Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day '16

by Lauren Carney
Today is International Women's Day. The history of the day goes back to 1909. International Women's Day included women from all over the world, as a day to recognize the social, cultural, political and economic accomplishments of women while simultaneously calling for women's full equality and rights.

To me, the original inclusion of so many women in this day means that today is also a day for intersectionality. Because this is a blog about fatness, I feel it's appropriate to talk about women's rights and accomplishments in reference to fat acceptance. The fat acceptance movement is as old as 1967 (likely older). For decades fat acceptance groups were separated and relied on word of mouth to spread information. Today, we have the all powerful internet and fat acceptance ideas have spread all over the world and there are blossoming and well established communities all over. Books on the subject are easily accessible and, with third wave fat acceptance, we see the inclusion of intersectional issues. I think these are huge accomplishments.

I'm speaking from a place of both marginalization and privilege because we all exist somewhere on a spectrum. That being said, I'm going to talk about a commonly discussed issue within the fat acceptance movement: how female read people have less privilege than male read people when it comes to the issue of being fat. Because today is also a call to action for women's rights, I want to remind people that women's rights should include all women, including fat women who are often stripped of their femininity, their sexual being, and their humanity (note: I'm not saying that this only happens to fat women. Again, fat and woman is just one intersection of many, but it's the one I know.)

Fat women hold less privilege that fat men. This isn't to say that fat men don't face fat discrimination because they absolutely do, especially deathfats (because, yes, thin privilege exists on a spectrum too). Fat women are simultaneously oversexualized (read fetishized) by many people and desexualized by many people. The average girl starts her first diet at 8 years old, and fat women are at the biggest risk of eating disorders. It's harder to shop for affordable and fashionable clothing, and we're denied jobs, raises, and promotions more often than fat men. We're even more likely to be found guilty in court cases. Fat women face greater obstacles to access to birth control including abortion and are often forced to attempt weight loss while pregnant (studies show that dieting pregnant mothers lead to fatter babies).

Fat people are oppressed, but fat women face (at least) two forms of oppression that intersect and we absolutely  need fat men to stand up and acknowledge this fact. Women's rights and fat rights are inexorably linked. In fact, I didn't even become educated about feminism until I found fat acceptance. I couldn't help but read feminist theories and ideas when reading about fat acceptance issues.

Thin feminists and even many fat feminists still fail to recognize this and fatphobia is, unfortunately, extremely common in feminist circles. If your feminism isn't for all women, then who is it for? Just yourself? Just those you care about? (this leads to a disturbing question- do you not care about any fat people in your life?). This isn't a question about (or a post about) health because health is irrelevant in how much respect a person deserves. In how much dignity a person deserves. In how many rights a person deserves. This is a question of humanity and when a privileged person decides that a marginalized person is worthy of humanity. Of wholeness as a person.

At what weight do I become undeserving of basic rights and so deserving of scorn and oppression? Which magic number is that on the scale? This is my call to other feminists who are currently not fat inclusive to become so. To be truly intersectional. Fat acceptance is in the spirit of the day and I hope for every step we gain as feminists, we can gain as fat people too.


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