The Fat-Shaming War Continues — News From the Frontlines

Some of you may remember my post, “Obesity,” or Fuck Off, Pagan Concern Trolls. In it I take well-known pagan and supposed pagan elder Peter Dybing to task for his fat shaming in this post (EDIT as of August 14th, 2012 — Dybing has deleted his post, for some unfathomable reason, but it’s still available on Google cached pages — screencap of original post here; haven’t capped the comments), prompted by the death of David Grega. Dybing’s post created a huge wave in the pagan blogosphere of responding posts, ranging from posts from fellow fatties telling him and the rest of the fat-shamers to fuck right off to posts from, well, other fat-shamers. Pretty much across the board blog posts attracted fat shaming in the comments.

I was lucky. I’m not popular enough to attract a bunch of fat shamers — all I got was Dybing himself. For three weeks. Dybing has been commenting on my post for the past three weeks about how I’m wrong, and judgemental, and “looking for reasons to be angry,” and a Fascist Meanie Poo Poo Head, and mentally ill, and childish, oh, and I use naughty words, too.

He generally refuses to listen to any of the very good points made by others in the comments, or to the fact that his entire post was, you know, fat shaming. I’m not going to rehash the entire comments section of my post; you can go read it yourself. I am only making a post right now because of two things that I think are really important.

1. This isn’t just an example of one pagan asshat, a lone voice in the wilderness. Dybing is considered a “pagan elder” and his words are often touted as “wise”. When we refuse to talk about his behaviour as wrong — and it is — we support this sort of bigotry from our “elders”. And it is sacrilege for me to support bigotry, especially in pagandom.

2. A really fantastic comment made by Catherine — and all of her comments are fantastic, really, so you should just go read them — that I wanted to showcase here.

Dybing asked her for sources that “proved” that there was fat shaming in the pagan community, because he didn’t (and doesn’t) believe that pagans fat shame, never ever, nope that never happens, what are you talking about the several hundred comments and posts in the past three weeks? YOU’RE IMAGINING THINGS.

Her comment follows.

Mr Dybing,
First, I want to be very clear about something. I don’t believe your intent was to make obese people feel guilt or shame. I believe you were speaking from a place of loss and grief, and I am very sorry that you’re in so much pain. I’ve lost many, many people that I love, due to a variety of things. I understand the need to try and do something, anything, to make things better. I really do. However, when you framed this discussion as a community issue, You unintentionally opened the door for the kind of talk that we call shaming.

In the hope of helping you to understand what we mean when we say fat shaming, I’ve put together a few quotes.

From the comments section of Star Foster’s post “My fat is my business”

– David Pollard says, “Though it doesn’t invalidate your premise, “second hand fat” does sort of exist. It works like this: if an individual gains (or for that matter loses) weight, people in their face to face social network will be significantly more likely to gain (or lose) weight. This is probably due to that friends like to eat together, share recipes and diets etc.
Though we ware all individuals with rights and responsibilities, etc. We are also a social species who are interconnected to each other in ways that we aren’t even consciously aware of sometimes.

Really? I’m also making my friends fat? I suppose I should be ashamed of myself.

A post from The Firefly Chronicles starts out as a discussion about obesity being caused by bad food choices, then tries (and fails, in my opinion) to change the focus to natural foods. However, that doesn’t stop comments like this from being made.

Colleen Beaty says, “I am always afraid to bring up topics such as fitness, wellness, and food in any setting, pagan or otherwise, for fear of being accused of things like fat-shaming, or misdirected anger at their situation and/or self taken out on me (it’s happened many times before).

My attitude now on the matter is a bit defeatist perhaps, or maybe just more selfish? I can’t change how other people choose to eat/live, because it is their body and their sacred temple (or playground!). I can only influence how I choose to eat/live, and respect my sacred temple.

I am having thinky thoughts, though, that how we treat our bodies is relevant to how we treat Mother Earth. If we can’t respect our bodies, is that why we can’t respect Mother Earth?

Please look at this statement. Do you see the value judgements being made here? Fat people are treating their bodies like playgrounds, while she is treating hers as a sacred temple. Fat people have no respect for themselves, so how can they have any for Mother Earth? Hmm… I must be a very bad pagan indeed. Especially if I dare to feel insulted by these value judgements, because then, I’m making her the victim by being angry. Shame on me!

