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Feeling Excluded

I have had an interesting convergence of experiences lately which has led me to thinking about exclusion. First off, a few things have happened which have me feeling a bit unwanted in Fat Acceptance. Secondly, I have been editing the section of my book on the conflict between death fat and in-betweenies and how both sides can feel left out. The Billboard Project has been bringing up memories of shaming and bullying from childhood. Then, in listening to Golda Poretsky’s Body Love Revolution Telesummit" – amazing stuff! – I heard Marilyn Wann talk about exclusion.

It finally dawned on me what I was feeling: that old fear of being excluded. Growing up as the fat nerd with no social skills, I felt left out so very often. Whether it was being picked last, not invited to the party or being bullied, I had so very many experiences of not being wanted as a child that I can be thin-skinned as an adult. In the Telesummit, Marilyn noted that many of us feel this way, so we can be sensitive to such experiences in the Fat Acceptance.

When I figuratively walked into the Fatosphere, I felt included. Here are my peeps! They understand me. They know what I have been through. Suddenly, I had a place where I belonged, and, feeling like I belong is such a wonderful sensation. No one was looking at my body and saying, “we don’t want you here.”

The Fatosphere and Fat Acceptance are loving communities. We accept anyone who is willing to honor the boundaries of the community (like no body snarking), even thin people. We build each other up. We support each other. We remind each other that we are worthy. And that is the kicker, because, as Marianne Williamson says, “love brings up everything unlike itself.” In other words, by loving and being loved, by accepting and being accepted, our fears and wounds will come up to be healed. And so, my fear of being unwanted has once again surfaced.

Now, I have a choice. I can run from this fear and let it fester inside me, trying to avoid having it triggered yet again. That running would mean me leaving FA and hoping to find another accepting community where, chances are, that fear will once again be triggered. Or, I can face it and work through it.

What does facing the fear of exclusion look like? I can only speak for myself, but for me it means making a choice. It means choosing to support Fat Acceptance and the Fatosphere even when I’m feeling outside the circle. It means slogging through the controversies, again, and sticking around any way. It means recognizing that I will not like everyone in the community, and they won’t all like me. It also means we can set aside those differences to work towards a common goal. It means doing my best to make sure others don’t feel excluded; yet allowing them to heal from their own wounds, even if I find watching that healing painful. As a child, I was powerless to do anything about feeling excluded. As an adult, I get to make choices.

When I made that choice to be part of this community whether I felt included or not, a sense of freedom overwhelmed me. Now, it will not matter what others do or say – I have made a choice to be included. Now, even if some people have issue with me, I can support the community. I can take part in Ragen Chastain’s Billboard project or Marilyn Wann’s STANDards. I can always choose to be supporting, whether I feel supported or not.

And the result – today I feel like a part of this community; I feel like I belong. Maybe, just maybe, inclusion comes from our own actions rather than others actions towards us. Maybe, just maybe, if we choose to act inclusively we will find inclusion for ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, that old fear doesn’t have to mess with my FA identity any more.

So, how do you deal with feeling excluded?

Academia, Obesity Epi-Panic, and the Emperor’s New Clothes | The whacked narcissism of self hatred

JoGeek's picture
February 9th, 2012 | Link | Inclusion

I've noticed an interesting pattern amongst subculture and acceptance groups. People who seek them out because they have been excluded from mainstream culture tend to idealize the members of the group. It's something I'm still thinking out, but I've seen it amongst Pagans, Gamers, and Rennies as well as FA. I think it's a projection of some kind; here are people who share traits or experiences very important to me, so they must resemble me in other ways. Since I think of myself as fair, inclusive, rational and kind, I can expect them to be so as well.

I get caught up in this myself, and start thinking things like, "oh a Pagan would never do something like that," or "I expected better behavior from someone in FA." Really I'm putting an entire group of people on a pedestal, and forgetting that they're just people after all. They have the same percentage of selfish, ignorant, mean, and predatory characteristics as the population at large. They have the same percentage of kind, welcoming, empathetic and helpful as well.

It's important to have reasonable expectations of the people around you so that you can identify unhealthy relationships. It's also important to not have unreasonable expectations, because you'll be inevitably disappointed.

I think it's wonderful that you are owning your right to be part of this community and support it in whatever way you choose! It is a choice, and sometimes we get so caught up in politics that we forget that and take people for granted. I also know that it's a cycle of sorts, and the badness will always eventually pass as people come in and out of the community.

loniemc February 9th, 2012 | Link | Too right, Jo! I think it's

Too right, Jo! I think it's important to remember that people are people, no matter how enlightened they might be. And conflict is natural and normal (and even productive) in any group.

