The Fat Acceptance Movement: Empowering or Harmful?

Source: Lars Aronsson

Source: Lars Aronsson

Group post by: Carolin Lehmann, Lauren Imbierowicz, Olivia Peterkin and Sarah Bechtold

The Fat Acceptance movement, is a social movement that addresses anti-fat bias and promotes body positivity at all sizes. The pillars of this movement are acceptance, self-love, and the embracing of all body types. In the past few years there have been conflicting views on this movement, largely because, while some see it as a progressive, emotionally and mentally healthy movement, others see it as a sort of support system for the unhealthy that promotes positive feedback for poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.

On April 22,2014, Carolyn Hall, a writer for the online blog forum Thought Catalog, posted an article titled “6 Things That I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.” In the article, she brings up six key faults she finds in the trend and goes into detail as to why they are bad. For example, she addresses her views on body positivity for obese toddlers and children: “There is reason that people get so upset at seeing obese children, and it’s because it’s condemning them to a life of health problems that they are not choosing themselves.” Hall’s piece set the blogosphere aflame with articles in response to hers. Having taken the stance of opposition toward the increasingly popular movement, Hall emphasizes the need for a reevaluation of the movement by saying, “being positive about the way you look is not enough, you also have to be positive (and proactive) about your health and well-being… there is nothing more negative than treating your body with disregard.”

Staff Writer Abigail Fisher, of The Maneater, wrote a response to Carolyn Hall’s 6 Things I don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.  In her column, The importance of accepting fat acceptance, she revisits Hall’s six points and explains why she thinks Hall has a complete misunderstanding of the Fat Acceptance Movement.  Hall’s article brings up keys points of the movement to start conversations to gain a better understanding of the movement.  Fisher does not state in her response what exactly the importance of the Fat Acceptance Movement is. She also does not present any data or credible evidence in her responses to Hall’s list.  She twists around Hall’s lack of understanding and makes the claim that Hall is shaming people just to fit her personal idea of the Fat Acceptance Movement.

The Fat Acceptance Movement is a topic of much debate on the international stage as well. In A big fat fight: the case for fat activism by Jennifer Lee, of Victoria University, she discusses stereotypes and misconceptions in a constructive manner that’s aimed to educate the public about fat acceptance and fat activism. Lee supports the Fat Acceptance Movement by shedding light on several of the common issues that are a part of the movement. The common issues that are emphasized by the movement are the influence of the media, medical conditions, fitness, and differing standards of beauty. Lee references the book Health at Every Size throughout the article, which “proposes size acceptance as opposed to weight loss.”  She uses the book’s research, which shows that people who learn to value their bodies first will make better choices in living a healthier lifestyle and increase their ability to take of themselves. Lee’s article encourages people to think about how weight and fitness play a part in what it really means to be “healthy.”

Jane Pratt gives an opposing response to Carolyn Hall’s original blog post over disagreeing with factors involved in the fat acceptance movement in her piece, I’ve Only Got 1 Thing to Say to Folks Who Don’t Understand Fat Acceptance. Because Pratt believes that Hall’s post comes off as uneducated and uninvolved in the understanding of the fat acceptance movement, Pratt seeks to point out each of the ways she disagrees with some of the information listed in Hall’s post. While Hall’s post simply addresses key issues involved with the fat acceptance movement, Pratt twists this scenario into Hall attacking “fat” people. While information on the movement exists that Hall seems to not be familiar with, there may also be health related issues that Pratt could become a bit more aware of, or at least address in her post.

In addition to Hall’s controversial post that has provoked others to respond, Jes Baker joins the conversation with her post on 6 Things I Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement. Unlike Pratt’s post, Baker sets out to answer and in some cases disprove Hall’s 6 misunderstandings with factual information concerning factors such as discrimination, fat shaming and stigmatization, health related issues, food addiction, and diet culture. Baker goes on to explain how bodies can be healthy or unhealthy at different sizes, and can also do so at the same body sizes, and that the movement is to help bring recognition to that fact. Baker just about hammers her point home when she says, “what humans do with their life and body rests solely on their decisions and our culture needs to stop assuming that we are entitled to commentary.”

After sparking debate with several other writers, Hall defends her original post in the response post 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. In response to opposing articles and posts, Hall not only reiterates some of her original arguments, but also continues on to argue some of the points brought up by those opposing posts. Some of her arguments included the lack of anorexic acceptance, as well as personal, social, and emotional issues seemingly circling around obesity. Even with Hall’s lack of cited facts and inclusion of some possible misinformation, Hall admits that she is proud of the heated discussion that sparked amongst her readers.

While it is clear that not everyone will agree on the topic of the Fat Acceptance Movement, a valuable conversation has begun – even on an international level. The discussion came full circle when Hall addressed the lessons she learned in 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. Bloggers continue to hold the important role of conversation starters, and Hall’s original post is a prime example of this.


This entry was posted in Culture.