Then there’s this from Josh W. in response to “Obesity! Crisis! Hits Pagan Community

I know that this isn’t going to win me a lot of friends, and that is totally ok… but after reading this article there are so many things going through my mind. Obesity IS a major health crisis, not only in the Pagan community, but all over the country and the world. Also, this persons’s research is questionable at best. And anyone with any sense knows that the only way to loose weight is to expend more calories that you intake. Dieting is only 1/3 of the solution, exercise is the other 2/3… I believe that we do tend to be more tolerant of a variety of body types in the Pagan community, almost to a fault. But get real people. If we are Pagans, if our goal is to live in harmony with Nature, to live by the example of the natural world, then we need to wake up to the fact that obesity doesn’t exist in the Natural world… The Goddess loves you just they way you are, unconditionally, but She wants you to be healthy and love yourself enough to make the right choices for yourself. And if that means cutting the carbs and hitting the gym… that’s is Her will.”

Here we have a pagan proclaiming the will of The Goddess! Shame on me for not living in harmony with nature when all I really have to do is cut the carbs and hit the gym! Bad pagan, BAD!

And finally, from The Wild Hunt

Eran Rathan says,
If you don’t take care for yourself first and foremost, how can you care for anything else?”

“The obvious response to that, I think, is don’t become obese.

No one is born obese. Yes, some people become obese from hormonal imbalances or other issues, but most become obese from poor lifestyle choices and poor food choices.

Right. Since I’m fat, I’m not taking care of myself. Therefore, I’m obviously unable to care for anything else. Anything else. That’s pretty broad. Does my weight make me unfit to take care of my child? How about my pets? After all, my obesity is probably my own fault. It’s most likely due to my poor food choices. I guess I should have decided to not get fat! Wow, it’s so simple! I wish I would have thought of that before! Shame on me for eating the wrong foods!

Are you starting to see a trend here? I can’t possibly be a good pagan, can’t possibly be dedicated to my path, because I’m fat. If I cared about myself, Mother Earth or anything else, I would lose weight. If I were a good pagan, living in harmony with nature, following the will of The Goddess, I would stop being fat.

The point that I’ve been trying to make is, your initial post about obesity is what has sparked the recent wave of fat shaming we’re seeing and experiencing from the pagan community. Not that you’ve said these things specifically, but you’ve unintentionally given others the justification they needed to say these things. And you know… it’s very frustrating to have you insisting that these things aren’t occurring when, clearly, they are.

Now, you might wonder how any of this is your responsibility. The fact of the matter is, you are a very high profile person. People will listen to you. If you say that they should do something about the “problem” of obesity, then many of them will try to do that in ways that are harmful, hurtful, and humiliating for people like me.

Unless you know me, unless you are a trusted member of my family or extended family, you have absolutely no right to talk to me about my weight, size, what I eat, how much I eat, how often I work out, or anything else having to do with my health or my choices! It’s simply none of your business and I won’t be put into a position of having to explain myself to total strangers. You have unintentionally opened the door for total strangers who think they know something about me and my life to make value judgements about how I live. I won’t stand for it. Period.

Do you understand now?

For what it’s worth, Dybing has made it clear he doesn’t understand, and most likely never will no matter how many times it’s spelled out for him. But I post this comment here and urge you to go read the war raging on my other post in the hopes that others will understand, and see why I and many others cannot let Dybing’s aggression stand.

I have been told to kill myself because of my fat. I’ve been told I’m worthless, and lazy, and ugly, and stupid, and unable to really be a pagan because I can’t connect with the earth, or all pagans are supposed to be physically fit and I’m obviously not because I’m fat. I’ve been told these things and so many others — I’ve been told by people that they’re concerned about my health, when they know nothing about my eating or exercise habits, or my medical records. Not the first gods-damned thing, but still they feel free to comment on my health. Out of concern. Because they don’t want me to die.

Darlins, at the rate I’m going I have a much higher chance of being murdered by some bigot who can’t stand that I won’t be silenced than I do of dying because of my weight. I have a greater chance of dying by lightning strike. Or Tardis malfunction. 

Even if my fat is killing me, that’s my business. Being told by random people that they’re concerned about me because they noticed one thing about me doesn’t make me feel warm and squishy; it makes me feel that I’m being condescended to. Really? You can’t trust that I’m an adult and in charge of my own health enough that you just have to comment?

