Some of you may remember my post, “Obesity,” or Fuck Off, Pagan Concern Trolls. In it I take well-known pagan and supposed pagan elder Peter Dybing to task for his fat shaming in this post (EDIT as of August 14th, 2012 — Dybing has deleted his post, for some unfathomable reason, but it’s still available on Google cached pages — screencap of original post here; haven’t capped the comments), prompted by the death of David Grega. Dybing’s post created a huge wave in the pagan blogosphere of responding posts, ranging from posts from fellow fatties telling him and the rest of the fat-shamers to fuck right off to posts from, well, other fat-shamers. Pretty much across the board blog posts attracted fat shaming in the comments.
I was lucky. I’m not popular enough to attract a bunch of fat shamers — all I got was Dybing himself. For three weeks. Dybing has been commenting on my post for the past three weeks about how I’m wrong, and judgemental, and “looking for reasons to be angry,” and a Fascist Meanie Poo Poo Head, and mentally ill, and childish, oh, and I use naughty words, too.
He generally refuses to listen to any of the very good points made by others in the comments, or to the fact that his entire post was, you know, fat shaming. I’m not going to rehash the entire comments section of my post; you can go read it yourself. I am only making a post right now because of two things that I think are really important.
1. This isn’t just an example of one pagan asshat, a lone voice in the wilderness. Dybing is considered a “pagan elder” and his words are often touted as “wise”. When we refuse to talk about his behaviour as wrong — and it is — we support this sort of bigotry from our “elders”. And it is sacrilege for me to support bigotry, especially in pagandom.
2. A really fantastic comment made by Catherine — and all of her comments are fantastic, really, so you should just go read them — that I wanted to showcase here.
Dybing asked her for sources that “proved” that there was fat shaming in the pagan community, because he didn’t (and doesn’t) believe that pagans fat shame, never ever, nope that never happens, what are you talking about the several hundred comments and posts in the past three weeks? YOU’RE IMAGINING THINGS.
Her comment follows.
First, I want to be very clear about something. I don’t believe your intent was to make obese people feel guilt or shame. I believe you were speaking from a place of loss and grief, and I am very sorry that you’re in so much pain. I’ve lost many, many people that I love, due to a variety of things. I understand the need to try and do something, anything, to make things better. I really do. However, when you framed this discussion as a community issue, You unintentionally opened the door for the kind of talk that we call shaming.
In the hope of helping you to understand what we mean when we say fat shaming, I’ve put together a few quotes.
- David Pollard says, “Though it doesn’t invalidate your premise, “second hand fat” does sort of exist. It works like this: if an individual gains (or for that matter loses) weight, people in their face to face social network will be significantly more likely to gain (or lose) weight. This is probably due to that friends like to eat together, share recipes and diets etc.
Though we ware all individuals with rights and responsibilities, etc. We are also a social species who are interconnected to each other in ways that we aren’t even consciously aware of sometimes.”
Really? I’m also making my friends fat? I suppose I should be ashamed of myself.
A post from The Firefly Chronicles starts out as a discussion about obesity being caused by bad food choices, then tries (and fails, in my opinion) to change the focus to natural foods. However, that doesn’t stop comments like this from being made.
- Colleen Beaty says, “I am always afraid to bring up topics such as fitness, wellness, and food in any setting, pagan or otherwise, for fear of being accused of things like fat-shaming, or misdirected anger at their situation and/or self taken out on me (it’s happened many times before).
My attitude now on the matter is a bit defeatist perhaps, or maybe just more selfish? I can’t change how other people choose to eat/live, because it is their body and their sacred temple (or playground!). I can only influence how I choose to eat/live, and respect my sacred temple.
I am having thinky thoughts, though, that how we treat our bodies is relevant to how we treat Mother Earth. If we can’t respect our bodies, is that why we can’t respect Mother Earth?”
Please look at this statement. Do you see the value judgements being made here? Fat people are treating their bodies like playgrounds, while she is treating hers as a sacred temple. Fat people have no respect for themselves, so how can they have any for Mother Earth? Hmm… I must be a very bad pagan indeed. Especially if I dare to feel insulted by these value judgements, because then, I’m making her the victim by being angry. Shame on me!
“I know that this isn’t going to win me a lot of friends, and that is totally ok… but after reading this article there are so many things going through my mind. Obesity IS a major health crisis, not only in the Pagan community, but all over the country and the world. Also, this persons’s research is questionable at best. And anyone with any sense knows that the only way to loose weight is to expend more calories that you intake. Dieting is only 1/3 of the solution, exercise is the other 2/3… I believe that we do tend to be more tolerant of a variety of body types in the Pagan community, almost to a fault. But get real people. If we are Pagans, if our goal is to live in harmony with Nature, to live by the example of the natural world, then we need to wake up to the fact that obesity doesn’t exist in the Natural world… The Goddess loves you just they way you are, unconditionally, but She wants you to be healthy and love yourself enough to make the right choices for yourself. And if that means cutting the carbs and hitting the gym… that’s is Her will.”
Here we have a pagan proclaiming the will of The Goddess! Shame on me for not living in harmony with nature when all I really have to do is cut the carbs and hit the gym! Bad pagan, BAD!
