Updates on online fat communities

A little while ago, I wrote about where we’re going as an online fat community–especially the troublesome-ness of having a lot of important FA discussions in a non-FA space, XOJane.

Lesley and Marianne have been on fire over there. You only have to look at my Friday links posts to see how much amazing writing comes out of that site, week after week. (There’s also some shitty writing, but obviously I’m not linking to it.) And there’s a great community in the comments, as long as you avoid certain posts.

But then Jane posts something like this. And just ew, ew, ewwww. Asking people to click on the site so that the writers can get bonuses feels so wrong and squicky and manipulative. What the hell kind of business model is that?

This is one of the many reasons why I feel torn about reading great writing on a site that, at its core, is about profit. I’m not going to stop reading Marianne, Lesley, s.e., Somer, Kate Conway, or any of the other authors I really like, but I do have issues with the kind of stuff that get done in the name of profit–from things that are merely gross like Jane begging for clicks, to things that are really awful and harmful like promoting Hugo Schwyzer, or cross-posting rape apologism from the Good Men Project. (No, I’m not going to link to either debacle. You can Google if you really want to know more.)

In other words, blargh. I have mixed feelings about XOJane.

But there have been a bunch of promising developments in the fat-o-sphere.

Issa from Love Live Grow is working on a site called Glorify, which will be a basecamp for the fat acceptance web. It’s going to have resources, message boards, a blog, and much more–and I’m going to be writing over there! It’s going to launch on February 14th, so stay tuned, and make sure sign up for the email list.

Also, Redefining Body Image has added a bunch of moderators, and they’ve been posting great stuff. They briefly had Facebook comments, which then disappeared, but I’m hoping they’ll add Disqus or some other way for non-Tumblr-ites to comment soon. There’s definitely a lot of fat acceptance happening on Tumblr, and it’s worth checking out even if you, like me, don’t have an account.

Another blog to keep an eye on is the Nearsighted Owl. Rachele has been posting amazing parodies of weight-loss ads called Shame-Less Ads, and all sorts of other goodness.

There’s been such an explosion of fat activism and fatshion all over the internet lately, and it’s awesome. I miss having a centralized place like Shapely Prose, and I feel kind of queasy about XOJane, but I’m glad to discover new blogs every day.

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The frustrations of a fragmented fat online community

A little while ago, I talked about how it’s problematic that the bulk of online FA thinking is happening in XOJane, a non-fat-friendly space. I know there has been movement toward creating and improving FA spaces: Redefining Body Image has added Facebook comments (I’d prefer Disqus, but any comments are better than none!), and Issa is working on an awesome project that I can’t tell you about yet.

But the bulk of FA work is still going on at XOJane. And today I got a reminder of how that isn’t always good.

I wrote what I thought was an innocuous response to a question in an FA-related thread. Not a minute later, I got an angry response accusing me of defending a fat-hating troll.

I’m not going to lie, that hurts. It hurts to be misread. It hurts to be accused of saying something I would never, ever say.

I’ve gone over what I wrote, and I still can’t figure out how it could be interpreted that way. I just don’t see it.

But I do understand that sometimes miscommunications happen. They happen in real life, and they can happen even more easily on the internet.

Especially in non-FA spaces. Not that any online (or real-life space) is 100% miscommunication-free, but I think such misreadings are more likely to happen in a space that isn’t explicitly fat-friendly. There are plenty of fat-hating comments on XOJane, and people are understandably on guard, which can sometimes lead to seeing fat hatred where it really, really isn’t there.

Whereas in a fat-friendly space, fat-hating comments wouldn’t make it through moderation in the first place. People would be much more likely to assume good faith on the part of other commenters. There wouldn’t be this kneejerk defensiveness that’s warranted nine times out of ten, but misplaced and hurtful the tenth time.

I just want a place to talk with other fierce fatties, free from both people who think fat is bad and people who somehow assume I think fat is bad.

*sigh*

Friday Links, 12/14/12

Last weekend, Steve and I checked out a bunch of local craft fairs. At one of them, we ran into Joolie of I Am Joolienn. She’s been reading my blog, and she even made a headband inspired by my constant giant-bow-wearing! 😀

It’s made from the bow on the back of an ’80s prom dress–how cool is that?

Fat Activism
-A really important read: Why I will never advocate weight loss surgery.
Every single woman in America is now “curvy.”
Aren’t you uncomfortable? The things we assume about fat people.