Because that’s what fat-shaming is, and does. It dehumanizes us. It treats us like children, and a lot of people seem to think it’s okay to dehumanize children. It says “You should mention health concerns to your fat friends, because chances are they don’t know, becuase they’re fat, and OBVIOUSLY if they knew about health they WOULDN’T BE FAT.” It ignores the facts about fat — like, say, not really the result of “bad choices” and more the fact that the fabric of our entire society has changed in the past sixty, seventy years to make for far more sedentary jobs and more work being necessary, period, which is why anti-fat bigotry is so closely tied with classism — and tells you that you should treat fat people like children. Because they’re stupid. And ignorant. And they wouldn’t know ANYTHING if you didn’t ride in on your horse to SAVE THEM.

Regardless what someone’s intent is in doing this — Dybing’s was, ostensibly, out of real concern for his fat friends while he grieved the loss of someone he cared about — it’s wrong. Intent is not fucking magic. You wouldn’t assume you have to ride in to save the health of a person because they’re thin (unless they’re “unnaturally thin” and female, in which case people constantly say “eat a sandwich” because lol, bodily autonomy, what the fuck is that?), so why a fat person? Because the media constantly tells you how unhealthy! being! fat! is! You! will! die! if! you! are! fat! 

Do I really have to elaborate on why this is wrong? Why this behaviour is fundamentally wrong? It’s rude and oppressive. It’s assuming you know better than another adult human being that you don’t know from Adam. Or Eve. Or Adeve, the genderqueer version of that I suppose.

What if I started talking about how thin pagans were wrong? Because they don’t emulate the Venus of Willendorf “goddess” statues? Because the goddess is obviously big and curvy, so we should all be big and curvy? Because we all worship THE GoddessTM donchaknow, and thus must all be like Her? It’s Her will that we all be zaftig nymphgoddesses! I know, because being fat I have better insight into what the goddess wants than a thin pagan would.

…I think I’ve made my point.

Fat-shaming is never okay — not from Joe Random on the street, and certainly not from big-name pagans.

My body. My fat. My business.

30 replies on “The Fat-Shaming War Continues — News From the Frontlines”

  1. Yeeeah the topic of “fatness” really fucking needs to be looked at through the lens of “happiness” and “health”, and we need to start trusting when people say that they’re happy, regardless of what they look like.

    But there also needs to be a way for fat people to discuss their -unhappiness- with their bodies in a way that doesn’t shame them into losing weight or shame them into staying the way they are… and that needs to be looked at through the lens of “happiness” and “health” as well.

    Because guess what? Yes, there are unhealthy fat people. But there are also unhealthy people of every other shape and size and they will never catch the same flak for their poor health, even if it is “willfully” self-induced.

    1. Exactly. And the fact that we don’t frame it in terms of happiness and health makes it impossible for people like me — who are happy with being fat socially but actually do need to lose weight for specific health reasons; to wit, my fat doesn’t cause bad health but the extra weight is exacerbating some existing issues — to actually talk honestly about wanting to lose weight and still hold the fat acceptance banner.

      I’m happy being fat, but I’m not healthy, so that’s what needs to change. And I can’t say that without people making all sorts of assumptions. I can’t even say I’m walking more or exercising more without people assuming I’m trying to lose weight — regardless if I am or not or if I do lose weight or not, that’s not the purpose of exercise. The purpose of exercise is health.

      And most days I just sort of want to set the world on fire.

      1. And for many people, it’s other health issues that made us fat in the first place!

        Hell, due to my health issues, I’m struggling every day just to maintain my weight and not gain more! I have too work hard at it, because my medication dosage is based on body mass.

        I swore I wasn’t going to talk about that stuff, though. And I’m still not going to because it’s nobody’s business why I’m fat, or why you’re fat, or why anyone else is fat.

        I hate that we’ve been put in the position of having to defend ourselves, and make excuses for our bodies.

        It sucks, plain and simple.

        1. Hell, due to my health issues, I’m struggling every day just to maintain my weight and not gain more!

          *hugs* I feel you. I’m at the same juncture, though for different reasons. Every time I weigh myself I cross my fingers and pray that it’ll be under a certain number, and there’s SO LITTLE I can do to change that. Aside from letting myself slip into anorexia again, and believe me — I’ve considered it. On my bad days.

          It’s hell.

          I hate that we’ve been put in the position of having to defend ourselves, and make excuses for our bodies.

          This is what fat-shaming does. Makes us feel less than human; makes us feel like we have no self-control when we know better, when we KNOW we have self-control; makes us feel like we’re lazy when we know we’re not; makes us feel all these bad things about ourselves and puts us into a position of having to defend ourselves against people who don’t know us at all, and whose business it is not and never will be.

