Home BeautyBody Image Why Aren’t Feminists Allowed To Lose Weight?

Why Aren’t Feminists Allowed To Lose Weight?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

One of my readers asked me to explain that it’s okay for feminists to want to lose weight, but I’ve never heard that it wasn’t. I’m wondering if y’all can help me understand this philosophy with maybe an explanation, links… anything.

I asked this question on twitter, and received the following answers:

because we only lose weight to look good for men.  O_o

Cuz losing weight is, y’know, only to impress dudes. Feminists aren’t supposed to like, care about that. And stuff.

I think feminists aren’t supposed to want to lose weight if it’s for a man or society.

Eh, it’s usually considered better to live in the body you’re in rather than eating only carrots for years.

Now, y’all know me – I didn’t let that last one slide.

Is that it? The assumption that weight loss is, merely, eating carrots for years? B/c after 150+ lbs lost, I don’t do that.

I received the following response:

no, it;s about accepting the body you’re in rather than waiting til you look a certain way. not to mention the whole equate worth w/ body shape thing that hurts women

…to which, I replied:

So you can’t want to change the body you’re in without thinking you’re deficient in some form? There’s no logical or legitimate reason that a woman would seek to change her body without it having to do with some kind of assumed shortcoming?

…and was met with:

We’re just bombarded with so much ‘FAT IS AWFUL’ propaganda that it’s hard to get things unentangled

…where I replied:

So wouldn’t it do the mvmnt better to work on UNtangling the message so that women can, in fact, choose to do what they want with their bodies, instead of feeling solidarity to a questionable message? The idea that a woman can’t care about her own body- regardless of whether or not that means maintaining a 6 or a 16- is bizarre to me when the mvmnt is about choice, IMO.

Y’all better help me out on this one… because the implication that a woman can’t want to lose weight without it being somehow related to patriarchy is damn near more demeaning and harmful to women than the original anti-fat principle in and of itself.

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a.renae July 18, 2011 - 9:58 AM

I’ve never really heard of this and I’ve related more to feminism by coming through the size acceptance/fat acceptance portion of it. Even then, much of what I’ve grasped is about body autonomy and saying that feminists can’t lose weight (for either cosmetic purposes or as the result of adopting a healthier/different lifestyle) definitely goes against that idea.

If we, as women, are to be in charge of our own bodies, losing weight should not be forbidden, or shunned.

I believe the comments you got about losing weight is seen as something one does for men or overall attractiveness is valid. In our society weight loss is treated as something that is more cosmetic than anything even though it may be shrouded under the guise of “health.” Maybe the idea of feminists not losing weight is in rebellion to the idea that women must be attractive for men and in our society thin=more attractive.

But as I said in the beginning, it’s more important that women are able to make our own choices as it pertains to our bodies. If it includes clean eating or fast food,running or playing racing video games, I agree it’s about choice.

bridget July 18, 2011 - 10:54 AM

I think this allllll ties in … or, umm, gets tangled with the reasons some of us became overweight in the first place, as well as the reasons many of us held onto said weight as an almost political statement. Erika, you’ve talked about how sexual assault and catcalling and other forms of unwanted male attention bombards young girls when we are just starting to get our curves – our HEALTHY, “this is what a woman capable of bearing children but is clearly not emotionally ready yet” curves. I believe anorexia and compulsive/habitual overeating are two sides of the same coin. The anorexic says “Oh yeah? You like those curves? Well I’m going to make them disappear. You want me to be thin? Well I will be so thin it will make you sorry.” While the overeater says “You like these curves? Well I’ll pile on so many unhealthy curves in the form of extra pounds until you can’t recognize me anymore. I’ll make myself undesirable. And f you to those people telling me to be thin- I am awesome and I will be awesome at a size 20 just to prove thin is not always better.” I think where feminism comes in, appropriately is to help facilitate self-acceptance AND autonomy over our own bodies as women. We should, according to my humble interpretation of feminism, be able to choose to be strong, healthy, using food as nourishment instead of to punish or control our bodies. Unfortunately, some feminists didn’t get the memo that women choosing to lose excess weight, if they make that choice, are making just as much a political statement as women who choose not to focus on losing weight. To me, as a feminist and as a woman, my mindset in this is “patriarchy and the male gaze disgusted me, shamed me and made me turn against myself. I have alternately starved and binged because of the confusion I felt around men and other women who bought into the idea that my body was a public commodity that should be molded to conform to unrealistic ideals. Today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, one day at a time, I am reclaiming my autonomy, my health,and my body by choosing to take care of it and to nourish myself AND prolong my life with whole, unadultered foods and (enjoyable and rewarding, though challenging) exercise.”

