Backlash is never pretty, but it’s inescapable for social justice movements.
This is what I thought about when I read Carolyn Hall’s aggressively clueless Thought Catalog piece about fat acceptance (to which Ragen, Jes, Shaunta, and Marianne have responded wonderfully.) Reading pieces like hers (and Laila Pedro’s) is immensely frustrating and blood-pressure-raising, but I see them as a sign of a positive cultural shift–a sign that FA is gaining traction in the popular imagination. That it’s becoming well-known enough to get its own ignorant detractors.
The fat acceptance movement has come so far, even in the last seven years since I discovered it when I happened upon Shapely Prose. Back then, FA was practically unheard of; now, it’s everywhere. Now, we live in a world where a fat girl dancing can go viral, where plus-size model Tess Munster has 266,000 Facebook fans, where the trailer for a documentary about fat-shaming makes it to Upworthy, where two major figures of the fat acceptance movement are, respectively, an editor and a writer for a mainstream women’s website. (Unfortunately, although the movement itself is diverse, the members who get the most media attention tend to be young-ish, feminine white women…*sigh*)
There are still plenty of people who haven’t heard of fat acceptance, but it’s making major inroads in the collective consciousness, especially thanks to social media. Tumblr in particular has become a hotbed of fatshion and fat activism, which makes FA much easier to access for young people now than when I was a teenager (when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we had to listen to that annoying dial-up sound every time we went online).
These days, people know enough about FA to have ridiculous misconceptions about us–and that means that for every Carolyn Hall out there, there are countless more fat people who have learned that there’s an alternative to hating their bodies. For every ignoramus whining about the dangers of fat acceptance, there are countless more fat people who are working together with the knowledge that society, not our bodies, is the problem.
We still have a long way to go, but we’ve come so far–it’s pretty amazing to step back and realize that.