defenses a bit more, but for now, that’s enough for me.

Because right now we have an opportunity to take a stand as a community and send a message to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the world, that we will not tolerate the bullying and degradation of fat people.

For many political bloggers, we spend the vast majority of our time in our own little worlds, promoting our own little versions of the activism we believe in. We spend that time honing our opinions and crafting our viewpoints to persuade others to support our viewpoints.

In this mode of activism, it is vital that we draw boundaries and call out those who we believe have strayed from the core principles of our belief systems. I have done so myself, and will continue to do so.

But in this moment, right now, as we stand toe-to-toe with a $50 million hate campaign, we cannot afford litmus tests and purity pledges; we cannot demand fealty and submission to our positions; we cannot waste a single moment in deciding whether we will accept or reject Person X for their past transgressions.

My position on this may be totally misguided and far too idealistic for many, but I believe it is a necessary position if we are to achieve our goal of shutting down Strong4Life.

I don’t care if MeMe Roth herself decided that Strong4Life needed to end, I would still accept her inclusion into our organization. Does that preclude me from criticizing her past statements or telling her that she’s a completely clueless moron on 99% of her views? Absolutely not. But I am willing to lay down arms in order to add to this burgeoning chorus that bullying fat kids is just wrong.

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4 Comments
  1. Jackie permalink

    I understand your perspective much more now though. I also wasn’t aware Alton had been battling with his weight all his life. Now he seems kind of like, well someone with some form of starvation eating disorder. My mom told me awhile back he wanted to lose weight, and I said, “You’re kidding me! The man already is incredibly thin as it is!” Now i have some insight as to why he would do that. Seems he unkowing to himself, is a victim of pur anti-fat society too. Hopefully we’ll be able to enlighten him about that.

    • Thanks Jackie. Little by little, that’s all we can do to educate the public.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  2. I am glad you are standing by your convictions. Effective politics happens when parties with different perspectives come together on specific issues. The size acceptance movement can shoot itself in the foot when it gives everyone a litmus test for ideological purity before accepting them as allies. That being said, there are times when someone’s principles are so opposed to your own, you feel it would be immoral to work with them. Everyone has the right to decide that for themselves.

    One minor point, Marilyn is brilliant and a stellar human being to boot. But lets not forget that the SA movement existed before Fat?So! was ever written. You can call her “mom,” but there were other pioneers out there too. And it is o.k. to disagree with her. Otherwise, SA is in danger of group think!

    • Thanks Pani. I do my best.

      I didn’t mean to imply Marilyn is the founder of FA, but that modern FA really kicked off with Fat?So! (IMHO). Just think back to what fat culture was like back in 1998 when it was first published. How far we’ve come since then!

      Anyway, we still respectfully disagree and get along all the better for it.

      Peace,
      Shannon

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