People Positive and Fat Shaming

| December 24, 2012 | 17 Comments

YNA – People Positive And Fat Shaming Education

“People positive,” based on our world view, is about not judging an individual based on anything but the way they behave. Below you will see an interaction that took place last night on the Young Naturists America Facebook wall. But before you read it, I would like to just make a couple of points very clear… The YNA people positive outlook is one of acceptance. Do we see people who are overweight or underweight? Yes. But it is not our place to judge these people. First of all, every person is different, and everyone has health issues. We do not know this history, we also do not know what this person is doing in order to live a healthy life. By jumping to judgement, people assume that they know what that person has been through and what physical issues they are forced to deal with. Also, the health of a person cannot be measured in pounds or inches.

 people positive anti-bullying anti fat shaming and body shaming

The USA is, for the most part, a free country. People have the right to choose how to lead their lives, and if they are happy then they are doing a good job. In order to see the person for who they are, people need to look past the outward appearances and see the person for who they truly are.

Sensitivity to other people is a major focus of the people positive approach we take at YNA. We don’t believe that offering advice on sensitive or personal matters unless an individual asks for an opinion. But if asked, we believe in telling that individual exactly what you think.

We all want to feel accepted – it’s human nature. One negative comment (even with honest good intentions at heart) could have a long-lasting profound effect on a person’s body image and general psyche. I mention general psyche because I want to be clear that our people positive outlook does not begin and / or end with body image and weight.

The people positive ideal applies to many different facets of life and human interaction. Bullying is a great example of behavior that cannot and should not be tolerated. Bullying does not have to mean physically attacking someone and causing bodily harm. A comment could leave scars that last a lifetime and this is something we do not approve of and frankly do not tolerate.

Our members are expected to act and interact in a respectful manner. Sometimes people might unknowingly say things or act in ways that could have negative repercussions. In such situations we expect those individuals to express some form of honest remorse (especially since the the comments were not intended to be hurtful). Saying sorry is by no means a show of weakness; if anything, it is a show of moral and ethical stature.

Online and offline we urge people to think of the repercussions of what they say and how they say it. Realizing that our actions influence others is the first step to becoming a people positive and civilized society.

And without further ado, here is the post that started it, followed by the conversation (I removed individuals’ names as needed for privacy concerns).

"Body Language" by Jose Ferreira people positive fat shaming

We shared a link to photographer Jose Ferreira’s series, “Body Language”

Brian Anthony Kraemer: I don’t think that’s beautiful. If I saw a bluebird or a butterfly or a squirrel or any other species of animal that obese I wouldn’t think it was beautiful either. That woman needs to get on an all plants-based diet (vegan) and keep up her walking along the shoreline.

“Mr.Y” Replies: How do you know she doesn’t already do all that ?

Felicity Jones Comments: Brian, one of the cornerstones of the YNA value system is that it’s not our place to judge what somebody looks like, no matter how big or small they might be. Comments like yours can go a long way as far as hurting that person’s self-esteem and self-image. Frankly, such comments are downright unacceptable. Stephen also makes a good point. Research has shown that many overweight people don’t eat any differently from thin people, and size is often not an accurate measure of how healthy a person is. (You can be a thin person who eats nothing but junk food & never exercises!) You don’t know this woman, her background, her genes, her diet or exercise regimen, so don’t presume to know what’s best for her health and well-being. Let us reiterate, it’s not your place nor ours to judge or make medical recommendations.

“Mr.Z” Comments: I agree with Young Naturists America but I will say that it’s hard to find the balance between fighting obesity/promoting a healthy weight and also not judging people. I would never say anything to offend anyone, but what IS the proper way to promote a healthy weight without offending obese people or promoting sex?

Felicity Replies: “Mr.Z”, what anyone can do is have a healthy lifestyle and lead by example. But other than that we should accept them. And basically only offer help or advice if they ask you for it. It’s offensive to impose your own ideas of how that person should change their body or lifestyle, especially if you don’t know the person’s medical history. To be proactive, you can also write and talk about it, bring up the issue, and raise awareness. (But it ain’t easy and you have to be dedicated!)
This is a good article on this topic: ‘What’s Wrong With Fat-Shaming?  Fat-shaming ought to be self-explanatory, but it’s actually kind of tricky to…’ [click here to see the entire article]

Brian Anthony Kraemer Replies: I know my words aren’t politically correct, but I don’t believe the argument that this is healthy. Give me one example of any species on the planet other than human beings who are grossly overweight and still manage to congratulate each other on how beautiful they are. If the woman pictured has some sort of thyroid imbalance or other rare physical problem that makes being obese a necessity, then her efforts to do the best she can with what she’s got, and her effort to overcome it, is beautiful, but I won’t say the obesity is beautiful. If someone’s face is horrifically marred by accident or disease, he may be inwardly beautiful, his spirit, his joy and happiness and strength of character may be beautiful, but I’m not going to put a photograph of his frightening appearance on Facebook and entitle it, “Some beautiful photos.”

