When your Shibboleths can't save you

Image of Bonfire credit to pixabay
Image source: Pixabay.com
Written 3.20.2022: It's been way too long since I published anything here, but I stumbled onto a controversy on which I can't help but opine.

Lindo Bacon (formerly Linda Bacon) high priest of HAES (Health at Every Size) is at the middle of a storm. Lindo is a thin individual (correction, make that thin, white, individual) who popularized the basic tenets of HAES (though did not originate them). Bacon wrote the "bible" and has made a living off that writing for decades at this point.

That Bacon is prickly about being challenged was obvious to anyone who had read Bacon's articles, comments or any interview where Bacon's input about HAES was requested. I certainly noticed it (and commented on it here). Bacon usually made sure to state that while Bacon's work was associated with HAES (Bacon's Twitter handle used to be LindBaconHAES after all before choosing LindoBaconX instead), HAES predated any scholarship associated with Bacon. However, Bacon also relished being the high priest of HAES and the gateway to HAES voices.

For the record, my opinion about HAES is unchanged. HAES is nonsense on stilts. Weight can be changed— in BOTH directions and does affect health. HAES/fat activists don't have issues with people gaining weight, just with choosing to lose it. Losing weight is supposed to be impossible and a form of "self-eradication". Former fatties who lose weight (usually due to health concerns) then maintain that weight loss are excommunicated from the movement. A fact I've also written about here in the past.

HAES though apparently isn't as respected as it once was because not enough fat voices are involved in its institutions. Nor is it part of "fat liberation" which is the new/old term for the current energy. And white voices, period, aren't appreciated, unless they are willing to denounce their privilege and basically shut up. This is not my group so I would never tweet in their direction or tag any of them— but others apparently aren't so restrained, and get dumped on as expected.

As I am not an ally, I have no problem stating the facts plainly. (I can't be an ally because not only do I recognize that weight reduction (loss) is possible, I also recognize that it can result in a smaller, healthier body. It certainly did for Lindo Bacon— the HAES book began with Bacon's weight loss once HAES principles were adopted. This, for the record, is part of of the objection of the fat lib folks.)

I am aware of fat liberation as a "thing" — in that I have heard of it. However, I haven't done a whole lot of reading in the past. My short jaunt into fat liberation writings and tweets for this piece reminded me of why. Fat liberation is for more radical than HAES was. Indeed, the "fat libs" (and that's a term they use) think that HAES usurped fat liberation place in the spotlight and watered down its message.
What I learned in my brief jaunt through fat liberation postings:
  • That being white (which I can neither help nor change) makes me anti-black.
  • That being thin (defined as any size under size 14) makes me anti-fat. Now I could become fat… but instead I will simply own it: I'm not fat because I don't want to be fat. I believe in the energy balance and have arranged my life such that my energy balance allows me to be just under a BMI of 30.
  • That HAES (and intuitive eating) is out now, fat liberation is in.
  • That black and brown voices are valued over white voices, and white voices need to silence themselves.
  • Fat liberation is only for black and brown fatties. White fatties lost the oppression olympics.
  • That @yrfatfriend is also somehow problematic, but not as much as Lindo Bacon.
  • That Lindo Bacon disabled and/or deleted the Twitter account (which is actually how I learned about the whole kerfluffle). The website is still up though.

The saga begins with this post by an individual about whom I know nothing. At the time of this writing, the post was available to all. I have no idea how long that will remain the case. Bacon apparently is looking to update the HAES "bible" and is looking to increase the representation of black and brown perspectives. However, Bacon does not want to rewrite the whole book, and the poster did. In the end they do not work together, and Bacon is prickly to criticism as ever. Which pisses the poster off, and so the post is written and emails and transcripts are published.

Where upon, a whole lot of pent up anger and agitation against Bacon let loose, and the mob came for Bacon. An online mob to be sure, but online and in fat spaces is how Bacon makes money— especially as the college with which Bacon used to be associated declined to continue the association a few years back. I don't remember how Bacon framed it at the time, but an inability to handle criticism gracefully won't endure anyone within academia.

This fat, white woman wrote of her own Bacon experience, and at the end linked to a bunch of other articles with the same topic. A week later, the writer posted again, this time aiming at HAES aligned physicians (most of whom are in fact thin). More (much more) on this is a second post— because this one is already too long.

Apparently the ghostwriter Bacon hired to redo/correct the HAES bible has backed out too after reading about the other interactions. No doubt hoping to avoid having the mob come after a new target (the would be ghostwriter).

This organization was the HAES hub, and it has apparently had enough of Lindo too.
The fatty mob feels quite proud of itself, having pounded on Bacon for over a week. But their bigger point is that HAES has hurt fat liberation efforts because the word "health" is what people (read thin people) tend to notice. Thin people assume that fat people are asserting their health is the same as thin people's, and that's obviously not the case. Okay, that last bit is not what the fatties are asserting, but it is how HAES is perceived.

So the argument is drop HAES (there is no way to fix the book really) and just be about fat liberation… which is only open to fat people of color. Well, I suppose sufficiently compliant white fat people could participate… but in general it's fat people of color, no others need apply.

I won't mourn HAES, as I noted above, I think it's stupid and wrong. Not sure what fat liberation entails other than fat people being really angry at everything and everyone… with reason in many cases. The online abuse of fat people is real… ffs entire Reddit groups have been devoted to mocking and harassing fat people. In fact, one other thing I learned is why so much of the "fatosphere" went silent a few years ago. Apparently the organized online fat-hate became too much to endure and many simply went offline. An honest accounting (and there were a few) also noted that fat activists quit when they start to lose weight. Quit or get excommunicated.


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