A generous feminist response to “Dear Fat People”

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The internet has been abuzz about Nicole Arbour’s offensive “Dear Fat People” video. Before I wrote this post, I thought I should actually watch the video I was writing about, but I only made it through about 30 seconds. It was all I needed to get the point. It was fat-shaming (which she dismisses as a concept), lazy and unfunny. Arbour puts on a show as though it’s a brave move to heap criticism on people who are overweight. Our society has a made a lot of progress in pushing back against fat shaming, but she is still expressing the dominant viewpoint, if in a more blunt way than most.

There’s a lot to criticize here, but Lindy West, who has done a lot of wonderful writing about body acceptance, offered a rousing and generous response:

So, instead, I want to pull back and say this, to all the Nicole Arbours of the world: You know what, Nicole? I fight for you.

Whether you like it or not, whether you realise it or not, your life is tangibly better because of fat women who live unapologetically, who wedge the gates of acceptance open wider every day. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman who wants to be more than just a body. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman whose body is scrutinised and policed every moment of your life. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman who wants to be taken seriously in comedy. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman who wants to be heard, not blamed, when she reports a sexual assault. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman who will eventually age and be told you are without value. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman vulnerable to any number of emotional and physical maladies that could, to your surprise, make you as fat as me. I fight for you in your capacity as a complex, fully formed human being with the right to autonomy over your body, even if that body gets fat.

I fight for you even when you are cruel, even when you are making money off the back of fat people’s pain, even when you refuse to fight for me. Because I know that it is hard to have a body, that insecurities make us mean, and that male approval can be a comfortable harbour while it lasts.

But you will eventually be kicked out of the club, and when that happens, you may find yourself grateful to those of us who have built a new one. Safe journey.

 

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Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

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