Felicity: Brian, the point we were trying to make is about not judging another person based on their appearance / size. It’s *not* about whether you think it’s “beautiful” or not. You’re entitled to your own opinion about the beauty of any piece of art, or what you consider attractive in a person, as is everyone. But judging & fat-shaming are different, and don’t do any good for anyone.

What do you think of the “people positive” outlook? Fat shaming? Have you ever experienced Fat Shaming or any kind of Body Shaming? What did you do about it?

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About the Author ()

Jordan Blum is a lifelong nudie and co-founder of Young Naturists America.
15 comments
MikeClark
MikeClark

Back to the author and the article...

 

Discrimination is a fundamental aspect of the human intellectual process, and it's not a bad thing. However, prejudice (which, if we're being honest, is actually what's the ultimate root of the issue here) is not an inherent characteristic; it's a social construct. Given that, one must conclude based on evidence that it is still being taught. Otherwise, why would we have this kind of problem?

 

Every job I've had over the course of the past 12-14 years has included, to increasing degrees, so-called "diversity training". In fact, this past semester in college (I'm a now 40 year old college student) I took a management class, and we had an entire section devoted to diversity in the workplace, why it's a good thing and needs to be properly managed, as well as how to manage it. Again, just like this article, it speaks (rather loudly and clearly, I should think) to the point that we have a lot of prejudice issues in this country (to be fair, they exist around the world) and that has to be dealt with.

 

This, in my view, actually ties in directly to the whole "body image" problem that this article is also dealing with. We are taught that certain physical body forms are acceptable, and certain ones are unacceptable. However, it's a sliding scale, and it's biased *for* the lighter-weight / thinner profile end of the spectrum and also biased *against* the heavy / fat end of the spectrum as well.

 

So, in other words, society is simultaneously teaching "you're only acceptable if you're attractive, and you're only attractive if you're thin" and it is also teaching "we're divided into groups, and them in that group over there are undesirable".

 

BTW, maybe I'm showing my age, but does anyone else here remember Karen Carpenter? It only took one unintentionally negative comment from a critic for Miss Carpenter to head down the road to anorexia (I'm assuming there were other factors involved which helped "prime" her for this) from which ultimately she would later die.

Mark Weed
Mark Weed

internet bullies are punks with NO true understanding of life and they are afraid of life as we all know it as nudist/naturist.

Facebook Page
Facebook Page

The internet has made bullying / judgement far more vicious and extreme. There is so much hate out there and we have to do what we can to change that. This is how we do it.

melissastarr
melissastarr

I completely support and appreciate the opinions presented in this article.  Nudists pride themselves on being accepting and Jordan's article (and way of living) are a reflection of that. 

 

We talk about whether to accept people based on their weight and, to me, this is a no-brainer.  Does weight really reflect who a person is inside?  No!  Does weight even indicate an unhealthy person?  No!  Who are we to judge?

 

I think I am a good example of someone who could very easily be judged for my weight.  Right now I am 5'7" and weight 208 pounds.  Yes, I'm overweight- very much so, actually.  People may judge me for that, saying that I have no willpower, eat only crap food, don't care about myself, take up more than my share of healthcare expenses, and the list goes on.  If you know me, you know that this is not the story.  If you know me, you know that I started a journey to health back on June 1, 2012 and have been very dedicated to this process.  If you know me, you know that I started out at 255 pounds, which means a nearly 50 pound weight loss.  If you know me, you know that I eat a mostly plant-based diet filled with healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  If you know me, you know that I was taking maybe 7-8 medications before this journey but my doctor has now taken me off of every medication because my body is healing itself.  By the way, if you really know me, you know that my old doctor told me that there was no way I could lose the weight because of the various diagnoses I had- all of which I've been "un" diagnosed with, by the way. 

