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Kataphatic linked this essay by Linda Bacon (pdf) taken from her keynote speech at the 2009 NAAFA conference, and it is seriously blowing my mind this morning. I strongly encourage you to read the whole piece (it’s about 12 pages long, so perfect for printing out or loading on your mobile device and reading on your commute home (unless you drive, in which case don’t do that)). Two parts that made me, like, roll backwards from my desk and put my hands on my head and with awe whisper, “Oh my God!” are this one, in which Bacon perfectly manages to compare methods of oppression without going for the gold in the Oppression Olympics, and reminds me that as much as I like to think I have my FaD (Doctor of Fatlosophy) in Fat Acceptance, I still have a lot of inner junk to overcome:

As positive as an appeal to fairness may be in some regards, however, when it gets conducted without substantive challenge to the weight paradigm, it backfires. Because thinness is still seen as normative and ideal, even when well-intentioned potential allies get involved in these issues, the tendency is to fight fat bias in order to support fat people in getting thin. The Rudd Center is classic in this regard. Theirs is a dual mission: at the same time that they conduct anti-bias work, they undermine it through their other mission: fighting “obesity.”

Put in other terms, their platform is one of “love the fat person, hate the fat.” Historically, we know that this attitude stands in the way of civil rights. Consider the common religious belief to “love the homosexual, yet hate the homosexuality.” That attitude may have supported my in-laws in loving their daughter and her partner (me) – or at least their conception of who we are – but it sure didn’t help them to celebrate the announcement that we were having a baby, which was viewed as a product of our sin. It also required that we maintain superficiality in our relationship because there were so many aspects of who we are that they couldn’t engage with because they didn’t want to acknowledge as a part of us.

It’s just not effective to tell someone to “love the sinner but hate the sin” when the “sin” you’re referring to is integral to who they are. It’s just not possible to separate me from my queerness, just as there’s no guarantee that you can separate a fat person from their adiposity in a healthy manner. The result is that you end up instead giving power to the “thin person within fantasy,” all the while denying the reality of the real person in front of you.

And then this one that so perfectly explains why I don’t post Fat Acceptance links on my own personal Facebook page that I almost posted this essay along with a truncated version of this except, just to see what would happen:

I used to believe that education was the cornerstone of change, before I actually started doing this work. If only people knew the truth, they would act in ways that support what they know. But this just isn’t true. Certainly we need to provide education on these issues and expose the myths. Indeed, a large part of my career is dedicated to educating people about the myths and realities associated with fat. And I applaud NAAFA for the recent Size Discrimination Toolkit, another crucial component in our arsenal. I don’t want to suggest that attempts at education are unimportant –– just that, when it comes to weight, academic and other rational arguments hold limited independent value as social change strategy.

Most people have internalized fatism and believe that there is something wrong with fat, from the perspective of appearance as well as health. We’re all subject to what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” Once a belief is in place, we screen information in a way that ensures our beliefs are proven correct.

Also, because we like to believe that our values are derived from a well-reasoned thought process of our own volition, there’s a natural resistance to the notion that we’re basically pawns who have absorbed an oppressive system, actively complicit in our own oppression and that of others. It makes sense that people have a strong defense system – denial – that prevents many people from seeing this.

People also reach for denial when an intolerable situation has been pointed out to them but the means for change are hard to grasp and the penalties for contributing to that change are high, causing even those who may be more willing and capable of challenging hegemony to get suckered back into the denial. Myths about weight are so deeply entrenched that it is difficult for some people to imagine that they can live happily and successfully in a large body. Similarly, it is hard for professionals to believe that they can capture an audience if they support size acceptance.

Okay, I thought about excerpting more bits, but I realized I was pretty much just copying and pasting the entire article and interjecting such trenchant commentary as, “Holy shit, is this genius or what?” and “Dude! DUDE!” I will thus leave well enough alone and let you all run along to enjoy some pretty amazing, goose-bump raising insights into the concepts of thin privilege and the inner workings of fatphobia.


IMPORTANT EDIT: A savvy commenter politely reminded me that the MFA program at University of North Carolina Greensboro has produced some excellent authors of note, including NC poet laureate Kathryn Byer, Kelly Link, Steve Almond, Julianna Baggot, former NC poet laureate Fred Chappell, and Randall Jarrell. This commenter also made a point that bears repeated: “OSC certainly doesn’t represent the views of most GSO writers!”

I used to live in Greensboro, North Carolina, not far from the man himself, so although I appreciate the coverage at Feministe and The Slog, it is not news to me that Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe.

I used to occasionally read his “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” column in ridiculous, bigoted Greensboro weekly The Rhino Times (I generally picked it up to read “The Beep” which served as a good reminder of political views of most of my neighbors, lest I get complacent and let down my guard). I read Ender’s Game because aside from O. Henry, Greensboro isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of literary accomplishment so I thought I should probably familiarize myself with the region’s more famous authors. And you know, whatever, it was alright. Not the best book I’d ever read, although it is where I learned the word “hegemony,” which really came in handy when writing about various forms of institutionalized discrimination for law school papers, so I guess I should be grateful for that.

So but anyway, I knew Orson Scott Card was a hateful homophobe because of Donna Minkowitz’s kind of heartbreaking Salon interview with Card from 2000:

“I find the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted. And the idea of ‘gay marriage’ — it’s hard to find a ridiculous enough comparison. By the way, I’d really hate it if your piece wound up focusing on the old charge that I’m a homophobe.”

“What old charge?” I’ve never heard of it.

“It’s been raised before. It’s been circulating on the Internet for a long time. It’s really just one of those annoying things that happens. It’s really ugly!”

As the rest of Minkowitz’s article (and this recent piece in which Card basically accuses J.K. Rowling of stealing from Ender’s Game to create her Harry Potter series then goes on to pat himself on the back for not suing her, thus proving that she is a greedy bitch, or this one in which he whinges about his neighbors being mean to him because of a computer glitch that left his sprinklers set to water his lawn daily during a terrible drought while he was out of town) shows, not only is Orson Scott Card a hateful homophobe, he’s also a complete jackass.

So, in summary, if you really want to read Ender’s Game, get it from the library or buy it second hand, because otherwise, you will be serving to enrich Orson Scott Card, who is a hateful homophobe.

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