Fa(t)shion
What if you’re too big for Lane Bryant? A resource list for people who are sized out of many plus size stores.
-How to make DIY googly eye bows.
Boutique to know: LUCY. I especially like the black and white damask dress!

Another highlight of our arts/crafts-event hopping: a giant jellyfish crocheted out of both yarn and plastic:

Other
Serena Williams is not a costume.
Where is Sage Smith, a missing transgender teenager of color?
The top ten relationship words that aren’t translatable into English.
PSY and the acceptable Asian man.
-This post isn’t recent, but it makes some points that need to be said over and over again: The distress of the privileged.
-Why food challenges are problematic.
-On a related note, Kate Harding makes a very good point about the way people respond to such challenges.
-Roxane Gay has a diverse list of book recommendations, in contrast to the many all-white book lists out there.
-As a grammar nerd myself, I love Marianne’s post about grammar and language. Continue reading

Online fat communities: where are we going?

A few recent conversations have got me thinking about the state of fat activist spaces on the internet today.

Unfortunately, a lot of the most interesting thinking in FA is happening in a space that’s not explicitly fat-positive: XOJane.

It comes closest to filling the gap left by the late, great Shapely Prose. Although there are a decent number of fat activist blogs out there, and even more personal blogs that sometimes write about FA, those aren’t quite communities the way Shapely Prose was. There’s a lot of FA work taking place on Tumblr, but most of the blogs don’t even have comments enabled, so only other Tumblr-ites can interact with them. And then there are communities that are fat-positive, but have a different overall focus, such as Shakesville and Captain Awkward.

My feelings about XOJane in general are…mixed. They publish a lot of great, thoughtful writing on everything from disability rights to living on food stamps. But they also publish a lot of poorly-written, inflammatory linkbait. And don’t even get me started on the whole Hugo Schwyzer debacle. (No, literally, don’t get me started. It was gross and I don’t want to think about it.)

It’s definitely possible to skip over the shitty stuff, especially if you stick to reading the regular authors you know are awesome: Lesley, Marianne, s.e., Kate Conway, Somer, anything Lindy West cross-posts from Jezebel…but not everyone wants to do that, nor should they have to. Some people don’t want to read the site at all after it published HS, and while I don’t feel that way myself, I can understand why they do.

And when it comes to FA, well. There are a lot of fat-positive pieces, both by fat-o-sphere fixtures Lesley and Marianne, and by other, less established authors.  There are important internal critiques like Natalie Perkins’ piece on the commercialization of fatshion blogging. And there’s a significant community of fat-positive commenters who both go deep into the nitty-gritty nuances, and joke about starting fat girl gangs a la West Side Story. (Read the thread starting here, and prepare to sing along!). There’s a definite sense of solidarity topped with rainbow sprinkles of humor.

BUT it’s impossible to avoid the reminders that this is not, actually, a fat-positive space.

Reading the comments on fat-related pieces can be frustrating. The majority of them are on board with fat acceptance, but there’s always one or two people who derail the whole thing with their trolling about the Dangers of Obesity. Depending on how many Sanity Watchers points you have to spare, it can be annoying, or it can be triggering.

Personally, I read the comments anyway, and try my best to skip over any derails. But sometimes I get sucked into reading them and wish I hadn’t.  And I can understand why some people don’t want to read the comments at all, which means they get left out of the discussion–and that really sucks.

What does it mean for a movement when its strongest voices are 1.) getting paid by a site that does some pretty shitty stuff in the name of page views and 2.) writing in a space that can’t be declared explicitly fat-positive?

What does it mean when a community takes root in a space that 1.) could disappear if it stops making a profit and 2.) contains a decent number of members opposed to that very community’s existence?

What does it mean when so many of our discussions are happening in a space that isn’t ours?

I don’t have answers, really. I don’t begrudge any of the XOJane authors what they do–and it seems like they have a lot of editorial freedom, which is awesome. I don’t begrudge anyone for not taking on the work of building a new Shapely Prose. Moderating a site like that must be exhausting.

But I do wonder about the path we’re heading down.

I wonder about how to forge a different path.

Friday links, brought to you by…the universe.

When I grow up, I want to live in a leopard house.

In other Cool Buildings news, check out this French school.

A great post about celebrating life achievements other than weddings and babies: I Get Presents for Being Single and You Should Too

Also from XoJane, fun fashion advice from both Emily and Lesley.

Last but not least, some inspiration: Crazy Talk: The Do-What-You-Love Guide

Happy weekend!