Image description: A teal square with a chat bubble graphic and the words, “Believe fat people when we say something is fatphobic.” Lindley’s logo is at the bottom.
Here’s one simple action you can take to help end discrimination against fat bodies this week: Believe fat people when we say something is fatphobic, specifically the works of Brené Brown, Anita Johnston, Geneen Roth and Bessel van der Kolk.
This discussion is always fraught, so I’m setting some very firm boundaries. I will not detail to you how these folks’ work is fatphobic (though I may consider doing so at some point in the future). I will not entertain you telling me these works do not contain fatphobia or that I should “take what is good” from them. It is not on fat folks to contact these authors or change their hearts or minds. Do not email me with these things; I will delete them unread past the point where they violate these boundaries.
Whenever these authors are brought up in HAES and body-positive spaces, the conversation generally looks like dozens of thin women chiming in to talk about how magical and life-changing and etc. etc. their books are, while the fat folks are gritting their teeth and wondering if it’s worth being the lone voice noting that, hey, there’s a lot of fatphobia in there too and that furthers our oppression.
And generally when one of us speaks up, the reaction is of hurt outrage that’s honestly pretty disproportionate. It seems like y’all have invested part of your identities into these people and these works, and are unable to even consider our words. And then you lash out at the marginalized person, further harming them.
I am not — and no one else is — saying that you are a bad person for reading and liking and finding useful tools in problematic works (or people). If these authors helped you recover from an eating disorder, that’s wonderful. You do you.
All I ask is that you believe fat folks when we speak, examine the ways in which your privilege might lead you to not see or ignore fatphobia, and stop recommending problematic works to clients, patients and friends.
“Take what is good, and leave the rest.”
It’s a privilege to be able to take what is good and leave the rest.
A common response when fat folks object to fatphobia is, “Well, just take what is good and leave the rest.” or, “Well, I just ignored the fatphobia.” Statements like these generally come from people in average-sized or thin bodies.
Today, I’d like you to step back and consider the amount of privilege needed both to make statements like those and to be able to look past bigotry and stigma, particularly if it’s not aimed at people like you.
If you think that it’s worth reading fatphobic books — like the works of the three authors above — for the rest of the content, examine what it might be like to read that same book when YOU are in the body that is despised. What might it be like to know that at any moment you might be reminded that the author fears and hates people like you and thinks you shouldn’t exist?
Suggesting that oppressed people should just put up with a modicum of oppression in order to gain some kind of greater good from a work is…well, it’s a look, that’s for sure. How much fatphobia, exactly, should I be okay with? Is there a recommended percentage?
Or is the real situation that your deep discomfort with learning your favorite works are oppressive is more important than fat folks’ liberation, so your real desire is for fat folks to hush about fatphobia so that you can keep praising your faves to the sky without either feeling guilty or having to deal with those angry whiny fatties again?
I talk about thin privilege because I want us all to use awareness of body privilege as a tool to end weight stigma and achieve body liberation. Join me with my weekly body liberation guide below. (Wondering where the other 44 posts on weight stigma are? Join me on Instagram for a new post on weight stigma every week.)
Let’s dig deep. Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.
Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.