Vee February 21, 2012 - 4:05 PM

Wow Bridget I agree with your comments.

Amy July 18, 2011 - 12:30 PM

Hello Erika, this is the first time I’ve commented on your blog, but since this topic is actually how I first found your writing I decided to chime in and give you a few links. A few months ago I went looking for writing about weight loss from a feminist perspective, when I found your blog as well as one by Great Christina (http://gretachristina.typepad.com/). She lost weight after a knee injury and wrote about both the weight loss itself and her new found conflict with some Fat Acceptance advocates. She talks about it directly here (http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/08/open-letter-fat-positive.html).

When you posted this I was reminded of her writing and I think she addresses both the positives and negatives of the FA movement from the position of someone who is part of it, and thus is pretty knowledgeable about what their general beliefs are.

There are many site about FA, but one I found that addresses many of their positions is http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/

I personally struggle with balancing my own opinion regarding these issues. I can’t ignore how losing weight improved my health, so I struggle with the idea of ‘healthy at any size.’ That said, I can only speak for my own experience and don’t want to invalidate the experiences of others. To be h0nest, what I find hardest to deal with on both sides of the argument is the use of ‘science’ to support any and every claim. I’m about to get my PhD in chemistry, and to be frank, the scientific method is generally stretched to its breaking point in most studies related to weight. I mean, some of them are out right laughable.

So when I can’t trust the science, I’m just left with following what makes my body feel good, which is cleaner eating and smaller potion sizes. After changing my eating habits, I realized how sick I was making myself on a regular basis and I don’t want to live like that anymore. And that is my choice, and as an adult its one I get to make.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 18, 2011 - 1:27 PM

I am so, so, SO glad that you brought Greta Christina to my attention. I wrote a post a while back – and immediately shelved it – about the FA (fat acceptance) movement and how it can be just as harmful as the AF (anti-fat) movement, because I wanted to take more time to learn both positions. It was nice to see a lot of my thoughts echoed in her post.

I’m also familiar with Kate Harding, as the woman who I dialogued with above (in re: carrots) brought her up to me, and she appeared to represent the mindset to which Greta referred.

I mean, it’s one thing to resent and reject the societal pull toward compelling women toward dieting down to nothing, but the response to that shouldn’t be that it’s wrong to watch what you eat. The response to that should be that we need to stop trying to tell women what to eat, or how to eat, or whether to eat. PERIOD. And while my blog MIGHT, on its face, contradict that… my blog’s only purpose is to say “choose your own destiny for your body, and along the way, as you go, here is what you’ll need.” I’ve chosen an atypical path for my body and I don’t want to society trying to tell me any different just like a woman who is quite comfortable at her non-size-0 doesn’t want it. And there’s also my personal rub, that there’s some neuroticism in people who are “over-invested” in fitness or are turned off by cupcakes. I’m turned off by cupcakes because I’m a sugar addict (that’s not a joke, I’m dead serious) and the sight of one makes me think I’ll backslide. Not because I’m neurotic or crazy. I practice yoga every morning because, when I first started, my joints popped and cracked. It was only TODAY, two years later, that I realized that it has, since, stopped.

Then again, like I’ve blogged before, either we live in a society that deems it acceptable to snark on people’s life choices, or we live in a society that stands against it. Feminism was never, to me, about the movement setting my path for me – the same way society tries to – it was about creating the space for me to choose my own path. I choose my path, the size 4s who read my blog choose their path and they also make space for the size 14s and 24s who are choosing their paths to do so with comfort and not hate or shame. I’m hoping that my feminism can stand for THAT, and not this foolishness.