MarilynW's picture
February 9th, 2012 | Link | What a fabulous post, Lonie!

What a fabulous post, Lonie! I'm so glad you and I both have lived through (and keep facing down) that feeling of exclusion and that we all create this mix together!

shinobi42 February 9th, 2012 | Link | Over the last few years it

Over the last few years it seems to me that much of the conflict arising in the fatosphere has come from people feeling excluded. Some people wanted to be in the "cool kids club" and the people they thought were in the cool kids club were like "Uhh What Club? But that thing you just said I disagree with it."

I think that is part of the problem with thinking of the fatosphere as a "community" and not a movement. We are all here with the same goal of promoting fat acceptance and healthy lifestyles that aren't focused on weight loss. We share our experiences and support each other in the face of a fat hating society. But when our whole goal is to sit around and sing fatty kumbayah it turns into who dislikes who and how so and so feels and omg you guys don't ever link me blah blah blah.

That's why I don't spend as much time on the fatosphere feeds as I used to. Everyone's fee fees are hurt.

But it doesn't matter who you like. It matters who you agree with, who is doing things we can support. I don't like everyone I work with, but we still get stuff done. We still have productive discussions, we don't always agree, but it isn't personal.

I think that's why things get fraught here sometimes, it IS personal. But it is also a movement. What's most important is not who likes you, it's what you think, what you can do, and being true to your own views. Be true to yourself and the community you need will grow around you.

loniemc February 9th, 2012 | Link | You make good point,

You make good point, shinobi. We do need to focus on our ideas about fat acceptance first and foremost. That might make the community part flow a little more smoothly.

pani113's picture
February 9th, 2012 | Link | Speaking entirely from my

Speaking entirely from my own perspective, I am such an intense introvert, exclusion does not bother me. I seek solitude in all areas of life. Even as a kid, I never minded being excluded, I just wanted to be left alone. I was perfectly happy to eat lunch by myself, I just didn't want to be the target of an active bullying campaign. Ironically, because I had such a take me or leave me attitude, it made me a greater target. People apparently hate rejection, even from nerds. That this fat kid would not accept the role of clown or put myself down for approval really irked them. Who did I think I was to reject them back!

That being said, the size acceptance movement is full of mavericks. One has to be extremely strong and independent minded to get here in this society. So I think sometimes people rub others the wrong way w/o intending to. Most of us are leaders, not followers and sometimes we bump heads!

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

vesta44's picture
February 9th, 2012 | Link | When I first found FA, I

When I first found FA, I didn't really feel included. I'm a DEATHFATZ and at the time (5 years ago), it didn't seem like there were very many people my size in the FA movement, especially ones who were open about having had a failed WLS. But I figured that this movement was important to me, and if it didn't feel inclusive right then, I'd make a space for myself and be a part of it anyway. I've had my ups and downs with some members, but I've learned and grown a lot in the last 5 years. I've refined my views on what I believe FA is and what I want to accomplish/how I can best accomplish it. And I don't worry so much anymore if people accept me as part of this movement or not - I know I'm part of it and I'm working for it and that's what matters.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

BigLiberty's picture
February 9th, 2012 | Link | Great post.I've struggled

Great post.

I've struggled with feeling included in the FA community, mainly due to my politics (I was libertarian when I started blogging in 2008, and now I'm an anarchist).

I believed I saw huge problems with the potential for institutionalized fat hate and discrimination via government programs (like Let's Move, universal healthcare, sugar/salt sin taxes, state adoption policies, food stamp restrictions) that I didn't think lots of others were focusing on due to ideological differences. I loathed big Pharma and big Food, but I never saw them as problems to be fixed by government. They're crony capitalistic entities that can't exist as such without treats/breaks/protection from state and federal governments.

My beliefs tended (still tend, in some cases) to set me apart from many other voices in FA.

I still feel excluded from what Shinobi says aptly is the 'cool kids group.' Then again, i've seen a lot of 'cool kids' move on to other things -- they post less or not at all, they're more focused on writing and selling books or they've landed journalistic gigs. They've got louder voices, but those voices aren't talking exclusively about FA anymore. Even I'm moving on in a sense -- these days I'm science fiction noveling far more than I blog.

I believe there's a real need for people to speak up, start blogs, and not let the feeling of being excluded or different convince them they don't have something important to say. The Fatosphere feed is a sleepy place compared to what it was in 2008; it would be nice to see it get re-energized.

