Of the need for a united front in the face of adversity
by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer Ph.D.

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This issue is heavy on intellectual discussion and ruminations. Sally Smith, who is also executive director of NAAFA talks about the National Institute of Health's ridiculous assertion that yo-yo dieting isn't bad for you after all and that you should continue to patronize the $33 billion/year diet industry the NIH so admirably serves.

Highly acclaimed author Hillel Schwartz entertains with a brilliant review of the etymology of the word fat. We've added a new column called "Well Being" by mental health professional Dr. Barbara Altman Bruno. No fluff here. Your average copy of Dimensions has over 40,000 words of mostly serious text. Sadly, in the eyes of some, none of this matters. Once again, we and our loved ones are under attack from all sides. Our preference for large size partners is very visible and leads people to all sorts of weird conclusions. Some think we don't care how smart or interesting a woman is, as long as she is fat. Of course, that is a really dumb assumption. I don't think any relationship lasts for more than a few hours if it isn't based on sharing interests and reacting to each other intellectually and emotionally. But since we seek out fat women, some folks think that's all there is to our selection of a partner. Never mind that our critics, too, have physical preferences, only theirs may be for height, a certain look, blonde hair, etc., and may not be as visible as a preference for a fat partner.

A little while ago, New York Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote an asinine column entitled "Those Miserable Chubby Chasers" in which he lashes out at men who prefer fat women as if we were public enemy number 1. According to Breslin, FAs have no interest whatsoever in a woman as a person. He says "The further truth of chubby chasers is that they are people of low morals who are often utterly dishonest. When satisfying their most wicked thoughts with a heavy woman, they also fleece her of money, cars, and jewelry" and then suggests that there should be a law against us "because these nasty men are doing great harm and they should be exposed or at least ostracized." Not only is Breslin confused (the term "chubby chasers" refers to gay men who prefer fat partners), but in his rantings he also calls all fat people "slobs," insults the Irish wholesale, and tells all fat women that any attention they might be getting is exploitive and criminal.

So on the one side we have sleazy columnists babbling nonsense and on the other, unfortunately, none other than the almighty National Institutes of Health (NIH). As mentioned above, the NIH issued a report stating that yo-yo dieting isn't bad after all and that fat people should go on diets again and again. It's no mystery why the NIH does this: most of their obesity researchers are on the payrolls of a diet industry concerned about eroding profits. Tragically, the NIH's unconscionable conduct will result in many fat people going on yo-yo diets again, thus wrecking their health and shortening their lives.

Lastly, we have a befuddled few in our own ranks right here in the size acceptance movement: some proclaim that you cannot be an FA and a size activist at the same time; others are unable to see the difference between fantasy and reality and decry the existence of the former as evil incarnate; yet others feel that being fat is okay, unless you are fatter than they are (then you're a fat slob), or that wanting a fat partner is okay, unless you want one who is fatter than what they like (then you're a sick pervert).

All of this is conflicting and disturbing, but it is also a byproduct of our blossoming information age. In the past, information flowed slowly, was hard to come by, and the media determined what to cover. Today, the information superhighway brings an unprecedented flood of information into our lives. If there is, for example, a fat-phobic letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union, everyone who follows size acceptance newsgroups on the Internet will know within half an hour. If someone feels strongly about anything, the Intemet offers a free soapbox to state any position or attack anyone without any limitations whatsoever. This is both good and bad. Good because more people will get heard and more information will become available, bad because the size acceptance movement can ill afford the often ensuing balkanization within our ranks. As we're learn- ing how to use cyberspace productively, we should not forget that the great majority of the population still lives in real space and that the diet industry and its cronies still cash in to the tune of over 30 billion dollars a year. They protect this huge pot of gold by aggressively promoting and managing people's fear of fat by any means available and by perpetuating negative stereotypes about fat people.

Needless to say, FAs don't fit into the neat profit picture of the diet industry and the NIH. In any case, I think it's quite imperative that the size acceptance movement displays a united front against the outside. There are plenty of powerful parties who want to keep the "fat business" as a tremendously lucrative cash cow through moral intimidation, lies, threats, and ridiculing. It makes no sense to bicker over social activities versus activism, who is more devoted to size acceptance and who is less, and whose fantasies are politically correct and whose aren't There is only one thing that should matter to all of us, fat people or FAs, and that is to fight the ongoing oppression and discrimination that we and our loved ones experience.

Editor at Large