Image description: A fat white woman in a short-sleeved red dress sits in front of a stone wall and shrugs.
There’s a pattern I’ve seen displayed dozens of times by people and organizations who are asked to walk their talk about size inclusivity, and it goes something like this:
- Invalidation or gaslighting of the fat person asking them to do better
- Lashing out due to hurt feelings
- Claims about trying really hard
- Protests that marginalized people can’t be compensated because there’s no budget
- Requests for marginalized people to come in and make the organization/company more inclusive themselves
- Abandonment of the discussion
The comments on this post from Nic McDermid are an excellent example.
Note the lack of fat folks on this organization’s website, the constant requests in the post comments for basic education and the lack of fat people on their website and social media.
(To talk about eating disorders specifically for a moment: There are many more fat people, statistically, with eating disorders than thin people. Including fat people isn’t some kind of bone you’re throwing to the fatties, it’s reflecting reality.)
Why aren’t fat folks willing to come in and help organizations like this be inclusive, for free? Well, for one, because they’ve already shown that they’re willing to condescend to, patronize and invalidate the lived experiences of fat people already.
Just as importantly, we just can’t. If fat activists got involved, for free, with every organization that wanted us to come in and clean up its weight stigma and anti-fatness, we’d all work 100 hours per week giving our valuable time and wisdom to people who couldn’t even follow a few hashtags to learn a bit about not oppressing us.
We’re good without that, thanks.
And the thing is that there is a tremendous amount of information on fat oppression and weight stigma already out there for free. Marginalized people have given thousands of hours of labor in speaking and writing and illustrating and drawing and speaking some more.
If you’re not including fat people from the ground up in building your organization or club or cause or professional society or event, you can and will further fat folks’ oppression. It is not possible to represent us, to fight for us without us. And our knowledge and time are valuable.
And yes, that means I’ve just told you to spend money. I know there’s going to be resistance there. But if you’re going to build an event and/or an organization, ESPECIALLY one that claims to have anything to do with equity or inclusion, you have to build it in a way that actually does that. And that means figuring out funding as needed.
If you can pay for web hosting, you can pay for consulting. If you can pay for lunches with potential donors, you can pay for a fat person’s time. If you can pay for sponsored posts, you can pay for an hour of wisdom from a marginalized person.
And if you can come up with the time and energy and support to create a cause that’s even marginally related to equity or inclusion, you can come up with a way to include marginalized people on your leadership team that’s fair and equitable.