Diet & Weight Magazine

Jokes, Both Sides, and the Devil’s Advocate

By Danceswithfat @danceswithfat

fight backYesterday I posted about an ad that uses fat jokes and age jokes to sell blinds.  Whenever someone points out that something is offensive they are subject to a number of responses that, intentionally or unintentionally, undermine the activism of speaking up.  I wanted to talk about some of them today:

Can’t you take a joke?

Anytime someone points out that an attempt at comedy may be hurtful, it’s almost immediately suggested that we lack a sense of humor, have a stick where normally there is none, that we need to learn to take a joke, etc.

I’m a fan of comedy, and I’m a fan of comedy that pushes boundaries and edges as a way to make social commentary, discuss things that are difficult to talk about, make people think etc.  I’m not a fan of people using stereotypes and stigma for cheap laughs and I’m not a fan of people using the institutionalized prejudices that are used to make fat people’s lives difficult to sell blinds. Nobody is obligated to celebrate humor made at their expense.

You need to choose your battles

Agreed, and the way you know which battle someone has chosen is that they have chosen it.  What the person saying this almost always means is that they don’t agree with the battle I’ve chosen, which is within their rights, but makes no difference to me.  Once someone has obviously “chosen a battle” the only reason to give them this advice is to suggest that they shouldn’t have chosen this one, which I think is crappy, and heading toward being a violation of the underpants rule.

You need to look at both sides of the issue

Nope, nope, nope.  I don’t think that there are two sides to bullying, stigma, or oppression. There’s inappropriate behavior, followed by justification of that behavior masquerading as “the other side.”  The fact that someone can justify something doesn’t make that thing ok, terrible things are justified all the time. While it may be interesting for some purposes to look at why someone who bullies, stigmatizes, or oppresses behaves that way, insisting that they stop inappropriate behavior does not require an analysis of the roots of that behavior.

I/my fat friends weren’t offended

No community is a monolith, including fat people.  We can each only speak for ourselves and those who choose to have us speak for them, none of of speaks for all of fatkind (or any other group.)  However as an activist who creates activist spaces,  I suggest that people who aren’t offended by something consider whether or not speaking up is helpful. If someone says that they are offended by something that I don’t find offensive, I will probably choose not to engage in activism around it, but I’m very unlikely to voice my opinion since I’m not really adding anything to the conversation and may actually be discouraging people from speaking up.

Let me just play devil’s advocate

Let me just stop you right there, the devil (whether used a metaphor or an actual belief) doesn’t need an advocate.  Maybe ask yourself why, in the face of stigma, bullying, or oppression, do you want to take the devil’s side. Either way, I’m not interested in what the devil might think.

There are any number of reasons that people question or attack someone who has spoken out about mistreatment – from genuine concern to a blatant attempt to derail activism or to keep us from speaking up in the future.  We each get to decide how to deal with that, but for me speaking up is worth it.

Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer?  Well that movie is now in development!   You can go to the Facebook page and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!

Looking for more skills to fight stigma and bullying? Check out the Fat Activism Conference.  Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recorded so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.


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