I'm going to go ahead and continue the theme I started last week and talk about fat activism basics.
Hey, fat white people. Let's have a little chat. :)
Fatness is not the last acceptable form of discrimination.
This is something that I see white people who are new to fat acceptance saying. I said it myself, back before I learned better.
But it's not true. Racism hasn't gone anywhere. Sexism, homophobia, transphobia, disablism-- none of these things have gone anywhere.
I'm going to assume the best of the people saying this so we can really dig further into it. What I feel like people are trying to say here is- "Wow, people can say really nasty things about fat people in almost any context and there are zero consequences."
That is a true statement. But people often continue to say really nasty things about non-white/feminine/gay/trans/disabled people too. They may (or may not) choose to disguise these things behind coded language, but they certainly are there.
As a woman, I promise you, sexism is still alive and well.
If you think- no one feels comfortable saying racist things in public anymore, that's just not the case. Because we as white people, are not immediately aware of the racist things that are being said- they are still happening. Someone may swap out the word "thug" for the n-word, but the rhetoric is still ongoing.
When you don't see the racism or sexism-- that invisibility is a huge part of what privilege is.
I'm going to assume that you don't think of yourself as a racist. If you define being racist as, "I hate people who aren't white"- I should hope you aren't.
But we all know that's a pretty low bar, right? Like, "I don't hate everyone who isn't white" is just about the lowest bar in the world. There are people who aren't even making it over that bar, but that doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to try to do better.
And, as we talked about last week (specifically in reference to fat issues)- discrimination is not just about words. Or even primarily about words.
What is clear to me now, that was not when I first found fat activism and thought "last acceptable form of discrimination" is how much racism is a system and isn't really about who dislikes who.
(I would really suggest reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' article in The Atlantic called The Case for Reparations. Like, I suggest it a LOT.)
With everything that has been happening since Ferguson, and not just happening, but actually being covered by the media this time- it seems like we really should all be able to agree that racism is a thing that still exists, and that there are plenty of (white) people out there who are just fine with it.
So not the last form of discrimination. Not the last "acceptable" form of discrimination.
Another point that is really really important to keep in mind- fat people are all kinds of people. Every other type of discrimination impacts some people who are fat.
Black and indigenous fat people. Fat people of color. Fat queer people. Fat trans people. Fat women. Fat disabled people.
Fatness impacts people in different ways, depending on a huge number of other factors- not to even mention class or if your personal parents are abusive or all sorts of other things.
By positioning fatness as the "last" discrimination, we are ignoring the fullness of the identities of fat people who experience discrimination in other areas of their lives.
That's not ok. Let's not do that to each other.
Another trap to avoid is comparing discriminations, especially comparing with the idea that this one is worst than that one.
Especially don't compare fat discrimination to racism, ok? Because it's not actually anything like racism, and I think we all know that.
I know it sucks when people say "just lose weight" like that's an answer to fat discrimination and refuse to take it seriously when it is seriously impacting your life.
But comparing fat discrimination to racism is not going to get people to take it any more seriously. And upsets people who are actually impacted by racism. It's not ok. Please don't.
There are some useful comparisons to be made to the discrimination against gays and lesbians, if we can be careful about it. Fat activism was started by queer people, and academic fat studies has roots in queer studies.
But, I would urge you to think about not comparing it to anything. There are issues that are strictly fat people issues, and that's ok. The lack of a one to one comparison doesn't mean those issues aren't real or that they don't matter.
I am not the first person to point out the issues with this phrase, and I won't be the last. Let's go forward and do better.