          It’s really unfucked up.

      2. “And most days I just sort of want to set the world on fire.”

        I think you should. Well… symbolically. :]

  2. Morag, thanks so much for finding so much value in my comments. There is something that, in retrospect, I’d like to clarify.

    When I said that someone needed to be a member of my family or extended family to speak to me about this, I was talking about my own personal boundaries. For many other people, this crosses a line and is completely unacceptable.

    I thought it was important to mention that.

    1. I understood what you meant, fwiw, but the clarification is good to have anyway. Thank you.

      And thank you for your amazing comments in the other thread. You are fantastic.

  3. I read. I can understand why a person would not comprehend the issue having never experienced it on the receiving end. But what I am confused about with the refrain that fat-shaming doesn’t exist in pagandom is why pagandom should be exempt from the ills of the society in which it exists.

    Other types of problems are admitted, why is this one not permitted to exist?

    That’s strange to me. I wonder if there are other problems that do not exist in pagandom for some but that really do for others.

    1. why pagandom should be exempt from the ills of the society in which it exists.

      Oh, because we as pagans are super-duper enlightened and special and are so in touch with The GoddessTM that we’d never shame another member of our community!

      Sarcasm aside, this is quite honestly the source of the belief that “pagans would never do such a thing”. Just like when I complain about sexism in geek culture, I get the attitude that “Geeks are BETTER than mainstream culture, so they’d never objectify you.” Which is bullshit; they do, all the time.

      There’s this attitude that because we’re not mainstream, we’re somehow better and therefore could never be sexist or racist or fatphobic or whatever.

      I wonder if there are other problems that do not exist in pagandom for some but that really do for others.

      Oh yes. Racism, for one. Erasure of non-binary gender identities — no one thinks it strange to say “masculine and feminine are the two energies that create life!” but it is incredibly cissexist and downright wrong. Amoebas, hello.

      Pretty much any example in mainstream culture can be found in pagandom. I’ve run into dudes who believe they could never be sexist because they worship a Goddess and thus there is no sexism in paganism because pagans worship goddesses.

    1. Yeah, I know. =/ There’s not really much I can do about it, unless I change the layout of the blog a little bit. Which I coud do. Or I could make replies only go three deep again, which I find irritating, but it may be better than the comments stretching so long.

      Dammit, WordPress. Work better for my complicated needs. ;P

    2. There we go; fixed it. Got rid of the left-hand sidebar and made nesting only 4 levels deep. Not exactly what I want, but I’d rather comments be readable than have my blog look absolutely perfect to me.

  4. Hear we go again
    1. Never called you Fascist
    2. Never called you mentaly ill
    3. Never denied that there is such a thing as fat shaming, only don’t agree that it is a problem in the Pagan commuity.

    You may now continue making up things I have said, thought, or must be thinking. Rolls eyes!

    1. Dude, seriously. “Fascist Meanie Poo Poo Head” is a facetious response to behaviour like yours in pagandom. It’s not meant literally; I’m employing the literary style of hyperbole in this post, which is pretty obvious.

      You did insinuate that I am mentally ill, though. And while I am mentally ill, it’s a) none of your business, much like my fat, and b) has nothing to do with my calling you a bigot.

      I’m calling you a bigot because your behaviour indicates that you are.

      As for your “not agreeing it’s a problem in pagandom”, then I just must concede that you are being wilfully ignorant and not a little bit obtuse. Because it does happen. It has happened. Read my other post with my friend’s story about Beltaine. That happened. Go read the first submission at my new tumblr. That happened.

      Then reread your post from the eyes of someone who spends all her time getting shamed for her weight, whether in the guise of concern or just plain outright jokes. That happened, and it was shaming.

      What also happened is your constant affirmation that your years and years in social justice work made your comments more valid than mine — an actual marginalized person who has to live with this shit every day. Not only that, but you implied that because you had years under your belt and I am young, your opinion matters more. Or that because all you see of my work is my blogging, obviously I’m not doing anything in the real world. Because you know me so well, am I right? And the fact that you keep saying that what you do is important because you have privilege and no one will ever listen to us poor marginalized folk unless Mighty Whitey comes in to save the day….

      Seriously, your comments make me want to vomit.

      You are an asshole. And if you don’t like being called one, then STOP BEING ONE.

    2. Hey guess what, Mr. BNP, if it happens, -it’s a problem-. The threshold of tolerance for this shit should be exactly zero. Now try again.

