This blog is a continuation of Accountability for the Diet Culture Dropout Tees speaking to areas of growth and learning as a provider and activist this past year.
Callout, a system of holding people accountable for oppressive behavior, was employed when the Diet Culture Dropout (DCD) tees were discovered. I was not familiar with this system, causing me to shrink initially on social media rather than addressing the issue head on. This led to colleagues and clients becoming involved on my behalf.
Callout can be a very effective way to advocate for change and stop the harm of oppressive behavior. It can also be a way to hold people within the same community to a higher standard. In this scenario, it was also a way for marginalized folx to communicate their pain and anger at the situation.
There were people, including friends, who found the callout language offensive and crossing the line into bullying. What I can say now (that I did not say then) is that when people are used to being unheard and dismissed, the volume goes up. Expressing hurt is not the same thing as “bullying,” and playing “nice” often leads to being ignored. This also gets in to tone policing, read more here.
It was important for me to not get lost in negative emotions, as this does not benefit anyone. I was reminded that showing up and acknowledging where there is hurt or oversight and apologizing for missteps is the best step forward.
The response I got after my first blog post included strong opinions about privilege. Essentially, a lot of people either thought this is not about privilege or they don’t believe in privilege.
Let me start by saying this IS impacted by privilege. Thin privilege allows for more visibility than fat folx, more credibility without questioning and less discrimination and oppression.
Here is one example to illustrate the thin privilege I receive as a thin healthcare provider:
Not too long ago, a woman showed up in my office, sharing that she met with another Health at Every Size® provider in town who was larger bodied. The client was going to later decide who the best fit was for her. At the end of the session she said, “You both are very good practitioners, but I can tell by looking at you that you get it.” My body size was going to be her decision-maker, an unearned benefit as a thinner woman. A benefit that my intelligent, experienced, and skilled colleagues in larger bodies can’t count on.
For those struggling with seeing thin privilege, consider this:
- Can you show up to a job interview without the assumption of laziness, inexperience, inadequacy or gluttony?
- Can you eat a double scoop of ice cream in public and not get looks of disgust?
- Can you go to the doctor’s office and receive medical support for your symptoms, without any barrier related to your body size?
- Can you sit in a chair without the fear of it breaking?
- Is it relatively easy to move around in your world—i.e., can you move between clothing racks, purchase clothing at most every store you walk into and sit in a restaurant booth?
It’s important to recognize that our culture makes life more accessible and advantageous for thin, privileged bodies.
I’ve come to the realization that upholding mainstream stories of body positivity doesn’t tackle critical issues because it doesn’t address the social and political systems that keep people marginalized. It’s not that loving yourself and sharing body-accepting stories is wrong, but we also need to be able to talk about and actively work to dismantle fat-phobia and body oppression. This is particularly important in the eating disorder world.
Highlighting only dominantly thin, white, young, able-bodied, cis-gender photos has damaging implications:
“There’s this body of research and a term known as ‘symbolic annihilation,’ which is the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant.” Nicole Martins of Indiana University
The more we can consciously center folx who are farther from the systemically dominant “ideal,” the more we can challenge the social and political systems that keep larger bodies oppressed. Body justice and freedom comes from liberating the most marginalized bodies.
EATING DISORDER PROVIDERS HAVE WORK TO DO
Providers perpetuate stereotypes in the eating disorder community by upholding the misconception that eating disorders only happen in thin, white, heterosexual, cis-gender women. Too many times I’ve heard, often from medical providers, “They don’t look like they have an eating disorder.” We cause SO MUCH harm when we associate eating disorders with thinness and privilege. Eating disorder behaviors and symptoms are a cause for concern, and diagnosable, at all sizes and for all bodies. Blythe Baird perfectly illustrates the damage:
“If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital. If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.” Blythe Baird
Unfortunately, the eating disorder field can be an unsafe space for fat people. This is seen when eating disorder providers treat calorie restriction and over-exercise as disordered for thin bodies, yet prescribe this protocol to their fat clients in the name of “obesity management” and health.
We have work to do in the eating disorder community to heal and create a safer space for fat people, which is something Cayla Pantiz, LPC and I have been attempting in our own work and community. A conversation with fierce Resilient Fat Goddess, Sarah Thompson, has led us to find ways to heal in our communities. We are in the process of creating a panel of people from the fat community who have experienced discrimination, misdiagnosis and/or under-diagnosis. It will be a space for providers to learn, listen and ask questions while centering oppressed voices.