A "Big, Fat Parade" Could Expand Livable Space for All of Us

LR_Marilyn_Wann_by_Mark_Richards.jpg
Mark Richards
Marilyn Wann
​In the 1990s when I was producing a print 'zine called FAT!SO?, a friend and contributor who provided brilliant stories that got reprinted in cool places like the Utne Reader always wanted her bio say, "Betty Rose Dudley is a fat, working-class dyke from Missouri."

I'm thinking about Betty a lot because she died last week. Betty lived in a state of something called "intersectionality" (a fabulous term developed by African-American feminists). It's about claiming all aspects of oneself. In the Bay Area, people who made fat pride community were also making feminist, queer, and disability rights communities. Betty lived at that intersection. In claiming all of herself, she was gently, determinedly loving and activist as a result. It's a kind of activism that I imagine expands livable space for all of us, whatever our mix of differences. I'm so grateful for all I've learned from Betty and from local fat/queer community.

As Queer Pride weekend wound down recently, rad fatty Max Airborne (a founder of the Fat Girl 'zine collective) posted online, "First there was the pride march, then the dyke march, then the trans march. I wonder what march will evolve next for our communities?"

FatGirlZineNo1.jpg
​I vote for a big, fat parade for all of us! As a fat activist, I want people of all body types to waddle with me. A big, fat parade is also a sex-worker parade and an antiracism parade and a parade for gender diversity and a parade with people of different abilities and mobilities and a queer march and an all-ages parade, and more. Because that's who we are.

Instead of making long lists of outsider groups who deserve long-overdue welcome and then debating who's deserving and who isn't, what if we were all welcome all the time?

We learn about ourselves piecemeal, but we live one life in one body. We need to be all of the things we are, all of the time. That's how pride intersects with freedom. If you can't be at home in your own body, where are you supposed to go?

There's a chance to take on these questions and to practice intersectionality this weekend at a conference in Oakland created by the awesome fat/queer group called Nolose. The conference is called the Bridge to Fatlandia: Exploring Citizenship While Bravely Building Fat Pride Community.

Fatlandia2011.jpg
​I'll be there to continue learning what I can do. As a fat activist, I often want to say, "But I'm healthy! Look, I eat my veggies and exercise." While it's fun to flout stereotypes, social justice is unacceptably precarious if it depends on good behavior, or on access to other flavors of unearned privilege. For example, gaining respect for fat people who happen to be rich or healthy or white or able-bodied at the expense of other fat people is just more yuck, not yum. Human rights should be based on the fact that we're all here, not on some begrudging notion that some of us should or would change if we could.

Right now, weight bias mixes dangerously with racism, sexism, homophobia, class, and disability. A recent study found that thin women earn $22,000 more per year than average-weight women, with $15,000 of that advantage going only to the "very thin" women. Fat people who seek gender reassignment surgery are sometimes pressured to undergo stomach amputation (aka gastric bypass) because surgeons want their "after" photos to look "good." People of color tend to weigh more than the average population, too, so weight discrimination in the workplace provides another avenue for racism.

I appreciate that it's daunting to celebrate your body when the advertising industry, much of the mainstream news media, governments, employers, doctors, family members, and schoolyard bullies all decry weight diversity and call for a conformist paradise.

One of my heroes, Jonny Newsome, started a group called And Castro for All to confront racism and other forms of oppression in the queer community. He says, "The freedom bus doesn't leave until everyone gets on."

The big, fat parade heads to that bus.

Marilyn Wann is author of the FAT!SO? book and a longtime rad fatty who gives weight diversity talks. She's immune to lap band billboards, no matter how many of them are erected. Remember: lap band = bad plan. Like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter at MarilynWann.
Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.
My Voice Nation Help
33 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Amanda E
Amanda E

"As a fat activist, I often want to say, 'But I'm healthy! Look, I eat my veggies and exercise.' While it's fun to flout stereotypes, social justice is unacceptably precarious if it depends on good behavior, or on access to other flavors of unearned privilege." Gawd, I love it when people put just the right words to things! Thank you again, Marilyn, for your tireless devotion to telling it like it is, and telling us how it SHOULD be. Love you!

Connie
Connie

Beautifully said, Marilyn! As always, I appreciate the articulate, beautiful way you write and speak about discrimination. And I especially LOVE your solutions! Count me in for the Big Fat Parade! Cheers to you!