DJA April 9, 2012 - 6:32 PM

I saw a comment on another entry on Greta Christina’s blog (I just discovered the blog recently myself), in this case about wardrobe choices rather than weight loss; the commenter said that “the older I get, the more I think that being a good feminist is doing what makes me feel good rather than worrying if it makes me a good feminist.”

I think some of the negative rhetoric ignores that the even the self-image side can–and should–be about how we want to feel on our own behalves, not just something we do because of others. Letting an outside voice, including some party speaking for feminism, put something into a category that we “shouldn’t” want if we’re “good” members of our group…that’s not much different from going with what some male perspective suggests we “should” be against our personal preferences. Of course there will be moments of coincidence; it’s where the goal comes from (us, not just outside pressure) that matters.

For me, for instance, trying to stay healthy and physically fit makes me feel more comfortable in my own body and more like myself somehow, completely aside from any question of how others do or don’t see me.

Amanda July 18, 2011 - 2:17 PM

Feminism has as many variations as any other social/political movement. There is definitely a presence on many feminist sites of the weight-loss-is-feeding-the-patriarchy school of thought. The attitude that men want you to be thin and obsessed with your looks so you’re in a gym and not out breaking glass ceilings. That said, there’s also many feminists who believe that caring for one’s body in a healthful way is a positive thing and can only help women to be more successful in their lives.

So any reader who is looking for a hard and fast answer to what feminists think about weight loss and how you should approach weight loss in a feminist manner isn’t going to get any clear-cut hard and fast rules.

You can identify with a movement (any movement) without agreeing with every fringe concept or school of thought contained under that movement’s tent. In fact, I can’t think of a single movement you CAN do that with without contradicting yourself at some point.

Bannef July 18, 2011 - 4:43 PM

Ugh, this always irritated me about SOME feminists. (Lots of super awesome feminists out there – myself included XP – so don’t think I’m talking about you!) There is this assumption that since society demands so many things it is impossible to separate your choices from what society says. So a porn star doesn’t choose to do that, it’s just a)society didn’t give her enough options in life or b)this woman is so smothered in the message that women need to be sexy that she says she wants to do this, even though she doesn’t. Not to say that this doesn’t happen, but I happen to know some very strong ladies who CHOSE to do the work they do, whether someone else approves or not! And it’s the same thing with weight loss – does society’s pressure on pretty=thin and that all women should be pretty cause some women to lose weight, often in unhealthy ways? Absolutely. Does that mean that women are unable to make that decision for themselves? Umm, I hope not! (And I know not, because I have really awesome friends who have lost weight healthily for all sorts of reasons – all of them being their own!)

Andrea Plaid July 19, 2011 - 10:31 AM

We’ve chatted about this very topic on Twitter: I rarely talk about my weight-loss journey because I don’t want some fat-acceptance feminist rolling up and use the same frustrating cicular logic on me when I *know* I made the decision to lose the weight I did for the exact reasons Greta did. I’m sorry, but I really am not seeing too many of that crew stepping in to pay for the damage I was causing my knee if I had to, say, go under the knife to replace it. To me, it was muuuuuch cheaper to exercise and lose the extra pounds than to go to a doctor to hear the same thing or worse. And, if some FA feminists–or other people believing/practicing other schools of feminism–think that I’m not a feminist because of my health decision, then hey, that’s on them. They haven’t and don’t maintain my body or pay my bills.

I also think this goes to “popular understanding” of an idea versus what’s actually said. I’ve heard some FA feminsts say that FA actually concedes that sometimes a person needs to lose weight for health reasons then that decision needs to be respected. However, what gets popularly understood and repeated is exactly what Greta critiques in her refreshing post. And it’s that popular understanding that gets disseminated and people jumping on the bandwagon…even when the bandwagon is going off the cliff.

Another one that immediately jumps to mind is an old popular feminist slogan from back in the day: “Feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice.” (Yes, I just heard a bunch of records scratch.) And I remember lesbians challenging my feminism because I didn’t want to partner with women and non-lesbian women I knew feeling guilty that they weren’t and couldn’t be “good feminists” because they weren’t lesbians. Well, the bandwagon didn’t go off the cliff with this slogan so much as was criticized into near-oblivion: quite a few feminists–lesbian and non–realized the slogan alienated people who would be otherwise down with feminism. Again, the effects of a popular understanding of an idea that get widely repeated versus what’s actually said.

