During April I was honored to be invited to share in online community conversations around weight stigma with a wonderful group of people who are conscious, aware, and actively learning. Yes, I talk and teach on the subject, I am a fat activist and this stuff matters, and I am first and foremost a student. I always want to learn more about weight stigma, as well as ways to address it, see the nuance, create change and support those who are directly impacted.
It is easy to lean into one’s own experience, and that will take us only as far as the depth of what our lives have brought us. Often that is not far enough and our lens is not wide enough. Sonya Renee Taylor* posted recently about this, how we must listen and learn from others to imagine and deepen our levels of resilience. I learned from listening to this community in April and am very grateful for the insights, wisdom, and experiences shared.
What I am working to better integrate this month is a deeper understanding of the foundations of weight stigma and how there can be no conversation about it without also discussing racism. Weight stigma would not exist if racism had not created it, and all the structures of our culture, white supremacy, the patriarchy, all the way to the “healthism” of our day continue to reinforce it.
The depth of racism embedded in weight stigma is too easy to miss and ignore, especially for those who live in large white bodies. If what I am saying isn’t making sense to you, here is a quick overview from Dr. Sabrina Strings author of Fearing the Black Body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-dwCWGm_sY
Da’Shaun Harrison really pulls it together:
“If you abolish anti-fatness today, and not anti-Blackness, you don’t abolish anti-fatness. They exist, and they come online into a coherent ideology through the exact same mechanisms.”
(Da’Shaun Harrison, in dialogue with Virgie Toval for Rebel Eaters Club Podcast https://www.rebeleatersclub.com/episodes/dashaunharrison ) Keep an eye out for they’re upcoming book Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness.
Yes! Duh, I knew this, yet I needed to learn this!
Then with seemingly divine timing, Anti-Racism Daily focused on Dismantling Anti-Fatness on April 26, 2021 – further amplifying Da’Shaun Harrison’s message and bringing more pieces together: https://mailchi.mp/bf12c23638b7/dismantle-anti-fatness If you only have a few minutes, go read that not this!
The shift that I am working on is to see the racism, always. I am quick to notice weight stigma because it is so profoundly on my radar. And. I need to see the racism first, I need to see how racism uses weight stigma to dehumanize and do violent harm. It is literally a tool of white supremacy.
Just like racism, weight stigma impacts everyone, all of us no matter our race, gender, or body size. Weight stigma needs to be eradicated. Weight stigma kills people daily. And again, I do deeply see, and more deeply understand how we cannot get to that without addressing racism.
This feels bigger, and more difficult than my focus on the two separate issues. That’s ok, things worth doing are often hard and this deeper nuance is important.
Cue my fragility, the white fragility we all know about.
Sometimes, for me, when work gets hard or confusing, it can be paralyzing to me for fear of getting it wrong. What a self-centered white kind of worry that is! However when I am triggered, it can take a moment or more to recognize that my pain is about my stuff. A mistake requires attention and learning, apologies and doing better. Even if I got it wrong, I can do better and learn and keep moving forward – especially if my actions are grounded in, and following the wisdom from leaders in anti-racism work. Yet, until I can quiet my overloaded system, get grounded, and process the fear or shame, I am no good to anyone and need to be silent and listen.
There are days I simply need to process and walk in nature to get my ground back. Getting centered in order to de-center myself.
Everyone needs these pauses and reflection space, I hope you can take the time that allows you to have the resiliency to work for change, even as I acknowledge that simply surviving has to be the priority for far too many.
I don’t pretend to know how to create this change. And it is my job as a white woman to do all I can to end racism, as I have reaped the privileges and am part of the dominant group that created this system, this hierarchy, this caste system. Thus, it is my responsibility to risk my privilege for change. Because of my lived experience as a fat person, that intersection of weight stigma and racism feels important and I will continue to give it my attention.
I appreciate a reminder that came from one wise individual. She shared how fraught this world is around calling out racism and how carefully Black people must tread to be included in the power structures of white supremacy to work to enact change.
What I hear in this is another reminder that it is white people’s job to fix this, we created it, and just because it has been here for hundreds of years doesn’t make it right. Racism literally harms all of us. Weight stigma harms all of us. What I am called to, is to better combine these two pieces in my world, to continue to use my voice around weight stigma, while further amplifying the foundational need to end racism if our culture, our country, our world is ever to truly change.
I am so grateful for this conversation.
Small things matter, a single action, reflection, or deeper understanding does matter. Maybe a new sturdy chair for your office to welcome people of all sizes or a talk with a friend who’s bias is apparent?
Keep working for change my friends. Keep at it, all are required to shift the very foundations of our society, our culture of caste.
*Sonya Renee Taylor has moved her new content and access to Patreon.com due to any number of issues with IG and FB, primarily how Black creators are wrongly silenced on these platforms due to corporate racism. Because of this I cannot link to her video directly, if you are a Patreon supporter of hers, go take a look or become a supporter too! https://www.patreon.com/Sonyareneetaylor/posts