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Lonie McMichael: Resistance

Background:
• Post 2: Lonie McMichael: Internalization
• Post 1: Lonie McMichael: Intro & hook's ideology of domination
• BFB introduction and dissertation abstract.

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Added to the difficulty in resisting the internalization, resisting external forces can be a frustrating, exasperating, and even treacherous situation for fat individuals. Nevertheless, succeeding at resisting the external oppressor can be an empowering and liberating experience.

One of the primary ways in which fat people resist the dominant rhetoric is by being visible, an idea that is championed by bloggers Marianne Kirby of The Rotund and Lesley Kinsel of Fatshionista. Being visible “is the single most important thing we as fat individuals can do” to fight fat oppression, Kirby asserts. Being visible includes just being seen in public, eating in public, exercising in public, wearing bright colors or bold accessories, etc. Kirby argues that such visibility aids in normalizing the fat body.

One of the most powerful ways to resist fat oppression, some fat individuals are changing how they talk about fat – an idea that is right up my alley. hooks maintains that language plays an important part in the effort to resist: that we are rooted in words, that oppressed individuals must create a shared language, and that such a transformation requires a paradigm shift, a new way “to talk – to listen – to hear.” Language as resistance takes on two different aspects within my study: how individuals within the fat acceptance communities talk among themselves as well as how fat individuals talk to the “status quo.” These individuals within the Fat Acceptance Movement and the Fatosphere have used language to resist fat prejudice by redefining terms for themselves (such as what “health” means), by reclaiming the word “fat,” by coming out of “the fat closet,” by resisting medical rhetoric and by employing humor.

Humor is perhaps the greatest tool for resisting oppression used by individuals on the Fatosphere. Interestingly enough, hooks never mentions humor as a way to undermine oppression. However, especially in the Fatosphere, humor is proving to be an incredibly powerful tool against fat-hating forces.

Fat activism is another form of resistance, though there exists a great deal of confusion on exactly what fat activism is. Some individuals felt like they were not a fat activist because they only talked to family and friends about fat acceptance; others felt like they were an activist because they talked to family and friends about fat acceptance. Blogger fillyjonk notes that there is disagreement on what exactly fat activism means, “both what it should mean for the community, and what it means for us personally,” yet speaking up for one’s self is important in any situation.

I also found that conflicts within the fat acceptance movement reveal just how powerful the dominant rhetoric is while showing the success of the movement as well. Regular conversations on “good fatty vs. bad fatty,” “inbetweenies vs. deathfat,” and dieting show not only the natural conflicts within a social justice movement, but also reveal how hard it is to move past the idea that fat is bad.

hooks asserts that the responsibility for resistance lies with those who are oppressed; that the margin is a space of “radical possibility.” By this belief, fat people are those who should be speaking up, speaking out against fat prejudice. However, fat individuals can find this to be very difficult since they are often perceived as lazy and slovenly; resistance for fat hate can be seen as an excuse not to lose weight. Fat individuals who choose to resist the dominant ideals must be aware of such undermining tactics. For example, we have seen numerous attempts from the diet industry to appropriate fat positive ideas and make them into “love yourself thin,” what paul of BFB called “fat acceptance lite.” Weight Watchers’ claim that it isn’t a diet and Kellogg’s use of the Yay! scale are great examples of this undermining.

Together, individuals in the Fatosphere and Fat Acceptance are learning to reinterpret the dominant rhetoric in a more fat-friendly light. My research shows resistance working in the lives of fat individuals: we are learning to resist the self-hatred of internalization; we are learning to resist the external dominant rhetoric; we are learning to use language and survival techniques to make this resistance possible.

New Paul Campos, Glenn Gaesser journal article | Call for Papers: Fat Studies @ the National Women's Studies Association 2011 Conference

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
February 1st, 2011 | Link | I am really enjoying this

I am really enjoying this series of articles, Lonie!

It can be infuriating how the diet industry co-opts our rhetoric. On the other hand, sometimes we co-opt theirs, too. The Healthy Weight Network, for example, is actually a HAES organization that camouflages itself in the health rhetoric that we often associate with the diet industry. They publish the annual Slim Chance Awards for the worst weight loss products and services and they used to publish the HAES-centric Healthy Weight Journal.

However, I can't help but think that that whether we co-opt their language or they co-opt ours, we come out on the bottom, just because of the huge difference in visibility, mainstream acceptance, and power between fat acceptance and the diet industry approved, weight=health paradigm. Maybe that's not entirely true, though. Maybe they're helping to publicize our point of view, and maybe people can see right through them. Maybe the health rhetoric rightfully belongs to HAES.

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