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Body Positivity

The Big Fat Vegan Zine – An update, and On Calling Myself Fat

Hallo folks! If you are a vegan ~of size~ I really hope you will be able to take some time to read and share this (and perhaps offer feedback?)

I continue to struggle to gain submissions for this project. I know that there are plenty of bigger vegan folks out there, and I’m sure plenty have a lot of Feelings about body shaming or health trolling within the vegan community, experiences of what it’s like to not identify the ubiquitous “before and after” trope that is so common in veganism, and so on.

I started to assess how I was reaching out to people and began to wonder if I was alienating people who either do not identify as ‘fat’, consider the word negative or a pejorative, or perhaps aren’t ready to use that label.

This connects to a study I read recently titled The Stigma of Obesity: Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health? by Markus H. Schafer and Kenneth F. Ferraro, published in Social Psychology Quarterly in 2011.

Here’s a very brief summary of results:

“Perceived weight discrimination is found to be harmful, increasing the health risks of obesity associated with functional disability and, to a lesser degree, self-rated health. Findings also reveal that weight-based stigma shapes weight perceptions, which mediate the relationship between perceived discrimination and health.”

But this isn’t the quote I want to concentrate here. This is what caught my attention:

“Interestingly, this picture of perceived discrimination, identity, and health runs counter to some recent findings involving race. Neblett et al. (2004), for instance, find that racial discrimination is less detrimental for health among people with salient racial identities. In light of other studies, however, this is rather unsurprising. Whereas strong racial identity is generally reported as a buffer to stress and health threats (Mossakowski 2003; Sellers et al. 2003), heavy weight is pervasively considered a negative aspect of self-concept, and a tiny proportion of heavy people embrace the ‘‘fat’’ identity (LeBesco 2004; Puhl and Brownell 2001). If people tend not to rally around a shared sense of feeling heavy, then having a ‘‘fat identity’’ would offer little consolation in the midst of perceived wrongdoing. The sense of camaraderie attached to ethnicity, on the other hand, can be empowering and more effectively stifle the insults of offenders.”

This was quite a lightbulb moment for me, and one that (I feel) really highlights the importance of identifying as part of a positive ‘fat’ community. I am not in the habit of comparing oppressions, and am still working through whether this link was a respectful one to seize on, but the absolute reality of this observation struck me before I’d finished the paragraph.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable using the word fat. I skirted around this for years, jokingly referring to plus-sized retailers as ‘fat shops’ and so on. But when I discovered the fat-positive movement, immersed myself in fat-positive media and bolstered my resolve by researching Health at Every Size, reading studies, and reaching out to other fat activists, using the word fat became absolutely painless.

I know that using the word ‘fat’ can feel impossible, upsetting, perhaps an acceptance of failure. But once again I will link to some great pieces here about talking this word and wearing it like the armour that it is.

A sense of community is SO important in a world where weight stigma is known to be physically harmful to your health even if you are fat and metabolically healthy otherwise.

So if you feel like you might want to contribute to this zine but are hesitant about identifying as fat, or about the brazen way in which the word is used, please reach out for a chat, read these articles/resources, maybe even write about how hard it can be to identify (proudly) as a fat person?

Additionally, submissions can be 100% anonymous so if you are not ready to publicly announce your ‘fatness’ to the world, you don’t have to!

Please do share this post with your big vegan buddies. Absolutely anyone who is (1) vegan and (2) fat/plus/big/of size/heavy is welcome to contribute to this project. It is a space for our voices to safely exist and be heard!

Click here to read about how you can submit to the zine.

Click here to see this post on Tumblr so you can share it straight from the zine blog.

Thank you friends <3

Resources


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Woodcut of leaping deer.

YASSS!

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4 Comments

  • Reply lysette

    This is really interesting and I have to admit when I commented about the podcast in your last post I struggled with using the term ‘fat’ even though that was the whole point of the podcast episode, addressing the negativity around that word and yet I couldn’t bring myself to use the term in the comment because I still have internalized negative associations with the word fat, like it looked brash when I typed it. I appreciate so much you are opening up the conversation, there is a big messy swirling discord in body acceptance (and in relation to veganism) right now. I can see how challenging trailblazing it is but keep on! <3

    May 25, 2016 at 15:47
    • Reply Jenny

      Thank you for sharing and even thinking about it, though! It is tricky, ‘fat’ has grown to represent such toxicity, but I have come to accept it as a descriptor and even as a cheeky way of letting the world know I really don’t care what they think about me. Total strangers have shouted ‘fat bitch’, ‘go faster fatty’, and loads of other variations at me my whole entire life. Once upon a time it really hurt but now I just shrug and I’m like “eh”. It is what it is, and those folks are way too full of hate. I think there is a lot of power in taking it back but I understand totally that a lot of people haven’t reached that point yet! It certainly took me a looooong time.

      May 26, 2016 at 08:43
  • Reply ModVegan

    Congratulations on starting this, Jenny! I’m not heavy, but my closest family members are, and I’ve grown up my whole life appalled by the discrimination and idiotic attitudes they experience on a daily basis. In my mom’s case, her entire family is very slim and she’s struggled with weight her entire life – something they see as a moral failing despite the fact that she’s clearly been different since she was a toddler.

    It makes me so sad and angry that lovely people like yourself have to deal with ignorant comments from total strangers. It’s something that needs to change, and I think it will. The more we understand about the science of body shape, the more clear it is that a)you’re pretty much born that way, and b)the kind of bullying promoted on hideous shows like “The Biggest Loser” make people’s health much worse in the long run.

    I see veganism as part of a much larger effort to make this world a better, kinder place. And you are doing so much to make that happen.

    By the way, I’ve been thinking about trying to work on developing more of an actual community for vegans on YouTube – a place to discuss serious issues and drive some engagement. I’d love to start doing interviews with other vegans about activism and social issues (maybe using a live google hangout? I haven’t really figured this out yet, as you can see, and I am very open to any suggestions). Anyway, the very best of luck with your project! I look forward to hearing more.

    May 27, 2016 at 06:07
    • Reply Jenny

      Whoops I missed this comment! Thank you, I hope it’ll be a great resource once it’s produced! A YouTube community sounds great; I know there are a few good podcasts that look at issues in/around veganism and have some great interviews, etc., but I’m not aware of anything on YouTube. I’ll put my thinking cap on and see if I can come up with anything, but I admit to being quite a YouTube amateur 🙂

      May 29, 2016 at 22:17

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