Lately I have really been noticing how many folks who consider themselves “progressive liberals” are deeply committed to the mainstream, weight-centric health paradigm. And this makes sense, given how steeped in “natural,” “holistic,” and “organic” hipster lifestyle so many (especially thin, white and rich) folks are. The way that diet culture has seized control of this community through healthism is fascinating and painfully obvious. Folks in these communities have been coached to re-focus their disgust for and rejection of fat bodies into a self-righteous belief in their own purity and closeness to the earth; weaponizing their well-intentioned eco-politics into yet another game of superiority.
Many of these “progressive liberals” have finally come around to seeing their white privilege. Some can see their cis-het privilege. A few can even see their ageism and ableism. But when confronted with their sizeism, they falter. Though they can see the faulty logic in bootstrap, personal-responsibility rhetoric in all of these other areas of marginalization & oppression, they cling to that same rhetoric when it comes to fat bodies.
It makes sense that someone who is having their right to believe in their own superiority and special-ness stripped away in so many areas, would cling to this last vestige of proof that they are better than others. After all, to survive in a white supremacist, colonial-capitalist, patriarchy we must be able to see ourselves as superior to others. The continual diet culture promise to folks in thin bodies is superiority. And this superiority comes with two intoxicating side dishes: 1) permission to believe that you have actually done something to earn the right to believe yourself superior to others; 2) the calming belief in a hierarchical world order built on absolutes in which someone or something has ultimate control (and thankfully this someone or something looks a whole lot like you).
There is nothing “natural,” “holistic,” or “organic” about clinging to thin supremacy. If someone cannot see the reality of thin supremacy or confront their own thin privilege, it’s very difficult to believe that their so-called commitment to liberation in any other area of dominance is real either. In this way, I’ve begun to see an ability or inability to recognize and confront thin supremacy as a litmus test for how deep someone’s commitment to liberation and dismantling of oppressive systems really goes. Are you in this work for liberation for all from all oppressive systems? Or are you in this work to shallowly build social capital or to prove you are one of the cool kids who “gets it,” who is “woke”? Or are you in this work only for folks who look like you? Or are you actually not in this work at all but you’re wearing your “progressive liberalism” like a pin you bought at the food co-op this morning with your $12 cold-pressed kale juice?
About JodiAnn Stevenson
JodiAnn Stevenson lives in the U.S., in the Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, on The Big Lake. Her writing has appeared in numerous venues since 1996. She is the author of three published chapbooks of poetry: The Procedure (March Street Press, 2006); Houses Don’t Float (Habernicht Press, 2010); and Diving Headlong Into A Cliff of Our Own Delusion (Saucebox, 2011). Her mixed-genre work Marina Abramovic Is My Mother is available in the form of a short-run podcast. She has also produced eight chapbooks of poetry for The Broken Nose Collective which she co-founded in 2013. JodiAnn was founder and co-managing editor of the feminist micro-press, Binge Press and its sister journal, 27 rue de fleures, from 2004 until 2017.
A (more or less) complete list of publications and appearances: