Monday, 10 May 2010

FA and ableism

Reneé of womanist musings has written a powerful piece that's a bit of a curate's egg. She criticizes FA for excluding people with disabilities because she feels the HAES model excludes them. The problem with HAES for me is in the healthist usurping of it. It's become a real problem.

Though she seemed to make the usual error and that is to define the "health" part as promise, rather than an intent. Ironically, it's a healthist interpretation and I'm surprised, given that many of us know health cannot be promised-from a young age.

I couldn't interpret it this way and didn't even when I stuck as closely as I could to healthist mores. 

Its indicative that healthism has become the general default attitude of the establishment and middle classes. It dominates society in general that includes many fat people.

I also have to recognise though that some people find a lot of strength in this which enabled them to assert that fat=disease was untrue.Through practice they felt healthiness in themselves-which is a lot of its purpose. Though that enthusiasm has often threatened to get out of hand.

I also don't think she realises that HAES was started as an initiative in part by those who had amongst other things, mobility problems. People don't realise that in the past, fat people were just left. Either diet or nothing. Many people had no sense of fatness plus doing anything that was supposed to make you slim-but wasn't.

This was encouraged by the establishment who did not want that link to be widespread. If fat people weren't or couldn't diet, they'd prefer us to fulfill the stereotype and at least feel as sick as possible.

HAES was about meeting actual needs which the medical establishment had no interest in and in the main, still don't. PWD are part of the HAES ideal of starting from where you are, according to the ability and capacity your have.

The healthist element amongst fat people marginalizes when it assumes the same characteristics as the general mode which is that there is some level of perfection available to all, which we have a duty to strive for or we are self harming. Which is a lie;
When I am out negotiating the world in my scooter, my fatness speaks for me long before my disability does. Strangers who barely know my name are more than willing to suggest that the problem is my weight. It is assumed that despite all the limitations that come from needing a mobility device, that this is an active choice on my part.
If fatness=sickness and is the amalgam of choice, then a distinction cannot be made in the minds of all who define fat people this way.

Reneé said some profound things about her feelings about her weight;
My fat is a direct reflection of the two chronic illnesses that have plagued my life for the last three years. I am fat because I have been on prednisone (a steroid) for years. I am fat because the smallest amount of exertion causes extreme pain. There is nothing healthy about this fat.
Seeing in terms of either/or seems very much in keeping with the knockabout fat's bad, no it isn't of versus. To me FA is a different way of seeing fatness that's about neither of those. There's an important point here squeezed out by the need not to give opposition any more power than they have already.

My fat maybe a reflection of stresses and anxieties in my childhood. Others the aftermath of anything from a severe injury, to the aftermath of child sex abuse.

There's little doubt in my mind that the circumstances that precede weight gain/loss can make a huge difference to how people feel about their weight. I've long felt people often need support to come to terms with changes in how they see themselves. Especially in trying circumstances.

One thinks that when folk are abused for being fat, this may directly stir up feelings about this and be why some feel they cannot embrace their bodies. Wanting to lose weight could for some seem to be the final resolution of their trauma.

It should be said though that fat=disease does nothing to address this. I've never wavered in believing people should have the capacity to change their weight, whether up or down. I've no doubt that it should be part of an FA platform, however most remain to be convinced;
Fat may not always be a symptom of illness or dysfunction, but sometimes it most certainly is and when fat activists ignore, belittle or silence this truth they are simply acting in the same manner that skinny people do when they fat-shame.
Have to agree, there's a certain amount of screw you I'm alright however unwitting, regardless of what people try to say. It must also be said that the disingenuousness of obesity is a barrier to resolving any of this and a sign of the lack of interest in that by the obesity science establishment, despite appearances.

I personally feel the pride is in oneself not ones fat. The fat hating cult has undermined this. Pride is some people's way of restoring that to the self. Those who pose fat 'positively' are exchanging opposites, rather than seeing fatness in a different way.

Fatness cannot usefully be seen as a form of illness though anymore than thinness. I would object strenuously to that too. Even when someone is dying because their weight has fallen low. Renee says as much herself; "We have become socialized to believe that fat can only function as the cause of the illness."

Exactly. Weight signals an underlying metabolic shake down, more about survival than the sickness itself. The metabolism is what regulates weight. Fixating on weight is oddly shallow. Nor would I see it as a product of not being able to move, which is very much in keeping with the cals in/out we've all learned.
It is only out of a desire to express power coercively, that one can decide what constitutes disability and where responsibility lies. Those who has power are those who get to stick on the labels.....

All this does beg the question that if able bodied status is temporary for all. Then should we protest being labelled disease at all?

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