Laura July 19, 2011 - 11:11 AM

I recently read a piece on Sociological Images about this very topic that I found interesting. (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/07/14/can-a-feminist-diet/)

“Frustratingly, given the patriarchal bargain of weight-loss, being radically anti-diet as a political stance doesn’t always fit comfortably as a personal stance. ”

I think that the line above is the key statement…women are expected to be thin, thin = power + privilege. So it kinda follows that dieting can be considered a form of participation…

I’m dieting right now and…well, I’m proud of it. I’m dieting because I want to be healthier, and I wish I could say it ended there. However, I also want life to be easier…I’d like to have more clothes to choose from, to not see people judge my fat in random public spaces or to even worry about that happening, to people see me as a “normal” person instead of a fat person, to be seen as more attractive…so, does that mean I’m compromising my feminist beliefs for personal gain? I don’t know…it’s a very interesting topic though- certainly not simple.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 19, 2011 - 12:30 PM

Now, I’ve never been a dieter, but equating something like weight loss with a patriarchal bargain is interesting to me. By that logic, anything that appeases the patriarchy is going to be considered a bargain. Does that dilute the importance of patriarchal bargains, or does it mean that all the other things that can be considered bargains should be opposed, too? (makeup, high heels, sex, etc)

Andrea Plaid July 19, 2011 - 1:38 PM

At different points in feminist historical thought, all of what you mentioned–make-up, high heels, and sex–were considered “patriarchal bargains” and got you judged as a “bad feminist” by other feminists. I’ve heard and read some strains of that thought to this very day. SMH…

Daphne July 19, 2011 - 1:59 PM

I’ve always had an issue with the “losing weight to get a man” concept and its variants. My objections had nothing to do with feminism, but about the practicality of sustaining weight-loss with romance as the impetus. There are how many blogs/comments/sites of slim women who lament their man troubles? Mind you, I fully agree that the quantity of available quality men increases when you’re slimmer. But that doesn’t guarantee love forever, either. Being slim(mer) has never been a primary solution for finding a compatible, devoted partner, or else the only women with relationship troubles would be the “fat” ones. We all know that’s BS, so…I’m at a loss at the insistence of women who propagate this concept, especially the slim(mer) ones trying to “advise” their heavier friends and associates. That’s some okey-doke ish, if I’ve ever heard it.

I’m aware of the fat-positive/fat-acceptance movement, and when I started reading about it online, I was ambivalent. I mean, it’s one thing to challenge the status quo on body size/what’s overweight, etc and demand respect and amiable treatment, whether in the job market, in the doctor’s office, or the general social scene for people who fall outside of the accepted body norms. I remember a fantastic post on a blog, targeted to black women, by a commenter who really parsed out these things.

It’s another to advocate health at every size. I couldn’t board that train, even when *I* didn’t (and still don’t) exhibit the co-morbidities so often associated with obesity (i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, etc). I wasn’t naive enough to think that obesity had NO health consequences for anyone or even most people, even if I didn’t experience the consequences associated with the “popular understanding” that Andrea Plaid so adeptly describes above.

As an aside, what I’ve noticed among various “movements,” is that, in reaction to attacks and an attempt to secure a “supportive” environment, people inherit the traits of the very group of people (usually extremist) of the ideology that they oppose so passionately. I’ve seen it play out time and time again online: with feminists, with BWE (black women’s empowerment), with race discussions, with geeks (i.e. film, comics, etc), etc. Nothing new under the sun, I guess.

What I took from Greta’s post? It’s got to stop, at least with regard to fat positive advocates. The more I learn, about any topic, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I’m always learning. And this insistence of drawing lines in the sand, on taking certain precepts and never wavering, on being deliberately obtuse, on dictating HOW one should think in a particular movement (isn’t that a cult?) or who can call themselves a “true” advocate, on being offensively insulting in response to or to ward off other’s insults or personal attacks, on demanding inclusiveness yet being exclusive, on refusal to perceive anything outside of the prism you decide to perceive all things, on refusal to utilize critical thinking even while trumpeting how important it is to think critically? It’s got to stop.

Well, let me rephrase…it doesn’t *have* to stop, and I suspect it won’t.

