This post is probably really untimely. A lot has been written about Crystal Renn over the years; some say too much, as it is a testimony to weight obsession and unhealthy attention to women’s bodies in the media. Yet I still find her case to be fascinating, and it’s not even because of what…
I was particularly interested in and reflecting on this paragraph by the OP:
But all of that flies out of the window when a fat person becomes a thin person. That person is no thin ally. They are no allies at all. Apparantly, FA has no problem at all with distinguishing neatly between “naturally” thin people and “thin people that are really fatties in disguise and therefore traitors”. Never mind that FA is all about proclaiming that no one knows just by looking at fat people how they got there or how healthy they are, so we shouldn’t judge. I mean, that sentence right there is almost the core belief of the movement. But when it comes to thin people? Oh, we can judge! Because when it is clear, that someone used to be heavier, it is also clear they aren’t “naturally” thin, and starved themselves to be at that weight. Never mind their personal history (or health for that matter). For me, it really is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Why is it so hard to believe that some people are genuinely happier at a lower weight (and are not just kidding themselves?)? Why is it so impossible that some people really do have health reasons to lose weight? Why does believing in FA necessarily entail not believing in weight loss for anyone, ever?
I don’t think that believing in FA necessarily entails not believing in weight loss for anyone, ever. But confronting the idea that weight loss may be right for some people is hands-down the hardest aspect of FA I’ve had to work through—it’s much, much harder than accepting my own body as it is, for instance, and that’s still a daily struggle.
I have a very troubled history with food, diet, exercise and weight loss. Much the same way that many people with sizeist beliefs don’t understand how bodies can be internally calibrated for higher weights, because their bodies are built that way, I don’t understand how a formerly-fat person can lose weight easily or safely or happily. At the heart of it, my weight-loss experiences were traumatizing, and I am scared. I am scared for Crystal, that she is desperately unhappy and is hiding it, as was my experience. But more than that, I’m scared that if I admit that weight loss was the right thing for Crystal, that someone will challenge me, “If weight loss was right for Crystal, why isn’t it right for you?” and I will lose all my words—or worse yet, that I will pose that challenge to myself and wind up back on the awful hamster wheel of intentional weight loss.
It’s radical to accept that for some fat bodies, weight loss is not a viable option, and use that as grounds for fat acceptance. I think it’s more radical to say that for some fat bodies, weight loss is not a viable option, but for other fat bodies, it might be, but not for mine, and that’s OK, too. It’s big and hard and scary and took a lot of work for me. I suspect that’s true for other people, too.
Pastthestorm articulates it so much better than I could.
I’m so tired of myself individually and FA as a whole being made to feel ashamed for being wary when allies are doing the very thing I/we’ve been trying to distance ourselves from. It’s a really complicated, emotional thing for a lot of us.
Reblogging for excellent commentary.
One of the most insidious ways fat stigmatization is enforced is the mandate that everyone opt in to diet celebration. Why can’t fat accepting indivials opt out of celebrating weight loss and especially the fat shaming justifications for it? The way FA activists are pressured to affirm other people’s dieting is a way of undermining our own advocacy and our own choices. Dieting is profoundly privileged and making these things into an issue of how mean FA activists are is akin to people complaining about gays oppressing straights or women oppressing men. Think of the folly of telling a queer activist to affirm and celebrate the ex-gay movement. The activist can understand end empathize with why people seek out that movement, but to demand that they affirm would just serve to take away their own voice.
FA activists deserve the space to have own feelings about persued weight loss. When we see something that fails 95-99% of the time, it’s not unfair if we feel we cannot celebrate it. Personally, I never expect celebrities who speak out for body positivity to stick with it. I don’t really trust anyone to be a fat accepting role model, because the pressures on all fat people are too great. I dont see much productive in focusing on individual outcomes of diet culture, but I still understand why others feel upset. That’s not an unreasonable emotional reaction and I feel uncomfortable policing it. The idea that scorned fat people are oppressing Renn is frankly offensive. Fat people are deeply disenfranchised in our society. We flatly do not have the social power to do that. To say nothing of how this “backlash” often serves to privilege people who are now explicitly attacking FA. While I’m not aware of Renn doing that, it’s happened with other high profile dieters who demean and belittle FA while crying oppression. In this case, though, it can serve to silence the very valid concern that post-weight loss, Renn is likely to continue getting work as a plus-size model. She is not responsible for that, but FA activists should absolutely be upset about how the fashion industry has defined plus-size modeling as a means of excluding fat bodies and privileging thinner bodies. Insisting the only valid response to diet culture, in macro or micro views, is “yay!” is a means of robbing fat accepting people of our voice. I can’t accept that. At a minimum, fat activists must be allowed to opt out of weight loss celebration. We must refuse any mandate to affirm diet culture.
Reblogging for Brian’s commentary. (Seeing myself “reblogged for commentary” made me make a total Tom Haverford face, y’all don’t even know.)
I definitely stand by what I wrote—weight loss may be the right solution for some people. Advocating bodily autonomy for fat people means advocating bodily autonomy for all people, and that’s a hard place to get to. At the same time, we need context—which Brian has expertly provided. Intentional weight loss is not culturally neutral. That’s not a judgment; it’s a fact. To demand that FA celebrate weight loss, especially in the case of celebrities like Crystal Renn, is a way of reframing the conversation in order to ignore and effectively silence the very legitimate criticisms being voiced about how fat people are treated—in this case, that the media renders us invisible.