Anyway, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the other thing I saw a lot of. Instead of (rightly) being angry at people for sending around the video, the Internet Police sirens started going off about why people were willing to stand up against Abercrombie and Fitch in the first place. The most common complaint? “You didn’t care until the douchebag CEO made public comments about fat people.”
I have two problems with that line of thinking. First, how dare anyone presume to know the mind of anyone else? Yes, I shared the original blog post about the CEO’s comments. I thought nothing of sharing it because I’ve been protesting body shaming for years. Anyone who thinks that I just suddenly noticed that lots of stores (not just A&F) don’t carry plus sizes doesn’t know me well. Up until my second child was born, I wouldn’t have been able to shop in any of those stores either, and even now, I still can’t usually find stuff my size (I’m a larger-sized in-betweenie, so virtually nothing fits properly). Just because I don’t write much about fat shaming doesn’t mean I don’t care. I don’t write about lots of social movements because mostly, I write about the church, feminism, gender, and sexuality. You want people writing about fat activism? Fine–let me give you a couple of names.
Second, and for me the biggest “what the hell” moment, is the lack of logic. So, what you want is for people to care that stores don’t carry bigger sizes because our culture worships skinniness. Great! Now people care. And yet, you’re angry that they didn’t care sooner. I get it that you don’t want to give them a gold sticker, but at least the issue is now public, right? Isn’t the whole point of social movements, protests, blogging, and the like to make people sit up, take notice, and then do something? If it’s not, and if what we want is just to preach to the people who already agree with us, then I’m at a loss how to help with that. I don’t write about how the church treats women and LGBTQ people because I want my friends to show up here and cheer me on–I’m hoping that someone might see something he or she missed before, an aha! that sparks a change in attitude or behavior.
I’m a little tired of people getting upset because large-scale efforts or personal experience have helped people change their minds on social issues. I just can’t figure out which way is up anymore. Are we supposed to learn and grow, or are we supposed to stay bigoted so that the self-appointed Internet Cops can continue to point at us and remind us of our failures? I understand that we’re supposed to do the right thing because it’s right, not because we stand to lose something. At the same time, though, sometimes it’s the threat of loss that wakes us up to what we’ve been doing wrong. That’s not an excuse for past mistakes; it’s a motivation for future improvement.If all we want is for like-minded people to applaud our work, then we’re no better than A&F’s CEO. We may be losing valuable allies by playing Hall Monitor on their motivation. We don’t need to dole out praise to people for coming on board, but we certainly should stop demonizing them for not joining us in exactly the way we wanted.