  5. Ok, making up things you think I have said is one thing. Accusing me of agression is out of line. In the coments section of your blog I have been called directly dozens of insulting names. That is agression. My comments have always remained focused in the issues. I have not engaged in agressive language, you and some of the other comenters have. I don’t agree with you and the language directed at me is that of a pack of bullies. You know bully someone else. It is unbelievable that you accuse me of agression when it is you and a few others who have engaged in agressive tactics and language.

    1. Oh, and it’s not aggression to come to someone’s blog — my online HOME, by the way — and repeatedly troll posts with your fat-shaming-apologist, privileged bullshit?

      You’ll note that all I put in my comment on YOUR post was a request for sources. Which you still have failed to provide.

    2. And I’ll tell you what I think is out of line, Pete.

      It’s shaming fat people and then denying that it ever happens in pagandom. It’s co-opting queer struggles for acceptance by posting about how you have a responsibility to fight for queer rights, or no one will ever listen, because you need a hetero dude to campaign for queer rights.

      It’s ripping into other pagans when they gently correct you on your assertion that ALL PAGANS use the Maiden/Mother/Crone model, which we certainly do not.

      It’s using TONE ARGUMENTS against folk you have pissed off, who have a fucking RIGHT to be pissed off because you have been swinging your privilege around like a fucking wrecking ball.

      It’s refusing to even LOOK at a marginalized person’s argument because they COULDN’T POSSIBLY know as much as YOU do, what with your YEARS AND YEARS of EXPERIENCE, which apparently only matters if you are a white, het, cis, thin dude. Never mind that I have OVER TWO DECADES of experience in being discriminated against because of my apparent gender, two decades of being MISGENDERED and not even given the OPTION to be genderqueer until I was an adult. Never mind the fact that I deal with this shit EVERY DAMN DAY not because I choose to fight for social justice but because IT IS MY LIFE.

      This is my life. Fighting against bigots not because it’s “my responsibility” but because IT IS A LIFE AND DEATH MATTER for me and MANY other people.

      You want a fucking cookie from me, Dybing? You want a cookie for your “years of service” for poor folk like myself?

      Congrats. You reach the BARE MINIMUM of requirements to be a decent human being.

      Now get the FUCK off my lawn.

    I implied nothing about your age, I have never even had a thought about how old you might be. Now go on and continue making things up about me, this is becoming funny the pattern is so obvious.

    Also “co-opting queer struggles for acceptance” it should be clear to you by now I care little for acceptance. If I did I would have bowed to your bullying by now. I really could not give a rats-ass what others think of me. My journey is following the Goddess, my need is to please her. Don’t really care what you or anyone else thinks of me. So go ahead continue painting the picture that makes me out as the poster child of fat shaming, it’s a lie, but go ahead. Seems some people just need someone to blame for their pain.

    1. So Peter, when you said,

      “I am not trolling anything, when my name is mentioned in a blog or in a comment it gets my attention. Simple, The blog author does not want me hear, they can say so.”

      Funny, seams to me the author of this blog did say so. Scroll up.

      Or maybe you don’t think you’re under any obligation to actually leave someone’s place when they tell you to. I suppose you think you’re entitled to be here, Hmm… I wonder what other privileges you think you’re entitled too.

    2. Oh, oh that’s special, Pete. That’s really special.

      You’ve deleted your original post.

      Now how will the world know that I made everything up? How will they be able to tell that I’m blatantly lying about you, running around making up falsehoods as it pleases me, if they can’t compare my commentary to your original post?

      Guess they’ll just have to go by what I quote in my original post. Good thing that paints you in a real positive light, eh Petey-boy?

      1. That was unexpected.

        I don’t know why he took it down, but I’m glad he did. After thinking about it a bit, I’m choosing to believe that maybe, taking down the post was his way of acknowledging that it could promote behavior he doesn’t endorse.

        Who knows, maybe something got through to him?

        1. I’d like to believe that, but I think he’s just tired of being seen in a bad light. It’s a common flouncing tactic, to delete the original post that has caused people to call you out for bad behavior, or to edit it. Generally so the flouncer can then claim that they did nothing wrong.

          If he posts an apology for his original post, however, I’ll believe it.

  7. Have you read the blog dances with fat? She has excellent resources on health and fat acceptance. As well as fat shaming.

    1. I have read that blog, off and on. I unfortunately don’t have as much time to read blogs these days as I’d like, so there are many blogs that I know of and have read a few posts from but don’t keep up with.

      Thanks for the reminder!

Comments are closed.