So, one of the topics that crops up in the fatosphere from time to time is the fact that a lot of people who are fat don’t fit the “sits around all day and eats too much junk food” stereotype. And that a lot of thin people do those things, but it’s assumed that they must be healthy (and not just have a fast metabolism) because, hey, they’re thin.
And these are good, true, and important things to point out. Because all the panic about obesity is centered around health, so it’s really worth separating health from weight, and healthy and unhealthy behaviors from weight. Obviously, those things all interact, but in a more complex way than exercise & healthy eating = thin = healthy, being sedentary & eating junk = fat = unhealthy.
But the downside of pointing out that not everybody who’s fat eats like crap or is unhealthy is that it creates a really crappy false dichotomy of “good” versus “bad” fat people. Where the larger point is not just that the stereotype is a gross and hateful oversimplification (like, you know, all stereotypes ever), but that each person’s body is their own business, nobody else’s.
So, what’s up with the title? Well, trying to get across the message of “fat isn’t always unhealthy, and, hey, each person’s health is *their own business*” reminds me of that Seinfeld episode. You know, people keep thinking that he’s gay, and he keeps vigorously denying it, then realizing that sounds homophobic and tacking on “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
The same way, when we talk about how fat isn’t necessarily unhealthy and the average fat person doesn’t actually live on fast food and spend their life on the couch, it marginalizes people if we leave it at that and don’t add “not that there’s anything morally wrong with being sedentary,” or “not that anyone owes health to anyone else, or to the universe.” Without those caveats, it implies that fat acceptance is only for people who are doing healthy things. It also implies that one person’s health is somehow everybody else’s business, and we have way too much of that going on as it is.
Snarky’s Machine puts it really well here.
…if I really value being seen as an individual first, rather than my gender, size, race, then I must accept that other women are also free to make choices about the way they lead their lives as well. More importantly, I must actively work to ensure their ability to make choices I might not personally make is free of sexist, transphobic, classist, ableist, homophobic, racist and sizeist oppression. After all, they are my sisters – regardless of whether or not my own lived experiences mirror theirs or I agree with their life choices.
The first principle of any anti-oppression movement has got to be that people’s lives are their own business, and they get to make their own choices.