But to address a major implication in this discussion, we don’t get to decide or dictate how others live their lives. And unfortunately, life will likely never be as black and white as we would like it to be.

becca July 19, 2011 - 11:18 PM

Ugh. My understanding of feminism allows for women to make the CHOICE to do whatever they’d like with their bodies. If a woman wants to lose weight, that’s her decision. Imposing some external idea about what a woman, feminist or not, should or shouldn’t do based on some arbitrary set of rules about what a woman-like-her should be sounds markedly anti-feminist to me.

So if you want to lose weight, ladies, GO FOR IT. And if that affects your standing in the feminist community then maybe you’re doing feminism wrong.

On the flip side of that, the pressure to lose weight for the wrong reasons is a real one, but to dissuade a woman from doing so because those negative pressures exist assumes that anyone but that woman understands her motivations.

My two cents.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 20, 2011 - 3:44 AM

“So if you want to lose weight, ladies, GO FOR IT. And if that affects your standing in the feminist community then maybe you’re doing feminism wrong.”

How… flippant. Interesting, nonetheless.

Thermidor July 22, 2011 - 7:02 AM

Feminist losing weight here. They don’t really think about Lesbians who lose weight, do they?

Guess not. It’s like, uhm…what about all those women who aren’t attracted to men in any way who’ve lost and are also feminists? Do not get. >.<

Erika Nicole Kendall July 22, 2011 - 10:11 AM

THIS is another thing that’s so interesting to me.

So, it’s not okay to lose weight for a man – because that’s fueling patriarchy or whatnot – but it’s okay to lose weight for… your woman?

I mean, obviously, when I put it that way it’s easy to tease out what the message SHOULD be, which is “any reason for which you choose to lose should be all about you and no one else,” but c’mon. Really? Interlacing “the problem” with “patriarchy” is really heterosexist… so I don’t know. I didn’t put these thoughts in the post because I’m more interested in understanding the thought process behind it than I am in debunking it (or attempting to, for that matter) at this point. Jeez. 🙁

LBC September 2, 2011 - 5:17 PM

I’ll cop to being a lazy post-feminist who doesn’t give enough thought, often enough, to stuff like this. Even so, I got curious and started poking around online (I had to do some Googling since I’m so not up what avowed feminists are saying these days), and now I’m kind of mad.

Are women not supposed to take care of themselves at all, for fear any attempt to do so might be construed as selling out? I could stop bathing because shiny hair and fruity cream rinse are just The Man telling me how I should look and how I should smell. I’m far less likely to die of filthy hair than I am of obesity-related ailments, but nobody is guilt-tripping me about showering (provided I don’t use too much water; we’re in a drought).

If my mother loses ten pounds–which she really does need to do, and then some–and I tell her she looks “good”, I don’t mean prettier. I mean that I’m ten pounds less concerned about her health. I hope she’s ten pounds more comfortable in her own clothing and ten pounds lighter on her tired feet, has ten pounds less strain on her heart, and is ten pounds closer to being able to reduce her doses of insulin. Her weight, in the past, has scared me, not because I think I might be headed there, but because she’s my mom and I love her and I can’t stand the thought of her being unhealthy and unhappy. I have never–scout’s honor, even when I was a teenager–been embarrassed by her appearance: I simply don’t want to lose her any sooner than I have to.

I find it infuriating that women who want to lose weight for their health would be criticized for allegedly caving in to commercial body ideals. I could get very tired of the pull between popular pressure to be thin, and “fat positivism”, or whatever you want to call it. I want a weight truce. Being overweight was not a reason for me to hate myself, but it also wasn’t something I should have preserved. It was not a positive thing. I don’t love myself any more now, but I’m proud of being stronger than I was before. What the heck is not feminist about that?

(Is this almost a micro-miniature version of “exercise is for white people“? “Exercise is for brainwashed victims of patriarchal society”?)

What’s the saying: “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference”? The opposite of desperately-thin should not be proudly overweight; it should be sensibly healthy.

MPG December 4, 2011 - 3:12 PM

I am so glad that I found this post, because the way I found my way to your blog was through googling Feminism and weight loss, in some sort of order.

