With our Fattitude event approaching on May 31st, Kalamity Hildebrandt from community cause, Fat Panic!, a local organization dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people, provided some insight on the issues addressed in the film.
Many people struggle with body image regardless of weight. Do you think that non-fat people who struggle with body image have a place in the fat-positive movement, or is that a different issue?
There are different approaches to liberatory politics within every community/movement, and I certainly cannot speak for all. Fat Panic! specifically is an alliance of people of all sizes who are committed to ending fat oppression and to building a world in which no one is taught to hate their own, or anyone else’s body, for any reason. That’s our mission, and non-fat people who are committed to that mission have a place in our corner of the fat justice movement.
At the same time, whenever we want to support a group facing oppression, and we are not ourselves a member of that group, we need to take care about how we approach this role in the work. People use different terminology to describe this role – being an ally, being in solidarity, being an accomplice – but whatever term we use, this role requires a willingness to be active in the work (there is no such thing as a passive ally), ongoing learning, and being prepared to take feedback and direction from the community we seek to serve, all while knowing that there will always be a diversity of opinion within that community on what we should do, and that there will never be one simple rule book for how to “do it right.” Being in solidarity is often uncomfortable, and being a non-fat ally to fat people is no different in that regard. It challenges non-fat people’s understanding of how our society is ordered and of fat and non-fat people’s places in the world.
All of that said, and having facilitated fat politics workshops for over 20 years now, I have seen again and again that non-fat people often experience the process of becoming an ally to be profoundly healing. While challenging, this journey not only allows non-fat people who care about social justice to live with greater integrity in relation to their own values, it also helps them heal their relationships with their own bodies, and often also their relationships with important people in their lives. I would suggest that for any non-fat person struggling with troubled eating or body image issues that are tied to weight or fat distribution, the inclusion of fat justice politics in their understanding would be a vital and essential part of their healing work.
What are some of the biggest hurdles you face in regard to your work as a fat activist?
Lack of financial resources and lack of personal capacity. Most of the people involved with Fat Panic! are people facing multiple forms of oppression – often this means that we come to this work already drained not only from anti-fatness targeting us daily, but also from the work of surviving other forms of violence. Many of us come from poverty or working class backgrounds and/or have disabilities and simply do not have access to financial resources. While more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of including fat justice in their social justice efforts, it is certainly not at all mainstream yet, which means that the powers that be – the ones holding on to the money – have no interest in funding this kind of work. Though realistically, if they did want to start funding fat activism, it would likely be in order to depoliticize it and place limits on it – to keep us focused more on pro-consumerism versions of body positivity. So, arguably, we are better off without that. But we do need people who are willing to join us in this vital, transformative work, and we need fat people and non-fat allies who have economic privilege to consider whether perhaps their values call for them to contribute some of that wealth to this struggle.
What would you say to someone who is new to the fat-positive movement?
I would say this: Welcome you amazing, courageous person! It is no easy thing to step out of the mainstream and explore a new way of understanding bodies and the politics of fatness – just by starting on this journey you are already a shining star. There is a lot to unpack here, and sometimes it can be unsettling in the extreme. But as you move into this work, know this: there was never anything wrong with your body. Never anything wrong with anyone’s body.
You, you who are a body, you have never deserved body shame and neither has anyone else. Not for our fatness. Not for our colour or skin texture or hair type or lack of hair, or our body hair. Not for our disabilities or for the things that other people assume are our disabilities. (I see you Deaf activists: Deaf gain! NOT hearing loss!) Not for our scars. Not for our gender or the way our gender is read by others. Not for who we love or desire or for our lack of interest in any of the above, thanks. Not for how we move our bodies – how we dance, how we limp, how fast we move, or our degree of muscle coordination or tone, whether we use mobility aids or not. There is no wrong way to have a body.
We can build a better world. It’s a long term project, one that requires that we work together to dismantle every logic and structure of oppression, but simply by moving in this new direction you have already helped to bring about entirely new possibilities. You have already shifted the universe one more inch away from oppression and hatred, and one inch closer to a world in which no one is taught to hate their own, or anyone else’s body, for any reason. It’s better in this direction. Let’s keep moving together.
We hope you join us on May 31st for the event. Tickets are available here.
Reel Causes partners with filmmakers and Canadian causes dedicated to addressing global social justice issues. We host film screenings followed by a Q&A session to educate and inspire our community, and provide a forum for authentic conversation around the issues that affect us locally.