A third level of exclusion comes -- don't laugh! -- from the Fatshion posts. I see these beautiful models showing off lovely clothes, and almost inevitably I discover they're from vendors that don't cater past a size 24 US. It's like, "You can be a hot, fashionable fat -- but only if you're small enough." I know Fatshion bloggers don't have any particular responsibility to include larger fats, but it still stings.

Lonie, I'd be interested in hearing about your study of inbetweenies and larger fats. I was an inbetweenie for several years, and there's a massive amount of privilege that goes with being able to pass as 'normal' that just isn't there for the larger fats. There's a big difference between a high-end store not carrying past a size 10 and not being able to shop at any single store in an entire mall. I also never worried about being forced to buy two seats on a plane, or being able to fit in movie theater/lecture hall/conference room chairs, and the millions of other things I have to deal with being a larger fat. It's not a matter of comparing oppressions, rather, of being aware of privilege. It's tough being an inbetweenie for that reason, I think: you're afforded lots of thin privilege, but you still have to deal with fatphobia, discrimination, lack of clothing choices, and so on the way a thinner person wouldn't.

loniemc February 9th, 2012 | Link | I think we have seen more

I think we have seen more acceptance as a whole group, both in body size and in politics, over the last few years. I think some of those controversies and uncomfortable conversations have led us to be more tolerant of diversity as a whole. I know it has led me to be more accepting, and more aware, personally.

BigLiberty, I basically documented some conversations on the Fatosphere about body size. I also talk about how the conflict itself reflects the dominant ideas. In my own life, I was an in-betweenie for 30 years, then gained 100 lbs with a thyroid disease right after becoming involved in FA. The experience is miles apart, though many of the feelings are the same. I'm grateful to have had the experience of being deathfat, though. I don't think my work would be as rich without it.

strawberry February 9th, 2012 | Link | Lonie, can you talk in a

Lonie, can you talk in a general way about what's made you feel unwanted in fat acceptance? I'm not saying "Name names!", just curious about areas of disagreement.
I felt somewhat excluded when I briefly joined NAAFA nearly 30 years ago. I was a mid-sizer, and the organization seemed to be geared toward the supersize crowd. I wanted to learn more about activism, and the group was more geared toward dances. Far be it from me to discourage parties, but where were the protests? I'm not much of a leader myself, and I wanted to learn more.
So I'm more or less resigned to being an outsider. I post things intending to spark some discussion (like that ad for DIY gastric bypass in the forum) and raise hardly an eyebrow. I like unpopular things, such as engaging trolls. as long as that can be done in such a way as to leave 'em looking as stupid as possible. I dislike popular things, such as leggings. I loathe those with a passion and hate the way they look on anybody. (That statement alone should get me banned from a few blogs.) I don't want to sit with the cool kids, unless *I* am the definition of cool.
There's a freedom that comes with not being cool. Maintaining coolness is not something you need to do if you're not cool in the first place.

loniemc February 11th, 2012 | Link | strawberry, I don't think

strawberry, I don't think anyone was trying to exclude me. A few things happened where, because of timing or space, I felt left out. And some of it was totally silly (no one commented on my STANDard! pout, pout).

And, my first book is coming out this year. Most new authors have a fear that no one will buy their book.

Actually, what really set me off was the Billboard Project. As wonderful as it has been to see, it has brought up some old memories -- leading to a culmination of that fear. Just another opportunity to heal.

DeeLeigh's picture
February 10th, 2012 | Link | I think of promoting fat

I think of promoting fat acceptance and HAES as volunteer work, and I think people I know online doing the same thing as other volunteers - or as people who've taken the next step and a big risk and made this very necessary, sometimes lifesaving work their primary job. I believe that Marilyn Wann, Ragen Chastain, and a number of HAES professionals, including Michelle Allison, Golda Poretsky and Kelly Bliss fall into that category and of course there are the professional writers, like Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, who have made this part of their identity. I think of everyone writing and doing activism for fat acceptance and HAES as an ally and a colleague, regardless of the impression I've gotten of them online and regardless of what their opinion (if any) of my online presentation seems to be.

I feel excluded sometimes, sure, but people are very sensitive about these issues and I can be a little bit of a bull in a china shop. I think that the best way to suss out ideas is to debate them from different perspectives, and to reach our own conclusions. Debate is important to clarify issues and to help prepare us to present our case in the world at large. I think that we all know what the basics of fat acceptance and HAES are, and it's not necessary to march in ideological lockstep outside of those few defining ideas. However, it is important to understand the points of view out there and the ideas and experiences that underpin them. I try to listen to other people and learn from what they say even when I don't agree with them 100%. I do not write people off because I've had a debate or disagreement with them, and my husband, close friends and favourite relatives are all people who like to debate or at least can handle debates without falling out (and let me tell you, in my family if you can't handle a debate, you're dogmeat).

