Feeding The Hungry Heart by Geneen Roth (via ravenki)
Thank You Geneen for setting the parameters for what are the experiences of fat men. You show so much empathy.
Seems to me she’s clearly stating fatness is a lesser issue for men than for women. That’s all very fine, but it doesn’t tell us how that actually plays out for men in the contexts they operate in.
I am actually interested in that but men don’t seem to need to talk about it in quite the same ways as women.
I don’t think it is a matter of a lack of empathy for what fat men go through. It seems obvious that fat oppression operates differently for men than for women, as it operates differently for POC than for white people, and for queer fatties and straight fatties etc. This is the principle of intersectionality. The quote doesn’t tell us much about how the experience of fatness differs for men, though we know that fat men are also prejudged by their doctors, denied care, ridiculed by peers and discriminated against in the office, their male privilege inculcates them from some of the worst symptoms of fat oppression. They can still be seen as worthwhile human beings, even as desirable. A fat man can still see images of bodies like his portrayed in a positive light, coupled with conventionally attractive (thin) women, successful in his career. Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore: all can be successful and respected politicians even though they are fat. They are subjected to cruel fat jokes (especially Christie) and pressure to loose weight when they want to run for president, but I can’t think of any female politicians on the national stage who are as fat. In fact, female politicians much thinner than Christie publicly discuss their plans to loose weight (Hillary Clinton is a good example). Women’s worth is much more closely tied to their appearance than for men, which I think explains, in large part, the gender discrepancy among fat activists. My question is, what, if anything, should be done to encourage more men to get involved in FA? Is the fact that fat is seen as so connected to feminism what prevents more men from getting involved? I certainly don’t want men to feel excluded from the movement, but denying the intersectionality of fat oppression is ultimately counterproductive, so what is to be done to increase empathy all around?
The problem is that nothing that you have mentioned has any baring on the past or future experiences of men who are fat enough to attract fat bias. These are the men who would come to Fat Acceptance looking for support and they are told that the experiences of smaller fat men and the difference of how smaller fat men and women are treated cancels our the larger fat man’s need for fat support because that is all Fat Acceptance has to offer them.
You hardly ever see much written in Fat Acceptance dealing with men fat enough have to face fat bias, but books could be filled with the information from Fat Acceptance about the greater acceptance of smaller fat men. Fat men who are small enough that they are accepted by society are not likely to be in Fat Acceptance for anything beyond being a Fat Admirer.
Myself, I am offended that Fat Feminism has felt entitled to define the issues that I have received in life from being fat as the product of the Patriarchy. Fat Women did not like it when Society defined their existence, yet they felt it was OK to do the same thing to fat men.
Hey, thanks for the response! I don’t want to speak for you, or anybody else, obviously. I would never tell anyone that they don’t deserve support from the FA community because they are male! I haven’t personally observed the phenomenon you are talking about, of fat women attempting to define fat men’s experiences (which obviously doesn’t mean it isn’t real, just that I haven’t observed it in my limited time in the FA community). I strongly disagree with anyone who claims that fat men don’t experience fat bias - I know they do from listening to fat men talk. But I do think it is important to acknowledge they experience fat bias differently than fat women, and I don’t think doing so necessarily excludes fat men from the movement.
I don’t know whether or not the Patriarchy is the genesis of fat bias, but it certainly changes the way fat bias is experienced. Sexism oppresses men as well as women (for example, by punishing men who have traits defined as “feminine”, which fat has sometimes been historically) so I don’t think that claiming that fat bias is a product of Patriarchy necessarily excludes the experiences of fat men. I think that it is important for women and men (and POC and queer and trans* and other fatties who are marginalized in other ways) to share their experiences with each other, and we all have a responsibility to listen when they do so. Any woman who attempts to define a fat man’s experiences, or refuses to listen to a fat man describe his experiences with fat bias is wrong. But men who refuse to listen to the ways that sexism affects/magnifies how women experience fat bias is wrong also, for the same reasons.
Oppression is messy and it is often difficult to untangle what experiences are the result of fat bias, what of sexism, what of racism, classism, ableism etc. And these oppressions magnify each other. For example, women of color not only experience both racism and sexism, they also experience sexism in a very different way because of their race, and often to a greater degree as well - there is a much bigger wage gap for WOC than for white women, they are more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault etc. This is parallel (not identical) to the way that sexism magnifies fat bias, which is what the quote and my response to it point out.
These systems of oppression are very complicated, which is why many fat women cannot separate their feminism from their fat activism. Are you claiming that women writing about how sexism changes the way they personally experience fat oppression is keeping men away from the movement? (That is not the same thing as defining men’s experiences for them, which, again, I do not condone at all). I hope that isn’t why there are fewer men in FA, but I know there are some men for whom any discussion of sexism, no matter how it is framed, is enough to make them feel excluded. That doesn’t mean that fat women should stop talking about sexism though. I hope that we can all stretch our empathy and apply it to people unlike ourselves, because I don’t think FA will be a successful or honest movement unless we can continually acknowledge the intersectionality of oppression.
TL:DR version. Fat activists need to makes sure that the movement is an inclusive space for men, but not at the cost of ignoring the intersection of fat bias with sexism.
Hey RBI! I am reblogging this LOOONG convo that I am engaged in on Remimage Fat. I wanted to add, after I just wrote that long post, that I re-read the original quote, and I agree with william_m that they way the author describes the differences between smaller fat men and fat women erases the experiences of larger fat men, and that is bad bad bad. I stand by the rest of what I said though, about sexism and FA.