This campaign is managing to synthesise many things that I dislike about some kinds of fat-related activism. I'm going to spell them out:
Censoring is ok
This campaign implicitly supports the idea that it's helpful and appropriate to shut down some kinds of talk, and therefore thought. It encourages people to police each other's language and thoughts. The suggestion is that if we don't think or verbalise these awful self-hating things, they will go away.
Censoring things does not make them go away, it usually drives that thing underground, or makes it shameful. We know that secrecy and shame are not a good basis for personal development, or embodied liberation. This is particularly true for groups of people who suffer eating disorders, who this campaign partially targets, who themselves are already steeped in secrecy and shame.
Fat talk is painful to hear in other people, and particularly maddening to witness in places where you cannot escape it, especially at work. But shutting people down because you hate the way they talk does not make the problem disappear. Do you want to be told not to talk about certain things? I don't, I wouldn't want to inflict that on other people and I wouldn't presume to be the person who decides what kind of talk is or isn't acceptable for anyone. Censorship is always a bad idea, whilst respectful dialogue and learning to be with people who are different to you are more compassionate and fruitful ways to manage these situations, to name but two peace-building strategies.
Capitalism is your friend
Where to start? The trademarking that transforms young women's activism into another branded marketing opportunity, or the weird collection of sponsors? Why is this thing trademarked? How transparent is an apparently neutral community campaign aimed at young women that relies on a trademark? Why is this campaign sponsored by companies that sell goods and services that apparently contradict its assumed body-positive messages? Is it inconsistent to participate in Fat Talk Free® Week and then buy a load of anticellulite(sic) product? I think so, but these people don't, it's all one big happy marketplace to them.
Our betters know best
I can't be the only chippy class warrior that resents Fat Talk Free® Week as a project of middle class privilege represented by the sorority system. I also resent the universalist assumptions presented within this very American institution, not just in terms of class (and maybe race too), but also nationality. We're not all the same, though this neoliberal censorship campaign masquerading as grassroots activism has assumed the 'proper voice' because of its access to power and has given itself the entitlement here to speak for everyone.
It's about, er, what?
Eating disorders, body image, and fat lib concepts are all jumbled together as though they are the same thing that is experienced homogenously.
Don't hate us
Not to support this apparently benign campaign is to risk being branded a hater who just doesn't understand. This is a form of social control and, I suspect, a feature of censorship. I'm expecting some testy comments on this post.
What would I like instead?
- A campaign that gives practical ideas for creating dialogue about fat and bodies and food amongst people of all backgrounds.
- A campaign that is not dictated to the rest of us by people with privilege.
- A campaign about fat and bodies and food that is able to handle complexity and does not dumb down its subject matter.
- A campaign that supports dialogue in spaces where you are free rather than a consumer who is being marketed to.
- A campaign that actively welcomes feedback and constructive criticism.
- A campaign about fat and bodies and food that works across different social justice areas, including, perhaps, censorship.