I've dealt with exclusion before. As a kid, I always looked fat right before growth spurts (afterwards, I was still too heavy according to the doctor, but it was hard to tell by looking at me) and friends would appear when I looked thinner and disappear when I looked fatter. That's actually gotten to be less of a problem as the years have gone by and my size has become more typical for my age. But in fat activism, I sometimes get excluded because people find me too caustic or feel that I don't fit in (too small, too conventional, whatever) and although it can hurt, I get over it pretty quickly.

Like you, pani, I'm too much of an independent thinker to really give a shit. I'd figured out the basics of fat acceptance and HAES on my own as a teenager. I even even wrote a paper on it in 1988. And although I deeply regret not acting more publicly on those ideas at the time, I did put them to work - and speak out - in my own life. I've been aware for many years that by the time I'd written that paper, other people had come to the same conclusions and were acting on them. However, I will never really feel excluded from this movement because I know in my own mind and heart that I reasoned out the basic tenets of it independently. They're part of me and they'll keep being part of me even if every other person in the movement tells me to fuck off. Frankly, I think that anyone who has given these ideas serious thought and has adapted them to his/er own life and experiences has the right to the same feeling of ownership, regardless of how they were introduced to fat acceptance and/or HAES.

The mindset that allowed me to do see past the common assumptions to the truth at a young age and to speak out about it isn't compatible with unquestioning acquiescence today, and that sometimes pisses people off. But as much of a pain-in-the-ass as it can be and as even though I'd be a lot more popular if I repressed it, I think that part of my personality is valuable.

In some ways I'm sorry that I didn't go through the yo-yo dieting right of passage, and if I had probably I'd be a lot heavier than I am. That would have given me first hand understanding of the issues that very fat people face, but it would also be damned inconvenient. Although having a BMI under 40 and a shape and build that tend to disguise how much I weigh puts me on the margins of the movement in some ways, I think that I'm also an example of how early adoption of HAES tends to stabilise weight and promote long term health (although being crushed under the chassis of a car at 19 did damage my body in some lasting ways). Frankly, I'm probably the most likely outcome when you take a kid who's strongly predisposed to be fat and encourage physical activity and good nutrition rather than weight loss. There's got to be some value in that.

Thanks for bringing up this topic, Lonie. It's obviously an important and timely one that a lot of people have something to say about. It certainly brought a lot of my thoughts to the fore!

richie79's picture
February 10th, 2012 | Link | I've always been the

I've always been the outsider, in every group and situation in which I've found myself (I've only recently begun, relatively late in life, to understand why, a growing suspicion now confirmed by others which is very much a tale for another day). It's a position to which I've become accustomed and Iwasn't therefore in the least bit surprised to find my place within fat acceptance to be no different.

Like others here there are some widely accepted elements of FA of which I am cautious in my support or even disagree entirely. For instance I reject the inference within *some* interpretations of HAES that there remains some sort of duty or expectation to prioritise health, am suspicious of healthism in general, and remain a staunch advocate of the right of so-called 'bad fatties' to resist pressure to adopt 'healthy habits'. My gender means my experiences of size discrimination have been profoundly different to those of many other participants and have sometimes based on secondary observations. And as one who gained weight later in life (and has since subsequently, unintentionally lost much of the fat that for a period formed an important part of my identity) I remain cautious of weighing into discussions about fatphobia in the school setting as I have no experience of this particular type of bullying on which to draw.

However, and as others have said, we're ultimately all fighting for the same basic principles and against a common set of enemies. We're still too few, too widely dispersed and too lacking in influence (particularly in terms of access to the media) to waste time and energy on the sort of infighting which can wait until our common demands have become much more established in the public consciousness. My particular set of FA beliefs have evolved over time and as a result of myriad discussions and influences. I don't hold them because I want people to respect or agree with me (though I'll admit it's always nice to have one's viewpoints publicly supported) and indeed they have brought me into conflict with colleagues, family members and society in general. However I can't abide injustice and although any wider social change is likely much too far in the future to benefit my wife, myself or for that matter most of the current crop of activists, I couldn't live with the knowledge I'd stayed silent as unacceptable things were done to good people as a result of hatred and bigotry going unchallenged.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

loniemc February 11th, 2012 | Link | richie, I really appreciate

richie, I really appreciate the men who speak up in this movement. It is important that we understand the differences and the similarities, and that we honor and respect both. I appreciate your writing and your perspective!

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