 

The question, then, is now what do I weigh or am I in a healthy weight range.  The question isn't even whether I'm overweight- I am.  No, the real question is whether you know me- do you know where I started from, what my successes are, and what I'm doing to secure a healthy future?  If not, you don't know me.  And if you don't know me, who are you to judge me? 

 

Now you know my story and maybe, just maybe, you don't judge me for my weight.  But do you know the story of every person who is overweight?  Do you know if they've tried to lose the weight?  Do you know if they've been told they can't?  Do you know if maybe they WANT to be overweight to protect themselves from another rape?  No, we don't know everyone.  And since we don't know everyone, I see more good in finding the good in each person and accepting them with love for the good things they are rather than judging them for real or perceived imperfections.  "It's all about the love," you know.  Where's yours?

Mark Weed
Mark Weed

Ya know?,I am as much about health as the next person,however,isnt this issue pounded upon enough,there are those that we will never reach,because,they do not wish to be.

Felicity's Blog
Felicity's Blog

Thanks Etan, I'm glad you liked the post! The philosophy of acceptance is very important to us. We hope to raise awareness of this issue & get people to be a little more human, empathetic and sensitive to others. Totally agree with you except for one point - racism and anti-semitism still exist, and one is no less important than the other. Any form of hate or discrimination based on generalities is bad and needs to be stamped out.

Etan Ben-Ami
Etan Ben-Ami

Felicity, thank you so much for posting this. I'm considered overweight or obese, and I have put up with tons of garbage as a result. Much of it has been hidden behind a mask of good intentions and concern for my health. I've had doctors deliver a lecture on obesity while looking at a perfectly good set of test results. I believe that fat shaming has replaced overt racism and anti-semitism in much of America. I believe it promotes a form of genetic and class-based false superiority. The "epidemic of obesity" is in fact an epidemic of relative prosperity for average men and women. We can eat well, every day, all year round. We aren't worked to death in agriculture or a factory. This wasn't the case one hundred years ago. If you look back at images of our 19th and early 20th century Presidents and their wives, or any other wealthy people of the time, you will see that most of them would be considered obese by contemporary standards. More important, my health is no one's business but mine. Fat shaming is a stance of superiority by the promotion of a set of artificial values that create an inferior class. It is contemptible.

MikeClark
MikeClark

I would like to take issue with the author of this article as well, and somewhat side with the so-called "Mr. X". I totally get and understand the sociological unhealthiness of judging people based on appearances. There are many out there who look at a fat person and automatically think unkind things. There's *no* question that's wrong.

 

However, I believe there is an unhealthy pre-occupation in this country with the idea that we *have* to accept someone, per se, and I also think that there are too many people who allow themselves to become obese and then use the cry of "Don't Judge Me!" as an excuse or a crutch to prop up a lifestyle that *is* unhealthy. And then, to make matters worse, we actually *celebrate* that.

 

The underlying problem, on a sociological basis, is that we combine or "tie" things together which have absolutely *nothing* to do with each other, and thereby come to very wrong, and sometimes even harmful, conclusions. Yes, we shouldn't "judge" people as good or bad, them or us, good or evil, etc., based strictly on their physical appearance; that sort of thing is what got us the so-called "races" of humans who we have, historically, used to divide groups from one another, pit them against each other, and cause so much bloodletting and other true evil. But to feel we "have to accept" others no matter *what* they look like -- and, in this case, no matter how grossly overweight and therefore by definition unhealthy to themselves -- is simply dishonest and intellectually disingenuous.

 

Moreover, if obesity -- both childhood and adult -- is so unhealthy, as is widely acknowledged, let us not celebrate it, but embrace our fellow human beings as simply that, and help each other to be and remain as healthy as possible, so we're alive and around to appreciate the beauty of the human body in all its forms.

