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Critiquing Bootstraps, Positive Thinking, Diet and Exercise
We've all heard the messages: if you're poor, disabled, and/or fat you shouldn't be, you can fix it if you want, and so if you don't you're bad. Let's discuss the intersections of class, disability, and size — and perhaps deconstruct some of the myths surrounding them. (It's okay to be, you can't always change it, and you're not bad!)
M: Rosemary / Sophy(gurl). Gerri Balter, Kate Carey, Sarah Frost
#critiquingbootstraps for twitter
So, it was late, and I'd already done two panels, and there was a noisy Hamilton sing-a-long going on across the hall, and so this panel ended up being very loose and very audience participation heavy and just sort of a fun venting space for folks to discuss the intersections of class, disability, and size.
I DO want to make an apology, as moderator, that I failed at a thing. I failed to note other intersections - specifically race - and their further impacts and affects on these things. It hit me after the panel that I neglected to do that, and I'm sorry for the lack. I think there is specific value in talking about these three things together because they are treated so similarly and the connections that run through them are so interesting, but yea, even a comment about how race further impacts the discrimination faced by poor, disabled, and fat people would have furthered the conversation. I wish I'd done the thing.
That noted - I take even fewer notes when moderating than when paneling, but here goes a few general impressions at least:
- I started off the panel sort of summarizing the description as asking three questions - is it bad do be these things? is it possible to change out of these things? so then can we blame people for being these things?
-- I quickly added that I assumed we could all agree that sometimes it's bad but mostly just because of the way society treats us, people do sometimes move out of these things but that doesn't mean everyone can or that anyone has to, and obviously no we shouldn't be blaming people ugh.
--- So therefore the real questions are about how we can change society's treatment of us, what the difference between moving between these states and "fixing" or "curing" them is, and why people feel the need to moralize about them so much in the first place. I believe a robust discussion evolved from that.
- Sarah told a funny story at the start of the panel about a co-worker who yelled out "it's not worth it!" when she went for what the co-worker saw as an unhealthy snack choice in the break room. This came back to the discussion a few times as a handy example, which did culminate in a hilarious bit about "just being angry enough at the sugar" when we got talking about why people feel so free to comment on our bodies/life choices. The gist being that people are scared of catching the fat, or the chronic illness, or the poverty - so to convince themselves that they won't, they decide that their choices are better. So, if they can just manage not to make the same choices that WE do, they'll be fine. And since these states are seen as a moral pitfall - we should all want to get out of them - and therefore we should also want their advice. Hence, yelling at someone not to eat the sugar will help them to be a better person.
- Another great line was Kate's when discussing the phenomenon of folks taking poor and disabled people to task because they believe they are paying us in the form of taxes giving us benefits. Her response to this was: "why don't you go marshal the troops in Afghanistan then, since your taxes are paying for that too?"
- There was great discussion about the connections between class, disability and size - both as far as links being caused (it's hard to take care of your health when you have no money) and links not being caused (you cannot directly correlate size and health).
- Some good stuff about capitalism being the culprit for discrimination among all 3 groups.
- Lots and lots of cathartic griping about how difficult it is to navigate services for poor and disabled folk, as well as some sharing of helpful tips of how to do so.
- Lots of good cathartic venting about the different ways people perpetuate the myths of bootstrapping, and the equivalents of positive thinking for disabilities and diet and exercise for fatness. For instance - we're all pretty sick of being told to do yoga and eat kale. "Have you tried..." "Let me stop you - yes."
- I ended things asking for ideas how to change things for the better, because I love putting my panelists on the spot in the last 5 minutes by going "okaynowhowdowefixit?" muahahaha. I got, in return, some great stuff about being more understanding of one another and gently correcting loved ones when they say/do hurtful things and I feel like some more resources were thrown out there but I didn't manage to write them down so again - folks who were there - please feel free to add on to this!