I studied Women’s Studies throughout college, and my coursework focused on how media’s representations of women are byproducts of patriarchy, ways to control women’s bodies, fuel capitalism, all of that bad stuff. During that time, there were moments where I would find myself indulging in not-so-healthy foods, and feeling that my personal indulgence was giving our patriarchal society the middle finger. I found this particularly empowering, as a person who has suffered from ED-NOS for going on a decade. I found a great deal of solace and empowerment from reading articles about women who found comfort in their own skin, exactly the way it was in the present.

As I am trying to jazz myself up to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, hopefully to counteract the unhealthiness that comes from sitting on one’s butt for 40 hours a week, along with a 2 hour commute five days a week, I ask myself why I want to change. Do I want to change to fit into some stereotypical notions of beauty? Not really. For me, it’s more about adopting a healthier lifestyle, being fit enough to not be winded walking around the mall, strong enough to lift heavy things, and maybe having enough stamina to complete 5Ks or other types of races to raise money for causes I care about. Yes, being able to go into a store and be certain I’ll be able to fit in some clothes would be a nice bonus, but thinness is not a goal that will benefit me in the long wrong, unlike a healthy lifestyle.

I know this comment is kind of all over the place, but I really appreciate your blog. It’s refreshing to find a weight loss blog that isn’t shaming those of us who are just starting on our journey, but still encourages readers to work towards a healthier lifestyle.

Toni July 23, 2012 - 8:10 PM

As a feminist myself, I do sometimes think about how my wanting to lose weights fits into my feminist ideals. But it’s a fleeting thought. I think it’s more of a way of accepting yourself as you are but being realistic enough to know you need to make a change. I personally don’t care what motivates me to lose weight. I know I must and that’s all that matters to me.

El November 20, 2012 - 4:36 AM

This post just kind of kept me from a sudden round of self hate.

Thank you. All of you, really. Yes. I battle this on a daily; I’m trying to eat better, get more active, and tone up; these things help with some old injuries, my energy level, and my ADD, as well as my ability at work. But then I get told I’m selling out or full of self hate for wanting to do those things- yes, those FA people do exist, and they can be really vicious, just as bad as the people who bullied me when I was *fat*, to be honest.

I really just wish people would realize it isn’t okay to ridicule people for their size, no matter what that size is. I really wish they’d realize feminism means women have control over themselves, and are allowed choice.

You NEVER see this kind of debate about men and weight. No. Sure, there’s ‘manscaping’ and all that stuff, but it isn’t the systemic, nasty “too fat! too thin! EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER DO IS WRONG!!!” rhetoric that we get as little girls all the way up until old age. It’s not healthy. It’s not feminism. It’s just the same old crap repacked in a new form to make women feel bad about choices they make.

El January 6, 2013 - 11:07 PM

I have honestly been more frustrated with HAES feminists and how I view my own body than I have been with the always on a diet! crowd. Because you know, at least I can ignore the always on a diet! crowd, because they aren’t even in my circles. When fellow feminists start belittling me and telling me I’m not a good feminist, or even a worthy woman, or that I’ll NEVER keep weight off so just give up… well honestly? It triggers my body dysmorphia hardcore, and I just can’t with it.

That’s a big reason I love this site. You touch on feminist issues, you are very positive about a lifestyle CHANGE, not a diet, and you keep it approachable, relate-able, and inspirational. Which, sadly, a lot of HAES people do not do. There’s a lot of anger and negativity and insulting people who don’t fit their ideal image, and it’s very much just like the super-skinny culture, just replace the size and keep all the scary dogma.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 7, 2013 - 8:24 AM

I won’t lie, I separate size/fat acceptance from HAES because it’s become this sort of safe-haven space for women who want to create an environment where they’re not merely equal, but “the ideal” and “on top.” I can’t deal with that. Especially with the way so many non-plus-sized women are treated by their peers, and how consistently that behavior goes unchecked. That’s specifically why, when I wrote about size acceptance, I tried to avoid the acronym. Heaven forbid it trigger someone’s google alert and all hell break loose.