And finally, from The Wild Hunt
- Eran Rathan says,
“If you don’t take care for yourself first and foremost, how can you care for anything else?”
“The obvious response to that, I think, is don’t become obese.
No one is born obese. Yes, some people become obese from hormonal imbalances or other issues, but most become obese from poor lifestyle choices and poor food choices.”
Right. Since I’m fat, I’m not taking care of myself. Therefore, I’m obviously unable to care for anything else. Anything else. That’s pretty broad. Does my weight make me unfit to take care of my child? How about my pets? After all, my obesity is probably my own fault. It’s most likely due to my poor food choices. I guess I should have decided to not get fat! Wow, it’s so simple! I wish I would have thought of that before! Shame on me for eating the wrong foods!
Are you starting to see a trend here? I can’t possibly be a good pagan, can’t possibly be dedicated to my path, because I’m fat. If I cared about myself, Mother Earth or anything else, I would lose weight. If I were a good pagan, living in harmony with nature, following the will of The Goddess, I would stop being fat.
The point that I’ve been trying to make is, your initial post about obesity is what has sparked the recent wave of fat shaming we’re seeing and experiencing from the pagan community. Not that you’ve said these things specifically, but you’ve unintentionally given others the justification they needed to say these things. And you know… it’s very frustrating to have you insisting that these things aren’t occurring when, clearly, they are.
Now, you might wonder how any of this is your responsibility. The fact of the matter is, you are a very high profile person. People will listen to you. If you say that they should do something about the “problem” of obesity, then many of them will try to do that in ways that are harmful, hurtful, and humiliating for people like me.
Unless you know me, unless you are a trusted member of my family or extended family, you have absolutely no right to talk to me about my weight, size, what I eat, how much I eat, how often I work out, or anything else having to do with my health or my choices! It’s simply none of your business and I won’t be put into a position of having to explain myself to total strangers. You have unintentionally opened the door for total strangers who think they know something about me and my life to make value judgements about how I live. I won’t stand for it. Period.
Do you understand now?
For what it’s worth, Dybing has made it clear he doesn’t understand, and most likely never will no matter how many times it’s spelled out for him. But I post this comment here and urge you to go read the war raging on my other post in the hopes that others will understand, and see why I and many others cannot let Dybing’s aggression stand.
I have been told to kill myself because of my fat. I’ve been told I’m worthless, and lazy, and ugly, and stupid, and unable to really be a pagan because I can’t connect with the earth, or all pagans are supposed to be physically fit and I’m obviously not because I’m fat. I’ve been told these things and so many others — I’ve been told by people that they’re concerned about my health, when they know nothing about my eating or exercise habits, or my medical records. Not the first gods-damned thing, but still they feel free to comment on my health. Out of concern. Because they don’t want me to die.
Darlins, at the rate I’m going I have a much higher chance of being murdered by some bigot who can’t stand that I won’t be silenced than I do of dying because of my weight. I have a greater chance of dying by lightning strike. Or Tardis malfunction.
Even if my fat is killing me, that’s my business. Being told by random people that they’re concerned about me because they noticed one thing about me doesn’t make me feel warm and squishy; it makes me feel that I’m being condescended to. Really? You can’t trust that I’m an adult and in charge of my own health enough that you just have to comment?
Because that’s what fat-shaming is, and does. It dehumanizes us. It treats us like children, and a lot of people seem to think it’s okay to dehumanize children. It says “You should mention health concerns to your fat friends, because chances are they don’t know, becuase they’re fat, and OBVIOUSLY if they knew about health they WOULDN’T BE FAT.” It ignores the facts about fat — like, say, not really the result of “bad choices” and more the fact that the fabric of our entire society has changed in the past sixty, seventy years to make for far more sedentary jobs and more work being necessary, period, which is why anti-fat bigotry is so closely tied with classism — and tells you that you should treat fat people like children. Because they’re stupid. And ignorant. And they wouldn’t know ANYTHING if you didn’t ride in on your horse to SAVE THEM.
Regardless what someone’s intent is in doing this — Dybing’s was, ostensibly, out of real concern for his fat friends while he grieved the loss of someone he cared about — it’s wrong. Intent is not fucking magic. You wouldn’t assume you have to ride in to save the health of a person because they’re thin (unless they’re “unnaturally thin” and female, in which case people constantly say “eat a sandwich” because lol, bodily autonomy, what the fuck is that?), so why a fat person? Because the media constantly tells you how unhealthy! being! fat! is! You! will! die! if! you! are! fat!
Do I really have to elaborate on why this is wrong? Why this behaviour is fundamentally wrong? It’s rude and oppressive. It’s assuming you know better than another adult human being that you don’t know from Adam. Or Eve. Or Adeve, the genderqueer version of that I suppose.
What if I started talking about how thin pagans were wrong? Because they don’t emulate the Venus of Willendorf “goddess” statues? Because the goddess is obviously big and curvy, so we should all be big and curvy? Because we all worship THE GoddessTM donchaknow, and thus must all be like Her? It’s Her will that we all be zaftig nymphgoddesses! I know, because being fat I have better insight into what the goddess wants than a thin pagan would.
…I think I’ve made my point.
Fat-shaming is never okay — not from Joe Random on the street, and certainly not from big-name pagans.
My body. My fat. My business.