Amanda Cooper
Amanda Cooper

"what if we were all welcome all the time?"  That's really what its all about.  Thanks Marilyn.

Friga Aasgard
Friga Aasgard

Since obese people have all kinds of health problems and a significantly shorter life expectancy, I imagine the increasing numbers of people dying from heart disease and diabetes related illnesses will give the rest of us more "livable space." The problem is us healthy people pay for obese Americans in our health insurance premiums. What a slovenly nation we have become. Can we have a diversity parade for drug addicts, too?

Moudou
Moudou

Can we have a diversity parade for drug addicts, too?

Ask them.

Rachael Jones
Rachael Jones

You're completely missing the point of this article and the entire fat acceptance initiative.  Not all fat people are unhealthy, just like all skinny people aren't healthy.  You're making a rash judgement call by assuming all overweight people are unhealthy.  I did a 10 mile hike in Yosemite, and yet here I am at least 50lbs overweight.  Many of my "average" weight friends gave me huge props and not because I'm fat, but because it is hard for ANYONE.  Last time I checked, my health insurance costs the same as any "average" person, so why don't you keep your concerns of fat people to yourself and open your mind to acceptance of all people.

Friga Aasgard
Friga Aasgard

I'm glad you are healthy (and less of a drag on the economy). Right on! But facts is facts. Fat people die early. We queers have enough things killing us without doing it to ourselves as some sort of bogus "radical body statement." Now let's go hiking.

Marilyn Wann
Marilyn Wann

Friga, there's a whole community of scientists and health experts who disagree with your beliefs about weight and health. They've created an alternative approach that's both more effective at supporting people of all sizes in maintaining beneficial eating/exercise behaviors and also better for social justice. It's called Health At Every Size(sm). I hope you'll look into it, for your own sake:

Here's a HAES fact sheet, from the Association for Size Diversity and Health:http://sizediversityandhealth....

Here's a peer-reviewed article from a major journal:http://www.nutritionj.com/cont...

And although it's off topic, I certainly hope people who face addictions will find respect and proper therapeutic support. (At the same time, I would dispute your analogy, as I don't see weight diversity as either a behavior or a disease.)

Marilyn Wann
Marilyn Wann

Friga, there's a whole community of scientists and health experts who disagree with your beliefs about weight and health. They've created an alternative approach that's both more effective at supporting people of all sizes in maintaining beneficial eating/exercise behaviors and also better for social justice (compared to the shame-and-blame model you extol). It's called Health At Every Size(sm). 

I hope you'll look into it, for your own sake:

Here's a HAES fact sheet, from the Association for Size Diversity and Health:http://sizediversityandhealth....

Here's a peer-reviewed article from a major journal:http://www.nutritionj.com/cont...

Although it's off topic, I certainly hope people who face addictions will find respect and proper therapeutic support. (At the same time, I would dispute your analogy, as I don't see weight diversity as either a behavior or a disease.)

WENDYKW619
WENDYKW619

SOUND LIKE 2 TONDS OF FUNTHAT WHAT I MISS ABOUT THE CITYYOU THAT SAN DIEGO THE GAYS HERE SO CLOSED MIND HERE 

elisa s.
elisa s.

I would march in that parade.

Linda Eaves
Linda Eaves

I envision a world where all these B.S. measurements (the bathroom scale, size of bank account, etc.) were just dropped. What would that even be like? Everyone is worthy of acceptance and respect.Count me in for the parade.

April Lashbrook
April Lashbrook

"If you can't be at home in your own body, where are you supposed to go?" 

Brilliant, Marilyn Wann.  Just brilliant.  

Whiterabbit
Whiterabbit

i love the fat!so book, try to live as much of my life by the agony aunt column on how to not wear out your pants so fast ; ) i think fa online, is largely becoming...well snarky. i recently lost over 10 stone, and have not gotten nice comments. it happened naturally through a burgeoning love of exercise.i love my food as much as ever, but its assumed i have to doing nefarious, drastic things to have gotten to where i am. its disparaging but i guess i am "them" now and are no longer a part of "us". if it happened in my city, tbh i dont think id feel welcome. which  is sad : \

MarilynWann
MarilynWann

Thanks for the comment, WhiteRabbit. I don't care what anyone weighs, or if people lose or gain weight. (I do care if people care about these changes.) Do you see the distinction?

