Friday, June 24, 2011

On Safe Spaces

Safe spaces are controversial. Usually contested by the privileged majority against the oppressed minority. Fat acceptance and body acceptance as a whole is unique in the sense that one does not have to be a part of the privileged in order to oppress. I don't know what it is, but we have a fantasy issue. This fantasy issue is why fat people, drowning in the fantasy of being thin, can actively engage in oppression of other fat people. It's why they don't understand why safe places for fatties often include no diet talk, no weight loss talk, and no "but health!" talk. The "but I'm fat too" argument just doesn't work here when you're still operating on a notion that you can and should be thin, even if you're not at the moment.

So the idea of a safe space is seen as "a circle jerk" as one person put it to me. Of people who agree with each other sitting around patting each other on the back for agreeing with each other. This is framed as a bad thing. It's called dictatorial and a repression of information and free speech. Maybe it is, but I can't say that I have a problem with it. Yes, we have to confront the bigotry and we have to work hard to change minds and to change a culture of sizism, fatphobia, and body hate, but where's the rule that says we have to do it all of the time? All day every day?

There are literally thousands of places on the web to discuss these issues and I feel there should be at least one place where people aren't guilted, shamed, accused, or judged based on their bodies. There are very very few places (and when i say few I mean a handful only) where people can go and be safe from body shame.. I'll divulge to you this: many of the people who have to defend against those accusations have to do it constantly in the rest of our lives.. and i don't just mean bloggers.. i mean all of us BA activists/advocates. We have to defend body acceptance to friends, family, strangers, internet trolls, seemingly concerned citizens, our doctors, and everyone else. We have to constantly worry about bullying and discrimination and the very real and damaging effects thereof. It's nice to have one place- just one! (because I haven't found many others believe me!) that we can go and just chill. To be in good company with other people who are all for body acceptance and to just pat each other on the back and say "yeah.. you're fine the way you are.. sit back and take a break". This also sometimes means that spaces are designated just for fat acceptance instead of overall body acceptance (I know from experience that a lot of thin privilege denying sneaks into body acceptance areas- hence the need for a space just for fat people).

 This isn't about someone's right to their bigotry, it's not about the right to free speech, it's not about the need to intellectual and civil discussions. It's about the importance  of looking after our own health, including our mental well being. It is not okay for anyone to force constant emotional stress upon us, including complaining about our attempt  to get away from emotionally draining and never ending abuse. It is our right to take a mental health day every once in a while.

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