Q & A: On not calling myself a feminist, and “condoning” fatness.

By | January 12, 2010

Last week, on a whim, I set up a page over on Formspring, fully expecting not to get much interest. Hells bells, was I ever wrong. Apparently lots of folk have questions, and I’ve been cheerfully answering them. Below are two excerpts; you can also read the rest, or ask me a question of your own. I’ve got a handful of questions backlogged right now, so your patience is appreciated.

Q. Why don’t you call yourself a feminist?

A. I should have expected this! Ha.

I prefer to use the words “feminism” or “feminist” to describe certain ways of thinking, rather than as a part of my identity. My reasons for this are pretty clear-cut. When I first began turning my mind toward things like fatness as a cultural construct, and body acceptance as a means of surviving, I was a hardcore capital-F feminist. What happened, you inquire? I discovered that feminism at the time, and the feminists I happened to know, wanted nothing to do with this. Where I had expected to find support, or at least tolerance, I found a bunch of feminists (both real and textual) who couldn’t see past their own personal body issues to even entertain my ideas.

So I took it personal, is what I’m saying. Feminism totally dumped me and I was hurt and angry and all that stuff.

Even then, though, I didn’t stop calling myself a feminist or identifying with feminists. It was only once I began doing academic work in race and GLBTQ issues that I really lost my taste for feminism, as feminism has a long and terrible history of not playing well with folks who aren’t white or cisgendered (or, in some flavors, people who are queer, or people who are straight, or people who are disabled, or poor, and and and). Is this true of all feminism everywhere? Nope. But it’s true of enough of feminism in general, and entangled enough with feminism’s legacy that I no longer felt comfortable (or true, or real) identifying myself as a card-carrying part of it.

I don’t hate on folks who do choose to identify themselves that way, I just don’t do so myself. After all, some of my best friends are feminists. (Har.)

Q. im sure u have had this one but how do you condone being overweight and praising it knowing the serious health issues related to it – and i am a lard ass

A. Well, I don’t really “praise” fatness. I think it’s normal for some folks, for any number of reasons, and not really something to be praised or disdained. Ideally, it’d be something that was just… normal.

Regarding health issues: there are lots of FA folks out there way better at arguing about the health issues than I. My position is that health is individual, subjective, and above all, private. And in fairness, none of us make 100%-health-conscious decisions throughout our lives. Sometimes we drink too much; sometimes we talk on the phone while driving; sometimes we neglect to have our annual physical; sometimes we go for a hike in the woods and get mauled by a bear. Life is a series of personal decisions, not all of which are geared exclusively toward healthiness, and I think anyone who lives their life that way probably isn’t going to have a lot of fabulous experiences to reflect on in their declining years. Frankly, I can’t imagine myself lying on my deathbed thinking, “I wish I had spent more of my life dieting.” But I can see myself thinking, “I wish I’d not let my fear of bears keep me from hiking more.” Our choices about our individual bodies are our own to make; we’re fortunate to have this freedom, and I believe we should exercise it in whatever way we choose.

Got a query of your own? You too can speak up here.

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