El January 7, 2013 - 3:16 PM

It’s good to see that there is a difference in some places; it really, really is. I’ve been pretty dismayed at the behavior of that group (now I feel bad using the acronym; I don’t want people to start trolling your website!) where I normally ‘live’, if you will- over on tumblr. There was deliberate trolling/attacking of people using the anorexia/bulimia tags, putting images of fat people under those tags- which totally misses the point of what those tags are. They are for people struggling with an eating disorder, recovering from an eating disorder- a mental illness, and here you are mocking them, screaming at them, and triggering their self hate?

It was bad business. Seeing the FA article from Greta was definitely a mood and life-outlook booster. And again, the things you write here on your site; definitely more positive than what you’re describing happens to you on Twitter, and what I’ve seen on Tumblr.

Rosa March 19, 2013 - 6:00 AM

I am a self-identified feminist who has grappled with this. When I discussed it with my friend, we both talked about how uncomfortable it made us feel, wanting to lose weight, being self-image-focussed and feeling happier when we did, while also being fat-positive, careful about how we outwardly portrayed our ideas of our bodies, and careful not to police others’ bodies or attitudes.

I haven’t read through all of the comments, but a lot of women seem to be talking about having experienced women and some feminists policing their behaviour and their attitudes towards their bodies, which sounds awful, and in my opinion not a very feminist-y thing to do, since controlling women and their bodies are what we’re trying to stop!

As a feminist, I thought the idea was to dismantle the systems and change ideas that conflate women’s bodies with their personal attributes and self-worth, not attack women for wanting to alter their bodies to look a certain way (and we all know what that “certain” is). I feel like pretty much everyone falls victim to these ideas, to some extent, because we are socialised to think in certain ways about women’s bodies from pretty early on, and it’s not just about women being attractive to men, it’s also about women’s entrance to certain groups being contingent on their appearance, feminist or not. Individual women who express negative attitudes towards their bodies are products (not the right word but hopefully you know what I mean) of these ideologies and shouldn’t be shamed.

I still haven’t figured it all out myself, but I think it’s fine for feminists to want to lose weight, because it’s their business anyway, and (hopefully) being educated on the effect of attitudes towards women’s bodies on women then they will be able to do it in a way that doesn’t propagate harmful ideas about weight and body image (kind of like how you’re doing it!).

Piper Maria Davenport April 19, 2013 - 4:09 PM

I’m new to your blog. I’m a size 26/28 and around the size you were before you lost weight. I used to be a part of the fat acceptance movement, and these were comments that I definitely heard. I didn’t fit in with them because of racism, I’m black, but one thing that I couldn’t understand is why they were so angry. I remember one time, I told a girl that her outfit was kind of homely, and I got kicked off the blog by her and her readers, even though I’m apologized. On Kate Harding’s website, I got kicked off by comparing feminism and racism and how they intertwine. I promise I will (for the most part) keep my mouth shut, but I think you are onto something will this article. Thanks P

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2013 - 4:17 PM

Oh, no… I don’t do “keep my mouth shut here.” SPEAK UP! I just don’t do “be a jerk.” THAT will get you told. LOL

Alex August 21, 2013 - 4:26 PM

I wanted to add something to this discussion about how Fat Acceptance and weight loss don’t HAVE to be opposites or enemies. As a black woman I do find the Fat Acceptance movement overwhelmingly white, and I do find that those spaces are not the appropriate spaces to talk about my desire to lose weight. However, what I’ve gained from that movement is the fact that I can love myself now, find myself beautiful now, go out and get what I want now, rather than the idea that life will really start after weight loss. Maybe some of you were lucky enough to already know that, but for me, and a lot of women, that’s not the case. So the fat acceptance movement has been life changing. I have always been big and struggled with weight, but after a recent spike in my weight due to stress and an injury the affirmation that I got for my life and my body from those FA spaces is what it took for me to even feel comfortable exercising again – swimming where there are mostly thin people, dancing, trying not to worry about how much I am huffing and puffing when I do something strenuous for my body. These things are still a challenge, and as much as I love this blog it is the fat acceptance communities that make me feel good about those things in particular. In my experience, the FA movement is not anti-exercise, nor anti-‘taking care of yourself.’