I am happy to support behavior goals (enjoyable fitness, delish nutrition, eating when hungry/stopping when full, seatbelts and safer sex and flossing and not smoking tobacco and having friends and self-esteem...all behaviors that are great for health and happiness, regardless of weight!). I cannot ethically support weight-change goals. (Because they've proven so dangerous to mental, physical, and political wellbeing.)

Jeanette
Jeanette

Woo Hoo!  I wanna beat the big @ss bass drum!  Love, The Fat Chick.

Golda Poretsky
Golda Poretsky

This sounds great!  I truly believe that an opening up to body diversity will help people understand the power of all types of diversity.  It is really dangerous to keep requiring that people look like a very tiny minority of people in order to receive what is only fair pay and fair treatment.  Count me in for the big fat parade too!

Candye Kane
Candye Kane

This the best editorial i have ever read. Marilyn Wann is right on! The more we claim our bodies and our diversity, the more powerful we become!! March on sistah wann!

David Spero Rn
David Spero Rn

Thank you, Marilyn.  I hadn't thought about how these communities intersect and need to connect.  I love your celebrating the wonderful people you have known.

Queenbeeprod
Queenbeeprod

Marilyn, I am continually impressed with your ability to speak so clearly and elegantly on the core message that ALL people belong.  THANK YOU!!

ZeroGravityLife
ZeroGravityLife

Love this - it sums up one of my favourite things I say to myself, and others - "it's OK to be you". I tried to make myself fit someone else's idea of great for far too many years. I don't now. I'm just fine as I am - I could list all my labels but I'm just me. I like food, cycling, the countryside, my guinea pigs, my top hat wearing, tattooed hubby and long hot baths.

Laura McKibbin
Laura McKibbin

"What if we were all welcome all the time?"  I teach courses on racism and sexism to mostly affluent white students, and I am often confronted with questions of privilege - "Why do we need black history month - there's no white history month?"  Instead of my usual replies, I am going to respond with this quotation and a copy of this article.  Well said, Marilyn!

Kathy
Kathy

Great article!  Inspiring as always, Marilyn - thank you!  I am with you!  I especially like the point about the importance of social justice not being dependent on things such as "good behavior" and "unearned privilege".  

C Pause
C Pause

A big fat parade sounds amazing Marilyn! Count me in for always!!!Friend of Marilyn

Singpretty
Singpretty

I can use the community and the parade!.  Thank you for your wonderful blog.  I'm currently transitioning from being fat, physically active person with external limitations (enforced by society) to a fat person with internal ones (continued injury-based disability).  So it was great to feel that inclusion here...

Jenniferjonassen
Jenniferjonassen

yes parades please! another one in l.a. where it is especially needed too!

Whaliam
Whaliam

Excellent idea. A parade where all are welcome, not because they are allies with one specific group, but because of who they are as themselves. I hope there's room for fat, hetero males like me who want to have fun (but aren't jerks about it).

Babette101
Babette101

This is a great idea Marilyn!!  I'll be there in all my beauty!  :-)

Laurie Ann Poole
Laurie Ann Poole

I suppose that's a righteous and riotous start to then move to the Vegas Bash festivities. 

Katie Koumatos
Katie Koumatos

I think that it's very important to put size diversity and pride in your body (no matter what size or shape it is) up next to some of the more prominent civil rights and identity based issues we have in our culture.  So often talk about fat remains in the realm of health, which completely negates the understanding that when you are fat, fat is one of the most recognized and targeted aspects of your character.

Being a fat, disabled, queer, non-Christian, Greek woman, I understand a bit about multiple identities.  But honestly, I have never been so harassed, discriminated against, ridiculed, dismissed, or judged for being a woman or being queer or even being disabled as I have been for the shape and size of my body.

Fat pride is probably the only way we are going to get people to realize that fat isn't something that everyone is or should be trying to avoid.  Fat is life.  Fat is beauty.  Fat is here and it's not going anywhere.  Sounds like it's time for a Fat Pride Parade.

Notblueatall
Notblueatall

Count me in for the big fat parade! I can just see the massive swath of abundant diversity now! All cheering in unison. Woo Hoo! <3

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

San Francisco Event Tickets
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...