craigcrystal
craigcrystal

Mike, While I do agree with you in saying that it's wrong to fat shame, I do have an objection to your statement of obese people being unhealthy and that they put themselves in that situation and how is one to know if they supposedly "allowed themselves to become obese"?  Just by looking at them? A lot of people who believe they're looking out for someone by telling a person that they should watch their weight or something of that nature aren't actually being helpful at all. Not all obese people are unhealthy just as all thin people aren't healthy. Most people who are obese got that way, believe it or not, because of dieting simply for the fact that dieting does not work for 95%% of the people who try. For the 95%% there is no diet that works to keep weight off for more than 5 years and they end up gaining all that they lost and, more often than not, they gain even more. And a great deal of the people who decide to accept their body for how it is have overcome eating disorders because of the constant dieting and hating of their bodies, also not all of them just sit around and decide to do nothing because they are "helpless', they decide to eat healthy (without the restrictions of a diet with counting calories, which really isn't healthy at all. You're potentially starving your body when you take this route and therefore causing your body to retain it's fat stores. Also, there is a very  high possibility of developing an eating disorder.) and do movement that they find enjoyable and they just let their body weight fall where it may while having a completely healthy lifestyle. It's also completely okay for a person to decide to be unhealthy if they so choose, but it's never okay to shame someone for that choice.   A person has control over their own body and can do with it as they please and they are within their rights to say "Don't judge me" just as anyone else. The people that are telling you that being fat is unhealthy are the people who get paid $60 billion a year by selling diet pills and programs such as weight watchers and who when they have a fat patient in their office, the prescription is often weight loss before the real diagnosis is known which doesn't give that patient adequate treatment and can even worsen their health. I would also suggest that you remember that at one time it was widely acknowledged that the sun revolved around the Earth and that the Earth was flat, which is known today as both being incorrect.

dmargolis
dmargolis

Mike,  I've just deleted a comment I'd previously posted, because on reflection, I felt it was uncivil.  Your opinions push me that far.  You probably won't understand this, but your post is a bit like talking about race & IQ correlations in front of an African American person, or worse, dropping the n-bomb.  If you say that race and weight are two entirely different things, then perhaps you don't understand much about humanity.  I would explain why your post is that offensive, but then I'd wind up using the same words I just deleted.  I hope someone with a cooler head can explain it to you.

TwoMetreMan
TwoMetreMan

Mike, however you dress it up in justification, it appears to me that you are still making a judgement about what is "acceptable" and what is "right" for someone else.

 

We all walk in our own shoes, no-one else's, and what anyone else chooses to do with their life and how they live it is solely that - their choice.  It is no-one else's business but theirs.  We're all given the ability to turn away and not look or "delete" something if it challenges us or does not align with our world view, but that is where we get to exercise our choice in the matter.

 

I am mindful of William Drury's words:

"When your views on the world and your intellect are being challenged and you begin to feel uncomfortable because of a contradiction you've detectedthat is threatening your current model of the world or some aspect of it, pay attention.You are about to learn something.  This discomfort and intellectual conflict is when learning is taking place..."  Certainly, that has been my own experience over the years.

 

I'd offer that one of humanity's biggest challenges is striving to be "right" at any cost - usually at someone else's expense.  I totally accept that your world view is "right" for you - but that is where it reaches its confines.

 

With Peace, Love and Laughter always.

 

George

MikeClark
MikeClark

@TwoMetreMan and @dmargolis:

 

I most definitely have learned a lot of things over the years, and to pick up on one of the points made, my goal is not to be right at any cost, but to view the world rationally and on that basis be correct whenever possible, and learn from others whenever possible as well.

 

The only real issue I would take with you, dmargolis, is that your responses (I've read both versions) in essence say, "I take offense at what you said. Do you know how offended I am?" but yet neither of them actually spells out why what I've said is actually offensive.

 

Perhaps I'm wrong on that point; if so, then I offer you the opportunity to argue the case for your point.

 

Here are some concerns I have, and issues I believe exist independent of myself:

 

1. What assumptions are you making about the meaning(s) behind my words, or choice of words?

 

2. To what degree is society, in fact, teaching "learned helplessness" and suggesting to its members they should make spectacles out of themselves rather than do something to better their situation?

 

3. Bear in mind I don't know you, Mr. Margolis; so therefore, on what real-world basis would I have the capacity to a-judge you good, bad, or indifferent?

 

4. Do you believe in the concept of "race"?

 

5. What assumptions are you making about my awareness of obesity and its diverse causes? (i.e.: do you know whether or not I am aware that lifestyle is not the only causative factor at play in someone's physiognomy?)

 

Now, having said all that, let me advise you where I stand, then, specifically, on many of these issues.

 

First, I believe there are a lot of illegitimate factors used as the basis for division in society. These include gender, skin color, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, etc., etc. In a way, I believe one can make the case that these extend out from our own innate sense of "self vs. other" and "known vs. unknown". However, just like barbarism and other forms of violence, my belief is that these can be overcome, and probably would be very simply overcome, if people were raised correctly (with respect to this) from baby on, both at home and in school.

