Stef (firecat) wrote,
Stef
firecat

Some pocket change (race, fat acceptance, socially acceptable prejudices)

This is getting a lot of attention on the fat acceptance blogs: "Why Intersectionality Matters" by Tara

Here's an excerpt from something I wrote about it in response to a post on a mailing list.

When I encounter people with points of view that deeply misunderstand me and my desires and goals, I can intellectually grok that they are only working with what they know. But I can get pretty emotionally exhausted and frustrated trying to correct their misunderstandings of me. If people who misunderstand me try to get me to join their movement, and I spend all my energy correcting their misunderstandings, I don't have much energy left over for working on their movement.

I'm talking mainly about trying to get people to understand my experience as a fat person. People who are generally in favor of civil rights and greater access for oppressed people often have never really considered fat people as a group who need civil rights and greater access.

I wonder if any of this might be similar for people of color trying to get white people to understand their needs. If so I can understand reluctance to join.

As a white person, I think that saying "fat is THE last socially acceptable prejudice" draws a big boundary between fat prejudice and other prejudices that affect people profoundly. It's true that there are laws on the books against some racist behaviors (but not against racist beliefs - you can't make beliefs illegal). And it's true that there are mostly not laws on the books about fat prejudice. So in terms of law, yes, people of color have advantages that fat people don't.

But there are so many forms of prejudice that the law does not and cannot touch. It seems narrow to use only the existence of laws to determine whether a prejudice is socially acceptable or not. There are other racist behaviors, both covert and open, that can't be legislated against and are still pretty common. There are also racist attitudes, both conscious and subconscious, that are really common. I would say subconscious racist attitudes are probably universal.

As a person who is reasonably comfortable with the gender I was assigned by society, and who knows a little bit about trans issues, I will assert that the legal and social position of trans people is worse than the legal and social position of fat people. I mean, if a fat person goes into a public bathroom they might find it difficult to fit into the stalls but they probably won't be attacked or arrested for going in there in the first place.

How about, instead of saying "Fat is THE last socially acceptable prejudice," saying "Fat is A socially acceptable prejudice" or "Fat is ONE OF the last socially acceptable prejudices."

If you want to compare and contrast the types of oppression that come with being fat and come with being a person of color or a trans person or a queer person or a person who isn't Christian or other common types of people who are discriminated against, then why not just talk about the similarities and differences without trying to rank them? (I think the pressure to rank everything is a really unhelpful feature of my culture.)

 

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