My main relationship to the movement is actually through a fat dance troupe called EmFatic dance (a part of the nonprofit Big Moves). It is intense exercise, and is exactly about the fact that large bodies can move. Many women in the troupe danced at other times in their lives but because of their size no longer had a dance community, while many others are more beginners to choreographed dance. No doubt women in the troupe become stronger, some may loose weight (I haven’t been around long enough to see that), and everyone is becoming a better athlete (It turns out, very large women can do a split, if they work at it. I felt so much joy my first day of rehearsal when I saw that). But weight loss is not the point. Beauty and movement are. The bonus, from a Fat acceptance stand point, is that though our performances we show that athleticism and thinness are not synonymous.

I also wanted to point out that while some FA people might be aggressive and negative towards people who are trying to lose weight that has not been my experience. Rather, the message I’ve seen is this: There are 1million places to go to find support to lose weight (although not so many to find support to lose weight in a healthy way!), here is a place where we tell you are perfectly fine (valuable, loveable, worthy) even if you don’t make that choice, even if you’re done trying to change the size of your body.” While I know you support women being fine with themselves no matter what size they choose to be on this blog, the honest truth is that there aren’t many spaces where the choice to not be thin is actually accepted and where you can still feel honored in your body. I also want to point out that ‘choosing’ to be a larger size does necessarily mean choosing to not take care of yourself or to be healthy, but often means choosing to stop worrying about how big or small or light you are and instead start focusing exclusively on other things (and those things sometimes include physical health or are connected to it – strength, flexibility, a strong heart, a strong mind/body/sprit connection, feeling sexy, a real love of food). And whether the journey towards those things leads to weight loss is no longer a point of concern. So the FA movement seems to be trying to make those spaces exist, so that women really do have choices. Or so that failure at weightloss does not mean failure at life. And often its a space where people can cheekily/boldy reinvent and re-harness the words/stereotypes previously used against them. I think it’s a young movement and that hopefully, in time, it will become more nuanced and make more space for complexities. So that’s my 3cents. I really enjoy this blog because I am also trying to figure out how to balance fat acceptance and a weight loss journey, and this blog offers many great resources for the latter. But I do want to say that while there are corners of the FA movement that may be aggressive or harmful, and while there are many corners as we know of the weight loss community that are aggressive and harmful, there are spaces on both sides that are trying to create a positive world for women to love themselves in.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 4:34 PM

Excellent, excellent comment.

I think that, sometimes, in a quest to understand certain sides of an issue, we find ourselves wandering accidentally to an extreme arm of said “side,” and don’t remember that there IS nuance, and it takes a while to find it. Your comment serves as a fantastic reminder of that.

Since I’d originally written this post, I’ve come to accept that even though I embrace realities like body positivity, there are simply some spaces where I or my work is not going to be accepted, simply as a means of making safe spaces for people… and the FA movement is one of those spaces.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’m still trying to do the work of creating a safe space for weight loss and fitness without self-hatred, it just means I won’t automatically align or be welcomed everywhere. It’s hard work, undoing everything I’d learned, but I’m working on it.

Don’t know why your comment got me ALL UP IN MY feelings, LOL, but it did. It’s a lot to think about, and crafts the point really well. Thank you, a thousand times, for sharing it.

Alex August 21, 2013 - 4:44 PM

I just wanted to make a PS comment and add a couple of things. The first is the links to EmFatic dance, if anyone’s interested (it’s located in Oakland, CA):
We rehearse on Saturdays for most of the year (Saturdays and Sundays closer to performances). And every other saturday is an open rehearsal if you want to come check it out!

The second is another thought about choice, and choosing to be fat or choosing to lose weight. I think one of the most significant reasons FA is important for me is that, even though I am ‘choosing’ to lose weight, I woke up fat this morning, will wake up fat tomorrow, and will probably wake up as somebodies definition of fat for the next year or two. So during all that time, I want to be able to feel good about myself in the present (not just feel good because I know one day I will be different.) In fact, I don’t think I’ll make it to the end of this journey if I don’t feel good about myself along the way. That’s where, for me, fat acceptance is priceless.

Ok that’s it!! 🙂

Alex August 21, 2013 - 4:49 PM

Thank you Erica for writing your response to my post!! (I didn’t see it until after writing my second post) I’m so grateful for this website! and so grateful for being able to work through the nuances in a community!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 21, 2013 - 4:51 PM

Of course! 🙂

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