 

Second, I know first hand about bullying, particularly in the K-8 setting. There was nothing physically or neurologically abnormal about me, but due to personality type and something of a generation gap between my parents (born 1932, graduated high school 1950) and those of my contemporaries (born mostly in the 1940s or early 50s, graduated high school in the mid 1960s) there was a generation gap. I was unprepared to cope, my parents didn't really know what to do about it (and I really didn't know how to explain this as a little child so they really didn't know about it) and so I got isolated, judged, and picked on constantly. By the time I entered high school I 100% was convinced I was "dumb, stupid, and retarded", I looked for opportunities to prove how much of a failure and waste of life I was, etc., etc. So yes, believe me, I know *exactly* what it's like to be judged and destroyed by others.

 

Third, what I've seen of society -- and I can only put this down to a mentality given birth by Dr. Benjamin Spock and others (spare the rod, spoil the child) -- we have become one of entitlements and learned helplessness. That does *not* describe every person in it, and I suspect from what you've said in both your posts does not describe you, Mr. Margolis. It does, however -- and, in humility and with all due respect -- describe a great many people in this country, and that group is the one I was targeting with my earlier post.

 

Fourth, if we wish to ever get a handle on bullying based on obesity, we need to first realize it's not weight that's the problem -- in fact, it's actually not even the self-concept of body image -- that's the problem here; we're still hung up on divisionism and basic reckless hatred and immaturity at the societal level, and *that* above all has to be addressed. And you're absolutely right in the sense that picking on someone or hating on someone based on them being fat is no different than hating on someone who's black. Both are bad, but both have a common, independent cause.

 

I'm not sure if this helps clear up my earlier comments or not (though, of course, I hope I didn't just make it worse!) but I really would enjoy a constructive dialog with both of you, and frankly anyone else here. There's no need for anger here; honesty is always best.

 

Best wishes to both of you gentlemen.

 

Mike

MikeClark
MikeClark

 %s  Oh, it's no biggie. I obviously didn't write what I meant as well as I should have, and so I apologize.

TwoMetreMan
TwoMetreMan

Mike, thank you for a considered and thoughtful response.  I, for one, appreciate that.  I can spell “harangues,” but I don’t like ’em!!

 

Just a couple of points in reply:

 

Vis à vis “being right,” my intention when writing that was to bring into awareness that each and every person’s “rationality” and “correctness” (using your words) are solely their own.  I am pretty sure that the majority of people believe (probably with fervour when pressed) that what they “see” and “know” to be “fact” (sic) is without question and indisputable.  However, my viewpoint is that quantum physics shows us that everything is actually fluid and ever-changing or changeable.  I also understand that everyone has internal filters through which they inevitably view “their” world and everything in it.  Since those filters are uniquely their own, then their “reality” is also unique and solely theirs.  That is where being “absolute” about anything to do with anything and anyone else, other than oneself, is inevitably a skewed viewpoint and thus begs for some gentleness and sensitivity in its application to anything external to oneself.

 

Your Point #2 rather speaks to this.  The perceptions (sic) of “learned helplessness,” “making spectacles out of themselves” (ah, that we could all see more clearly with such “spectacles”!) and the assumption that they  need (sic) to do anything to “better their situation.”  Their situation, mind - no-one else’s.

 

I hope that none of this comes across as anything other than positive, for that is my sole intention.  I have found Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” to be exceptionally empowering, especially one of the agreements - make no assumptions.  I have had to learn to dig deeper and deeper around that aspect, for it is quite surprising just how many assumptions I’ve made in the past based upon things that, under closer inspection, were in fact… not factual, but simply my deeper, subconscious filters coming into play. 

 

I wish us all greater awareness and gentleness with one another - as the interconnected family we all are - today and in every moment going forward.  If we follow Gandhi’s exhortation to BE the change we wish to see in the world, then we’ll all be addressing the one real thing we have any control over - ourself.

 

Peace, Love and Laughter always.

 

dmargolis
dmargolis

Mike, I apologize if I misread your meaning.  I thought you were writing in support for fat shaming.  This is a hot-button issue for me as for many.  

 

Anytime someone identifies a group of people based on a single characteristic for the purpose of denigrating that group of people, it is an act of bigotry.  Fat shaming is no different from bigotry against black people, gay people, immigrants, religious minorities, etc.  It's ugly and it brings out ugliness in response.  There is widespread social support for fat shaming under the guise of science and public health concerns.  It's still bigotry.  Fat shaming needs to be met by bigotry shaming.

 

If I have attacked you by mistake, please accept my deepest regrets and apology.